Friday, November 8, 2013

Where it All Began, Part 2

After my early childhood memories, I can see another major step in preparing me for missions.  As a teenager I remember my first mission trip vividly.  Our youth group went through Kentucky and surrounding states doing evangelistic shows.  We sang, did skits, puppet shows, etc.  I remember absolutely loving what we were doing and being blown away by God using me at such a young age.


Throughout my teen years, my dad stopped pastoring and we did a lot of church searching.  I had 3 main youth groups before I graduated high school.  In my high school youth group, I really started seeking God.  I was excited to hear His voice and feel His presence in my life.  I enjoyed studying my Bible and learning all I could.  I had countless conversations with my Dad as I tried to discern for myself what God wants from each person - and from me.  In this process, I remember hearing God say, "Be ready to go anywhere I call you."  At the time that was rather frightening, and exciting.  I was thrilled at the possibility of adventure!  I was also terrified to leave my family.  As a homeschooled child in a large family, the thought of not being near any of them was sad.  I was not sure I would ever be able to make this sacrifice, so I secretly hoped that I would never be asked.  I honestly do not remember if I told a single person about this struggle and "calling" I felt as a teenager. 

I also had a strong desire to sponsor a child in a developing country.  When I was 15 I asked my parents about child sponsorsip.  They told me to do some research and see where I felt God led me.  My sister, Kerri, and I started researching.  We found Compassion International and absolutely loved what they were doing!  I began sponsoring Akello Erina in Africa.  We got our youth group to sponsor another child together.  This began a process of God shaping my heart for children in impoverished conditions around the world.  How little I understood back then about what He was doing to my heart!


After high school, I was in limbo for about a year - working a couple of jobs, but not going to college yet.  Since I graduated high school so early, I was not sure I wanted to jump right into college.  A year later, I started college and met Gami.  We quickly fell in love, and decided we would get married.  I never told him of my desire to do missions that was accompanied with fear and doubt.  I never asked what he thought of missions either.  So we married and started trying to figure out life together at a young age.  It would take years before I would actually bring up missions to him and start to lay out all that God had shown me since my childhood.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Where it All Began, part 1

Sunset in Haiti

 

People always ask what led us to move to Haiti.  They are especially intrigued why a family of 6 would move here for up to 5 years, and longer if God leads.  The story is long...much longer than anyone truly has time to listen to in one setting.  So, I will begin writing it here.  Maybe it will inspire someone else.




For me (Cathi), the journey to missions began long ago.  As a young girl, I remember my favorite Sundays at church very well.  I always loved the weeks that we had a missionary visiting.  We would hear their stories from far-off places and pray for them.  Since my dad was the senior pastor, we often housed them while they were in town.  This gave our family more direct access to ask questions and learn from them.  It was such a joy as missionaries returned multiple times over the years.  I absolutely loved these times!

The beauty of Haiti
Additionally, my parents had a piggy bank for missions.  Every dime they got went directly into the piggy bank.  Since this was in the days of cash/check only, a LOT more change went through their fingers.  At the end of the year, our church always did an offering for missionaries.  My parents would empty out this piggy bank of dimes onto the table.  Our entire family helped count and roll the dimes and it always amazed me how something so small could add up to such a large sum of money!  Every dime went to Lottie Moon Missions. 

Sunrise over the mountain

These things started to instill an appreciation for missions and a heart for the world around us when I was very young.  I remember being enamored with the stories of missionaries, and always wondering when the next one would come through with their stories, pictures, and goods from the country they were ministering in.  It also still amazes me (maybe even moreso now) that the missionaries who visited regularly brought little gifts for each of the kids in my family.  That meant so much to me!

As I look back on this, I see how God used the faithfulness of my parents to mold my heart.  By the age of 6 or 7, I knew there was a world beyond the USA, and I was excited about it! I knew there were people who had never heard the name of Jesus, and that missionaries were desperately needed.  My heart had just started to take shape for the world beyond America.

Sandra, our 7 year-old, with a heart of gold for Haiti!
My challenge to all adults: do not take lightly what a child's heart for missions & the world can become!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Visiting Friends

Brothers and sisters: Isaac and Sandra, Dawens and Landa
Several weeks ago, Cathi and I were privileged to go to Compassion International's 45th year anniversary (of their involvement in Haiti) celebration. It also marked the retirement of one president and the inauguration of the next. The new president, Santiago "Jimmy" Mellado, got up and spoke of his upbringing. He talked about how his parents moved a lot while he was growing up - and not just from State to State, but from country to country. His father was an engineer. Rather than use his knowledge to become rich, he decided to use it to help those that truly needed it. He traveled to mostly third world country, designing buildings and structures specifically to help the impoverished. Likewise, his mother always chose to take the family to church in the poorest neighborhood they could find. As a result, Jimmy grew up with the influence of the poor always around him. Now, he is in a position with the heart to help the poor.

Making a car out of an oil bottle and caps
As we continue to live in Haiti, I pray many things over my kids. One of those is that they would be influenced by the poor around them. They may be poor economically, but they are rich in so many ways - particularly in their relationships. I've written before about a particular family we go visit in the village of Chambrun. Yesterday, we went to visit this family. When we arrived, we were so warmly greeted. You could see the smile on their faces as we came to just sit and talk and watch our kids play together. Isaac and Miguel learned to make little cars out of juice bottles and caps (ingenious!). Sandra carried Landa around the whole time, while Landa squealed, laughed, and smiled. Kayla helped some of the other girls, Kenia and Widlan with food preparation.
At one point, the sky started clouding over and the sun went behind a cloud. "Do you think it's going to rain later?" Darlene pointed to a cloud and said it would rain soon. I was skeptical. Clouds move in all the time and pass us right by without us getting a drop. However, I could tell she was a little worried. Lightning flashed in the cloud and she made sure I had seen it. "Do you think we should go, Darlene?" Yes, she said - she didn't want us walking home in the rain or have Isaac fall because we were hurrying back. So, we got ready, said our good-byes and started walking home. On our half-mile walk home, we felt a few rain drops, but nothing severe. However, the cloud that she had pointed to was now overhead. Not even thirty seconds after we stepped in the door of our house, the cloud opened up and it rained hard. Now, even if it hadn't rained, Darlene was looking out for us and showed this in that she was genuinely worried that it might rain on us. Granted, when I got home, I changed and went running in the rain, but that's beside the point!
In the past month, I've been able to bring some people with me to Darlene's to visit. They're not going there to do some project or try to make a difference somehow - they're going to spend time with people and build relationships. At the same time, they witness the relationship my family has built with hers. Without fail, this is one of the most impactful things people have mentioned of their experience here. In Western culture, we are very task-oriented and project-driven. People are attracted to the idea of traveling to a third-world country and doing something to help. When the project is over, they go home, feeling a sense of accomplishment. But more than projects, it's relationships that will make a difference. Jesus exemplified this in his earthly ministry. He touched people, healed people, had compassion on them, fed them. He poured himself into twelve men to carry on. His life was characterized by relationships. It's definitely harder. It's not as predictable. It's messy. But instead of going home with a sense of accomplishment, people can go home with a sense of fulfillment. The project will even be more meaningful because of it. But you don't have to wait to go to a third-world country to build relationships. You can do that wherever you are and impact people with the love of Christ.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Justice in Haiti

One of the most difficult things we face as "blans" in Haiti, is understanding justice.  As we look around the world we currently live in, we cannot find a balance.  We struggle to see how anything here is just.  The number one question that visitors struggle with here is, "How was I born into wealth in America, but these children are born into such immense poverty here?"  The thought behind that is injustice.

As I ponder this, I know in my head that God is just and created all people equal.  I know in my head that God cares for these children the same as He does for the wealthiest children in the world.  Yet, how does it make sense that these children go to bed hungry?  How is it okay that they cannot afford medical care for the simplest things, risking their lives because of it?  How is it okay that so many are malnourished, resulting in every malnutrition program in Haiti being at maximum capacity with so many still left behind?  I have struggled through this thought process, and God has reminded me that He is just, He sees, He cares, He knows...He is watching and He has a plan!



Housing going all the way up the side of the mountain


Throughout this struggle over justice in Haiti, I read Psalm 67.  Verse 4 says this, "Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity..."  I read that and immediately asked, "But God...how?? How do I show people in Chambrun that you judge with equity? What sort of equity could they ever see between themselves and Americans?"  This is when He showed me how He views justice.  It is so very different from my view, thankfully!  I am so grateful that His justice is relient on Him and not on sinful man.  He told me this, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23)  So you see, there is justice in Haiti!

When faced with the dilemma of showing justice to people of Haiti, equality between Americans and Haitians, we can only do it in this.  We have all sinned.  We all fall short of the glory of God.  We all need Him.  Only in the spiritual can we find this type of equity.  Only in Christ can we find justice.  What a beautiful picture...from the dirt in Haiti, I finally understand justice in Haiti...I finally understand God's justice.  I pray God shows me countless ways to communicate this in actions and words!


Witchina playing outside of her home in Chambrun

Monday, September 30, 2013

Compassion International: Gala in Haiti

Gami and I all dressed up, taken after the Gala
Guilbaud, National Director of Compassion in Haiti, presenting
an award to Wess Stafford for his years of service.
This past week Gami and I were blessed to be able to attend Compassion International's 45th Anniversary Gala.  Compassion has been in Haiti for 45 years, and we were blown away by the stories they shared.  The Gala made us feel like we were back at an important military event.  We dressed up for the affair and our fellow NVM staff stayed with the kids (thanks again guys!).  We listened to special music, stories from multiple people involved with Compassion, the testimony of the recently retired President of Compassion as well as the new President of Compassion, and watched a skit.  We watched videos and enjoyed a fitting celebration.  The event started at 6 PM, and we arrived shortly after that.  The location was beautiful!  I was also rather impressed that they provided ear-pieces for all English speaking guests to hear translations of all French speakers.  This was extremely helpful since we are studying Kreyol, not French!  The Gala lasted 4 hours before they closed in prayer and opened a buffet line to eat dinner.  It was 10 PM and we were all excited to see food!  The meal was classy, along with the wait-staff.  The evening was refreshing and enjoyable.  It was really nice to have something to get dressed up for and be able to sit and enjoy the testimony of what God has done in Haiti through Compassion.

Presenting the award to Wess Stafford
As I sat and listened, I wrestled inside.  I have loved the ministry of Compassion since I was a teenager.  I have not removed myself from the Compassion Advocate (volunteers who help find new sponsors) list.  I keep up with all that they are doing, and I was really hopeful that they would partner with NVM in our sponsorship program.  Yet, I learned a month ago that a partnership is not possible right now.  While this was upsetting, it also gave me the motivation to keep pushing forward.  I need to stay focused, because there is not another organization coming in to smooth out our program.

The new president of Compassion, "Jimmy"
So, while I sat and watched, I was jealous.  I wanted so badly to be working with Compassion.  Gami and I have said for years that our dream was to work with Compassion overseas.  Here we are in Haiti, and God closed that door.  So I admit, I was jealous of all they are doing and could share.  We hoped to work with an organization that has been around a long time and is doing an incredible job at their work!  God called us to work with an organization that is new and is still trying to work out kinks and figure out how to make everything run smoothly.  While NVM is doing incredible things, we are helping build the program instead of just fitting into an established program.  So, I was jealous.  Yet, the evening inspired me.  It inspired me to push harder, work more diligently, and keep my focus.  NVM can have an incredible Child Sponsorship Program, just like Compassion!  NVM can improve their malnutrition program as well.  We can improve so much of what we do.  After only 10 years of ministry, we ought to still have room for improvement!  So, as I wrestled with the jealousy and frustration, I was humbled.  God chose me to be here in this moment to help improve the sponsorship program for NVM.  He chose Gami and I to come to Haiti now, not to work with Compassion, but with NVM.  He wants us focused and diligent so that we can help bring Him even more glory here.  What a humbling thought!  So I left that evening, not feeling discouraged or frustrated, but blessed.  I know I am truly blessed to be here working in Haiti.  I am blessed to be able to look at the faces of hundreds of children and tell them I have someone in the USA who loves them and wants to know them.  I am blessed to truly have my dream job, even on the days that it feels quite the opposite.  So I continue my focus on blessings, and strive to do better, for one day NVM will have success stories of children touched by a sponsor who never realized what they were truly doing for that child!

A friend recently reminded me to "bloom where I am planted."  I want to challenge you to do the same.  Someone else always has more figured out and seems to do it all easier and better.  Yet, God has called you to where you are for a specific purpose.  It is humbling...He wants your diligence and your best in it!  Bloom where you are planted!  One day you will look back in amazement at all that He had planned!
~ Cathi

Monday, September 16, 2013

Responsibility


                One of the things we have made part of our schedule is going down to the village as a
family. There’s plenty of work to be done on campus, planning for future teams, planning for projects, making sure things are running smoothly, etc. However, one of the things we have been striving for is making a connection with the local Haitian population and that’s just not going to happen unless we go meet them where they are. Even here, physically IN Haiti, we need to continue to GO to them… ironic, isn’t it? Anyway, there is a particular family that we visit often. We met them when we came down in November last year and we’ve continued to foster that relationship. It is a family that has several generations living together in one area. There is a fenced in “yard” and several
Example of a mud hut
houses in it. The majority of the houses are stick-and-mud huts, but there is currently one cinder block home there (though the foundation was just laid for a second). This cinder block home belongs to the patriarch of the family, the grandfather. Often times, he is out during the day, working, but there are many times we manage to catch him after he has returned and get a chance to visit with him, as well. They are a God-fearing family, even though they live right next to a voodoo temple. There are tons of kids that play in this area, belonging to the several sisters (daughters of the patriarch) that have started families here. Our kids enjoy playing with all the kids there and those kids certainly enjoy playing with ours, too. The Haitian kids have taught us games to play with rocks, sometimes they play tag (pretty universal), and other times I bring a soccer ball with me so we can all kick it around.
Boys proudly holding soccer ball
                Last week, we got to go twice to the village. On Wednesday, I brought a soccer ball with me and when we were leaving, the kids begged me to let them borrow it. I told them that I would leave the ball, but be back on Friday to pick it up. Immediately, the kids’ faces lit up as if they had just heard the best news in their lives. I added that I wanted them to take care of the ball – I looked over and caught the gaze of one of the mothers and she nodded approvingly. I told them if I came back and either they didn’t have it or they hadn’t taken care of the ball, I wouldn’t bring one back again for a while. They huddled up and started planning how they were going to ensure they took good care of it. Then, one of the smaller boys, came up and grabbed my hand and asked me if he could play with it, too. I addressed the older ones and told them they needed to share it with everyone. For a moment, they looked disappointed and said he was too small to play with them. So, I asked them how he was going to learn to play well if they didn’t teach him? They thought about it for a second and then responded with how they were going to teach him and Dawens (boy about Isaac’s age) and the other little boys in the area. I smiled and handed the ball over to them… and there was much rejoicing!
Boys posing with soccer ball
                One of the philosophies of ministry that NVM holds to is a hand-up versus a hand-out. We want to take care that we are not establishing a dependence on blans (white people), but contributing to the development of the people (spiritually, physically, mentally, and socially) towards independence and productivity and eventually contributing to the rebuilding of Haiti. That’s our mission, paraphrased. As I watched these boys respond to being allowed to borrow a soccer ball, I recognized the potential in being able to teach them about responsibility for others’ things. They understand responsibility for chores and contributing to the family. When one of the mothers returned home from selling charcoal that day, I watched one of the boys, Kiki, take the bags of charcoal off the donkey, take the saddle off, then bring the donkeys over to one of the village wells to get them water. That is his responsibility and how he contributes to his family. But there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to being responsible for others’ things, which would make sense considering they aren’t used to having much of anything. I returned on Friday, as promised, and when the boys came from the chores they were doing, they brought the ball out. I praised them for taking care of it and then pumped more air into the ball, as it has a slow leak. I brought it back with me after that visit, but already, my mind is reeling with how I can continue using this to have the boys held responsible to take care of something and slowly increasing that responsibility over time…

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How Much Faith Does it Take?

The thought of moving to Haiti has not always been something that excited us.  There were times that it brought great excitement, but more often it seemed a source of anxiety.  We found ourselves wondering, "How much faith does it really take to be a missionary?"  We felt that God had stretched our faith a great deal in the past five years.  He asked Gami to leave the military, cutting our income in half.  Then he moved him to another new job, only to ask him to leave that job too.  Again, this cut our pay in half. While people stood by and said we were foolish or rash, we were simply trying to follow God's plan.  Then he asked us to move to a developing country with our four children.  This was definitely a stretch for us.  We prayed about it, sought the counsel of countless people, and decided not to come. Then we realized in November that God was indeed telling us to come.  So we agreed, and prayed that He would show Himself faithful.

Have you ever asked God to prove Himself faithful?  It almost seems a foolish prayer to me, as I look back on my prayer.  The very name of God is the essence of faithfulness.  He has never been anything but faithful.  How could I expect it to be different now?  Yet, I find myself looking at God over and over and almost begging Him to be faithful.  I feel He must look at me and wonder when I will finally have the faith that He desires for me to have. 

As we look over budget weekly, plan events, and just try to live life here in Haiti, we are desperate for His provision and guidance!  We continue to move forward in obedience, trusting Him to be faithful.  Yet, He stretches us to His timeline, to His plan, and to His glory.  Oh, if only I could grasp that fully!  Then perhaps I would not doubt and I would have no need to ask Him to be faithful.  Instead my time could be spent praising Him for His guaranteed faithfulness.  The enemy loves to make us doubt, but we know that we must carry on.  God will provide.  He will guide us.  He will take care of every detail.  We must be faithful in obedience to glorify His name, and He will work it all out in His timing.  Ok, got it...my head knows it...now if only my heart would follow behind. 

You see, so many think that missionary families must have immense faith.  We must be closer to God, hear his voice more clearly, and be filled with joy each and every day.  The truth is, we are just like everyone else.  We are struggling, asking for His faithfulness (even though our heads say that is foolish), and hoping that He will carry us through.  I sometimes envision myself walking tensely forward into a dark hallway, not sure what might happen.  I want to force my eyes shut for fear that everything is coming crashing down, but I know I must keep them open to see where He leads me. So I keep on going, though I am not confident yet.  One day, I pray I will be confident.  I will stop asking The Faithful One to be faithful.  It seems comparable to asking a bird to be a bird...how foolish!  How could a bird be anything but a bird.  We would never think to even ask it to be a bird, for we already know that is exactly what it is.  I yearn for the day when my faith reaches this level, and I do not ask God to be what He already is.  Instead, may I praise Him for it all the more.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Feeding the Hungry



One of the most difficult moments I have had in the past month was realizing that nearly everyone I meet and interact with here in Haiti is starving or hungry.  They are used to 1 meal or maybe 2 per day.  They work or sit in the heat all day.  As I sit at church, trying to understand all that is being said, I can look around at hundreds of hungry faces.  I have almost gotten used to seeing children who are malnourished.  Their hair is light in color and dry.  Their faces are sunken in, their eyes seem hollow, and they show little expression.  They are irritable and tired.  Their arms vary from very tiny to very swollen.  Their stomachs are distended, and they do not even realize that hunger is not supposed to be normal. 




Two Sundays ago, I was sitting in church and looked across the aisle at a young girl.  She was so thin that immediately I knew...this child is starving.  Then it hit me.  They are all starving.  Every single child that I see in church is hungry.  None of them had enough to eat.  None of them slept well, due to the heat, bugs, and pain in their stomachs.  None of them have even had enough to drink.  I choked the tears back as I asked God, "Why?"  Why are these children starving when we have more than enough to eat? Why do we as Americans go on every fad diet that exists and try so hard to lose weight when people around the world are starving to death.  Why am I not eating less so they can eat more?  How can I even help?


 

I thought of our malnutrition program that is run out of our clinic.  We can see up to 30 children in this clinic.  It is saved for only severe cases.  There are some that are too severe, and they need in-patient care.  However, if they are not past the point of nutrient absorption, we will admit them into the program. Still, we cannot seem to get the funding to reach more children.  This program could run 5 days a week, seeing 50 patients per day.  It could be a program completely separate from the clinic.  There is no shortage of children needing the help.

 
 We have mothers paying a tap-tap to drive them up to two hours in order to come to our clinic.  This is because they have heard of our program that is saving the lives of small children.  Every day in the clinic, children are seen who are starving and severely malnourished.  Yet, they sit on a waiting list because of funding.  How is this right?  How can we sit by and let this continue to happen?  As my heart breaks, my fingers are pointing back at me.  What have I done to feed the hungry?  What have I done to ensure they are not going to bed hungry tonight?  Satan screams at me, "You will never save them all! It is useless! They are going to die anyway!"  Yet, is this not why I got my degree in the first place?  I was given a passion for the children who are hungry every night when they go to bed.  So now what will I do with it?
 


There is one little girl whom I adore.  Her mother is nursing her, trying to keep her healthy.  Yet, they do not have enough money to buy meat.  For this reason, little Landa is anemic. She will nurse and get down to play.  Literally the first thing she does is pick up a handful of dirt to eat it.  She just nursed! Why does she keep eating dirt? Well, because she has no iron.  Her body is craving iron, and dirt has more iron than she can find in her diet.  This breaks my heart.  She has become severely ill multiple times due to eating dirt.  Her mother knows it and is working so hard to keep her from eating dirt.  How do you keep an 18 month old sitting in someone's lap 24 hours a day in order to ensure she does not eat dirt? 
 
 
This is one story of many that I am learning.  They are all hungry.  They are all tired and irritable and fighting to live.  I want to do something more.  Yet, I sit here, not even sure where to start.  So I write.  I write in hopes that someone will hear how they can invest.  I write in the hopes that it will be therapeutic for me and help me express the pain I feel for these little ones.  I write so that one more person is fighting for these little ones in Haiti who simply need a chance...a chance to live.  I write so that you will know that we are passionate and we love Haiti...but it is breaking us too.  We live in luxury while children starve not even a mile up the street.  The very thought disgusts me.  And I think, "Finally...I am starting to understand.  I am finally seeing a piece of God's heart that we hide so well in 'the land of plenty.'  I just might be taking one step to preparing to live radically for the lives of others."  Why did Jesus live a homeless life?  Maybe because he saw this....it might not match theology, but it screams from my heart.
~Cathi

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adoption Challenges

To clarify, we are not adopting.  This is not about our challenges to adopt.  However, it seems that adoption is one of the main topics that come up when we are visiting with short-term teams who work with NVM.  Through these conversations, we see so much of people's hearts and passions.  Sometimes we hear successful adoption stories.  Most frequently, people are asking about adoption in Haiti or more specifically, at our children's home.  There is something about this place that makes you want to take a child home to love them.  While we have to remind people that most of the children they interact with have families, there are still some who do not.  These children live with other relatives or in a children's home (or orphanage).  This is where so many find their heart for adoption.

I have been blessed to watch multiple friends go through adoption processes.  I have watched from different distances with each, but God seems to have surrounded me with people who have a heart for adoption.  I have seen adoption through DHS, US adoption agencies, and international adoption agencies.  Each of them has been absolutely beautiful!  As I continue watching friends and following their stories, I am amazed at how long the process sometimes takes.  I have learned a great deal from my friends.  First, let me share a little of our "adoption" story.

A couple of years ago, we brought a teenager into our home via kinship placement with DHS.  She has a beautiful laugh, smile, and heart.  God moved our hearts to love her unconditionally and offer to adopt her.  We proceeded with these plans as far as DHS allowed.  At one point, the DA and DHS agreed that guardianship made more sense.  While this was hard to swallow, we felt helpless to do anything different.  We were concerned that DHS would remove her if we were not compliant.  We agreed to guardianship, still acting as if it was indeed an adoption.  While she is still a part of our family, she has moved on to another home now.  We miss her dearly, and it hurts to not be able to see her or hear her laugh every day.  However, we trust God's hand in this and know He is able to care for her and carry her.  So, here we are in Haiti, and she remains in the USA.

While we did not get to finalize adoption, there are many successful adoptions daily.  These are where I have learned the following:

1. Adoptions can take a very long time!
I have seen adoptions that go through in 6 months, and others that have taken years.  Throughout the process, the adoptive parents have to be patient and persistent.  They have to work hard for the child, fighting for them all along the way, regardless of the many thousands of miles that may separate them.

2. Adoptions are hard, emotionally.
There are so many challenges, but adoption is not all rosy and wonderful.  There are tears shed, nights of doubt, worries, and heartbreaks.  It is an emotional roller-coaster.  The entire family pays a price for the adoption.  This does not mean it is not worth it, but it is hard.

3. Adoption comes with a great amount of fear to be fought.
I think the biggest fear I felt and so many others have shared with me is the fear of rejection.  What if you do all of this and the child never loves you?  Another fear is abuse/destruction.  What if the child abuses one of your children?  What if they become destructive physically? What if they destroy your family in other ways?  What if bringing a child into our family would upset the balance and rob us of our peace?  What if the birth parents want them back?

4. Adoption is expensive, in more than one way.
Adoption can consume your thoughts and all of your spare time while it is in the process.  It then demands a great deal of time after the adoption is finalized.  The monetary cost is pretty straight-forward.  I think most people know that adoptions cost a lot monetarily.  But it also can be a toll on your body as you stress or lose sleep.

5. The adopted child will not waltz into your family and fit right in.  There will be battles and adjustments that will take a long time.  There will be unseen challenges, and this can sometimes take years as well.
We often get this fairy tale image of a child  being adopted and happily fitting in.  They are content, obedient, and happy.  The family all just keeps on living and the adopted child jumps in where the family is.  This is not true of any adoption that I have seen yet.  The child has struggles, and often he/she cannot vocalize them.  The family does change, because it has to with any additional family members.  The schedule changes, the child can have unwarranted fears, and they may at times reject the family.  The child will struggle to accept this new home (it seems this increases with age), and the family never knows what will trigger a melt down or rebellion from the child.

While contemplating all of this recently, I realized that this is exactly why God loves adoption.  First and foremost, He is persistently fighting for us so that He can adopt us.  He knows many will reject Him, and it breaks His heart.  He loves unconditionally, knowing that it will often go unnoticed.  He works hard, knowing that most of His adoptions will take years of tears and persistence before they are finalized.  It is hard on Him emotionally as well.  His heart breaks and I believe He cries over many of the children He is trying so desperately to adopt.  While I do not believe that God fears anything, I do believe that He understands the same fears we have.  He does not have to fear, but He sees when He will be rejected.  He knows not every adoption will be successful.  Some children will never love Him, some will run back to the world and what they know, some will become destructive in His family (the church), some will rob the family of peace.  God knows all of this, and yet He still pursues us.  Our adoption came at a high price - the Son of God.  We may never fathom just how much this really costs...the loss of your own Son in order to adopt so many more.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the adopted child will not waltz right into His family and fit right in.  There is a lengthy process of them adjusting and adapting.  At times they will fight it.  At times they will break down and just cry.  Sometimes they cannot even vocalize what they are battling inside.  The family/church changes with this new addition to the family.  If they do not change, it is only because the child has been rejected by them.  They have not taken it upon themselves to ensure the newly adopted child becomes part of the family in every way.  This also breaks God's heart.  Sometimes the child will have unwarranted fears - often times, in fact.  For if God is our Father, whom shall we fear?  Sometimes the child will reject the family/church and struggle to accept it as home.  Sometimes they may rebel.

The key to all of this is the response of the parent.  While the siblings may sometimes grow tired of the battles or the loss of peace, the parents never do.  God is most definitely the same way.  His mercies are new every morning, and He alone can truly love unconditionally.  He will never give up, even when others do.  He always holds on to hope, and He never fails.  For if God is love, then He must hope and persevere.  How blessed I am to be adopted!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Pain in Loving the Unloved

Last week we were able to visit some villages for the first time.  I personally went to Trou-Caiman for two days with a VBS group.  This village has no Christian church, but has multiple voodoo temples.  There is also no school in this village.  While it is within walking distance of our campus, it is still quite a long walk.  For this reason, people only come to campus if they are very ill and need to visit the clinic.  VBS was a little overwhelming, with people coming from every corner of our designated area.  The snack time was practically mobbed by the adults in the village.  While people in this area are not violent, they can still be overwhelming.  This was especially true for the team who spoke very limited Creyol.  I stepped in and helped regain control of the situation and we had a better plan for day two.

While we were working with Trou-Caiman, we also had two other traveling groups.  In addition to having all that going on (plus English Camp on campus), we had endless vehicle troubles.  It all worked out, but it left us stranded in different areas on multiple days.  My first day in Trou-Caiman, our group was left waiting for a vehicle to come pick us up.  We were packed up and ready to go, but waited another hour before being picked up.  During this time, we played with kids and interacted with adults who were still hanging out.  I picked up one little girl who was very tired and she quickly laid her head down.  I found someplace to sit with her, and kids continued to come to me and talk.  I was being taught more Kreyol while we talked.  This led to continued questions, which at first I did not understand.  When I realized what they were asking, I still did not realize all that was behind it.  Multiple children asked me, "Are you taking her with you to Chambrun?" in regards to the girl nearly sleeping in my lap.  I thought it a strange question, and answered that no, I was not taking her with me.  I told them she lived in their village, not in Chambrun.  They said they knew that, but I could still take her.  At that point I figured she must have family in Chambrun.  Since these two villages are only 5 miles apart via footpath, it would make sense.  I simply told them no, I was not taking her.

Within the next 15 minutes, I had more children ask the same question.  Then I just thought it was strange, and sad!  One of the mothers who had been observing VBS came and asked me the same question.  I told her that no, I could not take the child with me.  There was an older child who had been helping me with Kreyol who came over to explain to me that I needed to take this child.  At this point, 10 children and one adult had told me the same thing.  In our conversation in Kreyol, he explained that her mother had left and no longer wanted her.  She had been abandoned.  She was maybe 4 or 5 years old.  I then became very burdened and asked him who was watching her every day.  At first he was startled because I asked very sternly.  I told him somebody had to watch her and help her.  He said other moms were helping her.  I asked again to ensure that I understood, "Her mom left?  She does not want her?  She is not coming back?"  He answered that I was correct.  My heart broke and my stomach sank.  This feeling of helplessness was overwhelming.  I could not take this child simply because an older child told me she needed someone.  She is not an animal that I can just sweep in and rescue with no care for where her family may be.  Still, the fact that she had to walk away with 2 older girls (who were no more than 8 or 9) and I did not know if her mother was truly coming back...this was a hard fact to swallow.  My heart broke and my mind raced as I tried to determine what I could do.  The difficult answer: nothing.  I could do nothing.  Our children's home is full, and I do not fully know the situation.  It is indeed kidnapping, even if her mother abandoned her.  This is hard to swallow.

Later I returned home and cried over this little girl and prayed that God would watch over her.  I prayed that somebody would be there to hold her that night, and somebody would bring her food and water.  I prayed that I could see her again if we returned to the village.  Maybe one day I could do more for her, but not that day.  When I can do nothing, God must do everything.  While this is such a difficult place to be, it is right where He wants me.

Then it hit me: why do we not see this the same way in the USA?  In America, we say we want to help the orphans and abandoned.  Our hearts break for these children who nobody wants.  We say we will step in and some may even read my blog and feel like I made the wrong choice.  Yet, there are tens of thousands of children in the USA waiting to be adopted or fostered.  There are thousands in your own area who need a foster home.  Is it easy? No!  Would it have been easy for me to bring this child home with me last week? Perhaps it would have felt easy at first.  In reality, it would have grown increasingly difficult as we tried to help her with no insight into what her life had been or who her family was/is.  It seems like an "easy" answer...young child is potentially abandoned in a village in Haiti, we should definitely step in.  However, when we look at the faces of young children in America, our hearts are not moved in the same way.  We can look the other way because there is a "system" in place to make sure they are taken care of.  I cannot help but think it is a Christian's biggest cop-out to their calling to care for the orphans.  We look the other way and let them live in group homes, never reaching their full potential because they do not have someone fighting for them.  Many of these kids will end up back on the streets like their parents.  We blame it on the system that we so quietly allow to raise these children.  When will we step up and truly love the orphans??  Loving the unloved is painful...but it is right.  My prayer is that this story may move at least one person into action to begin loving the unloved and provide a home for a child who is lost in the "system" that we entrust with more children than they can manage (to their own admission).  May this story of my heart breaking not simply be a story to you; may it move you to do something more where God has you!
~ Cathi

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dangerous Prayers

I've taken up a prayer of asking God for opportunities to show His love to people in meaningful ways. Sometimes, this has been as simple as giving a mom with her little ones a ride to the clinic. However, yesterday, this prayer turned into a much bigger adventure.
I was driving back from the airport in our JAC (little tap-tap). Miguel was sitting next to me in the cab and Cathi was in the back with the rest of our children and the 4 we had just picked up from the airport. We stopped at the first stop light on our route and, as usual, kids at the intersection began asking us for money. One came up to my window and I was looking at him. When I looked over at Miguel's window, the boy on that side had jumped in through the window into the JAC up to his waist and grabbed my iPhone sitting on the seat next to Miguel, then took off running behind us. I did what I felt any good Haitian would do... I put the parking brake on and ran after him. There was a street vendor behind our vehicle and I asked him, "Kote li te ale?" (Where did he go?) He pointed down the street and I took off in that direction. I ran by a man who started talking to me, asking, "¿Hablas español? ¿Que pasó?" (Do you speak Spanish? What happened?). I said, "Un muchacho me robó el telefono" (A boy stole my phone). He then took off in that direction, too as I was stopped by policeman on a motorcycle who asked me, "Sak passe?" (What happened?) to which I responded, "Yon gason te vole telefon mwen" (A boy stole my phone). He turned his moto around and took off down the street. I kept running up the street and the man and the police had caught up to him and had him off the road (we were literally running down the street). I thanked the Hispanic, who asked me, "¿De donde eres?" After I told him I was from Puerto Rico, he went back in the direction we'd come. (We are next to the Dominican Republic, so it's not all that strange to run into Spanish speakers.) The police asked me again what had happened and I told him, "Li te vole telefon mwen. Li ble epi nwa." (He stole my phone. It's blue and black). The policeman reached into his pocket and found my phone there. He proceeded to essentially spank this kid, who was about 13 years old.
By this time, we had quite a gathering of UN officers around us, inquiring as to what had happened. I was questioned by a UN officer from India, another from the Cote d'Ivoire, and various Haitian police. The police asked me to stick around so they could get my report. At this point, I asked if I could go and at least park my vehicle somewhere, since it was still at the intersection. So I ran back to the intersection, hopped in the JAC and drove it across the intersection to a gas station. I then ran back to where they had the kid in custody. He was now with his hands on a wall and legs spread apart, with a police officer holding him by the back of his pants. I waited there for another half hour before a police car showed up, in which they put the boy and then asked me to follow to the police station. I drove the JAC a ways to the station, where I parked it once again and went in. At this time, they had me give an official statement. As I was doing so, I noticed the jail cell adjacent to that room, where there were quite a few people, inquisitively looking on. They did not seem like very friendly people. The police then explained to me that they would like to press charges on this kid to have him spend a few nights in jail, but in order to do that, they needed my cooperation. I looked back at the cell and back at this 13 year-old kid and did not think that was a great idea. Instead, I asked the police officer if I could talk to him. He almost chuckled, but said fine. I then walked up to the kid and told him that the police wanted me to give them what they needed to keep him in jail. His eyes grew big at the realization. I then proceeded to tell him that I didn't want that to happen; I told him I forgave him and wanted him to be a better person because God had made him to do something better with his life. I told him he could be helping people instead of taking advantage of them. I told him that when the police let him go, it was his choice to do something good with himself, but only God would know if he did. I told him I believed in him. After I talked, the boy looked me in the eye and apologized.
I told the police officer I didn't want him to spend the night in jail and that he could let him go. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to do that. He tried to talk me into letting them press the charges, because otherwise, the kid was just going to do it again. I told the officer that there was a better chance of him doing it again after being in jail; nobody's probably ever given this kid a reason to do anything good with his life and I hoped that he'll remember this next time he thinks about stealing. The police officer actually did chuckle at me this time. First, he asked me how long I'd been in Haiti. When I told him 2 months, he asked how I'd learned Creole! I told him I learned by talking to Haitians, how else?! He then grabbed my phone, put his number in it and as he gave it back to me, he said, "My name is Reginald. You're a good person. If you're ever in trouble, you can call me and I'll help." I walked out of the station unsure of how to feel. It dawned on me that this was one of the most tangible ways that kid would understand God's redeeming love. And I prayed that this crazy afternoon would make a long-lasting impact on him.
I challenge you to pray, "Give me opportunities to show your love today, God" and see what happens...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pastors' Conference

The last twenty-four hours have been long, but an incredible blessing. About this time last night, I was finishing writing up my final paper for one more semester of Seminary. That's one more class down and still trucking along my degree plan. I didn't end up finishing the paper until about 3 am to then get ready for bed, to get up at 5:55 am! I slept around 2 hours in order to get up in time to get ready for the pastors' conference this morning. I began to get the tap-tap ready so that I could go with Clersondy (one of our Haitian staff) to pick up the pastors. I wanted to see where they got picked up in the event I ever have to make that pick up by myself. Jim has been managing the pastors' conferences for the last 14 months and has had around 60 pastors come consistently. This morning we had around 40 pastors. When we asked about the text message that was sent out earlier this week, 75% of them acknowledged receiving it, however, they said there was an error in the message which could have easily accounted for the lower attendance today. Either way, it was a great morning. We served breakfast, sang a few worship songs, did an activity, met in small groups, and had a teaching. Jim made sure to introduce me to the group and allowed me to address them at the beginning. Then, I was able to participate in facilitating worship, leading the activity, guiding the small group time, then adding closing remarks to the session before praying at the end. The activity we did today was a
tug-of-war (which they had not done before). We made four teams of four men each and they competed for top place. They absolutely had a blast and they got into it quite a bit. We had one team literally get dragged across the floor, because they refused to just give up! It was hysterical. Jim tied it in later as an illustration of spiritual warfare. For part of the small group time, we had the pastors  discuss in their groups topics they deem important that we can address in later conferences moving forward. I was surprised at some of the responses, ranging from practical ministry topics to deep theological studies. I look forward to sharing more with these men, building these relationships, and begin to engage some of them in a more one-on-one setting. One pastor this morning, Clermont, came up to me afterwards to give me a picture of his church. He pulled it out of his backpack and wrote his name and phone number on the back. We talked for a little while and I found out that he pastors a small church in Croix-de-Bouquets which is not far from NVM. He asked me to call him so that we could get together later. I was so encouraged that although I was not expecting it, God allowed me to connect with someone on a personal level at my first pastors' conference.
Yesterday, we had a team of 17 fly in. They will be helping us out with English Camp this next week. After the pastors' conference and lunch, I took them on a campus tour, explaining our pillars of ministry, talking about our current ministries and the vision for the future. At choice locations throughout the tour, we stopped to pray for the ministries and staff at NVM, for Haiti itself, and for their upcoming week of ministry. It has been a long day and I am absolutely exhausted. But at the same time, I am feeling so fulfilled in what I get to do.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

English Camp today

English Camp Activities

Here are some pictures to show what the kids are doing in English camp.
They learn a new game each day.  Today was kickball, which was quite the adventure
for this group of kids who has never played anything similar to baseball.
 
Ok, we are in the outfield...now what?
 
 
First one up... kicking a ball is an easy enough concept for a
"futbol" focused culture.
 
 
 
"Coach Heidi" - she did such a great job! She is one of our interns
focusing solely on English Camp this summer.
 
Lined up to kick the ball
What a kick!  No special effects here. He was really angled that much.
I don't know how he managed to stay standing!
 

 

Evangelism Class

 
 
Team members visiting with Sandra and Isaac during Evangelism Class
 
 
 
Jackson helping a child practice the phrase, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan
for your life." This is so precious!
Younger group out, ready for some kickball.
 
So there you have it.  A snapshot into day 2 of English Camp.  Each child gets to play the game, go to Evangelism Class, sit through an English lesson, eat lunch, drink juice...what more could they want in a camp for a month?  We are blessed by the interns, translators, and children who are here for this.  You may be wondering if this "camp" means the children stay on campus all month.  The answer is no.  They walk or get a ride here each morning by 8 AM.  They leave around 2 PM to return home.  Yesterday we had 73 kids at camp. Today we registered nearly 40 more for a total of 110 kids.  These 110 kids will be able to hear the gospel, be reminded that God has a purpose for their life, and enjoy a hot meal each weekday for the entire month of July.  I look forward to continuing to post pictures and stories of how God uses this time to bless these families!
~ Cathi

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Happenings

For the past month we have had a lot of down time to learn tasks, adjust to living here in Haiti, and organize our house. Now that we are in July, we are gearing up for the busiest month of the year. We have somewhere between 120-150 people coming this month on short term mission teams. Next week alone we will have 70 short-termers on campus! This is an exciting time for us as we get to see all that God is going to do in and through this ministry and the people who come to help! Today, English camp kicked off with over 70 children in attendance. Each child pays to come to English camp. This gives them access to faith-based education in order to learn English. If a child can learn English in Haiti, they can greatly increase their chance of a good job. In addition, each child is fed a hot meal of rice and beans for lunch. This is a meal that most of these children would go without since school is done for the summer. Instead, they have a constructive place to come play, learn, hear about Jesus, and be fed. English camp runs for an entire month, Mon-Fri. We have 3 interns who have prepped the curriculum and will run the camp all month. All 3 of them are education majors, and they are an immense blessing to our staff here! We will miss them when they return home in August! Next week we have a medical team arriving, doing medical clinics in 3 different villages (4 days) that otherwise have very limited access to medical care. They will see a wide variety of issues and be able to love on the people in each village as they help them in such a powerful way. It is so sad to know that people in Haiti often die simply because they had no access to proper medical treatment. The hospitals are allowed to turn patients away if they cannot afford treatment, or if they think the case is too risky (preemie babies are a prime example), or if they think they cannot actually help the person. Most people cannot afford the medical care, so a traveling clinic that reaches out to them where they are is a huge blessing! We are excited for this team to come and help the people of Haiti next week! In addition to English camp and the medical team, we also have 2 VBS teams coming next week. Each team will go out for 4-5 hours a day to different villages, proclaiming the love of Jesus to the children there. We are so excited for this as well, because they offer a snack to each child who comes. Once again, it is a chance for that child to have something to eat that day, simply because 20 Americans chose to come and do VBS. While at VBS, the kids will do crafts, sing, and play games. These are simple activities, but when your summer consists of sitting in the heat, hungry and thirsty - it is huge! The children are thrilled to come to VBS. It shows them that someone cares about them, as a hungry child. Someone wants to love them. Someone wants to show them the love of Christ. They matter! One of the most heartbreaking things we experience living in Haiti is that so many children have nobody to fight for them. There is nobody to push for proper medical treatment, nobody to ensure the child is safe and well fed. VBS is a time where these kids have someone coming from another country to fight for them. The battle is as much spiritual as it is physical. What a blessing to pray over these kids in these villages and feed them, even if just for a day! We will have other teams coming this month as well, but this is a glimpse into what our minds are focused on today. We are excited, and we know God is at work. Know that when God is at work, so is the enemy. He is hitting our family from every angle. We are putting on our armor and standing firm, trusting God will work it all out in His time. Additionally, we know the other staff members - Haitian and American - are being hit hard as well. There is a lot to distract us all, and to discourage us. We ask for your prayers as we charge forward into this month of spiritual battle. We are grateful to be here, and thankful for all of you who read our little stories, and pray. ~ Cathi