Monday, May 31, 2010


It started like this... An arbitrary glance from my balcony that stopped me in my tracks.

This began a domino effect of the junior girls and I emptying my apartment in a matter of seconds, grabbing our cameras and running down the porch stairs to get a better view.

A new line-up of DJ Earworm.
Half-eaten dinner plates.
Chipped toenails.
Our West-Side Story feature film.
Vacant velvet couches.
It could all wait.

This couldn't:

Wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow.
I don't think there is any better worship than wonder.
~ Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Out-trip Observations.

On Sunday morning, I jumped into the backseat of a friend's 4-wheel drive and accelerated under the overcast sky to Bon Repos. We swerved around tap taps full of church-goers and 4-person motorcycles. The mangoes and papayas were still arranged in their usual pyramid displays lining the streets of Titanyen and other landmarks along the way. With all 4 windows down, you may try to imagine the state of my hair when we arrived at our destination 30 minutes later. Not that I spent much time on styling beforehand, but let's just say it was better off that I didn't have access to a mirror.
As we revved gears and tried to avoid the potholes my eyes were glued to the scenery. I rarely head south on Route Nationale #1 (the QEW of Haiti), so this was a significant trip for me to observe the life of Port-au-Prince residents since January 12th. Although this may seem delayed or lacking compared to others in the country, here are my jot notes and some prayer requests from the journey:

#1 - Tent cities
This is probably what you are hearing about Haiti on the news back home. I saw 3 significantly large tent city areas from Titanyen to Bon Repos (distance spanning approximately 20 kms). Samaritans purse tarps are everywhere. They are big and blue and have giant slogan decals patterned on them. They are mounted on tree branches and random tent poles forming cube-like shelters. Bedsheets, rusty pieces of tin and garbage bags fill in the gaps. I couldn't even begin to count the number of shelters I saw within the 'city' itself. Most of them were joined together into a grid-like puzzle, but hundreds were scattered apart from the group all the way up the mountain. Rainfall from the night before had gathered into streams and large puddles amidst the tents. One thing I've realized in thinking more about the protectiveness of these structures is that even though the thicker or better tarped tents allow less rainfall to come through, they do not provide any ventilation during the day. As a result, as soon as the sun comes up these tents turn instantly into saunas. The rainy season is here now in full force - down pouring consistently for at least an hour at night and drenching those who want to keep their dwelling places somewhat livable by day. Please keep these people in your prayers and that adequate shelter would continue to be provided here.

#2 - Unstable buildings
After the earthquake, and with the high frequency of aftershocks, everybody I talked to who had a crack in their house (or worse) were sleeping outside. Now the story is different as people are choosing their broken homes as a better option than tents. This might imply that people's fears are wearing off, but I am more prone to think that they are simply desperate for decent shelter. While driving, I had to do a double take on a building that was on a lean of at least 70 degrees (check your protractor). The building had once been two stories, but had crashed down to one, leaving just a shell of the roof and a few beams still upright on the second story. Nonetheless, there were sheets of tin nailed up as wall replacements, giving clear evidence that people were residing inside. This makeshift home is just one example of the hundreds of Haitians that are searching for more adequate housing and resorting to unstable buildings as a place of cover. As aftershocks become more few and far between, this may be a logical option, but it doesn't take away the fragility of the beams still standing nor the risk of wind and rainfall to cause further damage. Please pray for the safety of these families and that the development of more protective, stable structures will be available for them.

#3 - Brick walls
Properties in Haiti are pretty much all bordered with cinder blocks and mortar. Barbed wire, broken Coke bottles, or for the luxurious types, conch shells, line the tops of these walls for security.
I can say pretty confidently that these walls were the first to fall on January 12th. Everywhere you drove after the earthquake, you could see the cornerstones or center beams for these walls still standing vertically, however the cement blocks lie uniformly separated on the ground to the right or left.
Now it's different. First of all, many of the walls that bordered the downtown city streets were brightly painted with advertisements - everything from Coca-cola to car rental companies. The walls that fell are now being rebuilt from the ground up except the painted bricks that once formed a picture are not being pieced together in the same way. What now stands is a mosaic of different coloured bricks and letters that once puzzled together properly. You can easily identify the walls where some bricks could not be used again because they are replaced with bricks from other walls that were once painted.
Secondly, there is no mortar in between the bricks. People are gathering together all of the blocks that didn't break and are lining them up to create a new wall, except these ones are even more shakable than before because there is nothing holding them together - think of it kind of like Jenga. It is clear that people are doing everything they can with the resources they have to go back to the life that they once knew. Unfortunately, these walls offer very little stability and security.

#4 - The valley
There is a landmark in the barren hills between Bon Repos and Titanyen where a large majority of those who died from the earthquake were taken. At the highway, there is a dirt road path that begins and from the main road you can see it curve around a large mountain and descend into a valley. I have spoken with a few people who have travelled beyond the highway to bear witness, but I haven't given any consideration yet to going there myself. It still breaks my heart to think of these people being disposed of. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, best friends, classmates, co-workers and neighbours. Each one of them had a story. Each one of them was somebody's 'baby'. I still cannot fully grasp the tragedy of these individual lives being piled together and taken truck load after truck load to a place where they will never be identified again. As my gaze followed the trail up to where the road dipped down to the valley, my heart was once again reminded of this terrible nightmare of loss.
In my everyday life in Haiti, I can easily forget the devastation of so many people losing their lives because I was not directly affected by the grief of losing someone close to me. I look into the eyes of people at the market or in the villages and smile, and they smile back, but little do I know of the ache in their hearts and the suffering they have endured over the past 5 months. It's more than just a loss, it's a sorrow that lingers through their lives and the reminders are everywhere. Please pray for all of the earthquake survivors that they will have strength to continue forward in each passing day.

#5 - Beautiful people
Let's go back to the Sunday morning drive. Our destination was a gathering place in Bon Repos where a friend of mine offered to take me to see first hand how smaller city churches were coping after the earthquake. Upon our arrival, we walked down a dirt path where I could hear the sound of a lady praying. When we turned the corner of a brick wall, I could see that it was an elderly woman standing in the congregation holding a baby in her arms and reverently speaking words of adoration and praise to God. I observed quietly the large blue tarp that ascended from ropes around nearby rebar frames and cement walls, and at the humble gathering of about 90 people, ranging from newborns to senior citizens. Toddlers bobbled down the muddy aisle in silence, the pastor stood behind a wooden box at the front of the group with his head bowed, and a woman who noticed us arrive beckoned us forward with a soft smile. I followed my friends and we were given large wooden chairs (the only ones left) that were arranged for the church leaders close to the podium. Over the hour and a half I spent watching quietly, I witnessed the pastor speak about the importance of raising up families in the Lord in order to strengthen the church and one another. This time of preaching was followed by a congregational discussion where men and women stood from their seats to ask questions or share other parts of Scripture that applied to their teaching time. It was almost like Sunday school or a bible study - and I was amazed at how simply and beautifully their passion for the Lord was shared. I was blessed to witness the loving and welcoming spirit of the congregation, along with their sincerity and desire to know and understand truth from the Bible. Despite their circumstances, despite the tragedy they have endured, despite their lack of resources, they sang with their whole hearts and gave all they had. What a picture of the body of Christ.

#6 - Keeping on
The Mission of Hope, in partnership with other missions organizations in Haiti are still moving at a rapid pace in bringing healing and reconstruction to this broken nation. There are more construction projects happening on site than I can count, and every time I go down to visit the clinic and patient dome it is full of new patients, supported by a top-notch medical staff that rotates weekly. The warehouse gets truckload after truckload of food, medical supplies, clean water and family care packages that are distributed to villages in need. The School of Hope has resumed it's classes again, and there has been a lot of healing for students through the weekly chapel times. Short-term work teams and interns are in full force and news broadcasters make frequent visits. We've also started a fully functioning prosthetics lab where numerous of earthquake amputees get fitted with new limbs and undergo rehabilitation. Check out my friend Diana's blog, who is working alongside the prosthetists every day. I could go on and on about the fast pace of what each of our staff members are involved in here. Please continue to track with their blogs in my 'hot spots', to stay connected with the challenges and celebrations of life in Haiti.

Thank you for your continual prayers in each of the different aspects I have written about today. Together we can be vessels of His hope to this beautiful nation.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Surprised by joy.

These pictures put a wide grin on my face.
Even better - my computer holds 200+ more taken within the past 7 days that cause the same reaction... It's been a week parade of exploration and joy.
Each day packed with happy memories was outdone by the next. A blur of outtrips. A symphony of laughter. A mosaic of beautiful people. A banner of rainbow skies. And a warmth in my heart that remains long after the sun goes down.

Encapsulated into 'blog size', It goes something like this:
- Making 60 peanut butter sandwiches while driving down a back road.
- Setting a 5am alarm to greet my sleepy eyed students in pyjama shirts and flip flops.
- Ascending the hill with blankets and guitars to celebrate the sunrise.
- Belting out 'Wavin' Flag' with Jean Marc, Jeanson and Mansado complete with actions.
- Mountaineering, goat-pathing and dancing on the summit with new friends.
- Mini-showering in the sunlight with plastic water sacks.
- Quoting 'mawij' through giggles with the junior girls (If you guessed The Princess Bride you're right).
- Cuddling with Angelie.
- Gleefully making homemade guacamole for lunch - The avocados are BACK!
- Reuniting with Sidonie at church and chatting up some Spanish speakers at Yolty's.
- Cutting fresh watermelon with a new machete.
- Welcoming the dark clouds and cool wind of rainy season on a walk home at dusk.

I learned some new things this week too:
- First off - Mexicans do not follow the speed limit. Ah-em, I won't go into details for my mom's sake... Just trust me on this one.
- The junior high years can easily be relived with Lindsay and some classic dcTalk raps.
- Acoustic guitars definitely sound better outside.
- A clean house is overrated - 12 dusty pairs of flip flops piled by my door, a sink full of syrupy forks and pancake crumbs on my couch is always a good thing.
- And,
God's love is surprising. It may not come in the ways I expect or wish for, but I've felt it in more ways than I can detail this week. Seeing His love in big and small ways has filled my cup to overflow.

Let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them sing joyful praises forever.
Spread your protection over them,
that all who love Your name may be filled with joy!
~Psalm 5:11

May you too feel His love today.
May you too be refreshed by His grace.
May you too be surprised by joy.
May you too live in awe of His presence!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A sketch.

The other day I explained to one of my Haitian friends what a sketch is.
The context was about 'sketching' out a plan before implementation, and so I took out a pencil and paper and did a quick outline of a house - illustrating (in a very literal way) the simplicity of designing a picture. I tried to demonstrate that as much as the initial draft is done lightly and leaves plenty of room for alterations, it is also the blueprint and foundation for the final image.

I feel I can also take this analogy and use it with my life, because lately my mind has been doing a lot of sketching...

As I enter this season of looking ahead at possibilities and waiting upon the Lord for whispers of peace, I feel like I'm back at the drawing board. I've got this image in my head of a large page of white resting on the desktop. I've got a freshly sharpened pencil in my hand, and I'm tracing out lines and forming figures based on where I've been and where the desires of my heart are taking me.

Honestly right now, the page is looking kind of smudgy.
There are a lot of eraser marks and pencil scribbles from markings that I once drew with confidence. There are grey areas and some lines that are redrawn and others that are marked darker. Of course every once and a while, I have to tear the whole page off and start again.
Next year brings another new page... Let me tell you about some of my latest 'sketchings':

The beloved Rumford family has had an amazing year in Haiti. It is clear to every person that has the privilege to meet them, that the Lord has used them mightily over the past 10 months. He knew we needed them! And yet as we merge into the summer, their peace lies in returning to their northern home and merging back to their lives in Canada carrying a fresh flame. I have loved having them as my next door neighbours (although they have been known to be quite the late night party animals! haha), and I will miss them terribly. Despite this goodbye, I believe that the Lord has great plans in mind for each one of them, and I am excited for all that is ahead as they turn the page.

Recently I met with Laurens and Cheryl regarding their plans for the upcoming year, and similar to the way that the Lord has confirmed a peace in the Rumford's hearts about returning home, the Lord has given Laurens and Cheryl a peace about remaining on staff at the Mission of Hope. You may have read a few weeks ago on their blog about Cheryl's trip to Canada and her decision to sell her chiropractic office. This has been a very significant decision in partnership with their leading to stay in Haiti. It is wonderful to hear them share about their commitment to the growth of MOH and advancing the ministries that are taking shape as we merge forward after January 12.

As a result of their decision to stay, Laurens and Cheryl still have a need for a full-time teacher to carry their four children (Ana, Mina, Bridgely and Grayden) through the 2010-2011 school year (Teagan will be in high school - somebody pinch me! - and will be doing her courses through online correspondence). This continuing role as teacher, along with the sequence of events that have taken place over the past few months has confirmed in my heart the decision to renew my commitment to serve on staff here at the Mission of Hope.

Alongside the joy I find in teaching these awesome kids, the earthquake has birthed a new passion in my heart for the 'new' Haiti. I feel like I have a new point of connection with the people here, and I feel like each day I spend here, my bonds grow stronger. Through my accumulation of new Creole words - making it easier to communicate, new friends and 'family', and more opportunities, the Lord has given me such a peace about returning to Haiti in the fall.
I am so thankful for the way that He has confirmed this in my heart, and for the way He is bringing new opportunities across my path. I know that many of you have been keeping me in your prayers over the past months regarding this decision and I thank you for that. I am blessed by the way that you hold me up.

Now let's back to the sketch board...
The reason I'm still drawing out drafts is because the dynamics for next year are changing once again. Last year, I was preparing myself for an influx of students (merging from 3 to 8 kids). This coming year, my class size is downsizing. Please take with a grain of salt because with the staff members coming and going within the next year term, I can never be sure how many students I may accumulate (Lord, have mercy!). However, I know for sure at this point that I will have 4 students, which left alone will allow for me to broaden my horizons and allow me to go beyond the mission gates on a more routine basis.
As I keep my eyes and ears open for possibilities, I have been keeping a mental tally and sketching out ideas for what I can plug into... Options such as teaching ESL classes, holding guitar jam times with the Hope House kids, visiting my mountain friends, kids church ministry, plugging into community health programs in the local villages, story blogging, assisting with the School of Hope curriculum administration, and the list goes on...
There are so many ministries - many that are just starting to form since the earthquake - and I am praying that the Lord will guide me to 'click' into the right place.

In a few weeks, I will be meeting together with Brad and Vanessa to present my sketch pad. Right now I am not very confident that I have much to show for a final portrait, but I trust that through my discussion with them, they will be able to guide me and confirm the leadings in my heart. I tell you this so that you can pray along with me that the Lord would open the right doors for what additional ministries I can be a part of in the coming year.

Sometimes I have pinch myself to think that I might have the chance to latch onto the vision of the Mission of Hope through village ministry... This is a true passion of my heart which has manifested itself in small ways through growing friendships this year. The possibilities are exciting, and yet I don't want to get caught up in it being all about me. I know that foremost, the Lord wants to keep molding me, which often means becoming uncomfortable and doing things that are out of my bubble. I am trying to keep myself open to needs that arise where at second glance I would like to avoid, but in actual fact will be the perfect fit.
Thank you so much for your continual prayers as my plans continue to take formation and the pencil marks begin to piece together into something worth showing for. I can't wait to see you all soon (my ticket is booked for July 1st!) and share more stories and lessons that Lord has been teaching me on this journey. As I continue to return to the drawing board, may He create His design and purpose through each stroke.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Piece of Heaven.

This is darling Angelie.
If her eyes aren't enough to melt you, wait to you hold her.
My attempt at checking the Webster's thesaurus for a good word to describe her was utterly useless... Synonyms for adorable don't even come close.

She's a little piece of heaven combined with a heartbreaking beginning.
Read the story on Lindsay's blog, and please pray for her when she comes to your mind.

Last night as she nuzzled her body into my arms and fell asleep, I hummed songs of love.
She may have been abandoned by her earthly father, but she is still a daughter of the King.
May she live to know His hope.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Making the grade.

I've spent the past few weeks chipping away at report cards.
Mhmm, it's that time again. The school countdown is on and we are on our final sprint to the finish. The kids are wrapping up their summative units and I'm calculating averages and plugging in marks for the final report.
Level 1, 2, 3 & 4 - Percentages - Strengths and Weaknesses - Next Steps.
I've been weighing the scales for each student, each subject - And in case you were wondering, they are all top-notch!
My kids rock.

But can I be honest for a minute?
All this talk about final grades has got me thinking about my own 'life report'.
Blame it on my grading craze as we reach the end of the school year, I often think of getting to heaven like waiting for a report card.
It may sound silly to you, but sometimes that's what I associate my 'service' here on earth to come down to. A list of strengths, weaknesses and grades. The fruits of the Spirit, along with faith and deeds are the 'subject areas'. There will be comments in the side column about where I could have done better, and potentially some notes about some exemplary deeds.
Hopefully this will all be broken down to a passing grade. A sticker would be bonus.

So what do I need to do to make the cut? And what kind of things do I have to do to achieve above the average?
Well, back in the school context, I always tell my kids to check the rubric. Take a look at what expectations are outlined, and where you aim to fall within them. There are different strands of achievement within each assignment. Keep a close eye on the marking scheme, follow it accordingly, and you'll be guaranteed a solid grade at the end.

Okay, now where is my rubric for the other report? Unfortunately, it's not very legit.
Why? Because I make it up myself. I use comparisons based on where I stand with other people. I rank myself based on the 'good' things I have done. I accredit myself or dock marks depending on the thoughts and actions I've made throughout the day. It's my way of assessing my own performance - ensuring that I'm on track.

Um. I think I've made my point pretty clear...

Over the past few weeks I feel like I have been stumbling after some simple truths. Truths that I would like to think I would have nailed down a long time ago. We're going back to the basics here people.
Back to the core of what Jesus was talking about.
A life rooted in love and in relationship with our Maker.
A life free from a 'list'.

A conversation, some truth from Scripture, a book chapter, and some song lyrics have been meshing into an overarching theme which has been tilting my perspective lately...
Convictions about the thought processes going through my head.
I feel like I've been trying to break my life purpose down to an equation:
If I follow these laws, and do this type of work, with this type of attitude, for this many hours, with these certain people, with these kinds of ideas - then I've hit the mark. Cha-ching. Done.
Just put life into compartments. A formula for being 'good' or 'righteous' or 'exemplary'. Follow these simple steps, and you too can 'arrive'.

HowEVER, the list of dos and don'ts crashes and burns when compared to a verse like this:
Yet we know that a person is made right with God not by following the law, but by trusting in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith Christ Jesus, that we might be made right with God because we trusted in Christ. It is not because we followed the law, because no one can be made right with God by following the law... It was the law that put me to death, and I died to the law so that I can now live for God.
Galatians 2:16-19

There it is in black and white. Die to the laws. Trust in Christ.
That rubric I was referring to earlier is shredded. Non-existent.
Paul makes it very clear that if I am a slave to the 'checklist' or the 'right way', I'm living in vain.
God strips away the expectations and gives me Himself instead.
Now there is freedom.
Freedom to pursue peace and love and joy and give of myself without concern about saving up for a finale. Jesus already paid it.

I heard someone talk this week about the way love should be.
Love should be about unity. About seeking out the people who can give nothing back and serving them the most. About giving of oneself unconditionally.
This love is raw and painful and other-centered. It's against every grain in us, but if we let go then we allow ourselves to be used by the One who can.
I yearn to love like that. Above anything else, I believe that's what my purpose on this earth is about.
And yet when push comes to shove, I find myself weighing my options and tweaking the system and looking for shortcuts that I can justify. I go right back to where I started. As soon as I think I'm on track, I check my rearview and see the familiar look of a dead end.

So why bother? It's a never ending struggle, so why try at all?
I found comfort in a simple quote this week that urges me to keep on.

I am not who I should be,
I am not who I could be,
But I am not who I was.

I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. Just because I read about it and write about it and talk about it doesn't mean I can apply for mastery. The more I try, the more I fail - Kind of like a one step forward two steps back kind of life. And yet glory be to God for his mercy and grace and undying love. A love that saves. A love that overcomes. A love that goes beyond my attempts. A love that justifies even me.
I want to live in this love and keep trying everyday to keep becoming. I find comfort that each and every time, I fall right back into the arms of my Father.
May His love break me and redeem me and change me until I stumble into His presence and am forever made new.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


For those of you (like me) who aren't 'garden enthusiasts', the title of this blog may confuse you.
Before September 2008, it would have confused me too, but now the bougainvillea has become one of my all-time favourite flowers.
It may not have the 'pop' like a gerbera - just a wispy collection of pink and white petals that bloom from a thorny vine - but it has a deeper significance.

There is a thriving shrub full of them in the guesthouse yard, and as the weather and climate fluctuate, the bougainvilleas flourish. They thrive in the Haitian heat, and despite the changes between the dry season and emerging rainy season, it just keeps growing. It withstands torrential downpours and month-long droughts. The unrelenting winds blow and the sunlight intensifies. Nevertheless, it blooms on. I am amazed at it's resilience. It reminds me of our verse today in devotions - 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says 'We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit. We are persecuted, but not abandoned. We are struck down, but not destroyed.

Bougavilleas never lose their colour either.
Last year for mothers day, the kids and I made pressed-flower bookmarks. We gathered flowers from a few different shrubs and gardens, collecting the brightest blossoms we could find. After pressing and drying them, the majority had faded significantly, and some we even had to throw out because despite their vivacious colour and scent on the vine, their brown texture cracked on contact after being in a textbook for a week. There was one exception though. Our faithful bougainvillea, despite being a little shrivelled from lack of moisture, still retained it's bright pink colour. We ended up using these flowers the most because they were the only ones that brought our bookmarks to life.

Recently, I've appreciated the bougainvillea shrub for a new reason. The plant is located close to a cement support beam that connects the metal gates around the guesthouse together. Over time, it has grown up the side of the wall on the inside yard where the teams eat their meals. In the past few months however, I have been pleasantly surprised to see the flowering bush spill over onto the other side of the gate. As displayed in the picture, you can see for yourself how this blooming plant hasn't let the gate stop it. It was first planted on the left side of the gate in the picture, however it has grown up and out and beyond, now overflowing to the other side. It has defied it's limits.

I think about my own life and the 'limits' I am tempted to be controlled by. Voices in my mind suppress the urge to break out of the mold. In order to stay 'safe', I accept things that I believe I can't change. I'm restrained by 'gates' that hold me back from true freedom.
This plant reminds me that there is more to life than staying within the limits. I want to seek after understanding and joy and love, and that means doing things that are out of the box and scary and 'different', but that's the kind of life that Jesus was talking about when he said he came to give life to the full.

Some of you may think I'm strange for finding such a connection in a simple flowering shrub, but it's been a consistent reminder to me every time I walk outside and see it bursting from the top of the gate. I want to live without the 'play it safe' restrictions that I easily convince myself of everyday. I don't want to be defined by the status quo. I want to sing and dance and give freely and love without expectation of getting something back. I want to spend it all.
I hope this flower challenges you to do the same.

... And for all you mom's out there, I'll be picking you a bouquet this weekend!
Happy Mother's Day! :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lingering sounds.

These are the sounds that linger since January 12th:

Creak. Creak. Creak.

Vibrating furniture has never been so disturbing. When will it ever stop!?
Last night I was awoken by my mattress shaking and my bedside table creaking. It took a few moments to register, but once again I relived my exasperation with aftershocks.
Of course it's severity isn't enough to make me dash outside, but it is enough to make me doubt the peace I have about the worst being over with... I stared into the blackness of my ceiling last night after the shaking ended and wondered how many more aftershocks our guesthouse could endure before the walls will give out. The middle of the night is certainly not the ideal time for an aftershock to hit, as my mind is much more prone to wander. It's a wonder I managed to fall back asleep.
Again this afternoon another aftershock caused most of those inside to flee outdoors for safety. Fortunately, the kids and I were outside doing a volcano eruption experiment, so we did not sense it to the extreme of those indoors.
I think I can speak of most of us in the country when I say that we are all more alert this afternoon of the ground beneath our feet.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The guesthouse had minimal damage after the original earthquake compared to the village homes. Nevertheless, the closer we look around the corners and edges of our walls, the more we find the small cracks and lines that were formed months earlier. In addition, since the earthquake, I have had a significant amount of water leaking through my ceiling - A leak that was there prior to January 12th, but has become a lot worse since. Usually after about 15 minutes of rain outside, the water begins to filter through the roof in 5 different spots and collects on my bedroom floor.
Fortunately, when my Opa came to visit me last month, he brought with him a gallon of tar to seal the leak. Last night after a heavy downpour, I was overjoyed to discover that the tar he and Broc had applied on the roof 2 weeks ago had sealed the majority of the crack (just one small leak remains, but it's nothing compared to what I had before).
I feel so grateful that their repair was a success, especially as we merge into the rainy season, however there is a lingering pit in my stomach as I think about the thousands of families who have yet to have proper shelter. I can see one of the tent cities from my balcony view into Titanyen, and it is a sobering reminder of how many people are still suffering the effects of the first earthquake. As the evening rains begin their daily routine in the coming months, there will be a very large population who will be struggling to stay dry and clean as the thunder rolls and the water pours down.
Tents and shelters are still being distributed, but there is only so much water they can withstand.
Please keep the people of Haiti in your prayers, along with all of us as we continue to press on despite the sounds, sights and vivid memories of January 12th.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I can remember my first morning in Haiti like it was yesterday.
I spent the night before in a spare room at the guesthouse because my apartment was infested with cockroaches. The fans blew hot air at my face and I bathed myself in bugspray before turning out the light. Nonetheless, I woke up dripping in sweat, and itchy all over.
My thoughts drifted back to my comfortable bedroom back home, predictability of a Wainfleet routine, and the sweet faces that I left behind.
I was convinced that I had coming to Haiti was the worst decision of my life.
My fears and uncertainty were on a roll... drowning every possible flame of hope I had.
I considered my options:

Was this just a horrible nightmare? Somebody wake me up already.
Or, what it would take to get a private jet to fly to the Mission and pick me up so that I could escape before anyone noticed I was gone?
I was in way over my head and I hadn't even started yet. I didn't understand why God would have brought me here. I would never survive this life. Most of all, my heart was closing by the second. I didn't want to open myself up to possibility or peace or beauty or joy.
I just wanted to go home.
Eventually, I managed to stand myself up and walk downstairs to where a group was gathering for breakfast. Like a zombie, I smiled through the tears and pretended to like the food. Inside my head I was counting how many hundred days of this I would have to wish away.

Little did I know that morning where I would be today. I'm so glad God allowed me to survive it so that I could find out...

The guesthouse kitchen that I dreaded to enter is now my haven of Haitian 'mommies' who cook some of my all-time favourite foods. Don't even get me started on the rice and beans.
My apartment isn't exactly cockroach free (nothing that an Old Navy flip flop can't fix!), but the bright paint on my walls, and friends who come over to play guitar on my couch or dance in my kitchen have made it home. Yesterday morning, the bride of my good friend, Volcy got ready for the wedding in my living room... Who knows who the next guest will be?
The church that was once foreign in both language and people is now a place where I can't stop smiling, singing, clapping and embracing friends.
The hot sunshine that once made me groan has become the light that I look forward to seeing rise over the mountains at 6:30 every morning.
The local village that I used to be afraid of is now one of my favourite places to go. The faces that used to intimidate me now break out into beautiful smiles when I pass by their homes. Children take my hand and their parents wave their hands in welcome.

All of these pieces that I was so hardened to in September 2008 have began to mesh within my heart. And somewhere along the line I have found myself adapting and even embracing this way of life. Hmm, embracing... Hope?
*Disclaimer*I know the title of my blog sounds all flowery and wonderful, but I admit I don't always follow along with the words that I write. Preaching is a lot easier than practicing, and unsurprisingly I fall off the mark.
Thankfully the Lord never gives up, no matter how many times I misfire.
It's a good thing He knows me better than I know myself, and gives me no choice but to change, so that somehow I can fit into His greater plan.

This past Wednesday morning, the Canadian team loaded up the big yellow bus and left in a dust cloud bound for the Port-au-Prince airport.
I cried when they left, but for different reasons than last year.
Last year I would have done anything to heave my luggage on the mound of suitcases and head back home to frigid temperatures and warm fireplaces. This year, the familiar pit in my stomach was there - reminding me of how much I will miss the ones I love, but I wasn't desperate to leave with them.
I think this is because I have a reason to stay. And that reason is more than just getting my 8 kids through their pile of school textbooks. It's the joy I find in the simplest of places - climbing a tree, riding a bike, sitting next to a chicken on a tap tap, or going on a mountain hike.
It's the people I love from the littlest baby Fania up to Poppy Patris.
And it's the excitement that comes in what lies ahead for this country - rebuilding homes and renewing lives.
As I watched the bus grow shrink in size as it descended down the mission hill, I felt the Lord reminding me that He is constant and unchanging, but changing the lives of His children is what He is all about.
Indeed, He is changing me.

The Mission of Hope's vision for Haiti is to transform lives for Christ, and in doing that we want to change people, change programs, change the country, change the world.
The part that is easy to forget is that while we are going about our changing 'others' or 'things' in our lives, the Lord wants to change 'us' too.
He cares more about creating change in us, than in changing the world, because it's only when WE are changed can change happen in the world.
It's such a relief when I realize that I don't have to change anything in my life on my own. God doesn't give me a list of expectations - Things I must transform in my world. Instead He asks for something else, something much more simple, yet also more scary.
When I surrender, it's then He can begin to work the change inside of me, and His power changes everything.

It didn't happen overnight, but looking back I am amazed at the change He is working in my heart.
I marvel at the way He put me in a place where despite the doubt in my heart, He manifested a passion for the people of Haiti inside of me. He planted seeds that first had to die, but now they are growing and blooming. He took away some of the hopes in my hands, and instead is fulfilling the dreams in my heart.