Friday, December 26, 2014

You are the {ONE who gives good gifts}

My dad and I are up late tonight wrapping presents for my mom.  "This has become a tradition", he says, reminding me that each year he has ended up having my sisters help him finish up the wrapping on Christmas Eve while my mom is asleep upstairs.  He gives me a wide smile as he hands me the presents to look at how he addressed my mom (and himself) on the "to-from" tag tied to the wrapped gifts.  He's so proud.  Witty little phrases and nicknames are written on those tags.  They carry subtle reminders of just how much my parents love each other.

I smile as I think back to what God has been teaching me this past week, these past months.  God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift {James 1:17}.  This is God.  This is His character.

But He wasn't always this to me.

To me, God was the One asking me to give up things, not receive them.  To me, God was limited to giving me spiritual gifts - ones that couldn't possibly be wrapped and underneath a Christmas tree.  I wouldn't have said that my view of Him was limiting, but my lifestyle proved otherwise.

I could easily give material things to others for the sake of sharing the Gospel.  In fact, I actually spent most of my breaks traveling to unreached places in order to do just that.  It was natural for me to travel to drug-trafficking centers in Mexico to give Christmas presents to children in orphanages, so that they might know the goodness and love of the Father.  My summers consist of spending time with vulnerable people, meeting their physical needs and often times giving away time and money so that they can experience the love that comes from God alone.

Yet receiving gifts still seemed to make me uneasy.  I hesitated.

The materialism in America threatened me, and I would do anything to avoid it.  I thought that somehow I would become materialistic if I were to receive gifts without this hesitation.  While my intentions may have been pure, these thoughts revealed my misunderstanding of God and His character.

He is the God who gives gifts to His children.  Just like my physical father, He likes to spoil His beloved people.  He loves us.

This isn't leading to a prosperity gospel; God is not going to bless you materially because of anything you do.  This sort of thing has absolutely nothing to do with us.  This is Him.  This is His character.

He is the God who showers us with His love.  Closeness with Him is better than any material thing, yet material blessings may be a way that God is trying to remind you of His love.

So I am asking God to help me remember His character in all things, and I am thanking Him for the physical and spiritual gifts that He gives.

Rejoice in Him and in the best gift He has ever given us - His Son!  Our Messiah has come, and He is coming again.   

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

25 July 2014 {Port de Paix}

The morning started off with a load of laundry, which took about an hour and a half - we're learning over here.  Then Tarna and I helped Carol Ann at the Nutritional Center.  We held all the babies and got their sizes and genders to be able to get clothes for them.  Right now there are three babies staying at the Center; a four-month-old girl, a seven-month-old girl (who is the same size as the little one), and a four-month-old girl who is the same size as a small newborn.  Her skin was chafing and she was absolutely tiny, with eyes sunken into her skull.  We headed to the clinic to get B complex, and as I went to get the keys to the clinic, I fell on a rock and re-injured my ankle.  Just as it had started to stop swelling - oh well!  So, Carol Ann gave me an ankle brace and some strapping tape.  She is worried it is broken, but either way, I am gong to need to walk (a lot) until I go home.  So I am praying Jesus sustains me - and He always does.

So, we got the B complex for the babies and some medicine for a man with stomach ulcers.  We also went to our surplus box and got clothes, blankets, diapers, and hats for all the babies at the Nutritional Center.  The families loved all the gifts and supplies.

Then we helped make banana bread to bring on our adventure tonight, and we are preparing for that right now.  Austin, Jonathan, Stang, Tarna, and I are taking a night hike.  We are walking thirteen miles to Port de Paix, a beach, where we will be spending the night.  We will leave at 7 pm and we hope to arrive before midnight. The roads are rocky, or nonexistent, and the journey will be hard, but we are so excited.  It will be an interesting night for sure!

24 July 2014 {Nan Sentrain}

Today ended up being one of those very productive, yet exhausting days.  After breakfast, Tarna, Carol Ann, and I walked to Austin's land, which is only about a mile away, to pick up the truck to refill the water buckets and any materials needed.  The week has been focused on building Eliodi's house and Austin's fence and foundation.

Then, Austin took Tarna and I back to see all the land the Trueloves own in daylight - it is so beautiful.  Then, we all walked back to the guest house for lunch. Odelson then took all of us back to the construction site to get all the water bottles and buckets in order to fill them up at the Catholic Church's cistern.

Then about 4 pm, we all headed back to Eliodi's to get all the fertile dirt and soil from the foundation and carry it to Austin's land where his home will be built.  It was hard work, but it was good and we are all looking forward to seeing Eliodi's house be complete.  About 7 pm we headed back home for supper and showers.  None of us can wait for tomorrow - we have a very interesting adventure planned for tomorrow night.  Definitely praying for safety and His all to be done above all. Thanking Jesus for this day!
 Part of the Trueloves' land
 Trueloves' land
 Eliodi's land

 Front yard of Austin's future home
 The lovely valley




 Oops! We got the bucket stuck in the cistern



Friday, November 14, 2014

Gr{disrupting}ace

In many ways I feel so unqualified and out of place in writing this.  I am an eighteen year old with no experience in being a parent, let alone adopting a child.  Yet this story, and the untold secrets of so many families that it represents, has captivated me in a way that I cannot simply shake off.  It has grasped my mind {and heart} in a way that I feel is worth sharing.

Disrupting Grace, by Kristen Richburg, tells the story of a Christ-centered family who adopted a little girl named Emma and had to relinquish her from their family after five years with her.  They had loved her deeply, yet they relinquished her; they gave up their rights and she was given to another family.  Before you assume that her parents committed a heinous crime, it is vital that you hear their full story.

Emma had been born in Thailand and given to an abusive foster family before she was adopted.  Emma had Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) which made it impossible for her to attach to her adoptive parents, especially concerning her relationship with her mom.  Emma's disorder left her unable to cope with emotions and violent tendencies that not only harmed herself but also others around her.  Emma's sufferings afflicted her adoptive family and left them overwhelmed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. After five years of raising her, they decided what was best for Emma and she was given to another family; she seems to be thriving.  Please read their entire story- you can find the book on Amazon or at disruptinggrace.com.

While the book was definitely a must-read, there is so much more to this topic that needs to be addressed.  Many people are unaware of RAD and the hardships that come along with adoption. So please join me in praying for adopting families and children with RAD. 

Perhaps the reason I have been so impacted by this story is because I see myself in Emma. I have been born into a dark world where sin is rampant and wounds abound. I have been adopted by a loving Father, yet every natural instinct in me tells me to run. Attaching to this God has been a process; and still is. As He continues to pour out His love to me, I continue to anticipate when it will stop- when His love will no longer be given and my evil actions will finally prove His character limited. Yet He is greater. He is greater than my fleshly instincts to fight this Triune God who loves me and He is greater than physical attachment disorders. He is greater than the pain that families across the world are enduring and He is victorious over the schemes of Satan. 

We have been adopted by Him, friends. We were orphaned and confused as to how this God could truly claim us as His own. Yet we are, we are His own- and He is ours. Rejoice over the love of the Father!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

23 July 2014 {Nan Sentrain}

Today started out pretty slow, but looking back on the full day, it has been a good, productive one.  After breakfast, I helped the girls peel potatoes for "dinner" which is at 1 pm every day and is the biggest meal.  Supper is a light meal or snack.  So Tasha decided to make her famous "soupa de pumpkin", which everyone loved.

Most of my morning was spent playing with little Jerri, a six year old boy who is one of Carol Ann's grandsons.  Jerri and I also spent some time with little Jon (3) and his brother, Nakolov (4).  There was little to help with in the house, the clinic was pretty slow, and spending time with these little ones was a pleasure... Until Jerri found a mouse.  Elda killed it with a stone and then Odelson (Carol Ann's son) killed another mouse in the house in the same ten minutes!  Hilarious.

Somebody had to pick up the dying/dead mice and put them in the outhouse out back because if the dogs were to eat them, they would die from the poison.  So, I picked up one and Tarna picked up the other- what a sight.  No, I'm not a fan of mice, rats, cockroaches, or tarantulas, but I am becoming content with living in simpler conditions and I am getting used to these critters that I frequently find around here.

Then a truck came from a mission organization that sends food and supplies to George and Carol Ann so that they can disperse them to the locals in Nan Sentrain and Mawouj.  So the older boys and I unloaded all the boxes and organized them to prepare to give them out later this week.

After lunch, everyone took an hour of "rest time" until 2:30 pm when Tarna and I met Carol Ann at the clinic to organize all the meds that came in today. We spent about 4 hours unloading boxes and organizing the depot and pharmacy.  A team from Mawouj came to the clinic to deliver meds and supplies as well.  What a blessing to have all of these life-saving medicines for the surrounding areas!  The team was a youth group from Miami and the girls were so friendly.  Hopefully I will see them tomorrow!  After all the organizing, we headed to Mawouj on the back of the pick-up to get gas, drinks, and wire.  It was a fun time.  Then we headed home to the guest house for the night.  It's been a wonderful day, and Jesus is so good.  Can't wait to see what He has planned for tomorrow.




My crew!






Wednesday, September 10, 2014

22 July 2014 {Sentrain}

This morning Natasha, Tarna, Elda, and I went to the market (marche a madi) to grab some groceries for the week.  It was a little overwhelming with EVERYONE staring at Tarna and I, but it was a good experience to learn how to get ripe crops at the right places at the right prices- Carol Ann is really talented when it comes to shopping in Haiti.  It's also sort of funny because little kids and adults alike constantly yell "blan" (white) wherever we go- especially in the market place.  So, Tarna and I have resorted to saying "nwa" (black) back at the greeting.  It's hilarious to watch their faces as they process our response.  It almost always ends in lots of giggles and intriguing touches to our skin.  Then the question comes up of how we really should greet each other, so we meet new faces and learn their names as they learn ours.  Welcome to making friends in Haiti 101.

As soon as we got home, we were told that we were needed in the clinic.  A delivery!  My first delivery to be a part of in Haiti!  The mother was a young 21 year old girl who was definitely a fighter.  This was her first child and she quite literally started punching the nurses when they tried to prepare to help the baby out.  So, I became in charge of restraining and encouraging her throughout the childbirth, afterbirth, and stitching.  I got a good workout and I'm oft with nail marks and bruises, but it is totally worth it to experience the miracle of this baby girl.  She came out healthy and weighed 5 lbs 9 oz.  I am so, so thankful to have been a part of it, and I loved getting to hold the baby while her mom was recovering (for 30 minutes).  Beautiful little girl!

After the short delivery, we ate lunch and then headed to the guest house to do some more hand-washed laundry.  Then Tasha and I made pies and a molasses cake for tomorrow.  Then Elda made corn for all of us and we sat around playing "Jimel, a konbyen gren?"- so fun.  Then Austin took our crew to the family land past Mawouj.  It was absolutely breathtaking looking over the mountains and valleys.  God did such an amazing job with creation- He said it was good.  And think about His little girl born today- He said that she was very good.
 Yo pare pou marche a.
Nou te bezwen pote sa yo nan tet nou paske nou se ayiysen. 

*** Sorry- no pictures of clinic babies allowed at this point.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

21 July 2014 {Sentrain}


This morning Austin and I decided to run at 5 am to his land to get some exercise in and pray for the land and his Positive Electric Ministry.  About a half a mile in, I rolled my ankle on one of the many rocks on the red dirt road.  It made a loud pop and hurt pretty bad, but it'll be fine- I can walk perfectly fine.  So, we walked the rest of the two miles and talked about all God is doing and teaching us in our lives.  Austin is married to Kaylee, and together they have three children- one yet to be born.  They are planning on moving down here in about 6 years to further their Positive Electric Ministry.  Be praying for them!

After breakfast, all the girls headed to Mawouj to get some needed grocery items.  Then we headed to the guest house to unload donated baby clothes and organize them by gender and age/size.  After lunch, we continued to organize them and then make bundles for all the newborns with essential items for the post-delivery care.  We have to have them ready and handy for upcoming deliveries.  The boys spent the day at Austin's land laying the foundation and walls for Eliodi's house (a neighbor that Austin is helping out).  Then in the late afternoon we took some new clothes and baby items for the babies at the nutritional clinic (for malnourished infants).  We were able to provide many clothes and essentials for a seven month old (5 kilos) girl, but the others were out with their mums, so we will try again tomorrow.  Overall, it's been a very productive day, and a highlight was getting a chance to talk to my family via digicel.  I am loving being here, and I know God has planned every bit of it.  Still trying to praise Him with my all, and learning to ask and accept His grace as I continually fall short.  He is so good.
 What a blessing all these donations are!
 Learning how to properly fold diapers. 
 Making bundles!
 My ankle's only a little swollen.
All the bundles!

20 July 2014 {Sentrain}

Sometimes plans have to be discarded in order to fully experience all that God has for us.  And so we practiced this lesson with out church service this morning.  We had all gotten dressed and ready to leave for church when it started to pour rain.  We decided to wait for a little while because we knew we'd only be missing 30 minutes of community announcements.  However, after 30 minutes, the rain started pouring heavier and most of the village left the church to attend to the flooding huts and houses.  So, we decided to have a little home church and sit out the rain.  It was great simply to sit around and reflect on the things Christ has been teaching us in the past week.

Then after the rain stopped pouring and our own "church service" had ended, Natasha and I headed to the house to get prepared for Carol Ann's birthday dinner.  I was in charge of icing the cake, doing the dishes, and doing the finishing touches of a couple of side dishes.  The Birthday meal was fabulous, and felt quite ironic having fillet minion on a mission trip.  But in all actuality, fillet minion is cheaper than chicken here- how funny.

After dinner, all of us did our laundry outside together.  I am building callouses now so it feels better, but it's a lot of work.  It was a great time of catching up though.  Tomorrow starts the first of many laborious days for all of us, so Natasha is planning on making pancakes early tomorrow morning.  So, Tasha and I went to the house to get the ingredients... Tasha sent me to the storage closet to get sugar and flour, and as I reached down to scoop some sugar, a rat the size of Uganda ran right from a sac and jumped up to a shelf beside me.  Frozen and disgusted, I leaped backward to show Tasha as she stood there laughing and laughing at me.  It was not something I would have wished to experience, but I feel a little accomplished having conquered seeing (and not dying) my first rat here in Haiti.  Here's to many more!

Jesus is good and He is enough and I am blessed to be here and experience everything with Him.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

19 July 2014 {Sentrain}


Today is the day of "rest" clinic-wise.  Carol Ann is off call and the other nurses take over.  We decided to take advantage of the down time by going on a long hike to two caves in the middle of nowhere, NW Haiti.  It was quite the exhausting hike but it was such a fun adventure.  Muddy and full of bats, the caves were such an interesting wonder to marvel at and we had so much fun.  As we came out of the second cave, we found a perturbed mob of Haitians ready to strip us of our belongings because we "didn't pay the cave fee" before entering.  After bargaining with them for a while, we gave a donation of a flashlight and got away without much trouble.  We ended up telling them about how they could pump clean drinking water out of the cave and how they could use the fertile mud for better crops.  It's small steps over here.  

The way back home from the cave was a pretty challenging hike, but it was a wonderful time.  After arriving to the guest house, we were all absolutely ready to take cold showers before lunch- we were all disgusting.  However, as I went to fill my water bottle, I realized we were out of water.  So, we all headed outside to pump water from the neighbors' cistern and fill a bowl of water to take "showers" in.  It started pouring rain as soon as I got out there, but God is making me more aware of how content my heart needs to be with just Him (as if He wasn't more than enough).  Because ultimately all of this will burn and fade away and He will sit enthroned.  So the showers in the rain and the lack of water, and the electricity shortages, and the intense heat, and the fist-sized spiders with fangs the size of my pinkies in my shower, and the foul smells, and the fact that no one speaks my language doesn't really matter at all.  Because ultimately all of this will burn and fade away and He will sit enthroned.  This will be my reminder to keep my eyes on things above.

Then after cleaning up, we ate lunch and Tarna and I headed to the Trueloves' house to see if we could help with anything.  Carol Ann explained that she just needed some rest time and so we sat on the outside swing for an hour or so just listening to all her stories.  Carol Ann is an amazing wife, mother, and missionary.  She has twenty-four children and a heart of gold with love for the Lord.  At the same time, she is as tough as can be and lives as though she were born and raised Haitian.  Right now she is still recovering from chickungunya and so if we are to get a premie to take care of in the next couple of weeks, I will most likely be the caretaker.  She is too weak right now to lose sleep and the premies need 24/7 care.  Obviously I would love to take care of a premie, but I am also hoping no premies present significant need here- because Haiti is a tough place for an eighteen year old, let alone a baby who has yet to grow full term.  And the survival rates would be significantly lower with the spread of chickungunya and their undeveloped immune systems.  But I know without a doubt that my Jesus can heal, and make miracles, and He will be praised no matter what.  Healthy or not, we will love these babies, if they come.  Praising Jesus for another day.  

Just for the note, as I am writing this there is a 6 inch spider on my screen of my window above my bed and there is a dog who tries to bite me every time I pass it right outside my door.  Gotta love this preparation time!

 Elda's corn!
 Entrance to the first cave.



 Exploring another hole in the cave!


 Tarna and I showing off our muddy experience from the first cave.
 This horse wasn't really into people.

 Entrance to the second cave!




 If you look closely, you can see some bats.

 Getting water for our showers.  So thankful for water!

 A little wet!
 My backyard.
 It gets muddy quickly!
My friend spider.