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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Our one-room schoolhouse

Just look at that progress... It's beautiful isn't it? Almost makes me want to cry.
What started out as 4 square foundation blocks, has now become a place where 9 kids and I can call our own. Indeed, we have a CLASSROOM!
If you would have told me 5 weeks ago that we'd be having school at the guesthouse until now, I probably would have lost it. Thank the Lord for the unknowns. I know how often I wish I could see the outcome, and yet in this case, it definitely worked to my advantage. The kids and I were totally blind to the reality of Haitian construction, and it was for the best. From the beginning of September, we have been anticipating having a school by the end of the week, which would turn into the beginning of next week, which would bring us to the week after... You get the picture. Somehow the weeks have blended into a month and we've still been faithful in lugging our textbooks to the open lunch tables outside the guesthouse kitchen, blocking our brains from the water-gallon unloading procedure on the porch, and hanging onto our lined pages for dear life as the wind whips through.
Well, the day has finally arrived and it's a beautiful thing. Surely, we've done our time and now it's paid off! And I must say - our four yellow classroom walls will NEVER be taken for granted. I've dreamed about it and now the time has come. To have all of the books piled in their corresponding grades, the manipulatives organized and accessible to all, silence during prayer time, overhead fans and lights, desks... and 2 CHALKBOARDS! Somebody pinch me.
Thank you all for faithfully praying along with the kids and I during this time of waiting. I have been amazed at how each one of the kids has latched onto this very 'Haitian' style of learning and made the best of it. I think I may have one of the most resilient bunches on this side of the planet! But most of all, may all of the glory go to the Lord for knowing our needs and providing abundantly more than we ask for.
Sidenote - Within the weeks of construction, I also managed to get a screen on my front door... Gotta love the bonuses. :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A little shout out.

Whoever invented skype is a genius. To have the idea to create a device that morphs sounds and megabyte images across countries and oceans, they certainly must have undergone a lot of critisism at first to have such an initiative. I owe this dude big time.
Last weekend I got to see all of my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins face-to-face as they 'assembly-lined' past the video cam to wish me a happy thanksgiving.... Making it a truly happy thanksgiving.
A couple times a month I schedule a skype with Darcie back in Wainfleet and she shows me her latest shopping purchases and the decoration progress on her new bedroom. The video option also allows for us to give our signature 'looks' which completes the third dimension of a perfect conversation.
A few weeks ago I also video skyped with my friend Sarah who was in Haiti for a month last summer. It was during Jean Marc and I's weekly guitar session, so her and her roommate got to listen to a few songs LIVE.
And one my fondest skype memory occurred just this morning.
Before church I sat at my kitchen table and talked to my parents who are in North Carolina for the weekend. Before we said goodbye, my dad spent some time praying for me, and when I closed my eyes, I almost felt like I was back in his office, doing our regular morning devotions and prayer like we've done during my years growing up. It's amazing to think that here in Haiti, I can still experience a taste of that.
Thank you Lord for family.
Thank you Lord for friends.
Thank you Lord for technology.
And thank you Lord for giving people brains to come up with things like skype.

Friday, October 16, 2009

When the going gets tough.

Sometimes I have to stand alone. Sometimes I feel helpless. Sometimes all that there is left to do is cry.
And it's hard....
So often I try to be the superhero. Reach the summit. Seize and achieve. Git 'er dun.
But no sooner do I think that I've got things in check does reality hit hard.
Humanness = Weakness. Imperfection. Weariness. Struggle. Incompletion.
Sometimes I wish I could move beyond my limitations to reach something higher or greater. If I could only rise above, then I could really prove that I'm competent. If only my true efforts and value would be revealed.
But hold up.
What if we were never intended to reach it? What if all of our striving is in vain? What if I don't have to be everything? What if I don't have to do it on my own? What if it's okay to cry?
Maybe there is something to be learned about helplessness... That it's better to wake up and reach for a bible instead of a laptop. That it's better to dwell on the promises of the Lord than the list of to do's. He likes it when we lean.
The words of a familiar song echoed in my heart last night from a distant peace.

I lay myself at Your feet,
Asking You won't You meet,
Won't You meet me?
I cannot do it on my own,
I cannot do it all alone.
Here I am, oh, tonight
With my arms open wide,
Won't You come inside?
Won't You come inside, God?
Come and fill this heart of mine.
I'm in need of You.
Of Your touch, of Your life, of Your love.
I need You,
I need You.

Those words - I cannot do it on my own - that's what was ringing through my mind over and over again.
I cannot do it on my own. Thank the Lord I don't have to.
In this place of confusion and brokenness I often find myself in, there is only One thing left.
One hope remains. And it's more than enough.
The knowledge that this is not all there is. There is something greater. There is a purpose. Rest and strength can be found in the hollow of His hand. And in that place of stillness I am reminded that I was never supposed to carry this burden alone. That the work ahead of me was never meant to be done apart from the One who designed it. And that it's going to be okay. Through the storm He is here, and He's not going anywhere.

Colossians 3:23 came to mind this week as I sat surrounded by my students, all engrossed in their schoolwork - Work with all of your heart for the Lord. The verse doesn't say work with your high IQ, or your Masters degree, or your body-building muscles (thank goodness), it says, work with all of your HEART. Just as I emphasize to my kids to give their best, so it is with me as I tread along in this foreign land. Thank goodness that my work doesn't have to be flawless. The Lord knows my weaknesses and all He asks is that I give it my best, with all of my heart. It seems simple, but often it takes me a while to lay back and rest in that.
And so here I go again... Tumbling after truth. May I strive not towards perfection, but towards peace in the place where the Lord has brought me, and may I continue to work to bring Him the glory. My heart has high hopes of what He can do.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Grade 1 is fun to teach. Not only do you get to train little ones to read and write - skills that they will use for the rest of their lives, but everyday spent with the 6-year olds is pure entertainment. It's amazing the things that they come up with and the ideas and resolutions that they have for things. A couple times a morning I catch myself giggling at something that they say or do. The van der Mark kids and I still have a funny quote that we repeat to make each other laugh from last year. The context is during our math block. Bridgely was working through a addition activity where he had to count up the ducklings that had hatched out of their eggs. Grayden and Teagan were also deep into their own math problems and the classroom was quiet - Quiet until Bridgely randomly proclaimed - 'Break it up you chicks!'. We all gazed at him with confused looks on our faces, and then exchanged glances with each other and burst out laughing. That one-liner continues to pop up from time to time to this day!
Just this past week a similar scenario happened with Riley. The kids were all working away at their respective lessons while I worked quietly with the Loulous. All of a sudden, Riley looked up at me and said 'It smells like the junior playground at Camp Mini-Yo-We'. I looked at him with a blank expression and then toward the faces of his sisters who smiled and shrugged their shoulders. Like me, they are learning that random expressions are common in the minds of little ones. It certainly keeps the rest of us older ones entertained, and I'm sure that expression will come up again out of the mouths of one of the junior students as a joke someday soon. :)
Now, in keeping with the random trend - I have a list of my own random experiences and thoughts to share with you about the last week... Hope you can keep up!
First off we have breaking news... My main room and kitchen walls are YELLOW! Yesterday afternoon Rachel and Victoria (the grand-daughter of one of our Mission staff on the state side) helped me turn my house into a home. The colour is wonderful. It's fresh and vibrant, cozy and warm - a perfect tropical island sunshine brightness. There's something about fresh paint that gives you a little oomph. When I woke up this morning, I could see the corner of my yellow wall from my bed and it definitely perked me up! If you use facebook you can check out the progress in my 'new glimpse' album. I'll try my best to post up some shots on my blog in the next few weeks too.
Next on the agenda is my latest battle wound... On Saturday all of the Canadian staff at the mission (vanderMarks, Rumfords, Rachel and I) travelled to another Canadian missionary family's home to celebrate thanksgiving with over 35 Canadians who are currently serving in Haiti. It was so nice to be together and meet new people and enjoy the taste of turkey and stuffing just like home. The family who hosted us also live close to one of Haiti's main beaches so before lunch we spent the morning by the water and basking in the glorious heat... It's glorious because as soon as you start sweating you can cool off in the water! ;)
Anyways, at one point I branched off from the main group at the pool with Grant and Michelle and went down to the Caribbean sea to take a swim in the great deep. We were the only ones in the water and it was heavenly. We swam out about 20 feet and the water was way over our heads, but crystal blue. From the water we gazed back onto the shore and the mountains seemed to hang over us like a curtain. The waves were calm and we spent time floating (the salt water makes you really buoyant) and taking in the beauty of the paradise we were in. After about 15 minutes being in the water, I was floating along and I felt something pressing against my ankles. I kicked away and felt it again, this time closer, and then experienced a tingling/stinging sensation all over my stomach. I told Grant and Michelle something weird was happening and swam to shore. Once we all got out of the water, the pain minimized and turned into an itch. Grant concluded that I must have been stung by a jellyfish. With that, we gazed back out towards the water and saw two small dinnerplate-sized jellyfish mingling beneath the surface of the water. I did have a small red mark on my stomach, but overall it was a very mild sting. Most of all, I felt pretty thrilled that the jellyfish got me - I can chock that one up on my list of new experiences in Haiti!
The last random tidbit that I will leave you with for now is an update on our classroom... This morning was the first experience the kids and I had dealing with teams, as there are about 30 people visiting in two separate groups that are using the guesthouse area for meals and devotions. This morning one of the groups was reflecting on some bible passages while waiting for their Haitian translators to arrive before heading out. The problem was that there wasn't enough space nor solitude for a class workspace, so I gave the kids an extended reading time until they all cleared about 45 minutes later. Not the most ideal way to start a week, but then again, we're in Haiti and such is life!
After speaking to Laurens this morning (who by the way is doing remarkably well considering the collision last Thursday - keep him in your prayers as he continues to recover), the classroom should be good to go by tomorrow or Wednesday. They are supposed to be wiring the electricity today, so we will be able to move in shortly! As you can imagine, we are all very excited to have a place of our own, and we surely will never take it for granted! I'll be sure to post up a blog once we're all settled and let you know how things are going in our new space.
Thank you again for the prayers and support during this transition time. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Give Thanks

At the beginning of this week I gave my students a project. Over the course of the next 4 days they had to come up with 100 things they were thankful for, in honour of our Canadian thanksgiving celebration this weekend. Little did we know what the week would entail, nor the blessings we be more aware of a few days later.
For those of you who did not know, yesterday afternoon the Mission of Hope staff received word that Laurens, and 6 other Mission staff members were involved in a head-on truck collision.
When I heard first heard the news about the crash, I felt like my heart stopped beating. My mind immediately began to envision the potholed roads, and giant swerving buses and trucks traveling at top speeds. At that point we didn't know the condition of any of the travelers, however we knew it was Laurens and other MOH staff members, so all we could do was pray. As the hours ticked by we continued to get updates about the specific injuries and circumstances of the crash. Once they reached the hospital in Port-au-Prince, Laurens was diagnosed with 2 broken ribs and received 35 stitches from the shattered glass. The other passengers also had injuries including a broken femur, but they all survived. Reflecting with the other staff members at dinner last night, we marveled at the miracle of everyone surviving. None of us know the exact conditions of what happened, however we all have experienced first hand the chaos of Haitian roads and can testify the protection the Lord gave to each and every person involved. Despite a long road of recovery ahead, we can be so thankful that the lives of these friends and loved ones are still with us - Something we can truly be thankful for.
This morning at school we complied our lists and created a thankful tree outside my front door. the kids taped paper leaves onto fern branches and on each one wrote something that they are thankful for. Underneath the branches I stretched out a tree trunk and on it I markered the verse:
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His faithful love continues forever. ~ Psalm 118:29

I challenged the kids this weekend to have the verse memorized by Monday and it's my hope that by enticing them with mango suckers, they will also find themselves with the reminder of thankfulness close in their hearts.
It's also my challenge to reflect on this verse over the weekend. It's not every weekend where thankfulness is the theme, and the more I ponder the blessings in my life, the more I realize how the cup I've been given is overflowing. Somehow when you begin focus on the blessings, the hard times fade into the background. It makes you want to make every weekend, thanksgiving weekend.
Because even though work is challenging, there are endless rewards everyday.
Even though the heat of the day is draining, I wouldn't trade it for the beauty in the sunrise.
Even though days can be lonely, friends are near to the heart.
Even though pain is present, laughter is contagious.
Indeed, life is messy, but praise be to God because he is good.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wouldn't want it any other way.

Care to take a tour of my life?

You won't need an alarm clock... The chattering birds outside your window, or an occasional pounding sledgehammer will faithfully awaken you before 7am.
It's a place where water often falls from the ceiling instead of the tap.
A place where no matter how much time you spend scrubbing, buffing and painting your toes on girls night, they will instantly morph back into their dusty and calloused state as soon as you step outside.
A place where your fridge doesn't have enough space to hold the abundance of mangoes and avocados.
A place where the evening sunset out your front door is better than any postcard print.

Come to school at the guesthouse - A place where the kitchen staff often need more of a lesson in keeping quiet during schoolwork than the students. Make sure you place a paperweight on your workbook, or the wind will whip it off the side of the mountain in no time. It's a place where 12-year olds teach ESL, 6-year olds recite the books of the new testament, and youtube saves the day with Bill Nye reruns.

Transportation is like nothing you will experience. Seat belts are not in the Haitian vocabulary. You never know how you will get from point A to point B, but never fear, there is always a way. It may be side straddling a motorcycle, sharing the passenger seat with a friend while balancing a baby on your lap, cramming into the back cab of a tap tap with 20-plus others, clinging to the metal cargo frame on an ATV, or maybe, just maybe in a Toyota Hilux pickup with air conditioning. Pure luxury.

Church is 7 chairs around a patio table. A podcast sermon is sporadically drowned out by rain on a tinroof. The night air settles in as the mission staff come together to read the Word, share stories and pray together. You won't want to miss it.

Evenings may seem dull with a 6pm curfew, but don't despair. Just take a quick ten step journey next door. There's plenty of rice and bean leftovers. We'll watch dvd seasons of Grey's Anatomy, Friends, and the latest hook, Prison Break. Mourn the loss of Sarah with Rachel and I and then rejoice when she comes back (oops. my apologies if I just ruined something for you).

Haiti is a faraway place from Wainfleet. It's nothing like I ever expected, and sometimes I wish I could wake up from this schmozzled place and be back in my cool, quiet room of predictability. Where Starbucks is a heart-to-heart drive away, and family members and old friends line the pews on a Sunday morning. Where you never have to worry about a broken inverter or rats eating your popcorn. Yet as soon as I find myself wishing it all away, a small hand finds itself in mind. Surely, hope shows up in the most unexpected of places, and the still small voice whispering love, joy and courage into my heart is true.
Indeed, this lifestyle is nothing short of an outlier, but I wouldn't want it any other way.