Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just yesterday...

It feels like just yesterday I was in the back seat of my dad's pickup driving to Gateway Niagara to meet Laurens and Cheryl for the first time. Flash forward a few months and again, it seems like just yesterday that I was boarding a plane with their family and headed for Haiti, an island so faraway and foreign to me. Hours later, we landed and once more, it was just yesterday we were bumping down the Port-au-Prince streets in the back of a rusty bus. Cheryl was my informal tour guide, pointing out sights to my left and right as we bounded past. My mind resembled the blurry images flying by around us - a clouded mush of shock and awe of all that entered my field of vision. Even though we had only be friends for a few weeks, Laurens, Cheryl and their kids were one of the few pieces of familiarity and comfort that I clung to upon my arrival and during the months to follow.
3 years have passed in Haiti since those yesterdays. This past Sunday at church the vanderMark family was requested to come to the stage and were recognized for all of the work they have done alongside their Haitian counterparts. Through the earthquake, hurricanes, disease outbreaks, and generator crises (to name a few), they have been on the front lines 24/7 serving and using their God-given talents to further the kingdom.
Meanwhile, I've had the privilege of working with their 3+2 children. Working with Ana, Mina, Bridgely, Grayden and Teagan each day has been one of the best highlights of my time in Haiti. We have all grown in our knowledge, experiences, and our faith. Each one of them is such a unique combination of passions and giftings and I am so excited to see where the Lord takes them as they continue to grow. And I will miss them like crazy.

Today was another farewell day as their family was recognized in a staff send-off party down at the cafeteria. There had to have been at least 80 people, mostly Haitian, who were in attendance to show their gratitude and appreciation to Laurens and Cheryl for their ministry and leadership in their roles here in Haiti.
Later on as the crowd diminished I stood with Cheryl and we chatted about their last days here and all that the final days will bring. Through teary eyes we laughed about how backwards it is in our minds that they would be leaving Haiti before me. Ask anyone when we arrived including me, and we would have all agreed that I was on my way out far before them. And yet here we are, with them tying up loose ends and me advancing plans for the year ahead. Even though we all know that this is the Lord's plan and He has given each one of us a peace about where He is leading, it seems so weird that this same family I looked to and leaned on is branching off in another direction while I stay on a similar course. Once again, it's a reminder that only the Lord knows our path, and he provides and directs us according to the bigger picture that only He can see.
Please be in prayer for the vanderMark crew in the coming days as they say their final goodbyes and prepare for the next chapter that awaits their family. Thank you Laurens and Cheryl for taking me with you on this part of your journey. May God bless you and continue to use you for His glory wherever He may lead.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Each day that goes by on the calendar, I can't help but squeal a bit inside. I'm growing ever closer to family and friends that are just a skip downstairs or a country drive away, crisp summer nights out on the town, loaded salads, milk, fresh picked berries and DAIRY QUEEN (I could go on).
But also the reality that I'm really really really gonna miss this,

and this,and this.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Most of you know that music is kind of my thing. I am thankful for great bands and melodies that give a soundtrack to my days. I'm not much of a musician, but a few years ago I added a guitar to my most loved possessions and make do with a few favoured chords that I have picked up along the way.
Little did I know that this beginner acoustic would years later come to Haiti and fall into the hands of some amazingly talented and aspiring musicians. Granted, it looks a lot different than it did when I cradled it as my own in the beginning... It's got battle scars - chipped varnish, sweat smears and dusty residue, but it's never made a more beautiful sound. The acoustic blend with lyrical harmonies brings perspective in uncertainty and a comfort to the soul.

This week I've been reminded in a symbolic kind of way that I'm very similar those rusty strings on my guitar. I am flawed and temporary and without the great Musician I am absolutely useless. Just as my guitar is completely reliant on music-savvy people to fulfill it's purpose, so I am 100% dependent on the Lord to breathe His song into my life. How incomplete I am apart from the Musician who plays me. How reliant I am on His life-giving power.
So many times I think I know how the song goes, and I try to get it out on my own, but how can I possibly get by? It's simple, I can't. Just as the clay depends on the Potter, so the instrument can't decide or resound the notes on it's own.

It's my hope and prayer that the Lord would create His song out of my hollow being. That I would be completely dependent on Him to make a beautiful sound out of my life. Like that faithful acoustic, may we resonate and glorify Him through our days.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I just got back from Sunday brunch (Haitian style) with Robenson, Idelie and her fiancee, Divnel. Idelie, as you will remember, is the teacher for the mountain kids and she lives in Cabaret, so what better excuse than to go to Yolty's for lunch?! As we sipped on cold Sprite and feasted on poul (chicken) and cabrit (goat), I got an update on the progress of the kids, and prep for their final tests of the year. It's hard to believe that June is here and school's almost out for the summer! Idelie has done an amazing job this year and I am so grateful for her ministry and work with the children.

As a 'sequel' to the post I wrote about 'When Helping Hurts' a few weeks ago, I am excited to update you with the news that after connecting with Met Soufrann, the principal at the School of Hope, the kids will all be enrolled in classes here at the Mission next September! As we continue to collect birth certificates from the families and complete other enrollment papers, I am thrilled for the cooperation of the school leaders in helping these kids have a further chance at learning.
Over the past few weeks I have also been deeply encouraged by the partnership of the Compassion Team at the Church of Hope. Pastor Patris and Pastor Fonzie have been working with me to deliver soap, shoes and Bibles to the families, as well as spiritual mentoring. What a privilege it has been for me to work alongside these sustainable church leaders! It's truly an answer to prayer.

I also have to take a minute to brag on Robenson because he is pretty awesome. Any typical guy in grade 10 wouldn't take much time out of his schedule to tromp out into the hills, but Robenson has never turned me down once. Ever since his older brother (who once was my interpreter) left for school in the Dominican, he's been my sidekick and a wonderful blessing to the families and to me. He encourages the kids in their schoolwork and shows respect and care for the parents. In our past visit, Robenson reminded the mothers about the continual spread of cholera (due to the rainy season), and the importance of purifying water and washing hands of the children. He takes initiative and uses his deeper understanding of village life to encourage and equip the families in their daily lives. This summer, he will partner with Idelie and continue some shorter tutorial classes in preparation for the children starting school this fall, as well as lead bible studies for the families.

As we look ahead, more possibilities are shaping up as the children join the summer camp happening at the Church of Hope, and plans for homes being built for them in SourceMatelas. Thank you for your partnership in this journey and continuing to keep these families, as well as all of those I've mentioned in your prayers. I can't wait to update you more in person in a few weeks!