Saturday, January 28, 2017

Speaking Schedule

We are heading to the states in a couple of days.   We have taken our furlough time the past 2 summers.  BUT as we looked at the calendar, we were asked to submit possible furlough times.   It was difficult to find a time we could go out with our obligations.   There was nothing on the calendar for the month of February.   Of course there is stuff going on but nothing additional to our already busy lives.   My Dear said, "So what about going out in February?"   My response was, "We don't have clothes for that!"  

Well, guess what, we are heading north for winter....we are backward snowbirds!

Nana did some shopping and we have clothes waiting on us!  Billy's suitcase was the funniest...2 pairs of pants.   Hi-waters are not popular I hear!   Thank you God for growing children.

Here is our schedule for our time out.  

Feb. 5th      Murfreesboro morning service
Feb. 19th    Lexington  morning service
                   Paris evening service

If you need more information on the locations, please contact me and I will share more details.  We are looking forward to sharing about the mission, showing off some beautiful Mountain Maid products that can be purchased and hugging necks!

We will not be speaking in our sending church but will spend time in the community our children love the most.  Feel free to message me about details of our time there as well.

Thanks for loving us!  See ya soon!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Shout Out From the Word of the Year!

For almost 10 years,  the Lord has called me to "a word."  It is not a resolution but could be.  What I have learned is, the Lord gives me the word and then leads me through a season of that word.  There have been times that I knew my world was about to turn upside down like 2014 when we would move to Haiti.  The word was CHANGE.   Little in our lives would stay the same.  I knew change was coming....and a lot of it!

Years before that, the Lord called me to LESS....less stuff in our home, less debt, less weight, you get the idea.  I did not expect for the Lord to call me out in other areas like the LESS baggage area when He flipped my heart upside down and called me out on junk I was hauling around in my heart.   It was a year of liberation!    I see how it prepared me for all that would follow.

In 2015, my pal left Haiti.  The Lord called me to SWIM.  Truth is, it was a sink or swim situation.   I was dependent on her for culture, language, and all of the who, what, when, where, and how of living here.   I had no idea of all of the challenges that would happen for our family that year.   A medical diagnoses for My Dear, the surprise to learn we would be new parents in our 40s and after the numbness wore off from that and we began to dream about another child, our son was gone.   Dang it y'all...tough stuff!  I see that the Lord called me to SWIM in depths or waters that I would have NEVER signed up for if I had known, but what rich blesses came from it.   My Disney loving friend would send me pictures of Nemo to remind me to "just keep swimming!"  Right before the dam broke, so to speak, the Lord gave me the word TRUST.   I have never changed a word midyear, but lying in a bunk bed in FL, while my husband was in the hospital, that was all I could do.  Kinda like the hymn, "Trust and swim, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and swim."  Okay, maybe not.

After a time of furlough last summer, I was amazed at the healing that had taken place in my life.   It was like one day, I was going about my life and realized, "Wow, I have come a looong way!"   2016, the Lord called me to THRIVE.   Stop surviving and starting thriving.   The past year had me at survival mode as I was sick with pregnancy for the first trimester and then grieved the remainder of the year.   What good was I to this country that I was called to serve in?   (Believe me, I asked the Lord that very question.)   After serving in Haiti for over 2 years, I am just now in a place where I can serve.   I don't even know how it happened, but I appreciate that the Lord made it happen!  THRIVE happened without we even trying to make it happen.

So this year........

I started to tell ya but realized the post was getting a little long so it will be another post.  But what I do want you to see from this post is the testimony of the Lord.   He is at work and for some reason He chooses to show me every year through one word. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve To-Do-List

What Christmas Eve looked like for me...minus the food preparation and dish washing and basic parenting that just happens.  

1.  Go through the stash of goodies we have collected and outgrown and pick out gifts for our security guards to give to their children for Christmas.   

2.  Listen to a grown man giggle when he is radioed to come to the security gate and to be handed toys for his daughter.

3.  See their love for one another as they radio their coworkers to come and meet us.

4.  See a man smile big with something as simple as 2 small balls.

5.  Go shopping on the street to give our local vendors some holiday cash.

6.  Make your shopping list of who to shop from next so everyone gets some business.

7.  Shop on credit...not a good idea.  "You take it.  You can pay me later."   They will get you every time!

8.  Share jokes, laughter, and love with young men you are beginning to really care about.

9.   Let your 9- year- old bake on her own while you are not at home....she did great!

10.   Put your 12- year- old in charge of the yummy!

11.  Christmas Carol at the hospital while handing out rice, beans, oil, Bibles, and candy canes.  

12.  Watch your children give their Christmas hats and jingle bells away to children they see in the hospital.

13.  Reading the Christmas story with a family as they cradle their newborn son and hear their celebrations as we read about the baby boy who came to save us from our sins.

14.  Watch as your sister in Christ has the perfect opportunity to partake in the ministry she has had on her heart for months.

15.  Serve cold chili you made just for your husband and watch him graciously eat it.

16.  Participate in the reading of Luke 2 with children filling in as shepherds and wise men.

17.   Confess your sins before  communion.

18,   Watch another baby play with your children's Fisher Price Nativity set.

19.  Feast and laugh with folks that work so hard.

20.  Giving "gag gifts" to the ladies I work with.

21.  Wish  Nana a Happy Birthday.  

22.  Facetime gift opening with grandparents.

23.   Watch your children's authentic joy from giving and receiving gifts.

24.  Watch your child use her new roller skates while wearing her new "co-long-nee-ul"  (colonial) costume, while playing the harmonica.

25. Watch your children give of their own possessions to others.

26.  Watch your big ole boy love on his little sisters.

27.   Read from the Advent book as a family.

28.  Have a nice fire in the fireplace.

29.  Message your siblings.

30.  Go to sleep tired but with a smile on your face.

Friday, November 11, 2016

When One Little Moment Becomes A BIG DEAL in the Life of a Child

My day is pretty normal, like most of the of world there is a routine in it.  I begin with time with the Lord, then school with the children.   We have lunch and I take off to work at Mountain Maid and then will have English Class 2 days a week and another day I am part of a ladies' Bible Study.  It is pretty routine and that works.  But something turned my ordinary into something pretty exciting!   I hope I do not get too wordy, but the details of God's plan have been so beautifully laid out.

A month ago, I joined our sending church as they were with their partnering church in our country.   I stopped in for the day and allowed our children to play with the other children.  I noticed a precious girl outside of the gate of the school.   She was not in uniform and had a radiant smile.   I wondered if her family could not afford for her to go to school.  I stopped to talk with her and someone told me she was mute.   I wondered if she was mute or deaf.  I sat with her for awhile and gestured and signed with her pointing at pictures in books and signing the names of things in the know, the ones I could remember.   I knew there was a school for the deaf in the county but did not know where.   I asked Mme Winn in the Child Sponsorship office but she was unsure but knew how to find out.

Weeks later, I am heading out the door and realized I had pants on and ran back home to put my skirt on as is the custom here that Christian women wear skirts.  When  I returned home, my phone was ringing cause I left that too.   It was Mme Winn in sponsorship and she was calling to let me know that the deaf young man she knew was in her office.   I was thrilled that he signed slowly for me and we were able to make some exchanges.   He lip reads as well as signing so speaking Creole with my mouth and signing in English was a BIG DEAL for the Holy Spirit to pull off.   Have I told you how difficult learning to sign was for me?   Have I shared that learning Creole has been MUCH more difficult?    I know it was not flawless, but communication happened!  Praise the Lord.   And what a sweet, sweet young man!!!!!   He, Jack, is no longer attending school because the family can not afford it and he had come to the office to seek assistance.  Much like the U.S., since his needs are different and our schools can not meet those needs, we are compelled to help him.   This is a legal obligation in the U.S. but for is an act of love.  

Jack and his papa returned the following day with more information about the school.  Jack put me in contact with a young woman who is deaf but can write in English.   I texted her and waited to hear what the name of the school was.

I left the sponsorship office and walked next door to work.   It was a holiday weekend so things would be busy at the shop.   The street vendors will hang out just outside of the shop so I stopped to greet them and saw 3 little boys and one was wearing bilateral hearing aids.   I looked at him and signed "hearing aids," he shook his head yes.   I signed and asked if he lipread or signed and he responded by signing back.   I began a conversation with him and learned that he was home on break from school because of the holiday.   He told me where he went to school.   It seems too far away.   It is a residential school so children go there and live to get their educations.   It would be too far and too expensive for them to travel everyday to get there seeing that students come from all over the country....must like residential schools in the states.  I was able to talk with the papa of the boy and received one vote for the school in CB.

Days later, I get a return text to confirm from the young woman that the school is in CB.

This week, Papa returns to the office with the contact info for the school....yep, CB!

Mme Winn calls and says, "Okay, how can you find this little girl so that we can talk with her family?"   I got a couple of thoughts and let her know I would work on it.   Then BAM! There was the answer....across from my desk at Mountain Maid!   N, an employee of Mountain Maid attended church in that area.  I did not know if her family went to church which would make it harder to find her but....I showed N a photo of her and he said, "Yes!  That's S!   She is at church every Sunday with her mom and little brother.  She is so smart and helps her mom by selling snacks after school and after church."   I added that she was beautiful and so kind and he agreed.   I could see the excitement building in N as I shared the possibilities of S getting an education.   I asked if he thought her mom would go for it and he said, YES!   

I got permission from his boss (it pays to be married to the boss) for N to go with me to show me where she lives and to help communicate with the parents instead of strange, white people showing up and asking them to hand over their daughter!

It probably took us an hour to get to her house on the rough terrain in an ATV and hiking a bit.  I noticed my hands felt more firm this morning after holding so tightly to the bouncing steering wheel yesterday.

We arrived unannounced so they pulled chairs out from their home for us to be seated, myself, Mme Winn, and a guest who is visiting and had money that someone gave to her to be used for ministry.   Those funds are about to pay for S's fees to begin the process for enrollment.   S smiled at our coming.  Her little brother was at school but she was working around the home with her parents and other adults in the village.  

The parents are indeed interested in S getting an education!  Today (Friday) since I was unable to post with limited internet yesterday when I wrote the blog.....They came to the hospital on the mission to get her medical exam and then to the school for a meeting on Monday.   One baby step at a time.   S. was the happiest little girl in the country and could hardly stand still.  She let me squeeze and hug on her.   She was also able to see Jack and I communicate in sign.   Jack's mom had taken S's mom under her wing for this process.   Pretty precious.

So many days are typical.   I get excited about possibilities then there are roadblocks.  A possibility of an ongoing client for Mountain Maid-ROADBLOCK.   Someone is coming to teach artisans-ROADBLOCK.   Roadblocks may still come up with this, but I know that her family knows what is best for her.   If they want her to go to school, I will join them in helping her get there.  There are still glitches, but we are praying the Lord works all of this out for her and for Jack.   Man, I serve a God of details!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Hurricanes of Life

Hurricane Matthew swept over our island taking roofs, fences, gardens, crops, trees, and even livestock with it. Some areas did not see any destruction while other areas are still devastated with loss followed by excessive rain that has lead to flooding.   The mission has been unable to get supplies to where they need to be because of the washed out roads.  Earlier this week, I found myself focusing on what we were unable to do instead of focusing on God, who is sovereign and holds every detail in his loving hands.   I looked at all that was wrong instead of what was right.   It was easy to see the struggles but harder to see that God has it already worked out.  He showed us this in many ways as we have seen Him at work, but how quickly I forget.

I later challenged myself to look for that good!  And THIS "good" I had forgotten to share!

My Dear posted on FB the need for greenhouse film that had been ripped off of the greenhouses by the hurricane.   He also shared about a water purification system so that water can be shared more freely with those who come in the shop. We drank water with our meals in the states to save money but here, water and soda cost the same thing.  Water is a gift and drinking water is precious! 

My Dear quickly had responses from a few people interested in giving to purchase the items for Mountain Maid.   It was a thrill to watch the Lord stir in hearts!   A Sunday School class meet and gave all of the funds needed to purchase the film!   We were so excited!!!  They then contacted My Dear and asked how much was needed for the filtration system.  We had friends say they were giving and they were sharing with others who would be giving as well.   This church had a meeting that Sunday evening and voted to cover the balance!   PRAISE THE LORD!!!    So quickly, I had forgotten how the Lord took care of this!

BUT, it gets better!   After the money had been collected, My Dear made calls around the country trying to find the item but even with shipping and customs fees added, he could not beat the price he saw online.  He returned to the link to see that the price had been reduced!   He had some questions about the product so he decided to look on the manufactures website.  A day or so later, he logged in online and because he had spent so much time looking, a pop-up of the system appeared offering 30% off.   He clicked on it to get the 30% off and started looking for promo codes to get the price even cheaper.   He found 50% off!   Because he needed to know how much it would weigh to consider shipping fees, he called them.  As he was talking with the man about the weight, he informed My Dear that if he ordered from them that day, they would give him an additional percentage off that would save him $150.   The unit he purchased was originally $2900 but he got it for $886!!!!!

So instead of one unit for Mountain Maid, he was able to purchase 2 more, one for the camp and one for the mission.   This will allow the missionary staff to fill our own water bottles instead of purchasing large bottles of drinking water. 

It gets better!   There was enough savings with the purchase, shipping, and customs charges, that My Dear was able to use $1000 to help employees who had damage to their homes.   He went to 2 homes assessing the damage and will purchase tin and wood for those families to make the needed repairs. 

God is so good!  He is at work all the time.   Sometimes He is meeting a physical need and sometimes it is a spiritual need.  So this week, as I felt the "yuck" climb in, He gently reminded me of the good that He has done and is still doing.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Humility Block

When God called Moses to lead the Israelites, Moses had excuses.   Well, we call them excuses but Moses knew himself.   He knew his struggles, his past, his character, all that was NOT RIGHT with him.  He knew his sinful, struggling self.   Sometimes we use those as excuses and sometimes we think perhaps, the Lord needs to be reminded of our faults.   Aren't we kind to be so helpful to THE KING OF UNIVERSE! 

This is my Friday.    It happens pretty much every week that I am reminded of how unqualified I am to stand before a group of people and teach.   My Kentucky accent, that my southern friends say is northern and my northern friends say is southern, is not the best for teaching English.   I struggle with English and spelling!    Is there less judgment from others if I just admit it?  It will take me at least an hour to write this post and edit it.   I will publish it and edit it again.   After posting, I will find other mistakes... after it has been read and perhaps even shared.  

In quilting, a quilter will have one block that is intentionally not perfect.  It is called the humility block.  People do not even notice this in the quilt but the quilter knows.   Teaching English is a humility block for me.   I do not feel skilled, prepared, or qualified for this ministry but it is where the Lord has me.  Unlike the quilt, people can see my inadequacies, they are not hidden away.  I know I am not the perfect instructor.   I know that not every person is getting "it."   They are all at different levels and I am only one person trying to blanket all of the needs together. 

BUT, do you know what I know?   My students know that I care about them.   I am not perfect but, I am available.   I want them to succeed.  Some of them want to understand the English speaking staff they work with (can I end a sentence in a preposition?)   Other students want to earn scholarships and some just want to learn for better opportunities in this country.   I want that for them!

There are 4 areas of language learning, 7 intelligences in which people learn, 1crowded classroom, not enough chairs, at least 5 levels of learning (that is keeping them very broad), 1 day a week, for 1 1/2 hours, and 1 willing teacher.  Somehow, that all calculates for the idea English class in the Lord's eyes.  Who am I to argue with that?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Hard Places

Two years of living in Haiti has taught us......we have a lot to learn!   We were ignorant to how difficult language learning would be and even more ignorant to how difficult it would be to understand another culture.

This past week, a team come from the states to help do inventory, cleaning, painting, planting and repairing at Mountain Maid, the self-help program.  We are thankful for their "attack" on the never ending to-do list.

The team worked indoors most of the time so a few cultural experiences were planned for them. My Dear took the team so our 12-year-old daughter, I refer to as Dolly, went along to a historical fort nearby.  You should know that  Dolly enjoys people, adventures, Jesus, and is passionate about animals.....especially dogs.  Her love for animals is unique to this country where animals are seen as a way of living and not as companions.  When Dolly received a goat, the employees of the mission could not understand why she would not eat her goat.   Dolly explained that she does not eat her friends, which they accepted with laughter.   Haitian dogs, a lone  breed, are considered dirty animals, like street rats.   People do not touch or associate with them and usually run them off, kick them or throw things at them.   They sound dangerous but are actually very meek animals.

The team, My Dear, Dolly, and a few translators walked through the fort.   A little dog was in the area.   Dolly said the dog came towards her with its head low but its tail wagging, wanting so much to be petted.  She called the dog over and she came.   This is not typical for Haiti.  The dogs suffer so much abuse that they are afraid of people, but mama dog came.   She let Dolly pet her head and others on the team asked if it was okay for them to pet the dog too.   The team all thought the dog was cute and were kind to it.   I am sure the locals observing thought it was strange (and gross) for the foreigners to be nice to and especially touch the dog. 

The team walked past an open cistern that was full of water from the rain that had fallen every day that week.   Water lilies floated beautifully on top of the water creating a scene perfect for VanGogh.  They left the cute dog behind and explored another area.  When they walked away,  a local boy, probably Dolly's age, pushed the little dog into the open cistern.   Unlike Joseph in the book of Genesis, this cistern was full.  Just moments before it was a picture of calm with water lilies floating  but now it was the scene of distress as the team looked back to see the dog frantically trying to get its head above water.  The dog tried to grab onto the floating lily pads to pull itself up.  The dog was panicked and was truly fighting for her life.  What was seconds, seemed like minutes or even hours.  It would not have surprised me for a wet Dolly to come home after such an event.   Thankfully, she did not jump into the water because a man on the team laid down on the ground and pulled the dog to safety.  Dolly struggled to get the image out of her head the rest of the day.

The dog quickly ran off.   The team said it was terrible to see and they were all disturbed by the scene.   The little boy just laughed at the dog and probably at the team as well.   Our Dolly, well, I  picture Jesus in the temple behavior.  Dolly was filled with what I would describe as a righteous anger!    She unleashed her frustration on the young man, I am believing that the Lord gave her a fresh word in the Creole language if you know what I mean!   She said that all of this anger came out and she realized that she had to show Jesus to this boy.  Thankfully, she was not talking about putting her hands on him and praying because I think the kid would be grasping at lily pads too.    Dolly let him know that the same God that created him created that dog.   That is not how you treat God's creation.   After speaking nonstop to him for some time, a translator, came and gently took her by the shoulders and walked her away from the boy.    Members of the team  shared that they too wrestled with their emotions and wanted to respond by pushing the boy in....and of course getting him out to teach him a lesson. 

Dolly was emotionally worn out when she got home.   She could not rid her mind of the image of the dog grasping for something, anything to get out of that open cistern of water.  She cried.  She begged me to take her back to the fort so she could get the dog and its puppies and bring it home.  She promised she would not want to keep it and would find a home for it (She just tearfully found homes for 2 kittens she bottle fed.)   When it didn't work with me, she want back to trying with her dad.   It was a hard day for her and tears would fall without warning.   She was unable to focus on her school work.  Basically, she grieved. 

On their way home from the excitement of the fort, she saw 30-50 goats hanging off the back of a tap-tap by their feet and their cries hurt her ears as she tried to look away.   The tears trickled.   This country is a hard place for animal lovers.

Dolly has been teased about the animals here.   But this topic, grieves her.     Yes, the goats in the zoo will one day be served for dinner here, but they will not be on Dolly's plate.  She double checks the menu when in question.  She doesn't eat her friends.   The episodes of the day were hard.   The injustice to animals is hard for a person who is passionate about them.

Dolly confessed to me later, as she sorted through her feelings, that perhaps the hardest part of the day is that she witnessed a person being cruel to another living creature for no reason.  It is as if a line was drawn and part of the innocence of childhood is gone for her.   She saw evil.   She saw sin.  She saw that we all need a Savior. 

The little dog, found a savior in an outstretched arm of a foreigner and maybe, a Haitian boy heard about the Savior and his need for salvation.  You and I probably never pushed a dog into a cistern of water, but we have sinned, caused pain to ourselves and others.   We have grieved the Holy Spirit with our choices.   But our Savior awaits with an outstretched hand. 

*Photo Credits Sarah S.