Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Last week at the grocery store I bought paper towels. When I got back to my apartment and took them out of the package, they had flowers printed on them and the words ‘Home Sweet Home’. The phrase struck me for a moment, and for the first time, it sunk in. I realized that this is my home. For the past 2 months, I have been moving in, painting walls, unplugging sinks, washing floors and working my way up this point where I can walk in my front door and.... relax. Believe it or not, I think i can say it’s arrived. I’m so thankful for this piece of independence, this space I can call my own, and for the way that the Lord has helped me adjust to this new way of life. 

But this new ‘home’ is more than just my apartment, it’s life in Haiti....

It’s waking up in my bed to the sound of birds outside my window, the breath-taking view of mountains as soon as I step out my front door, riding on the back of an ATV in my church clothes through the dust and dirt of the mission road, the intense heat from the sun shining through the palm leaves... It’s walking to children’s church with an escort of 10 children clinging to my arms. It’s the hugs and kisses I receive every time I walk down to the orphanage... and above all, it’s believing that there is no better place in the world for me to be right now, than right here in this place. It’s nothing I’ve ever experienced in my entire life, but it’s everything I’ve dreamed of and more.

On Sunday morning I got to tell two bible stories in children’s church, and it was such a blessing to share Jesus with these dear Haitian children. Telling the story of the lost sheep, from the bottom of my heart I prayed that these children would listen and believe the message I was telling. Jesus loves each of them so much that He would leave the flock to search for them. In being here I have feel like I’ve captured such a passion for living and loving people, based on the blessings I’ve been given from these dear people, and it is amazing. If I can give back half of what I have received since I’ve been here, it will be a miracle.

I think it’s kind of ironic after writing all of this to say that in about 3 weeks I’m coming home. Home to Canada for Christmas! Now keep in mind that just because Haiti is becoming like a home to me here doesn’t mean that I don’t think about Wainfleet or the people I love. I can hardly wait to get off the plane and see my family and friends and catch up on all that has unravelled since my departure in September. It will truly be a sweet reunion! And Wainfleet is home to me too, just in a different way. Wainfleet is my comfort, my joy, and my foundation, because it’s the place where I recieve such love and support and feel spurred on to experience what I am doing today. I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart that I would not be thriving

here without your prayers and without the presence of the Lord.


I guess after putting my thoughts on ‘paper’ I can come to the conclusion that home is really never a permanent place where you physically reside. Home is the place where your heart belongs. And right now for me, Haiti is where God has placed me, and every day, the more I open up my heart to life here, the more I belong. It won’t be home forever. Like all of us, our callings change, and God leads us to new ‘homes’. But for now I thank God for leading me here... Leading me home.

On that note, yesterday Rachel’s kittens said goodbye to their mother, and I moved Hanna (named after the 3rd hurricane which hit Haiti in September), downstairs into my apartment. She meowed through the whole night, and all day she has been hiding under my couch. Just this evening she crept out and ate a bit of her food, and now she is resting peacefully on my cushy chair. It’s going to take some time (and a lot of patience on my end), but eventually this place will be home to Hannah too. Beginnings are never easy, but they’re worth it. Welcome home.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Through it All

I had a bit of a rough week... On Sunday I came down with a minor stomach infection, and on Monday morning I woke up to another leaky ceiling. Then I actually had to call off school yesterday from being sick... again. In addition, with the consistent rainstorms we've had in the evenings, the mosquitos here are THICK! Unfortunately mosquito repellent doesn't last forever, so I'm covered in bites which gives me a difficult time getting to sleep. It just feels like everything is on a downward spiral!
During these days I've turned to the books of Psalms, and I've connected with the writings of David. One thing that I can really appreciate about him, is that he is always honest with God. He doesn't put on a show or cover up what he is feeling inside. He is completely real - sometimes blunt - and lets out his heartbreak and confusion. The Psalms are full of wonderful praises of thanksgiving and adoration to celebrate what God has done, but they are also full of David's heart cries when all seems lost.
I've been doing a lot of journalling, and I've been deliberate about bringing all of my problems to the Lord. I've prayed, I've offered up these struggles, and I've even complained. But what is amazing to me is that no matter what I emotions I experience, God understands and He meets me. He is here through it all. Of course, he doesn't zap everything back to how it should be. He does more. He offers himself. Being away from home seemed to compound all my problems this week because I felt so alone. But through these times of loneliness, I get to experience His presence so much more. He becomes evident in things that I would never realize without being in this place by myself. He is refining me and it's worth the pain because He is showing up.
And eventually, the ceiling drips stop. My body heals. The sun comes out. The mosquito's fly away (or maybe not... they are swarming around me even as I write this blog! haha). But the Lord brings restoration. He changes my heart. And above all these things, He has proven that He is more than enough.
Thank you for your continual prayer and support to me as these weeks and months go by... It encourages me more than you know!
I also wanted to give you an update on my involvement in the mission, and ask you to keep praying that I can find my 'spot'. I spoke with Rachel yesterday and she told me about English classes she has organized for the Hope House children. She offered for me to get involved in working with the little ones - singing alphabet songs, etc., which would be really fun. I'm also continuing to explore the children's church program and ways that I can plug into that. Finally, there is the school curriculum development that I have been encouraged to check out. Joanne, who is an American that came down to teach missionary children (just like me!), works for the mission and has lived in Haiti now for over 30 years. She is currently working on a Christian school curriculum that can be used in the School of Hope at the mission, as well as given out to other schools in Haiti. I have only met her once, but I really got excited from her passion about the ministry, and I hope to get to know her better and possibly assist her in this large task. So who knows!? I really don't think it's possible for me to carry out all of these responsibilities, but I am praying that the Lord will guide me to the ministries where I can be the most benefit.
Stay tuned..... :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Holy Ground

It's hard to believe that yet another week as passed by already! Let me tell you about it...
Early this week, Brad Johnson (who is the president of the mission), arrived with other staff members from the States. They all came to prepare for yesterday's big meeting in Port-au-Prince for the launch of HaitiOne. HaitiOne came from a dream that Brad had one night, where he first saw the country of Haiti (like the picture on a map), with many different colored lines going to different points all over the country. Then, in his dream he saw the lines disappear and one gold band wrap around the country unifying all it's parts. From this dream, Brad felt God calling him to start a new campaign to bring together all of the separate missions organizations of Haiti in order to change the country for God. Right now, Haiti has many private operating missions, but the goal of HaitiOne is to bring all of those Christian missions together and work together as a body - sharing resources, services and love to advance the Kingdom of God. This past Friday, Brad along with the other missions staff, met with the leaders of organizations all over the country, and have began to launch this new idea. Keep in mind that my explanation is just the tip of the iceberg, so if you are interested in getting more information, check out www.haitione.org
So as we've been gearing up for this event, I've spent the past few nights assisting the team by putting packages together for the leaders and organizing the materials to go out. Then on Thursday night, we all gathered for prayer, and it was a very inspiring time for me. As I listened to Brad talk about how this journey first began, and the passion he has in his heart for the people of Haiti, I was very moved. He is truly living for something much greater than himself or his family and it is so evident. It just made me feel so thankful to work alongside these people so dedicated to what the Lord is doing in Haiti and in some small way, be a part of it. At one point during prayer, Brad said that somewhere tonight in Haiti, a little child sits alone in the dark, but God we know that he is your child. Those words caught in my heart because it's true. Despite the desperation I see all around me, these people belong to God. Every boy or girl without a parent, every teenager without a job, every newborn baby with aids. They are God's children, and they are the hope of this nation. It's our time to be a part of raising up this generation for Jesus.
Finally, I was encouraged by the continuing words of prayer as another staff member spoke about how the Lord ordained this ministry from long before our time. Before we were even born, God had this idea and God chose His people to carry out the task. It made me realize, how many times do I think about God pre-planning these experiences I get to be a part of everyday?... It's easy for me to take these moments for granted, or not really seize every opportunity that comes across my path on a daily basis. However, this sacred time of prayer sparked my passion and awe for the plans the Lord has for my life, and how before I was even born, he had this calling on my life. It blows my mind to think about the significance of this journey I am on and how the Lord ordained it long ago.
It is my prayer that you may be reminded of that tonight as well. Wherever you are, whatever your facing, whatever road you are on, God planned it. He created you with a purpose and the best of intentions for your life in order to serve and glorify Him. God is moving, He is up to something so much bigger than us, and He is only asking us to be a part of it. It's amazing when we realize we are on holy ground. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A little disclaimer...

I know that the majority of you staying connected with my blog have also been following along with the Nicaragua team blog, which I have been thoroughly enjoying as well. It's so great to see all that they have been able to accomplish over the past few weeks, and I admit that they do a very good job keeping us in the loop. I've had a few people send teasing e-mails that I don't keep you as informed as my Uncle Rand does with the team, but what I have to say to you is this ~ I do my best to write a post once a week, but if my Uncle Rand was here, I'm sure you'd get an update more often.... You can take that one up with him! ;)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Singing on the Mountaintop!

It has been quite a weekend.... I feel like I almost need another weekend to recover before jumping into the school week tomorrow, but I am trusting that the Lord will give me the strength I need. I just wanted to take a moment to share with you about my day yesterday. I had the opportunity to travel with Don, which is another guy who works at the mission. He is mostly involved in village outreach and church programs, and he has a regular route that he always makes on Saturday's to do children's programs and speak to families. He has offered for me to come along anytime, so yesterday was my day!

At 8:30 I jumped into the open cab of his pickup truck with the 3 other interns that are here from the United States. Before venturing too far, we proceeded to pick up about 5 other Haitian translators who came along to assist us with outreach ministry. 
Our first stop was in Cabaret where we drove down one of the side streets and immediately children who recognized Don's truck began to chase after us smiling and laughing until we stopped at a clearing in a small neighbourhood. There we sang songs and played games, followed by a prayer and memory verse challenge, and of course we didn't leave until we passed out candy. 
We stayed for about an hour in each village beginning with Cabaret, then Ti-Plasce, and finally my favourite spot of the day - Sophie, where we did our programs right by a freshwater stream. In order to get there we had to drive up the mountain which was quite an adventure in the back of the pickup. Of course, I could have chosen to ride in the truck on an actual seat, but it made the experience much more memorable, especially when it came to eating lunch on the go (see picture). 
As we entered each small village, about 50-100 people showed up.... All the way from babies to elderly people. We ran a similar program at each site, which also included me having a dance off with one of the kids... Since I'm still lacking in my creole, Don thought it would be funny to involve me this way... of course failed miserably! These Haitians really know how to 'bust a move'! :)

But driving in the pickup was definitely a delightfully-risky memory I will always carry. At one point, one of the translators began to sing a worship song from church and we all joined in singing at the top of our lungs. As I braced myself onto the side of the bedliner and we bumped along upwards toward the village of Sophie, I looked across the land of Haiti and listened to the voices of the guys singing next to me. It is truly a moment I will never forget because at that moment I felt so close to Jesus and so alive. I've had 'defining' moments in the past where the Lord has really spoken to my heart, and this was another one of those times. Despite the simplicity of that moment, it was truly invigorating and it just made me feel so blessed. I felt amazed once again to be living this dream and so thankful for the opportunity to be in this place! Sometimes it's easy for me to dwell in the disappointments, but once again, singing on the mountaintop, the Lord sang over me and spoke peace and love into my heart. It was probably one of the best days I've had in Haiti yet.

Well, I think that's all from me tonight.... All of this action has really tired me out, and I've got a big week ahead of me, so I think I'm going to call it a night. 
Sweet dreams!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bright Spots

I feel like every time I sit down to write a new blog I am flooded with so many different memories, stories and emotions... It's hard to know where to begin! 
This past week has been another blur of school days combined with team-building and outreach. At the beginning of the week, another church team arrived, and although I enjoy getting to know them, sometimes I get discouraged because I wish I could be more involved in the life of the mission with them... When teams arrive, they have so much work lined up for them around the mission and surrounding villages, and I often find myself wishing I could go along. Teaching takes up a lot more time then the standard school hours when you factor in prep work and marking, so I often get jealous of the other people on staff who get to go out and interact with the Haitian people. It's in times like this that I have to remind myself why I am here - I am here to teach these children. That is my priority! So although it may not be as glamorous as what the other staff members get to do, I still need to pour my heart into it and serve wholeheartedly. 
It's been pretty tough in school this week as I've been teaching some difficult math lessons - long division and decimals - and I've really had to lean back on the Lord. It is often easy for me to puff myself up and give myself credit for the training and experience I have as a teacher, as if I can do it all on my own. But in the difficult times of teaching and managing the kids this week, I have been reminded once again of my weakness and how I am so desperate for the Lord's patience and wisdom. I would not succeed in this task without His constant provision and guidance, and never want to forget how much I need Him... This week was just another reminder!
So let me tell you now about a bright spot in my week, which happened yesterday. It was Thursday so I had planned for a full day of teaching with the kids, but during lunch Cheryl suggested that we take the afternoon off and ride along into Cabaret to see the orphan kids with the team. I was so thrilled to be a part of the mission outreach and it was such a fun afternoon. The kids were the same children who stayed at the mission high school after their orphanage was destroyed from the hurricane, so a lot of them recognized me and blessed me with hugs and smiles. It was a joyful afternoon of singing and games, and I didn't want to leave. Near the end of our time, we got to bring out the children's meals of rice and beans, and I was amazed as we brought out the food how much the children looked after one another. Even though they were all hungry, it blessed my heart to see the older children feeding the younger ones, and despite the close quarters, I was impressed at how they all sat quietly and patiently until everyone was fed. These children have truly blessed me more than I can express in words! 
This weekend, I was also given the opportunity to go along to do kids clubs in the villages past Cabaret. So I've got to keep plugging away on my teaching prep for next week so I can afford to be out tomorrow! 
Thank you again for all of your love and prayers for me... I will leave you with some good news ~ I am coming home for Christmas! So I look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Weekend Whirl

Good news everybody! We are now all on the same time!!! Since I have been in Haiti, the time between me and you people in Canada has been an hour different, but now that you have fallen back we are all on the same time. I don't know about you, but somehow to me, you all seem a bit closer. ;)
I want to begin by thanking all of you for your prayers for my ceiling... The leaking has stopped completely, so I have been able to rearrange my apartment back to normal... I'm actually sitting on my couch directly under where the leak was to write this blog and I am nice and dry! :)
The rest of my week was quite eventful leading up to halloween on Friday. I had the kids for two extended afternoons this week as a part of our new schedule, and then yesterday we had a fun day of dressing up for halloween.
I told the kids to create some crazy costumes with the clothes that they brought to Haiti, and it was amazing what wild creatures we were able to become. During the school morning, we also did a science experiment to create green slime, and in the evening the kids came around trick or treating to each of the staff apartments.
After trick or treating, we all headed down to the Hope House for movie night - One of my favorite parts of the week. I blogged earlier this month about my experience watching the movies with the kids, and once again, I was captured by the joy in that place. Sitting under a sky full of stars, watching 'A Bee Movie' projected onto the side of a cement wall surrounded by smiling children is definitely one of my favorite places in the whole world.
Despite the disappointments and struggles that I faced earlier in the week, I was once again reminded last night how much the Lord is blessing me here in Haiti, and what a joy it is to serve Him.
Tomorrow is church and I am really looking forward to the worship by Pastor Claudel - The music director. He leads such a wonderful team of musicians and singers, full of passion and praise. It is such a ministry to me to see them worship, and to hear familiar songs being sung in the Creole language. Over the past few weeks I have opted to sing the songs in English, but last week I purchased a songbook with all of the songs printed out in Creole, so I am slowly going to try to learn the songs in this new language!
I am also looking forward to observing the children's church program tomorrow during the service. After worship time, the children are dismissed to the school for games and songs while the pastor speaks. Last Sunday, Cheryl followed along with the kids and told me afterwards that I should go along next Sunday. She said that I would be a great benefit to the children's program if I would could get involved, since currently all of the children stay together in one small room and it is pretty chaotic. If it works out and depending how full my plate is, I may be able to give leadership in one area of the children's ministry - using the experience I've had in children's programs at our church, and help the coordinators develop more of an organized program. I know what some of you may be thinking - Does this mean I have to miss the message every Sunday? Well, actually, it wouldn't really bother me to miss out on the message since the language barrier prevents me from understanding the pastor... I'm sure I would learn a lot from the teaching if I could understand the language, but since I can't, it's been pretty boring to listening to 45-minute Creole sermons. It would be great for me to plug into an alternative program with the kids at that time instead of sitting in a pew feeling like I am going to fall asleep at any moment! ;)
I appreciate your prayers as I discern how I can best involve myself in the mission programs and ideas I can bring to the people involved. I will definitely keep you posted on my involvement in the programs in the weeks to come.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay tuned for more news from Haiti in a few days!