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Death. Life. Run.

Time has really got away from me. There are 16 days left in 2014 and this is only my third post of the year! I just might have to resolve to do better at blogging in the new year!

I have been running a lot lately. The last time I trained for a half marathon was 2010; I was living in America and I was not a believer, well not a follower at least. The last time I trained for a half marathon I was running with the Team in Training and raising money towards cancer research. I ran for Todd, a piece of my heart who lost his battle with cancer.

This time around training has been a bit different.

I am training on the trash covered streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti as opposed to the snow covered streets of Rochester, New York.

I am training sporadically, depending on time and heat and where the latest riots are taking place as opposed to the regimented group training I remember from 2010.

And this time, I am running for life, not death.

I am again running with a group, or more for a group. This time I am running for TeacHaiti, a non profit in Haiti, a school started by my good friend, Miquette McMahon. A group of us are running to raise money for TeacHaiti.

This time I am running for education, for life.

Since moving to Haiti life has changed me. I have stumbled across many organizations here that breath life into not only the people of this country, but also those of us who have come to call it home. So many of them who are involved in education in one way or another.

Some organizations have taught me exactly what I don’t want to be involved in, while others have shown me how to live.

I am running for education.

Education is knowing and loving (and being immensely loved by) the midwives at Heartline Haiti, who have taught me how to be a better woman, who have so much love and affection for the women of Haiti, the mommas and essentially the future. The midwives who educate women on breast feeding, caring for a new infant and even contraceptives and the rights we have as women, as humans.  Education is learning I have value.

Education is what I do as a teacher at Quisqueya Christian School. It is standing in front of my classroom in my Senior Transitions class, in front of my seniors and tell them to stand up against peer pressure. Not to be the norm, but to be the change. To stand firm in your faith, to go out of your way to love, to forgive and to live. It is the education I am gaining from knowing them, teaching them; from loving them. Education is seeking after wisdom.

“My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.” Psalm 49:3

Education is breaking the cycle of poverty. It’s knowing there is something better out there, something more. It is having a dream, wanting a better life-a better life for yourself, a better life for your children. Education is more than going to school and learning, it is knowing you are beyond blessed for the opportunity to go to school, to learn. Education is finding life in the wisdom we seek.

“and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills” Exodus 35:31

Education is life.

Education is knowing there is more to this life, knowing Jesus died on the cross to wash away my sin. Knowing Jesus loves me, knowing God is looking out for me, knowing the Spirit is breathing life into me. Education is value, it is wisdom, it is life.

This time, I am running for life. I am running for education and whatever that might mean to you, but for me, it means life. For me, it means coming to Haiti. It means realizing there is freedom in my beliefs, there is freedom in Jesus, wisdom in education and life in wisdom.

As I ran my six miles yesterday, I found myself needing to recall the reason I am doing this run. In the heat, struggling to put in the miles, to wake up early, to run up that hill (because everything is up, even when you are going down, you’re still going up). I remembered my education. The life lessons I have learned, the life I was born into where education was not an option, but a requirement-given to ALL. Haiti is so different. Education is not for all. Freedom is not for all. The gospel is not for all; it has not yet reached every house hold, every ear, every soul. I took so much for granted growing up in the states, but Haiti has taught me so much.

“The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.” Proverbs 19:8

I think its perfect this run is happening around the Christmas season. Its perfect I am running to raise money for TeacHaiti (click here if you want to help me do that). It’s perfect that it’s hard and challenging and even up hill as so much of life can seem to be. It is perfect that this time I am running for life, not death.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

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The Choice

I know it has been a while since I have posted…sorry. The school year is winding down and at Quisqueya I work a lot with the seniors who are preparing to go off to college. I think many of the posts over the next few weeks will be about the seniors, again….sorry.

As I am able to sit in on the senior Bible class today, Robbie is Skyping in with an old mentor, Fred Grooms, who is launching his book today “Who’s in charge of Bob?” I can’t help but wonder if the kids understand the teaching opportunity playing out in front of them; the classroom that is removed from a text book.

Skype from Haiti

Skype from Haiti

“We are each given gifts and talents. How are you using them? Just because you are good at something, that does not mean you are called to do it.” Life brings us around to where we are supposed to be. “Broaden your view of what it means to be talented” Fred said. As I am preparing for this years 11th grade retreat I reflect on this time last year. As teachers we are gifted with the unique opportunity to be a part of this crucial time in students’ lives. They are exploring their talents and gifts, coming into who they are as people.

There is heaps of talent in this room. This group of kids is going place. They are going to be adults for starters. Watching them grow this past year has been a joy. The teaching moments at Quisqueya are in abundance and I am sitting in the midst of a golden one. I find myself in awe of God, in awe of how He has used my gifts and talents to bring me to this exact spot.

I have many prayers for the students here, many prayers for the seniors we are about to send off. Fred talked about the choices we are given; “Choice. The thing I keep coming back to is choice.”

The future is full of choices. Day after day after day, the friends we have, the colleges we go to, if we want to buy that shirt, sleeping in or getting up and going to class or church. The choice is yours. Are you going to go to class and be all there? Are you going to work through the issues with your roommate or blow up and walk away? The choices we are making are making you who you are, you are each beautiful, unique and a gift from God. I can’t help but wonder as it is discussed with the speaker about their ultimate choice. “If we say yes to Christ, that means we are saying no to some other things.” Such a powerful statement and a good reminder.

If we made that choice, we still have to choose what we are going to do with it. Are we going to choose to the impact the world for the glory of His kingdom or are we going to say thank you for my salvation and all these blessings OR are we going to make the choice to profess our faith by how we love and live every day?

Are we rooted in Him? Is our faith enough? Are we truly grateful for our salvation?

There is so much I want to say to this years seniors. As you head out into the world, know I will always worry about you. Know I will always be here for you. Know the future is ahead of you and it is YOURS for the taking. God will use each and every one of you in ways you will never imagine. No Bible class, retreat, transitions class, or lecture will ever prepare you for life. Life prepares you for life. Don’t miss the moments ahead by making the wrong choices.

A ‘Tough’ Day

 

“Congratulations!

Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away!”

Dr. Seuss wrote these words in his famous book Oh, the /places You’ll Go! and they are read by graduating High School Seniors everywhere. I got this book from my mom at my High School graduation, flipping through the pages and thinking about my future, it made me cry. I took it out to read a time or two during college, maybe once more as I packed it away before I came down to Haiti, but not since. Working at a school Dr. Seuss seems to have found his way back into my life.

Friday wasn’t such a great day for me and I can tell you Dr. Seuss and his fantasy land of Thing One and Thing TWO were very far from my mind. My students however were very much everywhere I turned. Thank goodness for the Chinese who first invented sunglasses to hide emotion because my teary eyes were masked.

 I had two classes to get thru to finish out my day and I could not fathom how I was going to pull it off. As soon as I turned around to walk out the gate to go home and eat my lunch in solitude BAM, there was my answer. I was face to face with a student, big grin on his face, ghosting me all the way thru the gate. I couldn’t help but laugh. Turning, the only thought in my head “these kids, Lord, thank you for these kids.”

They are my life, they are my joy and I am ever thankful for them. They get me through my day time and time again.

And when the path gets dark, as we know it eventually will:

“And when you’re in a Slump,

Youre not in for much fun.

Un-slumping yourself

Is not easily done.”

Dr. Seuss

Luckily I don’t have to un-slump myself. My students are there to make me laugh, my friends are here to offer words of encouragement, and my heart stands strong to rest in my faith.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God,

my salvation comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation,

He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Psalm 62:1-2

I am in the center of His will. I put both my fear and my trust in Him and I will never be shaken.

When I doubt and fear creeps in, God sends me countless reminders and blessings that help me realize I am exactly where I am called to be. My students. Living, breathing blessings. Joy. Happiness. Hope.

I am so blessed. I think about Ann Voskamp and the challenge of 1,000 blessings I am on.

My students, Lord, I thank you for the blessing they are to me. I thank you for their inquisitive minds, their expressive spirits, their excitement, their drive, their joy, their purpose.

And so I pick myself up and I go to class. I get through my lesson and decide I need to take some time to get into real life with my students. We put the books away and we talk. I pull up the encouraging words of Ann and read them with my students; Why You’re never ever really a failure.

I read this as part of my morning devotions: “ If you’re not willing to look goofy in the eyes of others at some point, you will never make it to your God-sized dream.” Ann Voskamp

I thought of my students, preparing college applications, writing essays, discussing their futures with each other, their parents, themselves. Afraid of failure, afraid of their futures, afraid of the un-known. But we can’t be afraid of the un-known. Being afraid of fear, is that possible? We can fear ourselves, we can fear others; fear the future, fear our fate, but are we just getting in the way of ourselves.

I thought of myself, am I my own worst enemy? What am I so afraid of? The Bible tells me to fear God; am I fearing God or am I too busy fearing myself?

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7) Ecclesiastes concludes “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of every human being.”(Ecclesiastes 12:13) I have no one to fear but the Lord. And yet, too often I allow the fears of this world to creep in. Death, failure, sin, faults, pain…

“I’m afraid that some times

You’ll play lonely games too.

Games you cant win

Cause you’ll play against you.”

Seuss has it right again. I’m in my own way.

And so I stood in front of my students and tried to hold back my tears. I left my fear of what they might think of me and I opened my heart to them. When it was over and I told them what they mean to me. I see hope in them. I see joy and beauty and bright futures. Peace. God has put me in this place, with these people, these students, these faces. Sometimes it’s not so easy and we fall into a slump.

“Except when they don’t.

Because, sometimes, they won’t.”

“And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.”

And I drift back to Seuss and his kind loving words:

“Somehow you’’ll escape

All that waiting and staying.

You’ll find the bright places

where Boom Bands are playing.”

And at times I might feel it’s just me and alone, I am reminded to look up at the bright light shining…. I am never alone, for I walk in the light.

“For you, God tested us;

you refined us like silver.

You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.

You let people ride over our heads;

we went through fire and water,

but you brought us to a place of abundance.”

Psalm 67: 10-12

I can tell you of Friday I was not alone. I felt God in my heart and got hugs all day long. And to my students I want to say,

“Your mountain is waiting.

So….get on your way!” Seuss

I am so proud to call you all mine!

Meet Donald; from child slavery to employment!

Our sweet Donald.

I want to introduce you to Donald; he is one of our hardest working employees at REBUILD. He is caring, protective and driven; Donald cares about everyone around him and would do anything for any one. Over the last two years we have seen Donald blossom into an impressive young man, but he has come a long way from the days of his difficult youth.

Donald was a restavek, sold into modern day child slavery after his father passed away. Donalds mother was unable to care for her children and did the only thing she could think of to help her family; sacrifice one to save the rest.

Donald is 21 years old and in sixth grade. Donald started with RG as an apprentice, he quickly transitioned into part time employment attending school in the evenings. As a restavek his childhood was taken from him, his free-will was gone. All Donald wanted to do was go to school, to learn, to be able to take care of himself; now he can.

Donald has a full time job and responsibilities he never had before. Not only does Donald take care of himself, but he has helped his brother and family out as well!!! Donald has his OWN apartment, attends school at night, is a full time employee at REBUILD Globally and is taking driving lessons! We are so proud of the man Donald has become! His smiling face greets us every day and it always brightens up the room! It chills me to think where Donald might be had he never came to REBUILD…

Donald may be younger than me, he may not have a degree from a good University in the US, but Donald teaches me something every day and I am grateful for him.

Will you help more kids be successful like Donald? Sponsor an Apprentice student through REBUILD Globally and find out how you can impact the life of someone else-who knows, they might end up teaching you something!

ALL THINGS DELICIOUS

Follow my story and journey in Haiti