Friday, December 30, 2016

Transition

The last two weeks we have been in transition. After living on the NVM campus for 3 and half years, we moved to a house (not far) off-campus, in the community. As we transitioned, I couldn’t help but remember the transition from the US to Haiti. We were selling what we had, fundraising, learning a new language, and preparing to go overseas. There was some anxiety over leaving behind the familiar for the unknown, but also a lot of excitement for the realization of the mission for which God had called us. All those anxieties were appeased as we learned the language, learned some of the culture, made friends, and began figuring out what ministry looked like in this context. It isn’t unlike that at all this time around. We left behind the familiarity of living on campus, with security, 24-hour electricity (most of the time), running water, and other expats as neighbors. Now, we’ve moved into a house where electricity is supposed to be on half the time, but we realistically get it at most 8 hours a day – and which 8 hours is anybody’s guess! During that time of power, a water pump fills our storage tank on our roof, so that we have water during the times of no power. When that runs out, we can go to the well directly and pump water out for what we need. Simple tasks, like doing laundry, can’t even be planned anymore, but are more of a reaction to the accessibility of power and water. When the time allows, we wash by hand, so that we can get by, but if we did everything by hand and went to the market every day to get our food, all our time would be consumed in those things, rather than allowing us to do ministry. Just as before, we’re figuring out a new normal; trying to get into a new rhythm of life.
We are fortunate enough to have found a house large enough (and affordable) to accommodate our family, plus have extra space to have guests and even groups come visit and work with us here (more to come on that later!). What that means is that we are primarily occupying the upstairs of this new house, so that we can later use the downstairs as the hosting space. The stairs leading up to that second floor is very narrow and not conducive to carrying pieces of furniture… or a fridge… or a stove up them. However, we have a nice balcony from that second floor. On moving day, we backed up the truck to that balcony and literally lifted everything straight from the truck up onto the balcony to carry into the upstairs. No ramp, no problem! I sat on the ledge of the balcony, bending down and hoisting things up. My body reminded me later that I’m not as young as I used to be, though. It was quite a different moving experience!

One of the things we have noticed is that relationships seem to be easier in this context. Where people (locals) used to be apprehensive of visiting us on campus, we have people stop by all the time to see us at our new house. This is exactly one of the things we were hoping for to give us the opportunity to become even more immersed in the culture. We don’t know all that God has planned for us in this season. But we can look back on the last season with gratefulness at all that we learned, all that we experienced, and all the ways that God showed us His provision, protection, and guidance. It was clear He was calling us to a different chapter in our ministry here in Haiti, so we’re jumping forward, knowing He’s already taking care of the anticipated challenges and using the difficulties to continue to mold us in the image of His Son, Jesus. To Him be the glory.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Raising Kids on the Mission Field


Ring-bearer for a wedding at our church in Haiti
"I don't remember where I am from."

 Sometimes it is a simple question, like "Where are you guys from?"  Other times it is the obvious moment when your 7-year old still won't eat with utensils, because none of his friends eat with a spoon or fork.  And then there are the even more obvious moments when he carries a bowling ball on his head when his aunt takes him bowling "for the first time" because he could not remember what bowling is.  And why wouldn't he carry the ball on his head? Everything is carried on the head in Haiti, and it really improves posture and allows you to carry even more weight...this is his world.

Each of these moments make us chuckle, but they tell a much deeper story.  While enjoying a day at the beach here in Haiti, a gentleman struck up conversation with our family.  The very typical first question was, "Where are you from?"  Our youngest paused and then replied, "I don't remember where I am from."  Our friend explained that she is from Oklahoma, and then informed the gentleman that we live here in Haiti.  Without missing a beat our youngest said, "Oh yea! I've been to Oklahoma before!"  We all chuckled and reminded him that is where we lived - and he was born - before moving to Haiti.


In the moment I handle these moments pretty well - at least I feel like I do.  But later they come rushing back to me and I think through all the blogs and books I keep reading (or have on my to-read list) about third-culture kids (TCKs).  Our youngest was just 4 when we moved to Haiti, so he will adopt more of the TCK posture than our older kids.  Reflecting on this moment though - the moment of not remembering where he was from - I had to surrender it to God.  American culture says so much about the foundation we give our kids, putting down our roots, and them knowing where they come from. All the parenting books I read before missions were completely focused on life in America.  I often find myself out of my element and the enemy knows just where to attack.  He likes to take these simple moments and innocent conversations and use them to tell me that I am a failure; surely I must be ruining my children.  Yet, I look at the photo below and see a fun-loving, enjoyable young boy who loves life.  So I cry out to God once again and ask that He guide us in this often lonely road of raising children on mission in a developing world. 

So, when you find that your child cannot remember where he is from, or eats with his hands when clearly he is old enough to remember a utensil, focus on this: are you teaching them to "act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God? (Micah 6:8)"  Because in the end, that is what God requires of us...that we live in this way, and that we teach our children to do the same (Deut. 6).  So let go of the little things, don't give the enemy any foothold, and keep on pointing your children back to the One who holds them closer than you imagine.


Celebrating his 7th birthday with ice cream sundaes - thanks Aunt Shari for the ice cream machine!!