Faith Produces Perserverance

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” –James 1:2-3

barefoot construction worker in haiti

I have always been told that faith is built through experiences… like a tower that is expanded upon with each new promise that is held up by our unfailing God. Yet so many times, like today, I find myself stressed beyond belief about finances, work, and family and it seems my faith is really small. It’s in times like these that I wonder if I have any faith at all? I wonder if God is going to intervene and “fix” things. I wonder if He even hears?

It’s during these times that my mind turns to Haiti. I think first about how little many people there and all across the world have. I think about how little it seems to take to survive. I think about friends we met there who haven’t eaten in days. I think about how they feed their children mud cookies to fill their bellies. Those thoughts don’t always do much to quell my fearful heart over whatever problem I’m facing at the moment but it does put it into perspective. I’m not starving. I’m not on the brink of starvation. I have access to medical care. If I had children, they would be receiving an education. I have a house that protects me from the elements. I am employed. I have transportation. I can worship freely.

Despite these things, I still feel my heart overflow with stress. Why is my faith so shallow? I am reading a book that a friend gave me called “Revelation in World Missions.” I’m not too far into it but in the fourth chapter it talks about this fellow’s transition to America. He was previously a street preacher in India with only the clothes on his back, no shoes and he faced intense persecution where ever he went. He wrote with amazement in his book about how he realized in his first few weeks here that Americans were unaware of their affluence. They were unaware of their wealth. He speaks of an instance where a church was raising money for a project back in India and celebrated the amount of money they had raised. He was impressed as well, until he realized they had spent twice as much in food for the event!

I guess all my rambling is leading back to this. God is continually showing Jared and I what faith building looks like. Through the things that stress us out, He is trying to bring us back to the big picture. I don’t know that we’re there yet but I am so thankful he hasn’t given up on us.

 

On another note:

 

The Spirit has really convicted me about what to do on this upcoming trip to Haiti. Another source of stress, ironically, has been how to “fix” Haiti. After reading a blog post by Jillian Kittrell about wisdom and service on the mission field I had to back up and punt. Am I focusing too much of my thoughts and energy on “fixing” Haiti instead of spreading the Gospel? What is my motive in going again and again?

I’ll be honest I didn’t like the answer I came to. After reflecting on an encounter with another mission group in Haiti this past summer who was not concerned with spreading the love of Christ but just slapping bandaids over a problem, I decided I did not want to travel that path again. So I’m traveling to Haiti in March with a refreshed outlook–one that focuses on teaching children Bible stories rather than frantically facebooking the US every night to find them sponsors. (Although, I’m sure I’ll still do that as the need arises.) I pray that God softens the hearts of those we will meet and that he will get me out of the way and just use my mouth to speak His word and my hands to help others. I hope that you will join me in this prayer.

While we are down there we do have several things we’d love to accomplish:

Jared is hoping to help a friend of ours who manages Feed My Sheep farm for us rebuild his house that was lost during a storm. There is still money to be raised for that but for the most part, we have some supplies to work with while we’re down there.

I hope that Natalie and I can teach some of the children about how seeds become plants and give the kids letters and seed packets for their families from some of the students at Sneads Elementary School.

Mom and I want to be purposeful in teaching Bible stories everywhere we go, much like Brother Justin did this summer.

We could use your support accomplishing these things. If you have any children’s Bible story books, old VBS or Children’s Sunday School material, we’d love to take it with us to teach to the kids we work with. We are always looking for donations so that we can buy Bibles in country in the correct translation. Money to purchase emergency items like medicine, rice or water for families in dire straits is also appreciated.We also have team members that are still waiting on the Lord to provide the rest of their money for their travel expenses or plane tickets.

If you want to help with these in any way please let me know! All donations given through the local church or through Love In Action (the umbrella group for Give Us Hope Mission) are tax deductible.

 

your grace abounds in deepest waters

One more faith building experience: 

I had been fretting over how Jared and I were going to pay for our travel expenses for the March trip. I knew we were supposed to go and I knew it would be taken care of. God had miraculously taken care of us in the past when it concerned mission trips… I just wasn’t sure how it was going to happen this time. I went to pay my deposit with all of the money we had saved from Christmas, Birthdays and my photography business and had just enough to make the deposit. When we turned in the money the director told us that this money would be used to rice, beans and Bibles. I explained that this was the deposit money. He told me that our in-country costs had been covered! I broke down crying and praising the Lord! All we have left to pay is our plane tickets!

 

Bondye Bon! God is Good!

 

 

Meet Billy

I put up 47 quarts of peas this summer. FORTY-SEVEN FOLKS!

So, you can only imagine what came tumbling out of the freezer when Jared opened the freezer this morning to get ice for his sweet tea.

Yep, rock hard, toe crushing peas.

As he was fussing and dodging killer peas (and I was *trying* to be sympathetic to his plight) I was reminded, and reminded him as all good (smart-mouthed) wives do, that some people weren’t so fortunate to have a full freezer.

My grandmother used to cook the biggest meals and when we’d leave a little on our plate she would always tell us to finish because there were starving kids in Africa or China… whatever underdeveloped or developing country had been on the news that week. I would always moan and, being the smart aleck I was/am, would remark something about mailing the food to them or taking it to them. (Yes, I was probably due one or two more whoopings than I actually received!)

It wasn’t until I saw what true hunger looks like that I started to focus less on the sarcastic or witty remarks and more on the faces that I had met, the people I had embraced and souls that I prayed over through tears.

Let me introduce you to Billy:

Billy is on the left, Louvinsky is on the right.

Billy is on the left, Louvinsky is on the right.

When we met Billy, he looked pitiful. Chickungunya fever had the best of him but he still hung around the mission house lending a hand as we would let him, but bless his heart you could tell his was miserable.

He recovered quickly after receiving medical care at the clinic across the road and was at the mission house first thing every morning. He did EVERYTHING from carrying  50+ pound bags of rice to helping us sort clothing and shoes. He did not speak English but was very bright and figured out what exactly what we needed and was great about communicating with the Haitian community that we worked in. He was very observant and just had a way of understanding what needed to be done… he had more common sense than most adults.

Billy said he was 11 but he didn’t actually know his own birthday. He looked more like 7 than 11. He was very, very small and shy. As we endeavored to find out more about Billy, we were stunned by the life he had lived already. He was 1 of 7 kids. He had run away from home choosing instead to sleep in mango trees. He waited until the fruit fell from the tree and ate the over-ripened mangoes and he had not had “real” food in many days before the mission teams came. He was taking care of himself at age 7.

Billy’s story broke our hearts but his situation is not unique in Haiti. According to the World Food Program, chronic malnutrition affects 40% of children under 5 years old in poor towns across the country. Hunger is often caused by lack of access to food via poverty, poor agriculture production and the inability to travel to where food and safe drinking water are available. While the government is improving and Haiti has many aid organizations in the country there are still many children who are falling through the cracks. They lack the opportunity to an education which would help them out of poverty and they lack skills training which could help them be more competitive when searching for a job.

The good news is that Billy’s story does not end there. Fortunately he has been sponsored by a donor in the states who is paying his school tuition. While this doesn’t solve the problem of homelessness, it does guarantee him at least one good meal a day and hope for the future. There are many more children like Billy who need help. Visit Give Us Hope Mission to change a life today!

 

Homesick

I’ve been feeling a little “homesick” for Haiti these past few weeks. Every once in a while I will hear a song that reminds me of one Ferry, Emily and I listened to going up the mountain, or I’ll see a certain constellation in the night’s sky and remember sitting in the utter darkness of Montrouis looking as the same set of stars… There are days when I look at the unique way the sky seems to constantly change but stay the same and I remember our morning praying with a mother and her sick child on the hill of prayer above the town. I remember looking at the sky as I watched this young mother lay on the ground with her baby laid on her breast so she could pray facing up looking heavenward, not knowing if her baby was going to get well or not.

mother praying for baby

It’s in moments like these that my heart is so heavy for Haiti.

The Power to Make a Difference

School in the US is hard. I mean they expect students to come to class EVERYDAY, sit in an air conditioned room with new textbooks or E-books, absorb information provided to them by a highly trained professional and THEN the Department of Education has the audacity to expect students to take tests to prove their learning or to write a research paper using the vast amount information found on our technological superhighway and then synthesize that information down to cohesive thoughts and produce that information in an gradable form like a paper or abstract.  Also, they expect the kids to eat that awful free or reduced cost lunchroom food and drink a pint of milk EVERYDAY. Who would do that to a kid?! Oh and did I mention that this is a FREE education that every red-blooded American is entitled to?

 

Photo credit to Jane S.

Photo credit to Jane S.


…and then there is education in Haiti.

 

Education is NOT free. If you don’t pay, you don’t learn.

Textbooks are NOT free.

Lunch may or may not be served as part of your tuition rate.

Resources for research are NOT readily available.

Haitian classrooms consist of partitioned areas with a chalkboard and benches, no A/C, electricity only on occasion, usually no Internet connections and often no decorations.

 

Why in the world would a kid want to go to school in Haiti?

 

Jared met an AMAZING young man in March named Remy. Remy acted as a translator for their team and I had the chance to spend some time with him when I went in June. When Jared met Remy he had not eaten in 5 days. He had been kicked out of school because he could not pay his tuition. He had snuck BACK INTO SCHOOL because he wanted to learn. He had been kicked out of class again. He had snuck BACK INTO SCHOOL AGAIN because he didn’t want to fall behind… even though he didn’t have the money to attend.

 

Remy never complains about anything. Unless you ask, you would never know what he is going through. He wears joy like no other person I’ve ever met.

 

Remy wants to be a doctor. He wants to make a difference in Haiti and is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met.

 

He has been fortunate enough to have his high school and community college education sponsored thanks to some folks that learned about him after the team returned in March. I asked him in June, what do you want to be when you finish school?

 

“A doctor,” he replied.

 

“Well, what are you studying at school in St. Marc?”

 

“Computer Science,” he replied.

 

Me: O_o   “Ummm…how’s that going to work?”

 

“I’ll finish, go to work and save to go to med school,” he replied.

 

Remy is an eternal optimist. He is an example of everything that is good in Haiti. He is passionate about helping others, he tutors, he has an insatiable desire to learn… and he is just an example of what so many kids are hoping to have a chance at in Haiti.

 

Education is highly valued in Haiti. Haitians understand that to improve their country, to improve their personal situations, they must first be educated. However, this is not an option for many families.

 

Give Us Hope Mission, like many other international organizations, provides the opportunity for families to sponsor a child’s education for $1 per day. This covers tuition, books, a teacher and lunch; but truthfully it covers so much more. Sponsoring provides that student with hope for the future in a situation that has been hopeless for a long time. Sponsorship provides security for that student and at least one good meal a day. Sponsorship provides a way out of poverty and ignorance and allows Haitians to begin to rebuild their communities and country. Education allows them to take ownership of their world and empowers them to effect positive change that will last a lifetime.

 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a soda but the next time you buy a Coca-Cola at the gas station, stop and think about how much of a difference that dollar is making. Are you ending hunger? Are you educating a willing learner? Are you providing books for students? Are you providing hope to a kid like Remy?

 

Or are you merely pouring into a multimillion-dollar drink franchise?

 

You have the power to make a difference. What are you going to do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Not By Land, Then By Sea

“…and if you will look to your left you will see the truck y’all sent.”

 

I whipped my head around just in time to see a greenish-blue blur behind a fence at a police compound.

 

What in the world was the mission’s truck doing there?

 

Our directors went on to explain that the truck had been seized by the police earlier in the week because they were sure we hadn’t paid all of the customs taxes on it when the director picked it up at the port. (He had.) But in true Haiti fashion the police had seized it anyway until we could provide proof that it had been properly handled… never mind that the truck had papers in the glove box and a tag on the back. Ahhhhh Haiti! This is commonplace and our director didn’t appear too worried.

 

We served in Montrouis walking to all of our destinations for the next few days… however toward the end of the week we started getting restless. The lawyer had the paper work but had taken the afternoon off to watch the World Cup. The lawyer had the paperwork but got held up in Port-au-Prince. The folks at the station had taken the afternoon off to watch the World Cup and the lawyer had missed them… on and on the story goes. We knew the truck would be released… the mission had all of the documentation, but would it get out in time for us to travel up the mountain?

 

As we were hanging out at the mission house after a day of ministering on foot, my mom saw some boys fishing. Through a translator she told the boys she would pay them to bring her conch shells. So they boys went out and brought her shells and conch for us to cook that night. It was a nice gesture.

 

The next day, still no truck…but the boys came back by boat.

 

We all went down to the water to meet them and to look at more of their shells, this time they had painted shells to sell as well. After swapping money, Justin asked Pierre to translate and see if they went to church or knew Christ. Over the next hour and a half, he had the opportunity to lead them to Christ and spend time telling them stories from the Bible. They didn’t go to church because they did not have nice clothes… only what they fished in, so we were able to bless them with clothes as well.

justins boat pic

 

That night, the lawyer showed up with all the paper work we needed to pick the truck up the next morning. The boys showed up everyday for the rest of the week to spend time with us and learn more about Christ.

photo

Please pray for these new believers to grow. Pray also as they face opposition from voodoo believers.

Pray also that people would be willing to sponsor their education. $30 a month will cover their tuition, books and lunch.

 

PS–props to Justin for the photo and the title… I will unashamedly admit I stole both from his Facebook page :) Thanks bud!

Tears for Haiti

“You ok?!” was all I heard as I blindly made my way back to the front of the “church” trying to see through a flood of tears. One of our Haitian translators and security guards gave away more than he realized with that statement; he puts up a strong, stony front but he must have also been unnerved by the logistics of the one-way-in, one-way-out building packed full of homeless families and orphans looking for anything we could give them to ease their suffering. It was evident he didn’t understand that I was crying not because I was in physical pain or fearful but because of what I saw, of the suffering and hopelessness I felt each time I looked the homeless in the eyes. He did not understand that each time I looked at them and saw their eyes turn in shame because I was giving them underwear, that I too felt their shame and embarrassment in the deepest parts of me. The tears that flowed could not be explained… only felt.

This trip to Haiti was like a light at the end of the tunnel for me. My first year at my new teaching assignment had been marked with hurt, anger, bitterness and determination to be more effective the next year. Despite my resolve to continue improving professionally, I couldn’t help but find myself longing for a break. Haiti was that break. To be honest, I did not have an agenda in going this time. In December, I knew I was researching a path for our church to possibly travel down. When Jared went in March, I knew it would be so that he could work on the farm. However, with this trip… I just could not put my finger on what I was to do. I was so desperate for rest, for a refreshing outlook from the Savior that I found myself at a loss in the goal creation category for my trip. I went with expectations but no agenda… praying that the Lord would show me the way.

Sitting on the beach reading my Bible the first day I was led to the Psalm 127, which both reassured and frustrated me.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (vs1-2)

Anyone who knows me understands that I am not a passive, patient person. I am an individual of action. This scripture was not at all what I wanted to hear. Neither was the rest of the chapter, which just confused and made me more upset (maybe one day I’ll write about that… but now is not the time.) I continued to pray throughout the week that I would know why I was there.

 

With every turn the Lord told me to wait.

 

Wait on a truck.

Wait on paperwork.

Wait on the lawyer.

Wait on our director.

Wait on the Lord.

Wait on Jared.

Wait on our translators.

Wait. Wait. Wait.

 

Now, I realize that island time and American time are two VERY different things. But this was more than a series of moments of inactivity. This was a time of spiritual waiting that included physical demonstrations.

 

Wait.

 

While I was waiting something amazing happened… relationships began to form around me. I got to know our translators. I started learning Creole. I heard the Lord speak for the first time in a long time. I observed changes happening in my cousin’s heart through her actions. I saw Haitian culture taking shape, changing and flowing around me like a river. I saw relationships laid bare. I saw God tearing down and rebuilding. I saw him working like a surgeon to cauterize issues like cancer between people. I saw problems not being solved but improved. I saw human pride and depravity through the eyes of someone weighing salvation. I saw the name of Jesus lifted up and I saw His name dragged through the mud. I saw restoration. I saw hope. I saw the Spirit moving through all of the people.

I realized, and am realizing, that in my desire to be effective and strategic in my actions, I had overlooked all of the amazing things God was doing in my everyday life. I had chosen to be defeated by my circumstances rather than depending on the “God of Angel Armies” who holds me in his right hand to take care of me. I had chosen to evaluate my self worth by personal standards rather than Biblical ones. I had been concerned with myself rather than the plight of others.

Those tears that day at the homeless communities were not the first, nor were they the last of the trip. Leaving Montrouis, with tears streaming down my face, was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I felt like I was being turned inside out and that my heart was being severed from the rest of me. I cried the whole way to Port-au-Prince. I cried for the people of Haiti, I cried for the orphan that I held that didn’t have a name or known birthday, I cried over the children that kept asking when we would return, I cried over the leaders I saw emerging from the young men translating for us, I cried over the mother who begged us to take her child so he would have a chance. I cried because I’m still trying to understand how I fit into this tapestry God is weaving between the hearts and lives of people here in the States and in Haiti.

I cried over Haiti because it is often forgotten.

listening to Bible stories

 

But Haiti has not been forgotten by everyone…and Haiti has not forgotten us. More times than I can count did people say they were praying for us or praying for my family and farm specifically. People desperately wanted our prayers.

 

Please join me in praying for these issues… I’ll talk about them more in upcoming blogs:

1. Sponsors for Britis, Jeno, Roberto, Jet and Lyceen (spelling?)

2. Funding for Our Father’s House Orphanage

3. Spiritual growth and leadership development for Haitian translators

4. Funding for Feed My Sheep Farm and Heart For Haiti Artisan Group

Visit Give Us Hope Mission for more information or to help.

Faith of a Mustard Seed: God Outside of the Box

Near the end of our trip in Haiti we went to the mountain village of Arachaie. This village had never had missionaries before and the voodoo leaders continually told the believers who met in a little blue stone building at the peak of the mountain that the missionaries would never come. They told them we did not care.

from the church steps

from the church steps

We waited a long time that morning for a truck with big tires to pick us up and take us up the mountain. When the truck finally arrived it was nearly lunchtime. We traveled down the coast to the base of the mountain and started our ascent to the peak. A quarter of the way up the mountain our trucks could take no more and refused to continue to climb going instead in the opposite direction. We sat under a small tree until another truck came that was four-wheel drive. This small truck took the women and translators up first and came back for the men who had started hiking up the mountain.

While at the top of the mountain we started bagging up the rice we had  brought into smaller bags for each family and danced and sang with the kids. It was amazing to see the faith of the people who had been waiting ALL DAY LONG on us to come up the mountain. We passed out underwear to the kids and food supplies to the families. Then we played some more! The kids and parents heard the gospel from Ken and Pierre and many accepted Christ! It was by far one of the best days we had in Haiti.

The truck driver told one of the translators that he was not coming back. One thing about the part of Haiti we were in that was special was that I never felt unsafe. Still the same, it was not a great idea for the missionaries to be out after dark. We were worried and prayed that the driver would come back… and he did. He would not have time to make two trips back up to get the second group so we flagged down some motorcyclists and part of the group hitched a ride with them. I begged Jared to ride down on a motorcycle with me but he would not have it. It wasn’t “safe.” WELL, the motorcycles left and made it down the mountain but our truck did not. It broke a ball joint about a half mile from the peak. We hopped out and started walking in the dark.

Someone asked for me to sing as we were walking so I started singing every hymn I could think of. Rick taught me a few songs he learned as a boy in Plant City. One thing that surprised me about Haiti is how quickly a town or village would pop up out of no where. We were walking down the mountain road and suddenly there was a voodoo village! We slowed down and waited on Pierre to join us and Gia started praying as we were walking through. She said, “Jillian sing.”

…and we sang “Our God is an awesome God, He reigns, from heaven and earth with wisdom power and love, our God is an awesome God!” over and over again. We were not touched as we walked through the village and even had the children chasing after us laughing and singing too! It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced!

Finally, after walking for two hours or so, a motorcycle rider came back to find us. Our group started jumping on the back of the bikes in pairs and riding down the mountain. I have never heard my husband pray like he did that night. He prayed over every rock, cliff, pothole and passerby we traveled by. That was a terrifying and thrilling ride. Some of the time, I was sure we would not make it. Other times, I just wanted to scream and hop off and walk. Nevertheless, we made it to the bottom. Jared gave that Haitian driver a bear hug like you’ve never seen!

After we returned to the states, Jared could not get the mountain trip off of his mind. We also could not forget the sweet girl we sponsored named Edelande who had to walk several miles to school. Jared prayed and prayed and started looking for a truck we could turn into a school bus and monster truck to get missionaries up and down the mountain.

Edelande

Edelande

One Sunday a few weeks ago he found a 5 ton military truck. He told me on the way home from Dothan, “Jillian, if we could just get a few people to give a thousand dollars we could buy that truck.” I told him he was CRAZY! Who would give a thousand dollars to buy a truck for Haiti? The joke was on me… God provided over $8,000 in less than 24 hours. By Thursday there was over $12,000 donated. We bid on the truck but it was just too expensive. Pastor Damil called the next day and said, “I sure hope you didn’t get that truck.” Military trucks were being held up in customs. So, Jared turned his search elsewhere. That’s when he found the F350.

Haiti truck with camper shell

Haiti truck with camper shell

He contacted a fella on Craigslist from Hartford. As it turned out that man’s best friend had just returned from Haiti and he was willing to give the mission a deal on the truck. We bought the truck and had enough money for the shipping. Another friend of Jared’s, whom he hadn’t spoken with in a long time, called and donated a camper shell. God provided money for a truck, shipping, a shell and a whole pile of rice and beans to ship with the truck in less than two weeks! All that remains to be raised is the money for the customs taxes when we get to Haiti which will be around $4,000.

I write all of this so that you can see how GOOD GOD IS! It has been amazing to watch as He continually surprised us with His blessings for Haiti. It has been amazing to be a part of this grand plan of His. We serve a mighty big God!

If you are interested in donating money for the customs tax please visit Give Us Hope’s website for PayPal options or their mailing address.

Love yall! Keep praying!