Sunday, October 27, 2013

Where it All Began, part 1

Sunset in Haiti


People always ask what led us to move to Haiti.  They are especially intrigued why a family of 6 would move here for up to 5 years, and longer if God leads.  The story is long...much longer than anyone truly has time to listen to in one setting.  So, I will begin writing it here.  Maybe it will inspire someone else.

For me (Cathi), the journey to missions began long ago.  As a young girl, I remember my favorite Sundays at church very well.  I always loved the weeks that we had a missionary visiting.  We would hear their stories from far-off places and pray for them.  Since my dad was the senior pastor, we often housed them while they were in town.  This gave our family more direct access to ask questions and learn from them.  It was such a joy as missionaries returned multiple times over the years.  I absolutely loved these times!

The beauty of Haiti
Additionally, my parents had a piggy bank for missions.  Every dime they got went directly into the piggy bank.  Since this was in the days of cash/check only, a LOT more change went through their fingers.  At the end of the year, our church always did an offering for missionaries.  My parents would empty out this piggy bank of dimes onto the table.  Our entire family helped count and roll the dimes and it always amazed me how something so small could add up to such a large sum of money!  Every dime went to Lottie Moon Missions. 

Sunrise over the mountain

These things started to instill an appreciation for missions and a heart for the world around us when I was very young.  I remember being enamored with the stories of missionaries, and always wondering when the next one would come through with their stories, pictures, and goods from the country they were ministering in.  It also still amazes me (maybe even moreso now) that the missionaries who visited regularly brought little gifts for each of the kids in my family.  That meant so much to me!

As I look back on this, I see how God used the faithfulness of my parents to mold my heart.  By the age of 6 or 7, I knew there was a world beyond the USA, and I was excited about it! I knew there were people who had never heard the name of Jesus, and that missionaries were desperately needed.  My heart had just started to take shape for the world beyond America.

Sandra, our 7 year-old, with a heart of gold for Haiti!
My challenge to all adults: do not take lightly what a child's heart for missions & the world can become!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Visiting Friends

Brothers and sisters: Isaac and Sandra, Dawens and Landa
Several weeks ago, Cathi and I were privileged to go to Compassion International's 45th year anniversary (of their involvement in Haiti) celebration. It also marked the retirement of one president and the inauguration of the next. The new president, Santiago "Jimmy" Mellado, got up and spoke of his upbringing. He talked about how his parents moved a lot while he was growing up - and not just from State to State, but from country to country. His father was an engineer. Rather than use his knowledge to become rich, he decided to use it to help those that truly needed it. He traveled to mostly third world country, designing buildings and structures specifically to help the impoverished. Likewise, his mother always chose to take the family to church in the poorest neighborhood they could find. As a result, Jimmy grew up with the influence of the poor always around him. Now, he is in a position with the heart to help the poor.

Making a car out of an oil bottle and caps
As we continue to live in Haiti, I pray many things over my kids. One of those is that they would be influenced by the poor around them. They may be poor economically, but they are rich in so many ways - particularly in their relationships. I've written before about a particular family we go visit in the village of Chambrun. Yesterday, we went to visit this family. When we arrived, we were so warmly greeted. You could see the smile on their faces as we came to just sit and talk and watch our kids play together. Isaac and Miguel learned to make little cars out of juice bottles and caps (ingenious!). Sandra carried Landa around the whole time, while Landa squealed, laughed, and smiled. Kayla helped some of the other girls, Kenia and Widlan with food preparation.
At one point, the sky started clouding over and the sun went behind a cloud. "Do you think it's going to rain later?" Darlene pointed to a cloud and said it would rain soon. I was skeptical. Clouds move in all the time and pass us right by without us getting a drop. However, I could tell she was a little worried. Lightning flashed in the cloud and she made sure I had seen it. "Do you think we should go, Darlene?" Yes, she said - she didn't want us walking home in the rain or have Isaac fall because we were hurrying back. So, we got ready, said our good-byes and started walking home. On our half-mile walk home, we felt a few rain drops, but nothing severe. However, the cloud that she had pointed to was now overhead. Not even thirty seconds after we stepped in the door of our house, the cloud opened up and it rained hard. Now, even if it hadn't rained, Darlene was looking out for us and showed this in that she was genuinely worried that it might rain on us. Granted, when I got home, I changed and went running in the rain, but that's beside the point!
In the past month, I've been able to bring some people with me to Darlene's to visit. They're not going there to do some project or try to make a difference somehow - they're going to spend time with people and build relationships. At the same time, they witness the relationship my family has built with hers. Without fail, this is one of the most impactful things people have mentioned of their experience here. In Western culture, we are very task-oriented and project-driven. People are attracted to the idea of traveling to a third-world country and doing something to help. When the project is over, they go home, feeling a sense of accomplishment. But more than projects, it's relationships that will make a difference. Jesus exemplified this in his earthly ministry. He touched people, healed people, had compassion on them, fed them. He poured himself into twelve men to carry on. His life was characterized by relationships. It's definitely harder. It's not as predictable. It's messy. But instead of going home with a sense of accomplishment, people can go home with a sense of fulfillment. The project will even be more meaningful because of it. But you don't have to wait to go to a third-world country to build relationships. You can do that wherever you are and impact people with the love of Christ.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Justice in Haiti

One of the most difficult things we face as "blans" in Haiti, is understanding justice.  As we look around the world we currently live in, we cannot find a balance.  We struggle to see how anything here is just.  The number one question that visitors struggle with here is, "How was I born into wealth in America, but these children are born into such immense poverty here?"  The thought behind that is injustice.

As I ponder this, I know in my head that God is just and created all people equal.  I know in my head that God cares for these children the same as He does for the wealthiest children in the world.  Yet, how does it make sense that these children go to bed hungry?  How is it okay that they cannot afford medical care for the simplest things, risking their lives because of it?  How is it okay that so many are malnourished, resulting in every malnutrition program in Haiti being at maximum capacity with so many still left behind?  I have struggled through this thought process, and God has reminded me that He is just, He sees, He cares, He knows...He is watching and He has a plan!

Housing going all the way up the side of the mountain

Throughout this struggle over justice in Haiti, I read Psalm 67.  Verse 4 says this, "Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity..."  I read that and immediately asked, "But How do I show people in Chambrun that you judge with equity? What sort of equity could they ever see between themselves and Americans?"  This is when He showed me how He views justice.  It is so very different from my view, thankfully!  I am so grateful that His justice is relient on Him and not on sinful man.  He told me this, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23)  So you see, there is justice in Haiti!

When faced with the dilemma of showing justice to people of Haiti, equality between Americans and Haitians, we can only do it in this.  We have all sinned.  We all fall short of the glory of God.  We all need Him.  Only in the spiritual can we find this type of equity.  Only in Christ can we find justice.  What a beautiful picture...from the dirt in Haiti, I finally understand justice in Haiti...I finally understand God's justice.  I pray God shows me countless ways to communicate this in actions and words!

Witchina playing outside of her home in Chambrun