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.