Friday, May 29, 2009

Aslan is on the move.

Over the past couple of months the kids and I have been reading through the Chronicles of Naria by C.S. Lewis. As a child, I never had much of an interest to read the books, but as I’ve gotten older and watched the latest movie re-makes, I have grown to appreciate the stories. In addition, I have recently become a big fan of C. S. Lewis’ other literature, so when the kids suggested that we start reading through the Naria series during our story time before recess, I was quite enthused!

So far we have made it through the Magician’s Nephew, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Today we started The Horse and His Boy and I think it's safe to say that we are all hooked!

All throughout the first two books I have especially appreciated the symbolism and beauty of C.S. Lewis’ writings. Even though it's all fantasy, there are so many parallels to our own story of redemption and salvation. It has been another reminder to the kids and I about the true sacrifice and love of our Saviour and Father, who is played in the books by a lion named Aslan. 

One of my favourite parts in our reading so far has been the description of the ride Susan and Lucy take on Aslan after He has returned to life. I've attached the passage below:

Aslan said, “We have a long journey to go.  You must ride on me.”  And he crouched down and the children climbed onto his warm, golden back, and Susan sat first, holding on tightly to his mane and Lucy sat behind holding on tightly to Susan.  And with a great heave he rose underneath them and then shot off, faster than any horse could go, down hill and into the thick of the forest. That ride was perhaps the most wonderful thing that happened to them in Narnia. Have you ever had a gallop on a horse? Think of that; and then take away the heavy noise of hoofs and the jingle of bits and imagine instead the almost noiseless padding of the great paws. Then imagine instead of the black or gray or chestnut back of the horse the soft roughness of golden fur, and the mane flying back in the wind. And then imagine you are going about twice as fast as the fastest racehorse. But this is a mount that doesn't need to be guided and never grows tired. He rushes on and on, never missing his footing, never hesitating, threading his way with perfect skill between tree trunks, jumping over bush and briar and the smaller streams, wading the larger, swimming the largest of all. And you are riding not on a road nor in a park nor even on the downs, but right across Narnia, in spring, down solemn avenues of beech and across sunny glades of oak, through wild orchards of snow-white cherry trees, past roaring waterfalls and mossy rocks and echoing caverns, up windy slopes alight with gorse bushes, and across the shoulders of heathery mountains and along giddy ridges and down, down, down again into wild valleys and out into the acres of blue flowers. 

~ Chapter 15: Deeper Magic from before the Dawn of Time - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 

I don't know about you, but I feel an invigorating sensation when I read this section of the book. C.S. Lewis had done an amazing job articulating the journey of Aslan, which can also be OUR journey as we 'ride' on the back of our Maker. The part that captures me the most is what is written about the way Aslan travels: A mount that doesn't need to be guided and never grows tired. He rushes on and on, never missing his footing, never hesitating.

I think about the way I often go through life and how so many times I like to take the 'driver's seat'. I like to be in control. I like to know what's ahead and ensure that my needs and wants are taken care of. But it's a rough climb when I go alone. Hurdles slow me down, distractions cause me to hestitate and lose focus, I stumble and grow weary. No matter how much I try to get there, I can't do it on my own.

And yet I think about the way that the girls mounted up on the Lion. They accepted His invitation, and they experienced the most beautiful part of Narnia. The glory of His creation combined with the speed, precision and endurance of His strength. A mount that doesn't need to be guided because He IS the guide. 

When we allow Him to lead, it's like a roller coaster - ups and downs, twists and turns, and moments that take your breath away. But we can rest easy knowing that He is with us every step.

How I long to be lifted up from the winding road I am on and rest easy by believing that He knows the way and He will protect me from harm. It's a choice of surrender, but at the same time, a choice of life. It means letting go of the map, and trusting the path to the One who made it. It's taking my focus off of the ground at my feet and lifting my eyes of the beauty of my surroundings. It's forgetting about how to take care of myself and finding comfort in the presence of the Leader. It's the only way to experience life as it is intended.

After all, He is the Way.

Just as it is repeated throughout the books, Aslan is on the move... My God is on the move. There is ground to cover and walls to be broken down and I can't do it alone. It is my hope, day after day, that I accept His invitation and let Him lead. It's an adventure I don't want to miss.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Solid evidence!

I think it's safe to say I have moved past rookie status here in Haiti.

First piece of evidence: Footwear
Within the past 3 days, I have gone down two pairs of flip flops due to wear and tear. The first set broke on my way down the hill to youth on Friday. Teagan and I were walking down the rocky road and I began to feel a loosened grip on my sandal. Looking down, I realized that the centre piece of plastic where my toes slip in had broken off. I ended up having to twist the sole into a different position so that I could walk the rest of the way down with somewhat of a support. Teagan thought my mangled invention was pretty funny. Then yesterday afternoon, another pair of sandals bit the dust as I was sliding down one of the twisty slides on the playground with the Hope House kids. My flip flop got strained just a little too much by one of the bodies sliding down with me, and the same break as the first pair happened again. 
I am beginning to realize that rubber flip flops don't quite cut it in this country. Fortunately, I have numerous other pairs to keep me going until July although, I am beginning to think that Birkenstocks may be a worthy investment for next year! :) 

More evidence: Caribbean Chef
I am proud to announce that I have officially mastered the art of homemade guacamole. I have been waiting for months to see avocados come back in season, and in my last trip to market I was thrilled to find many people selling them. I bought myself a good stock and I've been perfecting my recipe. Avocado mixed with diced tomatoes and a squeeze of fresh lime juice is a winning combination! It's been a refreshing treat to make for myself with chips and crackers. You really can't beat the selection of mouthwatering tropical fruits and vegetables in this country... On Saturday morning after my walk I indulged in a delicious mango-banana smoothie. It sure hit the spot! 

And more evidence: I'm a Relaxed Passenger
When I rode along to the city or villages during my first months in Haiti, I was at risk of hyperventilating if I paid attention to the driving patterns. No joke. I had to distract myself with other things going on around me instead of the road because the constant pot holes, animals, people and giant busses veering and swerving around us at all times stressed me out. However, I realized my accommodation to this type of driving the other day when I was traveling to an orphanage with Laurens and Cheryl. I was sitting beside 2 of the guests they had that week, and I was quite amused by the reaction of one of the girls in particular (if you are reading this Kaylee, yes I am talking about you! haha!). It was really hilarious because I could totally see myself in her as she braced herself in the seat and made constant gasps at incoming road blocks as we bounced along the road. I admit that even in Canada I have been known to get a little jumpy when it comes to riding along with an aggressive driver. But in Haiti, such is life and I feel like it's becoming more normal everyday! It should be interesting to see if my driving patterns change when I return to Canada based on this new adjustment... You may want to watch out for me on the roads this summer! :)

Other tidbits and progress:
I am FINALLY beginning to understand Creole! At Friday's youth service, there was a leader who was doing a devotional and as I listened I began to pick out different words and piece them together. I was really in 'the zone'. I actually found myself interpreting what he was saying and checked with my friend Vena (who speaks Creole and English), to find that I was right about the verse he was talking about - Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example to other believers in how you live, how you love and in what you believe (1 Timothy 4:12). Needless to say I was pretty proud of myself! Also, when I was playing with the Hope House kids yesterday, I was pleased with my ability to communicate with them, and I even learned a rock counting game that some of the girls taught me. All of these things I could not do when I arrived in September so it's exciting for me to see progress! Don't be deceived... I am not even close to fluency, but these instances do give me hope!

With that said, I am also becoming more familiar with Creole worship songs. Usually once or twice a week my friend Jean-Marc from the Hope House comes over to practice guitar and I sing along the words in Creole. We sing songs like 'Here I am to Worship', 'Forever', and 'I Could Sing of Your Love Forever'. I often have to catch myself when I'm singing because once I get going I feel like I remember the Creole words even easier than the English! It's a beautiful thing to be a part of the worship on Sunday mornings and to sing songs of praise in a different language. In my first few months here, I would always sing along in English while the rest of the congregation sang in Creole, but over time I've been able to join them in their language. There is something special about singing in a different language and yet still understanding the meaning. I am sure this summer when I'm back in Wainfleet you will be able to catch me singing the Creole words to some familiar songs while the rest of you are singing in English! :)

Well, I think that's all the 'evidence' I have for now... It's my hope that the list keeps growing! :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Evening Report... and Goats

Good evening all! I am just sitting here in my apartment trying to avoid witnessing Hanna dissect a lizard, and I thought I'd give you a little update on my week and past weekend.

The kids all loved the story and most of all, partaking in the food last Sunday with the feeding of the 5000. We also had enough leftovers to feed the kids again on their way out when the service ended, so overall, it couldn't have gone any better! Bridgely ended up being my 'boy with the lunch' so we got our picture together as a memory!

The boys (Grayden and Bridgely) also were a part of a Church of Hope version of what we like to call in Wainfleet - Junior Worship Band! With Grayden on drums, Bridgely on bongos, and two of the boys from the Hope House - Jean Marc on guitar (who I have been practicing with) and Elison singing, the boys were an awesome accompaniment to the regular worship band players in 'Here I am to Worship' during the offertory. It was awesome!

I also got to attend my first wedding on Saturday. It was the marriage of one of the guys on the worship team that I honestly didn't know very well, but with the day off and a chance to experience another part of life in Haiti (a recommendation by Lamar Fretz), I seized the opportunity and went to the ceremony as a spectator. It was a little lengthy (about 2 hours), but very entertaining and exciting to witness!

Now for some craziness.....
I have a bit of a funny story to share about my market and tap tap experience on Saturday. When we had bought all of the bread, Sadrac, Wicky and I made our way over to the tap tap stop where an empty tap tap had just pulled up. Along with a large quantity of other shoppers we squeezed inside the back of the truck and waited for everyone else to pile in. That was when I heard the sounds and clicked in on what was happening on the side of our same tap tap. There were about 6 goats that we had passed on the way to get into the tap tap all tied down by a rope wrapped around their four legs... Someone was in for a feast that night. 
I hadn't thought much about the goats as we passed, but now my attention returned as I watched them being dragged over and then one by one, hurled into the air landing on the top of our truck. As each one went for it's flying trip it let out a pitiful bleat and then landed with a loud thud on the tap tap's metal roof. It was quite painful to witness, since the pathetic sounds they were making slightly resembled a baby wailing. Once they were all piled on we began our trek back to the mission, but every sharp turn or pot hole we hit was followed by a chorus of piteous bleats from the goats above us... I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

However, I feel like I brought closure to this episode by a choice on Sunday... My 'choice' to accept this way of life and make the most of it. After church, I travelled with the team to good ol' Gwopapapou for some Haitian food. It just so happened that the restaurant was a little low on chicken that day, so they were looking for some people to choose goat for their meat option instead of chicken. Now, for as long I have been in Haiti, I admit that I still haven't ventured off and tried any other meat selections. I guess it's just the love I have for the fried chicken that has prevented me from ever trying anything else. But on Sunday, and particularly in honour of the goats that rode along with me on the tap tap the day before, I decided to order goat instead of chicken. I went for it! And I must say, it was quite good! :) 

Upon reflection I feel that the second half of this story partially symbolizes my adjustment to the culture here in Haiti... It's taken me some time, but I feel like slowly I am beginning to embrace the culture - as wild as it may be - by taking chances and being spontaneous, even when it comes to the food I eat. 

As I think about it, another big change I've experienced as a result of my move to Haiti has been my independence from the wristwatch. Before my move in September, my time was heavily dictated by trusty watch at hand. Shortly after arriving at the mission however, in the midst of renovating my apartment, I removed my watch to get serious with my cleaning and it took a tumble off the table breaking the metal band. As you can imagine, I felt a great loss and it took a while, but it was the start of my independence from the hour. I began to grow accustomed to a different kind of scheduling system in Haiti. We go by a thing called 'Haitian time', where things happen when everyone arrives, and that means that it's almost never on schedule, causing the need for a watch to be quite unnecessary.
This reality wasn't enough to stop me though... My wristwatch story doesn't end there. I took a second attempt. During my return home at Christmas, I was able to get the band piece repaired and grew accustomed to wearing it again when I returned to Haiti after the break. It wasn't long after I got back though that I glanced at the time one day to realize that I was several hours off as a result of a dead battery. Due to the brand of the watch, I can't just get a new battery since it has to be installed by a jeweler, so there I was again with no watch. I personally think that the Lord has a lot to do with this sequence of events! ;) Slowly but surely He is ridding me of my dependence of the time. And it's amazing how much you can appreciate when time isn't a factor. I've learned to appreciate the freedom of flexibility and living in the moment!

So there are two examples of some changes I've become aware of lately as a result of this Haitian lifestyle. I've still got a long ways to go, but it's nice to look back and see progress! :)
I look forward to more adventure stories and experiences this weekend.... Stay tuned for more soon! 
Good night!

Friday, May 15, 2009

A little lunch.

It's a story I've heard time and time again throughout my early years of Sunday school, Pioneer clubs, summer camp and vacation bible school - The story of Jesus feeding the 5000.

This Sunday, I am taking a 2nd attempt at telling this same story in kids church. However, I think the Lord had a divine purpose in the week delay for my sake. All week I've been reflecting on the story - The amazing miracle Jesus did in providing for the needs of the people, and the promise of His faithfulness to us in our lives. But above the lesson of provision, I feel like I keep coming back to the part about the little boy's lunch. 
I am beginning to realize the significance in that simple action. The choice to give up something for the good of others. 
5 loaves and 2 fish. Just enough. Just enough to satisfy his hunger while he was away for the day. Or, just enough for Jesus to multiply into a meal that would nurture thousands of hungry families. 

I've taken a step back as I've thought about this boy's choice, and realized that he had options. There he was passing through the crowds as Jesus was giving His teaching, while the disciples were looking for food. He had a decision to make. Keep it what was his, or give it away.
It wasn't like he had much of food to offer. Pretty insignificant actually, when compared to the amount of people present that day. After all, a meal made for a small boy isn't sufficient for such a great crowd. I don't think he would have caused too much of a problem if he simply kept the lunch for himself. And to justify it further, it was food from his family and it was given to HIM and no one else. He 'deserved' it. 

There was a second option as well... One that I tend to lean towards: 
He didn't have to give it all. 
There was no one else in that crowd who was aware of what was inside his small basket. Only he knew. So the fact is, he could have chosen to only give a portion of his food to the disciples and keep the rest for himself. No one would have to know that he was being greedy or selfish. That way he would still be doing the 'right' thing, and yet he would also benefit from the meal that he believed he deserved.

And yet he had the faith to give everything. He doesn't hold anything back. 

It makes you wonder what he was thinking when he gave his food basket to the disciples. Something deep inside him must have had a trust that Jesus could do something greater. Something beyond the message that he was teaching, that compelled this boy to give all he had. Whatever it was, he must have felt a connection, a magnetism to the words of Jesus, and through that there was a sense of abandonment to earthly possessions. An urgence for him to give up what he had in faith. 

Wow. What a powerful message. A statement about sacrifice for others. Jesus beckons us to give what we've got, but He doesn't want just a part of it. He wants the whole thing. 

I feel like I need to identify with this little boy's decision. Except my choice comes moment by moment, and it's not with a carry-on lunch, it's with things like time or money or the gifts that God has given me. 
It's in moments of need from the people around me that I have to make a decision. Will I choose to give? But even more importantly, will I give it all? Will I lay aside my selfish ambitions and offer up my 'stuff' to Jesus? How much is enough?  Matthew 16:24 says ~ 
 “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it."

The first part of this verse is hard for me to swallow. Turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. This type of living is so counter-cultural. It's the exact opposite of how we as humans think we should live, because there is a cost. And when we think we're entitled to what we have gained, the cost becomes even greater.
We need to be reminded that in order for there to be a benefit, there has to be a cost.

Luckily, the Jesus doesn't stop there. He finishes with promise. A promise of life in the midst of surrender. This is a reward that far outweighs any comfort or peace we could find on our own. Life as it was intended by our Creator.

But what about the insignificant stuff? What if it's so small or such a long shot that it's not even worth giving? Like the lunch. So miniscule when compared with the need. And yet the Bible reminds us of how Jesus took it, used it, and blessed so many people through it (including the boy) with 12 baskets to spare. Abundant provision.

I've been challenged by this story of the little lunch because I wonder if my faith is that strong. Do I have the confidence to give all of everything, with the trust that Jesus will take my offering and use it?
My mind and flesh tell me otherwise, but my heart knows the truth. The truth that just like the boy who gave 5 loaves and 2 fish, Jesus took it and blessed so many people than he ever could have. Not to give glory to him, but to give glory to God.
It's a constant choice of letting go and surrendering ourselves to Jesus, and it's not easy. But it's my hope that I can be inspired by the message of this little lunch and what can happen when I offer my everything to Him.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To market, to market!

Let me first begin with a very big HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to all you mom's out there... Even though I am not home to celebrate with my family today, I am so thankful for all of the memories that I've been able to share with my mom over the years, and for the many more 'mom's' that I've accumulated since this move to Haiti. :)
I know in my last post I wrote about how you should expect to read all about my weekend adventures getting bread from the market, and telling the story about Jesus feeding the 5000 in kids church. Unfortunately, I'm only able to tell half of the story this afternoon. It turns out that in church this morning there was a special choir presentation that took up most of the service, which caused kid's church to get cancelled! It's actually pretty humourous thinking about it now, compared to the confusion I had in the service this morning. It began to dawn on me about halfway through the service while the choir was singing that there would not be time for kid's church. My mind instantly went to the bags of bread that were sitting in Laurens and Cheryl's truck. I wondered what on earth I was going to do with the 250 little loaves that Teagan and I had cut up last night for the kids. After a little bit of thought, I was able to put my mind at ease thinking that I would simply give the bread to my friends who had helped me at the market yesterday, and they could pass it out to their friends and relatives in the village. As for the story, we'll just have to get more bread next weekend and hopefully there won't be any other guests in church! :)

Now let me tell you about my adventures yesterday! My trip to market was packed with excitement and to be honest, I'm already looking forward to going back for more bread next weekend! :) Sadrac and Wicky (who work as translators for the mission and are involved in the church) have become good friends of mine over the past couple of months. Because it's not safe for me to go off of the mission alone, they have become my 'escorts' and we've had some great times going out for Haitian food and teaching each other our respective languages (it's a good deal - they teach me Creole and I help them polish up their English!). So yesterday afternoon we headed out to the Cabaret market by tap-tap, which is the Haitian version of a taxi. It's a small pickup with bench seats that line either side of the truckbed and to get a ride, you climb into the back of it and jam yourself in like a sardine... the average adult capacity is 15, but I've been in one with over 20 people! If you didn't guess already, in Haiti the adventure begins before you even reach your destination!

So we took the tap tap to Cabaret and first got fueled up with some delicious Haitian food before embarking out into the BUSY market to find bread. It's kind of hard to explain market day, and I don't have pictures since it's not good to have a camera out in the crowds, but I'll do my best... Picture a huge open field (in Haiti there is no grass, just dirt), and hundreds and hundreds of people. There's no real organization or strategy that I am aware of to how vendor's choose their location. I think it's pretty much first come, first serve. Across the entire field and sides of the main street, hundreds of little tarps and bed sheets are held up by sticks in the dirt, and the bread, meat, clothes, kitchen pots, fruit, shoes, and whatever else you might like is sold underneath. Based on this slightly chaotic setup, when you go to the market, it's not just a good price you have to work for, it's literally FINDING what you are looking for. Fortunately, the guys are both quite familiar with the market and navigating through it, so we made out very well! We ended up purchasing about 12 large flatbread-type loaves (nothing that I can really compare with in Ontario, sorry), which Teagan and I divided into 250 pieces (about the size of your fist) all for about $7 American! So needless to say, it wasn't too much of a loss for us not to be able to give out the bread in kids church today. We'll just buy more next week, and as a result of the mix-up, hopefully some village families got their fill!  

This brings me to the finale of my Saturday adventure. Gathering our goods we once again navigated through the marketplace back to the tap tap pickup stop (at some points the guys had to hold me by the arms so I wouldn't get caught up in the crowds). Fortunately, we managed to find a tap tap pretty quickly considering the amount of people needing a ride, and as an added bonus, I even got to sit in the front of the truck instead of cram into the back. Now that's what I call Haitian luxury! :) Complete with gutted dashboard, broken windshield and blasting Haitian radio, I climbed in beside the driver and another Haitian shopper while Sadrac and Wicky hitched a ride on the back. As we chugged back to the mission, I smiled to myself. Sitting on a bench seat squished between two complete strangers with gigantic bags of food on my lap, I felt completely comfortable and content. Then, the best thing happened. I caught a glance behind the tap tap in the sideview mirror. Despite it's dusty glass, I was able to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen during my time in Haiti. The sun's rays were beaming out from behind a cloud and the colors were breathtaking. Immediately I began to scramble for my camera (which was quite a task with all of the stuff on my lap), but I managed to snap a picture so that I would never forget that moment. My camera doesn't even come close to giving the breathtaking sky justice, but it's a picture just the same, and hopefully it helps you envision my wonder. 

More than having a wonderful day with friends, more than the fresh bread on my lap, or a comfortable ride back home, the Lord blessed me with a glimpse of His glory at dusk. What's amazing to me is that we weren't even traveling in the direction of the sunset. Instead we were driving the opposite way, but the Lord plopped me right down into the perfect viewing spot where I could see Him paint a picture of His majesty. 

In that moment I was captured once again and reminded of all of the moments of beauty I have witnessed in this land. As soon as I feel my cup has reached it's limit, the Lord pours down His love and I can do nothing but overflow. There have been mountains and valleys on this journey, and there are sure to be many more, but I am thankful today for the whispers of His love and the assurance of His presence. It has been, it is, and it always will be more than enough.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Our class pet and other randoms - with pictures!

I've spent the last hour recording down some of the haphazard things going on in my mind since my last blog. Prepare yourself for a very random posting! But first, I've realized over the past few weeks that I've neglected to post some of the pictures I've taken over the past couple of weeks, so I thought I'd begin with some of my favourite shots of spring in Haiti. Enjoy!

Above are some sweet girls in kids church

Some kids in the village

Bright garden flowers

Some of the boys from Tytoo Gardens

Dominican sunset
I look forward to sharing the other 600+ pictures with you when I get home! haha
So far this week it has rained pretty much every evening which has been the start of a somewhat greener Haiti. Unfortunately, the mosquito's love it just as much as we do, so I've had to use what is commonly know here as 'Haitian perfume' - bug spray! :)
Along with mosquito's, the birds have also returned, taking on their role as my early morning alarm clock, chirping their hearts out in the tree behind the guesthouse. The kids and I have adopted a new class pet as a result. Every morning when I arrive at the classroom there is a little bird at our class window who makes a continuous attempt to get into the room. Our glass window opens on an angle from one side, so with it only being open about halfway, the little bird makes countless attempts to enter through the window, only to bang against the glass. The poor little guy doesn't give up easily! 
So, in honour of our trusty little pal, we've adopted him as our class pet. The other morning Bridgely gave him the name 'Bonker' - from the way that he 'bonks' against the window. Teagan took a picture of him and I've attached it below.

And while we're on the school subject, Laurens, Cheryl and I have nailed down a the last day of school for June 25th... It's hard to believe we've got less than 2 months to go! Currently, we've covered all of our math chapters and are focussing on our last few units of science and geography. I feel like we are in excellent shape to complete all of our expectations by June, and of course, have room to fit a bunch of fun celebrations in the mix too! The kids and I have already begun our end-of-school countdown as we anticipate summer holidays and going home. We had our Christmas countdown in December, Dominican Delight countdown for April, and so Teagan named our last day countdown 'Splendid Summer', in keeping with the alliteration trend! ;)
And for the record, as of this morning we've got 37 days to go!

As a result of my planned return to Haiti again this coming September, I will be back in Ontario for the majority of July and August, and I've very excited to see you all! The time at home will be definitely be packed full of planning for the 2009-2010 school year, participating in more wedding festivities, and of course, spending lots of quality time with family and friends!
On that note, I have to mention how the Lord totally blessed my socks off last weekend. As I mentioned in a previous blog, there was a hope that I would be able to witness a portion of the Erin and Jesse's wedding ceremony through Skype. Well, all morning my hopes got weaker and weaker because the connection was being extremely inconsistent. However, early in the afternoon when my Uncle Randy called me, everything appeared clearly and I was able to follow the ENTIRE ceremony by video. The phone call cut out about 4-5 times throughout the service, but fortunately Uncle Rand was totally reliable and dialed me up seconds later so I hardly missed a thing! Later on in the evening during the reception, we gave it a try again, and the Lord once again blessed me by allowing for me to follow the majority of program. I first began by talking to a lot of family members and friends while the guests ate wedding cake, and then my dad was able to position the computer at the table next to him (which was right beside the podium where the speeches were given) so I was able to listen and view a significant part of it. At the end of the night when the connection finally gave out, I had to catch myself and take time to thank the Lord for allowing me the privilege of witnessing so much of the big day. It would have been wonderful to be there 'in body' and witness everything without relying on a computer, but considering that I am in Haiti it was definitely the next best thing! Below is a picture of part of my living space and where I sat as I viewed the show. :)

Well, you made it to the end of my crazy posting... This weekend I am going to the market to shop for some bread that will be used in my kids church story on Sunday morning. I am planning to tell the story of how Jesus fed the 5000, so we are going to attempt to 'recreate' the miracle and give out pita bread and candy to the hundreds of kids that show up. It should be an interesting adventure getting the food and distributing it, so I'll be sure to blog about it when the weekend is through! :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Streams in the Desert

It's been a wild ride these past few weeks.... If you have been tracking with my blog, you are aware of the decision that has been ahead of me and some of the struggles in my heart.

I am excited to tell you that I have made a decision. 
I believe that the Lord is calling me to commit to serving another year in Haiti to teach the van der Mark children.
Let me go back in time a bit and tell you some of the ways that the Lord has fit these pieces together.

First of all, I believe that without some of the challenges these last few weeks have brought, I would have made a decision based on a good 'feeling', instead of really counting the cost and leaning on the Lord for peace. In this time, I realize it also would have been easy to make by decision based on other people, instead of truly waiting on the Lord for an answer.
There are people both in Haiti and back in Wainfleet that I depend on, but I felt like the Lord gave me the chance to really start fresh again and not make a decision based on anyone else's opinions, but only where He wanted me. 
Laurens and Cheryl's proposal for me to continue teaching could have also been an 'easy' decision-maker for me, simply because of the need, but I didn't feel confident enough to simply make my decision based on them.
This takes me back to a sermon I heard at The Call in 2004, and the speaker said not to choose to do something just because there was a need. To follow the Lord means following His voice where He leads, and not be distracted by anything else. If each person based their whole life on needs, it would quickly lead to burn out because there are needs everywhere. Based on this understanding, I knew that I couldn't make my decision because of a 'need', no matter how great, and I believed that if the Lord was calling me away from Haiti, He would provide someone to take my place.

For days I flip-flopped. Many moments I felt like I needed to just make a choice, so I would decide not to stay, which gave me a temporary feeling of relief, but then I experienced a very unsettled feeling in my heart. As a result, I flipped over to the idea of staying, but this only left me with an overwhelming sense of fear and confusion, and I knew I wasn't ready.
So back and forth I went, wondering if I'd ever be able to make a choice and stick with it.

This past Sunday, everything changed. 
I walked down the hill to church in the morning only to be greeted by one of the happiest little girls, who dashed towards me from a considerable distance as I approached the church. She took my hand, blessed me with a giant smile and escorted me into the church. From that first act, there began a chain reaction of encouraging events that continued all day, and I felt a familiar fullness in my heart beginning to return. I thanked the Lord as I fell asleep that night for giving me one of the most uplifting and joyous days that I've had in weeks. I had such a peace and excitement in my heart for being in this place. The next morning, I awoke to a new week of school with such a passion in my heart. I felt like the cloud which had been hovering over me finally lifted and I could see clearly that the Lord was reminding me about the call He gave me to serve in Haiti, and He is not calling me out yet.

This summer I get to come home. I am already counting the days and anticipating all of the wonderful memories that will be made in July and August as I return to refuel and begin planning for another year of teaching. 

There is a verse that my mom shared with me last week that has become my theme as I take this next step of obedience, because things in Haiti still aren't perfect. I still long to be home. I still struggle with my role here and what I have to offer. I still have fears and hesitations about my commitment. There are mountains ahead, mountains that I know I can not climb on my own. There are also deserts ahead. Deserts that will leave me feeling dry and empty. But this verse is a promise that I am holding tightly to as I take this step of faith.

When the poor and needy search for water and there is none, and their tongues are parched from thirst, then I, the Lord, will answer them.
I, the God of Israel, will never abandon them. I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus. I will give them fountains of water in the valleys. I will fill the desert with pools of water. Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground. I will plant trees in the barren desert— cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, fir, and pine.
I am doing this so all who see this miracle will understand what it means— that it is the Lord who has done this, the Holy One of Israel who created it.
~ Isaiah 41:17-20 (NLT)

This verse gives me hope amidst the fear in my heart. It gives me peace despite the storm. I have faith that the Lord will stay true to this promise to me, just like He did to Isaiah. 
I can't thank you enough for all of the prayers and support you have shown me over the past few weeks. I have felt your prayers and I am blessed to have such a team of encouragers behind me as I continue on this journey.

This decision doesn't take away the challenges. It actually leaves me with more questions than answers. However, I know it's right because of the peace that I have in my heart and the assurance of the Lord's goodness and blessing as I move forward.
Thank you for praying along with me in the weeks ahead as more arrangements and finalizations continue to be made that above all, He would be our guide.