Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The secret agent

I felt like such a spy!

• • •

Natural realm: I walk nonchalantly across the sand to a beach chair. I drape my towel carelessly across the adjacent chair. I sit down, lean back, and close my eyes, like any girl sun-tanning on the beach would do. 

Spiritual realm: I enter into the battleground. I take my position. Heavy warfare begins as I wield my sword and start to drive back enemy forces. There are more with me than with them. Wounded and howling victims dart away as I direct my energies against them.

• • •

Natural realm: I'm a girl, I'm out of shape, I've got a torn MCL in my knee, causing me to walk awkwardly, and I'm just lying there limply. 

Spiritual realm: A blinding beam of light pierced the darkness of enemy territory when I walked in. The hordes of skulking troops don't see me; they see the Conqueror, the Victorious One, the Risen Christ who lives in me and shines out of my life. They cower. "Is he here to torment us before the time?" they mutter to each other. He has already defeated them. At his word of authority, they depart.

• • •

Natural realm: I walk slowly down the sidewalk away from the beach toward my apartment. I'm just traveling from point A to point B. 

Spiritual realm: In my thoughts, I have swiftly traveled far and wide to those who are sick, praying and standing for their defense and healing. He bends the heavens and comes down, and darkness is under his feet.

• • •

Natural realm: I'm up in my room, serving chai tea and chocolate to some friends who have dropped by, and we sit around talking for the next hour.

Spiritual realm: We're not talking to each other--we're talking to God about everything that's going on. We have an insider's pass to the heavenly palace, and we appear before the throne, bringing our petitions before the Creator. He opens his treasure chest and gives us grace, strength, wisdom, joy, righteousness, faith. He dispenses as much as we need of everything we need. We praise Him and thank Him for His generous gifts, and leave recharged, with new strength to be poured out.

• • •

Just a few thoughts on prayer, with imagery from Psalm 18.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I am thankful

My sweet and encouraging friend Melanie inspired me with this reminder to give thanks. I realized how little I have expressed thankfulness on this page, and that absolutely must be remedied!

I am thankful for the opportunity to be in Haiti right now, on the mission field, where I've always longed to be.

I praise God for giving me a school to teach--something that is exactly what I like to do--along with such a fantastic dose of challenge with it that I'll never, ever get bored.

I am so glad I have Jesus! He is my wisdom, my righteousness, my friend, and my love!

I appreciate with all my heart that he has given me the precious students that I work with.

I am thankful for the good health and robust immune system that I've always enjoyed. If I didn't have that, I would be laid flat by now by the viruses and other bugs that have come against me.

I really, really like the fact that I was raised with adventurous taste buds. No food, no matter how strange, is unpalatable to me. So while some of my fellow missionaries have been losing weight and have been starving hungry almost constantly, I am fat and flourishing. I really like beans and rice with fish broth. I genuinely look forward to eating it, and take pleasure in the taste of the forkfuls that go into my mouth. Not everyone does. Thank you God, and Mom, for the fact that I'm not a picky eater.

Thank you, God, for guiding me into a place where I have something useful and concrete to do, where I'm not spinning my wheels in frustration or being smothered by boredom, where I have lots of stimulation and interest, and where there is lots and lots and lots of potential to expand into areas of useful service.

Thank you so much, Lord, for installing me as a member in an organization of this high caliber, with coworkers of this high caliber, and for blessing me so abundantly with bright godliness all around to encourage and build me up.

God, I'm so grateful to you for the fact that you have allowed me to live here in Club Indigo, where I am sheltered in security, peace, and comfort, which not every Haitian (or Haitian missionary) enjoys.

Thank you, Lord, for connecting me with the best-of-the-best of Haitian people--the sweet cleaning lady who loves Jesus, Pastor Emmanus, and so many more who have shown me that the power of the Gospel has already been at work here, changing lives and bringing the light of Christ into this place.

Thank you, Father--it's incredible to serve you and to be a part of your kingdom here. I love it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Queen Abi

An imaginative retelling of a true story

I was married when I was very young, and my husband was young, too. We did not marry for love. He saw my beautiful face and I was forced against my will to enter into this union. No tears or resistance on my part could avail to free me from his clutches, and so we were married.

Longstanding tradition in our land gives the sons of the kings the right to marry the daughters of the priests. I do not know why it is so, or why my father Zechariah could not protect me from this unhappy life. He was a man of God, wise and possessing understanding in the visions of God, and I was raised to love and honor God from my earliest days. By the time I was a young woman, I lived a set-apart life, dedicated to the worship and adoration of God, and I dreamed of having a man at my side someday who would share that godly vision.

Alas! It was not to be. My husband was a pagan, an idolater, one who surpassed all the deeds of his fathers in wickedness and abhorrent acts. Even before he became king, I knew his character. Everyone did. He made no pretense of following God's law. But he was the king's son, and he must have his way. So when he took a fancy to me, I was not allowed to have a say in the matter.

"How could God do this to me?" you might wonder. But I never doubted Him. I never strayed from following Him. I purposed in my heart that my life would be as pure and wholeheartedly dedicated to Him as if He had given me a godly man whom I loved.

When my precious little son came along, I purposed to train him up, too. All the other wives and concubines in the palace had varying views on how to raise their children, but none cared as much as I did about training my son in the ways of the Lord. I had him read the law over and over again. I taught him God's words. And we prayed. Oh, how we prayed.

Imagine how heart-wrenching my prayers were when my husband the king announced that he was going to select one of his sons to pass through the fire to a strange god. What if it should be mine? Oh how I prayed! But God spared his life, and another poor boy was murdered in the satanic ritual.

Imagine how it grieved me to see my husband's time constantly consumed with building altars under every green tree and in every high place. He wasted so much time and so much good livestock sacrificing to gods of wood and stone who can neither see nor hear nor help anyone. The multiplication of false prophets and false priests further sent the country spiraling into rottenness, and I prayed for God to send a wake-up call.

He did. War.

Neighboring nations, even those who were historically friendly, began to invade and conquer our territory. But instead of turning to the Lord of battle, my husband turned to dreaded kings in distant territories, hiring them to counterattack. He stripped the gold from the house of the Lord in order to pay for this, impoverishing our land and desecrating our holy temple.

My son and I continued to trust in God, even when the king did foolish and dangerous things, pushing his luck, crossing the line again and again. Once he went to another country and saw their altar. Delighted with its elaborate construction, he made a pattern of it and commanded the priest to construct an identical one in our land. Then he transferred all the temple worship to this great altar, while treating the ancient and beautiful temple equipment with callous dishonor.

How I trembled lest my son should turn and follow his father's ways! I never ceased to pray, and I was gratified at little signs that my son had clear spiritual insight and a steady faithfulness to God in the midst of everything.

I don't know what it was that sealed my son's determination and resolve to follow God, but perhaps it was through seeing the majesty of God at work through his servant Oded.

There was war with our brother-nation. Their kings had often been merciful, but not this one. In a power-hungry quest for plunder and more territory, he invaded and killed a hundred and twenty thousand of our soldiers in one day. Our valiant men fell because we had departed from God.

Their most audacious mighties invaded right into the heart of our defense, and killed one of the king's sons, the governor of the house, and the second-in-command of the kingdom.

Not content with slaughter, the enemy king took two hundred thousand captives--women, sons, and daughters, and carried away much spoil with them to their capital city.

That was a dark day. The whole land mourned. Those who feared God fell on their faces before Him and implored His favor and kindness. My husband remained unmoved.

What loss! What grief! What rupture of families--men killed, and their wives and children removed to a foreign land, never to be seen again! And God angry with us! How could we hope to intercede for their lives? Yet we did.

And a prophet of the Lord was there, whose name was Oded, and he went out before the host that came into the capital city. He prophesied unto them, and those who heard it recorded the words that he spoke. He boldly commanded them to return the captives.

Then a strange thing happened. It was as if the fear of God entered into the elders of the city. The rose up and said, "Do not bring the captives in here, for whereas we have offended against the Lord already, ye intend to add more to our sins and to our trespass: for our trespass is great."

So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the congregation.

Imagine our surprise, then, when the captives came walking back home--fed, clothed, and even mounted on donkeys if they were feeble! Imagine the jubilation and astonishment that spread from house to house.

My son and I rejoiced to see our people set free, and our faith was strengthened in the power of God to do the impossible.

I think the last straw was when my husband shut the doors of the house of the Lord. Did he resent my devotion? Did he jealously regard my wholehearted love to God, a love that my husband knew he would never share? Perhaps it wasn't personal and was merely another in his endless litany of atrocities, but it certainly affected me personally--and every true worshiper in Jerusalem.

So maybe that's why when my son Hezekiah became king, he made it his first act of business. He didn't waste any time. On the first day of the first month of his reign, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord, and repaired them.

Ah, what joy! He turned completely away from the ways of his father and reversed all his work. He walked in God's ways, kept the feasts, and trusted in the Lord to deliver him from his enemies. God blessed him and rewarded him and spoke very highly of him.

So you see--my marriage, my grief, my pain all had a purpose. I don't look at my suffering and say "why"; I look at the privilege of being allowed to participate in building a man of God whom all of history remembers.

Me? I'm only remembered by, "And his mother's name was Abi, the daughter of Zechariah." But I think that says it all.


Inspired by 1 Kings 16:1-20, 18:1-8, 2 Chronicles 26:5, 28:1-27, and 29:1-3.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

We got some extra wind and rain during the past four days due to Hurricane Sandy, but no major damage. Since we are located in a rather sheltered location in the "claw" of Haiti's map, we usually get a perfectly calm, placid sea, so it was exciting to see a bit of surf on the beach!

Flooding in the parking lot

Check out that sky!

Waves on the beach for once

And the surf comes all the up to the retaining wall

Lovely bands of color in the water

Looking the opposite direction, clouds over the mountains

And after the fact, a beautiful sunset

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On Teaching a One-Room Schoolhouse

One student's writing assignment. Precious. 

I have been in the school for about a month now, so I have begun to discover what works and what doesn't work. I am still collaborating with James, their Haitian teacher, who is leaving soon to go to the US, so it has been nice to have the two of us. We can at least divide the kids up into two different groups to work more intensively with them at their level.

However, in a certain sense, I have still been operating in survival mode.

I have these grand and glorious visions for the kids, but I am not yet fulfilling those visions.

For instance:

  1. Every child will be doing meaningful work (not busywork).
  2. Every child's work will be tailored to his or her level.
  3. Every child will understand the work he or she is doing.
  4. Every minute of the school day will be productive and fruitful (not lost while the teacher searches for what to do next).
  5. Every child will be trained how to work independently while the teacher is working with someone else. 
  6. Every child will have work that he or she can do independently during these times.
  7. Every child will learn to read fluently.
  8. Every child will learn to spell. 
  9. Every child will learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division without needing to count on their fingers.
  10. My high schoolers will be challenged to move up quickly to work at their level (rather than a 3rd grade level)

(There's more, but ten seems like a nice round number to start with.)

There are so many obstacles at so many levels to the successful completion of this vision that I have been merely surviving, struggling to keep afloat, and settling for less than the best.

For instance:

  1. Meaningful work. Where is that going to come from? From me. Where am I going to get it? I need to find somewhere that lists standards and goals for different grade levels so that I can invent ways for them to meet those goals. Then I need to prepare materials. 
  2. Tailored to his or her level. How will I do this? First I need to know each child's current level so that I can build up from there. I need to know each child's learning style and learning pace so that I can effectively tailor their education to them. How will I discover this? I will screen each child individually.
  3. Children understand their work. This is a big one. When they work in their workbooks, they don't always understand English well enough to know what they are doing, so the workbooks aren't useful to me. However, they are convenient. One teacher working alone can keep all the children occupied for an hour and a half by telling them to get their workbooks out. The amount of learning that is taking place might be minimal, but there's a lovely big chunk of time that is passing where the teacher doesn't have to tax herself.
  4. No lost minutes of the day. How will we make each day count for the maximum productivity? By me having a lesson plan that involves every child, every level, and accounts for every minute. It will plan out the quiet activities that the class can do while I'm working with one group, and the recitations and meaningful work that I am doing hands-on with that group. But I can't make up that lesson plan until I can think of enough things to put in it. 
  5. Children working independently. This involves 1) training them to work independently, which I have high hopes they can do because they're well-behaved and respectful, and 2) coming up with the work they can do independently, which I have struggled to figure out.
  6. Independent Work Assignments. I have a few ideas for this: Centers, Workbooks, Reading quietly, and Writing Assignments. But I have no space for the centers and must prepare all the materials for the centers. They don't understand their workbooks, and they don't read well enough or understand English well enough to do any kind of reading or writing assignment except copying. So a lot of training and preparation has to go into getting to the point where I can implement the Centers, Workbooks, and Reading and Writing Assignments. How do I do that when I've already got so much on my hands? 
  7. Reading fluently. We have been making progress in all but the youngest kids in sounding out words and blending consonant and vowel sounds. It is hard, though, when they don't speak English and their pronunciation and lack of comprehension gets in the way of their ability to read. All of that must develop together, and it won't be an overnight process.
  8. Spelling. This is hard enough for American kids! But I do have a good spelling teacher's guide.
  9. Math facts. I love the "Math-It" game for this. I have been working hard making three "Math-It" sets out of construction paper since I don't have the kit, and as soon as I get it done, I will be able to begin to implement this in school. 
  10. My High-schoolers. I just hate it that they are sitting in class, very well-behaved and respectful, and spending most of the day doing work catered to the younger kids. I need them to be doing challenging work. I need them to have textbooks and detailed assignments. I need to explain difficult concepts with them and check their work. I need them to get beyond carrying and borrowing with addition and subtraction and get into algebra and working with exponents and fractions and linear equations. 

Just in these ten areas, I have more work cut out for me than I could possibly do.

So just this morning, I was feeling a little under the weather, it was raining, and that unambitious, blah feeling crept over me. "Just accept that you won't be able to do this," I was tempted to think. "Just lower your standards and stop trying to have this impossible vision. Don't wear yourself out struggling against these insurmountable odds. Just let the kids work in their workbooks, and stop caring so much if they understand it or not. They'll probably get something out of it."

The next thing I knew, God sent that idea packing with a dose of Oswald Chambers. How's this for a convicting quote?

"The viewpoint of a worker for God must not be as near the highest as he can get, it must be the highest."

Here is the full text of the devotional. My Utmost For His Highest, October 24.

"Now thanks be to God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ." 2 Cor. 2:14The viewpoint of a worker for God must not be as near the highest as he can get, it must be the highest. Be careful to maintain strenuously God's point of view, it has to be done every day, bit by bit; don't think on the finite. No outside power can touch the viewpoint. 
The viewpoint to maintain is that we are here for one purpose only, viz., to be captives in the train of Christ's triumphs. We are not in God's showroom, we are here to exhibit one thing--the absolute captivity of our lives to Jesus Christ. How small the other points of view are--I am standing alone battling for Jesus; I have to maintain the cause of Christ and hold this fort for Him. Paul says--I am in the train of a conqueror, and it does not matter what the difficulties are, I am always led in triumph. Is this idea being worked out practically in us? Paul's secret joy was that God took him, a red-handed rebel against Jesus Christ, and made him a captive, and now that is all he is here for. Paul's joy was to be a captive of the Lord, he had no other interest in heaven or in earth. It is a shameful thing for a Christian to talk about getting the victory. The Victor ought to have got us so completely that it is His victory all the time, and we are more than conquerors through Him.  
"For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ." We are enwheeled with the odour of Jesus, and wherever we go we are a wonderful refreshment to God.

I'm thankful for this on two levels. First, it reminds me that I am not permitted to settle for less than my "grand and glorious visions" for the kids at school. But Second, the highest viewpoint is not one of successful academic achievement or battling alone for Jesus, it is of being a captive of the Victorious one.

How "captured" am I?

The web address this blog is "pursued and conquered."

Am I conquered?

Do I live each day as one joyfully surrendered and conquered by Jesus Christ? Do I exhibit "the absolute captivity of my life to Jesus Christ?"

If I pursue that as my one object, as my primary goal, as the highest viewpoint, I somehow think that all the wisdom for how to teach school will come along with it.

But if I say, "No, I need to figure out how to teach school first, and then I'll be captive and surrendered to Christ," then I think I will never achieve either one.

So first things first.
And keep my standards high.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Guard

This is the view from my window.

Seeing him sitting there every day with his shotgun across his lap is both a positive thing and a negative thing.

On one hand, it's reassuring to know that there's somebody armed and alert on guard at all times, just outside my window.

On the other hand, it's a constant reminder that the danger here makes it necessary to have somebody like that sitting there.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Citè Soleil: An Insider Perspective

During our lunch break from school today, I was talking to one of my students. It turns out he was born and raised in Citè Soleil, and I took the opportunity to ask him about it.

"Are there any white people living in Citè Soleil?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "I know one or two."

"Are there any white women?" I said.

"Yes," he said. "Not very many, though."

"I want to go there," I said. "What would happen to me if I went there?"

"Well, people would see you, they would know you were an American, and they might even kill you," he said.

I knew he wasn't kidding. He had told me earlier of how when he was 9 or 10 years old, he saw a man murdered in front of his eyes, hacked to death with a machete, and then taken away in a big bag.

"Were you ever in danger?" I asked. "Did anyone ever try to hurt you?"

"Well, yes," he said. "Many times people say to me, 'I have to kill you.' I don't know why they want to kill me. One day I was walking in the street with my friend, and a guy saw me, and he said he wanted to kill me. He shot at me, but the bullet hit my friend in the thigh. I escaped without getting hurt. He didn't see me when I ran away."

We talked about why I want to go there. He initially took my statement to mean I wanted to visit.

"No, I want to live there," I said. "I want to bring the Gospel in there."

"Oh, there's a lot of Christian people in there," he said. "And a lot of churches. It seems like there's more churches than houses."

"What?" I thought. "That's crazy."

"What kind of churches?" I asked.

"Oh, all different kinds," he said.

"Are they preaching the gospel?" I asked.

"Yes, they preach the gospel," he said.

"Are they preaching the true gospel?" I pressed. (We had had this conversation on an earlier occasion. Jesus powerfully saved this guy and he truly walks with the Lord. He is passionate about the gospel and shares it every time he gets a chance.)

"Well, probably not," he said.

"How many Christians do you think there are in there?" I said.

"I don't know...there's a lot of people in Citè Soleil," he said. "I have no idea."

"Well... would you say half the people are Christians?" I said.

"No, there's more non-Christians than Christians," he said.

That was as far as I got regarding proportions.


But it gave me a lot to think about.

"Christianity" is already in Citè Soleil. It's not a place where the gospel has never made an inroad.

How can the darkest place on earth also have "more churches than houses"?

Christianity is supposed to change people. Faith without works is dead. God's righteousness and holiness are supposed to make a difference in the Christian's life. The fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control) are supposed to flow forth from the life of the Christian.

What kind of Christianity is it that leaves a person exactly as they were?

The same kind of Christianity that is abundant in my hometown--the kind that says, "Pray this prayer and you're saved forever. Get your fire insurance policy, your get-out-of-jail-free card. It's ok if you don't behave any differently after you get saved. We all know that nobody's perfect. I'm not, and you won't be either."

It's the kind of Christianity that strips the gospel of its life-giving power and gives technically-correct Biblical teachings devoid of the power to carry them out.

It's the kind of Christianity that I was trapped in for years, miserable that I was disobeying God, but absolutely powerless to be any different, and loaded with such a long-term track record of failure that I had not the least hope of getting any better, even little by little, even in tiny advances.

It's the kind of Christianity that has forgotten the meaning of grace and reduced the power of the resurrection to an "after-you're-in-heaven" concept.

You know, it's one thing when that kind of Christianity exists in the relatively moral communities in the Bible Belt. It's possible, then, for it to hide under a facade of being "nice." It's easy to overlook the lack of fruit under the banner of "Well, they're trying their best."

But look at that kind of Christianity, taken to the extreme.

Plant that kind of Christianity in Citè Soleil, the most dangerous place on earth, and see what happens.

The most dangerous place on earth continues to be the most dangerous place on earth. People do drugs and operate in gangs. They get shot, raped, kidnapped, and hacked with machetes in front of little children. They subsist in unbelievable poverty, eating "dirt cookies."

What kind of Christianity is that?

No kind.

What is the use of anyone believing in that?


That kind of Christianity does not deserve to bear the name of Christ and thus sully the real Christianity. I utterly reject and distance myself from that Christianity. The truth is, the gospel is powerful, and it changes people's lives. The Spirit of God is alive and indwells the believer. The power of God to carry out His will is available to every Christian.

Plant proper Christianity in Citè Soleil, and the most dangerous place on earth could very well become the brightest, likeliest spot on the planet for talent, leadership, and fruitfulness. Even a small minority of Christians "turned the world upside down" in the pagan Roman Empire, and the flame of their world-changing zeal has spread until this day.

So even though there may be more churches than houses in Citè Soleil, the gospel--the life-changing, powerful, glorious gospel--still needs to be spread throughout that dark place.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Caught by the downpour

For reasons that will be self-explanatory, this post was unable to be illustrated by photography.

"We'd better hurry so we can get back before the storm hits," Ryan said as we walked up the road away from the creche.

I looked up. The blackest clouds I had ever seen hung low over the mountains.

We all quickened our pace and came out onto the main road, hoping we would find a tap-tap quickly.

"On second thought, we can just take motos instead," Ryan said, as several motos zoomed up. Sometimes we could wait for 20 minutes for a tap-tap, and the motos could quickly take us back. It costs about a third as much to ride the tap-tap as to ride the moto, but still, the moto ride is only about 50 cents per person.

We mounted and took off. The bright sunshine still blazed above us, and it seemed that we would beat the rain.

But as we neared the center of town, we came to a place where the road was wet. Rain had been here, though the sun still prevailed in the sky. The moto driver slowed down a bit so that we wouldn't get quite so splattered with the water the tires kicked up.

Just outside of town, the first drops began to fall and the sun was blotted out. Water quickly got in my eyes and as the rain increased in intensity, blinking it out was no longer an option. I just sat there with my eyes squeezed shut, enjoying the quick breeze and the zinging raindrops against my skin. I was sidesaddle on the moto, behind Ryan, who was behind the driver.

Then it hit me:

"How can the driver see????"

We were driving pretty fast. How in the world?

So just in case you didn't think that 3 or 4 on a moto was bad enough, try doing it in the rain sometime!

We were drowned rats by the time we arrived home, drenched to the skin.


Ah, this is so much fun!

Where else can you hitch a ride down the road in the back of a pick-up truck and wedge yourself in with 15 other people?

Where else can you ride on the roof of your SUV on your way to go out to lunch with your coworkers because there are already 4 people in the front seat, 6 people in the back seat, and 3 people in the trunk?

Where else can you ride a motorcycle in a skirt and flip-flops because women get to sit side-saddle?

And where else can your moto driver (who is carrying two or three passengers behind him) see in the blinding rain?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Do I really love?

God's definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love. In our culture, even if a pastor doesn't actually love people, he can still be considered successful as long as he is a gifted speaker, makes his congregation laugh, or prays for "all those poor, suffering people in the world" every Sunday.  
But Paul writes that even if "I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2-3 ESV). 
--Francis Chan, Crazy Love, p. 94

These words really struck me today as I sat eating my lunch.

Replace that word "pastor" with the word "missionary" or "teacher" or "Rebekah."

In our culture, even if missionary teacher Rebekah doesn't actually love people, she can still be considered successful as long as she is a gifted speaker, makes her students learn, and prays for the "poor suffering people in Haiti" every day.

Is that how I measure my success?

Would I rest content with stellar academic performance and zealous godliness among my students without noticing that I never really loved them?

What proportion of my time do I dedicate to loving compared to lesson planning?

Do I actively pursue being better at loving the way I do with being a better teacher?

Do my students feel like I love them, or do they feel like they must merely live up to my standard of perfection?

Are all my efforts merely "as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal"? (1 Cor 13:1)

Alanda, one of my students
Espaniel, one of my students
Cherline (pronounced "Shelly"), one of my students

Lord, I haven't loved my students with perfect love. I don't even know how to. I like them--I enjoy them--I'm fine with being around them--but I admit I don't love them with that undying, never-ending, unquenchable thing called agape. Will you please supply me with a big dose, until I'm full to overflowing? 

I come to Thee, O fount of love, to fill my empty cup with Thy bounty. I open my heart to Thee to receive the seed that only Thou canst plant. I yield myself to Thee, O Christ, Thou who loveth perfectly, and invite Thee to live out Thy holy love through me. Teach me to love. Fill me with love. Let love be the heart and cornerstone of my every word, thought, and deed. 

Thank you, my Savior. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

What does a Haitian want?

This is the field (behind the five bushes)

Every day we walk by a field where several Haitian guys have been working to break up the ground with hoes. They have a patch cleared which I would estimate to be a half acre of ground, and they're still going little by little. Every day, they make a tiny bit of progress.

Of all the possible ways to till your ground, hoeing it by hand has got to be the hardest. Okay, so maybe you can't afford a tractor...but there are 3 or 4 horses grazing in the same field. What about an Amish-quality plow, at the very least? Has it ever occurred to these guys to want an easier way to do this work?

Houses don't have numbers, roads don't have names, and Haiti doesn't have a post-office system.  Has it ever occurred to anyone in Haiti to want to send a letter to a friend?

"String is like gold in Haiti," one of my coworkers remarked the other day. "Where did you find that?" I was tying string to some balloons. "I brought it with me," I replied. "Oh, that explains it," he said. Yet string has been so abundant in our country that kids in one-room schoolhouses used to make string balls by winding little bits of string around a rock. Their mothers spun it all the time. It was and always has been a staple that you practically can't live without. So has it ever occurred to Haitian people in general to want string?

Then the most confusing thing: Any random Haitian that you see probably has a high-tech phone. Obviously they wanted that, and they found a way to make the money to get it. A guy will be living in a shack with a leaky roof, but he'll have his Blackberry in his pocket. He may eat once every three days, but he can text. That, to me, is the most confusing set of priorities. Why in the world would you do that? (Of course, this is coming from someone who waited until 2010 to get her first cell phone, and it's the cheapest freebie phone they make.)

Want --> Get?
In American culture, it seems like the normal flow of operations is as follows:
•  I want something
•  I find a way to get it, make it, or organize a way for it to happen
•  I get it

Perhaps it is invalid to follow the logic track backwards, but the way I see Haitian culture is this:
•  No one has anything
•  They're not finding a way to get it, make it, or organize a way for it to happen
•  So do they not even want it?

What does a Haitian want?

When he wants something, what does he do to get it?

(The pessimist in me is suggesting that he wants what you have and he steals it to get it--but I know there is a deeper level of understanding than that.)

But really--what does a Haitian want?

Does he want a house whose roof doesn't leak?
Does he want a steady supply of electricity?
Does he want clean drinking water?
Does he want time-saving and labor-saving devices, like plows for fields and washing machines for clothes?
Does he want trustworthy systems like mail delivery?
Does he want safe neighborhoods?

The foreigners certainly want these things, and they find a way to get them. The missionaries have secure compounds, generators for electricity, clean drinking water, and an elaborate network built up to get mail. It is always the outsiders who implement systems like sustainable production, efficiency, and productivity. Where is the proactive, ambitious Haitian?

Of course, there is the other side of the coin.

There is the possibility that you want something, and you do what you can to get it, but it fails and you don't get what you want. For instance, my dad wants a job, and he has done a lot of stuff for 3 years to try to make money, but he doesn't seem to be able to.

Is it possible that this massive poverty is a result of equally massive failure to get what you want?

Is there a something going on that thwarts people's ability to achieve what they want?

Are people thwarted so consistently at every level that they just get frustrated and give up on wanting things?

Right now, I can't answer these questions. Perhaps someone who has been in Haiti for years could give me some insight. Perhaps one day I will have been in Haiti for years and will look back with amusement at my initial impressions. In any case, I don't think it's wrong to wonder why. I'm sure the answer is complex and multi-faceted. I am in pursuit of understanding, not judgment.

Wait a minute...
A sudden thought just struck me after I restated the question in plain and clear terms.

People in Haiti don't have anything. This is because...
a) They don't want it
b) They want it but can't get it
c) Some other reason

But wait---maybe I am partly the answer to my own question.

A millionaire could look at my (pre-Haiti) life and be just as mystified at me as I am with Haiti. In Haiti, I am rich, but in America, I'm rather poor.

So what if a millionaire, who is used to having certain amenities that I never could afford, looked at my life and wondered why I would live without those things? "Does she just not want them, or does she want them but can't have them?" the millionaire would ask. I'll just throw a few things out there that might be on this list.

•  A spacious, nicely decorated house vs. a bedroom in my parents' house
•  A new car to drive around vs. no car or a 15-year-old junker
•  Stylish new clothes in my wardrobe vs. stuff from Goodwill
•  Dining out at fine establishments vs. eating frozen burritos that we heated up
•  Long, hot baths in a jaccuzzi tub vs. military showers
•  A manicure or pedicure vs. clipping/painting my own nails
•  An ipod/ipad vs. doing without one

Hey, I'm not going to lie, I wouldn't complain if I had all those things. I could get used to that lifestyle and wonder how anyone could live with anything less.

But the truth is, I don't want it. I'm adequately fed, clothed, and housed, I have transportation when I need it, and I really don't care a hoot about having an ipod.

There will always be people who have more than others.

So is that how the average Haitian feels? He or she has food, clothing, and shelter--just less of it and of inferior quality. Is there just a contentment there that doesn't moan over what it doesn't have, because life has always been like this and one has gotten along just fine up to this point? I look at a millionaire, and I know I have less, but I don't feel deprived (even though I can feel somewhat dazzled at times), because I know I have enough.

And if I took a drastic step down and lived the Haitian way, I would still have enough, because I have Jesus, and HE is enough.

• • •

"And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content." 1 Tim 6:8

"Be content with your wages." Luke 3:14

"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." Php 4;11

"But godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Tim 6:6

"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Heb. 13:5

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cold lunch

"The stove is out," Ryan told me yesterday, as I called the kids together and prepared to start school. "The gas lines somehow got disconnected. It's a miracle they didn't blow up the stove when they tried to light it this morning."

"Oh--that's going to make it difficult to cook lunch," I remarked. I wondered what they were going to do.

Lunch is cornmeal or rice with a sauce on top, usually of beans or fish broth or hot dog broth. It's not very palatable to eat raw. At home we would just make sandwiches or something, but there was nothing on the premises with which to make a cold lunch. No bread, no peanut butter, no corn flakes, no fruit, nothing that could be served without cooking.

But school was starting, and I threw myself into teaching with my usual energetic abandon, which gave me no room to worry about lunch.

About 11:00, school was interrupted by a rather large procession that walked through our schoolroom on the way to the kitchen. A bunch of guys were bringing in a huge cooler, several gallons of pure drinking water, armloads of bananas, piles of watermelons, mountains of Montrouis's famous rolls of bread, and even a big-screen TV.

There were two white guys among them who were strangers to me. I greeted them and thanked them. They were businessmen who come to Haiti on occasion, and they had learned about the creche on one of their visits. Now, they enjoy stopping in once in a while to bless the kids and the creche.

One of the things they brought was 250 pairs of underwear. You might say, "Oh, whoopie do...underwear!" but the fact is, we had an urgent need for underwear and had just been praying for it.

The water they brought was just in time, too. We were down to about half a bottle of drinking water.

They stayed for about half an hour and then left. We resumed school.

At the lunch break, guess what there was to eat?

Perfectly ripe bananas, heavenly sweet watermelons, and delicious bread and butter!

Thank you, God, for knowing our need and meeting it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Now you see it

Answer to yesterday's post...

Edit: Word has it that the answer still isn't clear. Here is a further zoomed-in close-up.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Spy With My Little Eye...

Inspired by my sister's recent facebook photo, here is a rather unassuming picture. Who can spot the special hidden surprise?

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Fancy Ditch

A story I wrote while I was in Morocco, Sunday, June 4, 2006

            Once upon a time, there was a town. It looked pretty much like any other town, except for one special feature. This feature was a long ditch where everyone kept their stuff. Now, why people kept their stuff there, nobody knew. Somebody had probably started it long ago by thinking, “Ah. Here’s a nice ditch. This looks like a good place to hide some of my special stuff. It will be my special place where I can keep things.” Then other people copied the idea, and it caught on and got popular to keep stuff in the ditch. From then on, it was a tradition that everybody followed. That’s just the way things were, and nobody questioned it.
            The ditch itself had evolved from a plain, rough ditch in the ground to an elaborate system of keeping stuff. It was divided into neat little compartments, with dividers to separate people’s stuff. People who could afford it lined the bottom and sides of their ditch with wood or stone, to keep the stuff clean and dry. The town government had paid to have a roof built over the ditch, and they designed drainage systems to keep the water out. Some people had lockable compartments to keep their stuff safe, but even those who didn’t usually found that nobody bothered their stuff. It was just too ingrained in people that they all depended on the whole town’s unspoken commitment to keep the ditch a safe and friendly place.
            Mr. Elton was a traveling peddler who lived in the town and had a section of his own in the ditch, but he often went to neighboring cities and villages to peddle his wares. Occasionally, he would make it all the way to the capital city to sell things and buy more stock. On one of these instances, he was talking to a man he met in the street, and the conversation got around to where he was from.
            “Oh, you’re from the village of the ditch?” the man said. “Aw, I’m sorry.”
            “Why?” Mr. Elton asked.
            “Don’t you know?” the man replied.
            “No, I don’t,” Mr. Elton said.
            “I thought you would have heard the news, seeing as it pertains to you,” the man stated.
            “Well, don’t keep me in suspense. What is it?” Mr. Elton prodded.
            “Okay. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t even know if this is true. It’s just a rumor I’ve heard. But my cousin is a servant in the king’s kitchen, and sometimes he brings food to the king’s table. He said he heard the king say he was going to burn that ditch, that he is very unhappy with it, because every time he rides by it in his coach, it looks so junky. He also doesn’t like the idea of his citizens keeping their things in a ditch, instead of in their houses or in the bank, like normal people are supposed to do.
            This was sobering news to Mr. Elton, and he pondered it all the way back to the town. Once there, he told a few of his friends what he had heard and asked them what they thought.
            “Nah. The King lives so far from here. What does he care? He hardly ever comes through here, anyway,” one said.
            “It’s impossible. Why, this ditch has always been here. I don’t see why anything should happen to it,” another said.
            “And as the man said, it’s just a rumor. Who knows if it’s even true?” remarked the third. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”
            The peddler agreed. But just because it was an interesting story, those people told others, who told more friends, who in turn told more people, so the story spread (in all the twisted varieties it acquired from being re-told so many times). Not everyone heard it, though, and almost no one believed it, so naturally, it died out after it had been talked over and laughed about.
            Two or three months later, a courtier from the King’s court arrived in silken garments and riding a white horse. He proceeded to the town square and gathered a crowd.
            “Hear ye, Hear ye,” he cried. “By the authority of the King, I do hereby declare that your ditch will be burned in one year’s time. The citizens of this town are invited to remove their possessions to a safe location before this date, determined by the king and sealed with his signet ring on this royal decree I present before you. Anyone not following this advice is subject to the loss of every possession in the ditch. Be forewarned and advised.”
            With that, he departed.
            Immediately, there was a hubbub of talking. Those who had heard the rumor passed it on to those who had not, with the added revelation of “So it was true.” A few people began making plans to remove their stuff right away, when a certain Mr. Sneed got up. He was known for having political ambitions and for being a passionate speaker.
            “Listen, all of you,” he exclaimed. “I don’t know about you, but I love our ditch. It’s part of the tradition of our town. I remember going as a little boy to my part of the ditch, to put snail shells, little stones, anything that was special, in there. That ditch has more memories wrapped up in it for everybody here than anything else in this town. It’s part of our identity. I say we save the ditch!
            This cry was taken up by the crowd. “Save the ditch,” they roared in unison. “Save the ditch! Save the ditch! Save the ditch!”
            Mr. Sneed waited until the noise died down, then resumed his speech. “Now, here’s how  we’ll do it,” he said. “We’ll have a three-pronged approach. First, we’ll beautify the ditch. If the king doesn’t like it looking junky, then we’ll improve it. We’ll plant flowers, install fountains, have everything freshly painted, fly flags, and whatever we can think of. Then maybe the king won’t want to destroy it.
            “Second, we will be prepared to fight. If the king decides to go ahead with his plan, we will stand against him and defend our ditch. Therefore, I will need every available man to report for weekly drill over the coming year so we will be ready. Are you with me? Who can I count on?” Hands flew into the air from every direction, accompanied by a hearty cheer.
            “Third, we will be prepared to put out the fire. We will install sprinkler systems, have fire trucks standing by, and have plenty of water at hand to douse any flames. With these three steps, I believe we can save our ditch.”
            This chant was taken up again. “Save our ditch! Save our ditch! Save our ditch!” The crowd swelled with confidence that they could indeed save the ditch.
            Those who had started thinking about moving their stuff abandoned their plans in favor of saving the ditch, and over the course of the next year, all three of Mr. Sneed’s steps were implemented. Very few people actually took their stuff out of the ditch, and those who did were condemned for weakening morale, not having community spirit, and for being weak and afraid.
            One month before the appointed day, the king himself drove into the town to see the ditch and see if people remembered his advice. He saw all the beautiful flowers, the fountains, the fresh coats of paint, and all the other improvements, but he was surprised to see how few people had taken his advice and removed their stuff.
            “Did I not give you enough time?” the king demanded of the townspeople. I gave you a whole year. Why is your stuff still in the ditch?”
            “Oh, your Majesty, you see, we couldn’t part with our ditch, so we left our stuff there,” they said. They didn’t really want to give away their plan to save the ditch, but the king, being an astute man, noticed the disapproval in their eyes, saw their jaws clench and their fists tighten, observed all the provision for extra water in the immediate vicinity of the ditch, and guessed their plan of opposition.
            Before he left, the king had signs posted at regular intervals along the ditch. “By order of the king, this ditch will be destroyed in one month’s time. Anyone opposing this plan will be tried in the royal court. Remove your stuff.”
            Still, few people took it seriously.
            The month passed. The king sent soldiers to carry out the task. The town’s informal militia proved woefully ineffective against the trained soldiers, and they were overpowered, along with all the people who were prepared to be firefighters. The ditch was burned and then filled in with dirt so as to be unusable in the future. Only the ones who had heeded the warnings were safe. The others not only lost the ditch they tried to save, but all their stuff as well.

The End

This is an analogy. The ditch is the world, the townspeople are the people in the world, and the king represents God. God has said the world will be destroyed, lay not up treasures on earth (Mt. 6), that he who tries to save his life will lose it, and that the world will be shaken (Heb. 12). So why do we cling to earth, keep collecting stuff here, and focus on our earthly treasures when God has said he will burn it all? Christians are looked down on when they don’t value all the world’s treasures, but we need to not cave to their pressure. Lord, I want to lay up my treasure in heaven. Earth is just a ditch. Yeah, it might be a nice ditch, or a fancy ditch sometimes, but it’s a ditch compared to heaven. Help me to work for treasure there.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"My Hands Hurt"

Hunter has pitiful hands.

Part of the reason is that he sucks on his fingers a lot, and part of the reason is probably bug bites and other inexplicable skin issues that just come with the territory when you're in Haiti.

Every time I see his hands, I want them to be better, and I wonder if he is in pain. He doesn't seem to mind his hands being like that, but I can't tell. I feel so helpless because I don't really know what's wrong with them, and even if I did have a proper diagnosis, I wouldn't have the creams or the medicines to put on them.

• • •

I sat on a bench by the sea the other day and had a long talk with Jesus about it.

He said to me, "If Hunter looked up at you and said, 'hand hurt,' what would you do?"

I said, "I would move heaven and earth to find out what was wrong with his hands and obtain the necessary treatment for him."

He said, "What if he just looked at you with a beseeching grimace and a mute wringing of the hands to show you that they hurt?"

I said, "That would be quite enough to move me to action."

He replied, "And that's just how prayer is between you and me. You don't have to be eloquent or verbose. I understand what you mean, and I care, and I am able to move heaven and earth to answer you."

My heart swelled with gratitude, and the wonder of who the Savior is and what He does for us filled my soul with love.

• • •

He continued, "What would you do if your hands looked like that?"

I replied, "Well, I'm sure I would take action. I would make sure to be very careful and do whatever it took to help my hands to heal up."

Thoughts flooded my mind. Am I willing to do more for myself than for another, and is that revealing my selfishness? If I would do that for my hands, shouldn't I do whatever I can for Hunter's hands, instead of letting myself be paralyzed in inactivity and cluelessness? I wouldn't be quite so clueless when it came to my own hands. Where there's a will, there's a way, right?

I thought of the way one member of my body can affect all the other members. Then my mind jumped to the analogy of how believers are members of the body of Christ. Then I thought about how I have given my body to Christ, to be His body, to be used for His purposes. All this flashed through my mind in a split second, and then He spoke.

"When Hunter's hands hurt, my hands hurt."

Ah! The glory of it. Jesus cares about Hunter's hands. I can trust Jesus to take care of Hunter's hands in the same way He would take care of His own hands. He will take better care of Hunter's hands than I would take of my own hands. I might mess up, not have the right supplies, or not use the right treatment, even if I was giving myself the best care I possibly could. But Jesus will never be at a loss for wisdom or ability to take care of His hands. He loves Hunter. He might allow me to be His hands in caring for Hunter's hands. But I can trust Him to take the initiative in beginning a course of treatment.

He already has taken the initiative. He caused one little servant to notice and gave her a burden. That servant began to ask the Great Physician about treatment. As soon as she hears back, she will do whatever He tells her.

Nothing escapes His notice--not even one little abandoned boy's hands.  

See also: Hunter Update

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pastor Emmanus

Yesterday I met a local pastor who helped us by translating in a meeting. Later I engaged him in conversation  and heard some of his story, and I got to see his church when we dropped him off.

His name is Emmanus and his mother died when he was three months old. His father tried to kill him when he was 8 years old, so he ran away from home and survived on the street for a short while. Some missionaries took him to an orphanage where he grew up.

God saved him and called him to preach, which he said he didn't want to do, because whereas in the US, a pastor can at least expect a salary from tithe money, here in Haiti, the pastor is expected to be a source of blessing to his congregation spiritually as well as financially and practically.

He held a 4 a.m. prayer meeting every day for a number of years until God sent revival and a church was birthed. When they got their building up, the landlord was angry at the fact that a church was being planted, and he tore the building down. That day, he broke his leg. Somehow, the circumstances of that event led to the ability to rent the piece of land they wanted. Despite lack of funds, God provided a way for them to eventually buy the land.

The church is 13 years old and they have been meeting in this building.

Let's zoom in to that.

How faithful would you have to be as a congregation to meet in this kind of church, in the Haitian heat and humidity, with no electricity and no relief from bugs? Especially considering that Sunday School starts at 6:00 Sunday morning and lasts until 8:00, and then church begins and lasts until 10? Granted, it is more in disrepair than usual, because they have been in the process of building this:

Right now it is incomplete, but they at least have a roof over the section where the pews are.

God has been moving and His Spirit is present there. Pastor Emmanus also talked about the school that he holds here for 45 children, and the need to buy chalkboards and chalk and basic school supplies. I thought about the abundance of school supplies at the creche, and I wondered how someone would ever do this when they didn't have anything. He talked about how he wants to repair the old church building so that he can have two more classrooms, but it will cost $80 to buy the woven palm leaf screens that form the walls, and he doesn't see how he can come up with that kind of money. Oh, what hard, hard conditions!

I just have to ask myself--how do people survive here? Much less thrive?

But I must remember that God is the source of all supply, and He is just as able to provide in Haiti as He is in America or Antarctica or Australia.

I admire the spirit of faith and worship and confidence in God that Pastor Emmanus demonstrates. I have met some of the people from his congregation, and they are faithful, godly people who are trustworthy and pure-hearted. It is good to see that God's powerful hand is raising up men of God in this land who can stem the tide of darkness and oppression. Praise the Lord for the advance of the gospel!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Marks of Haiti

They say almost every American visitor to Haiti gets one of these eventually--and I guess my turn has come!

It's a burn from the muffler of a moto. They did warn me not to put my leg down there, and I did see Sheena's giant burn in the same spot, but in one split second, my leg got too close.

Thank the Lord for reflexes!

They say that the nerve impulses from your reflexes only have to travel to the spinal cord and back before jerking your muscle away. Thank God for that! I can only imagine how much worse this would have been if it really got seared on there. As it is, it doesn't really hurt and I think I'll be fine.

But at any rate, now I'll have my Haiti scar.

Photo Credit: Oriana Stevens

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Servant

There is a man at the creche who is the picture of Jesus's humility.

His job is to be the security guard, so he often sits at his post near the front gate of the creche, but in little moments throughout the day, he finds ways to wash the feet of everyone at the creche.

He will walk through the yard and pick up all the toys that are scattered around. Halves of Easter eggs that the babies were playing with the day before, broken crayons, blocks, toy cars, flash cards that got separated from the deck, and other assorted things all find their way into his basket, and he returns them to their proper places. He also picks up whatever dried leaves and sticks have fallen from the trees so that the grounds are always kept spic and span.

He will carry buckets and buckets of water from the well for the nannies when the generator goes down and there is no water at the creche.

He will empty the garbage whenever it gets full.

As he walks around doing these odd jobs, he prays.

I have never heard him raise his voice or get frustrated at anything or anyone.

Even the very way he walks, the way he holds his head, and the way he looks around, all somehow speak of humility.

His Bible is always open, and when he sits at his post, he reads and reads and reads the Bible. You can tell it is well-loved because the edges of the pages are turning brown from constant thumbing.

One day, I asked one of our older boys who speaks English well, "What is the security guard's name?"

He explained to me, "Well, his name is technically Nilyou, but everyone in the town and in the creche call him Sèvite." (pronounced "seh'-vee-tay")

"Sèvite?" I asked.

"Yes, sèvite means 'servant' in Creole," he said. "Everyone calls him that because he is always walking around with his Bible and praying and serving God. No one uses his real name--everyone just knows him as Sèvite."

I can see why. He truly has adopted the posture and attitude of a servant of God. I admire the way that he models true servanthood and humility.

But it's one thing to admire it, and quite another to live it out when it means that everyone nicknames you "Servant" and then forgets you have a name.

Would I be okay with that?

"SEVITE!!" the nannies will shout from one end of the creche to the other. "SEVITE!!!" He might be out of earshot, around back delivering a bucket of water to the laundry ladies, and someone might knock at the gate. I'm sure the entire neighborhood can hear the cries. "SEVITE!!"

Would I bristle at having my status broadcast to everyone in the vicinity? "SERVANT!!"

I believe it was Amy Carmichael who said that the test of a true servant is how you react when you're treated like one.

How would I do?

Would I resent the fact that people exploited my servant's attitude for their own ease and comfort?

Would I seek to camouflage my devotion to God so that I wouldn't earn spiritual-sounding (but derogatory [to the flesh]) nicknames?

Would I back away from the purity of my humble service and do something un-servant-like, just to keep people from labeling me a fanatic?

Sèvite does none of these things. He humbly goes on and does the Master's bidding. He carries his Bible around with him, unashamed to be a student of the Word. If he feels the sting of being called a servant and treated like one, he doesn't show it. He continues to live a life of humility, continually giving more fodder to those who call him a servant and reinforcing their notion that they labeled him correctly. He is unafraid to be labeled. He does God's work without consulting his own reputation. He lifts up God's name at the expense of his own.

"He must increase, but I must decrease," said John the Baptist.

I have the privilege of being around one who models this better than any human being I've ever met.

Sèvite at his post with his Bible

Tuesday, October 9, 2012



I was first introduced to Hunter in August, when I went to the Osborne's for breakfast and they read Christy's blog post about him. Precious.

I met him in real life when I first toured the creche. He has hydrocephalus, leukemia, and possibly cerebral palsy. His condition is terminal and the doctors have done all they can for him.

He lay in his crib, patient, quiet. The moment a smiling face peered over his crib, however, he came alive. His eyes lit up and a huge smile spread over his face. His arms and legs moved excitedly.

The girls said that he could mimic words, but I never heard him do it until one day when Annie came to the creche and picked him up and sat on the front porch with him. "Hunter," she said. "Hunter. Hunter."

"Hun-ta," he repeated, and his characteristic smile lit up his face. "Hun-ta." Excited with his achievement, he started bouncing up and down on Annie's lap.

(Note: The white powder is cornstarch. They dust the kids with it to alleviate sweat.)

Every time I go to the creche, I make it a point to greet him, touch him, smile at him, sing to him, and pick him up and take him outside if I can. But for a long time, he never mimicked words with me.

Then, one day, I picked him up out of his crib and changed his diaper. Afterwards, I held him in my arms and looked into his eyes. I snuggled his head against my chest. He looked up at me.

"Ma-ma," he said, out of the blue.

A lump rose up in my throat and I could scarcely keep the tears back. I had tried other words with him, but never that one. I never heard anyone else practicing that with him, either. Where did that come from?

With that one little word, a cord reached up and wrapped itself around my heart, linking me to him in a special way.

After that, he and I had many mimicking games with different words, and he will even spontaneously say "Hi!" when I approach his crib. But never again that word.


No child has ever said that to me before.

Ah, the power of one simple word to call forth love out of a heart. I already loved him. He was already special. We already had a good relationship going. But with that one word, a love and a tenderness blossomed within me that was beyond anything I knew for a child. Suddenly I cared deeply what happens to him. His terminal condition took on a whole new light. If anything happens to him, floods of tears will be forthcoming, whereas before it would have been a gentle sadness. Before, I had a sense of resignation to the inevitable. "His condition is terminal. There's nothing they can do. This is just the way things are." But now, I have the will for him to live, to live and not die, to be healed, to gain strength, to run around and play, to learn things. That's impossible, though, humanly speaking.

"God," I plead, raising my eyes to heaven, "Am I allowed to want that? Dare I pray for his healing? Would you...could you...can I ask you for the impossible? Life, strength, health?"

Logic warns me that it's too dangerous to love. "You're setting yourself up for too much grief."

But you can't just turn the clock back on love like this. It's too late. I already love. I can't just un-love because logic suggests that I do. And I wouldn't, anyway, even if I could. I wouldn't close off my heart. It's precious to love. There is sweetness mingled with the pain and vulnerability love brings to a heart.

I will love Hunter in his life of illness and confinement. I will treat him like royalty. We will have happy times together. I will treasure the moments we spend with each other. And I will trust God to do what is best for him.

You may also like...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Safe in the arms of Jesus

I received word this weekend that our dear little baby Grace passed away.


Her life lasted about three short weeks. I don't know if she was in pain. I don't know if she could sense the love of those who cared for her. Was she conscious of a caressing hand, a soothing voice? Was she comforted by the presence of those around her? I don't know.

But she couldn't have been aware of the way she changed me.

She changed me?

How could she do anything? She was a little baby. She couldn't interact with anyone.

"Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength"--but she couldn't even talk.

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence." 1 Cor. 1:27-29

Weak, despised, abandoned, and almost forgotten--this was baby Grace. Yet God used her to send me a special-delivery parcel, gift-wrapped in heaven and addressed directly to me. Inside was a special dose of Jesus's love. I accepted it, not without a pang, because opening your heart to love also opens you to be vulnerable. It planted itself in my being and bore fruit--a greater ability to see as He sees, love as He loves, and give as He gave.

Now she is safe. She is warm and comfortable. She can laugh. She can run. She can sit on Jesus' lap and look into His eyes. She will never be cast out or rejected again. She will never be hungry or feel pain. Her life, though short, had a purpose, even if it was just for one random American girl in Haiti.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Just now...

Just now I felt like I wanted something, but I didn't know what. I wasn't really hungry, but I wanted food. I didn't really want to go out, but I was restless. So Kate and I went down to the snack bar to get something.

As we passed the buffet on our way to the snack bar, we looked up and noticed guys in military fatigues lining the sidewalk between us and the buffet. There were 6 or 8 of them at regular intervals, standing at attention and holding big guns.

We looked into the dining area of the buffet, trying not to stare. There was the president of Haiti, right there. He was sitting within 10 feet of us, eating his lunch as we walked by.

We proceeded on to the snack bar and bought a 6-piece order of chicken nuggets for $3.

The mundane juxtaposed with the exceptional.

That pretty much sums up life in Haiti in a nutshell.

Coast Guard boat that is anchored just offshore, part of the President's security force while he is here.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lose vs. Loose

The field next to the creche

The Grammar Nazi is coming out in me today. I have seen this error one too many times and I don't want you, dear reader, to be a part of the bunch that causes inner Grammar Nazis everywhere to rise in protest of your (innocent) trespass of written usage.

Lose means to misplace. It also means the opposite of "to win."

"I can't give away my books; they're too good to lose."
"If you don't put your keys in the same spot every day, you might lose them."
"Practice hard so you don't lose the competition."
"I don't want my team to lose the championship."

Loose means "not tight."

"Can you wait for a second? My shoestring is loose."
"His parents never let him hang out with friends who had loose morals."
"Your tie and your belt both look too loose. Please don't dress sloppily."

The same thing holds true for losing vs. loosing.

"After losing 100 pounds, all her clothes were too loose."
"I am loosing the strap on my sandals because they're too tight on my feet."

Many people make the mistake of hearing the "oo" sound in lose, and putting in 2 o's when they write it. Spell check doesn't tell them that this is incorrect, because "loose" is also a word. But there is a pronunciation difference. You would never SAY one for the other--so don't write one for the other.

Thank you. The Grammar Nazi is retiring for the time being.