Listening and Learning

FEBRUARY 8, 2019

One month ago today, we embarked on a journey that we still can’t comprehend. God saw something in us that we couldn’t and had a task for us that we still don’t understand. Why would He bring us to Haiti as full-time missionaries? We had no idea why and we still don’t. We’re just learning to trust Him more each day. The first few days we were almost in shock. We sat and just stared at each other wondering what was next. Marie Jean was such a blessing. She kept us from dwelling in our own heads too much. One thing is for certain, no matter how many times you have been to Haiti on mission trips, living here is a whole different ballgame. We are in constant prayer for strength, endurance, and wisdom.

The missionary couples we have met have been huge blessings and encourage us frequently. Missionaries that serve here frequently have been great sources of knowledge.  We receive encouragement often from our good friend Rev Fred with Light of Life Missions. He calls several times a week to check on us, to see if we need anything or to just talk. Encouragement and prayer are so very crucial for every missionary, especially the ones on foreign mission fields. It’s hard being away from our families and friends and being out of our comfort zones constantly. Satan is constantly telling us we can’t, or we aren’t good enough to do this. Pray intentionally and boldly for us and let us know you are praying!  Pray for our families. They sacrifice as much if not more than we do. They sacrifice holidays, birthdays, school plays and games, milestones that they wish we were there for.

We are so thankful for technology so that we can be in contact with our family! We can video call, text or just call using an app that is free. We were able to do a video call to our grandson, Riley’s fifth grade class. They’re the ones that sent us letters of encouragement. We loved opening one each night and reading it. The heartfelt message on each card was precious. During the call, they read their “I have a dream” papers, asked us questions about what we were doing, about the kids at the orphanage and about the culture of Haiti. Marie Jean was up in the center of it waving to all the kids. They touched our hearts! We so appreciate Mrs. Amy and her class for their letters and their interest in our journey! 

Miss Phyllis is such a vibrant lady of strength and dignity. She helps more people than even she can count. She is a very respected leader in the community and beyond. There is a certain protection that comes with living with her. A lot of people won’t bother you if you’re hers. She teaches us so much every day about grace. David told her he was praying for patience and she replied, “don’t pray for patience, pray for grace.” Voodoo clans have attempted to get to the orphanage and hospital, typically to try to get money, and were turned back quickly by the security guys at the hospital. Miss Phyllis stood outside her door and prayed until they were gone.

We have already met several people coming in on teams. A group from Illinois was kind enough to include us in their excursions. We went with them to Baptist Haiti Mission over two hours up in the mountains. It was cooler, and the colors of the vegetation were much more lush. We weren’t aware until we were there that it was the Turnbulls mission house. I had heard about them, seen their books, and heard about their ministries for years. Mrs. Eleanor Turnbull and Miss Phyllis are good friends and were able to visit and catch up with each other while we looked through the gift shop and ate lunch. When David & I were introduced to her, she said “I have rooms for missionaries. Whenever you need to get away either for a night or a week, call me.” Miss Phyllis reminded her we had only been here for two weeks.  Mrs. Turnbull replied “now, Phyl, you know at some point they will need to get away. I just want them to know they have somewhere to go.” She autographed her book and included her email for when we decide to get away. It was a wonderful day and we can’t wait to return!

We didn’t receive our things/supplies from home until late evening on February 1st.  Almost a month after our arrival. I won’t lie and say it was easy, but we didn’t go hungry and even though I wore the same dress for three Sundays in a row, many other women do that because that’s all they have. It was sure nice when it arrived to unpack our pictures, clothes, food, and especially the cleaning supplies! We got to work unpacking, organizing and then deep cleaning. It felt like we finally made it our home.

One thing we learned during the first few weeks was to listen and wait. Be patient, observe, learn, and wait some more. God kept telling us to just take things slowly, watch the kids, learn each one, their personalities and take things slowly. For the ones that know us, you know that wasn’t an easy task. But we did it. Some days we sat outside watching soccer games. Some days we just watched them play various games. Other days we pulled out corn hole or playdough. Ever so slowly, the older ones are starting to open up. It may be a smile, a couple of words, or a full conversation, but they are learning to trust us. We prayed about how to begin our small groups. David said, “I think we need to start with the leaders.” We went to Miss Phyllis and asked her which ones she considered as leaders. She gave us a list of names and off we went. We had a meeting with them and discussed leadership versus bossing. We told them right off the bat that we weren’t here to change their culture. We didn’t expect them to learn to speak English better. We are in their country and we will learn Creole. We told them we wanted to walk and work beside them to make things better, but we needed their help. We could almost see a visible relief come over them all. Things began to change after that. We continue to have meetings frequently and the bonds are beginning to form. We have quickly realized that with a group this size and with the wide variation of ages, we need help. We don’t know how Miss Phyllis has done it as long as she has.

Through this journey, we are learning to listen to His voice and wait for His guidance. We are learning to follow even though it may be a different direction than what we thought we were going.  We are learning to trust Him more. We are trusting Him to fill us, guide us, and give us wisdom. Through it all we are learning to seek Him in everything.  “In view of this, we always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by His power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.

Haiti Market

Finding Our New Normal

January 12, 2019

This is our fifth day in Haiti. We arrived on Tuesday to a hot, sunny day. Once we arrived at the orphanage, we were told they hadn’t had rain in about a month. The grass was brown and crunchy, it was very dusty. I whispered a prayer for God to please send rain. We stayed at the main house our first night. We went to devotion and within minutes, we had laps full of the younger kids that snuggled up and promptly fell asleep. Miss Phyllis told us later that sleeping during devotion isn’t encouraged, they want to teach them how important devotion and worship is. After devotion, we were exhausted. We hadn’t slept much the night before, been up since 3 AM, and I had just gotten over a stomach bug. There was a wonderful cool breeze blowing up on the third floor. We began getting ready for bed and heard the sprinkles of rain hit the metal roof. Soon it was an outright downpour. It wasn’t a storm or a torrential rain, just a hard, steady rain that was so desperately needed. We thanked God for it and I was out. I didn’t know David had gotten up several times during the night to make sure nothing was leaking or getting wet. I slept much sounder than I usually do when I’m in Haiti. It rained all night, praise God!

The second night of devotion we tried to sit in different spots, so the little ones wouldn’t get close and fall asleep. That didn’t work, it took literally seconds for them to see us and get to us. We had them on the benches beside us. It didn’t take long, their little heads started bobbing. We did everything we could to keep them awake, tried to get them to sing, clap, talked to them…. nothing worked. They were out. Every night since then has been the same story. They get still and then they’re out.

We decided to go on and move into the mission house where we’ll be living on the compound. It sits between the girls’ and boys’ rooms. We were ready to get in and begin this chapter of our lives. We worked all day unpacking and organizing the things we brought. Dr. Mark from Mission Haiti and director of the Hospital here came by to talk with us. He gave us words of encouragement and advice on how to hang in for the long haul. He told us that when we’re usually here short term, we run a full-on sprint but when you’re here for long term, it’s more about running a marathon. You must pace yourself to stay well both mentally and physically. That was some of the best advice we’ve received so far! We so appreciated his words of encouragement, his honesty and his offers to help in any way. He even asked if I wanted to go to watch some procedures/surgeries next week. To an ER nurse/adrenaline junkie, that was like Christmas! We received a lot of advice and support from both short- and long-term missionaries here. The ones that know the ins and outs of Haiti and give us encouragement.

One of our grandson’s fifth grade class made us cards of encouragement. The entire class! We brought them and randomly pick one every evening to read. After we read it, we tape it on the wall, so we can see it every day. I can’t tell you what those cards have meant!  

There are so many that serve here in every capacity. Janie, who makes sure things are run smoothly when Miss Phyllis is out and serves as Nanny, nurse, and whatever else is needed. She answers my endless questions about where certain medicines or bandages are, and which one needs what. Charlie, who has been here for a long time had to leave a few days ago due to a stroke. I know, without a doubt, that he will be back if possible. Please keep them both in your prayers as well!

Each day brings something different. It’s busy but not the crazy pace we were used to. We’re learning a new pace and a new normal. Today was David teaching some of the older ones to play cornhole and me keeping the younger ones busy with playdough. The best thing is that we get to serve together. We are learning together, and we are learning to trust God more. We’re learning it’s okay to be here just to love them and teach them about Jesus. We are learning to cope with the deep ache from missing our family, to stay hydrated, and to rest when we need to rest. Finding our new normal. Please continue to pray for us, for the children here, for the ones serving here, and for Haiti.

The Call

Welcome to our Journey with Jesus!

My husband David and I are about to start a journey that neither of us saw coming. We didn’t know at an early age that we would be called into full-time mission work. We didn’t know it even a year ago. What we did know was that we knew we were being prepared for something. We didn’t know what, but we knew God was preparing us for something.

In 2010, I was standing in my parents’ living room watching the news coverage of the Haiti earthquake. It was devastating. I remember looking at my Dad and saying, “I need to go.” I don’t remember who was more shocked at those words, him or me.

In 2012 I went on my first medical mission trip to Haiti. I came home broken and changed. Stuff no longer mattered to me. I fell in love with the people, the country and God filled me with a passion to see each person through His eyes. I continued to go as much as possible during the next few years.

In July of 2018, David told me to get his ticket when I got mine. We didn’t get to experience much that trip due to civil unrest but we were able to get out and share Jesus in a village nearby. That day changed us both. It filled us with a passion to get back there and share with more people. Little did we know just what God had in mind for us! God in all His infinite wisdom knows how each of us can handle the mission He gives us. Had He told us earlier or before David went, we would have gone into full- blown panic mode. He laid everything out perfectly. When we came home from the July trip, God presented the mission He had for us. We were asked about being House Parents for the orphanage where we stay when we go to Haiti. I had grown to love Miss Phyllis and those kids so much over the past few years.

I immediately felt God telling me that this is what He had been preparing us for. I’d love to say that we both said yes but I immediately began to panic telling Him how busy we were, how our family was all here, how we both had jobs and obligations. He came after me hard. For every excuse I gave Him, He presented a solution. I went home and talked with David, then we both came unglued. He gave the same excuses I did. For several weeks, we wrestled with God. We cried, we argued, had panic attacks, and didn’t sleep. God reminded me that His disciples left everything to follow Him. They left their homes, their families, their possessions to go. He also reminded me that I had promised to follow Him, yielded my life to Him. We prayed without ceasing. David asked our pastor and fellow deacons to pray. Surrender came for me first. I told God “Okay, God, if this is what You want, I’ll do it but You have to put this on David’s heart, You have to convince him.” He told me to be still and move out of the way. I did and He did. Only God could lead a man that has never lived outside Trigg county to move to a third world country and be a missionary.

We decided to go back in October to talk with Phyllis. It was the most amazing trip! David was able to experience more of the culture. He was busier than I was. When we sat down with Miss Phyllis in her room, the Spirit was there. We began talking about our dreams and visions for the kids there. What He had put on our hearts, He had put on hers. We both knew then that we would be going.

Our lives have changed drastically the past few weeks. We downsized to a garage apartment, sold “stuff” and sometimes still when I stop and realize what we’re doing, I begin to panic. Then He wraps His precious arms around me and quiets my soul.  Being confident in Him is what is helping us through this. We have never lived more than 30 minutes away from our family. We know this won’t be easy but knowing we are walking with Him guiding us will be such an adventure! We desperately covet prayer. Pray for guidance, our ministry there, for our health, and for our family that is also affected by this.