Sunday, January 31, 2010

Up to speed

Currently I am sitting in my apartment planning for my school week. I am harmonizing along to 'Shout to the Lord', which the Hope House kids are singing on the playground just down the hill. They are coming through loud and clear, and although they may not be able to hit every high note pitch-perfect, it's a beautiful sound because they are singing with their whole hearts.

After church today, where yet again they had to bring in MORE school benches for the crowd overflow, I went to the grand RE-opening of Gwopapapou with friends. It was the perfect 'pick-me-up' after spending Saturday stranded in my apartment with my computer and a heap of books. For the record, report cards are by far the worst part of teaching. But on the bright side, I am pleased to say that they are NEARLY completed. Just a few more proof reads to go and they will be in hard copy and OFF my to do list. I'll definitely be rewarding myself again next Sunday with some more fried chicken! Thank you for all of your encouragement as I press on through the distractions.

So let me give you a run down of some other randoms. The aftershocks have slowly been dying out this week. I've had a shake or two wake me up just as I drift off to sleep or been startled from my computer work as the table I'm sitting at begins to wobble, but I can see a trend of it fading out which is a huge answer to prayer! Despite the minimal tremors, I still haven't had the courage to sleep in my house alone. Since the last big shake a week and a half ago, Michelle has been my night-shift roommate. We've got a mattress from her house by the side of my bed, and it brings me such peace of mind in the middle of the night knowing I have another person with me. If I feel like I'm shaking, I can simply turn over and see her resting in peace and know that I can do the same. Thanks Rumfords for letting me borrow her!

On Thursday I seized the opportunity to take a trip downtown. I had not yet been past the next village over since the earthquake because of my responsibilities here with my kids, and although I was affirmed that I wasn't missing anything (different testimonies said the streets were lined with limp bodies), I still wanted to be able to see for myself where the real disaster struck. Just after school finished, Cheryl told me that she would be taking a group of doctors to the airport, but first they would be taking a mini-tour of Port-au-Prince. Without much hesitation, I told her I was in. So around 1pm we loaded the bus and headed out. Once we got out of the country, I took my camera out, and it did not stop flashing. Everywhere I looked there was destruction. Fallen brick walls, homes completely tipped to one side, piles and piles of broken cement blocks unloaded from the city, totaled cars, and on and on. Everything was BROKEN. Just broken. During our drive at one point I noticed a dark line up on the road ahead. At first I thought it was just a shadow from a tree or other building, but as our driver slowed, I realized that it was a significantly large crack in the road. It was like a speed bump, except instead of going over cement, we were going UNDER the cement. It was unreal. The pictures on my camera show a rectangle image of what my eyes saw, and yet flipping through them now, I can honestly say that none even begin to do justice to what I really witnessed.
As we drove on, I got to see the palace, or what's left of it. The one piece of land that could really be appreciated in Haiti amidst all of the poverty is completely ruined. It's heartbreaking to see the people standing beside the high iron fence just watching. Waiting. I can't even begin to imagine how heartbroken they are. That was their country's pride. Now it's nothing.
As we drove on through the narrow streets and broken buildings, tent cities and busy markets, I couldn't feel like I was even beginning to absorb the true devastation that this country has witnessed. I think it's going to take a very long time for these images and emotions to fully process.

Friday night I took a walk. I was feeling a little tired and overwhelmed from all that has happened and what I had recently witnessed in the city. I don't know if some of you recall a blog I wrote last year about walking by moonlight, but it definitely brought me back to that. There was no need for me to use my flashlight. The air was cool enough so that I didn't sweat through my tank top and shorts, and the sky was clear with a bright full moon that lit the way. I went down to visit the Hope House kids for movie night and Clara sat on my lap. Her little hand in mine was just the cure for my burdened heart.

Yesterday, along with the helicopters, more help arrived. Leeann Verbeek (check out her blog in my hot spots), knew Cheryl and Laurens prior to our departure to Haiti a year and a half ago. Through that connection and the need for someone to give assistance to Ana and Mina both in the classroom and in the home, she landed on a Canadian cargo plane yesterday morning. She is in the process of getting settled into her life here in Haiti, and I will look forward to having her join us in school in the weeks ahead. We are all thrilled for her willingness to come and serve at such a busy time in all of our lives and she will surely be a blessing to each one of us. Please keep her in her prayers in the weeks ahead as she adjusts to a new way of life.

So there's the last 3 days in a nutshell... Random is an understatement, but you are relatively up to speed. Thank you for your consistent prayers and encouragement. I am blessed to have such a foundation to lean on!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hello helicopters!

I had full intentions of buckling down on my report cards this afternoon. Over the past month I've added a mark or two here or there, but it doesn't really account for much when there are 8 reports to write, each with over 10 subjects to comment on. So today was the day. I had the afternoon clear to sit at my kitchen table and go, go, go.


These were my plans before 1pm.
Shortly after lunch, I said hello to the helicopters. Flying in from every which way, they demanded a show from all of us at the guesthouse. They were literally doing circles around our front yard. I have never seen an aircraft so close in the air. I thought the steps to their landing bars were going to get hooked on our electrical wires. At one point I was convinced there would be a helicopter landing on the guesthouse roof. We could see the pilots in the cockpit and the kids were waving to them. The pulsating sound of the overhead blades was deafening, and much to my horror, rattling my cupboards (not the best scenario after an earthquake, but fear not everything is fine). Within 2 hours there had been 3 landings and take offs - All shipments of supplies and food to the Mission of Hope.
Throughout their comings and goings I returned to my computer and tried to re-orient myself with the reading progress of my primaries, or math unit test marks.
Pretty pointless. I blame it on my kids jumping around on the balcony and shouting 'Here comes another one!!!', but they are forgiven. How many days to I get to see a show like this!?

The good news: Help is arriving. Since the original quake, the Mission of Hope has become known around Haiti and by many worldwide distribution organizations and hospitals. Our medical staff are working around the clock with specialized surgical groups on site to be as effective as we can in bringing relief and hope to people all over the island. This is why we are some of the lucky ones to receive direct resources from choppers. I still have to pinch myself that I'm not dreaming.

The bad news: My report cards take a back seat once again. When and how I will ever get these painstaking progress reports done is still unknown. But despite the due date that lingers ahead, I have to take it one day at a time - trusting that the Lord will give me focus in the spits and sputters of stillness that await me.

Gotta go. Here comes another one!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


All people are like the grass, and all of their glory is like the flowers in the field.
The grass dies and the flowers fall when the breath of the Lord falls on them... Isaiah 40:6-7

I've spent the past couple of days thinking about my possessions. Luxuries that are 'essential' to my life, right up there with food in my fridge, water in my tap, and my four walls and a roof.
The things I've accumulated over the past few years and the materials I hold most dear:
My velvet couch, my iPod music, my TV (Broc is rolling his eyes here, haha), my guitar, my beach paintings, my Macbook, my scarves and purses, my Keens, my frames filled with memories...
Going back to the verse, these belongings are some of my 'flowers'.

I don't doubt that my life would crumble without them. Surrounded by a population of displaced and desperate people, I realize how ignorant that statement is. It's embarrassing, but it's the truth. I blame it on my privileged lifestyle. I have grown up in a world where there is an 'entitlement' factor to abundance and wealth. Shine and sparkle. Comfort and satisfaction. It's not luxury, it's life.

This earthquake has 'shaken' me up. Literally.
It has got me thinking about the things I am attached to on this planet. The security I find in ownership. The happiness that I rely on through the things I own. The trust I put in my wallet.
This is inevitable for us as humans to put our trust in what we have because it's all that is tangible for us, and it doesn't require any faith. Ouch.

And yet, in a matter of minutes, I know all too well that all of these things could be gone.
The things that I invest in. The possessions that bring me joy. The materials that make me who I am... Any minute, it could all be in a giant heap of rubble.

The concept that I have been trying to wrap my mind around lately is how temporary my time, my belongings, my LIFE is on this earth.
It's a snap in the wind.
It's a wave in the sea.
It's a flower in the field.
Here today, gone tomorrow.

Over the past month, I've watched the people around me deal with this reality. Multiple story buildings all over the city, homes, banks, schools, and government buildings crashed to the ground with no warning, destroying everything in them along with people's dreams and hopes of a brighter tomorrow.
By the grace of God, the structures on our mission still stand, but that doesn't mean we're home free. The aftershocks and distrust in the ground underneath me linger.
Nothing is guaranteed, and there is nothing I can do to change it.
It brings me feelings of despair knowing that no matter how much insurance I have, or health coverage, or money in my bank account, it can't guarantee the preservation of anything. Life and everything in it is so fragile. It's sickening to think that permanence does not exist.

And yet there is one large disclaimer to all of this.
There is one thing that withstands the wind, the waves, and even the ground that shakes under my feet.
My Father.
He is the One that is over it all.
And oh, how He loves us.
How he yearns for us to accept His sovereignty and believe that there is so much more than what this earth has to offer.
Picking up from the verses that started this blog...

... The grass dies and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God will live forever. Isaiah 40:8

FOREVER. What a word of hope.
I want to have a faith to believe there is more than just the here and now.
I want to have no other hope than to cling to the promises in His word. And what a promise it is... Far more wonderful than we could ask for.
A guarantee of perfect life forever, as God intended.
A reminder that in this world there will be suffering and defeat, but in Christ we will have the victory. An everlasting life in heaven with no more tears or pain or worry about what's trouble lies ahead.

This hope has been testified in the lives that showed up to church on Sunday. The benches overflow so much that they have to bring in extra chairs from the school. The people sing so powerfully I can hardly hear my voice amongst the chorus.
These people believe in something greater. They have lost everything, but it hasn't wavered their faith because they know that there is so much more to come.
How I long for a faith like that. How I long to let go of the ties of this earth and simply live.

May these days continue to teach my shallow heart what it means to hope for something much greater than I could ever dare to imagine. Something beyond what I can dream that will change me here and now. May it begin in me.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Holding on.

If I would have been informed 3 weeks ago about the life we would be living in Haiti now, I would have denied it ten times over.
It's only been a week and a half, but it feels like it's been years.
Here's a glimpse into what my life has been like...

The Mission of Hope has become a base for some of the most trained medical professionals and relief organization experts. Every time I go down for supper, I dine with doctors, professional photographers, and staff from other missions all over the island.

Grant, Laurens and Cheryl along with our other MOH staff have been going non-stop since last Tuesday. They are coordinating groups from all over North America, networking with UN officials, skyping with major news stations back home, branching out to hospitals all over Port-au-Prince evaluating the best method of action, and that is just the beginning. Because the phones are still down, they all carry walkie-talkies, which I overhear from a distance before the sun rises and the static voices carry on long past the sun goes down.

I went for a walk through the Sourcematelas on Tuesday. The once happy and bustling pathways are quiet. The village is a full of hazards... Dangerous unstable buildings and concrete walls threaten innocent lives living under thin bed sheets in the side yards of their broken homes. Every time the earth shakes I cringe at the thought of what destruction still lingers.

Our school schedule resumed this week with a few minor changes. We now have an earthquake evacuation plan in case of anything sudden that has yet to come. This is not something any of us choose to dwell on, but it had to be addressed.
Overall, the kids have been handling things pretty well... I've been in correspondence with a children's therapist, giving each of them a chance to express their emotions, and we even had a pastor join us in the classroom on Friday. Report cards are on the horizon, which I haven't quite been able to get in the right mindset for yet. I guess I need to accept the fact that some things may fall to the sidelines for a while.

Support back home has been overwhelmingly wonderful. I've received hundreds of messages from friends and family members. Internet bandwidth have been limited, but I am so grateful to have a link back to the people who are holding me up in prayer. I've also been surprised at how many people this earthquake is affecting back home as messages pour in from my former employers, childhood playmates, and peers from university, high school, even elementary school who I haven't seen in years.

These days are full of wondering what is going to happen next. Emotions are still running high, and the cloud of uncertainty still hangs overhead.
But hope is rising. Songs on my ipod that I have listened to for years now carry new meaning. I have a new appreciation for my next door neighbours who feed me supper, sleepover in my room at night, and don't call me crazy when I ask them if the ground is shaking again. Every once and a while, between battleship games with the boys and making puzzles with Ana and Mina, I get a chance to skype chat with someone back home, and it's those moments that I cherish. Somedays I have the pleasure of welcoming Jean Marc or Wicky into my home, and it's such a bright spot to sit on the couch and sing along to their unhindered worshipping hearts. The verses in my Bible about finding true peace, about being protected through water and fire, about being held fast, and the hope of Heaven are treasured beyond what I can express.

These little earthly blessings, coupled by the closeness of my heavenly Father are keeping me holding on. There is not a doubt in my mind that without His peace, and without the provision of people 'with skin on', I would be on the next flight out. But He is here.
He is enabling me each and every day to put my feet on the floor and believe that He is up to something good. The ground still trembles, the doubt still exists, but His love never wavers.
Thanks to each and every one of you who are holding on with me. There will be a better tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I've been scared before.
I know the feeling of panic. I can identify with the pit in your stomach and the adrenaline rush.
But this month, fear has taken on a whole new meaning.
I've never physically trembled from fear before. Since January 12th, I haven't been able to stop. My heart pounds. My joints and nerves quiver. I can't keep my hands still.

It was 5am this morning. I wanted to sleep, but I couldn't. My mind was wide awake. I laid still and tried to force myself to believe that the earth was still, even though I could feel it moving in my mind.

Close to 6am, I heard my bedside table start to creak. The mattress under me vibrated and was soon shaking like a massage table. I knew this time that my mind was not playing tricks on me. So I waited. I tried to breathe deep. I hoped for it to pass, but it only got worse.
Soon, I could hear the things on my walls falling, and immediately all of the fear from the first quake came flooding back. In a split second decision, I ran for my life, just as I had done last Tuesday. I didn't stop to look in the mirror to fix my hair or splash water on my face. I didn't bother to move my laptop from the table. I didn't change my clothes or put on any shoes. There was no time. Fear gripped me and I simply ran.
By the time I reached the steps down to the porch, the tremor had decreased significantly. All of us were outside in our pyjamas. Disoriented, Afraid, Shaking, Reliving the trauma of the first shake.
I can't explain the relief that is felt when the earth finally becomes still again, and yet not knowing when or how severe the next shock will be is extremely disheartening.
And yet, we must move forward.

Slowly we returned to our homes. Picked up the pieces. Continued on with our morning routine. It's all we could do.
Questions still flood my mind.
When will the next tremor hit? What other damage will it cause? What if it hits more severely? What if the guesthouse can't take it? What if someone gets hurt?
From there my thoughts drift to the village of Sourcematelas that I saw yesterday. The cracked walls and broken beams. Though these homes still stand, it will take little more than a minor force to push them down. Families set up shelters out of sticks and bedsheets in the same yard as these disasters waiting to happen. I fear for all of the fathers, mothers and children who are in harms way. I pray that the Lord will protect them.
We are still moving forward. I almost had a full classroom this morning, and the teams are still arriving, while other medical groups are going out to Port-au-Prince. The aftershocks aren't enough to paralyze our bodies, however they are slowly dismantling our peace and well being.
Please pray for all of us here in Haiti, that the aftershocks would subside. That people would not be endangered and that the Lord would protect each precious life in this country. Pray for the buildings that they will remain standing and that the Lord would guard our hearts from despair.
May He bring ultimate peace through His promise in Isaiah 43:

This is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Loveliest Sound

The loveliest song is the song on the lips of the broken.
And this is the loveliest sound when your children cry out, we were lost now we're found.
The loveliest sound to you is the sound we're making now.
- Starfield: The Loveliest Sound

These were the lyrics that flooded my mind yesterday morning as I sat on a wooden pew bench in the Church of Hope. Walking down the hill I agreed with Rachel that there would either be no one at church (as a result of the serious fuel shortage in the country), or it would be packed. Before we even reached the doors, we had our answer. The church was overflowing. From the newest born baby to the eldest senior. They were there. Arms outstretched above them. Singing. Clapping. Dancing. Worshipping.

It was overwhelming.

How people who have lost everything. EVERYTHING. Can have the strength to walk miles in the scorching heat to sing praises to their God.
As I stood in the crowd we sang words like 'You are altogether wonderful to me', 'You are good all the time', 'Oh God, you are awesome', 'My life is in your hands'. And I was stunned.

I thought about my life. The amazing blessings that I am living in the midst of the pain right now. I am living in one of the only safe places on this island. Water comes out of my tap. Lights guide my way in the dark. I have food in my belly. There is a roof over my head and walls around my house to protect me from the heat and wind. And beyond that, I have a home in Canada. My loved ones aren't unidentified bodies in the street. I am able to access infinite resources. My education and bank records are still intact. And on and on. If something were to go wrong in this place, I have a plan B. The people in Haiti do not. Today is all they have. Period.

I reflected on this whole idea as the congregation sang around me. Without the plan B. Without my house. Without my family alive and well. Without food and water..... I can say quite surely that if I were to be placed in the condition of 99% of this country, I would not be in the mood to worship.

And yet the people sang on. Wholeheartedly. Surrendering everything. Completely in awe and giving glory to their God. Their King. The same one who allowed this destruction to happen. They are thankful for life. They are thankful for freedom. And they believe that He is a God who saves.
I will never be able to fully express how much the Haitian people have taught me about living by faith and worshipping God for who He is. And today was just another example. Another testament of the faith and trust that they cling to.

As the service progressed, I opened my bible and read through the book of Zechariah. How I stumbled upon it is still a mystery as I have never really connected with much in that book, but that was before Tuesday happened. From there, I found verses 16-19 in the 3rd book of Habakkuk, and then I flipped through Job... All of these books parallel stories of destruction and new hope. Just as God wept for the struggles of His people in the Old Testament, so He weeps for His people in Haiti. He feels their pain. He hears their cries. And He has not abandoned. I believe He will save.

Over recent years in Haiti, there has been a lot of good come out of many Christian mission organizations, healing brokenness and barrenness in this needy country, and those efforts were not in vain. However, scripture reminds me that we have a reason to hope for an even better future. He makes all things new. He is a God of second chances. He is the great Healer.

There is already evidence of this revival in the lives of the Christian leaders from the Mission of Hope that He spared, in the bright light that is shining out into the darkness of Port-au-Prince through our medical teams, in the huge jet planes that scream through the sky 24 hours a day bringing medical supplies and food, and in the countless lives that accepted Christ during an altar call at church yesterday morning.

I know it isn't going to be a quick fix. It is going to take years and generations for us to fully see the transformation, but every step forward, every song, every prayer brings healing and hope. Haiti has a chance to start over again, because God's chosen people are still holding on. Their lights are shining brighter than ever before, and they are still singing. It's the the song they are making now.
And through this, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is the loveliest sound.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Tuesday of Trauma

To this moment, my heart is still pounding.
I can hear the low rumble.
I can feel the ground quiver.
My body sways and tells me that the earth is shaking, even when it's not.
Here is a glimpse into where it all began...

I had just finished a full-fledged day of teaching on Tuesday... The kids were officially 'back to the books' and it was quite refreshing getting back into routine. I was pleasantly surprised to find the kids waiting outside the classroom door before I even rang the bell! They would never say it out loud, but reading between the lines I dare say they may have been a little eager. :)

After school, I was ready to do some unwinding. I flopped on the couch and was skype chatting with my mom while beginning to write a blog about my first week back to Haiti after the Christmas break. I considered taking a shower, but then Sammy and Michelle came over and told me there was a worship service starting around 5pm at the church, so I planned to go along and decided to take my shower after I got back.
My mind slowly sunk into neutral mode as my music played in the background and my fingers tapped out my thoughts on the keypad. Little did I know what trauma was about to take place.

Just before 5pm, as I lounged on my couch, I felt my body sway and dizziness overtook me. First it was a slow movement, but it quickened by the millisecond. I froze for a moment and tried to re-gain stability, thinking it was just in my head. It was then that I looked up at the wall in front of me and as if it was a dream, I saw it slide back and forth like a floppy curtain. Books began to fall off my shelves and I could hear glass shattering. The sound was deafening. I sat for moments as the insides of my apartment crumbled around me and then panic flooded my mind. I didn't know what was happening, but for the sake of my survival I knew that I had to get out. As soon as I stood, I felt the ground rocking underneath me and it was all I could do to stay standing. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as I fled out my front door and sprawled to the balcony railing to steady myself. To my fright, it only made things worse and so with all of the energy in me I steered myself towards the stairs with arms outstretched for balance, and stumbled down to where I saw Dennis and Jennifer huddled together on the porch steps. I clung to Jennifer as the jolting earth continued to shake and the buildings shuddered around us. In the midst of all of this I could hear Laurens running and yelling 'Everybody get out'. Hearing the intensity of his voice made me realize that whatever was happening was very, very serious. After what seemed like hours, but was only seconds, the shaking subsided and I searched Jennifer's eyes for what had just happened. She said we had experienced an earthquake. For a moment I sat stunned and unsure about what that really meant. Soon I was about to find out.

We followed instructions from Dennis to move to the roadway far from our apartments. Rachel, the Rumfords, the van der Mark family and all of the Canadian team members gathered together and sat on the dusty gravel. Like me, most of the team members had no shoes. Some who had been in the shower came out in towels. Everyone had fled for their lives. My body was shaking. Emotion flooded my mind. There were questions, sobs, and prayers. Numerous aftershocks began and we all sat tightly against one another as our bodies rocked to the movement of the earth below. The aftershocks were nothing in comparison to what we had just experienced, and yet the reminder of the extremity of the original quake was enough to have us relive it all over again.

As more people came up the hill and we rose back to our feet, we could see the mountains past the Carribean Sea and toward the city of Port-au-Prince. After experiencing the scariest thing I have ever witnessed in my life, my eyes beheld the biggest disaster I have ever seen and hopefully will ever see again. Across the distance we watched as large clouds of smoke rose up all over the land - resulting from numerous large explosions. Worst of all, there was clouded dust from one edge of the Port-au-Prince mountain straight across to the other. Without words, we all knew that Haiti's capital city was a disaster zone.

Within half an hour, an emergency medical team was arranged by Grant and Cheryl, and all of the team doctors and nurses trekked down to the clinic to give care to the countless village people who could be seen from the top of the mission hill flocking to the mission gates. This initial medical aid ran all through Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. Medical professionals worked around the clock after just returning from a full day of work to assist the Haitian people with broken limbs, bleeding wounds, burns, and internal damages.

Those of us left back at the mission set up tents on the grass far from the guesthouse porch. Despite the seemingly stable building we had all been living in, the aftershocks were still coming every half hour or so, and so it was agreed that we would stay outdoors. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped, so we pulled damp towels off of the clothesline and wrapped ourselves up to get warm. We prayed some more.

All phone lines were down immediately, so there was no way to contact any Haitians to see if they survived the earthquake. The mission staff were very concerned for our friends and yet all we could do was pray and trust that the Lord had protected them. By midnight, I had received word that all but two of my closest friends were safe and helping in the clinic at the mission. Wednesday morning, I was informed that the 2 others who hadn't yet been contacted were also safe. Praise the Lord.

In the past 12 hours, more medical groups have arrived. Aftershocks still linger. The guesthouse still stands, but the insides look like a twister went through. Shattered glass. Shifted furniture. Belongings spilling out of open drawers and cupboards. We are only beginning to understand the full effects of disaster that has happened throughout the country. I can't begin to express the turmoil in this place. Pain. Death. Suffering. Brokenness.
Haiti has been given no choice but to start over. Everything that was, has ended. Whatever life we all once had here will never be the same again. It's hard to believe that this is real. It's like a nightmare that you can't wake up from.

Today I had a bright spot. Sue-Anne (one of the team members) took over responsibility of the kids for an hour and let me go for a walk. I found the Hope House children at the bottom of the hill and two of my good friends. It was such a blessing for me to talk to everyone. To hold the little ones and to know that they are okay. Despite the joy in seeing them, my heart is also extremely burdened. Everyone I talk to has either lost their home, a family member or friend. They are staying strong, but you can see the devastation in their eyes. The quietness in their voice and the pain in their words is hard to bear. Physically they are unharmed, but deep inside they are very broken.

I understand that reading this blog may bring you feeling of helplessness being so faraway.
Let me be the first to say that you are not helpless.
You can do something invaluable for the people here. Something that the rest of us, even here, often have to do when we feel that we can do nothing more.
Pray for the people who have lost mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons.
Pray for all those who have lost their homes.
Pray for Grant and Cheryl and all those at the clinic who are doing all they can to treat the deadly injuries that the earthquake has caused.
Pray for strength, courage and endurance for all of the workers here at the mission.
Pray that the buildings and structures that are still standing will remain strong and unaffected by the aftershocks and strong winds.
Pray for the government leaders of Haiti.
Pray for the city of Port-au-Prince.
Pray for peace.
Pray for unity.
Pray for strength.
Pray for revival.
Pray for God's love to be the answer these people are searching for.
Pray that the Haitian people will experience the Lord's nearness and that He will be all He has promised to be... More than enough.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I don't know where to begin.
Was it just a bad dream?

Shock. Fear. Helplessness. Panic. Confusion. Desperation. Exhaustion. Grief. Chaos. Instability as the ground shakes under our feet.
These are some of the thoughts and emotions that we at the Mission of Hope have been experiencing since the earthquake hit late Tuesday afternoon.

The lasting effects of the devastation are only beginning to be revealed. Homes that have crumbled. Lives that have been lost. Families that have been broken. This country has been shaken. Not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Yesterday my mom sent me a verse from Psalm 46. The words written by David have become so vivid in my mind as I read about how the mountains quake and nations being in uproar.
Somehow I have to be still and believe that our loving God allowed this to happen and He is in control and working things together for good even now.

Since the earthquake my sole responsibility has been to watch over the van der Mark and Rumford children. It's pushed me beyond what I thought I could handle as the aftershocks linger. As soon as the quivering begins, many of my kids relive the experience of the first severe shake. I have been tangibly aware of the Lord's peace in my heart as I have had the ability to speak calmly and comfort them, even though deep down the only thing I want to do is crawl into a corner and cry.

It's also been a struggle for me to stay up at the guesthouse while so much is happening down the mission hill. Even though my body is up here, playing board games and hauling mattresses for the kids to sleep on, my heart is out in the villages. I can't stop thinking about the children, the families, my Haitian friends who I know are safe, but I haven't been able to see them yet. I am trying my best to be strong and know that this is where the Lord has placed me for such a time as this - That I am here for a reason and the parents of these kids are depending on me so that they can do the work that they are trained to do.

This morning during our devotional time we went around the circle and shared what we can be thankful for even despite the damage that has taken place around us. The kids eagerly shared about their thankfulness that our homes are still standing, that our families and Hope House children are safe, and that we have clean water and food to eat. After during our prayer time I was reminded that we are abundantly blessed. We are safe. Our needs are being met while most of the country has lost everything. The Lord has protected us and is now enabling us to go out to bring hope to this broken land. May He receive all of the glory.

Thank you all for your continual prayers. I will update you more fully in the coming days.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Beside you

Yesterday God sang me a song.
I was driving home from Welland and flipping radio channels trying to re-acquaint myself with all of the latest songs since I was last in Canada.
I stopped changing channels and began listening more closely to the words when this song began playing. Not knowing the band or any other background, I still felt like it was such an anthem for my second term in Haiti. I felt like the Lord was singing me a lullaby of peace. No matter what's ahead. No matter the struggles or the loneliness I face, He is still right beside me. No thing or person can break me or separate me from the love of my Father.
Like this picture, often it's an upward climb. I look around and I'm standing alone. There are clouds in the distance. And yet, the promises of the Lord are constant. Even in the darkness, I will not fear because He is will me.

For that I have reason to go ahead with confidence, knowing that He holds me up through it all.

Internet is a beautiful thing, so when I got home I typed in some of the words I remembered from the chorus and found that it's sung by a band called 'Marianas Trench'.
I've included the lyrics below. I am certain that it will become one of my most frequently played songs in the months ahead. I will leave them with you, along with my gratitude for walking along with me on this journey. Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragements, and for joining me through the highs and lows. May the Lord be glorified for all He is and all He will be in this year ahead.

Beside You

When your tears are spent on your last pretense
And your tired eyes refuse to close and sleep in your defense.
When it's in your spine like you've walked for miles
And the only thing you want is just to be still for a while

If your heart wears thin I will hold you up
And I will hide you when it gets too much
I'll be right beside you
I'll be right beside you

When you're overwhelmed and you've lost your breath
Where the space between the things you know is blurry nonetheless.
When you try to speak but you make no sound
And the words you want are out of reach but they've never been so loud

If your heart wears thin I will hold you up
And I will hide you when it gets too much
I'll be right beside you
I'll be right beside you

I will stay.
Nobody will break you,

Trust in me, trust in me.
Don't pull away
Trust in me, trust in me.

Tears are spent on your last pretense
And your tired eyes refuse to close and sleep in your defense.

If your heart wears thin I will hold you up
And I will hide you when it gets too much
I'll be right beside you
Nobody will break you

If your heart wears thin I will hold you up
And I will hide you when it gets too much
I'll be right beside you
Nobody will break you.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


This is how Rachel and I's northern Christmas began. Riding the airtrain at midnight in search for a place to lay our heads. Unfortunately, JFK isn't the most accommodating for Caribbean travelers. We spent an extra 20 hours in the concrete jungle wearing every piece of long sleeved clothing we owned and warming ourselves with as much soup, tea, and airport blankets as we could find.
I had my doubts, but praise the Lord, we survived!
We made it home in time for Christmas!!! - Believe me, 'home sweet home' became all the sweeter!
Let me take advantage of the no-bandwidth limit and show you some sights of home before I go any further...

A word that came up in a conversation with my Tante Lil on Christmas Eve is the theme for my holiday blog.
It makes me think of a big fat steak on the grill... The sizzle, the smoke, the spice. Marinating means time and flavour, and I think it's the best way to express my tone of the past 2 weeks.
Snow. Wooly slipper socks. Broc and Ashley's big screen. Mall bargains. New Year's skating. Grandma's pink applesauce. Fourth Avenue lights. Music blasting from Rav4 speakers. Luau salad. Whip cream topping on a peppermint mocha. Harmonizing to a piano.
There's a glimpse to express that I have been fully saturated and smothered in the goodness of home.
And now I just want to marinate in it.
I just want to stop, stay and soak.
Heading back to the Buffalo airport isn't the most enthusing to me in this moment. It means heartaching goodbyes and itchy mosquito bites and long hours sitting at a screen computer writing report cards. There are things pulling me back to my Haitian home, but the roots that have gone down over the past few weeks would be very content to stay planted right here.

A few days ago I sat in a warm house full of ones I love the most and counted down to a new year. A new chance. A new beginning.
As the cheers dwindled out, I realized that there is a choice to be made.
To stay put, or to push on. To settle, or to want more.

I believe 2010 is going to be a year of new things. A year of highs and lows. A year of searching and finding. A year of fear and thrills. A year of possibility.
It's my prayer that I will look back a year from now and know that I stepped up to the plate. It's scary to venture out into the both the knowns and the unknowns, but that's what Jesus is talking about when He gives us life abundant.
In a few short weeks, my brother and sister, as well as my cousin Holly and my Opa will be joining me in Haiti. They are a part of the annual January team from Canada, and I can hardly wait to host them!
2010 also means more decisions, more challenges, more opportunities, more friendships, more experiences, more chances to live and grow and love. I am excited for what is ahead, and I want to be ready.
So I have a few days left to marinate. A few days left to enjoy a lack of responsibility. A few days left to bundle in sweaters and scarves and be with ones I love.
And then I get to embark on a new journey of a year.
It's time to get ready. It's time to step out. It's time to change. It's time to do a new thing.
But it's not just me, it's for all of us. Our lives may be but a whisper, but God still has big things in store for each one of us in this new year. Together, united, we can be a part of something so much bigger. May we embrace all that He has called us to this year. May we know we are deeply loved. And may that knowledge spur us on to fall deeper in love with Him.