Thursday, May 30, 2013

Treasures Among the Weeds

I was just sitting in the garden behind my house here in Haiti, weeding the corn with my boy and my girl. It was a job we thought might take 2 or 3 days.  But then, one by one, kids from all over the village came and began to help us. We didn't ask, neither did they. They just came, knelt down, and started to pull weeds. There were kids from 14 all the way down to a couple of little sweethearts who were 4 years old. I didn't fetch the camera because I was afraid they might be shy and run off. Kari came out and read them the parable in the Bible about the farmer who went to sow seeds. When we were almost finished I wanted to do something to show them my gratitude, and I decided to open the question up to them. "What is a good little gift I can give you all?" I cringed, wondering if I'd made a terrible mistake. The tiny whispers were shooting all around me amidst the little stalks of corn. There was a huddle at one end of the rows.... 'Oh boy', I thought.... 

Then the answer came back.

"We think a good gift would be.... a piece of bread with some chocolate, or peanut butter...or just some butter if you have it."

There was a row of happy kids on the front porch tonight, all munching on their little gifts. I gave them each 5 goudes anyway just as a tip. Now they are all playing games out front.  I hear the laughter of children. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Skin & Bones

For the last 3 weeks when I drive to the old village, I've noticed my old friend is not there to greet me.  
No happy wag, no crossing the party lines to just love on the human unconditionally, no hot pursuit of the car as I pull away, chasing me for a mile or two down the road. 
Two nights ago when I came to visit someone finally said, 
"Hey, there's your dog Dan."  
When I saw her my heart broke.  I could feel my spirit so stirred.  
She stood in the road, looking like a breeze might knock her down, nothing but skin and bones. 
She was very sick and nearly dead, with one eye badly damaged, and yet still, when she saw me, she gave me a smile and wagged her tail, doing her best to walk to me. 
I met her half way in the middle of the road, and already some of the villagers were talking. 
I bought her a piece of bread from the lady on the corner, and even more people took issue when I broke it up and gave it to her.  She was too weak to eat.
Some of the people were laughing, some whispering.  One woman told me to just leave the dog, get away from her.  
I had no room on the moto, so I gave her a kiss and told her I'd be back for her in the morning with the car.
The Haitians thought I was just kidding.  
The next morning I came with my son. 
It was raining, and just before we got out of the car to go look for her, Logan said,
"Well, we know everyone is going to make fun of us for this. This will be embarrassing."
"Yep." I said. "And I don't care what it looks like. It's the right thing to do."
I found her curled up in a ball in an outhouse. She stood immediately and followed me to the car.
A Haitian on the street asked me for a ride to the market.
"No problem, but just be aware I'm bringing that dog."
"Uhhhhh.....O...K?" They said.
"Yep.  It is ok. There's room."
I opened the back of the car, but she was too weak, so I picked her up and put her inside.
I saw a group of people mocking and laughing. 
I walked over to them and all the giggles stopped.
"I love that dog.  She's a good dog.  I have a missionary friend who works with animals.  He's agreed to look at her for me.  This is why I'm taking her. Why wouldn't I?"
"No problem." they said.
We gave 5 haitians a ride while Logan held her.  She was foaming and coughing.

We finally drove into the clinic of Dr. Paul Rudenberg, and he was waiting outside to see her.
Thank you Lord, that you bless us so much to even have this man here, to look at this sick dog.
Paul prescribed her medicine and diagnosed her condition, part starvation/part kennel cough. 
She was covered in ticks, atleast 40 of them.
He gave me medicine and shampoo.  She might yet make a turn for the better.
As usual, she followed me wherever I went.
He wouldn't allow me to pay him for his services.  
"This is my ministry." He said.
"I know I'm the talk of the whole village and they all think I'm a crazy Blanc for taking her, but I don't care." I said.
"As opposed to what?" He shot back. "Letting her just rot away in the street?"
I felt the encouragement right away.  We understood each other perfectly.
"Yeah, they probably think you're weird.  Good!  They see compassion, that you care.  So what? Is that so bad?  They will want to know why you have that compassion.  Why do you care?And there you go. You can tell them."  He smiled. 
We talked of God's last words on Nineveh, and of Noah's Ark and who had a free boarding pass.
"It's biblical." Paul said.
Yes it is.  It's my God. 
God cares. 
God has compassion.
Shouldn't I?
Ezekiel says when He saw me in the street, laying there bleeding, He didn't just pass on by. Instead, He said to me, "Live!" 
He saw someone helpless who wouldn't make it on their own.
I think He'd approve if I extend the courtesy to a simple dog who loved unconditionally.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wrapped Up

My girl took a hard fall the other day, physically and emotionally.  Her ministry, her field, has literally been in the field out behind our house.  She's been trying to make friends with all of the children in this area, playing with them, making up games, and also trying to show them kindness and compassion when someone is hurt.  The cultural attitude is the opposite.  Kids and adults alike will laugh, mock, and even pick on someone who is hurt, or someone who is sad.  I've seen crowds of people just stare at someone who has had a bad accident, and moments later mock them.  It's not something I've been able to understand yet, other than it must be some kind of defense mechanism, where to survive you have to be tough and hard, not soft and kind.  So, when someone is down, the rest just pile on the hurt, adding insult to injury by pointing or laughing.  Inside I think every onlooker is hoping it will never be them on the receiving end.  I think everyone knows what's right inside, but it's much easier to destroy and knock down than it is to lift up and encourage.  

The very day she wrote on her blog about playing with the kids in the village, she became the victim of this twisted sense of humor.  As they were all jumping rope, Abby's turn came and she went to hop in.  They waited until just the right moment and then pulled the rope tight, making her fall, and fall hard. She scraped up her arm and knees, and most certainly took a blow emotionally as they began to mock her while she cried.    This was her reward for her labors?  Oberline saw it happen and became very angry.  I think she would have knocked them on their rears ends. 
A hard and yet precious lesson was just breaking in. 

I thought her arm was just bruised and sprained, and I knew the emotional end was only making it worse, so we iced it and wrapped it, but overnight and through the next day her arm began to swell and didn't get better. 
This morning she still couldn't twist her arm,  so we finally made the trip to the city at her mother's persistence.  

Momma's Intuition was right this time.  Abby had fractured both her Ulna and her Radius bones.  

When we got to the hospital, a missionary nurse that I know named Beth helped Kari to get Abby through the system, from x-ray to cast, without hardly sitting down.  That's an amazing feat in this country, where you might sit and wait for hours before you can even get a number to be seen, and it could be most of the day before you're finished.  Beth shined the light of Christ by serving and helping us so selflessly and lovingly.  She was there waiting when we arrived. 

We'd just read in our morning devotions about how God shed's His light on us. (Psalm 97:11) We can't make that light.  It doesn't come from us. It's only given to us, and just like nobody lights a kerosene lantern at night only to put it under a bowl, we don't tuck away and hide the light of Christ either.  It's not meant to keep to ourselves.  It's meant to reflect, to give, to warm, to light up the night.   Miss Beth became our living example today.  
My friend Patchouko said something yesterday that fit well, as we watched another Christian at work.
"You know, a true Christian doesn't need to bother with trying to convince people they are good.  They don't need to tell people that they go to church.  They don't need to say anything.  People can just see it on their face.  They feel love, and they know already, and say, "Ahhhh, that is a Christian.'"

Oberline was along also and got to watch Beth in action, got to see an x-ray and bones for the first time, and listened intently to Kari as she commented that it was Christians who started the first hospitals, out of love and compassion for the people they were called to serve.   The wheels are turning for this young lady.  

Abby has 4 weeks and a beautiful red, modern cast that gets her out of dishes for awhile.  She's still smiling, and I know she will use this to glorify God.  I don't doubt it for a second that people might look at this child and forget altogether that she's even in a cast.  Her light is too bright, and her joy is as unbridled as her horse.   She's all wrapped up in Jesus, and she just can't help but share Him.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


2 days ago it rained so hard in Haiti that all my corn was laying down. The Haitians were telling me I'd have to go in, stalk by stalk, and push up the earth to make it straight again, or I'd lose the whole crop. I told them, "I think God can make it stand up again." They smiled. Today, every single stalk is reaching for the Heavens as if to say "Hallelujah!" I read something in my Bible this morning I have to share,

Psalm 96:12 says "let the fields be jubilant". But in the Kreyol I found such a greater joy, It says "Se pou Jaden yo ak tou sa ki ladan yo fe fet", which translates to this, 'let the gardens and everything in them have a party, sing!'. I was....yes, this is the word, Flabbergasted! If my CORN knows how to praise the Lord, if my garden can have a party, how much more should I be rejoicing, a child of the King? There is nothing in the world too hard for Him, Amen?

Because There Was No Shepherd

I would like to submit that we all consider prayerfully that the first and foremost need in our respective mission fields is a spiritual leader committed to discipling every soul on the grounds. 

If we have planning meetings that draw out for hours and hours, discussing, arguing, complaining, requesting, developing all of the question, agriculture, administration, salary, or dollars, there will be progress, but any progress that is made without Jesus Christ front and center is absolute futility.  Instability will always be at the foundation. 
At this season in your particular field, If you think of this planning as a meal and our Lord isn't much more than garnish, a sprig of parsley on the side, then it's time to step back.   When I picture Him sitting in our meetings, listening to Israel complain about the Manna, I sometimes chuckle at what borders on the ridiculous.  I'm so very grateful that He loves us! I believe we have a real opportunity to turn a corner in the world, yet the greatest deficit I see is what we should have in overflowing surplus, if we have anything at all. 

I'm sure you'll agree that the majority of what we fret over won't even amount to a hill of beans. All that will ever matter is the day each soul stands before the Lord.  He will either know them or He won't, and they are right now under our care and supervision.  
We have an awesome, humbling, responsibility of eternal magnitude.    He told Peter that if he loved him he'd feed His sheep.   We should stink of sheep above all else. 

A man that is deep into voodoo watched me weeding my corn the other night as the sun was setting.  We've been in this spiritual dance, he and I.  He sees a sliver of light that he simply cannot ignore.  He sees the Lord and he just can't quite turn his back.  
After watching me said, "Dan, you work hard," then he quoted a Haitian proverb, "Work gives freedom."  "I agree!"  I said.
I had to track him down later, because when I'm in my garden that's where the Lord usually does His greatest whispering, and He knocked on my heart.
I went and found him taking a shower, and I had to tell him,  "Work does gives freedom, liberty indeed.  But which is best, to have work or to have God?   Work, as we well know in Haiti, is fickle.  It can come and it can go, here one day and gone the next.   But with God, I have freedom for life ever-after.  Forever, work or not, I am truly free, and I have the only real liberty that man can really hold onto." 

Ezekiel 34 came plowing in on me tonight.  Please take the time to meet with the Lord, to quiet your time and your self as you read His word, and see what a good meal He has for us here in this text.   
Check out His awesome promises at the end of this passage if we just trust in God and lay down. He makes the rest fall into place.  Isn't that a much easier route?  This isn't complicated unless we make it so.
Chew on this most choice, tender meat and search your hearts for your direction in the field today...
'The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
“ ‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
“ ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
“ ‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
“ ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.
“ ‘I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’ ”

Swatting that Pesky Persecution

I'd like to ask for prayer for my daughter's horse, Misty.  She is the latest form of persecution we are experiencing.   We have found wire tied into her tail, so that when she swishes the flies it cuts her.  We've found barbed wire tied into the mane.  We've found cactus juice poured onto her back.  Sometimes she is untied and running loose.   
I know the heart of my God.  In the Bible, He's explaining to Jonah why He doesn't want to destroy a city filled with evil people.  Jonah is angry and wants to see the people pay, but God refuses, and says to him, "Should I not pity this city, in which there are more than 120,000 people who don't even know their right hand from their left--and much livestock?"    That last thought is what proves to me His heart.  My God is an animal-lover...AND a lost-soul-lover! It's as if He is saying, "Shouldn't I rain down Mercy on these people who still don't know any better, besides, just look at all those innocent animals."   I've already had to change my prayer, from "God, crash in, knock down whoever is doing these awful things", to "God, reach in and turn their hearts, show them their evil ways, and change them from the inside out.  Snatch them from the hand of Satan and rescue them.  Tell him to his face, 'He is Mine forever more.'"

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bathing in the Overwhelming

I woke before 6 am to begin my trip up the mountain.  I'd promised Oberline we'd go to find her Aunt who lived on the top today.  I knew she'd be waiting to see if I'd keep my word.

By that time, high on the mountain, he was already awake and stepping out the door, leaving his wife and two little children, walking down the steep paths and ravines.   His thoughts were already far away.  He had a bounce in his step as he traversed the dry riverbeds.  His feet found their way down, descending in rhythm over rocks he's walked ten thousand times, while his hopes ascended to the heights of the clouds.  Today he was carrying his identification card, and in a special folder there was a certificate from the church along with a picture from the day he graduated seminary.  He's pastored for 24 years, but he's bringing the only paper that bears his name, the only proof he has in the world that he's a pastor.  The only proof on paper anyway.   He's hoping to meet the blanc (white) who gives Bibles.  There's a good chance that today he'll be able to bring Bibles back for his church.  

At first I'd only planned to take Oberline on the motorcycle, just her and I, so the trip would be quick, but I felt for whatever reason that I should stir the family and ask if they'd like to come along.  
First was Kari, who was eager and just waiting for the invitation.  She right away began to make coffee and breakfast.  
Then there were the two kids.  Both had talked the night before about how they'd like to sleep in, since it was Saturday and all.  I woke them gently and dropped the bug in their ears.  
"Hey, wanna go for a little hike today?" I said.  "If we leave early it will still be nice and cool."
They both stirred a little.  I let the thought simmer just a bit.    I walked out of their room and waited a few minutes.    The idea began to percolate, a slow awakening to the adventure that the day might bring.   I looked into the bedroom to see children stretching.  

By now the man had reached the road and was just flagging down a tap-tap taxi, finally down the mountain, finally a little rest.  He sat down, already weary from his journey, in the bed of the truck with many other people bound for the market.  

Mom put breakfast and even a little coffee for the kids on the table.  Eyes were getting a little wider.  Yawns were finishing up. 
There was talk of bringing the dog, then about how the dog is such a lover and not a fighter that he'd get himself half-killed when he ran into those mountain dogs.  There were weepy eyes over not bringing the dog, and then we were finally on our way out the door.   

As we swung open the gate, there he was.  He was just arriving.  We were just leaving. He had a big smile on his face.  Finally Pastor Jean had reached his destination.    

I showed him the Bibles we have to give, and other Bibles and literature that my missionary friend Harold has to offer, then I explained the process of how to sign up.    He was hoping to come home with Bibles in his hands for the people on the mountain, hungry for the Word.  I had to explain that it is a bit of a process, yet worthwhile, and other churches are waiting ahead of his.  "We do what we can, but we're just one family."  
He was content, although deflated.   Happy, but also a little down.
"Just have a little patience, Pastor.  God knows." I said. 
"Yes.  Okay.  Patience...." he smiled.  "Where are you going now?"
"We're going up the mountain to bring a girl to visit family.  Do you know Marescot?"
"Yes!  I live only 5 minutes from there!" He exclaimed.  "I'm returning home now.  This was the only reason I came to the city.  Can I go with you?" 
"Absolutely."  I said.   He jumped in the car and I explained to Kari and the kids,
"For whatever reason, God has decided we need an escort today." 
Everyone shrugged, beginning to become accustomed to God's rearranging in Haiti.

We jammed the car full of kids from the old village on their way to a special school party.  I checked the pastors face in the mirror, to begin to gauge the man.  Is he going to get all bent out of shape, with children crowding in all around him?  Is he going to become indignant?   
No.  He loved.  He smiled.  His face was pure joy.

We drove as far as the car could go and then began our journey.   The people that we crossed paths with all met him with soft eyes.   Some very tenderly called him Papa, a more intimate word for Pastor.  
The further we walked into the mountain, the greater the warmth in smiles, the closer the bond. 
Twenty four years he's pastored in these hills, in a wooden structure with bamboo.   
"Maybe you can come to my house after the girl visits her family?"  He asked.
"We will see, Pastor.  There may not be time today." 

We came to Oberline's family, and right away began the worldly discussions.  Everything revolved around money.  I watched this young girl who missed her family begin to deflate, as almost nothing was spoken to her but instead everyone asked for large sums of money to build a new roof for their house.   She soon remembered what it was like to live as a restavek, a child slave, as one who goes unnoticed and unseen.  She walked up to Kari and placed Kari's arms around her tightly in an embrace.
We prayed over the family and the house, and asked God for provision to help them, and I told them that would have to suffice for now.  Oberline was very hurt that her family was asking me for money and things.   I could see she was very bothered and ready to go.

"Pastor, let's go visit your house now." I said.  It was time to shake free of the hurt.
We walked for 10 minutes down the path and came to his humble home nestled into the mountainside. He walked around the back of the house to the outdoor kitchen and called out to his wife.  
As soon as we rounded the corner, as soon as her eyes met mine, she began to weep.   She raised her hands to Heaven and gave all glory and praise to God, and the tears began to flow freely.  She hugged us.  Embraced us.  She ushered us into her small home as if the Son of God Himself had just graced her presence.   She began to sing to temper her crying, to contain herself as she sent her little girls scrambling for chairs so we could sit.  She rushed into the back room and returned with a pail of water and a wash basin.  We were on top of the mountain.  Water here is scarce and precious.  Children walk great distances for just one pail, and it's meant to last atleast half the day.

She knelt at my feet and asked if she could wash my hands.  She placed the soap in my hands, but stopped me when I began to scrub myself.  She asked that I be still, and then she bathed my hands.  She poured the cool mountain water into my palms and then began to work the soap into a lather.  She massaged my hands until there were no more traces of dust from our travels.  Her touch was gentle, full of love, absolutely humble.  Her own hands were trembling.
Lord, You've called me here to serve, and this woman serves me? I should be washing her feet.
When she finished with my hands and rinsed me, she gave me a towel to pat dry, and then started right to work on my feet, with the same tender care.   I began to cry.  To be still and simply receive this blessing was overwhelming to me, beyond my ability to compose.    She finished with me and began to bathe the hands and feet of my wife, and then my daughter, and then my son.   Logan looked up at me, visibly stirred in his spirit. 
"Dad, what can we do for this family?" All of us were deeply moved.

Yet it was the next moment that took my breath.  She turned to Oberline, this Haitian girl who was once a child-slave, and she began to show her the same honor, love and respect. It was as if she were welcoming a princess into her home.   

"Do you remember 3 years ago when I washed your feet, Oberline?"  I asked her.  
Oberline gushed as she began to remember.   Years ago when I'd first discovered she was a restavek, I sat her down and explained how much Jesus loved her.  I told her it was more than words, that I'd have to show her, and I washed her feet.  
"Do you see the difference between this house where Jesus lives, and the house we just came from?"
Why does this Momma bathe your hands and feet now, the same as I did for you?  It's because of Jesus.  In my heart, in this woman's heart the same.  He's telling you that He loves you."
"Yes!"  Oberline said.  She was beyond words.

Her husband then walked in the door with fresh cut coconuts, cut just perfect with machete so we could drink them.   
His wife finished bathing all of us and began to soak up the water spilled on the floor with a canvas sack.  I knelt to help her, but she grabbed my arm. 
"No!  This is not the work for you.  Please, sit."  She said.  

After she finished she washed her own hands and then asked her husband to have Abricot carried in.   This just happens to be Abby and Oberline's all-time favorite fruit.   This beautiful mother began to peel it for us, serving us on her best plates.  I offered it to the children and their father.  They only picked the smallest and least attractive pieces of fruit from the plate.  

When we had our fill she finally sat down with us.  I could see she didn't feel comfortable to just sit.   The kids ran out to play and we all sat in silence, just enjoying the wonderfully cool breeze the Lord had brought up the mountain to break the mid-day heat.  A very colorful and handsome rooster strutted slowly into the frame of the door.

"What a beautiful rooster!"  My wife commented.  

The pastor's wife looked at her husband, 
"What do you think, Jean?"  she asked.
"Whatever you want, honey."  He said to her, his voice soft.

I couldn't hold back a chuckle.
"Kari, you just became the owner of a rooster!" I said.  
"What!? No!  I didn't mean-!"  She looked at me frantically, but it was too late.  She'd already made the comment, just acknowledging it was a beautiful bird, and by the hospitality of the culture, the bird was now hers.   It's always a hard lesson to learn, and we Americans always forget it in this culture.   If you don't accept the gift, then it becomes nearly the equivalent of slapping someone in the face.  It's actually humiliating to them, and very embarrassing.   But Kari couldn't hold back atleast trying to un-accept,
"We really don't need this rooster. It's too much! This would be too much of a blessing!  He is for you!"she said.  
I tried in vain to help, "You've blessed us so much already."
"No, no." The mother said, "You don't understand.  We've already been greatly blessed.  Not long ago my daughter had become very sick and was expected to die, but God rescued her and made her strong again.  Today she is here.  This gift is small and nothing compared to the gift He's given us." 
I know the value of the water, the value of the coconut and the Abricot.  I know how many mouths that rooster would feed.   And this woman on the mountain in Haiti knows something too.  
You can't out-give God. 
We prayed over their home, their family and their church, and again asked God for provision to come alongside this family that is carving the Word into these rock-filled mountains that have long echoed the drums of voodoo. 
When we finished, she turned to her husband, "Jean, you can walk them back down and carry the bird for them?"  
He smiled, "Of course."Again, the hospitality of the mountain people.  They will often walk you all the way back home or to your car, even it's miles and miles and hours out of their way.  
My feet were already aching, and I couldn't help but wonder how he felt.  Down the mountain, up the mountain, down with us again, and still another trip back up in this scorching heat.

Our legs began to take on the feel of jelly as we wobbled along.
After we said our goodbye's and finally reached our car, most of the day had passed.   Some 'little hike', I thought.  Hope the kids don't want to kill me.
I asked Kari, "Can you imagine if I'd experienced all of this on my own, and just came alone?  What blessings might we have missed?"
I cannot begin to comprehend the love of my Father.  It passes my understanding.  To find His attitude in harmony with his people is such a marvelous mystery to me, reassuring and confirming.  I know He walks with me.  I have no doubt in Him.  His Spirit binds us all together for something so much greater than ourselves.  Something that I know my eyes will someday see.

In my rear-view mirror were my son and daughter, absolutely exhausted and collapsed, and yet both telling me they were feeling totally blessed.  There was my wife sitting next to me with a content smile on her face, talking about how she loves days like these.  There was a young lady, once a child-slave, now a child of the Most High King, lost in the Overwhelming Love of her Father.   Her thoughts were far away, but she was nestled there between my kids, bouncing down the road, part of another family, adopted in our hearts.   There were two Abricots rolling along on the floor, gifts for the road, and then this handsome rooster, staring back at me open-beaked with his feet tied.  He was the only one who looked a little worried.  I decided to name him Fred.   
"Welcome to the family, Fred.  I hope the dog and the cat don't eat you."  


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Out Back

Topographically, our house is in a bowl compared to the countryside all around, so it's been trying to provide a good image of the area where we live now.  This is the country behind our house in Houck, Haiti.  Along with an intense desire to climb that mountain, God has put an amazing itch for farming into me...I can only assume because I now live in a heavy farming community.  We've got hundreds of stalks of corn now rising.  God brings just the right amount of rain.  All around us there are fields and farmers working the ground.  A toddler barely old enough to speak walked up to one of my little watermelon sprouts the other day, pointed at it and said, "Oh!  Melon!"   

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From the Ashes

A Haitian friend of mine named Eddy runs an orphanage and a school just a few miles from my house.  He is a good man, and in fact when I first got to know him I had to invite my other good friend Patchouko and his family to come for supper so they could be introduced.  It was unbelievable to me how similar these two men really were.
Today was a perfect example, as I watched this man shine.

Yesterday the kids needed more airflow inside the rooms, so Eddy hired a welder to make the windows larger.  Each house is built from shipping containers, while the roofs are all traditional thatch.  
As the welder began to torch the holes he noticed smoke coming from the thatch, so he stopped and threw on a bucket of water, but then continued back to work.  
After a few minutes someone came running down the road waving their arms.   A fire had already started on one of the roofs where he'd just finished.   The thatch ignited like a match and in just a moment there was an intense blaze.   
Immediately they got the children out of the orphanage, and Eddy tried to call for a fire truck.  
He first called the police in the local town, but their fire truck was broken and they could do nothing.   Then he called the UN, and while they said they could help, their truck was an hour away.
As a last resort he called the airport, who said they could help but they needed the permission from the capital first.
In frustration Eddy hung up the phone as people began pouring into the orphanage.  While some of the people came to help, others came to rob and steal.   In the excitement of carrying buckets of water, many stole money, clothes, even mattresses.  One of the locals even thought there was a party and a big give-away, with the way people were running from the orphanage with hands full of merchandise.
The fire grew so hot that the people could only get to about 20 feet from the flames to throw on the buckets.  It was just too much to bear. 
Solar panels exploded.  They lost the electricity, they lost the ability to pump water from the well, and there was a great deal of destruction, with the added slap of being robbed while in your most vulnerable moment, by the very people you've come to serve.   Eddy built this orphanage, for them.   He built the clinic and staffed it with 2 nurses and a doctor, for them.   He started an entire school and food program, for them.  
So how is it that this morning this man can still smile?   How is it he tells me he sees the blessing of God?
"If the fire had come in the night, as fast as it spread, I don't think anyone would have survived."   All of the children would have been sleeping and the flames would have consumed them.   I hear the echo of my friend Patchouko, talking about how much he sees God loves him in his terrible moto accident.
"We will rebuild with tin roofs and we won't use thatch."  Eddy smiles as he goes to hug another sick little girl, showering her with kisses. "It's life.  We are still alive! It's God giving us a second chance."

This is Bernia, one of three children from my village that were able to see a doctor at Eddy's clinic just this morning. This girl isn't even 2 and she has boils all over her body.  Today she has antibiotics and medicine. If anyone would like to donate towards restoring what was lost, you can reach eddy at the email address below:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Blessed Assurance

I spent half the day with Patchouko in the city, trying to cut through the red tape of "assurance" in Haiti. 
This is basically insurance that I'm told doesn't really do any good if you get into an accident, but will keep the police from taking your car during a roadblock.  
Last week the "friendly" officers stopped me again, and it only took one serious Haitian with an M16 pointed at me to make me refocus my attention on getting this magic piece of paper.

After 3 visits, still no luck and we have to return tomorrow morning. 1st trip, no internet, couldn't check the records. 2nd trip, didn't have the original old assurance, just a copy. 3rd trip, sorry, the inspector went home 2 hours early for the day. Each trip on the moto in the city is laced with close-calls. I was about to flip, and I told Patchouko that it's better to just drive the car over a cliff and be done with it. 
On the way home I cooled down and began my apology to the Lord. I was grateful to have a car, to have money in my pocket to pay for the silly assurance, to be with my friend, to have enough gas in the tank, and for both of us to even be alive after the terrible accidents we've both had. 

Instead, we took his wrecked moto to a mechanic and waited by the roadside while they fiddled with the engine to get it running again. While we were sitting next to the well we began to talk about the accident, all of the money he's lost in bills and medicine, and this is what my friend said, 
"I don't see the accident like most people see it. It wasn't such a bad thing to happen to me. From my perspective, it was God showing me just how much He loves me."
I was filled with curiosity. "How do you see it that way?"
"It could have been much worse. When I think about that wreck and see this moto, the little girl, my friend Kenol, or I could have died. It could have been so bad. So really, I just know God loves me so much."

I don't think I know even a handful of people in the world who would take such a view, to see God's beauty and design even in a terrible accident. 
It affirmed one thing to me. This Haitian man and I don't have much figured out. But one thing we've both learned the hard way: He loves us, so very unconditionally, and He'll do anything, whatever it takes, to awaken us to that simple and undeserving truth. 

On the way home we joked about tomorrow and our next trip to the office of "assurance"
"I'm sure we will get the papers tomorrow!" My friend said.
"You have hope." I mused sarcastically. 
"All Haitian Christians have hope to live, because one day we will find ourselves in Paradise." He smiled.
"Yep, betcha we won't need assurance papers there." I said. Patchouko laughed from the back seat of the moto as we cruised in and out of traffic. 
"At least not the kind we have to pay for every year."

Mom's Day Late

Yesterday we all completely dropped the ball on Mom's Day. It's an inherited disease, a debilitating condition where I can't remember any important dates on the calendar. Apparently it's also been passed on to my kids. It doesn't help when you're in another country where it's not celebrated. I was certain it came later in the month...
For Mom's Day here, Kari Ann sat with our kids and peeled dozens and dozens of mangos, so we could mash out the juice and make a concentrate to freeze. We'll have juice for a month because of this Momma. Happy Mom's Day Late, Kari Ann. We are all thankful for the way you dote.

This Tree & Me

It is the rainy season, so on this pouring morning as my plans have all been washed away, I'm left to sit and study from my Haitian rocking chair, not a glorious and majestic sunrise, but a simple mango tree. 

I was blessed with many sunrises of jaw-dropping grandeur when we lived at the old village by the sea.  Here I am surrounded by trees.  I was raised where trees were few and far between, in the rugged plateaus and hill country of Wyoming.  I remember my father's comment about these standing giants, how they always made him feel claustrophobic. 

But what choice have I, inside these walls and imprisoned by these bars of water, except to gaze upon this tree and find the similarity of me, and my God's purpose for this morning.  There is always a reason.  Always a plan.  It's part of my great joy to look for the gift and zealously claw away the wrapping paper.  

Yes, those sunrises were spectacular, and of course they reminded me of the power and splendor of a great King, but this mango tree is for me, and in fact I think it's why God gave us trees.  
What an awesome leap to such conclusion, stretched thin for my point, you might decide, but stop and think for just a moment, lend your ear and your imagination for a time.  Find yourself in the sway of this rocking, rocking chair, with these cleansing rains pouring down all around, and lock away your 'busy' in the cellar for now.  

This tree, it stretches and reaches for the Sun, does it not?  And if the blessing of the Sun were to go away, would it not of course find its most immediate demise?

This tree, it can stand so strong and seem so steady, but does it not bend and sway, from the gentle breeze to the hurricane.  

It bears such wonderful fruit, tastily delicious and refreshing, when it's doing what it was created and designed to do.  But when the great storms come, does it not drop them and lose it's charity?

And after the storm, does it not seem to almost take a deep inhale of fresh air?  Its leaves unfurl and fluff up, a little greener, a little healthier, stronger and more prepared for that next challenging circumstance.  I can even smell this tree. It's the smell of life.  Citrus.  Even the bark, if I were to carve out a piece, would give me the aroma of something hoped for but not seen. 

If a branch should fall away, well even Jesus told us stories about that.  It can be supple, alive and useful, or it can be dry, dead, and merely fuel for the coming fire. 

A bird will rest her wings on those branches. Maybe a child will swing from a rope.  The shade that it gives is priceless on a scorching hot day.  Even the rains have a hard time finding their target when one is nestled close to the trunk.    

This tree can hold up, lift up, hug, and hang on, when it's stretching toward the Sun.  But what damage, what destruction, what tragedy and depressing sighs when it fails to stand, and comes crashing down.  Only rooted deep will this tree live out it's intended purpose, as any tree only feasting on the shallow has found.  

The rains are going now.  
The birds are thousands, singing. 
The Sun is breaking through me and these clouds.
A perfect mango has fallen and waits for me. 
It's time for breakfast.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

An Artist Sculpting in the Mud


With a good friend and brother, Lucner Laine. We were standing in his mother's rice field, waiting for her to join us for the harvest. She never came. Instead, this 87 year-old great-grandmother was busy helping to deliver a baby who'd passed away during miscarriage. The next morning she was back out in the fields, beating the rice.

How Much More?

For any who are still holding out that God doesn't just desire to pour out blessing...

Kari really wanted a refrigerator. Things spoil so fast here. But the electricity is so undependable that a refrigerator is almost useless, and we couldn't really afford it anyway. It was wishful thinking, but then...
Enter God. 
My missionary brother Harold showed up with a gift. A refrigerator that runs on propane, that their mission wasn't using anymore. With it came 2 tanks of propane, and a very happy Kari.

Last month when we arrived our car wasn't working, but...
Enter God. My missionary brother Ken asked if I could keep their Land Cruiser. It was a tremendous help.  Once I got our car fixed I returned the vehicle with many thanks. We then began to have more issues with our car, yet once again... 
Enter God. 
Harold showed up with a motorcycle that they wanted to keep out at my house for when we need to go find churches for his organization, and he said I am free to use it whenever I'd like. 

Then Harold's organization needed to come and stay at our house, but we didn't have enough beds at our house. We were preparing for some creative sleeping arrangements, when suddenly...
Enter God.
Another missionary friend, Shane, shows up with bunk beds that they no longer have a use for. Beautiful beds. Wonderfully simple to erect. Kids can't contain themselves.  

And then of course for the last 2 weeks the air mattress that Kari and I sleep on has been deflating because of anonymous puncture holes from someone named 'Wudnt-dMe'. Every night the air would come out. Every night I'd have to pump in the middle of the night. Kari was about to go crazy with all of my flip-flopping like a fish out of water, when once again...
Enter God.
Shane pulled up to our house last night with another bed, a full size bed with box spring and mattress, that another missionary no longer needed.
Does anyone still cling to the idea that God doesn't pay attention to our most intimate needs?  Maybe instead, this verse is true:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" ~Jesus

A Brilliant Mind

I have to give the boy some credit.  Mangos were coming ripe and were about to fall 30 feet to their splitting demise on the rocks below.   It's a mess to clean up and a feast for unwanted hoards of ants.  His anxiety grew with each passing day and the ever-turning color of the fruit in the trees.  Logan did some brainstorming and, using an old fishing net supported by the trunk, branches and nails, we are now collecting wonderfully delicious and unbruised mangos every morning.   He designed it so that the mangos don't bounce, but are instead caught.  They are either safely suspended in the net or they gently roll off onto the ground.   No splits, no ant frenzy.
I thought he was hurried for nothing, but actually the first mangos fell the very next morning. 

To me it's like an Easter egg Hunt, every day.  Wake up soon as it's daylight, go out to the well, see what's waiting for us in 'the catch'.    He's now developing recipes for a Mango Sherbert with sugar and milk, freezing it down to be enjoyed only when we are too hot and need a cool refreshment.

Good job boy.   

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bow Low Before the Lord

The most filling words of wisdom I think I've ever heard came when I asked a man how on Earth I might every repay him for his kindness: "Bow low before the Lord." He said. 

I think I've spent hours just chewing on that humble remark, and what that might look like, played out in living color before my King.

My little girl fashioned the artwork above out of clay this morning.  I am amazed at what beauty I see, shaped by a 9 year-old's imagination...

He Keeps Me Curious

I thought this might help to just post a public response to these questions, because they are common curiosities to our work in Haiti:
"What would I do if I came down?" and "Does your church support you?"

Do you know what I love about following the Lord? It's that He keeps me curious.  I'm left excited like a child, thinking, "WOW God! What are you gonna do NEXT?!"  I can't wait to see!"

It's different every day.  When I wake up my prayer usually begins or ends with, "Lord, where are You working today and how can I help?"  
Right now I'm helping out 2, sometimes 3 different ministries, and they all work hand in hand with our ministry, in some fashion or another, in giving Bibles and discipleship.  
Sometimes I'm running people to a doctor, sometimes I'm just out farming with my neighbors.  For the last month I've setup meetings with pastors I've worked with.  About 24 of them have made applications to be inspected, and once approved they can receive free Bible study materials from a mission I work closely with.   My wife is working daily with an old man who is dying from Parkinsons, whose son is not following the Lord.  She's also teaching a Haitian girl alongside our own kids, because she was kicked out of the school system here.  I'm usually giving a message every Sunday, or working with pastors.  We sometimes go to schools and are invited to give the Gospel.  Some days I'm just out on the moto trying to find a pastor or a new church.  Some days it's just too muddy to make it. 
This week I may have to give a suppository to a man who can't do it himself...

All that to say it's certainly not in what we do, but in how we love and serve those He's placed in front of us.  
Sometimes it gets difficult here, because of the persecution, also because  you sometimes run up against an attitude that can be extremely foolish and selfish, sometimes downright rude and aggressive.  But Christ didn't call us to just love the loveable, and when we become offended or upset it's usually an entitlement/heart issue of our own to work out.  
If you were to come down here, to be frank, it would be more about what God would be showing you, a work He'd be accomplishing in your own heart, than anything else. There are those that go and those that send.  A week long trip isn't about the impact the Christian leaves on the culture as much as it is about the print God leaves on the Christian, using the culture he's visited. 

Our home church in SD does pray for us and occasionally supports us. They asked me to attend a 1.5 year Missionary training course, but I declined it.  They may or may not have placed us where we wanted to go in Haiti. There were no hard feelings. We just knew where we were called and we didn't want to wait.  In my own opinion, most Christians are already bloated enough with the Word, and they just need to give feet to what they already know.  
Our church still prays for us and sends us gifts.  They still encourage us and we love them very much.  They've told me recently they'd also give support for me to go through Seminary. That was a tremendous offer to us.  I'm just not sure where God is leading with that yet.  Right now I'm giving a message here every Sunday.  It's not something I've sought out, it's just where I'm being used, and the direction I feel from Him.  I tell people over and over that I'm not a pastor, but they still call me Pastor Dan.  A missionary friend here told me that from now on he's just going to call me Pastor Dan, because it's the calling he sees on me. Another says he sees my heart, and it's the heart of a pastor.   It's always extremely humbling and undeserved when I hear that.  I know where the Bible stands on credentials and the wisdom of man's knowledge,  If my Lord wants me giving a message, then I'm glad and privileged to give it, whether I have the stamp of man or not.   While Seminary is a wonderful tool and it would be a blessing, I'm not sure it's where I'm supposed to be.  I'm a laborer in the field, and I feel most useful with dirt under my nails, out among the sheep.  The Lord knows I've never been accustomed to a class room learning environment.  He knows me better than I know myself. 

The Gospel message in Haiti is simple. If that message is complicated, anywhere in the world, then we've missed the whole point and we're after the wrong Gospel. We are chosen by God, but only He knows who will and who won't follow him, and it doesn't matter, it's not in my job description to decide who that might be.  He told me to GO, make disciples of ALL nations, to baptize and teach them to obey Him.  My job is to love them. That's only accomplished through His promise to be with me, because at some point or another, either they or myself will not be found to be very loveable.  That's why the rest is His business.  Thank God it doesn't depend on me.  What a failure this faith would be!

The drawing of the Holy Spirit, the unfolding of His plan, and the rest of the Book will be accomplished exactly as God has already seen fit.  
I don't have everything figured out.  He does.  I don't own the cattle on a thousand hills.  He does.  I am the pot. He is the Potter.  I am the laborer in the field. The field is His.  My only response then must be, out of obedience and availability, "Lord, where are you working today, and how can I help?", and then, with whatever that looks like, to trust and be content.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013


One of my favorite memories of my grandfather was sitting with him in his grocery store.  The local dairy used to bring him the freshest milk, and he had this amazing lever-pulled milk dispenser that looked like it was from the 40's.  Just set your glass down and give that lever a tug, and out came the best tasting milk I've ever had in my life.  It was just a degree above freezing, rich and creamy.  I'd have at least 3 tall glasses before I'd roll out of there. 

Well, you can imagine our family's excitement when I found a local convent that sells fresh milk.  
Until now we've always just gone without, and for a family of milk-drinkers and cereal-eaters that's been a difficult adjustment.

Yesterday the milk came so fresh I had to wait 1 hour for the cows to finish drinking and the men to squeeze it into their buckets.  It poured into my old oil jugs almost hot to the touch, still frothy.    My friend Shane, a self-admitted milk connoisseur, gave me the perfect heating instructions, 163 degrees for 30 seconds, and then get it cold quick as you can for jam-packed, full flavor.  We don't have a refrigerator so we throw it in our chest freezer to cool down to a 33 degree dream.   This morning we broke out a box of cereal and poured our cold milk over it.   After the cereal we sat for another few minutes just sipping on more.   Our bellies were happy.  

While we were at the convent, I bought a loaf of bread for Tikilene and also a gallon of milk for her family.   This morning when she came, I asked if her family enjoyed it.  Cow's milk here is a precious rarity. Turns out she'd given most all of it away.  She'd taken her gifts down to her church to share with the people there.  They were praying for some sick people all night and slept on the concrete floor of the church. I wonder if she even got more than a bite of bread and a swallow of milk, and yet this example of Christ is as happy and content as she can be this morning, singing while she works.  I think I have so much to learn...