"I wasn't God's first choice for what I've done for China... I don't know who it was... It must have been a man... a well-educated man. I don't know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn't willing... and God looked down... and saw Gladys Aylward... And God said - "Well, she's willing."
- Gladys Aylward
Friday, December 27, 2013
"I wasn't God's first choice for what I've done for China... I don't know who it was... It must have been a man... a well-educated man. I don't know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn't willing... and God looked down... and saw Gladys Aylward... And God said - "Well, she's willing."
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
I was at a funeral. A well-loved Christian Haitian woman and mom to over 70 street boys had died just a few days earlier. This sweet lady had married a man who shared her heart for the street children- he also just happened to have been the leader of the most dangerous gang in Haiti. He left his gang, and together, they started a feeding program in Port-au-Prince, and hundreds of street boys came to know them. Eventually, they opened up a home, and their organization now houses over 70 boys and girls who are now able to escape the streets. But when the wife died suddenly, family, friends, and other people in the city showed up to pay their respects. Picture wife's side: everyone in their Sunday best, ready to sing their hymns and do their "Christian thing," amid anger and disunity with other family members. And husband's side: besides family, about 40 gangsters dressed nicely except for their dreads (in typical gang banger style for them), sunglasses, and the smell of weed lingering in the air- scowls on their faces. Not sadness, but anger. In between these groups were everyone else- the workers and missionaries from the orphanage where I was working, tons of people from around the city, and a few hundred street children who had been blessed by this woman who had fed and clothed them.
Haitian funerals start around 7 am- to avoid smelling the decaying body before it thaws out (they don't preserve the bodies). Around 6:30, before the pastor even speaks, 3 women start their wailing and alligator death-rolling, a common practice there for funerals. For some it's their way of expressing their grief. Other women are literally paid by the family to do it- the more wailing and rolling, the more they care about the deceased. The crowd tried to hush and calm them by dowsing them with water, to no avail. I moved seats from the wife's side toward the husband's side of the tent, to avoid all the wailers. With me was a young girl, one that I had met 5 minutes before. Right then, that 6 year old girl needed a mom, and the only one she had ever known was about to be buried. So she hopped onto my lap, and there we sat, taking in our surroundings.
And then I looked down our row, past the 5 empty chairs to my left and saw him. He couldn't have been more than 8, sitting alone, skinny as a rail, clothes tattered and dirty, and looking longingly towards me. I motioned for him to come sit by me. He sheepishly agreed. I put my arm around him and asked him if he had known Kathia. "She fed me" was his reply. I asked him if he knew where she was now. "Heaven with God" he said. That's right, she was. I asked him if he had a family. "I eat at the orphanage, or when I bring Chef things." Who's Chef? (Haitian word for chief, usually means the guy who's in charge.) He slyly turned over his left shoulder and nodded to the man staring at the ground about 5 rows back. Haitian street boys usually work for a boss- they wash cars or get odds and ends and bring all their earnings back to him, and he divides out what they get that day. Is he mean? No answer. Does he make you work every day? "yes." Does he give you a place to sleep? "yes he is good." He is good. The boy thought his chef was good, because he sometimes got to eat and sometimes had a place to sleep....
Are you hungry? "yes, but.." and nodded behind us again. He knew that any food he received he must take back to his boss and he would decide what to do with it. He then looked down at my watch, eyes lit up and said "bamwe" (give me). My $10 Wal-Mart digital watch that I had gotten at 2am right before I left for the flight in January. I said, "I bought this, it is mine." He turned and looked behind us again. By this time his boss had looked up and was glaring at us. He said, "please, I need it." I decided to change the subject. I opened my bag and pulled out a Clif Bar, the staple missionary travel food. (I once found myself stuck in traffic with Angie and extremely hungry after a long day at the hospital. When a group of men in scrubs and women in blue jean skirts walking past chose to ignore my polite, "Hi, how are you?" I confess that I ended up angrily yelling, "I know you speak English, I know you're ignoring me, and I know you have Clif Bars!!") Needless to say, they may not taste that great but they became vital to my sanity.
The boy looked at the Clif Bar, up at me, and back at his boss. He shook his head in fear. "I cannot." Again I asked, are you hungry? "Yes." And right then, I pulled him up into my lap with my other 6 year old beautiful friend, who had not uttered a word this whole time. I put my arms around both of them. He ducked his head, and began to devour that Clif Bar. For the first time in my life I was thanking the Lord out loud that he had given me broad shoulders. I didn't dare turn around. I knew the boss would be staring at me. But he couldn't see, and that's all that mattered. When the boy finished eating, he licked his fingers and smiled at me. "Thank you." I asked him if he knew how much Jesus cared about him. He said he knew that, because of Kathia. I told him that Jesus would continue to take care of him, day by day, and that he should continue to go get food on Saturdays, and to continue to go to that orphanage and they would take care of him if they could. I took off my watch and put it on his wrist. He beamed. I expected him to jump off my lap and run off, since he had what he came for. But he didn't. He sat and stared at the watch. He couldn't take his eyes off of it. The $10 Wal-Mart watch. It was my last choice pick- it was literally the last one in stock, right after Christmas. It didn't matter. In that moment, the boy owned a watch. He and I both knew that if he walked back to his boss he would take it off before he got there and hand it over. But for that 3 minutes, it was his. Just then, I snapped back into reality. 10 of the gangsters who had been outside the tent for a pot break strolled back in. The pastor began to lead a hymn, and the woman in front of us began to wail, convulse, and alligator death roll. And when I say roll, I mean that folding chairs are flying and people are jumping on top of each other out of the way. We began to be crushed by the chairs pushing at us. I jumped up, scooped up the little girl, and jumped back and over 2 or 3 rows away from her. Our whole section was in an uproar. By the time I looked up, the boy was gone. I glanced back at the tent door and saw him walking away, following his boss. No watch on his arm. He looked back one more time, our eyes met, and I smiled. He grinned, and then got a serious face on again, as he turned and walked away, past the gang bangers outside showing off their hand guns to each other.
Chairs were still coming at us. I held on to the clinging girl and we moved again. Then, the rest of the service was relatively calm. Afterwards, we were instructed to wait in the tent while a family feud over the death was dispersed. The whole time, the boy was all I thought about. "Why didn't I do more for him? How could I have just let him go back to the streets? All I did was give him a watch and a Clif bar- that wasn't enough." And then suddenly my heart was calm. Because the Lord reminded me that sometimes you don't get to be in the whole picture- sometimes, most of the time really, you're just a little Clif Bar or a watch in the big picture of his plan, if he gives you that opportunity. I am not in charge. I can't "fix it." I will never be able to do "enough." And that is okay. Yes we need to care, and yes we need to serve, and yes we need to (in the right circumstance) provide a way for a child on the streets to have a better future. But we can't do it all, so we do what we can. My friend Angie actually has the incredible opportunity to serve a few girls from the streets right now- read about her journey here: Angie's Blog. But there will always be physical needs to be met- always. And the knowing that we can't do enough to fix it on our own frees us up to do what we can, through His grace, to pray that the Lord uses it, and to trust Him through it. As for me, I returned to my house and orphanage and did what he had called me to at the time. And some days I needed a Clif Bar. I can't eat one without thinking of my friend. I don't know why God had us separate so abruptly. I don't even know his name. But I do know that through a Clif Bar, I caught a glimpse of something much bigger than myself. My God is large and in charge. He is always good and he is always God. He is enough. And he cares about the poor and about the hungry. And so I pray, and I thank him for it. Because he is always faithful to remind his people of Who it is they ultimately serve- even if he does it through a Clif Bar.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
I'll be a part of the Briarwood Fellows Program. There are 12 fellows in all, 6 girls & 6 guys. We are all recent college graduates, who have some idea of what we want to do with our life. At some point or another, we've probably thought about full-time ministry (at least I have) but have a desire to test the waters in the marketplace. This is a chance for us to learn how to apply a ministry mindset to a marketplace job. We will have roundtable discussion dinners, meet with mentors, attend seminary classes 2 days a week, & work at an internship 3 days a week. We will also be tutoring students in the community and building relationships with them. We'll attend many seminars, conferences, and retreats, all to help us gain leadership training and insight into just where we should be headed next. I'll live with a host family who is a part of Briarwood, and help with the youth group on Wednesdays and Sundays.
I will be interning at a newly founded child & family development center. I'm so pumped about this opportunity. I will be working with pre-schoolers in the classroom, as well as doing some parent education and any intern/assistant director-y stuff. This is the first year of the center, in the community of Fairfield, and I am so excited to be jumping on board with them!
A special shout-out to my girl, Leslie Morris, because without her, I wouldn't even know this fellows program existed. There I was, sitting in my house in Haiti and we got to talking about her awesome Fellows year and what I wanted to do after graduation. I decided to apply, and here we are. It's going to be a ton of new experiences, people, and knowledge all at once, but that's also what's so great about it. When I think about what I want to do with my life, I can think of a million hobbies, interests, or new things that I want to try. But it all comes back to kids, people, continuing to learn and a longing to grow spiritually. Here's to 9 months of all of that together. I can't wait to be back in Alabama.
Meet the fellows: (photo via Stacy Richardson)
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Peace & Blessings!
Friday, June 14, 2013
Leaving the orphanage was really hard for me. One reason was because I was so ready to see everyone back home, that I almost felt guilty for how excited I was to leave. I missed my family and puppy and community and friends and people, and was super ready to see them again. But leaving Maison was also hard because even though I want to go back to visit, a lot of the kids I am close with will soon be adopted. I had to leave them, understanding in my own heart that while they get the joy of a transition into their own family, this goodbye is probably our last one until heaven. I also had to leave the babies, the friends, nannies, co-workers, and other Haitian friends I had made. But I had to leave, and so I did. I came back to the States, graduated a week later, went to RUF Summer Conference at the beach, and then moved home. Since then, I've been back to Statesboro, drove up to Brevard, NC with some great friends to watch David Hart Sanders dominate on the field at an alumni football game, and went to Atlanta to be with my girl Mary Beth as she picked out her wedding dress. Busy busy, yes, but also PLENTY of down time. Like I said, it's been over a month. That's a long time when you're jobless and and don't know what to do with yourself. Hanging around my family has been one of the best things that's happened since I've been back. I've organized and reorganized storage of Betty's things, and am about to start the endeavor of painting ALL the wood trim in our house to brighten it up. (see yall in about 5 years)...
Doing all these seemingly "mundane" things keeps me thinking. I have started to process things I learned, and good and tough experiences I had. It also helps me process the transition from there to where I am now. Right before I left, I asked someone how the heck I was supposed to go back to "normal" life after living in a 3rd world country, where emotions are as extreme as people's living conditions, and everything is so much more real. She responded, "you don't." While I didn't find it helpful at the time, I have started to realize that she is right. I can learn to overlook things that bother me about other people's actions, like wasting lettuce, complaining about every little detail, people wanting to go on a mission trip to "help poor people," or the fact that the lady at the eye doctor used 5 Kleenex to clean the lens for me. FIVE. Those things are like 50 cents a sneeze in Haiti. *Side note: Yall, Target has an ENTIRE ISLE dedicated to Tide. One brand. I had to leave the store. Since then I've been back but I sure as heck haven't bought laundry detergent.* Anyway...
But the truth is I can't "go back" to the way I was, or the way I used to think. God has used this experience to change me. If we spent our lives, "going back, " we'd never get anywhere. I don't think God wants us to go back. I think he wants us to use our experiences to spring us forward, into whatever he has planned for us next. Because going back, it just doesn't get you anywhere. So I take what I've learned, and I have to filter everyday life through it. "Is objecting to blah blah blah really going to be helpful, or do you 2 just come from different perspectives?" It's almost always the latter.
Recently one lady had the guts to come up to me and say, "now that you're safe in America, I can stop praying for you. Glad you're back," as if she was only praying for me because she was terrified and convinced that I was going to be human trafficked or mobbed or stricken with disease or killed by an evil Haitian or something. Well, I'm so glad that she feels her job is done. The point is that I don't stop praying for my roommates just because we aren't living together anymore. I pray for them because I love them. And although I may have been in a higher stressed environment and had to take safety more seriously than other times while I was there, I need prayer now too. I need loving people to pray that I wouldn't just fill up my days with tasks and avoid talking to Jesus, because sometimes I don't even know where to start. I need someone to pray that I wouldn't turn into 15 year old me and storm upstairs when something doesn't go my way. I need prayer that I will be at peace with where God has me right now, in the seemingly mundane, in painting and in taking my grandma out to lunch, and in running errands, and in hanging out with my awesome youth group kids. Because really these things aren't meaningless. They're just different. And that's ok.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
I don't listen to what God says to me. Just as I want what is best for Wilda, for her to not get burned and to enjoy her time to be creative, God has my best interests in mind and often has opportunities for me to see how sovereign and how powerful He is, but I often miss them. Now, I'm not saying God's not in charge, but I am saying that I believe He calls us to live a life of obedience, and sometimes that obedience looks like choosing to listen to Him. You never know what opportunities He has in store for you. This past weekend was one of those times:
I was on the island of La Gonave, and on the way to La Source, by motorcycle, with my friend Donald. About 45 minutes into the moto ride, Donald stopped the bike. We had just been through a little town called Cetwa. This is remote Haiti- no grocery stores, no gas stations, just little houses, little churches, maybe a school, and a little stand with an air pump and a couple gallons of gas for people who come through. So, we are about a half mile outside this town. Donald said, "we have a flat tire, don't we?" Sure enough, I looked at the back tire, and it was flat. I said, "how did you know that?" and he said, "God told me to check it." Donald told me this next part after everything was over, but in his head, he was saying, "what am I going to do with her? I don't have a pump here, and the moto can't hold both of us with this tire. What do I do with this white girl?" As he is thinking this, and not saying anything verbally, I see an elderly woman stand up on her porch. She said, "just leave the white girl here, she can stay with me." The gate to her house, (a piece of tin) was blocking the bike, so she didn't even know what was wrong. All she could see was our faces. We both looked at each other and I said, I'll just walk back with you." And all of a sudden God said, "turn around and go inside." So without hesitating, I said, "nevermind, I'll stay here," and turned and walked toward the gate. Donald rode back to get the tire patched up, and I walked inside the house. Now you may be thinking, you didn't hesitate at all? And honestly, no I didn't. I realized that I was the only American within 30 miles of this place, and didn't even have my knife with me. But that voice was so loud to me that I didn't even question the idea. I just went in. I was thinking, "okay, I speak a little Creole, we'll see how this goes. I don't even know anyone in this whole town." Or so I thought.
I sat down on the porch with this sweet woman, and we started talking. All of a sudden, I see a face peer around the corner. I gasped and said, "I KNOW YOU!" and he said, "Yes LaLa, I know you too." He said, "Mackabi"and I just squealed and hugged him. Mackabi and his twin brother LoLo used to live in La Source. The last time I was there, I kept looking for them, but someone said that they had moved away. The boys had moved to Cetwa to live with their grandparents because their parents are dead. When LoLo came home from getting the family water at the well, we spent the hour catching up. They asked about everyone that they remembered, and we talked about why I was going to La Source for the day. The boys are 13, going to school and church, and eating every day. At the end of the hour, Donald came back on the bike, we said our goodbyes, and then we continued on to La Source. What would have happened if I had not gone into that house and had walked with Donald? We would have fixed the bike and then gone on our way. But the encouragement that I received from that family as we talked and were able to catch up was amazing. And it was because I listened to what God was telling me to do. Donald listened too. He stopped in front of that house and checked the tire. Right then.
Wilda did get to finish her art project. And it is beautiful. But she also learned not to touch the iron. And she is learning how important it is to listen when someone who cares about her says something. I am learning too. I'm learning that sometimes God sets up divine appointments. And listening to Him can lead to great blessings. My time in La Source that day was great, and I am so thankful for it. But the encouragement I felt when I spent time with Mackabi and LoLo on the way there was my favorite part of the whole weekend. Sometimes all you need to do is listen.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Pootchy in his school uniform:
I recently became aware of a huge need for this family. Their house has a concrete foundation, but the walls are made out of wood and the roof is made out of palm branches. When I called a friend in La Source a month ago to ask how Pootchy’s family was, he told me that none of the family is sleeping well. When it rains, the water leaks through the roof. I know that even living in a different city than he is, it rains hard here many nights. It breaks my heart to know that if it’s raining outside my window here, his family could be awake all night getting soaked in the storm, both through the walls and through the roof. Since I am living in Haiti this semester, I was able to join this year’s April team to La Source. I met with my friend Josh and a contractor to discuss the cost of rebuilding the house. The entire project will cost about $1,500. This will employ the head construction manager and a few other Haitian workers for a week to build this house with concrete walls and a tin roof. When I met with Pootchy’s mom, Roselene, I told her that I did not have $1,000, but that I know that God will provide this money, because he has provided the money for her family to live, and has also provided the funds every year for me to be able to minister in La Source. I told her that her job was to take care of her family, and to start collecting large rocks. The builders will use these rocks as the walls, and will pour concrete around them to build the walls. I told Roselene that I trust that God will provide this $1,000, because there are many, many families and individuals in the States praying for her and her family. She told me how thankful she is for her brothers and sisters all over the world who pray for her.
Friday, April 5, 2013
The past few weeks since the last time I blogged have been crazy. I could blog pages and pages of things- like the time our car got 2 flat tires at once, spending a week with 4 Belgians at the orphanage, the realities of losing power every 5 minutes for the past 3 weeks, or the adventures of traveling to and from Petionville on a taptap with friends. But that would be a book. So here are a few of the significant moments and highlights:
3. Part of what I do every day is physical therapy exercises with a few babies. A pediatric physical therapist came to Maison a few months ago, and was able to show me things that I can do with a few babies every day to get them caught up to where they need to be. Baby V would scoot on her tummy but hates putting her feet on the floor. Now, after almost 2 months of exercises, she’s crawling everywhere, kneeling, and will stand for a little while. Baby Rosenerlie couldn’t even sit up on her own, but is now sitting up, rolling over, and scooting on her tummy. These sound like little things, but they are huge for these babies, who otherwise would still be staring at the ceiling. I am so thankful that I’ve been able to be a small part of that, and to witness these baby girls thrive and develop. I swear, I feel like such a mom when a baby gets her first tooth, or when they stand for the first time. The nannies laugh at how excited I get. But I think it’s awesome.
4. This past week, I got to go to Petionville twice. Petionville is about a 20 minute ride up from Port au Prince. It's like a different world there. There are cute shops and tall buildings, and the further you go, the quieter it gets. I had to get my visa renewed, so my friend Donald went with me. When Donald and I were walking around the city, taptap drivers were yelling at him, telling him that the white people didn't walk, that he had to drive me- "the white people hate to walk!" they said. So I told them that I liked walking, and that was that. We then got approached by a rah rah band, who danced for us so we would give them money. Rah rahs have a history of being a form of voodoo worship. The guy kept insisting that I pay him, so finally I yelled, "I didn't ask you to dance for me, I'm not giving money to Satan!!" and walked away...I think I might have embarrassed Donald just a little bit... So, after he had recovered from his public humiliation of being associated with me, we walked past several street vendors, (of course I had to buy a cute dress) and we saw the rest of the city. It was such a fun day. Today, I got to go back with my roommate Hallie, and friend Kerby. We went on a bearhunt for the most delicious burger and waffle place ever and we finally found it. This waffle was so beautiful that I had to document it- my first strawberries since I've been here. Delish:
Tomorrow I leave for La Source. This is the village that I’ve gotten to visit for the past 4 years. I’m so thankful that my family and college friends were able to come in January with me, and sad that they won’t be here this time. But I can’t wait to meet up with the new team tomorrow. I know it’s going to be a great week. Spending a week with Pootchy is just what I need for a little break from the city. I'm so thankful for this little guy- who knew that meeting him 4 years ago would turn into all of this. Now, my whole family has met his whole family, my parents sponsor him for school, I'm his godmother, half of my suitcase goes straight to his house when we reach the land, and I'm spending a semester here because of him and what he has meant to me. No, I haven't been able to visit him yet, but it's his culture and his child-like love for Jesus that I fell in love with. He teaches me so much, and I can't express how thankful I am for him- even living in a world so different from mine. So excited to see him next week, and ready to see how the Lord will use this team for his glory.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Hallie and I took Margalitha swimming last weekend. It definitely took her some time before she was willing to jump in, but she didn't just sit on the side of the pool like I thought she would. The girl stands on the edge, looks at me like, "you know you gotta save me, right?" and jumps in towards me. She then clung to me like a koala bear until we found a little float for her. All while standing in 3 feet of water. But she loved swimming, and wants to go swim all the time now. Here's a little bit of our adventure:
**photos courtesy of Hallie Warren, my lovely roomie & fabulous photographer.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
In December, a 16 year old girl came to the orphanage to a church service with a friend, and never left. After learning that she didn't have a good home situation, and didn't really have anyone, she was allowed to stay at the orphanage. For the past 2 months, she has been sleeping on the floor of the preschool classroom, on a little mattress, with zero personal space. I can't imagine leaving a rough home situation and trying to be a teenager with 100 little kids running around you nonstop. We knew some of this sweet girl's story, but slowly learn more, piece by piece. On Friday, we learned more of her story, and decided that she would need a more permanent, stable environment than the preschool classroom floor. After praying and talking through options, the decision was made. She would move into our guesthouse. We made a list of what we would need and presented our idea to her to allow her to make her own decision. Thinking it would take us a week to get everything ready, we asked her if she would want to move in soon. Her eyes lit up and she said, "oh yes, I would love to go home with you today!" And that was that. Angie told her that we live as a family, and want her to be part of our family, for good. She doubled over with laughter and thankfulness, and gave lots of thank-you kisses. That same day we went shopping for clothes, a comforter, paint, and other things for her room, and then began to paint it BRIGHT pink, on her request. Friday night, I was doing my usual internet stalking, Bachelor show bashing, and skyping, when I came across some pictures of margaritas, with people celebrating National Margarita Day. I ran into Angie's room and told her. We were so excited, because our new friend's name is Margalitha (pronounced Margarita). She had come to live with us on her own *national* special day.
This morning in church, the lyrics from the song, Hosanna stuck out to me- "break my heart for what breaks yours, everything I am for your kingdom's cause." I have sung this song for years, and prayed this prayer. This morning, I thought, "We are living it. Right now, we are living out this prayer. This is what I prayed, and this is what He has brought into our path." What I know of Margalitha's story so far breaks my heart. And I hate that we don't speak the same language right now.When we brought her to the house, she wasn't eating a lot, so I made pb&j and presented her with chips & hummus- let me tell you, the girl loves hummus. I know just enough Creole for her to laugh at me, and she knows zero English. But for now, at least I can make her a sandwich, and help paint her room. She will still come to the orphanage with us to help out, or help at the house on days when she wants to stay here. But she has her own space- a safe space. And a pink room. And a family of girls and a 2 year old boy. And because our hearts are being broken for what breaks His, Margalitha has a good chance at a future. I'm thankful that Margalitha is here, but I also know that she needs time. She needs Jesus in a way that I can't even begin to understand. So pray with me, that day by day, we as her family will be Jesus to her, and point her to the ultimate Comforter and Healer. I am already so thankful for her sweet spirit and her smile. We needed her here in some ways just as much as she needed us. Sometimes, all you need is a Margalitha.