Thursday, February 28, 2013

Expecting My Return

Where sky meets earth and earth meets sky
I dare say I don't know,
As I strike across these lonely plains
In this winter of my soul.

In the old days they would tie a rope
From the homestead to the barn,
To abide and take not the next lead
In the latest blizzard yarn.

They knew the dangers of this land
Where the drab winter cold stays long.
A man could think he's dead sure on
And yet find he's dead sure wrong.

Here is where I find my roots
Long buried in the snows.
The tracks of past and present fade,
Out where the cold wind blows.

Through these smears of clouded grey
As doubts and fears abound,
Will my howls yet find their way?
Will they even make a sound?

I turn to Hope and dig for Grace
Where in ancient words I see,
'Sufficient for you, in your weak place,
is the perfect grace of Me'.

What light that breaks not through the sky
Yet from my heart it wells!
Within my grasp He casts the line
To show me where He dwells.

In cozy embers, warm, divine,
The fires of Mercy still burn.
Every tear He's kept of mine,
Expecting my return.

Here I am in your arms, Lord!
Your words have been my guide.
I knew not the way but through it all,
You never left my side.

- d.c.elliott. 2.28.13

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Real Hunger

I can't tell you how often we receive a response like this to our ministry:

'We all know how much a bible weighs, can you imagine how much rice you could ship in its place ....'  ~Liam from Ireland.

Liam, your comment is a valid response, but your understanding is lacking. We don't ship the Bibles, we buy them in-country. You can also buy rice at any market in any village in Haiti, and the 30 year-old approach to just bringing food has obviously not provided a solution. Haiti doesn't need another hand out. Her people need a hand up. Your shipping a bag of rice actually only contributes to the unraveling of an already fragile trade. I've stood and watched an 85 year-old great grandmother working in the rice fields near my village. Your bag of rice, while it may give you a certain sense of relief, only hurts her and her family and the little income they make on her family's farm. It affects the markets and only serves to weaken the will. In reality, its exactly your response and attitude that has contributed to failing the country. I agree, from the outside looking in, it seems the most logical answer, but the answer is actually found in giving them hope, something to live for, joy and a peace that passes all understanding. That only comes from Jesus Christ. A bag of rice lasts a family of 8 less than a month. Then what, Liam? What about 3 months, 4 months down the road? How about next year? 

Our decision to serve Haiti is to provide something of eternal value. Something that changes the course not only of ones life, but of their eternity. I've handed out the Bibles. I've seen people walk for 10 miles down a mountain for the first Bible in their family's history. I've seen them cradle it like a newborn baby, even smell the pages. They have a hunger for which you have no understanding. 

The purpose of a Christian is not only to love and to serve, running kids to the hospital, buying rice and oil, and sponsoring kids for school. The purpose is the reason behind that love, because Jesus called us to serve. My family and I have moved to Haiti and given up our way of life. A bag of rice is in truth a simple excuse to a greater issue of the heart. If you don't believe me, decide to put your life on hold. Go to Haiti. Live there. Love there. Tell me after a year or so if you still feel the same way. 

Friday, February 22, 2013


Last summer me and my Macgyver buddy Dave ran some fuel trials for possible fuel alternatives in the scooters that are swarming all over Haiti. Our trials worked with a 50% ethanol blend, and the trials were a success. 6 months later some folks in the ethanol industry asked for a picture of the scooter we used in the trial. We pulled her out into the snow this morning for a quick shot. She's the ugliest thing in the world to look at, but we affectionately gave it the name, Wally. 
Now we are beginning talks with another aid organization to bring ethanol cooking stoves to Haiti as well.
Never know what God is gonna use to open doors in Haiti.
This was the shot I submitted. Big, bad Harley dude...on Wally. :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pink Fairy Wands & Kisses

"Will you take me to the daddy daughter dance?  Please?" She wrote.
"I would be honored.  It would be a privilege and a great joy for me to accompany you to the dance.  
May I have the honor?" I replied.
"Well yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" came the message.
"Although I do have one tiny condition..." I said.
"Only if you promise to dance on my feet." I was hoping we weren't too old for that just yet.
"That is a deal.  But I have a condition too." she said.
"What?" I typed.
"We have to dance both ways."  
"Deal.  But do I have to wear a suit? I left the only suit I own in Haiti."
There was a pause in our little chat.  I thought, uh-oh, she's gonna make me go rent a tux...
"........A swimming suit?"  
"No, a dress up suit." I laughed.
"Just dress up like ya would for church."  She said.
Ahhh....that's my girl.

Some things that I hope I never forget....
She wanted her hair down, not all up like a princess...
"I just want it to be the real me."
When we drove to the store to pick out her dress and she came out of the dressing room, her face was glowing as she twirled and danced in between the racks of clothes. 
The dress was supposed to be a surprise, but she just couldn't wait and put it on for me one day ahead.
She didn't want to take it off.   I think she would have spent the whole day dreaming about what was to come.
Driving to the restaurant, there were no free spaces, so we had to walk for 3 blocks.  It was bitter cold.  
"I'm so sorry honey.  I know it's cold." I said.
"It's didn't know that wearing tights is really like not wearing anything at all."
I told the host I didn't have a reservation.  He took one look at my little girl and her hope-filled eyes, and said, "That's ok.  It's not going to be a problem tonight."  (It was a Friday night, at the nicest restaurant in town."  He gave us one of the best tables in the house, and when the waitress fired him a look for giving up her primo spot to a Dad and his kid,  His look was, "Deal with it."
They treated her like royalty the rest of the night.
"And what to drink for the lady?"  They asked, with the utmost respect.
My nine year-old looked over the menu and with all the poise in the world, she said, 
"Would you happen to have any....ahem....chocolate milk?"
The sky was the limit.  Best place in town, anything she wanted...
My Peanut ordered chicken strips and apple sauce. 
We shared 1 heavenly dish of burnt custard.  I stopped eating at the half way mark.  She insisted I take another bite. 
Rather than let her freeze on the walk back to car I asked the host to please watch over her while I fetched her ride.
I ran three blocks and had to drive around 3 city blocks because of the One-Ways.  When I pulled up to the door she came running out and said, "I was about to run down the street to look for you."
We got to the dance 20 minutes early,  but she couldn't wait. 
"I think the doors are open!  Let's go in now Daddy!  We'll have more time to dance."
She danced the night away with me.   We opened up the place, and we stayed until they shut it down.
She twirled.  She whirled.  I dipper her, spun her, swung her, and Jitterbugged with her.  We Pretzeled half a dozen times.
She kicked off her pretty high heels that she'd practiced walking in the day before.  It was time to just be Abby Gene.
She stepped up on my feet for at least 5 songs.
We won the competition to transfer a Hershey's kiss with only spoons in our mouth.    Her prize was a pink fairy wand.
She preferred more Hershey Kisses.  
I secretly filled her coat pockets with more.
The songs were not appropriate, although all of the Dad's reveled in the nostalgia of Greased Lightning and those Hot Summer Nights.
But then the last song of the night began to play, my old friend Chris LeDoux, and an old cowboy favorite that I loved as a boy, When I Look at You Girl.
She asked me to hold her.  I carried her in my arms for the entire song, and I sang every word into her little ear while she rested her head on my shoulder.
It was a perfect ending to a perfect night.
I don't get much right in this old world.  There are days I just don't understand.  A few I wish I could take back. 
But not this one.  And not this little girl.  And not my love for her.  That makes perfect sense to me and always will, because it's as simple and natural as breathing. Nothing from now until the end of time will ever change how much I love you, Miss Abby Gene.
I thank God for allowing me the honor of being your first date.
And I pray for any boy that ever dares to entertain the thought of stealing your heart away. 
Love, Dad.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What Arnie Left Behind

Through the grace of God and His provision I was afforded the blessing to come home, via Ken Deyoung and a private jet, to America.  
While here we've had much needed time to attend to marriage, to family, to handle the hurdles of my son's passport renewal (via a drive to Minneapolis), and to pay respects to the wife of a man I respected very much.

For all who don't know, Kari and the kids had gone back to America a few weeks ago to spend time with family. Her grandfather Arnie was in hospice. It took them two days to get there, and he passed away 1 hour before they arrived.  At his funeral they spent time with family, remembering one of the sweetest and most tender men I've ever had the pleasure to know. Even with his hearing aid battery dying and squealing away in his ear, he'd still jump up from his chair the moment anyone walked in the door. His handshake was always firm, his booming voice and his smile were genuine and unmasked, and every hug was absolutely from the heart. Arnie had an uncanny way of making anyone, even a hillbilly from Wyoming, feel like they were a part of the family. I only had the honor to know him for 19 of his 85 years, yet I cannot recall one solitary second that I did not feel love from that man. He served his country. He served his family for three generations, and he will be sorely missed. Most of us would do well to measure up to half the man he was.

In my short time back I've already seen what Arnie left behind.   A loving wife, mother and grandmother, strong as they come, and a family that's brimming over with all the spice to make an Italian proud.  His sweet spirit still rests on those he touched, his strength lives on in his girls and his gentleness lives on through his son, and everyone that knew him holds an endearing memory of a man who cared more for others than he did himself.  I missed him on my return.  Missed his presence around the table while we chatted, and missed his pat on the back to give me that little bit of extra steam to carry on. 
Arnie left behind his blessings on us all.  I'm glad I knew him, and the honor to call him Grandpa is mine. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Pin Cushion

When I was a boy, my dog was walking with us in the mountains and we happened upon a porcupine.  He thought he was saving us and so he went to bite the porcupine.   He ended up with a mouth and nose FULL of quills, buried deep.  As he struggled to get them out with his paws he only succeeded in making the barbed quills drive deeper and deeper.  We all had to hold him down while my dad used needle nose pliers to literally rip them out of his mouth. The dog almost went insane from the pain. 
Do you know that fool dog did that 2 different times?  All in the name of protecting his family.

Have you forgotten to put on your armor today?
The question is, do you even want to put it on...
Let’s look at 2 passages. 2 amazing insights to connect. Psalm 142 and 1 Samuel 17:33-37.

‘I cry aloud to the  Lord ; I lift up my voice to the  Lord  for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.  When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way.  In the path where I walk  men have hidden a snare for me.  Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me.  I have no refuge;  no one cares for my life.  I cry to you, O  Lord ; I say, “You are my refuge,  my portion in the land of the living.”  Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need;  rescue me from those who pursue me,  for they are too strong for me.  Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.  Then the righteous will gather about me  because of your goodness to me.’(Psalm 142:1-7)

‘Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,  I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.  The  Lord  who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the  Lord  be with you.”’ (1 Samuel 17:33-37)

Lets begin with the truth.
What is truth?
Do you not know?  Have you not heard?
If you are a Christian, 
The truth is Jesus is in you and you are in Him. 
The arrow of your enemy is to make you believe you are in prison.
The truth is you are already free! He died for you to set you free.
Even courageous David, knowing to put his strength and confidence in The Lord, even the fighter of LIONS and BEARS, fell into his own prison. He wasn't just hiding in a cave from Saul.  
The psalm is called a maskil. 
It means that there is a deeper meaning to the words, a hidden meaning.
David is talking about a prison of the mind.  A place where even the most courageous of us can trip and fall.
When my spirit grows faint within me.  When I want to run away and when I feel more like a coward then a courageous fighter....
Even David found himself there.
Set me free from my prison so I can sing your praises. 
Create in me a clean heart.  Why.   Why?
Because the one I have is foul.  
Your truth is that you are already free. Free in Jesus.
If you aren't yet filling your shoes, His peace, it's because you don't yet stand on that truth.
Those residual, left over, garbage feelings of worthlessness are only a matter of the breastplate. 
You're holding onto a bit of your own righteousness, which is what your enemy wants because he knows he can beat you that way.  
If you haven't felt that peace coming in its because you are not solidly standing on His truth and what He has already done. 
Future generations will be told about The Lord. They will proclaim HIS righteousness to a people yet unborn, (IE me and YOU)
Done what?
What has He done so magically that David doesn't even need to explain it in the verse?
Only conquered sin and death.  No biggie. Really?
Of course satan doesn't want you standing on that righteousness.
How could he kill you and destroy you and tear you apart if you remembered you are invincible WHEN you are IN The Lord 
The theif comes only to what?
He has to steal you, then kill you, then destroy you.
He has to steal you first!
But can you be stolen?
Not if you're standing on the truth.
Paid for.
And nothing can snatch you from the hands of the Living God.
Nothing but yourself, and the prison, and the lie. 
Do you feel His peace coming in yet?  Is it INVADING you?  It should feel like that.  It should feel pervasive, flooding,
Seeping into every corner of your soul.
Only then do you know you are fully standing on that truth, His righteousness.
Do you feel it like it's a fresh breath of the most crisp and clean mountain air, with a hint of evergreen scent? 
And now you can put on the helmet. 
There is a day for you.  A room custom designed by Jesus, waiting for you. 
It is for you only.  It will not suit any other. And it is perfect for you.  
That day is coming.  Salvation.  How blessed it will be!  Such victory must be the sweetest of tastes that we will ever know.
It is your compass. Your reminder.
Your heart and your mind are not protected by the highest security known to the universe if you have not put on your helmet.
You aren't finished. 
Pick up your sword.
You look like a pin cushion, like that sorry dog with a snout full of quills, because you have not been parrying your attacks.  You've been receiving them...deeply.
It's time for some parrying.
Strike, counter strike!  You have the cloud of witnesses.
You have His word in your heart.  
Acts 16...
After they were beaten and flogged, were they defeated and finished?  
Of course not.
In prison...they were FREE.
Singing praises!
Converting criminals!
Even guards.  
Anyone who would listen.
And how could you plug your ears to men bloody and disfigured, singing through busted and split lips about this truth that we speak of even today, that David said we would one day speak of yet hundreds of years before them.
This One who said, in this world you will have trouble.  But take heart,  chin up.  
Don't fret...
I have overcome the world.
And now all authority is His.
All privilege is ours.
To call Him
We are His.
Our Dad is a Warrior.

And now there is only to pray,
Which is the greatest thing we can do.
Now is where we present our requests, our complaints, just as David, 
to the King.
We cry to Him!
Save us Lord. Nobody cares.  We don't understand.  But we run to You.
We are not anxious.
We know You are near.
And Your peace that passes all of our understanding is so, totally, worth it. 
Fill us up Lord.
Forgive us.
We have life stained all over us.  We are one big stain.
We know one day you will wipe every tear.
It's Your promise.
We will be whiter than snow,
Standing together in the beautiful light of You, and nothing else will compare.  Everything else will seem like such a light and momentary trouble in view of  
Your mercy and grace. 
We hope in You.
We ask for more.
Enough to give away for life and still run over the cup.
It is such a privilege and honor to look to You.
To show others who You are.  
How much You love!
There is no bottom to You.  The deep is so much more than we will ever comprehend.
Please dote on us more.  Please don't take Your hand away.  Keep Your Spirit upon us. 
Until we come home to You.
In the name of Jesus,

Monday, February 4, 2013

In the Silence

I went to visit my friend Lucner's school for the deaf in Simone, Haiti.  
So many beautiful children, so cramped for space. 
Classrooms have spilled out onto the front patio.  
The teacher, who is also deaf, was doing the best she could to manage the little ones with ants in their pants.  It wasn't helping that they had a visitor taking their pictures. 

I tried to put myself in their world.  
I was born blind in one eye, and what I can see is absolutely precious to me.
Still, I don't think I could hardly imagine what it's like to live in a world void of sound.
But then God did what God does...taste and see that the Lord is good...I found myself separated and alone without my family as they left to deal with the loss of loved ones in the States, and for some time now I've once again been a student of silence.

It is deafening.

Sometimes it's downright maddening. 
In other moments there is such sorrow.
And I find there is time for reflecting, remembering.
There are fleeting glimpses, memories in the mind that replay.  
Certain sounds that I atleast have had the privilege to hear.  
My daughter's giggle.  
My son reading his Bible verses.
My wife calling the family together for breakfast.

I don't know how I'd be without knowing those sounds.  
Maybe it would be different if I were born not hearing them.
I was born half blind and have never really felt like I'm missing out, except for the occasional 3D movie that everyone raves about, that I can't see.  That blind eye certainly kept me excluded from certain aspirations.  Couldn't be a soldier.  Couldn't fly a jet.  Couldn't be a cop.  Couldn't be a firefighter... shoot, they wouldn't even let me be a truck driver.  :)   But then again, if I were any of those things, maybe I wouldn't be here today, seeing with the one blurry eye He did give me, what He has deemed beautiful.  
He formed me.  Knit me.  Designed me.  Purposed me. 
Isn't it so comforting to know?  It has been for me all these years. 
I wouldn't trade it for the world.  Maybe these kids will feel that way too, if they have a chance to know the King I know.

One little girl in the class I found to be quite peculiar. 
Maybe because she was one of the only kids without a school uniform on.
Her family couldn't afford one.
But it wasn't an apple in a see of oranges that caught my eye. 
It was her smile.  
Her dancing little eyes.
Her desire to learn.  
She practiced so hard to write her letters on the board. 

I found myself talking to her as she gripped my hand so tightly.  She did not want to let me go. 
It broke my heart so much when my friend spoke to me,
"She can't hear you, you know?"
Instantly I was swept with sorrow again.
But then I stayed awhile.  I listened to children learning in silence. 
I watched them and studied them, and found their smiles and hearts.
In Haiti, kids can easily fall through the cracks, and for kids with special needs, the cracks are deep and wide.  They are placed on the outside fringes of society and they learn to fend for themselves.  
It is a survival of the fittest in the saddest way.  There isn't much afforded in the way of mercy, or grace, or love. 
Mostly they are forgotten.

So it's encouraging to see Lucner and his wife Fifi doing all they can.  
He wants to rent an acre of land to grow vegetables and food for the kids at the school.
He wants to build their own school instead of renting the space where they are so narrowly tucked and hemmed. 
Anybody want to help him?
God can make a way. 
You get to be part of the difference.
I just get to tell the story.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Unpredictable Haiti

Power cutting out, then on, then out again in Haiti: Predictable & Normal.
The thousands of people in front of my house suddenly screaming, chanting, running, yelling, with fire and bright lights and instruments of every kind banging and clanging...yeah, you might file that under Unpredictable & Peculiar. Ahhh Haiti. Just think, someday they will run and scream in the streets and shout and make all kinds of noise... for Jesus! :) 

(Sorry, no pics, it was way too dark, but I did capture audio. The kitty is a little freaked out...we may have to snuggle.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Can't Stand the Stench...

I just dealt with a drunk man out on the street in my village. After 20 minutes trying to have a conversation and him grabbing and touching me everywhere, when all I can smell is rum, I begin to run out of 'tender and trusting'. He says he needs money because he's thirsty, but I live right next to an artesian well. He says he needs money because he's hungry, and he has a big piece of bread sticking out of his pocket. I give him a mango from my tree anyway, and he complains that because it's fallen from the tree it's cracked, and therefore no good. I tell him if he doesn't want it to give it back and I'll gladly eat it. He puts it behind his back... and just when I get disgusted at his attitude and I can't stand the stench, the thought crosses my mind, 'I wonder how often I've looked and smelled like this man to God? '
We can all stand to have a little more grace and mercy and 'tender' on hand.