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Mission Monday

This past weekend I had some friends come in on a mission trip. Four of them were on a team I led back in 2012 and whenever they come I always try to spend some time with them. This year, two of those people brought a team from their church and THEY led their team! I used a “Mission Day” for work and spent all day Sunday and Monday with them. They came through their church, Servants Heart Fellowship in Peoria, Ill.

Team

The SHF team at lunch on Sunday!

I was nice to catch up and spend time serving along side old friends. We went out to the orphanage that was previously supported by an organization I worked for, but I fear no longer has any support aside of Servants Heart Fellowship (SHF). I am impressed with their dedication and resilience. It can be difficult to work with Orphanages and different organizations in Haiti, but if you are willing to take the time to pour into relationships, then you might run the risk of actually making a difference.

SHF pours into relationships. They pour into the brother/sister team who started the orphanage. A father who lost his wife and didn’t know how to care for his children. The sister who lives in the states and is doing her best to help our this father and  so many other fathers and mothers who find themselves alone. The pour into the hearts of children and teachers. The goal is not adoption, some times the goal is surviving. This “orphanage” is more of a school, a boarding school if you will. SHF is in it for the long hall. They are committed to relationships and partnering with a family who are making the most to survive-at best.

I had a great Mission Day and enjoyed loving on the kids with the rest of the team. It was nice to be a part of what they are doing. The men on the team made desks and the women did some really fun crafts and a vacation bible study during the week. I even got to step in use some of my super-power-teaching-skills (Because I happen to admire all teachers everywhere and think it’s sort of a super power to impact lives in a way teachers do) the day I was there. I also got a beauty treatment, some people color their hair, I prefer to have a team of specialists pluck the greys from my skull.

Beauty challenge

Beauty challenge

Thanks for letting me spend the day with you SHF! Missing you guys already!

Disclaimer: I know there are many books and opinions of how orphanages can and should be run. There are books and opinions on how missions can and should be run. Heck, there is a big book that tells us how life should be, but the truth is, sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes we have days when we get it right and some times not so much. Opinions and views differ and although I appreciate those differences, I’m asking you….don’t rain on my parade! GREAT job SHF!!!

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!

‘Thank you’ isn’t enough, and I’m not sure what is…

I’m not sure where to begin to say thank you to the people who have encouraged and supported me over the last two weeks. After the trade show I traveled to Peoria, Ill and then to Minneapolis, MN for speaking engagements and to work on getting REBUILDers’ into stores.

I am so grateful for the people who asked me to visit; for the people who not only believe in what I am doing, but who believe in me. You encourage me every day and are the reason I am able to continue in this line of work. I am grateful and honored by the generosity of so many.

These boys are going to do great things!

In Ill I was able to connect with two stores that will now be carrying REBUILDer’s, volunteer at a soup kitchen, speak to the community as well as Servant’s Heart Fellowship Church about my journey and work in Haiti. Servants Heart has been a huge encouragement and support for me since I met them in Haiti back in March. They have welcomed me into their homes and their families and I am so blessed and encouraged by each and every one of them.

One of my beautiful hosts helping at the soup kitchen

Speaking at Servants Heart Fellowship!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From there I traveled to Minnesota and spent a week with a family I also met in Haiti. They were so kind and generous to open their beautiful home to me and take care of me all week! I spoke at the Rotary and Northern Lights Hockey team and had some very encouraging meetings. Somehow I was able to fit in TWO trips to the Minnesota State Fair and of course the Mall of America! It was an enjoyable and productive trip!

Minnesota State Fair with my beautiful friend, Ali!

It is an incredible feeling when you know others believe in you. I feel so encouraged and uplifted after the last two weeks! Now I have ten days to catch up on emails and follow ups and get things in order to head back to Haiti and join Julie and Sandra and the REBUILD team! I will definitely miss the ease of the first world, but I am excited and anxious to get home and be with my team again!

Thank you to all who support me in one way or another! I have crossed paths with so many people who truly help me continue, without each and every person I would not be able to do what I do. Thank you a million times over.

“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” –Matthew 7:18-20

Blessed to be surrounded by good trees!!!

…and do your part to RECYCLE, notice the tires!

M-Tuck; I got a present of the best kind…a friend!

In the beginning of March I got a visit from one of my favorite people on planet earth!  Morgan, one of my beautiful college roommates flew to Haiti to spend a week with me! She was also with me in Haiti in June of 2010 for 12 days-this was the trip that made me realize I wanted to move to Haiti.

I didn’t have time off, but Morgan was excited to come around with me and be a part of my day-to-day life! It was great to see her smiling face walking through customs-not only because she had an extra-large skinny caramel latte with her, but because I was so over joyed to have her here with me!!!

Sittin on the roof!

We started her trip off right by heading right to the pool. A few friends of mine and our ‘missionary family’ have a Sunday tradition we call ‘Sunday Funday’, every Sunday we make sure to take a Sabbath spending quality time with friends and family at the pool. It does not always happen this way, but the Sunday Morgan flew in we were fortunate enough to have had the opportunity.

After playing cards all night and staying up talking like we were back in college, Morgan and I began our week. This was also the Monday Jesse flew out; Morgan loaded in the car for the trip to the airport and stood on the roof with us as we waved good bye! From the roof we were able to see our neighbors who happened to have armed masked guards at their gate-also known as off duty police officers. We still aren’t sure why, but they were there all week.

In the community!

We were able to visit Institute Montfort School for the Deaf where I have had the pleasure of working closely with the nuns via my role with World Wide Village and the Starkey Hearing Foundation. We sat and had a meeting about how we will be able to best move forward and work together. I felt it was a great meeting; I left feeling as though I learned a great deal more about the Haitian culture and needs of the deaf in Haiti.

Wood shop class!

The nuns took us on a complete tour of their facility, a computer room, three different woodworking shops, culinary classes, seamstress classes and general studies. They showed us the boys and girls dorms and the adjacent land where they plan to build over 20 classrooms with a grant from World Vision. It was a beautiful facility with an overwhelming number of programs going on, it is so inspiring to see.

Another day Morgan and I ventured to an orphanage for handicapped children. When Starkey founder Bill Austin was in Haiti last he stopped by this orphanage and fit one of the children with a body aid. The aid was giving him feedback and not working well. I returned to do ear impressions so he would be able to get custom ear molds and eliminate the feedback. It was another great facility and one more amazing thing going on here in Haiti I get to see, I’m glad I was able to share it with Morgan!

Doing Patrick's impressions

The week went by too fast, but it was incredible all the things we fit in and experienced together. One night we were sitting up talking when both our beds started shaking. We looked at each other and asked ‘Is that, it feels like…yep its and earthquake.’ Although it only lasted a few minutes and was a 4.6 on the east coast of the country near the DR border, I was so thankful she was here with me!

Another day we planned to check in with the deaf congregation of a church in Port au Prince where Starkey and WWV have distributed hearing aids, however about 20 minutes before we were to leave there was an announcement that President Martelly would be addressing the country at 4:00PM and everyone was to go home and listen. Unfortunately the house was on lock down and we weren’t able to go to out meeting.

Haitian Lunch at Caribbean Lodge!

My friends mean the world to me and the fact that Morgan took an interest in what I am doing in Haiti and wanted to brave it for her VACATION was humbling! I miss her greatly; I miss all my friends back home more than I would like to think about!! I am so happy she came to visit and can’t wait to count down the days to her next trip; hopefully it won’t have any car chases, earthquakes or armed-masked guards! Morgan you are a beautiful human being and those who get to have you in their everyday should consider themselves very blessed, I know I do!

Come back soon to me!

Life as usual…

“In their hearts human beings plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

-Proverbs 16:9

Over the beginning of March there have not been any teams here, leaving us to play catch up and prepare for the four groups who will be here during the last two weeks of the month. The first two weeks were busy in a different way compared to the business that ensues when teams are on the ground. When teams are not here we are all working on background things necessary to make this organization run. Ali and I have been busy planning out itineraries for the teams at the end of the month. While Ali continues her work with student sponsorships and relationships with our children’s homes and communities, I have been working on projects we have going on with the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

Brad, Shannon and Lena are running the guest house and getting everything ready for a bit of an over flow; their family seems to have adjusted well to life in Haiti. It seems there is always something needing to be done at the guest house. Roberson is busy getting things ready for the new kitchen we are building at Foundation of the Promising Children of Haiti (FPCH) with one of the teams.

Simultaneously to all this, the whole staff is still feeling the sadness from the departure of our ‘intern’ Jesse. Things just haven’t been the same around here since he packed up and headed back to the states. He committed to two months and needed to return for commitments he made in Minnesota; who knows if and when he will be back, but the apparent emptiness around here since he has left has been difficult to overcome.

No one said this life was going to be easy, we each follow the paths our life takes us down. Many people come in and out of our lives in this line of work, some come for a week to volunteer, others stay over many weeks as interns before returning to their lives. There is staff and friends who live in country I have met along this journey, but the experience of having people walk in and out of my life-my family never seems to make it any easier. People still come and go, some return as volunteers like they say they would, others make the sacrifice to uproot their life in the states-follow this new path in life and move to Haiti.

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples”

– Luke 15:33

It is never an easy decision to make a major life change, to walk blindly down a path that you can see the end of, or even the next step in front of you. When I did it, I called it taking a leap of faith. For some people their leap of faith is a new job, or deciding as a family to have a new child; ‘give up everything’ can mean a million different things to every believer. For those of us on the ground, every day we make a decision to give up everything and be a disciple and often still fall short-I still fall short some way somehow. Whatever your leap of faith is, whatever you give up daily-I pray for strength and courage, I pray this for myself and for loved ones around me. As life goes on around me, I can rest easy knowing I am not alone, nor do I need to stress about the next day-it is not mine to control to begin with. My path continues and I am blessed to see the beauty in another day, another day in Haiti.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.”

-Luke 12:22-23

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

-Luke 12:25-16

Thanksgiving Bliss

It’s obvious to me I have much to be thankful for this year! I love thanksgiving – it serves as a great reason to get together with family and friends and completely pig out, but it is also a great time to come together with family and friends that you are so thankful for. Some people have different traditions at Thanksgiving, going around the table and saying something they are thankful for is always a favorite. Personally, I like to use thanksgiving as a reminder of the people in my life I am so thankful for!

GLA Christmas Tree!

I am blessed to be surrounded by some of the most amazing people. Of course I am a bit biased being their friend and all, but I was fortunate to spend Thanksgiving with some of the most inspiring, big hearted, beautiful people (inside and out) in the world!

This was the first Thanksgiving I have ever spent away from my family, it is one of my favorite times to get together at my grandmas with all my cousins, aunts-uncles, and the many additions that have married and been born to my family. I missed them all terrible, but I had a great day!!!

Me and the three berry pie I made!

I spent this November 24th at Gods Littlest Angels (GLA) Orphanage. It was perfect from the moment I walked in the door to the sounds of Christmas music and saw the Christmas Tree standing proudly in the corner! The volunteers were happily decorating as the staff started the prep for the glorious dinner spread.

Joyce and I making the stuffing!!!

 

Molly and her dinner role dough!

It was great to be around good friends spending time laughing and giving lots of hugs to so many people I was thankful for. I am so thankful for all my wonderful friends at GLA who have made me part of their family, they are truly amazing people.

From the stuffing to the pecan pie to the people around the dinner table, the day was nothing short of perfect. I hope I will never need a reminder to let the people I love know how thankful I am for them each and every day. I am so thankful for people who are able to show the love of God unconditionally, I am so blessed to have some many of those people in my life – all at one table!!!

‘Family’ around the Thanksgiving table.

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Luke 10:27 “He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your sound and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Psalm 107:1 “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

 

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