Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Better than a beach day.

I never pass up a beach day. The white sand and clear blue water is pretty much impossible for me to resist. Okay, for anyone to resist.

Over the past 2 years, the kids and I have celebrated our last party of the year on the coast... What better way to celebrate falling snow and Christmas joy than in the sun? It's a tradition that I've been dedicated to maintain, but this year the odds have been against us. The chaotic government system during our current election has created blocked roadways and a lack of staff. This caused the parents and I to re-think our beach field trip and postpone until January.
So that left me with one last school day to fill... Opening stockings, a frozen t-shirt relay and cheesecake leftovers from last night's party were all on the agenda, but we were still lacking 'something'.
Yesterday on the way up the hill, God gave me an idea.
Because I had already reserved a vehicle, we had freedom to go somewhere off campus, just not far... Not far, but drive worthy. I know only one place that fits the description: Our mountain neighbours. And beyond that, what better way to celebrate Jesus' birthday than to give?
So this morning the kids and I jumped into the white van and headed out to spread some Christmas cheer!
First stop was the house in Sourcematelas where the kids go to school. We arrived just after they finished their exams and invited them to join us in the van on the journey to their home.
Upon our arrival, we walked to the clearing of their homes and the kids gave presents they had picked out from their own belongings. We did a tour of the families' dwelling places and then we started the tent construction. Fortunately Teagan is very skilled in tent assembly and the rest of the kids jumped right in. The mountain family kids and I stood back and they went to work.
Now let me just say that they may not be my 'biological' kids, but they might as well have been. Sheer pride!
It was a wish come true for me to see all of my 'kids' together. I also think it's safe to say that it may not have been penciled in on the kids' Christmas lists, but I believe a wish came true for them too. Sweat instead of saltwater, dirt instead of sand, but a whole lot of smiles just the same. For the record, giving is win-win.

And that is why today was better than a beach day.

Friday, December 10, 2010

God with us.

The kids and I have been reading through the beginnings of the Gospels these past few mornings leading up to Christmas.
It's a story that I've listened to a hundred times before, but this morning the words in Matthew spoke directly to my heart.

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means "God with us". ~ Matthew 1:23

All-powerful, all-creating, all-controlling. The One who holds the oceans in His hand. The One who paints the sunset. The One who knows the intricacies of every living thing. The One who saved the world.
This unfathomable wonder, b
rought down to the earth.
Tangible. Human. Alive. With us.

He came to save us. But first he walked, talked, laughed and cried. He came to demonstrate his love not just by dying for us, but by living with us. Modeling love, compassion and peace. He didn't just preach into a megaphone, He actively reached out to us, showing us we were made for more. He held the children. He went outside the city walls and healed the lepers. He sat and listened to the heart cries of the oppressed.

In the midst of Christmas festivities happening this December, the heart of our world is still breaking. Everywhere you look people are searching for peace.
Some have given into loneliness. Some have lost all faith.
Insecurity and inadequacy trump trust and satisfaction. Every day I catch myself trying to 'fix' it. But how? Or rather, what exactly am I fixing? The list is never ending. We're longing for a cure for the pain or a rest from the wearisome track we're on. Each and every person strives for power or justice... or striving simply to be heard.

But the Bible promises that our God is WITH us. Assurance that we are seen. Assurance that we aren't alone. That means He hears us. He comforts us. He saves us.
His name alone, Immanuel, is the answer that every soul on this earth is looking for in the here and now. Just as he offered His presence to us in a humble stable that very first Christmas night, so His love permeates through the walls we put up, and saves each heart that is open to Him. The love He offers here and now is the best gift that could ever, has ever, and will ever be received.

What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? ~
Romans 8:31-32

May we all be reminded of the truth of these words this Christmas... Not only is God with us, He is FOR us. An assurance that can never be denied or declined. May the promise of His presence be evident to us not just today but until we see Him someday face to face.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rat attack.

I've watched them with disgust in the shadows of the tin roof rafters after dark.
I've heard stories of how Haitians play soccer with them in the warehouse because they are the size of footballs.
I've seen traces of evidence they've left behind in the guesthouse pantry - Chewed ends of my favourite cereal boxes.
But never. Never, did I anticipate the events of last night.
Rat intrusion.

10:14pm - I hadn't been asleep long. I was awoken to Sarah whispering in panic that she had just witnessed a rat enter our bedroom. To be more specific, it was under my bed. She flicked on the light and I squinted in despair. How it got into our apartment was beyond our comprehension, but it wasn't the priority at the moment. The current crisis was that it was scampering around the edges of the room and dashing into the darkness of our back closet. We needed to get it out, at least that's what Sarah said.

10:17pm - All I wanted to do was lay my head back on the pillow and pretend it was a dream (blame it on the kickboxing), but Sarah insisted that we find a way to chase the rat back to wherever it belonged, just NOT behind the washing machine where it was currently hiding. Her and Ben were in full gear with mops and brooms and Sarah instructed me to put on my Keens. I obliged.

10:20pm - The three of us looked at each other not sure what to do next. I knew I was completely helpless in the situation and I made sure they knew it. After a quick pep talk from Sarah, Ben strapped on his headlamp and proclaimed 'I'M GOING IN!'. Sarah and I watched feverishly as he got on top of the washing machine and with the blunt end of the broom tried to scare the rat out of it's hiding. I think I was telling him to stab it, but everything is blurring together.

10:24pm - Ben's broom taunting was working. He told us to get ready for it, which meant me sinking farther back towards the safety of my bed. Sure enough, the rat shot out from the closet, through the path we had laid out for it, and back into the kitchen. I started jumping up and down in victory, but the task wasn't finished yet. Now Sarah was in play with her mop on guard. Her and Ben talked strategy. I made myself useful by building a barricade between the open doorway between the kitchen and bedroom so it couldn't go back to the closet. And then I stood on the safe side and watched.

10:30pm - Sarah opened the screen giving the rat a free getaway. We were almost there... The rat skittered this way and that under the cupboards, back towards the fridge and then under the pantry shelf. The broom and mop were flying.

10:33pm - The rat took one final dash out of the protection of the shadows and zipped right out of the front door. I let out a cheer and then remembered that my students were sleeping next door. Immediately we shut the screen and sealed the main wooden door tight. Where it ran to and what it did next didn't matter anymore. As long as it was on the outside looking in.

10:38pm - I made my way back to bed, adrenaline still pumping. I laid in silence thinking about the horrible outcome of what would have awaited us in the morning had we permitted that nasty creature to stay the night. Never in a million years would I have had the courage to smoke it out like my friends had, but how thankful I was to have them around.

Authors Note: Reliving all of the emotions, instructions and behaviours of last night was quite humourous for me to write... Certainly an 'only in Haiti' event to be remembered. I think my ability to write in 'comic relief' means the terror of the rat is wearing off a little, but I am letting this statement stand: Bring on the lizards and cockroaches, but here's hoping that we never, ever, EVER have to deal with anything like that again.