Monday, May 21, 2012

Just One Afternoon...

We got to spend the whole afternoon with Oberline today. She had lunch with us, then Tikilene washed her hair and made her pretty, fretting over her, mothering her. Oberline hasn't had that kind of attention in years, if ever. She rode with us into Les Cayes for her very first trip into town. I watched her in the rear-view mirror with her window rolled down, letting the cool breeze wash over her face. We played some music on the radio. She'd take it all in, then break loose with a smile, then take it all in again like it was the first time. There were bouts of uncontrolled giddiness. She walked into a store for the first time and stood at the entrance, frozen. The owner looked at her and said, "It's okay. You can come in and look around." Then she moved off of the welcome mat and began to take in all the new things. We bought her some school books, and like any kid, she frowned :( Bought her ice cream, and while she was wild over the idea, she thought it tasted gross. Bought her an apple, she didn't want it. Played tag, and she loved it. She was a happy little girl, just to be loved and to spend the afternoon together.

Then after we said our goodbye's and I showed her out, I took notice of a young man in his twenty's, staring at her as I began to close the door.  I shut the gate, then stopped.  I wheeled around and opened it up.  When I stepped outside, there he was walking with her, his hand very firmly, too firmly, gripping her by her arm.  He was speaking to her intensely, walking in-step with her.  She was rigid.  My blood went hot.  He turned and caught my eye, and immediately let her go, and off she went up the trail, up the mountain towards her home.  The man never turned around, he just kept walking away. Just like that, in a moment.  An afternoon of kindness smacked in the face by the reality of the world she lives in, a little girl with no mom or dad to watch over her.  I followed her for a time, unsure of how I'd behave if I came upon anyone giving her trouble.  Would I be very Christian-like?   Hmmmm.  I think as a Daddy, I'd have my regrets.  When I stopped to listen and couldn't hear her or see her anymore, I hoped she'd made a clean getaway. It's in these moments I have to put my faith in God, trusting as He says, that vengeance is His, and He will repay, and I don't hesitate to tell you that if she's ever harmed, I pray He hunts them down with cold mercy, and that they spend the rest of their days, and nights, and every waking moment of wishful sleep, hounded and haunted by my Lord.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pure Gold

We went to see our sponsor girl Oberline today. She's a restavek, considered a slave. I'm not sure if it was the humidity or the heat, but it was one of the toughest hikes all year for my family. Even the Haitians walking on the trails today seemed to drudge with heavier labors. When we got to the top of the mountain where she lives, alot of the local people were lounging around, playing cards, relaxing, in the shade and having a nice Sunday afternoon...everyone except Oberline. We asked if she was home. "She's not here." they said to me as if it would be more of a surprise to see her relaxing as well. "She's off fetching water." That meant she was carrying a 5 gallon bucket up the mountain, balanced on her head. And I thought my little day-trip was difficult. We sat down to wait. When she arrived, we told her how much we loved her and would miss her over the summer. I asked how many buckets she has to get every day. "Only 2." she smiled. She just wanted to be hugged. Getting water is just one of her many chores.

If I could only make your muscles and joints ache through these words, you might understand how hot and tired she was, how hard her life is, and how much harder it's about to be... She's 13. One year older than my son. I know her life is not good, and there seems to be nothing I can do about it. My heart breaks over her.

My good friend told me tonight that soon she will start menstruation and 'things' will happen on the mountain. Not long from now she will have a baby, and she'll be just another young girl with a child and no husband, and no future. She's just a child herself, but she's developing, and with her father in Port-au-Prince and her mother dead, her chances are slim. It makes my stomach turn.

Last week Haiti once again suspended all new adoptions in the country, citing a backlog issue that's been developing since the earthquake 2 years ago. Please pray with us in finding some kind of alternative for this young girl. She is a light right now, and I'm frustrated that it's being snuffed out before my eyes. All this talk of the mining companies finding gold in Haiti, all these eyes blinking with dollar signs, and I say to anyone who'd listen, there's been gold in these hills all along, and it's not some stupid, shiny rock. The treasure of this nation is found in the hearts of kids like Oberline.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Flag Day

It's our last weekend for a few months in Haiti. We had to bring a man to the Port Salut hospital early in the morning for an X-ray, and besides, it is officially Flag Day in Haiti, so there's no school. Could there be any more reasons to bring along some friends & family, and spend the morning chilling in Haiti?
Chelo and Tikilene came along.  Patchouko had just returned from a couple of days at the capitol, so I figured he'd want to be with his family.
We had some lambi (konch) and some fried banan.

Busloads of Haitians showed up, and everyone picnicked and played soccer and volleyball.  In the streets there were parades as the people waved their country's flag.  It was a morning well spent and an encouraging sight to see in Haiti. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Claudia's Kitchen

Thinking of expanding this year?

There's a little girl that comes by our house quite often. She's one of the Dezod's, but she's got a heart of gold. Today we went to visit her family up on the mountain.

If you've ever complained about the size of your kitchen, how'd you like to trade with Claudia? This is her kitchen.

Her Daddy was fastening together some branches just outside of this shot with palm leaves. He's hoping to make a place to keep a goat. "Oh, ok. How many goats do you have?" I said. The girl smiled. "Oh, we don't have any yet."
We went to visit this family, and they immediately began to pull down fruit from the trees around their house, out of hospitality. They didn't want us to leave empty-handed. 

 I wonder if you might know how it feels to walk back down a mountain after seeing such humble living, carrying a sack full of their fruit? You wouldn't. Not in Haiti. Because they sent their daughter with us, all the way back down that mountain, with that sack of fruit. They didn't want us to have to carry it. She finally relented to letting me carry it about half way down, but she still walked us all the way back to our car below. She was barefoot the whole way.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

460 Miles

After the distribution today, I couldn't help it. I knew we were standing at the southern tippy-tip of Haiti. I walked down to where the water was crashing in, and looked out at 460 miles of pure, turquoise blue, wild ocean. Set adrift from here, and even if you could paddle in a straight line, the next stop would be South America. More realistically, you'd catch the express Gulf current, cruise right on by Jamaica, just miss the shores of Cancun, and wash up somewhere around Corpus Christi, Texas, where my friend Paula lives. Only about 1,750 miles.  Maybe it'd be worth the trip. I think she's a pretty good cook.

It blows my mind.

We had a pastor and his wife along for the ride, but if they weren't there, I most certainly would have stripped down to my skivvies and dove in on the spot.   

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Almost Too Much!

Sunday is shaping up to be one of our largest Bible distributions yet. 150+ people will receive their own, free copy of the Word of God. 4 churches will come together. The worship will be ear-splitting. Tonight and early in the morning, we'll be writing in the front cover of each Bible. A personal word of encouragement. The table is full of a different kind of bread. Spiritual food with eternal nourishment!

Her heart flutters and she's overwhelmed as she picks out a special verse for each Bible.
"The front of this book just says Bible, but God already knows whose Bible this is. He already knows whose name will be written in it tomorrow, and the verses He's having me pick are especially just for that person! It's-It's almost too much! And all can think is WOW, how Great is our God. How sovereign!?"

Her kids are outside playing with 6 other Haitian friends. Logan's happily content playing marbles. Abby's deep into a game of checkers with her friend. Another girl is drawing a picture on the floor. A couple of other boys are watching.

There's a breeze coming through the house tonight, and there's a peace knowing it's been a fruitful day.

Happy Mother's Day, Kari Ann

The Hardest Working Sweetest Most Sincere Haitian Momma That I've Had the Pleasure to Know

No Matter how long she's been working, if you can manage to get within earshot without her noticing, you'll hear this Christian singing praise to Jesus. Doesn't matter if she's cooking, doing laundry, mopping, she does it as though she's doing it for the Lord.
When you have that Spirit about you, ain't nothin' gonna getcha down. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Give Them Your King!

Imagine your enemy forming battle lines in front of you.   
You position yourself for a head on collision. You observe him.  
Where is he strong? Where is he not?  Where is the weakness in the armor?
You take a deep breath, you engage all of your wits to the strategy of war.
You look for the route to victory.

Then you hear a rustling from behind...some quick movement catches your peripheral, and your heart shudders for just a tick of time, pumping with adrenaline. 
As you wheel about, your eyes behold the horror of what your mind has already concluded, because there he is also...  
Behind you!

You enemy has formed a plan.
To deceive you.
To catch you off-guard.
To intimidate you and throw you into a panic, and ultimately,
To bring your ruin and wipe your name from the face of this Earth.

What now, brown cow?
Here's where your faith either has feet to stand, or wings to take flight. 
Here is where you must remember:
You can never run...out of courage!  You can never lose....hope, or love, or strength...but you can forget....where to go find more!  

We nod our heads in agreement.  But do we hold that truth in the moments of terror?  Do we remember where to fill up?  Let me first ask, have you had any moments of terror this week, this month, this year?  Or is today's biggest argument going to be over who does the dishes?  You were designed, created, imagined, by the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth!  Do you think He made you to squabble? To dilly-dally? To flounder?  To lie down, or to rise?

Faced with the daunting task of __________ (fill in the blank) do we panic and tuck our tails, forgetting everything ever poured out upon us by the Lamb of God, or do we never allow the option of defeat to seep in?   Are we defeated, deflated, before even the first blow, or do we charge and surge forward, wading in with pure resolve?  As the Haitians say,  "Kouraje!" I've said it before, it sounds very much like the Marine Corps OO-rah!

In 2 Samuel 10, we get this picture, painted for us in all of the living color of the Bible, and I thank my God in Heaven for making it so alive, that even this boy can understand:

'Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him; so he selected some of the best troops in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans.  He put the rest of the men under the command of Abishai his brother and deployed them against the Ammonites.  

Joab said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you.  Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in His sight.”  

Then Joab and the troops with him advanced to fight the Arameans, and they fled before him.  When the Ammonites  saw that the Arameans were fleeing, they fled before Abishai and went inside the city. '

Don't you just love it!  It fills my sails!  It heaves my chest with the wind in my lungs and makes me want to stand up and shout!  Yes! Yes! Yes!

It's the most epic reversal,  what has to be one of the greatest battle speeches of all history!  Not even a hint of a fleeting thought of defeat.  Only victory occupies his mind.

Here was Joab's perfect chance to fail, to cower, to run and disgrace all Israel. Enemies in front and behind!  They were probably howling and mocking, doing all they could to rouse that fleeting fear, thinking they would take the field, filled with pride at their wittiness......but then.....what's this?.....WHAT'S THIS?!

I can hear that tired, old enemy shaking in his boots, thousands of years later... 
'Are they chanting? Is that Joab splitting the army?!  Did he just throw his sword up in the he's already won!? How is this army we've surrounded...beating their shields with their swords?!  Did they just ROAR, all together as if they were one man?!   No. That was no man.  That didn't even sound human! Does it not sound like we've just made the deadly mistake of caging the most vicious, giant beast in all the world? Oh NO! They've given us over.... TO THEIR GOD! RRRUUUUUNNNNNN!!!!'

And off they go!

I once picked up a granola bar that had been dropped on the ground here in Haiti.  It was festering, writhing with hundreds of hungry fire ants, getting their fill of sugar.  Soon as I picked it up, they saw me. And what a sight I must have been!  All of them bolted, in any direction possible to escape my wrath. None continued to gorge themselves on that wonderful American energy bar. They no longer had the stomach for it!

That's the picture that our enemy sees in the face of God.  Perfect fear.  You know why?  Because the Bible says that perfect Love drives out fear.  Like the demons that Jesus cast out into the pigs that then ran over the cliff, it has to go somewhere.  Darkness must flee from the light. It has no choice.

Because that's all he can do, when you realize that you cannot lose. Jesus Christ has already won!
Even if you or I go down.  If we go in the name of Christ, we win.  You cannot run out of life, so long as you are leaning on the Everlasting Arms.

Take courage today, Christian.  Go out and find the front lines of the battle, and dig in with your heels.   Take the battle to your enemy today.  Not with back-biting, gossip, revenge or anger. You don't fight with the same weapons.   Take to them love. Bring peace.  Give them your King.  How's that for an unforeseen battle strategy?  Yes!  Give them your King!   Do you know why? You don't own Him.  He doesn't belong to just you. 

What did Jesus say when He came back from the Cross?
Stay, Hide. Don't tell anyone.  Shhh.  Keep quiet!  No!!
He said, Go. Make disciples. Baptize them. Teach them. and I'll be with you always, all the way to the end!

He can fight his own battles if you let Him, and you can watch as your enemy flees in confusion.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hello And Goodbye!

Our little village doesn't show up on any maps.  It doesn't even make the road sign off the main national road.  There's just an arrow pointing our direction, and the next big town, St. Jean, is listed as the next official destination.   But down that bumpy, tire-busting gravel road a few miles, every driver who's ever braved the route knows exactly where our little village, named after it's little river, can be found.  Ti Rivier, or Ti-Rivy√® in the Kreyol, stands out above the rest.  How?

We have two giant, concrete pillars.  Beautiful, massive Ebenezers.  Stones of remembrance that shout out to the world, "You Are Here", even though 'Here' isn't listed anywhere officially.

Recently, my friend Patchouko was commissioned to repaint them.   He's not from here.  He's not a native to Ti Rivier.  But he's an amazing servant.  He immediately hired help.   He didn't want all the glory.  He wanted to give the village something beautiful.

 It took him and a co-worker, his former art teacher, days to work around the weather because of the rainy season.  I noticed a young boy with a pick-axe, chopping away at the layers of earth that had piled up around the bases.  Years of rains had worn the mountain down. When I asked Patchouko why he had the boy doing that, the answer was simple.   When you do a job, you do it right.  You don't come to paint a sign, and then just paint down to where the ground covers.  You move the earth.  You uncover and wash the stone, and you restore it to it's former beauty.  His work ethic on display.  No cutting corners.  No taking the easy road.

Every stroke was crafted.   Right down to the branches of each palm tree.  Right down to the yellow mangos in the trees and the fishermen on the waters.  Even the rise and fall of the hills surrounding the village was recorded artistically.   His attention to detail, and his imagination coming out for us all to see.

When they'd finished I drove by and noticed something that brought a smile.   My Haitian momma, Tikilene, had planted beautiful bushes and flowers around them.  They'd driven sticks into the ground and used old VHS-tape to act as a fence, letting everyone know to watch where they drive while the young plants take root.   She was beautifying the grounds.   Doing her part by using her green-thumb.  The people in my little village - I love them!  They have such a care.  Such a respect for their home.  A village that isn't even on the map, filled with a people so brimming with character.  

We stopped to admire the workmanship after they'd finished.  My kids took note,
"Why do none of the other villages have great big signs like ours?  Not even the city of Cayes has a sign painted as beautiful as ours!  Why is that?" they said.
I smiled, "It's because they don't have a Patchouko." 

Paul wrote one of my favorite verses in the Bible, speaking about how we are God's workmanship.  His masterpiece.  His work of art. I'm so glad He didn't cut corners. He didn't hastily finish the work. He purposed every stroke.  Even today, He continues to chip away the old dusty world when it creeps up about my feet like a lead weight, ready to swallow up this stone of remembrance, this testament to the Living God. When my paint gets tired and worn,  He restores me.  Makes me fresh.  Breathes new life. 
He uses bright and vibrant colors.  He exacts every detail, every hair on my head.  And why?  Because He cares. Because in the end, people won't see this concrete shell of a man.  Instead, I will bear His signature.  His name.  In the end, they will pass by me and say,  "Wow! He wasn't even on the map. Why did he shine like a star? Who did that?"
And someone will say,  "God did that."