Friday, December 25, 2009

Oh Come.

Oh come.

Come all ye,

From the most superior wise men among us, to the simplest shepherds, come.
Come to the manger.
Leave your burdens. Leave your regrets. Leave the life lists.
It's time to go to Bethlehem.
Where love first came down.
We're not that far now.

Come and behold Him. May we have eyes to truly see the magnificence.
May we somehow be able to catch sight of the miracle.
May we be captured by the manger throne. What hope it brings to all people.
The beauty. The cost. The love. The sacrifice.
How could heaven's heart not break on the day that you came?
May we celebrate the day that you were born to die.

Sing choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all ye citizens of heaven - Glory to God.
Glory in the highest!
Not just a song, an anthem.
Not just in this day, but in this life.

May we never cease to praise you.
May we worship with all that we have.
May we falter so that your strength can be seen in us.
May we give you all the glory.

You are the air we breathe. You are the love we need. You are the life in us.
What an indescribable gift we have been given.
Freedom. Peace. Joy. Love.

Oh come.
Let us adore Him.
Come, let us adore Him.
Oh come, let us adore Him.

You are Saviour.
You are Lord.
You are Prince of Peace.
You are King.
You are Everything.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ordinary miracle.

Sunday afternoons at Gwopapapou are the best.
Snag a tap tap after the church service and veer off dusty Route Nationale 1 road through the royal blue and red metal door. Collapse into a white plastic picnic chair on the porch and the waitress already knows the order.
Sip Coke out of 1/2 litre glass bottles and mow down on rice, plantain and the best fried chicken in the world - and if you have room left in your belly, there is even coconut ice cream to top it off.
There's my plug for Gwopapapou... Hope your mouth is watering.

Today I was privileged to dine with my friends, Sadrac and Wicky along with Sadrac's sister, Sidonie. Sidonie goes to school in the Dominican Republic and is studying to be a pediatrician. She is home until the new year, so I saw her at the church service this morning and then she was able to join us for lunch!

When the plates arrived, we bowed our heads to pray and Wicky suggested that Sidonie pray for our meal in Spanish. I agreed and then offered to pray in Creole as well (I'm trying!). With that, Wicky said that he would pray in English, and then Sadrac chimed in that he would pray in French. So thus began our very 'cultural' prayer time!

As we said our 'Amens' I looked around at the faces around me and I realized the simplicity and also the miracle of the moment. Miles away from my Canadian family, friends, climate and language, I felt overwhelmed by the sense of community and love that I was able to share with this 'Haitian family'. Despite the culture barrier, there was such a sense of unity, love and community... It was the kingdom of God!

I sit here tonight as a testament to how universal and powerful God's love is. How a timid little girl in pop-bottle glasses, who can barely have courage to go next door and play with the neighbour can be the same one to jump on a plane alone and fly hundreds of miles from the 'safety net' of home to be welcomed in by a bunch of strangers... And ultimately, how these foreign people have earned my trust, respect, and seized a special place of my heart.

Sidonie, Wicky, Sadrac, Volcy, Sandi, Jean Ronald, Nahomie, Erta, Patris, Natalie, Billy, Vena, Mommy Edit, Fan Fan, Carpel, Dooken, Jean Jacques, Charlins, Rosemond, Naliz, Poppy Patris, Zo, Mimose, Mommy Sadrac, Dusten, Mr. Marc, Wontousley, Madame Cheep Cheep, and the many others who I fail to mention in this moment...
Thank you for overlooking my quirky Canadian default modes and calling me your sister. Thank you for seeing beyond my limited language and encouraging me in ways that don't require words. Thank you for challenging my shallow views. Thank you for reminding me of what true joy is. Thank you for inspiring me with generosity and selflessness. Thank you for adopting me into your family.

And thank you for prayers around a patio set.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


This morning I woke at 4:30am - No alarm required.
Just the knowledge that today I'd be hopping on a plane with Rachel and flying home to Canada for Christmas! Over the past week my mind has been replaying memories from last year, and anticipating all that the next 2 weeks will bring.
My hockey duffel bag is packed. My only pair of close-toed shoes are by the door. My camera is charged. My trinkets are packaged. I am READY.

So after my 2 hour sprawl and stare at the ceiling, I figured I could get up and officially start the day. I bounced out of bed and made my way out the door to see Rachel waiting for me. Rachel was not happy.
Apparently JFK airport has some winter warnings happening, and as a result our flight was delayed. Not this evening, not tomorrow, Monday.
My heart hit the floor.
That's 2 valuable days of Canadian lovin' I lose, plus the wait continues for 48 more hours.
In a frenzy, I got a hold of my parents, and my mom spent the next 2 hours on hold with Delta seeing if there was any possible way we could take another route.
Unfortunately, Monday is the best and only option.
So I sulked.
Then I cried.
Then I heard the voices of the Hope House kids, who spent last night sleeping at the guesthouse as a part of their annual Christmas party. They were eating breakfast and were getting ready to open their gifts downstairs. So I dried my tears, threw my hair into a knot, and headed down to see them.
When I opened the door to the kitchen a dozen beaming faces greeted me.

Diana: Good morning!
Kids: Diana! Are you and Rachel leaving Monday?
Diana: Yes, the plane can't go today.
Kids: So you are staying today? You don't go till Monday?
Diana: Yes, we won't go until Monday.

With the news confirmed, the cheers began. The kids were clapping and laughing and shouting. I stood for a moment still wading in my disappointment, and then I started to chuckle at myself. The kids were SO excited. It was as if they didn't even need any presents. The satisfaction that they didn't have to say goodbye to Rachel and I was such a celebration.
Here I was dwelling on bad news that was really GOOD news to 58 kids.

So maybe I don't need to cry anymore.
Maybe this is right where I need to be right now.
Maybe I need to make the most of my time here in Haiti and be thankful I'm not stranded at the JFK airport.
And hopefully, Canada will be where I need to be on Monday.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Midnight Intruder

In Haiti, visitors that come unannounced and uninvited are inevitable in your home. Rats, snakes, tarantulas, frogs, scorpions, mice, lizards, ants and some other creatures yet to be identified. No matter how much Raid or Bondo you use, they always seem to find a way into your haven of comfort.

A few weeks ago in the middle of the night, I woke up with the wind blowing in forcefully from my open window. Chilled, I got up to close it, and then laid back down. I was about to fall back asleep when I felt something move in my hair. It made me sit up and gaze around for a second, but I figured it was just the wind, so I put my head down and tried to fall back asleep without the fear of a creature in my house keep me awake. Before I could relax though, I heard the lamp on my bedside table shift, and as I opened my eyes, I saw a shadow, about the size of a large rat, move swiftly from the table to the floor. Seeing the dark shadow snapped my brain into adrenaline mode as I leapt from my bed and dashed to flick on the lights. Anything to save me from the frightening darkness of the unknown. My glasses were still on my bedside table and I wasn't about to go anywhere near the THING, so I blindly searched for something to defend myself. My heart was pounding. My mind fled back to when I was laying in my bed a few minutes ago... Could there have been a RAT in my BED!?!? The horrible visions of a greasy rat climbing onto my mattress. Leaving dirty pawprints on my sheets. Stalking and sniffing me. Or nibbling my finger. Or worse.

I nervously glanced around, making quick searches under my bed, and then I stopped.
There, sitting in a calm posture in my doorway was...


I stood in disbelief for a moment, and then relief showered over me.
With much better piece of mind, I returned to my bed to get my glasses, and then managed to whisk Izzy out of my apartment and back to her home (Rachel's house). As I entered my living area I assessed the damage. Somehow Izzy was determined to get into my house and managed to break through the side of my weak window screen. I drowsily made a makeshift clamp to close the gap with some wire, and then returned to my bed to sleep for the rest of the night.

Since that time, my window has been fully repaired and my rusty window wire was even replaced with some fresh clean screen. Truly a Haitian luxury! Everything was fully re-taped and I was convinced that it would keep all of the nocturnal creatures out.

Last night I was proved wrong once again.
I woke shortly after midnight hearing some scratching noises in my kitchen. I figured the mouse family under my sink must have been starting their Christmas party early this year, and didn't think much of it.... As long as they are in the kitchen and not in my bed. I fell back to sleep and was awakened minutes later by a familiar sound. Meowing.

Good ol' Izzy had found her way inside again.... I guess the packing tape around my window didn't quite cut it. So once again I let her out of the house, re-taped the window and went back to sleep until morning.

I'm sure it's not the last time that I will get a nightly visit from my friend next door... She's pretty crafty, and it may take more than packing tape to keep her out. But this I can say without a doubt, I'll take her intrusions any day (or night) when she keeps the rest of Haiti's creepers and crawlers out!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


This week I started putting together an iMovie for my report in church during my time home. As I sat previewing the show one night, I was moved to tears by the images flashing in front of me. It was as if I needed someone to pinch me to remind me that I am here, living these pictures day by day.

It took me back to a few years earlier.

How many Sunday evening services did I sit bawling as missionaries shared their pictures and experiences working in different countries and cultures with desperate people? I remember specifically the night that Kim Schilstra and Sarah Wingfield shared their separate accounts and testified what the Lord had taught them through their experiences in Honduras and Guatemala. With all that was in me, I wanted to be with those precious children they spoke of, I wanted to experience their journeys too, I wanted to go.

Years prior to that, how many days did I sit at my dad's old desk, the one with the world map glossed over the top of it. I would sit for hours at that desk scanning over the names and countries around the world. And then the day I got out my pen and physically circled the Caribbean Islands as a place that I hoped to travel someday. *Just a disclaimer, the reason for my circling was more due to the tropical beaches than the run-down village life, but all the same, I see the Lord piecing these experiences together in a magnificent way.

He has taken my dreams, my holy discontents, and even the smallest little tidbits of my childhood hopes and spun them together into a journey that I could have never imagined. Of course life isn't perfect. There are daily hurdles. Stresses and frustrations and discouragements, but even the hardest days are far outweighed by moments like these:

When I reach the summit of the hill that looks down upon the Louisaint family's home (in the mountains). My heart swells as the children look up and see us come into view. Usually wearing no more than a tshirt, they sprint up the hill to greet us. The giggles and shouts they make as they dash up the tiny path toward us is a priceless gift.

My hand was bruised after an incident on the playground with the Hope House kids. We were going down the orange twisty slide, and it got squished between the excessive amount of moving bodies around me on our descent. I knew it would take a while to recover from the pain after it happened, but it's been a month it still hasn't healed. This is a result of the constant pulling, twisting, yanking, grasping and swinging by a dozen eager hands that fight to hold it throughout the week. If my hand never heals, I will be completely okay with that.

Michelle has recently joined the guitar practice time when Jean Marc comes to play. Because there are only 2 guitars, Jean Marc and Michelle both play and I simply sing along to guide them in the rhythm. Over the past few practice sessions, I've noticed even at my strongest voice tone, I can barely be heard against the resonance of the guitars. The two of them play the praise songs so wholeheartedly, they completely drown me out. And it's so beautiful.

A couple of weeks ago, I taught the Loulous a song in our afternoon session. It comes from a song that I used to sing with the kids in Adventureland, before the days of 252. The words of the song sing: My God is so great, so strong and so mighty there's nothing my God cannot do for you. At first they could only sing the first line, and then copy the actions to the rest. Now, they sing it through all of the way and at full volume. I hear them singing it when I pass by their house in the morning as they are eating breakfast. I hear it when they are out on the playground with the Rumfords and all the kids are singing along, I hear it as we load the bus to head out on our field trip. And it always brings a smile to my face. I hope they never stop singing that song.

Yesterday morning in school it was Fun Day. With recent visits from grandparents, the kids have been stocked up with some new reading material and they were all at their desks and fully immersed in their books before school had officially begun. I took the liberty of extending our start time so that they could keep reading for a while and enjoy their stories. During the quietness of their independent reading, I scanned around the room and then at each student in my class. I watched Riley's fascinated expression as he opened the flaps of his bible story picture book, I watched Bridgely's mouth move as he sounded out the words to a chapter book under his breath. I watched Grayden find comfort on his upright plastic chair as he reclined his body and twisted his legs close to his body in a position that appeared like an acrobat. I watched Teagan and Maddy exchange glances and soft giggles as they shared funny moments of the plot line with one another. Pondering each of these children, and the potential that they hold was remarkable for me. In some small way I get to be a part of who they will become, and that is such a privilege. I can't wait to watch them be all that God has made them to be.

In a couple of hours, the junior girls will be filling my house with excitement and giggles. Tonight is our Christmas party where we're all going to dress up and eat desserts and I'll probably be painting a lot of snowmen on toes. It's been awesome to have this time with them each week. They knock on my door, bibles in hand, eager to crank the music, lounge on my couches, drink kiwi Tang and share stories. My floor will be scattered with popcorn and cookie crumbs when the night is over, and my apartment will be about 10 degrees hotter than it was when we started due to the extra body heat. And yet at the end of the night I'll switch the playlist from Stellar Kart to Brooke Fraser and as I clear the dishes, I will once again stand amazed that I have the chance to invest in these precious girls.

It has become apparent to me that no matter how many details or vivid descriptions I give, I can never truly express the fullness in my heart that comes from being in this place.

Tonight I will dream about fireplaces and snow softly falling on dad's shiny red truck, and cinnamon dolche lattes. Each day I wake up I anticipate another day closer to my flight home for Christmas, and yet, truth be known, the dreams in Wainfleet will surely be filled with different kinds of dreams... dreams about dusty feet, mist over mountains, giggling brown babies and tap tap rides. Dreams about creole conversations, children clinging to my skirt while we walk to kids church, sunsets over the sea, and the sound of hurried flip flop steps entering the classroom.

May the Lord receive all of the glory for guiding me on this path and revealing Himself in the 'whispers' of these moments He pre-destined me to dream.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


And I,
I'm desperate for You.
And I,
I'm lost without You.

I pondered the words to this song during worship in church this morning and realized how extremely counter-cultural they are.
We are a people of capability.
Independence and self-sufficiency is expected.
The more ducks you have in a row, the more successful you are.
Of course, we all have our moments... Little dependencies like stopping for directions or needing extra set of hands or getting some advice.
But that's not desperation.

Desperation is when there is nothing else you can do. Nothing else you can say.
When there is hopelessness. When there is despair.
Desperation requires us to be honest. Vulnerable. Transparent.
But that's just uncalled for in this day and age... It's translated as weak. Failing. Needy.
Nobody wants a label like that.

But the song... I'm desperate for You.
If you sing it. If you really mean it... It's true.
We're a people of desperation.
Desperate for acceptance. Desperate for satisfaction. Desperate for answers. Desperate for something more. Desperate for love.

It's easy to hide it under the radar. It can usually be masked.
But deep down there is a need that is reaching desperate proportions in each and everyone of us. We will do anything to find the cure. Everything except admit we're desperate.

I see it in the eyes of hungry children.
I hear it in the words of a friend.
I feel it in the crowd.

So what if I admitted that I'm desperate? What if I gave into the truth?
That I'm broken.
I'm in way over my head.
I'm lost and afraid.
And I'm desperate for You, Jesus.

I cannot do it on my own. I simply must lift up my hands and surrender.
Pure and utter weakness.
But Jesus doesn't smirk and tell me to smarten up like the world does.
His love for me isn't hindered.
He takes me in His arms.
He gives me peace that passes understanding. He whispers His love into my heart. And He covers every selfish motive with His perfect mercy and grace.
My life may be a spin of confusion, but He is the familiar foothold I can count on.

May our walls be broken down. May we find ourselves desperate. And may His grace and love be more than enough to pick up our pieces and fill us until we overflow with only Him.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Snowball effect

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but this month is turning into a jam packed set of weeks. In keeping with the season, think snowball effect.... I've hit fast forward and haven't been able to find the 'pause' yet.
It's quite contrary to the first few weeks of school. The days seemed to go really slowly back in September, but recently it seems like we barely have started Monday morning, and the week is over. Here we are onto Thursday afternoon, leaving just one morning of school left before the weekend comes. Tomorrow the plan is for all 10 of us take our first field trip of the school year. It's well earned!
During our first few weeks of school I noticed us struggling to start school on time, and thus began the bell system. Every morning I give a 5-minute bell reminder and the kids are expected to be in their seats by the time we reach 8am. If they all make it on time they get to add a mini bell to the schoolbus (a decoration tin that my mom sent in a care package), if they don't make it, we take a bell out. Out goal has been to reach 40 bells and it has been attained! As you can probably imagine, we are all looking forward to getting off of the mission property and exploring Haiti's Sugar Cane Museum close to the city. It should be a great day!
When that's over, it will bring us to yet another weekend... And they are no less busy.
Friday night's I host the junior girls over for movie night where we paint nails, do facials, bake cookies and other GIRLY stuff. :) We also have been working through a 'Girls of Grace' bible study which has been really awesome.
Saturdays are my planning days. Unfortunately the lazy mornings that I have in my head - sleeping in, eating pancakes and setting up the workweek ahead - have had to take a back seat recently. There have been quite a few teams coming in and out over the past few weeks, and as a result of our lack of a group host at this point, the staff here has had to share the load. Saturday is my day, which gives me opportunities to get out into the local villages and orphanages and hang out with the kids and meet people from different parts of North America. It's a wonderful chance I have to get out and about, which I don't get to do during the week, but as a result, my planning times have been stuck into random evenings and afternoons making my weekdays more busy. I find random hours where I hit overdrive and plan more extensively in the different grades to make up for my lack of time on weekends.
Sundays are probably my favourite days, because I get to go to church and then over the past couple of weeks I've been visiting the Louissaint family in the mountains after lunch at Gwopapapou. The Hope House kids come up to the playground later on in the afternoon and I love playing with them and practicing my Creole, but when I finally sit down on Sunday night after taking a shower, I feel like I need a couple days to recover before jumping into another blur of a week.
Thank goodness Christmas is coming. I know that the time home with be a blur of gatherings and parties, but I am promising myself a few hours to sit by the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate and refuel.
Thank you for your prayers as I wrap up these past few weeks of school.... Pray that I can make good decisions about how I spend my time (when I get the choice! haha), and pray that I can have sufficient rest and downtime when I need it...
Less than 3 weeks to go now - 3 weeks to close up our school units, make extensive lists of what I school books and supplies I need to purchase when I'm home, celebrate Christmas with the Hope House kids, party it up with my students, and brace myself for a slightly different kind of climate! ;)
See you all soon!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Truth be known.

I stumbled upon some verses in Habakkuk chapter 1 this week... Verses that sound a lot like the words that come out of my mouth and the mouths of those around me...
How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
but you do not come to save.
Must I forever see these evil deeds?
Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look,
I see destruction.
The law has become paralyzed,
and there is no justice in the courts.

But the Lord hears the cries of His people. He hears and He answers...

“Look around at the nations;
look and be amazed!

For I am doing something in your own day,
something you wouldn’t believe
even if someone told you about it.

The Word of the Lord is true and it says that He is doing something in our own day. Not generations from now. It's already started. And it's something more amazing than would believe even if we were told.

May this truth be known for the baby with a cardboard box for a crib. For the young mother who has to abandon her children because she cannot afford to feed them. For the family living in a run-down tent. For the 12-year old boy who has never gone to school. For the man who has lived a lifetime with a deformed leg. For the thousands of families who have lost loved ones from a curable infection or malnutrition. For the child who has no hand to hold. And for the countless other tragedies that have become a fact of life far too early.

May we hold on to this hope that there will be a better day.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Already all-ready.

Yet another eventful week has come and gone.
A blur of school projects and planning, out trips, guitar jams and decking the halls.
Yes, I'm happy to announce that Haiti has been CHRISTMASIFIED!
But all extras aside, there is one thing that I can conclude after a week like this...
The Lord hears the prayers of His people.

Let me bring you up to speed.
A LOT has happened from the time from my last post about the mountain family until now.
First of all, after my blog about my first visit with the family, I received a comment on my Here on Earth blog from a guy named Chris who gave me great hope. He and a few other people from the States had already made contact with family and were organizing fundraisers and team trips to continue to help the family recover from last fall's hurricane. Unfortunately, due to the nature of a blog post, I could not follow up with him (no contact info), but the good news is this: Just last week during team orientation, Chris happened to be in the group! As you can probably imagine, I was thrilled to re-connect with him!
Then on Wednesday afternoon, midway through our Grade 5 solubility experiment, I got a knock on my door from Sadrac who said that he was traveling with Chris and a few other team members to take a bunch of supplies to the mountain family. Grayden and Sammy were not to disappointed that school had to be cut a bit short as I switched my head out of Grade 5 science charts to help Chris and the group pack up for our mountain trek.
From there we headed out with peanut butter sandwiches, clothes, tarps, solar powered lights, toys, and as many other supplies that we could carry. As usual, they welcomed us with open arms, and we spent the next two hours inflating air mattresses, arranging for baby Fania (who has a bad cough) to be seen at the clinic the following day, re-tarping their tents, playing with the kids and on and on.
While all of this was going on one of the team members was also taking live footage on a little flip video gadget, which Chris is hoping to post soon on Youtube. He left the video recorder in the hands of us Mission staff so that we can continue to track with the family and send live updates back home.

Now press pause.
Even as I type this I am in total awe.
As I watched everyone work together and interact with the family on Wednesday afternoon, my mind flashed back to the first encounter I had with Shalyn and Senson back on the mission road. The emotions I felt - The responsibility, the hopelessness. I was so overwhelmed. Where to begin? How can I, with a plate already so full, help this family? What do I do? It's too much. And yet as I doubted and asked those despairing questions, God was already working. He had more hope happening than I could imagine.
Once again He trumps any 'if' 'and' or 'but' situation. He's already all-ready.
And to think how the circumstances have changed in a matter of WEEKS. I am no longer the only person that these people are depending on. I am just a tiny piece of the puzzle. The Lord has been working on people's hearts far before I came into the picture, and has raised up a body so much bigger than me. What a blessing I have been given to be a part of the wonderful hope that is being offered to this family!
Chris was only here for a few days, and no doubt he will be back again. In the meantime, he'll be fundraising and uploading Youtube videos and raising awareness back home far more than I ever could. And while he and his friends are there, I get to stay here with the staff in Haiti where I can make regular visits to the family, take videos and relay news back to North America.
What a privilege to work together as the body of Christ.

And here's a bonus - Hope you don't mind if I brag about you Chris - It turns out that Chris is an extremely talented musician who has recorded with Michael W. Smith, Jaci Velasquez, Jan Arden and many others... Oh, and he's currently on tour with SheDaisy. So cool! Rachel and I took full advantage and spent Wednesday evening jamming with him while he also taught us the professional way to change guitar strings and an easier way to play B minor.

In other news, Oma (Laurens' mom) has been here for the past two weeks, offering assistance to the Loulous during our morning school times. It has been such a relief for me to have extra hours with my primary boys and junior students. Lately I've also really noticed the girls catching on to English. No longer to I have to repeat sentences 4 or 5 times before they understand. Even though they can still interact in Creole with one another and with people outside of school time, our strictly English school hours are slowly but surely helping them catch on. For example, yesterday in our morning prayer time I was delighted to hear Ana use a majority of English words in her popcorn prayer. We call it Cringlish, and may or may not understand it all, but God does. :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The home-stretch!

The title of my blog today is in honour of The Journey days. Remember the days, Joy? We made the trek to Kitchener every week for small group bible study. It was always worth the trip. But in the wee hours of the morning we'd be driving home on the empty, ice-covered highways, and when we exited off the QEW onto the Victoria Avenue ramp for another 40-minute drive back to our Wainfleet beds we had a familiar line... It was still a far way off, but even so, we'd always proclaim that we were on the 'home stretch'.

These days in Haiti, I'd also like to think that I am on the home stretch...
*Breaking out in song* I'll be home for Christmas!.... you can plan on me.... please have snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree......!
In ALMOST one month from now, weather permitting, I will fly back to Buffalo for two weeks, and I can hardly wait!
The Christmas bug has caught me.

This Friday the kids and I are breaking out the decorations to 'winterize' our classroom, and it's all I can do to hold myself off until then. Rachel and I have been trying to keep each other accountable in not getting too carried away with Christmas decor and music until November 20th, but I admit, I have been sneaking around in the rubbermaid bin full of Christmas trinkets that my mom sent this past summer, and I don't want to point fingers, but I believe it was Rachel that I heard this morning singing 'Jingle Bells' on her way down the stairs. :)
Indeed, the Christmas countdown is on.

It's kind of a strange feeling... I want to be here.
I know that this is where I need to be right now. Sometimes it's the simplest of things that makes my heart swell with comfort. The Loulous cuddled up to me as I read them a story on a hot Wednesday afternoon. Making Tang and painting toenails with my junior girls on Friday nights. Listening to Bridgely and Riley chatter about their math problems. Doing science experiments with Grayden and Sammy. Looking forward to Haitian food leftovers for lunch. Waking up to bongo jazz (palette name of my wall colour) every morning...
And yet, there is a joy that springs up from me when I let my mind wander to the end of December. Reunions and parties and one-on-ones and congregational carols.

Recently I've also been growing weary from recognizing my loved ones as a green light on the computer screen. I miss faces. I miss voices. I miss the warmth of a hug and the smell of supper around the island. I miss picking up the telephone and talking for as long as I want. I miss coffee runs on Sunday afternoon. I miss clothing store change rooms. I even think I'm starting to miss the 6 o'clock news... Yes dad, I said it.
Last night I was browsing through some pictures of my 2009 summer. Pictures of weddings and road trips and family potlucks. If I let myself, I can actually feel like I am back in the moment... Hear the screen door sliding onto the back patio, feel the bob of Holden's head as he balances on my lap, feel the family car slow as we pass Marshalls, taste the fresh-cut fries at Sauble Beach, listen to the laughter and cheers of a reception performance of 'Good Time'.
It's all so fresh in my mind, and yet it feels like it's been ages... Far longer than the calendar displays.
Just yesterday, my cousin Betsy gave birth to a beautiful little baby boy. Zachary Michael is a hunk of preciousness. Seeing his face lit up on my computer is such a tease. I wish I could stretch my hands through the screen and cuddle him. Home time can't come fast enough.
But in the meantime, we wait and anticipate...

The kids and I have started a Christmas countdown, crossing off a number at the end of each morning, and it won't be long now until we'll blast the Christmas carols and cut out snowflakes and make stockings and create snowmen out of cotton. With each day getting closer, I can almost taste the homemade Christmas baking and feel the warmth from the fireplace.

It's November 18th. Everyday is another day closer... I think it's safe to say that I'm on the homestretch.
And just for the record, Joy... I'll be going straight to bed when I get home! ;)

Friday, November 13, 2009

The best place.

The best place isn’t always the easiest place.

Please don’t picture me on a soapbox with these words.

The experience of my heart whispers it’s true, but my erring mind isn’t as easily convinced.

Because life is... life.

Clinging to turbulent existence, we never know what’s around the next corner. No matter how well established we are, or well-read, or proactive to trauma, or worrisome, we can never immunize ourselves from circumstance, accidents, a tragedy.

And no matter how perfect we assume somebody else’s life is, we all have a story.

We are all breakable. We are all vulnerable. No one is exempt.

unemployment. illness. debt. singleness. loss. failure.

tears. pain. guilt. suffering. loneliness.

It leaves us broken. It changes our plans. It causes questions.

My dear friend’s mother was just diagnosed with cancer this past week.

News like this can stop you in your tracks.

I do not know the deep feelings and emotions that she and her family have had since this diagnosis. I have no right to.

But I do know that I have a pit in my stomach. I feel at a loss not be closer to her during this time. And it’s made me second guess the line about being in the best place when it’s difficult.

This statement is easier said than done.

How does it explain or apply to the difficult circumstances in our lives? How can I find peace in these places where my heart breaks? How can I know that there is still a reason to believe in hope? What purpose is there in our troubled times? And what reason would I believe that these times are often exactly where God has placed me to be... In the center of the storm.

Hosea urges us to press on to know the Lord - he writes plainly that our lives are fulfilled in truly knowing Him and worshipping Him for who He is.

But how do we truly know Him?

Could it be that in our darkest moments, it’s actually the Lord causing us to recognize who He is, and what is character is like?

Had it not been for the difficult circumstances in my life thus far, would I really be able to testify his love and faithfulness? Would I be able to recount the times where He has heard my cry and provided? If I hadn’t gone through the valleys, how would I know that He is the only One that can bring me through?

Could it be that what I’ve gone through has made me who I am today? Is there a chance that these troubled times have molded me to fit better into His hands? That the pain has re-aligned my compass, pointing me back where I belong... To the only One who truly satisfies and brings true peace.

I think it’s fair to say that life can take the very life out of us.

When the waves come, it’s easy to sink. It's easy to drown.

We grow weary, we are emptied.

But there is a lesson in here somewhere. A decision. A choice to give in to despair, or to keep holding on. I’m afraid that I give in far too easy sometimes. But when we believe... When we choose to believe that God is sovreign, even in our darkest places, His presence is enough.

With everything in us, we have to keep holding on. Keep believing.

Believing in a bigger picture, a higher purpose, a better tomorrow. Hope.

Hope that His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts higher than our thoughts.

He is hope.

He is faith.

He is love.

And His love is strong. Strong enough to pull us through these testing times.

Even when hope is unseen, I can choose to believe that His love will see His people through, so that one day, we can look back and be amazed.

I think the most difficult place is also the place where we recognize Him most clearly. The place where we take our eyes off ourselves and onto Him. A place where refining forces us to stop and re-think about what really matters. A place where we can do nothing except draw nearer to where He has been all along. A place where we may not see it at the time but maybe, just maybe it is... The best place.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Lately my weeks in Haiti have turned into blurs. It seems like I just sit down at my desk on a Monday morning and the clock is nearing noon on the last day of our school week. My off hours disappear no less slowly. I’m thankful for the opportunities that I have to get off the mission grounds and spend with friends, gatherings at the Church of Hope, as well as the evenings with my next door neighbours, but it sure makes the time fly. Umm... Is it already the 8th of November? I thought for sure it was only the 6th. Woy. It won’t be long and I’ll have to start thinking mid-term report cards!

Well, all this to say that this afternoon I decided that I was overdue for a siesta. A couple hours to do nothing but recharge.

It started with ‘Haitian food’ leftovers straight from the fridge... Contrary to Rachel’s shudder, it's my perfect cool down method. :)

Then I put my feet up and read ‘The Kite Runner' until my eyelids got heavy.

My favourite songs played softly over the hum of a fan as I journalled.

Jean Marc came over and blessed me with some acoustic worship practice.

And then I heard the soft whisper of rain out my window which beckoned me to take a walk down the hill in the cool mist.

Now I'm snacking on german pancake extras from next door.

Indeed, a refreshing day.

Tomorrow begins another week. I know without a doubt as I open the squeaky screen door leading into the classroom, the clock will hit double time and I’ll lurch into high speed mode before have time to blink. This lazy afternoon will surely be a thing of the past as I proctor math quizzes, teach what a diamond is, review the difference between a census and a sample, and practice re-grouping numbers, and that's just the beginning. The hours will blend to days, the days to a week, and before I know what has happened, I’ll be back on my couch next Sunday like a deja vu moment.

Today was a reflect and recharge kind of day. As I went about my afternoon, I got thinking about how easy it is to fall into the routine life I'm in, like all of us busy bodies are in. There is a trap set for us... To lose the bigger picture. Satan would just love to catch us up in a scheme of complacency. Where we lose the passion and simply carry out the day to day tasks without any emotion or heart. It’s a tricky thing to notice when the time is flying past us. Setting ourselves on autopilot mode is an enticing option. Forget the perspective and focus solely on getting through the 'work' and back to a comfortable chair where I don't have to think anymore... But we were made for more than that.

This week I had the privilege of sitting around a table of Godly and gifted staff members. Brad, our director, was here for a few days and we had a ‘check-in’ staff meeting on Thursday night where we discussed some of the current projects and future changes that the mission is undergoing. As I sat amongst friends, each of us with our own important role in helping the Mission of Hope thrive, I thought about how blessed I am to be in this place.

A similar circumstance happened last year around this time as the staff members gathered in prayer before the launch of HaitiOne. Those same feelings of unity and dedication to the people of Haiti and passion for reaching each and every one for Christ was so magnetically pulling. One cannot sit and listen to Brad and not feel called into action.

As he stated to our small staff group a few nights ago, our main goal here is to win Haiti for Christ. Whether it be through a church service, or a school lesson, or treating a sick patient, or sharing meals in the mountains, or praying over a newborn baby, or singing a creole song about Jesus with village children. Each choice to reach out and make a difference has an irreversible impact and no one thing is more significant than another.

And it's the same anywhere around the world. The little things. The simple choices we make carry so much more weight than we realize if only we step out of our current reality and think beyond it. These aren't moments to waste or wish away. This isn't the time to 'wait until tomorrow'. It's time to seize these days. Each fleeting moment I'm given can be a heavenly investment, or it can be gone forever.

As darkness sets in and I prepare to wash my dishes from the day and close the schoolbooks that I've planned with over the weekend, I hope to make this my prayer. I know how easy it is to make a trend out of going through the motions, but I hope tomorrow is another fresh start. I hope that I can live in the moment with a heavenly perspective, and I hope that I may steward the gifts bestowed on me in a way that glorifies the One who gave them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Words fall short.

Now that I have seen, I am responsible, faith without deeds is dead.
Now that I have held you in my own arms, I cannot let go till you are.
These are lyrics from Brooke Fraser's song, Albertine.

This song has taken on a new meaning for me this week.

I've been given a new conviction:
I have seen.

A new burden:
I have held you in my own arms.

A new prayer:
Faith without deeds is dead.

As you read in my last post, this past Sunday I was thrilled to see Shalyn, the little girl I met from the mountains, in church with her family. After my visit with them at the end of the service, my friend Sadrac assured me that he knew where they lived beyond the mission, and we could go and visit them.
So yesterday, my prayers were answered when I got to see Shalyn and Senson with their families!
As much as I am delighted to share this will all of you, I am also writing with a heavy heart after experiencing their desperate living conditions... Words fall short of what I can express but I will do my best to tell you what I saw.
Starting from the same place where I met the children 2 weeks ago, we branched off of the mission on a small footpath and hiked up and down the steep hills to their humble dwelling. Once we reached the top of high hill, I could see in the distance a small clearing of dirt with 2 small shelters on either side. The children saw us coming and immediately began running to greet us. First was Shalyn, followed by Senson, and then their little brother Peter. We made our way back to their land where a man stood with an older boy and a woman held a little baby.
I greeted the parents and children and then took a look around me. What I saw made my heart sink. There were two run-down shelters (what used to be tents) that were weighed down with blankets, garbage bags, palm branches, and small pieces of tarp. The insides, which I got to see later on, were strengthened with long sticks along the sides, set up similar to a tee-pee.
In between the two shelters, there was a smoldering fire balancing a tin pot filled with a dark, boiling liquid. The children looked similar to the first time I saw them on the road. Dirty faces, stretched and faded clothing (two of the children didn't have any clothes on), no shoes, but despite it all, they still wore the same bright smiles. After holding their dear 1 and a half month old baby sister, I took out a few of the small toys I brought along. I had a little collection of children's clothes left in my apartment from last year that I was also able to fit some of the children in, and then we taught the kids how to play frisbee.
In my duffel bag, I had also brought some Creole bibles with me from the guesthouse, hoping that the parents would be able to use them and read to their children. Unfortunately, the parents shook their heads when I offered them the books and I was saddened to know that neither the mother nor father knew how to read. They had never gotten the chance to go to school. Upon asking more questions, we learned that the 3 oldest children are currently going to a school in Titanyen and although they can't read right now, they will hopefully learn in the months and years to come.
After sharing what we brought and cuddling with the children, we continued on our mountain trek to another family beyond the next hill. Shalyn held tightly to my hand so we took her along. We marched through some small corn crops and plantain trees and then found a similar looking clearing with a smoking fire between two run-down tents. Once again smiling faces stood waiting to greet us. There was a mother and father with 4 children and a 4-month old baby. The baby, Kaliak, was wearing a sleeper top and had her legs swaddled in a blanket (for a diaper). She was all smiles as we picked her up and sang songs.

I gave what was left of the small gifts I had in my bag, including some individual packets of gum. Upon offering bibles to them, they too refused due to their lack of reading ability, and sadly the parents explained that none of their children have been able to attend school either. The oldest boy is 12 years, followed by a 9 year old brother and 7 year old sister. My mind drifted back to my students at the mission, and my own upbringing and education growing up. How fortunate and blessed we are to grow up with a chance to go to school and become all that God has created us to be. It broke my heart to think that these children have never had the chance to learn to read, or write or have knowledge to help them have a job and raise a family when they grow up. It's like a vicious circle. These people are living in a situation that has continued for generations. They have no jobs, no money, barely enough food to survive on and no education. They are so needy.
It's such a hopeless thing. It makes you wonder how things can ever change. As I stood in silence, gazing at the conditions around me, I had a familiar feeling of despair from the first time I met the children. The questions, the confusion, the doubt all came flooding back. What did they do to deserve this? It's so unfair. And what am I supposed to do about it? I'm just one person. How can I help them?

And then felt a small hand touch mine. I looked down to see Shalyn staring up at me. She opened my hand and gave me a half-stick of her gum.
Such a simple gesture, and yet her actions spoke so much louder than words ever could. Living in a place where every morning she wakes up and wonders if she will eat. Sleeping under torn blankets and leaves that allow pouring rain to leak through. Bathing in water from muddy puddles... It humbles me that she would accept such a small gift and choose to give back so generously.
There are no words.
Only hope.

Somehow, someway.
I need to have faith that I was not brought to these children to lose hope, but to find it.
I need to have faith that I serve a God who is good and hears the prayers of His people.
I need to have faith that the One in me is greater than the one in the world.
A faith that leaves me with a responsibility of more than standing on the sidelines.

As we said our goodbyes and made our ascent back towards the mission, I watched the sun slowly disappear from the horizon. As the air cooled and the colors faded from the sky, I prayed for the Lord to be especially near to Shalyn and Senson's family. Something in me believes that He has something much greater in mind for this family than I ever could.

I can't wait to see them again.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Extra Extra!

I've got lots of news. GOOD news.
Good news is good... Puts a little spring in your step! Well, my weekend has been sprinkled with lots of it and I feel very blessed!

First things first - I have just been informed through contact with FTC that my year support has been reached! I want to take a moment to THANK each one of you who made it possible for me to serve here in Haiti this year. I can't express in words how appreciative I am for the sacrifices each and every one of you have made in order to support me. I feel so blessed by the prayers, encouraging messages and financial gifts that have been generously given to me. It is such a confirmation that this is where I need to be during this time of my life, and it wouldn't be possible without each one of you! Thank you!

Secondly - You have likely read my latest blog about my need for an ESL assistant. This has been heavy on my heart for a while now, and I have really been questioning how the Lord is going to provide in this area before I burn out completely. Well, just this past weekend I received an e-mail from Laurens' parents with a wonderful proposal. In just over a week's time they will be coming to Haiti to visit the van der Marks for 14 days. Laurens' mother contacted me sharing that based on her career experience working with special needs and ESL students, she would like to offer her assistance in the classroom while she is visiting! I can't wait to get some professional help this month and learning some good techniques myself while she is here.
I am still amazed at the timing, qualifications and willingness of the whole situation... The Lord surely knows the bigger picture and provides in perfect timing! As I stewed and stressed last week, He already had this all in mind. I guess I'm still learning that He's always got my back. When I don't see Him, He's working in the background setting up something I could have never even dreamed.

In other good news, the babies are GROWING. You may remember seeing pictures of two very frail and bony bodies at the beginning of the summer. Well, Hannah Grace and Jeremiah have literally TRANSFORMED within a matter of months. I did not even recognize them when I returned this fall. They are HUGE. Currently we have two Haitian mommies working round the clock to care for them in my old downstairs apartment. It's so nice having them downstairs and I love checking in on them. Every Sunday, Rachel and I perform our morning routine with Mommy Edi to bring the two darlings down to church. There we are ready to go!

Fortunately Rachel recently acquired a truck from the mission, so it comes in very handy as a baby carriage compared to an ATV! Rachel is the chauffeur, doing her best to make the descent as smooth as possible over the rocky terrain, and Mommy Edi and I squeeze into the passenger seat with the babies on our laps. We shield their eyes from the sun and try to keep them comfortable as their sleepy eyes stare up in a disoriented expression. It's not long though before they are snug in the baby carriers and get to enjoy the music of the service, and smiling faces of the Hope House kids. Just this past Sunday I say beside Rachel who had Hannah in her lap. Perched on Rachel's legs she lit up with the brightest smiles every time Rachel leaned in to give her a kiss. Once again I am reminded how truly blessed I am to watch such precious lives grow.

And even more good news... After the service on Sunday I was introduced by my friend, Sadrac to the family of the children I met a few weeks ago on the road (from my Here on Earth blog)!!! Yes! They were at church! I saw Shalyn again! Unfortunately Senson was sick and not able to be at church, but I met their mother and a few younger brothers and sisters. I was so thrilled to know that they have been at church and I am hoping to go and visit them at their home sometime soon. I am so grateful to the Lord for this new connection and the joy that comes in sharing His hope!

Since I'm on a roll here, let me share another really great story before I head back to marking science tests... I think last year I may have mentioned one of the Hope House boys that I have the privilege of teaching guitar to. His name is Jean Marc and he is quite a gem! Just look at that smile...

Every couple of days he comes over for a half hour or so to practice on my guitar and I sing along. Last year we would have to stop every couple of words as I corrected him on a chord or slow him down, but since I've been back he is really turning into quite a musician. I don't accredit this to any of my teaching, he is extremely dedicated and passionate about developing his talent! I am honoured that I get to watch from the sidelines what the Lord is doing. Many Sunday mornings I glow when I see him up with the worship team keeping rhythm with the tambourine or playing guitar with the soloist for special music. In addition to his growth musically, I am also been amazed at his spiritual growth over the past couple of months. He truly loves the Lord. I can see it in the way that he plays, the way he sings, the way he worships. His sincerity toward serving the Lord is so evident. Every time he comes over I encourage him on his skills and show how impressed I am, but he never takes the credit. He always gestures with a pointed finger upwards and reminds me that it's all for God. Just this past Saturday Jean Marc popped his head in my apartment after lunch and asked if he could play. I welcomed him in and asked what song we were going to start with, but he paused and said that he had a different suggestion. With genuine words, Jean Marc asked if we could begin our time by praying before he played.
My heart swelled and my eyes moistened as I humbly invited him to pray. As I sat there in the quiet of the moment with Jean Marc softly speaking words of praise and thanksgiving to His Father, Our Father, I was in awe of the opportunity that I have been given to get to know this special boy. His life is a testament to the grace of God, and I have no doubt that he is going to be a world-changer in his generation. What a blessing it is to know him, and to watch him worship so tangibly. The Lord is evidently at work in his life and I'm challenged by his love and dedication in following after all that the Lord has for him!

So there's my good news weekend in a nutshell... Hopefully it's left you with a spring in your step too! :) I'm leaving you with some snapshots of the halloween festivities and view of my apartment... Enjoy!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reality Check


This is an echoing question that I've heard time and time again since my preparations and move to Haiti this year to teach the 9 missionary kids at the Mission of Hope.
This past weekend I got to be a part of a missionary women's retreat south of Port-au-Prince. Over 60 women gathered together from all parts of Haiti, and it was a wonderful chance to re-charge and connect with other ladies serving on the island. I got to meet some girls my age who teach in the city and other missionary children, and when I told them what I did, I heard that resounding question all over again.
So I think it's about time that I try to explain 'how I do it'....
Step 1 - PLANNING.
I know teachers may get a lot of slack for their summers and weekends off, but it is completely essential to any student progress from Monday-Friday... I am sure that any of you other teachers out there will back me up! :) During my Friday afternoons and Saturdays I spend the majority of my time going through each of the grade levels and materials, planning the activities for the coming week.
For the primary students, we are currently making our way through the basics - letters sounds and combinations, numbers patterns and operations, the colour wheel, seasons, and shapes. They are making their own books about various topics, thanks for the idea Kristine! Every other Thursday we also have a spelling quiz on the word families we have been studying over the past school weeks.
Based on the dependent needs of the younger students, especially my Loulous, I plan my week with the intention of guiding them through each and every activity.
So far, so good, but you are probably wondering what I do with my grade 5's and 8's during this time...
Let me introduce you to the guidebook. (Thank you Marybeth!)
The guidebook is the ticket to the juniors work week. Every Saturday I go through the textbooks for all of their different subjects and select a portion to be read and corresponding questions I expect them to answer. It's self-paced and directed - including homework. It's all broken down in subject categories with page numbers and so far the kids have been really good about completing it all before the week is over.

My weekday morning begins at 7am.
I usually wake shortly before my alarm goes off, and I arise to get myself ready for the day. By 7:45 I make my way down the balcony steps, through the van der Marks porch, and into our brand-spanking new classroom. Check out the pics (and pumpkins)!

I open up the two side doors so the wind can blow through and arrange my lessons for my 4 primary students (Ana, Mina, Bridgely and Riley).
At 7:55 I ring the school bell for the 5-minute warning. Shortly after this I begin to hear the little footsteps nearing closer outside the door and desperately hide under my desk in surrender. Haha. Just kidding.
The kids enter in spits and sputters until we've all arrived by 8am. They find their seats, with an occasional story about a tarantula in someone's bed the night before, or a wound from yesterday evenings ATV ride. The day officially begins with morning devotions. Usually we begin with some bible trivia, followed by a devotional story, reviewing our memorized verses, and a prayer time. I especially love the days we do popcorn prayers and the kids take turns to pray. Ana and Mina pray in Creole. It's so precious.
After devotions I give the juniors the go-ahead to get down to business. I'm thankful they each have a partner to work with. It makes the discussion questions and science experiments much more interactive and enjoyable. Sometimes I have to wean the grade 8 girls off of their socializing about a book they are currently reading back to their math chapter, but overall they work very well. :)
Once the juniors' pencils are moving, that's my cue to begin the calendar routine with the primary's, which then branches into writing activities and math questions.
At 10am we stop to read a chapter of Narnia - we are continuing through the series from last year and are currently on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The kids and I have recently been on the edge of our seat following Eustace journey through the jungle alone.
Following our reading time, we take a 30-minute recess break and re-unite again for a similar work period during the last hour and a half before our morning is over for lunch at noon.

Afternoons begin at 1pm and go until 3:30. Each weekday from Monday to Thursday I work specifically with one of the grade levels. Monday I begin with Bridgely and Riley, Tuesday I work with the grade 5's (Grayden and Sammy), Wednesday I work with the Loulous (while the remaining 6 kids are led by Michelle, our Grade 11 student, in a music program), and Thursday I spend with the grade 8 girls. It is during this time that I specialize my teaching toward the levels and ages of my kids. Science experiments, math concepts, reviewing previous work and questions from the week, etc. is all done during this afternoon block I have with the different grades. It's a much more relaxed time compared to the morning, and it gives me peace of mind, especially with the junior students, to know that they are understanding everything.
And that brings me to Friday.
Friday's are fun days. The best day of the week!
These are the days that we do large group games, art activities, go on field trips and celebrate special occasions. Tomorrow I expect to have no students in my class... Just crazy characters, in honour of Halloween on Saturday. They are all pretty excited to dress up. I am too. :)

So there's a little run down... Hm. After reviewing the past few paragraphs I understand that I may be giving you a pretty mellow picture of what my week events are actually like.
The reality check is this: From the time the kids come into the classroom in the morning, my mind hits overdrive and doesn't stop. I switch from explaining a fraction problem, to solving the dilemma of someone needing more paper in their duotangs, to reinforcing the sound that the 'h' makes, to correcting the printing of a backwards 4, to mixing colours to demonstrate how red and yellow make orange, to translating a word in Creole, to clarifying what I meant by defining terms when reading pages 18-25, to checking in on the grade 5's who are doing a taste testing experiment in the van der Mark kitchen.... can I stop now? I usually walk out of school with my brain spinning 100 miles an hour. I often walk disillusioned back to my apartment and just sit. Adrenaline needs a few minutes to cool down.
And then that age-old question finds a little nook in my brain... How do I do it?
Or better yet, AM I doing it?
And I drown in weakness...
What am I doing here!?!

I think the question here is not that. Nor, how do I do it? Nor, am I doing it? But WHO is doing it?
Please don't let it be me. I'm way in over my head.
And yet the One who has pulled me through every single time is here with me again. He can be trusted. He gives me everything I need for the task. The Lord is clearly at work in our schoolhouse, keeping me patient and sane, and guiding the kids along in their respective work, helping them understand new concepts and giving them grace for one another.

A few weeks ago Cheryl approached me and asked what I thought about bringing in an assistant to help me. Someone to share the load with. Up until this point, I have decided to stay on my own. This is partly because of my own perfectionism and pride. To bring in a new person could potentially be a just what we need, or it could lead me into having to oversee and manage even more people, making my task bigger than it already is. You see, I like things a certain way. I would rather just do it my way, by myself, then have to manage another person beside me. And yet the more I think about the dynamics of all of this, the more I realize that this decision can't be about what is best for me, it has to be about what is best for the kids.
I have 7 wonderful Canadian kids. I love to teach them. I love to watch what they are learning at different stages. I love to challenge them. I love to see them strategize and solve problems. I love to laugh with them. I love that I get to be their teacher.
I have 2 adorable Haitian girls. It's been a dream of mine for years to teach little orphans, and here I am in a position to give them the foundation where they will build their education. I love to watch them absorb what I teach like a sponge. I love to see them eager to start the day as they dash to their desks. I love to be their teacher.
But the dilemma that I am quickly realizing is that I can't do both.
Especially due to the lack of English the girls know, I find the repetition in instructions I have to give them, the constant attention in their independent work activities, and the continuous reinforcement of simple tasks is too great for me to do alone while juggling 7 other students. And the bottom line is that I have never had any ESL training in my life. Everything I am doing with them is simply a desperate attempt to turn them into Canadian kids. There has got to be strategies, techniques, tools to help kids catch on... I've just never been taught in that department.

The Lord has been very gracious to me in managing all of my students, but I feel that it's time to ask for help.
I want each of my kids to get the best education they have ever had. They are amazing and they deserve the best. It's a privilege for me to play a part in their learning, in who they are and who they will become, and it's also my prayer that the Lord will be preparing someone very special to join this team, this mission that I'm on in educating these dear Haitian twins.
Over the coming weeks, Laurens and Cheryl and I will be looking for a qualified English as a Second Language teacher to work with Ana and Mina daily, catching them up to the English language and the grade one curriculum. It will likely be a 3-4 month commitment.

Thank you for your prayers at this time as we discern who will come, and that the Lord would provide a perfect fit. I know that the Lord has someone very special in mind, and I am trusting Him that all of the dynamics will be smooth for all of us. Please feel free to contact me if you know of someone who fits the description to work with Ana and Mina. I will be sure to keep you updated on this journey!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Here on Earth.

Come for a walk with me.
It's evening and I am taking my routine power walk down the mission hill and back again.
The sunset beckons me. Vibrant colours are cast across the sky and reflected off of the Caribbean Sea. It's like a dance, every second glance I make upwards is a new extraordinary picture of beauty. I have to slow my pace to take in the majesty of it all without tripping. But soon I slow for another reason - Up ahead are 2 children who I have never seen before.
She stands on the edge of a dusty footpath branching in from the mountains to the gravel road. Her frizzy hair is pulled tightly into short black frizzy knots. Little specks of dirt and string are caught in her part, evidence of minimal attention from a caregiver. Her oversized clothes hang like curtains on her bony body. The dusty dress she wears is faded and worn with holes. Her back is exposed because the buttons used to fasten it together are gone. Her feet are dirty and calloused, she has been shoeless for a very long time.
Her little brother stands nearby. His chocolate-brown skin is faded from the dust that sticks to his cheeks and arms. Even in the scorching heat, his hands are chapped and dry. He wears a stretched-out t-shirt that hangs below his waist. He has no shorts or shoes.
I make small talk with the limited Creole I know, gathering basic information about them.
Her name is Shalyn (about 7 years old) and his name is Senson (about 5). Their baby sister stands from a distance and watches. They look up at me with smiling faces and hopeful eyes.
They are more precious than I can express in words.
Shaylyn carries a coffee can on her head. It's dented and rusty. Senson has a small oil can in his hand. After learning that they live beyond the hills above the mission, I ask them what they are doing with their buckets. They reply that they are getting water, and then motion toward 2 small puddles. I try to swallow as I glance over to the swampy water they are referring to. This is the water that has collected from the rain showers last night. The water has collected in the low, muddy spots off of the dusty pathway and has been drying up all day in the hot sun. Flies swarm above what's left of the brown cloudy water. It's filthy.
I try in vain to hide my shock. How these small children have travelled who knows how far to collect water such as this is beyond my comprehension. I ask them what they are going to use it for. They say they are going to bathe in it. They will undoubtedly take it home and sponge bath in the hot, muddy, bacteria-infested water.
I feel completely helpless. I am repulsed by this reality. I've heard stories like this told to me before. I've seen pictures and watched video clips expressing this kind of need, but even in the many months I've been at the mission in Haiti, this is the first real encounter I've had with this kind of desperation.
I smile and take the children in my arms, as I try to cover up the helplessness I am feeling in my heart.
What do I do? The sun is setting and the children show signs of needing to get their water and return to their home. I search for hope. I rack my brain for some kind of solution to the terrible circumstances they are living in. All I can come up with is an invitation to for them to come to church on Sunday. I tell them about the mission and the church and how they are welcome to come back on Sunday morning to see me again and learn about Jesus. I tell them Jesus loves them. In the back of my mind I wonder if they have a clue what I am saying or if they know who I am talking about. They respond with happy smiles, reciprocating words and gentle hands wrapped around my arm.
Then we both let go and I turn to continue down my path.
As I walk away, I question God. Where are you? How is this fair? How can children in North America have everything, and these children have nothing? What did these children do to deserve such a life? How can I help them? I go over possibilities in my mind... Maybe I could bring them up to my apartment and feed them, maybe I could see if they could enroll at the School of Hope, maybe I could give them some money for clean water and food at the market...?
And then my mind is filled with an even more horrible reality... The fact that the story of these children is the same story of hundreds, thousands, even millions of children around the globe. Classified as impoverished not just financially or materially, but emotionally, physically, educationally, spiritually, and the list goes on and on. Children who are written off by the world. Children who never sleep with a pillow. Children who not only have no parents, but are the primary caregivers for their younger brothers and sisters. Children who never know where their next meal is coming from.
And yet miraculously, these are the same children whose weathered expressions change instantly when they see a kind face. Their eyes light up. Their shiny white teeth become exposed in joyful smiles. They wear their heart on their sleeves. They openly embrace a stranger. They love without holding back.
As I make my way back up the hill after this heavenly encounter, my heart breaks. I struggle to understand where God is in the lives of these innocent children. I question how He can allow it. I am so confused.
And then I stop. I turn to face the extravagant light across the sky. I see the shadows coming over the mountains and I watch as the colour canopy transforms over me. Once again I am amazed at the beauty of creation and the presence of the Lord that I feel from witnessing His glory. Kings and celebrities can afford just about anything, anytime. And yet they don't have to pay a penny for this majesty, something more beautiful than it all. Somewhere in some high-scale building in the lit up lights of the city, they get to witness it without a price tag. And somewhere in a barren field under a tin roof held up by dry tree branches, little children return from their water trip and ponder the beauty around them. He is here. He is hope.
They may not have shoes, or buttons on their dress, or someone to brush their hair, or clean water to bathe in, but the poverty they are experiencing cannot prevent them from witnessing the beauty of His creation, their Father's world. These children may not have much, or anything, but the Lord is just as near to them as He is to me in this moment. He is shining His light on them. The warmth of the sun is a testament to His love pouring down with His constant presence. They may be far off from where I think they should be, but it's my prayer tonight that they would know a perfect Love. It's my prayer that they could lean on a Father that has a purpose and plan for their lives, and that they would be safe in His hand.
And if they don't know this truth yet, it's also my prayer that I may be a vessel in lighting a pathway to hope... The same hope they watch as the sun descends. The same hope I see when I look into their smiling face. A gift beyond any treasure here on earth.