Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wrapping up...

School is over for the year! We've had a great fall term leading up to Christmas, but as you can imagine, we've all been anticipating the holidays!
Yesterday we had our last day of class before break - and we spent it at the beach! All week I told the kids I had some surprises up my sleeve, and so on Friday after devotions they opened their stockings and included inside was a ticket to the beach. They were pretty excited about it, and we had a wonderful time. Basking in the waves of the Caribbean sea under a cloudless sky with my students, I thought of all of you back home in the frigid north and was thankful for a day in paradise... I could go on but I think I'll stop there - I don't want to make you jealous! ;)

When we arrived back at the mission, I was also thrilled to see that one of the Canadian containers had arrived! I had about 10 big boxes outside of my door, which was quite a treat. Most of them I still haven't opened - They are donated books for school with the kids which I am very grateful for. I think I might make a little project for the kids and I on Monday to open them all up and see what goodies are inside. Along with the school boxes were 2 rubbermaid bins which I had packed before I left. Inside there were many decorations for my apartment, so I'm excited to find a place for everything! For those of you coming to Haiti with the Canadian team in January, I'm excited to show off all of my interior decorating! :)

So the rest of my last weekend in Haiti will be spent wrapping up all of my school plans and packing to come home. It still feels surreal that next week at this time I will be home in Canada. I feel like the past 3 months I have begun a whole new life in a completely different world, so it's going to be really crazy to go back to where it all began. I honestly never thought that I would feel like this... I am sad to leave. It's hard to know what to do with these emotions - I am so excited to go home and be a part of the Christmas celebrations - there really is no place I would rather be this time of year. But these past few weeks in Haiti have been so wonderful. I am starting to make friends with the Haitian people, and I feel like I'm a part of something so much bigger than myself. It's the feeling I get every morning when I walk outside and see the view of the water and the mountains. It's bigger than a calling... It's the life I am living every day... It's like a dream! And I think if this was it - If I wasn't coming back in January, I would really struggle with the goodbye. Fortunately, it's not over and I get to come back in the new year. I guess this feeling confirms that the country and people of Haiti are really finding a place in my heart. I'm not done here. I feel like I've only just begun. It makes me think of what will happen when my year commitment is over and I am left at a crossroads - to stay here or come back... It's still very unknown - after all it's still a ways away, but I continue to pray that the Lord would guide my steps and lead me where I belong. Whether it be Haiti, or Wainfleet or somewhere in between.

The feelings of love I have for this place take me back to my struggles and fears I had about leaving during the summer. Reading my June/July/August blogs and journal entries I am reminded of my feelings of the unknown and uncertainty about what I was getting myself into. But now that I'm here, I realize how all of my stress and worry was so unnecessary. I am amazed how the Lord has carried me up to this point and He has totally showered His blessings on my life. And to think, if I would have turned down this opportunity because of fear, how I would be missing out on this. I can't imagine turning this life down now that I'm here, but when I had to commit without knowing what was ahead, it was difficult to submit. It all just comes down to faith - believing without seeing.

It's eye opening to see how Satan takes advantage of our fear and paralyzes our faith.... Working at a mission like this has always been my dream, but I struggled when I had to say yes... It was so hard to step out - and even after I decided to go, I wavered and worried about what would become of the life I had in Wainfleet. I just realize how much the Lord had already taken care of everything, and before I came here He already had plans for all of the experiences and joys that I am living everyday. 

It just makes me want to surrender everything to Him. So many times I hold on to things because I don't want anything bad to happen, or just because I want control. But looking back on these past 3 months, I am speechless. I can't even express in words how much the Lord has met me and shown me how much He really can do when I offer up my life.
Let me also say that sometimes it's in the deepest, darkest moments that we fear the most which are the times that are the most beautiful. It's not just in the sunshine and happy smiles that I see the Lord working. It's in the places of sorrow and confusion - when I have to simply let go and trust. I don't know what's ahead next month, next year or beyond, but I do know more now than I have ever known that the Lord has more in store than we could ever dream, and He wants to do something amazing with each of our lives.... I just want to keep living in the sweet spot!

So in just a few days I'll be flying home and it will be wonderful to see you all.... You have become like a big northern family to me, and I can't thank you enough for the love and prayers you have showered on me as I've ventured out. I know that the time will fly when I come home, so don't expect to see a blog for another couple weeks.... Until then, may you all cherish the joy of the season and look ahead to more blogging in 2009!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Barefoot Wanderers

I had a great week with visitors from Canada this week. Friends of the van der Marks (Ken and Debbie Gibbons and Heather Fretz) arrived last Friday and I got to host Heather at my house. Fortunately, I put the finishing touches on my spare room a few weeks earlier, so it was nice to have a roommate for the past few days! And it couldn't have worked out better with my new kitten - Heather is a vet! She was able to give me some great tips on how to keep Hanna happy and healthy. A few of you have inquired about her progress since my last post, and I am pleased to inform you that Hanna is becoming quite at home, and we've had some good bonding so far. 

She greets me at the door and cuddles on my lap, and the best part - She trapped and killed a mouse! On Monday morning I woke up to find a dead mouse on my bathroom floor. It's still unknown if Hanna simply found it or caught it, but I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt! ;) If this keeps up, I think I will become a 'cat-person' after all! The only thing she hasn't killed is a scorpion that was in my apartment for a few days....

Heather mentioned to me that early one morning she saw a small scorpion in the bathroom. She wasn't able to kill it, so we were both hoping that it had kindly exited the house as it had entered. However, on Wednesday night I saw it again in the kitchen, and promptly snapped a picture before swatting it repeatedly with my trusty fly swatter. Apparently the smaller the scorpion, the more poisionous it is, so I'm hoping that this creature doesn't have any friends!

Now to expand on the title of today's blog... Today I just got back from a riverwalk/orphanage visit with the college team that is here for the beginning of December. We drove by bus down a side street out of Cabaret until we ran out of road, and then hiked for about an hour through the jungle until we reached a clearing, where we gathered the local children to sing songs, tell bible stories, play games and pass out candy. During the trek, we accumulated many tag along children - barefoot wanderers. Most of them were wearing only oversized t-shirts and walked on the path of dirt - but sometimes sharp plants and rocks - with us with no shoes. I couldn't really take any pictures, since both of my hands were pre-occupied holding onto theirs. But as we ventured deeper into the barren land of Haiti, I began to think about the lives of these dear children. Most of them weren't much older than 6, and yet they latched onto us without any signs of needing a parent. As we followed Amy, who leads the teams on outreach trips, I thought about how desperate these children must be, to follow a group of strangers, not knowing where they are going, and to show no concern in returning back to their homes. My heart broke for the little ones that we had to leave when we got back to the bus - I can only hope that they had a family or home to return to. I guess it's still just a shock for me to understand this culture and this generation of children. In Canada, you wouldn't think about letting a child wander off, or fend for themselves, and yet no matter where I go outside the mission, I always see children alone and unattended. Children in Haiti have to grow up fast. Much faster than children back home. 

As I held the hands of the children walking in stride with me, a familiar verse came into my head. It's a verse I've claimed many times, but today I prayed it for the children around me. In Jeremiah 29:11, God says that He knows the plans He has for us, plans for good and not for disaster. Plans to bring hope and a future. For the children I met today, I struggle to see the hope and the future. I am blinded by what I see. The poverty, the malnutrition, the disease. And yet what God sees is a child that He created, with a specific purpose. I questioned Him about why these children have to live in such desperation, and what they have to look forward to in life, but I can only hope that the songs we sang together so joyfully, and the love we shared about Jesus to them in that small clearing will always stay with them.

As got back on the bus and drove away from the children this afternoon, I did my best to surrender my concern for them into the hands of God. As the song sings 'He knows my name', and no matter what impossible circumstance lies ahead, I believe that the Lord knows each of their names, their needs and He loves them, just as He loves each one of us. It's hard not to be able to simply fix the problem.... It's so much bigger than me. But thank the Lord that He is so much bigger than the problem, and as I trust Him and surrender, may I be used to play a part in restoration and hope.

Monday, December 1, 2008


December has arrived!!!
On Friday night when I arrived at the Hope House for the movie, there was a string of lights hanging from the rooftop, and inside where the children eat, there was a Christmas tree complete with lights and ornaments. At first it was a little disorienting, since I have always associated Christmas with snow, winter jackets and carols being played through the media. I haven't had any of that this year, so it took me a second to click in! But whether I'm aware of it or not, Christmas is coming and that's exciting! 
So in keeping with the first day of December, I think I'll share a few more 'firsts' that happened to me this past weekend.
Yesterday after church I took my first trip into Simonette, where Patris - one of my new Haitian friends - and his family members live. He is actually getting married on December 27th, so I got to tour his new house and try some of the grapes growing in his front yard! :) In Simonette, we also got to check out Rachel's coconut tree. Yes, it's true that she actually rented a coconut tree, which means she gets to reap the benefits all year long. Kindly, she shared with us, so I had my first taste of fresh coconut milk! See picture below.... It was good!

Another first for me happened on Saturday, which might not seem as thrilling to you back home, but it was quite exciting for me... I had my first cheeseburger! I ordered one at a city near Port-Au-Prince while out and about on Saturday. After not eating one for almost three months, it was truly a beautiful moment!
And finally, I also went to my first staff meeting last Friday. Mr. Marc - who is the Haitian director on the mission - scheduled a meeting for all of the staff, so I joined in, and it was really eye-opening for me to see how many people showed up. The mission employs well over 100 Haitian people, so it was quite a squeeze packing everyone into the cafeteria.
The reason for the meeting on Friday was to discuss the financial situation of the mission. For those of you who support the mission or stay involved in it's progress, you are probably already aware of the missions lack of funding. With 2 large expansions in the works, the mission already has had to cut back in order to progress in the construction and growth of the facilities. However, just over the past few months, they have lost a few of the significant contributors, so the meeting was to inform the staff of the new standards that will be put in place in order to save money.
Sadly, it may come to the point where some of the staff may need to be laid off, since the mission cannot afford to pay them. Despite the dire situation and the concern on the faces of those around me, I was encouraged by the way Mr. Marc handled everything. He assured everyone that the mission would not be closing, only that over the next few months we all need to be aware of the situation and trust the Lord to provide. It was very heartwarming to hear Mr. Marc witness to the staff about how God knows all of our needs, and He will never leave us. So many times in our lives situations seem impossible, but when we trust God, He will give us what we need, and during these testing times, we are given the chance to trust Him and allow Him to refine us. 
Based on the financial situation, the mission is really pushing for end-of-the-year supporters and donations to cover this year's budget. Please contact me via e-mail ( if you would like more information about how you can get involved.
Finally, I just want to emphasize the feeling of community and family-like atmosphere that I experience here in Haiti. Coming here in September, I thought that I would be the one with the answers: telling others about Jesus and sharing the message of the gospel. However, I've been amazed how time and time again when I am speaking with Haitian people how they share the gospel with me. So often when I am in conversation with people they remind me about Jesus' love and the way that He provides, just like Mr. Marc did on Friday. It's quite a testament to hear these people, who have little to no possessions here on earth, speak about the treasure and hope of Jesus, their eternal riches. They can't contain it. It's humbling and inspiring for me at the same time because I feel like being here it's my job to tell these people about Jesus. However, it overflows out of them, and they are so passionate about their faith. They will never know the impact that they have on my life as they share about what Jesus has done. I want to live more like these people. Giving glory and praise to the Lord in EVERY circumstance. Not dwelling in problems that arise, but keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus. After all, like a song I've been listening to recently sings: He is big enough. May I stay fixed on that promise today.