Thursday, March 31, 2011

Francia Singing On Top of the Orphanage

We all went up on top of the orphanage, to try and find the quietest spot in the compound.  There's still alot of background noise from down below, and even from up above. As you can hear in the beginning, I had to reprimand a bird.

This is Francia, singing the song I didn't get to hear her sing in church. Maybe you'll recognize it?

Here I Am to Worship

Lucy (and Francia) Singing

The Sunday morning Patchouko and I set out to climb the mountain I knew I would miss church.  It didn't bother me much, because it's all in Creole and I'm lost after about 5 minutes like some school boy staring at the rafters with ants in his pants.  But, when I got back I found out I'd missed Francia singing during the service.  I told her I was sorry to miss it, so she said she'd sing it again for me.  
Little Lucy found out I was going to tape it, so she, being the little rascal she is, could only stand to be quiet for 1 song, and then she just couldn't handle it any longer, so she stole the spotlight.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

John Bouloute

The first time I met John was up on the mountain last year.  He was living near where my sponsor girl lives. Right away, this kid knew when the camera was on him, and every time I looked at John, he was already looking at me.

Last year we knew his situation was rough, and when he came down the mountain with us to the orphanage, I had no idea that he would soon be living there.   Lynn, who was there on her first trip at the time, found a shirt that was a perfect fit for him, and he was bubbling.

It wasn't until months later that I found out he was living in the orphanage, and when I got back in February, he instantly recognized me.  He picked up with me like I hadn't even left, and gained an incredible amount of respect for me as soon as he saw me popping wheelies on the orphanage bicycle.

He had a bit of a crush on my daughter, which I found I am not at all ready for, and while I would tolerate the daily flowers he would pick for my 'sweet pea',  the day I saw him look at her and raise his eyebrows up and down, it was time for an entirely new talk, father-to-misguided-young-man.

After a few days we were back to being buds, and when he saw me carrying the girls' backpacks for them as we were coming home from school, he tried to show me his solidarity by carrying a few of the other kids' packs as well.  It was hard for him, but he resolved that he was going to prove something to me, and that was the end of it.  His eyesbrows wrinkled and his jaw set, John walked all the way home loaded down with school books, always making sure to stay in front of me, leading the way.

John has always had this tough-guy defense, this display of perfect confidence and steely attitude, so it was hard for my family to be there the day his mother came for him.  She'd been in Port Au Prince, leaving John on the mountain in a very similar way my girl Oberline has been left, but now she was back and she wanted her son.  The rest of her children, she says, were lost in the quake.

With mixed emotions John and Gertrude, the house mom, packed the bags, and we all came out to see him off.  At first there was the tough-guy John, ready to tackle his great new adventure, but when I came to him and hugged him, all that came to mind were three words.
I said, "John, don't forget: Jesi renmen ou." (Jesus loves you.)
I kissed him on the side of his face, and hot tears began to stream down his cheeks.
That impervious smile was gone, and his eyes spoke volumes.

His mother is excited to have him back, and as he left we prayed for him.  I hope someday to see him again, to see this boy who is already looking at me, with a great big smile on his face, and eyes full of courage.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I'm fairly positive it was my dad who defined true obedience to me.   I can still hear the words of the ex-Marine, and I can still remember the healthy attention that he commanded by his presence alone, when, in a  moment of attitude or disrespect towards him or our mom,  he would speak this most simple phrase:

"When I say 'Jump!', boy, you say 'How High?!"

You knew by the look in his eye and the curl in his lip that you'd better grasp that final warning and turn your heart, or else.

While I don't have the experience or the pleasure of being taught under the United States Marines, to this day I have a healthy respect for any man or woman who served.  With my own kids, when it comes to obedience, there's not much lost in translation.   The same idea holds true.

Obedience is simply doing what you're told the first time, without asking why.  
How many times as kids did we ask the universal 'Why?' only to get the universal 'Because I said so.'
The number of times I've found myself in my father's's almost comical the way God puts us on the other side of the fence.

In reality, the truth stares us down when it comes to obedience.  It boils down to a matter of the heart, to your attitude.

To hear God's call for our lives we need to have that same level of obedience, and availability.  Before we can be available we have to grasp that kind of obedience without condition.  If we first give pause, to question, to judge, or to try and reason for understanding with the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, then we become sticks in the mud,  immovable and unavailable.

Just like the Israelites in Exodus 7, God calls us into the Wilderness so that we might worship Him. 
Would they have gone out with any bounce in their step if they'd known they'd wander for years, for generations?  Had God explained the Manna or the water coming from the rock, the pillar of fire, or the parting of the Red Sea....would they have understood?

When we listen to Him, when we obey without condition, and when we are completely abandoned and given over to His purpose,  it won't matter what Wilderness we find ourselves in, what circumstance or predicament has befallen us, because He will be with us.  

When we find, like Paul in closing his letter to the Philippians, that we can be content regardless of the circumstances, whether well fed or hungry, we realize that we've come under the watchful eye of our King. And when He is truly our Lord, our Shepherd, we shall not be in want.

A couple of days ago God did some serious rearranging of schedules, and we found ourselves surprised with 18 people for supper. All of us in beginning our day had other plans.  But God had His plan.  He brought us all together, as just another weave in His Masterpiece, and it was time to eat.

In our freezer were 5 pizzas from our friends who volunteer at a church in town, giving away food.
In the back seat of another friends car was a big sack of bread, given to him by a local bread maker, who'd made too much and yet had the forethought to use the extra as a blessing to someone else.

There were chips, there was soda, and there was even ice cream!  In plenty!
We were provided for,  and so abundantly that there was bread left over enough to take around to family and friends.  When there was still more bread in the sack, we walked over to a neighbor around the corner, out raking her yard, and told her of the provision. She picked out her loaf with a grateful heart. Her neighbors were out in their driveway, and so we gave her an extra loaf to give to them, and watched as she walked over to them, holding in her hands yet another unexpected gift.

My wife thinks maybe there's a book in my future, and tends to remind me that these are just blogs.  "Keep it short and sweet" she says,  "there's more impact that way."

I think maybe that's how God sees it with us.  If He told us the whole story of our lives, word for word, He'd certainly lose us somewhere along the way...  We need to be content when He calls and doesn't explain Himself... because it's for our own sake, because He loves us.

He's just keeping it short and sweet.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lighthouse Lucy

When the girl I sponsor came down the mountain and decided she wanted to follow Jesus, she mentioned that she didn't own a bible.
It was Lucy, this little burst of sunshine, that ran fast as she could to her room to grab her own bible.  She scribbled out her own name and wrote my girl's name, Oberline.
So, now I call her Lighthouse Lucy, because in the darkness, she's a beacon of light.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ministry Map

It's wasn't a random thought about where to begin in Haiti.  This month it's been 1 year in the making.
These roads and hiking trails were GPS'ed and marked for a purpose, and this will be the starting point for the ministry of Bibles for Haiti.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shine Like Stars, Philippians 2, and Patchouko

Someone recently asked me,
"You say you want to give out bibles, but what else are you planning to do? What do you see yourself doing in Haiti, I mean, besides just handing out bibles? You say you're just a laborer in the field, but you're so much more..."

My answer to that is simple, and maybe one that needs to be more publicly understood.

I feel God is asking me to bring bibles to the people of Haiti.  I feel like He's opening the doors for that mission.
Now, if I strap a dozen bibles onto my pack and start walking up into the mountains of Haiti, and I go with the wrong attitude, by the time I've gone a mile, those bibles will feel like a mill-stone around my neck, like a giant sandbag pulling me down to the earth.  Each step will become a burden and my heart sinks deeper and deeper into the chore.  By the time I hand that bible to a Haitian, will I have any love?  Will there be any joy or any light?  Or will I be tired, exhausted, frustrated and hurried, wanting to just finish my 'job'.   Right now, as a photographer, I load a very heavy backpack and walk up and down 30 miles of mountains in Haiti to photograph 1500 kids, so they can be sponsored back in the States.  More than once someone has lifted my pack and groaned, wide-eyed at the weight of it, followed by the curious question of 'how in the world?'
All I know is that if I'm grumpy about that pack or the miles I had to walk to find that child, will that little boy or girl feel any love from me as I bark out orders for them to smile?  More importantly, what will the people back home see, the child, or the fear masking the child?

If I take that same task of carrying those bibles and choose instead to view it as my mission, my privilege, then those bibles don't bring me down.  In contrast to the wrong attitude, those bibles don't weigh anything.
I get to carry the Living Word, God's Love Letter to a hungry soul!
When I hear someone ask me what else I see myself doing besides handing out bibles, the first thought that crosses my mind is, "Can there be any higher calling, anything more worthwhile or of greater eternal value?  Can there be any greater privilege?"

You see, this way, when I hand a bible to a hungry soul, there will be love.  There will certainly be light, and there will be joy, because of the respect and the reverence that I hold for the book that I'm giving.
Because I know it to be so much more than just a book.  It's not a brick, not just some mass, some weight, in my pack.   It's the Word of Life. Within the pages of this book I find a scripture that tells me that I get the opportunity to shine like the stars in the universe as I hold out the word of life.

('Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.' Phil. 2:14-16)

Do you understand that it's not just the physical act of holding out that bible that Paul is speaking of, but the attitude in which I do it?  Without complaining or arguing.  That even if I die, being poured out like a drink offering, that I should be glad and rejoice for the opportunity that I was given to be the ambassador of Christ.... that you too should be glad and rejoice with me?   Do you understand that it's an investment in eternity, and not a debit to our short mist of life on this Earth, to give our everything to bring the Good News?

To share this vision, you will first have to be like-minded. We have to be one in spirit and in purpose.

Would you consider Jesus Christ to be one of the greatest teachers to have ever walked this Earth?  Can you deny His skill, if after 2000 years we are still talking about the words that came from His mouth?
Would you consider Jesus to be a great leader?   Millions have followed Him to receive salvation.  Can you deny his ability to lead when you read the accounts of the men who abandoned everything to follow Him, and then tell His story, even at the expense of their own lives?

I've been told I should write a book.  I've been told I have the gift of teaching, and also that I am a leader.  But if I'm going to be useful to Christ in any of those gifts, I need to look at my Mentor for my example.
My attitude needs to be like His.

Jesus humbled Himself and became nothing.  He took the very nature of a servant!
The greatest teacher, the greatest leader, and He did what?  Read Philippians 2.

My mission is not to secure or entertain a lofty, more exciting role in God's plan.  I'm not laboring for the ambitions of writing a better script,  hoping someday for the real-life Broadway show starring me.
I'm content in the awesome responsibility of carrying His word.  I have found a need and I am meeting it.  I see a thirsty soul, and I have a cup of cold water.
My reward will be the souls I find in Heaven, who are there because they read what was between those pages.
It will be, to me, the best story ever told. While they may never know my name, by the incomprehensible  power of Jesus, we will share the same name.

Here is my brother, Patchouko.  When he sees me show up at the orphanage, he knows that he and I are are in for alot, and I mean alot, of walking.  He knows that we're going up, and down, and up, and down those mountains.  He knows that he'll be asking, more than a thousand times,  'What is your name?' and "What grade?" to a child in front of him.  He knows hundreds of them won't be on our list, and we'll be writing them on a dry-erase board as new sponsors.  He knows many of them we'll never find.

He knows that there is a great deal of work in front of us and that we'll be leaving early in the morning, probably skipping lunch, and coming back late in the day.  Even then, he knows we won't be finished, because we'll shoot until there is no more light left to shoot.  He knows he will be leaving his wife and his little boy, and that he'll be translating tens of thousands of words for me.
Do you know what he says when we start down the first step of the first trail together?
"I'm excited to accomplish our mission together."
Do you know what he says when he sees me beginning to break down in the middle of the third week, when I don't know if my knees will take another step, but I want to make a surprise trip to the top of the mountain to find the girl I sponsor, to see how her living conditions truly are as a slave?
He says, "I will come with you."
"Patchouko, you don't have to.  This isn't for sponsor pictures or for Mission Haiti.  I'm going to find the truth about how she's living." I say.
"I will go." He smiles.
"Why would you do that?" I say.
"To encourage you." He says.

Here is my brother Patchouko.  We share the same name.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Paul writes in Phillipians,
'If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.'

Have you ever experienced fellowship with a close friend, and it's to the point where you're so like-minded that it's almost spooky the way you can finish eachother's sentences?   It's a bond, a closeness that is really just the living evidence of a deeper relationship.

Some of you, like me, would agree that you had a close sibling, a brother or a sister, or a childhood friend you once shared that kind of sentence-finishing bond with, but what about total strangers.

In the past few weeks I've seen this happen more than in my entire life.

From speaking to a missionary I've never met, to the days spent between Patchouko and I, walking the trails in Haiti, finishing one another's thoughts, to speaking with a chemist.  A chemist!  Someone who thinks on levels 6 or 7 floors up from my own.  Yet still, we can finish eachother's thoughts.   A heart surgeon, a contractor, a banker, a pastor, from a company's board of directors right down to a fellow laborer in the field....all in the past week, and yet we're all on the same page.

That's the beauty of being like-minded.  When you see the body of Christ exercising itself the way it was intended, you can literally see the inner workings of God's plan.  Paul had it nailed.  When we're working together the way we're supposed to, the natural fruit of encouragement, comfort, love, tenderness, compassion, unity and joy....sentence-finishing joy, will bubble up to the surface.

Patchouko and I will always come from two totally different worlds.  But walking up the mountains of Haiti with me, I'm not being led by a stranger, a guide, or a translator... I'm working, serving, walking side by side with my brother, with my close friend.   Our journey is yoked together, and our mission is solid.  We are both the adopted sons of the King of Kings, and I know God smiles.

Decisions Today

Today there is a board meeting to discuss funding my family to go to Haiti.
Today there is discussion about purchasing or leasing my studio.
Today doors will open or close, and all for the Glory of God.

I can see the pieces of the puzzle.  I see them on the table, and when they snap together, it's going to be a beautiful masterpiece. What a privilege to be a part of something that holds eternal value.

Ephesians 2:10.... holds a deeper meaning for me today.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How Do I Describe This?

Tonight I am completely overwhelmed by you God. I sit in total amazement at the scale of Your plan.
The only words that form on my lips are...'Could it be?' 'Can you imagine?' and 'What a privilege!'
I don't want to just draw nearer to You.  I want to run towards You!

I find myself searching for new words to describe You, because the descriptions I have just don't do You justice.  Unless I were to put them all down in a list and read them all together somehow.....
That's my word!   You, God, are my All-Together!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bibles for Haiti

While we were in Haiti this month, there came a night where I found myself stirred wide awake.
It's not such an uncommon predicament to find yourself in Ti Rivier.  Fact is, more often than not a few extra prayers are sent up every time a coconut falls onto the tin roof.  It sounds like a gunshot, ringing in your ears, and nothing gets the blood pumping faster, hearing a noise like that and opening your eyes to inky darkness.
But on this night, I began to walk the grounds of the orphanage and prayed a more specific, mission-centered prayer as opposed to my usual please-send-your-angels, one-in-every-corner, bump-in-the-night variety.

Last year while playing a game of Pictionary with Rose, one of the little girl's in the orphanage, she got very excited at what I was drawing and shouted, "You see my dream!"
In her dream the night before, she saw me, and then my entire family, driving with her all over Haiti, giving people bibles.
I told her that was quite the dream, and over time I began to search for bibles.  I'm a Gideon, and I thought that if anyone should be able to get bibles for distribution, it would be the Gideons.  After all, we place them in hotels all over the world, giving them away at every possible opportunity.
What I ran into instead was a great big mess of red tape.  Not only was I told I wouldn't be getting any bibles, I also was not authorized to conduct any kind of distribution.  Just before my last trip I tried to further talks with the organization to start a Gideon camp in the area, but again met with red tape.  The result of trying for almost a year with the Gideons to secure bibles for Ti Riviere was this response from the International Outreach Division:  "Try".

So here I was in Haiti, one year later.

I asked God simply, "What am I doing in Haiti?"  Why do You have me here?  What am I supposed to do, Lord?  Does it have to do with bibles?  Is that from You or is that just me? Please, show me. Show me. Show me."

The next morning began as usual and kids began showing up for me to take their sponsor photo.   Usually we go out and hike to their schools, looking for somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 kids over 30 square miles.  But, on occasion, some of them save me the time and come right up to the doors of the orphanage.  Those are the kids who aren't playing around.  They know what it means to be sponsored, and they aren't taking the chance that I might miss them when I swing by their school.

The first girl came right out of her pose as I was taking the picture and asked,  "Can I have a bible?"
In photographing thousands and thousands of Haitian kids, she was the first to ever ask me that.
I found an old, tattered Creole bible in the mission house and walked up to Rose,
"Remember your dream last year, when you told me you were doing God's work, giving away bibles?"
"Mmmmm-hmmm." She said.
"Well, I thought you might like to have the honor of giving away the first one?"
Rose's eyes lit up and sparkled, and she handed the bible to the girl.  We watched her walk back out the gates of the orphanage with a big smile.  Her name was Lovely Charles.

Immediately after her, two older boys walked into the yard.
"Are you here for sponsor photos?"  I asked.
"No.  We'd like to have bibles."
Into the mission house I went again.
"Now you boys are going to keep these, right?  Not selling them?"
"No!" they said.
"Please sit with me and read Romans 12 before you go."
And they did.  Word for word.  One of the boys couldn't read very well, so the other boy read with him, speaking the words clearly.
When they finished, they were very excited and thanked us as they left.

After that, one of the girl's I sponsor, Oberline, came down the mountain with her cousin Modeline, and the Sunday School Teacher in Kari could no longer be contained. She started a bible study with all of the kids.   She began at the beginning with creation, and by the time she'd made it to the cross, Oberline and Modeline said they wanted to follow Jesus.  Kari asked her if she had a bible, and when Oberline shook her head, that just wasn't going to do.   Lucy, one of the youngest girls in the orphanage, ran straight to her room to fetch her own bible.  She scratched out her own name, wrote in Oberline's, and presented it to her with a smile.

By that afternoon, another boy asked me for a bible, and there just were no more to be had.  It was heart breaking to look into his eyes, with all of his poverty, and not be able to give him something that millions today treasure, all over the world.

Back in the states as we came to rest on Sunday morning at Assembly of God church in Brandon, South Dakota, the pastor asked us to stand and give a brief account of Haiti.  Just as we began to sit he pointed at me and asked me if there was something more to say.
It felt like a kick in the pants from the Lord, and I stepped out into the aisle.
"I need bibles for Haiti.  I'm a Gideon, but I haven't been able to find any.  There's a great need there.  I'm not asking for your money, unless that's God's plan,  but I do need your prayers.  I need your support."  I felt my throat begin to tighten.

"Say that again." the pastor said.
"I can't."  was all I could say.   Hot tears came running down my cheeks and my throat closed.
"Let me see if I've got this right." The pastor said.  "People.... in Haiti....need bibles?  What do you think church?  Do you think this is something we can get behind?"
"Yes!" came the overwhelming response.
"What translation do you need?" someone asked.
"Haitian Creole." I said.
"Let's meet this need, church."  Said the pastor.
After the service, when all I could do was sob, I watched people filing out, putting their money in a plate.
"Stay for the second service and speak again?"  asked the pastor.
"Absolutely."  I said.

$619 was raised for bibles to Haiti.  All I did was cry, but God still got the job done.  And I've made up my mind that if all He requires from me is to be a fool for Him and cry, so be it.  I don't need any fancy words, and I certainly don't need the spotlight.  The glory is His.

Today, I'm starting a site.  The mission will be simple.  Go there and give, or go there and find out where to pick them up in Haiti.  That's the simple nuts and bolts of it.  I trust it to God to raise up the ministry of His Word as He sees fit.

Now we're on to the task of finding where to buy the bibles, but one day soon, I know of at least 2 cases that will be at the orphanage in Ti Rivier, ready for the hands and feet to carry them up the mountains and place them into the hands of the souls who've hungered for them.