Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Beachin' it 3cords style!

3 Cords is a major buzz word around Mission of Hope. When teams arrive, it doesn't take long for them to find the table and start claiming the handmade accessories that our 8 wonderful Haitian ladies make each day. The Lord has blessed this ministry abundantly. Over the past year, it had grown exponentially in employees, production, quality, new trends and of course, followers. This summer, a new building will be going up to accommodate more employees and fill the large orders that are coming in from teams that visit, as well as other churches and organizations that are jumping on board.
But more than just the budgeting and long term goals, 3 Cords is making an amazing difference in the lives of the women who are a part of it. In Haiti, finding a good job can be very difficult, and what makes it even more difficult is having a disability. Without 3 Cords, these ladies would likely never work outside of their homes. With a stable income, they can support themselves, and as we have found through various visits to their homes, support their families and extended families.
Not only that, but these ladies have had a chance to form relationships with one another, and build wonderful friendships through a mutual understanding of some of the trauma and pain they have experienced in the past. What a blessing it has been for me as well, to get to know these ladies and see the beauty that shines out from their lives. Below is a picture of me with Sencia, who just began her work with 3 Cords a few months ago. Like each one of these women, she has a miraculous testimony.

This past Monday, along with Diana Cherry, Brianna and Abby, we celebrated God's goodness and fellowship with one another at the beach! It was a super fun day and full of laughs as the ladies eagerly splashed about in the ocean, and laid back by the poolside. Iverie (one of the 3 Cords ladies' baby girl) also joined us for the fun, and we made sure she was outfitted in 3 Cord's style too!

The beach day was also a chance to celebrate Diana Cherry (pictured with Janiz below).

Diana's passion for amputees is what first began the 3 Cords ministry last summer, and we are so grateful for all her hard work and leadership of this program. She's been more than just a director or boss, she's been a mentor and friend to each of the ladies, empowering and inspiring them to live their lives to the full as Jesus intended. Her and her husband Jay have been a part of our staff since the spring of 2010, and they have been a huge blessing to us and the Haitian counterparts they work alongside. We support them as they return back to the States this week to pursue further training and education in their gifted areas, but we will miss them ANPIL (which translates to A LOT)!!!
As more transitions continue in the weeks ahead, please continue to pray for 3 Cords. With the craft lab expansion, there will be more ladies hired and exciting changes in the wings, including Brianna, who has just recently come on staff with Mission of Hope, who will be taking over Diana's position. Pray that the ladies will continue to thrive together in their work environment and that the theme verse from Ecclesiastes 4:12 would be fulfilled. I look forward to my involvement in 3 Cords in the year ahead and for the friendships new and old that will be fostered as we look ahead to all that is in store. To God be the glory!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beautiful things.

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

This song, Beautiful things by Gungor, has been my soundtrack song this week.
The more I listen, the more I recount so many beautiful things to celebrate...

Like Doulie, the little boy in the mountains who led the way down to the coconut tree in crutches. He lost one of his legs in the earthquake, but he kept a quicker, more-surefooted pace than I. When his friends started up a improv game of soccer, he played along with the same vigor and enthusiasm.
Like Micayelle, the 2-year old daughter of my mountain friends. Sitting under the cactus tree, she picked out the seeds one by one from the watermelon slice on her mom's lap and placed them in the tin bucket for her dad to plant in his gardens.
Like the bougainvillea flowers, that spill over the gate and never cease to bloom brighter.
Like baby Pierre, who grins, babbles and lifts his little hand to wave back to whomever entertains his vision.
Like my students, who are dedicated to their work amidst the hot temperatures, and who never pass up a challenge to chase mice out of the classroom when I chicken out.
Like the encouragement and prayers that have been generously bestowed upon me through the letters and cards that have been sent from loved ones back home. I took some time to look back and read some of the messages this week. What a blessing it is to serve together as the body of Christ.

Indeed, You make beautiful things.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Finding my feet again.

I've been dreading this week for months.
It's the one that my cheri, Sarah Parsons, packed her bags and headed home.
She was my confidant, my comic relief, and when I needed it, a kick in my pants.

When Sarah first arrived as an intern in summer 2009, I didn't know how much I needed her. I had been in countdown mode for weeks before she graced the presence of Mission of Hope, and the more I got to know her, the less I thought about going home. A year later, she returned to Haiti as the medical team coordinator and became my first-ever roommate. Over the past 11 months in this quaint little apartment, we've shared toothpaste, a king bed, and the deepest corners of our hearts, to name a few.

Sarah did more than just pull off an 8-3 work week. She was on call 24/7 for team emergencies, running ambulance transfers that lasted into the wee hours of the morning, and managing the staff in car wrecks and emergencies that were brought to our gate rain or shine. Ask anyone in Haiti and they would agree, this girl worked her tail off.
Sarah taught me that life is more about character than circumstance. She dealt with devastation that would have made me keel over and surrender, but she just kept going. She never pitied herself or gave excuses. She served at the clinic with her whole heart, and when a week of no medical teams opened up, she was the one jumping on the bus with the team for the day to paint houses in the heat. She always kept her chin up.

Between the people managing (and believe me we get all kinds over here!), suturing wounds and mass cholera relief work, she never lost her spunk. Hence the photo (this is just after she pounded some candy canes with a hammer for our cheesecake topping).

She's been by my side through ceiling leakages, hurricane threats, election turmoil, and pulling me out of bed when the rats broke in. We danced sun up to sun down, we harmonied to her smorgasbord of genres, we laughed for hours over Culligan water gallons and our misusage of Creole, we sipped hot chocolate in the Haitian heat, and we vented and cried and asked the hard questions up and down the mission hill.

This apartment has a huge sense of unfamiliarity to it since she's been gone. The smell of coffee no longer wakes me up in the morning, and her presence in the quietness of another day ending isn't a vibe I'm excited about. In many ways, I'm finding my feet again, as Denison Witmer sings.
But as soon as I begin to feel sorry for myself, I recount the memories that make me giggle and the blessing of having such a wonderful season of life. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

May you continue to walk in the light of hope and joy, my dear Cheri.
Go now in the love of your God.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Target practice!

BB gunning has been the latest fad for my students these days. Every recess they race to their houses to strap on armour and weaponry, returning to school half an hour later with rosy cheeks and sweaty t-shirts. The other day I couldn't resist snapping a picture of them outfitted in their battle gear. They go all out.

This morning the vanderMarks were at the beach with some friends, so I got a taste of next year with my 3 boys - Zach, Noah and Caleb. I've realized quite quickly that my default mode of working with primaries (teaching letters and numbers and how to tie your shoes), isn't going to fly like it has in previous years. I'm targeting a very different kind of audience, which will have it's share of challenges and stretch me often farther than I think I'm capable. But if it's anything like today, it will also be full of fun and lots more learning on my part - like how to fill a water balloon without it exploding, which constellations you can see most clearly from the balcony and the names and types of reptiles, rodents and insects around our mission. This is only the beginning!
After devotions this morning, I let the boys take the reins and it wasn't long until we were drawing targets (mine a picture of a giant rat), and the boys were showing me the ropes on how to aim and fire with their air-soft guns.

Later, Noah and I faced off against Caleb and Zach on the playground. I felt like Jack Bauer dashing to and fro avoiding bullets and hiding out under the slide. It wasn't long before my 5 lives clocked out - I have the welts to prove it. But I can see now why they play it everyday.

A BB gun would probably be one of the most unlikely things that I would put on a shopping list for when I'm back in Canada, and yet after today, it's right up there with intensive hair conditioner and gel pens.
Looking forward to all that next year has in store... for me and for them!

Monday, May 9, 2011

When Helping Hurts

In a previous blog post I mentioned that as a staff we are studying a book called 'When Helping Hurts' by Steve Corbitt and Brian Fikkert. Don't let the title fool you like it did me. When I read 'When Helping Hurts', I anticipated that I would be reading about how to stay strong as a foreigner in this country, and prevent myself from becoming burned out in the daily grind of ministry here. Humbly, I admit that this assumption exposes my tendency to take rather than to give. What I realized quite quickly when I opened the book was that it was not at all about me. It was about the people I was helping, and how my perceived methods of assistance could in fact be hindering.

Chapter by chapter, it's exposed a lot of my North American tendencies. Mindsets of power and wisdom based on wealth or education. The idea that I am capable of 'fixing' poverty. That one life at a time, with the resources that have been bestowed upon me, I can repair the brokenness around me.
It's been a real accountability check - a chance to reflect and evaluate how I have acted upon the needs I have seen and addressed. It's dispelled myths about efficiency and impact of mass giveaways with no relational attachment. If we want lasting change, we can't just cover wounds with a band aid, we first have to diagnose the problem and then take steps toward full healing. By assuming needs and solutions for others, especially in a different culture, we aren't doing them any favours.
It's been great to take time in our staff meetings, discussing these ideas and how we as a staff are continuing out the vision of life transformation through Jesus Christ. We have had and continue to be deliberate about investing a lot of time and energy into the people we care about here. But when you're working with people, results are never guaranteed, nor are they immediate, which makes it harder than we'd choose sometimes. Words like sustainability, empowerment, and long-term results have come up a lot, and I have caused me to reflect a lot on my relationships here, especially with the mountain families.
I've asked myself a lot of questions: How am I impacting this family long-term? Is there sustainability? In what ways are they being empowered?
These are hard questions with hard solutions, and like we have emphasized in our staff meetings, they cannot be answered alone.

I don't want to focus solely on the negatives. There have been a lot of progressions since my first connections with the families. In my visits over the few years I've known them, I see evidence that there has been change for the good. The sand filter still has a prominent place in their living area, giving them clean water to drink. Baby Fania and Micaielle are no longer babies wrapped in swaddling cloths, but busy toddlers with precious personalities. In my most recent visit, I smiled to myself when I saw crayon markings of the alphabet and numbers from 1-10 written on the outside of their shelter. Indeed, good change is happening.
And yet in the same breath, I am aware of many other areas where I need to be a vessel of empowerment rather than dependency. As we move into a new season of planting and harvesting fields, enrolling their kids in school, and planning out where homes should be built, I know I cannot do it alone. I need the Lord to pave the way ahead, provide understanding beyond the language barrier, and bring alongside others to give the families wise counsel.

This afternoon I met with the Patris, who is the pastor of the Church of Hope, as well as Met Soufrann, who is the principal for the School of Hope. Both conversations went better than I expected and give me hope that more good things are on the horizon for these families. Thank you for partnering in prayer and support along with me in the past and in the days to come. That I would have wisdom in knowing how to communicate and continue to deepen my roots with the families. That I may not have feelings of superiority towards them, but that I would be reminded that no matter what culture, country or family history I've come from, the earth I live on is broken, and that means I am too. I am in desperate need of love and grace, and the true source of that is our Saviour. Together with His love we can build each other up and bring His kingdom to earth.