Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Raining on the Inside

Well, I've only got a few minutes to write a brief post to share with you the events from last evening... After getting home from the grocery store around 4:30, I noticed some small puddles in the entrance of my apartment. It's become pretty normal in my house to have small drips from time to time, which is caused by an unknown leaky source somewhere above me, but it's never been too severe. However, while making and eating supper last night, I heard more water coming down, and assumed it was raining outside, until I felt the cushions of my couch and saw the water near my door. Looking up at my ceiling I saw a clear line of cracks and seeping water from my front door all the way to my kitchen (about 10 feet across the ceiling). The water was dripping quite consistently at this point and I knew that I needed to investigate the situation. 
I talked to Laurens next door and we began to ask Amy and Rachel upstairs if there were any water problems. We soon found out that during the day, the mission had run out of water (a common problem), so when Rachel's cleaner had come to clean the shower, she accidently left the tap on. So from the time the water truck came to when Rachel returned from the Hope House and turned off the shower (an undetermined time, but it was at least a few hours), the water was gathering in the cement between her floor and my roof which eventually began to leak from my ceiling.
Fortunately we identified where the water was coming from, which now means that Rachel's shower will need to be repaired. And I spent the evening moving furniture to avoid the wetness as well as spreading towels and pails from one end of my house to the other.
Luckily, when I woke up this morning the leak had decreased significantly, however it will probably be a few more days until all the water has drained completely. I've taken a few pictures of the damage that I will post for you to see soon.
I need to get back to my afternoon of teaching now, but I just wanted to send you that update and ask you for your prayers in this situation.
Even though it was a complete accident, it was a little discouraging at first to see my freshly painted and decorated apartment get damaged, and yet I have come to realize that it could have been a lot worse.
Thank you for praying along with me that the leaking will subside and that I can soon get back to living in a dry house... I guess it's another lesson for me to never take anything for granted in Haiti!

Friday, October 24, 2008


Last night I had my first 'parent-teacher' interview!
I know it's quite a daunting thing for new teachers, but fortunately I didn't feel much stress. Each of my kids are very bright and it has been a pleasure to teach them so far. Looking ahead, there is of course a lot of work in store as I keep them each in step with the curriculum back home, as well as using my creative juices to combine as much 'fun' into the school day as I can... But it feels good to have one month already under my belt! :)
During the meeting, Laurens and Cheryl both shared the magnitude of their new roles at the mission, and how it would be of great assistance to them if I could extend my times with the children to two afternoons per week along with our Monday to Friday 8am-12pm school time. These past few weeks have been full in the afternoons as I've been getting my apartment more 'homey' (see picture!)
and planning the children's work for the week, but I am hoping to be of assistance to Laurens and Cheryl for the sake of their job roles. It is my hope that I can fall into more of a routine in the days ahead and be able to afford this extra responsibility. In addition, I will also plan to start my involvement in the Hope House activities beginning in November, so with all of these things coming together, I do often feel a little overwhelmed. I appreciate your prayers during this time that I would not feel too bogged down by all of these tasks, but be able to really pour myself into the ministries of each day. I tend to get stressed out when I look ahead to all of my future commitments, but I trust that the Lord will help me prioritize and get into a 'groove' where I can use the gifts He has given me.

I also wanted to tell you how much I've loved seeing the pictures of the leaves changing back in Wainfleet. I've been browsing through the Balls Falls party pictures on the church website, as well as the fall albums posted on facebook. Fall is one of my favorite times of year because the outdoors are fully vibrant with color, and I've missed that this season. Here in Haiti, the weather is still full-fledged summer heat, and as much as I can appreciate the warmth of the weather, I do miss the beauty of autumn back home.
Thinking about the changing seasons in weather also reminds me about the seasons in our lives. A song I've listened to these past few days has a line that sings 'All of my life in every season, You are still God and I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship'. I think about the seasons of my life - The times of abundance and peace and joy, as well as the times of heartbreak and struggle and pain. Through all of these seasons, I am thankful that the Lord doesn't change. He offers me the same hope and love He has always bestowed and because of that, I have a reason to worship Him.
Right now, I feel like I am in a bit of a dry season. Even though there is so much happening around me, I have become more aware of the distance of home and the comfort it brings. There have also been challenges in relationships and really discerning where I belong in this new place. But just like the song says, when I think about who my God is - the One who remains constant through every season - I do have a reason to sing, and for that I am so grateful. I want to remember not to dwell in disappointments but to count the blessings I have been given this day. 
Can you hear me singing? :)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Love is Enough

Last night I took the van der Mark children down to the Hope House. Every Friday night Rachel organizes a outdoor movie night for the kids, complete with 'big screen' (projected on to the side of the orphanage), and popcorn. Since Laurens and Cheryl have been away, I have been looking after the 3 kids, so we piled onto the ATV and headed down for some movie night fun!
When we arrived, I was once again greeted by a multitude of smiling faces, all eager to sit on my lap and hold my hand. It amazed me how many of us were able to fit on the two small benches outside, and how the children were completely mesmerized by a movie that wasn't even in their language. During the movie, I had to exit twice because two little boys who sat on my lap fell asleep, and when the movie was all over, I loved watching the children laugh and play while making their way back into their rooms for bedtime.
It was such a joyful time and it reminded me of the other times I've spent with the people of Haiti... The way I've watched the older children look out for and care for the little ones. The way they share and never leave out others. The way they sing and laugh and play barefoot in the hot sand. Not once have a seen a fight between children, or watched a crying child without someone to comforting them... The people here really care - It's the gardener who waits outside my door to wave and wish me a good day each morning. It's the cook in the kitchen who shares her bright smile whenever someone comes inside. It's the elderly men and women who walk halfway across the church just to give me a hug at greeting time.
These people love. Really love.
They are like a big happy family, and you don't have to 'be' anybody to share in the love. They aren't selfish or proud. 
They live. They love - A love with no inhibitions, so innocent, so true, so evident in their lives.

But sometimes I wonder how these people can love so much and be so content... How they can wake up and face the day ahead of them when they have lost their parents? or their children? or live in pain from disease? Without support from the mission, the majority of them would be homeless, hungry and poor... These people have nothing to their name, and yet they live like they have all the riches in the world.
It causes me look inside myself and wonder, could I be that content with nothing?
I guess the reason I am writing this today is because of a simple truth that I have been hit with lately - Love is enough.

The people of Haiti have displayed this so naturally and beautifully - Love is all they need. And not only do they receive it with open arms, they give it so freely. It's something - one of the only things - that never runs dry in Haiti.

I think about my life - The blessings that I haven't stopped receiving since I was born. For health, for food, for a roof over my head, for a family that loves me, for friends that are there for me, for an education... I could go on and on. And yet so many times, my life doesn't seem good enough. I have a long list of priorities, and when one of them hasn't been met, or when something doesn't quite go my way, I let it take over my attitude and withhold love that I could share. I've been thinking a lot lately about the simplicity of love, and how it's something we as Christians have been commanded to do. It says in 1 Corinthians that faith, hope and love remain - but the greatest of these is love.
What would it look like if I started giving out love in the capacity that it has been given to me? 
Not choosing who to love, or needing a reason to love, or wanting something in return for love... Loving people because that's what Jesus did.
I think it's so mind boggling that such a simple choice can make such a monumental change in someone. Love is the answer. War, pain, confusion, desperation, hunger, rejection, poverty - The answer is LOVE. And what brings it all together for me is that the God of the universe designed it this way.

God loved first.
Jesus lived and died for the sake of love.
And this love compels me to do the same. It's my turn.

For the amount of times I've put myself first and cared more about what people think or what I deserve - It's time to let it go. It's about time that I learn from these people in Haiti and begin to show how this love of Christ has changed me.
It's time to forget about what I think is right or wrong, or what I deserve, and it's time to let my worries and insufficiencies stop taking control of my attitude.
It's time to love.

This isn't a one time decision or a simple commitment. It's a constant choice and action and it's not easy. But how can I not love when God loved first? How can I not give when He gave everything? How can I not forgive when I have received indescribable grace?

This world is full of remedies... Full of ideas of how to 'fix' our problems. But what I have come to realize by watching the people of Haiti, is that the solution is not possessions or power or pride. It's love. And I definitely cannot do it alone, but with Jesus inside of me, I can be used as a vessel of His grace and joy and love.
I want to live in the love of my Father and give that love out today.

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Thursday, October 16, 2008

If I Settle on the Far Side of the Sea...

Written Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - 7:30 pm

It’s been a rough, tiring past couple of days... I’ve been going non-stop teaching, painting my apartment and watching the van der Mark children in the afternoons - as Laurens and Cheryl have been moving into their home and taking a exploratory trip to another mission on the north part of the island.

And on top of it all, I haven’t had internet. For some reason my connection has been lost for the past few days, and so I have had no contact with anyone from home. Tonight it’s all kind of caught up with me, so even though I am unable to post a blog tonight, I am need to get my thoughts down (I will post the blog for you to read as soon as my connection returns).

After supper tonight, I was feeling very discouraged and lonely, so I read some verses in my bible and began to look at the many cards I was given from family and friends. Reading all of the loving messages and encouraging words first brought tears, but then filled me with a sense of peace and purpose. Even though these past days have been testing on my patience and hope, I still have a lingering comfort in my heart.

One of the verses that really jumped out at me from the cards was from Psalm 139 - If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

How I long tonight to be home - I think I would do just about anything to sit at the kitchen table with my family, or take a long drive through the countryside with friends... But the Lord has placed me here - Just as the verse states: He has ‘settled’ me on the far side of the sea (the Caribbean sea to be exact). Although I am faraway from home, I am not alone. I am held fast by the right hand of God. 

Over the past five weeks I have undergone a huge life change. Change in country, language, climate, job, living space, people.... I’ve had to adapt to new responsibilities and customs and expectations... I’ve also been trying balance all this change with my ‘old’ life by keeping in touch and somehow helping you all understand this new life I am in.
And yet through all of this, the Lord has remained true and faithful - guiding me and revealing His character in surprising ways. He has been right beside me. My best friend, my comforter, my shepherd. Just as I wrote about the mountain and the valley, I can testify that tonight, He is with me here in the valley. It’s dark and scary and lonely here, but He is with me. I am confident in His power to carry me through - and when He does, I’ll have the chance to look back and once again, be amazed by His faithfulness.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Thankful List:

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I hope you are all enjoying the holiday weekend and are celebrating this season with your families. As I've mentioned before, it's not easy being home at this special time... I miss seeing the changing colours of the leaves, and the smell of apple crisp baking in the oven, and being surrounded by a table of family faces for thanksgiving dinner. But once again, the Lord has provided in other ways and I truly feel blessed to be in this place. Even though thanksgiving isn't officially celebrated in Haiti, on Saturday night us Canadians (the van der Mark family, Rachel, and I), joined together for thanksgiving dinner consisting of pizza, vegetables, german crepes, ice cream and cinnamon twists. We all decided that just because we didn't have turkey and stuffing didn't mean we couldn't celebrate the holiday, so we each went through our fridges and brought together our most special items. And keeping tradition with all thanksgivings, we ate A LOT! :) I am thankful that I was able to share that special meal with my new 'family'!
This past week at school I also had my kids reflect and write about what they were thankful for. As I was reading their responses I began to think that I too need to make my own thankful list. So often we just take things for granted, and yet thanksgiving is a time for us to really reflect on all that we are blessed with. So here are some things I am thankful for this October:

- Warm sunshine and tropical trees
- The view of the Caribbean sea from my front door
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Yolty's lunches
- The beach
- New friends
- My very own apartment
- Cool showers
- My macbook
- Skype video chats
- Facebook pictures
- ATV's
- My mosquito net - Or as Darcie likes to say - Canopy of dreams!
- Music
- My ipod dock
- After supper chats 
- E-mails from home
- Starbucks frappuccino's
- Wireless internet 
- Fans
- Antibacterial soap
- Bright new paint
- Raid Roach Killer
- Sticky traps
- Fantastik antibacterial spray
- Fresh, clean water
- My pillow
- Prayer support
- My bible
- Orphan smiles

........ I think I could go on and on...... 
I am so blessed! I am thankful for life here in this place. For the health and strength to wake up each morning and embrace the day. For the joy of serving and being in fellowship with brothers and sisters not just in Haiti, but all over the world. And most of all, for the freedom I have through the price that Jesus paid on the cross - which enables me to have hope for each circumstance, knowing that His promise of goodness and love endures forever.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I’m excited to give you an update about my week in Haiti!

On Wednesday, it was my birthday, and I had planned to have a special morning at school with my kids and then to go down to the Hope House in the afternoon. However, these plans all changed when Rachel knocked on my door shortly after I woke up and told me that I had one hour to get ready before we were heading out on the town! Shocked, I asked “But what about school!?!”, and she smiled and told me that she had already discussed it with the van der Mark’s, and I had the day off.

So, still unknowing where we were going, I jumped in a truck with Rachel and Patris, and we began to head up the mountain. I was amazed at the breathtaking view of the villages and homes below... Even though the pictures don’t do justice, I’ve included some for you to take a peek at.

When we arrived at our destination, I found out that we were at the Baptist Mission. This Christian mission is similar to the Mission of Hope, except it has been around for a lot longer, so they have many ‘attractions’ including a zoo, museum and gift shop. We spent the morning exploring through the mission and taking pictures, and then sat down to a delicious meal of pizza and ice cream.... Ahhhh, what a wonderful taste of home! :)

On the way home, Rachel and I also seized the opportunity to stop by the grocery store, so that was an added bonus!

That evening after supper, the van der Marks and Rachel had yet another surprise waiting for me... A birthday cake! :) It was very special to share it with them. Looking back on the day, I am just amazed how the Lord abundantly blessed me. Even though it wasn’t easy to be far away from those I love, I am so thankful to have been able to experience my birthday in a different place, and for all of the special memories I made... It will definitely be a birthday I will never forget!

Another celebration I was fortunate to be a part of took place last night. The Cabaret children who have been staying at the mission since the hurricane are returning to their orphanage today. So last night as a special celebration, Rachel had organized a party for all the kids, complete with singing, skits, dancing, games and best of all, CAKE! The party actually came together last-minute, so right around supper time Rachel called me and asked if I would be willing to help her finish the cakes. So before the party as Rachel ran errands, I stayed in her kitchen and made 4 batches of icing and decorated the desserts. It was such an fun job for me, knowing that it would be such a treat that all 150+ kids would get to enjoy. 

When I went down to the church (where the party took place), I was thrilled to see so many excited children laughing and singing. It was such a joyful evening, but it was still difficult to say goodbye to all of the beautiful Cabaret children. Fortunately they aren’t going too faraway, so I will be able to go and visit them on occasion, but last night as they all returned to the high school (where they have been staying) for bedtime, I went along and my heart broke. Most of the children were preparing their beds (a flat sheet on the floor), while others lined up by an old, dirty bucket to use the bathroom, and still other small children, too young to get ready themselves, remained outside sitting in the gravel and waiting for an adult to take them to bed. It all started to hit me, that the lifestyles of these children, so seemingly desperate, was normal. These children have probably never slept in a comfortable bed, worn clean pyjama's, taken a warm bath, or felt the comfort of a loving mother who tucks them in, like I and most North American children have experienced. As I held, smiled and kissed the little ones around me, I whispered a prayer in my heart for each one. During this special time, Lord spoke to me and reminded me, despite the pain I felt for these children, He is the same Father to them as He is to me. Even when their care seems inadequate and their futures are full of unknowns, He made each one, and created them with a specific purpose. Just as I feel His presence in my life, He loves each one of them and will be faithful to them through the calm and through the storm.

Sometimes I question pain and why bad things happen to people, especially the innocent children of Haiti, and yet I have realized that without pain, there would be no hope. I feel blessed knowing that in some small way I am able to play a part in offering these children hope, and as the little boy in my arms fell asleep, once again I felt a fullness in my heart that this is exactly where I need to be. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


It's been the start of another busy week here in Haiti!
My teaching is going very well with the van der Mark children and we are almost ahead of our school schedule which is great! I have felt so encouraged by the way that I have been able to handle all of these new 'teacher' responsibilities and still have time available to be involved in the other activities around the mission.
Good news from last week - I managed to get groceries and fill my fridge with wonderful food to enjoy, as well as get some paint for my white walls. Right now we are experiencing some daytime power issues which will hopefully be resolved soon so that I can paint with fans and music - 2 very crucial things when it comes to hard work in Haiti! But I am really excited about the colors I chose: One thing to remember that on a Caribbean island, everything is BRIGHT! So to my delight, I chose a fresh coral color for my bathroom and a beautiful sunshine yellow for my bedroom. The main kitchen and living area will be a neutral sand color so that I can afford to keep my wild colored furniture without risking a clash! :)
Another highlight to my weekend was spending Sunday afternoon with my new friends, Rachel and Patris. Rachel is a fellow Canadian who grew up in Niagara Falls and is going on her third year here in Haiti working as the Hope House coordinator - and all of the other responsibilities that title entails! Over the past few weeks she has had her hands very full in overseeing the care of 100-plus orphans who are staying at the mission while their home is repaired from the hurricane damage, one top of all her other duties!
But with everything slowly coming back to routine, she came over for a while after church and we had a great time of catching up and sharing about our past few weeks in at the mission. Afterwards, we went along with Patris (a friend of Rachel's from Haiti) to Yolty's, a Haitian restaurant complete with dirt floor and stray dogs. Despite the sketchy atmosphere, we had some awesome Haitian food and I got to know them both a lot better.
I just want to thank you for your prayers in this area. I've shared with many of you that I was really trusting that the Lord would bring along some friends that I could lean on in Haiti. I was amazed how just that morning I had read from Psalms 27 and the words that stuck with me were - I truly believe that I will live to see the Lord's goodness. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and brave and wait for the Lord. 
I used these verses as I prayed on Sunday morning, specifically for good friends, and I was just in awe about how the Lord specifically answered my prayer. It just reminded me once again about all of the prayers that you have been lifting up for me over this past month, and I can truly testify the Lord's presence and goodness to me these days.
I can honestly say that without your prayers and the Lord's blessing, I would be drowning in a sea of fear, uncertainty and homesickness in Haiti. Yet I look at this place around me and I am filled with hope and courage to shine the light that I have been given. Even though I often have a heaviness in my heart, I feel compelled by the love of my Saviour to live each day to the fullest and spend it all. May it be all for His glory. Even in the hard times, even when my prayers don't seem to be answered (at least not in my timing), even when I don't understand, I know I can trust the One that has called me here, because I know I will live to see His goodness.
It is my hope that we would all be aware of His goodness in our lives, in the light and in darkness, and be reminded that His plan is always the best. All around me in this place there are majestic mountains and I look at them a lot. They are gigantic and glorious, but I just had a little epiphany - without the valley, there would be no mountain. If there was never pain, we would never truly know how beautiful joy and laughter is. And this is a promise I cling to most of all, that my God will never fail, He is with me just as much in the valley as He is on the mountain.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ups and Downs...

Wow! It's hard to believe that we are already into October!
It seems kind of crazy to think that just a few weeks ago I was home and living such a different life than I am now... Even though time is flying by so fast here in Haiti, it just seems so surreal that it hasn't actually been that much time since I left. I guess it tells me that I am adjusting to life here, and the Lord has surely been with me through the good and the bad.
I had a bit of a frightening experience at church this past Sunday. During the worship time, I was standing while I sang and I was feeling fine. As time passed, my feet began to get tired and I sat down to give myself a rest. As soon as I sat down I felt sick to my stomach and although my stomach wasn't aching I knew that I needed to exit. I tried to sit quietly and let it pass for a few moments, and all of the sudden I began to see black spots invade my vision. I felt very dizzy and fortunately was able to take hold of Cheryl's arm who was standing beside me. When I told her what was happening she helped me exit and told me to keep my head down. She said that I needed to help my body get the blood to my brain or I would faint. A few feet away we had parked the ATV, so slowly we made our way to it, but I had to keep stopping because my vision got really bad. At one point all I could see was white, and then everything went black. I felt so dizzy and my body felt very heavy. I had to crouch down very low on the ground and steady myself. Fortunately, I had 'Dr. Cheryl' talking me through everything and she drove me back up the hill to my apartment where she got me a cool glass of water and helped me lay down. I spent the afternoon resting and drinking lots of water since it turned out that I was very dehydrated. Due to the full day in the sun at the beach on Saturday, I think the heat caught up with me. So that was my first 'sick' day in Haiti... Let's hope that it's one of few!
Over these weeks there have been other low points, like having a lack of power or water, and plenty of bugs irritating me from sun up to sun down. And of course with one of my favorite holidays coming up next weekend, I'm definitely not looking forward to missing out on the family feast and fellowship together.
It's important for me to be able to share these struggles with you so you know how to pray for me as I deal with daily disappointments and frustrations. However, as I've expressed in previous postings, I don't want you to get the wrong impression. I am truly loving my life here in Haiti. This afternoon, after spending the morning teaching my kids, I had over 100 children playing on the jungle gym outside my door. I had to check that I wasn't dreaming. It was truly a blessing to go out and play with them and spend the afternoon laughing and talking and loving on those beautiful orphan children.

The times that I have experienced with the children of Haiti, and other moments - like watching the Haitian sun set over the mountains, or reflect on what the Lord has been doing in my heart these days far outweigh the low points. I wake up in the morning, and I can hardly wait to start my day, because even though I can expect to be let down by the temporary discomforts, I can also be assured of being filled with joy and peace and love and life. It's these moments of reflection when I know beyond a doubt that this is what I was made for. Thank you Jesus for bringing me to this place. A place where I can make such a tangible difference and be filled until I overflow.

Thank you all for your continual prayer. I know without a doubt that it has played a main part in my smooth transition to this new life, and I am so grateful.
Oh, and one more upside to look forward... Tomorrow is grocery day! After being here for over three weeks, it's about time we got our OWN food... So it will be nice after tomorrow to open my fridge and actually have food to snack on! That's another thing that I'm learning in Haiti - it's all about the small things! :)