{rice, beans & love}

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet" – Frederick Buechner

a modern day Jesus man

This has been a hard week for me. Just lots of stuff going on and seem to be emotionally, physically and spiritually weak. The lessons Jean Louis left me with are what got me through it. 

This past week Thursday we said good-bye to the sweetest man I have ever met. He’s a person who has always caught my attention for the way he radiated joy. He spoke love through his actions and the contentment he always resonated was something I long for. You see, Mr. Jean Louis, was a Christian, but he never once told me about Jesus. We never prayed together or swapped testimonies, but he showed me more Jesus in the way he lived than any other Christian I have ever met.

The pastor shared during the funeral service how Jean Louis was always the first person to put money in the offering pan. The pastor knew he never had much at all, so this always left a big impact on him. Jean Louis was the modern day character from the story in Matthew Luke 21:

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.” (verses 41-44)

I couldn’t help but smile as the pastor talked about Jean Louis this way. And, I couldn’t help but feel the Spirit, knowing I had met a modern day Jesus. It left me feeling honored and inspired. 

Jean Louis lived the simplest of simple lives. He never married nor had children. He lived at peace with the people of his community and helped those around him when he could. Besides a small bag of clothes, some pots and pans and a donkey, he left behind nothing else. 

Sometimes I would watch him walk to the big palm tree to tie up his donkey, and think, “what a perfect life this man has.” Just his darn donkey and a relationship with his Savior, realizing that is all you really need. 

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Then there would be times that we would meet along the dirt path. He probably weighed no more than 95 pounds and only 5.5 feet tall. I would embrace him and feel all the bones in his back. He would kiss me on the cheek and ask, “kijan ti bourik ou ye?” how’s your little donkey? We first became friends when I bought my little donkey from him. We danced the night away the night of my wedding, and he would later tell Webert, he had never been to such a party in life. And, I know all the wedding guests noticed his child-like joy.  

On Sunday mornings I would shake his hand and secretly watch him as he worshipped in the back of the hall, with his palms lifted high. I wanted what he had. 

If I could do it over again, I would stay on that dirt path a little longer. I would ask him where his joy came from? How he learned to be content over the years? Where did he find happiness when life had given him nothing more than a mud hut and a donkey? We can probably guess pretty accurately what his answers would be just by the way he lived out his life, but I wish I had sought out more advice from this modern day Jesus man. 

At first I was so sad to say good-bye to this sweet man. I’m just going to miss seeing him in front of his house, waving at me each and every time I pass by. But, I know they had the biggest dance party ever as they welcomed him Home. His aches and pains are no more. Poverty will never strike him again and we celebrate because we know full well he has been given the greatest gift of all. 

He will be the first person I want to visit once I get to those golden gates someday. 

As, we cleaned out his house late one afternoon, I asked if I could have his old, tattered Bible. It now sits on my nightstand as a reminder of who Jean Louis was and all that he taught me. He showed me Jesus like no one ever has and leaves me wanting more. More Jesus. A deeper relationship, something so audacious and authentic, that it too, will leave people wanting more Jesus. People won’t have to ask me where my joy, love and contentment comes from…they will just know! Just how I knew all that about Jean Louis. 

Thank you Mr. Donkey Man for teaching me something so remarkable and for teaching me it all through yours actions and love. How simply humbling and amazing.

 

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Lazarus Fund: an update



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First of all, thank you. Thank you for turning my fears and doubts into a reality and blessing. Thank you for saying, “we believe in you.” Thank you for walking this journey with me.

When I first introduced the Lazarus Fund, I was scared. I have never wrestled with an idea for so long nor doubted the words I typed on the screen. I felt vulnerable, and who likes feeling that way?

I had had the idea of the Lazarus Fund on my heart for about six months before writing about it. Within 48 hours, close to $4,000 was received and all I could think of was God laughing at me, saying, “I told you it would work.”

Thank you for responding to my needs and the needs of the people around me.

The Lazarus Fund was founded in order to help my husband and I give money and help people around us. We have gotten to a point in our lives where we can’t keep giving all that we have, yet we are surrounded by people who need to be given to. The Lazarus Fund is in place so that you can help us help them. Today, I want to tell you all about whom YOU have been helping!

First was Mami. Mami is the sweetest woman you ever will meet. She comes to my house twice a week to help me with laundry, it is how she feeds her family. When she asked if I could help her pay for wood to finish her roof so the rain would stop falling in her house, I had a very hard time saying no. Fifty dollars later, Mami had a new and improved roof and her house now stays dry when it rains.

Next was Masila. Masila wanted to start a small commerce a.k.a. small business selling goods (a very, very common thing in Haiti). I said sure, but I wanted to know all about it before jumping in. Her idea is to make fish and other Haitian food to sell at the beach. On the week-ends the beach can be very busy and she saw a demand for such a thing. So, $150 later, Masila now has a business to call her own.

 

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And then there is Nadeg’s family. He is an experienced sewer and wanted to start a business making school uniforms, pants, etc. for people in the community. We thought it was a great idea, especially since he proposed the entire business plan to us himself. We bought him a sewing machine for $200 and he now proudly sews on his front porch to support his family of seven.

 

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In the midst of all this excitement, we have also helped several people finish school and helped a pregnant mom through a medical emergency. So, the Lazarus Fund has been seeing a lot of excitement!

Last but not least, I used some of the money to buy a bed for my favorite elderly man, Jean Louis a.k.a. Donkey Man. I bought my baby donkey from him so, that’s where the nickname comes from. We were in the process of planning to build him a new table and a staircase to help him climb up his porch, but unfortunately, last week little Donkey Man passed away after having a stroke so we never got around to those things. But, praise Jesus for the Lazarus Fund money and we will now be able to hold a ceremony in honor of him.

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Thank you again for everyone who has donated to this cause and for allowing all these amazing things to happen, I can’t wait to see what else God will do through it and you.

 

To donate to the Lazarus fund, send a check to Touch of Hope at:

205 Old Mill Lane, Rock Rapids, Iowa 51246 *memo note: Lazarus Fund

* Touch of Hope is a recognized 501(3)c non-profit and all donations are tax deductible

what I want: a reflection

One whole year ago. Where did the time go?

A year ago I was newly engaged, 23-years-old and loved where my life was at. I was comfortable and felt right on track. Then you know what happened the very next day? Not even 24 hours after saying “yes” to my fiancé, a little life came into my life and turned it all upside down again.

A lost momma had given up her 11-month-old baby at our orphanage gate and upon meeting this child I knew my life was forever changed. It took a couple of weeks before she became mine, but the journey to make her mine was the biggest leap of faith I had ever made in my life.

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My mind told me so many lies: you can’t do it, she’s a baby, you’re too busy, you’re planning a wedding, and you already have two boys. But, my heart kept crying, “Yes, you can.” So, we did. My crazy fiancé and I took in an 11-month-old, 8 pound, severely malnourished, AIDS positive, tuberculosis fighting baby.

She’s a miracle and she reminds me that miracles are an everyday thing as long as we have our eyes open to them. She’s also hilarious, a little naughty but a literal bundle of joy. She has the biggest smile and a personality that makes you fall in love with her almost immediately.

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It’s been a year.

But, a year before Wishla came into our lives, Loveson made his debut. He also came out of nowhere, but we fell in love with him instantaneously. Also malnourished and weak, and kind of goofy looking, he had the most contagious spirit.

This past Sunday I watched him graduate preschool (preschool graduation is a very big deal in Haiit!) and I have never been so proud. I really think he has taught me more about life than I have taught him, though. I don’t know what he will grow up to be, but I do know that whatever it will be, it’s going to be incredible and he’s going to make the world a better place.

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So, needless to say I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting of the past two years the last couple of days. I’m blown away that God would trust me with the many roles he has given me, but I have to admit there have been more days where I feel totally inadequate and unqualified than I do feel equipped.

I dreamt of having this very simple, missionary life when I moved to Haiti. I would spend my time playing with village kids, holding babies and learning a new language. Somewhere along the way it became so much more than that, though. The lessons I’ve faced have been far from easy. Figuring out how to do things the right way and not ruin lives in the process has been the hardest part. Realizing that lives will always be at play when poverty is the issue is what makes things difficult.

You can’t stop fighting and working when there are lives at play. Even when I find a new job for someone or put another child in school, there are always more waiting. There will always be someone knocking at the gate. The idea of this becomes daunting and exhausting. Some nights my mind just doesn’t know how to shut off because I either haven’t solved the days’ problems or I worry tomorrow’s problems may be just too much.

But, somehow I keep holding on. Sometimes it seems by just a strand, but for what its worth, I like to believe a strand is just enough to get me by. The pressure of poverty and the worries of tomorrow haven’t stopped me from dreaming any bigger.

In the past year, my dreams came true when I said “I do” to the craziest, most loving man I know on a beach at sunset. He’s my rock and my partner in crime when it comes to solving our problems. I followed my dreams when it didn’t make sense to open up a new business and somehow that is working out for me, too! I never dreamed of being a mom, but putting my three munchkins to bed after another day feels a little like a dream come true, too.

But, at the same time all the dreaming can get in the way. Some days my “to-do” list is longer and more of a priority than my “to-love” list. My days seem to run out before me and the simple things like walking through the garden to see my favorite grandma, or going to visit the donkey man, or visiting a mom with her newborn baby, or getting down and dirty to play soccer with the village kids don’t get done. The hard things seem to trample the beautiful things.

Basically, in a nutshell of a reflection, because my mind can’t seem to figure out what it wants to say and my heart has had a rough couple of days….all I really want is more Jesus. I want a love that is simple and pure. I want more love and to be a forever vessel of that love. I want to be broken day after day, to be exhausted at the end of every day and to be reminded again and again what my purpose is. I want to stop being distracted. I want more justice for the hurting, more freedom for the oppressed, more jobs for the unemployed, more hope for the hopeless. I want light to shine in places where it has never shown before.

I know it’s a far stretch from reality, but really, I just want things to be okay in my corner of the world. I want the man who can’t pay rent and is forced to live on the streets with his three kids to find a job so he can provide for his family. I want the mom who keeps showing up at our gate to find a way to feed her six babies. I want the dad who just used all of his savings for his son’s surgery to find a job so he can have a sense of security again. I don’t want us to be rich, have the nicest things or prettiest clothes, I just want it to be okay.

So, I’m going to keep on dreaming (and working as hard as I can) to make a path for a better tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be the best, just for the better, so people can say they’re okay.

And, I don’t think I will be okay until they’re okay.

Until then,

love from Haiti

never a mistake

I don’t think many of us like to admit our mistakes. I know I don’t.
Then again, I don’t know if the story I’m about to tell was a mistake.
It was a lesson, though; I do know that for sure.

Mama Noel has had me heartbroken and shaken since the day I met her.
I won’t forget that day. Ever. I was dripping in sweat, having climbed
up half a mountain to meet some of the sweetest kids. They kind of
piled out of their shack like clowns do in those tiny cars at the
circus. Nine children total, ranging from ages 2 to 21 came out one by
one. They were all accounted for by their at-the-time very pregnant
mama.

Nascha, the youngest, was so sick. She literally had bugs crawling out
of her ears from a severe ear infection. The children showed signs of
malnourishment and spent their nights sleeping on a dirt floor. The
mom showed me how the house of tin was giving way and when it rained
their house became a giant puddle.

I’ve told this story so many times now. After meeting this family and
falling in love with them, I wrote their story right here on this blog
and was able to raise over $9,000 to build them a new house. God was
so faithful to me as I walked beside them and was so faithful to them
as He began providing in miraculous ways.

So, we began building their new home and I walked beside mama as she
neared her due date. Being pregnant with her tenth child and having
had a previous stroke, she was considered to be very high risk.
Towards the end, we ended up admitting the entire family to our rescue
program at Tytoo. They were housed there until their new home was
complete.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go our way when the baby came. Mama Noel
had spent nearly 36 hours in labor, me walking beside her most all of
them. We spent the first night at the hospital, walking back and forth
on the sidewalk outside of the hospital’s front gate.

They don’t have maternal suites here in Haiti, let alone open beds for
women in labor. Literally, this nine month pregnant woman was lying on
a wooden bench as she yelled through her labor pains. As the sun rose
the next morning, the nurses sent us home, saying she wasn’t ready
yet. We were back at the hospital around 6 p.m. that day and baby was
born around 9 p.m.

I have to admit, I was kind of excited to see a baby be born. I had
played out the scene so many times: I would hold hands with mom as the
baby came, there would be a high-pitched cry as this new life came
into our lives. We’d wrap him or her in a blanket and I would carry
him home as mom rested in the back seat. It would be just like the
movies.

But, this baby didn’t come out crying. I held my breath, waiting for
him to let out his first breath. But, he never cried. The two nurses
kept saying, “li pa bon, li pa bon” it’s not good, it’s not good. I
remember watching them pick his little wrinkled legs up and dropping
them with there being no sign of a reflex. I remember just bawling at
this point in the story, and my friend Frank giving me the biggest
bear hug of my life.

We ended up taking an ambulance to Port-au-Prince and the baby was
announced dead up arrival. Mom was then admitted to a different
hospital for hemorrhaging and bleeding. A couple days later, she came
home and we grieved together. It was then that I decided I would try
my hardest to make the future for this family different.

We ended up spending $8,000 on their new home. It was furnished with
new bunk beds, a kitchen table and painted bright purple. All the kids
were enrolled into school and with $1,000 left over we decided to use
$200 so mama could start selling fish at the market again and the
remaining $800 would be given over the course of the next 8 months for
food. We had many talks about the plan for the future: it would be
different! She promised me no more babies.

I loved seeing her girls playing up on the school’s playground instead
of spending their afternoons hauling water like they had to before. I
loved seeing them be full of energy, because hunger didn’t loom on
them anymore. I loved seeing mama’s excitement after a day spent at
market. She was getting a second chance and it was a beautiful thing.

After eight months, when the money was finished, I decided to
“release” them on their own. I had helped them through their
emergencies and built them a new home. I felt mom was finally at the
point where she could stand on her own two feet. So, last September I
stopped visiting them, with all the confidence in the world they would
be okay.

This is where I wish the story ended. Tune the happily ever after.
Close the book. At that time I thought I had done it all right, but
would later realize that maybe I had gotten it all wrong.

By late October, I had received news that Mama Noel was pregnant
again. Yes, pregnant. With her eleventh child! After losing her last
one, nearly dying herself and after working so hard to get back on her
feet, she was back in the same situation.

I became so angry at first. Frustrated, disappointed and let down.
Then I just became so incredibly sad. Back to angry, on a roller
coaster of emotion. I knew I couldn’t help her again, not to the
extent I had before. I just couldn’t. But, then guilt settled into the
cracks of my healing heart and I couldn’t figure out what was the
right thing to do anymore.

I had several nightmares of her bleeding, the baby dying and her
children showing up at my gate as orphans. I haven’t really told
anyone about these, but you can’t not experience something like I had,
having watched her last baby be born stillborn, and act like this next
pregnancy was okay.

This was her fault, not mine. I realize this argument, but her life
was in danger and I knew I would forever carry guilt if something
happened. But, I knew I just couldn’t help again. The cycle would just
repeat itself and not only were my resources burnt out, but I kinda
was too. (insert a lot of motivation for the Lazarus Fund)

So, for the past 8 months I have been praying for the health of both
mom and babe. Not many days went by that I didn’t think about this,
but I had to trust both my God and my instincts on this situation.

Yesterday morning, Monday, was off to another busy start. Many people
are suffering from a fever with symptoms of severe body aches,
headaches and rashes right now in Haiti, coming from mosquitoes. As I
drove to Tytoo Gardens, I found one of my ViBella employees on a
motorcycle. She could barely walk because she was in so much pain.
After settling her in a bed near a fan, I made my way to the office.
As I began responding to e-mails that I had been avoiding since
Friday, Taunya (a full-time North American staff member) came rushing
in saying, “Mama Noel’s newborn baby is here.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I was totally caught off guard
and immediately worried, but I found myself coming upon a healthy, 8.8
pound newborn baby girl. Tears welled in my eyes as I took her in my
arms. I seriously couldn’t believe how big she was. We made our way to
the clinic and learned that three hours previous, Mama Noel and her
sister had been rushing to a doctor on a tap-tap (public
transportation) and she gave birth right then and there. Yes, her 11th
child was born in a moving vehicle! They were bringing the baby to the
clinic to be seen and two hours later we transported mom to a hospital
to make sure she wasn’t losing too much blood.

After many months of worrying and having nightmares, a happily ever
after made a way in the midst of pretty ugly story. As I cleaned the
baby and dressed her, it felt like a piece to a happily ever after
story. A story I feared the ending of for the past few months. I felt
so relieved, joyful even.

I’ve learned that God doesn’t make mistakes. We, humans, do all the
time, though. Maybe I helped them too much at first, maybe not enough.
Should I have done more? Will there ever be an answer to these
difficult situations? Will I ever stop seeing moms with too many
babies and babies with not enough food in their bellies?

But, God doesn’t make mistakes. We do.

Should Mama Noel have gotten pregnant for an eleventh time? Probably
not. But, God wouldn’t have brought this beautiful healthy baby into
the world by mistake. Should I have kept visiting in September? Would
she have gotten pregnant had I kept visiting? At what point does it
stop being my responsibility to help?

It hurts to carry these questions some days. On those days the world
just seems heavy and it’s a little harder to breathe. But, God doesn’t
make mistakes. He didn’t make a mistake as He led me up a mountain to
their shack that very first day, nor did He make a mistake by
providing the funds to get them a new home with beds.

I think the mistakes lie in our irresponsibility when handling God’s
blessings. Mama Noel had been blessed with all the tools to see a
better day, but somehow ended up jobless and pregnant, repeating a
vicious cycle. I’d been given all the tools to help her, and somewhere
along the way made a mistake by allowing the vicious cycle to be
repeated. I know it’s her fault that she ended up pregnant, but maybe
I should have kept holding her accountable.

I guess I just don’t know. There are just sometimes too many rights
and too many wrongs. It’s hard making decisions when lives are at
play.

But, now there is a new life to account for. A beautiful baby girl.
And even though I don’t know what her future looks like, I know she’s
not here by mistake.

Would you please keep this baby girl and her mom in your prayers?
Along with the many other moms who are struggling to keep their babies
alive and well? Please pray also for the people of Haiti to be healed
of the fever epidemic that is in full force right now.

Poverty is such an ugly, messy thing. I’m sure many more mistakes are
to come as I look for ways out of it, but I put my trust in a God who
doesn’t make mistakes.

rewarded faith

This past week was a blessed one. We had a team of ten guys from Iowa visiting with a goal to pave the very steep and rocky road that leads up to our school. The road was in such terrible shape; vehicles could barely make it up, let alone motorcycles (motorcycles being the most used mode of transportation in Haiti)

Day one consisted of the team digging trenches and carving out the path they would pave. Days two and three consisted of buckets full of gravel, sand and water being passed through our “assembly line” of workers. I, of course, had to get in on the action. I have never had so much fun working so hard. We yelled and joked as we passed the buckets down the hillside to the cement mixers. Bucket by bucket we got closer and closer to a finished paved road.

And by day five, we had a finished road. Students, teachers, parents and many more will now have a safe place to walk and vehicles and motorcycles will be able to pass with much less trouble.

As we stood on our finished masterpiece this morning, allowing the guys to take some final photos, I couldn’t help but remember the very first time I ventured up that hillside.

Webert had brought me there to show me where he thought the school should be built…at that time we had money to build a single building and the original place only had room for just that. A family member began giving problems, wanting money, once she had heard a school building was going to be built. So, in an effort to avoid drama and being ripped off, we searched for other options and were led to the mountaintop.

Within two weeks, we were sitting in the mayor’s office being handed the deed to our land. Miracles happened there! Land deeds like this can take years to get in Haiti. Two months later we started building our first school building, which held 172 students that year (2011-2012).

Looking back, I now recognize all these pivotal moments of simple faith. At the time it may have seen like the right thing to do, but had we not taken the steps and relied on the faith we had, I don’t think we would see The Lord working in all the amazing ways He has.

If we had just stuck with the plan to build the original building down in Simonette, we would have never have had room to educate the 900 students that we do today. God showed us a way to the mountaintop, worked miracles for us to have it and now has given us room to grow in all the ways He leads.

This is just one example, but I reflect on so many more moments of just down right faith leading me on this incredible journey. The moments have been far from heroic, not movie worthy nor award winning. They didn’t require beauty, fortune or fame. They were ordinary to most, but to Jesus, these acts meant the most.

I believe the moment we say “yes” to His will, He begins moving mountains. When we fall before Him and say “we are all in,” He takes our lives and turns them into something more beautiful than we ever imagined. We were made to take leaps of faith and live dangerously for him and when He sees those leaps of a faith in action, His rewards are much more greater. When we choose to lay down our lives and pick up the cross, who knows where He may lead you.

Another thing I love about taking leaps of faith and watching where God takes me is that being all He requires of me. He doesn’t ask us to be perfect, extraordinary or successful – in fact, I think He likes it when we are a little crazy and flawed!

The Bible is plump full of stories of people who were so very ordinary in their days, but their leaps of faith were what made them known.  They leaps of faith are what have made them legends and we are still learning from them today! I like Moses, he was brave enough to lead his people out slavery to a land of freedom. Best thing about the story: he didn’t really know where he was going, just day after day was following God. And for Moses, when the pressure was on and the army was closing in on him, all he had to do was stick a rod in the ground and before him an entire sea split, leading his people to safety.

Just an ordinary guy with a stick letting God lead the way. Uhh, I need to find a stick like that! But seriously, I find that to be the most incredible thing about God: just using fools like me, people who are brave enough to say “yes” and then using us to move mountains and do His Kingdom work! He could use the rich and famous, the kings, queens, presidents, movie stars and geniuses, but he chooses us!

I also think I love it so much because it allows me to still make mistakes, have a dirty house and be myself without having to feel not good enough, unqualified and unloved.

His words say, “I work for the good of those who love me,” and this verse came to me this week as a group of Iowans and Haitians worked together to pave a road. It was hard, hot and exhausting but I have never felt more rewarded to be a part of something. I love Kingdom work.

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28

innocent lessons

Jeffte. He’s my oldest. Bless his heart. His rich brown eyes can melt your heart, but boy, does he know how to get on my nerves! He’s 6 and a half years old, 100% boy and most days doesn’t have a care in the world.

He has made me a firm believer in karma. My mom tells me I had a way of losing things as a child (maybe as an adult I still do) but, Jeffte once managed to lose a pair of brand new tennis shoes after only a day! I can’t say I was ever that bad. It’s either karma coming back for all the things I “misplaced” or it’s just Jeffte.

He has been a part of our family for three years now. We rescued him, more or less he was so sick they handed him over to us, from one of the worst orphanages I have ever witnessed. He conquered hell and recovered from a severe sickness. He has lost his belly and his chunky baby cheeks. He is an athlete and doesn’t sit down unless there is a movie to watch.

Even on our roughest days, he always finds a way back to his mama’s arms. His sloppy wet kisses and the way he shuffles his feet down the hallway are some of my favorite things.

I imagine the way I get on God’s nerves sometimes, too. The way I tend to lose him throughout the day, the way I make earthly things more important than him or the way I forget how truly forgiven I am. I pray for more patience, God knows I need that after asking Jeffte for the tenth time to go brush his teeth. I pray for more guidance, because God knows I need that too, being I’m the most unqualified person to be a mother to three kids. I pray for more forgiveness, because I’m only human. We all need a little bit more of that.

I tell Jeffte, “ya know, buddy, Jesus cries when you don’t listen to mama and papa. The bible says we are suppose to listen to our mama’s and papa’s.”

I can see it in his eyes, he is sorry. I tell him the greatest news, “but, Jesus always forgives you if you say sorry.”

Was it wrong of me to guilt him with the tears of Jesus, maybe. Jesus is kind of a big deal in our house, and we don’t like when we see people crying. But, for this mama, it worked. The next morning, we brushed our teeth without even being asked.

I have learned so much from my kids, it’s amazing. The innocence and joy they have for life blows me away. All three of them have overcome more in their short lives than I can even fathom. I stare into those dark chocolate eyes and wonder how God can trust me with them.

For some reason He does, though. I can feel it in the way He blesses me with the lessons they teach me. I feel it at morning breakfast as Wishla manages to throw all her cereal on the ground. I feel it as Loveson proudly shows me how he can tie his shoes all on his own. I feel it as Jeffte wraps his arms around me before bed and there’s a mutual feeling of forgiveness.

The biggest lesson these sweet babies have taught me is their innocent love. I seek this love for my Father in heaven, as these children teach what it means here on earth. As they sneak into bed in the early morning, I’m reminded of the gift for another day I’m given. As they pack their backpacks and tie their shoes, I’m thankful for all our blessings. As I clean up their messes and wash the dishes, I’m thankful for health and energy. As I kiss them goodnight, I’m thankful for the journey that has been so full of miracles, leaps of faith and grace. As my own body falls into bed, I’m so thankful that I am loved and a daughter of the one true king.

People say, “I don’t know how you do it.” Mainly friends whose futures don’t have kids for a while in it say this, but they’re right. I don’t know how I do it, but I do know why I do it! These kids are my greatest inspirations, they make me a better person and I don’t think I could do life without them. Even though they’ve ruined any idea I once had of Sunday afternoon naps and I can’t eat a plate of food without it being shared, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jeffte. My oldest baby. Bless your heart. Thank you for reminding mama what the meaning of forgiveness means. Thank you for making me look more directly toward our King as we grow up and do life together. Jeffte. My first baby. Mama loves you, and so does our King.

 

Lazarus’s fund

This post has been brewing inside of me for a long time now. So, before we dive in, just know I have prayed about this and put a lot of thought into the words I’m about to spill onto your screen. With that said, here we go.

I’ve forever been convicted by the story of the poor man and rich man in Luke 16. I’ve told the story before, right here on this blog. The poor man, Lazarus, lies outside the gates of the rich man’s home, looking for whatever scraps he can find. When the two die, the poor man finds his way to heaven and the rich man finds his way down to hell. The rich man begs for just a moment of relief from Lazarus, asking him to dip his finger in cool water to cool his tongue. The rich man is denied comfort, and Abraham replied to his request by saying, “you had received good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.”

This story rocks me to the core. Because, I have received so many good things. I don’t live a luxurious life by any means, but I have access to whatever I need. I would also admit that I have never experienced the feeling of agony in my life, having malaria comes close, but I’m sure it was nothing like the agony Lazarus and my neighbors experience in the village. I am sure that no experience in my life compares to the agony of the poor in our world.

If you’re in a position to read this, I am guessing you could agree. So, then we come to the conclusion that we don’t want to be the rich man in this story. I fear becoming like this man. This morning a mother of four came to my gate. She’s recently been abused and abandoned by the father of her children. He was the one with the job and the person putting food on the table. She’s so lost.

A few weeks ago, she sat a pew away from me in church. I watched her worship. Tears streamed down her face as she rocked her baby girl in her arms. One arm around the child, the other arm draped across the top of her head. I could see defeat in her posture. I wondered what could be going on, but I avoided it. Because knowing her pain would some how make me responsible and I’m afraid to be responsible sometimes.

But, she found her way to my gate. Not too hard to find, just ask anyone in the village where to find the white girl, they’ll tell you she’s behind the gate at the end of the dirt road. So, I listened to her story of abuse and abandonment. She’s worried she won’t be able to take care of her children. She loves this man who is leaving her and doesn’t know where to go from here. And, I want to help. I truly do. But, my wallet is empty. I have no jobs available. And you have heard the story from me before: there’s no hope to offer from my porch today.

So, take these feelings and mix them in with the constant struggle I have to provide for my family. I’m a grown-up now. And, I have dreamed about being one of these for a long time, but it’s a lot harder than I thought. My husband and I dream of owning a car someday and we have visions of having a home all to ourselves. Nothing extravagant and we aren’t talking about Denali’s or SUV’s but, a simple diesel car to get us from point A to point B would be nice. I want a yard with green grass and place for my children to grow up. And I want to call them mine, knowing I worked hard to own them the good ol’ fashioned way.

I want to practice what I preach, too. We talk about giving people a chance at some real dignity in life. Dignity earned through employment and hard work. I want to work hard right along side these folks, saying “I worked for that!” It’s something I want my children to know too: that mama and papa worked hard so you could have a better life. So, I consider myself (and Webert does, too!) so incredibly blessed to be working where we do and have jobs that pay us fair salaries. Salaries allowing us to put food on the table for our three children. A monthly income giving us a shot to own a vehicle maybe someday and if we save our money just right, we may even have a little shack to call our own, too. We can afford our groceries, put gas in the car, and give a little here and there, but at this point, not much more than that. I hope I can buy airline tickets with my own money someday, help my kids go to college and afford a new vanity (I dream of having a sink with counter space!)

But, every time I have an extra bill to save, someone comes a knockin’ on our gate. My dad says I can’t give it all away. And it does go against every rule for saving. But, who is going to help them if I don’t? What other gate is there to go a knockin’ on?

The struggle of having and living where people don’t know what having means is the hardest part of this journey. I want good things for my family. Webert and I have dreams and I hope to see them come true someday, as does any family, right? But, I struggle knowing a $20 bill that should be put away for savings could feed a hungry family for a month. I have this debate in the deepest parts of my soul. I really don’t want to be like that rich man. I feel people judging me (whether they truly are or not, I don’t know) when I have a new skirt on or take my extra $20 for a day away at the beach. People in my neck of the woods don’t get to have new skirts very often and most won’t ever just “treat themselves to a beach day.”

We won’t ever understand the Lord’s justice or make sense of why He gives some so much and others so little. But, maybe you struggle with the same battles I do. You want to help, but don’t know how. You have an extra $20 to give (or way more than that), but don’t know where it should go. And, by no means am I saying that I’m the right person to give it to, but I do know a lady or two who could use it. AND, I’m not saying I believe in hand-outs all the time either. That’s not the answer in the long run, but there are Lazarus’s outside my gate and I want to relieve whatever agony they’re in. Even if it’s only a portion of it.

There are also situations of people needing money to help finish their schooling, others who want small loans to start a business or others who have medical emergencies. You’d be surprised what an extra $20 bill could do here in my small village alongside the ocean in the long run. So many lives could be touched and glimpses of hope could be shed.

I’m always amazed by what God can do with a small amount of things, so that is why I’m taking this step of faith and writing this post. Webert and I, again, feel so blessed to have the jobs we have and we are proud to work for the money we earn. We have decided that we do not want to be “missionaries” – for the lack of better words – who raise support. We need supporters, of course! But, we want people investing in our Kingdom work: the school, the orphanage, the projects, the people, the Lazaruses. We want to take care of ourselves and when we find that we have extra, take care of others.

So, we are searching for other ways to help and take care of the others I speak of. The Lazarusus, the sick, the widowed, the hungry, the naked, the orphaned, the unemployed, the all of them. So, at this time, I’m asking you to be a part of our Lazarus Fund. A fund set up to help the Lazaruses who cross our paths.

The money donated to this fund will be used for the people at our gate, the dreamers looking to finish school or start a business, the sick needing a medical exam, the new mama needing something for her new babe and I could go on and on about the possibilities this money will have. I pray this fund will take a little of the burden off my marriage and myself as I tend to make most of the situations very personal. I usually feel responsible once I know the agony of a neighbor. I’ve lost sleep and daydream trying to come up with an extra dollar or a solution.

One of the reasons I have postponed writing about this fund for so long is because money tends to have such a weird and powerful grasp on my life. I grew up dreaming of having the American dream. I was raised in a family that had money and I basically always had everything I needed and then some. My walk-in closet that I had since seventh grade is something I’m now ashamed to admit I had. I’ve given most of my clothes away and wear my favorite Old Navy shorts with a Target v-neck about every day of the week, now. Coming to terms with never having a retirement fund and relying on my parents to buy plane tickets for me hasn’t been an easy thing. Giving up my designer name jeans, another struggle of its own!

And then, there’s my husband. He grew up as one of the have-not’s. And, I love him for that, but we see the world differently because of that, too. He didn’t have a car when he turned 16 and recalls only having a pair of shoes while growing up. He told me when he was little he had a pair of pants and a shirt to wear to church every Sunday (I used to complain to my mom about never having enough “church clothes”). But, now he has a dresser with drawers that barely close.

I think money can do weird things to people. It can make us greedy, blind and leaving us wanting more. For so long, I always wanted more, but now I want less and I don’t know how to make that always work. And so the journey for contentment continues.

So, the Lazarus Fund will hopefully calm some of my fears of never being able to save money, can take some of the burden away and help me help the people I want to help. Donating to this fund will require some faith of your behalf, too. We may not necessarily always tell you how we used the money. Donating to this fund will mean you trust us and trust we will use the money wisely, which is always a great prayer request on our behalf. It’s hard knowing when to help and when not to. This fund will, of course, allow us to help more, but there will be times when we have to say no,too. God give us more wisdom.

Also know that none of this money will ever be used for our personal needs. As stated before, Webert and I feel so blessed to have the jobs that we have and we want to save our earnings for the little family God has given us.

So, let’s see what God wants to do with this fund!

You can send donations to

Touch of Hope

205 Old Mill Lane

Rock Rapids, Iowa 51246

with a memo note for Lazarus.

*Touch of Hope is a registered 501(3)c non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible. 

Love from Haiti.

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