{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

meet Chedline

For several months, Ali has been asking me to visit a little girl with her. She jokes how she has another child picked out for me to take in: a little girl who can’t walk and lies in the dirt all day.

I avoid Ali’s invitation and shrug off her jokes.

You all know of Ali, right? She’s my best Haitian, real friend, in case you don’t know of her. She’s been living at Tytoo Gardens orphanage for close to two years and she is the real deal. She runs the Starfish program at Tytoo and has desperate moms coming to her on a daily basis. Basically, Ali carries the same burdens that I do and handles them with grace while trying to find a solution. Ali sometimes tosses her problems my way and I toss mine her way. She’s the one friend who does poverty with me and I am truly grateful for her.

Anyways, Ali finds a way to get me to meet this little girl. When a pediatric, Michelle, comes from South Dakota to visit us, Ali has the both of us sitting in the dirt and on a bucket checking out this babe. She’s four years old, weighs around 18 pounds, does not walk nor barely talk. Her mom passed away when she was three months old and has been tossed around households since. For the past 8 months she has been living with a Starfish woman and that’s how Ali first met her. Michelle diagnosed her with spina bifida after assessing her and seeing the dimple at the top of her butt cheeks.

Her name is Chedline and she has had me since the moment I met her.

IMG_1691

From the moment I met her, it scared me how much she reminded me of my daughter Wishla. They don’t really look anything alike, but there’s this spirit radiating from the both of them that makes my heart tremble. Something so familiar, yet hard to recognize. And after a couple nights of thinking and dreaming of her, I know exactly what these feelings mean: God is at work again.

I find God’s timing remarkable. I love how He waited to introduce me to Chedline until Michelle came to visit, because Michelle and I both want to help her.

Michelle left Haiti four short days after meeting Chedline and has been busy praying and thinking about Chedline as well.

Tomorrow Chedline will become a part of my little, crazy family. Our first steps are to get Chedline legal guardianship over Chedline so that we can start working on a medical visa. Michelle and her family are working on finding doctors who can help Chedline and will be her host family, if God makes a way for Chedline to find her way to the United States. As I have been reaching out to people here in Haiti, learning how to obtain a medical visa, I am becoming more and more hopeful as I learn about several spina bifida cases that have gotten medical visas in the past.

IMG_1561

I sat down with my boys and showed them a picture of the little girl who will sleep in the new bed set up in Wishla’s room. I explain to them how she can’t walk and how I want to help her get better. I show them a picture of her sleeping on the dirt and explain how she doesn’t have a bed to sleep on. They ask me why she’s so small and I further explain how she doesn’t always have food to eat. And Loveson…bless him…says, “well make her come here so we can give her food and she can have big muscles like me!”

So, that’s what we are going to do: take her in so she can get big muscles. I am encouraged by the hearts of my own boys. How they want to take care of her as well.

At this point, we don’t know the long term plan for Chedline. Our main focus is to get her the proper medical attention. If it’s God’s plan to have her stay in the US and be adopted, He will make a way. If it’s for her to come back and be reunited with family, He’ll make a way. If it’s for her to be a part of our forever family, He’ll make a way and be sure to do a lot of convincing in my husband’s heart ;)

So, will you pray with us as Chedline transitions into our home this week. Will you pray for all the papers to be retrieved quickly as we work towards custody and a medical visa. Will you pray for Chedline’s spirit and health. Will you pray for my family as our home will change with this addition. Will you pray for wisdom as we make decisions about her life.

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,

you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.

Nothing will be impossible for you.”

– Matthew 17:20

reflecting love

As in water face reflects face, 

So one’s life reflects the hear. Proverbs 27:19

My daughter sits on the ledge of our shower and watches me in the mornings, as I get ready for the day. When I brush my teeth at night and wash the dirt off my face, she’s there again. We chat and she giggles. She rushes me some mornings, but some days she’s patient with me. I enjoy having her at my side. We are always laughing with each other.

  

 

For a two and a half year old, the girl has got jokes. 

But, she’s growing up. She’s watching what mama does. When I put deodorant on, she raises her arms in the air right alongside me and isn’t happy until her tiny armpits are smeared white. She puts her lips out to have Chap Stick on as I apply some to my own lips. And she obviously needs a spritz of perfume whenever she sees the bottle. 

She’s watching me and I know she loves me, but now I begin to worry, will I be enough for her? Will I own up to her expectations she has for a mom? Will I be confidant enough to show her how to have strength and courage as she grows. She’s going to look to me for that in a different way than my boys, because, well…they’re boys. 

She’s my baby girl and I just want to do it right for her. I want her to feel beautiful. I want her to know and believe how perfectly made she is. 

I want to reflect these truths to her as she watches me look at myself in the mirror. 

Will she believe in these truths because she sees her own mama believes in them for herself as well?

 

  

And as I think about this: my baby girl growing up and how I will be the person to help her grow into all she wants to be, I think of how much bigger this is than just me and my daughter.

As Christians, how important it is for nonbelievers and believers to see how we perceive ourselves and live in this world. How actions speak so much louder than words.

I think of some really close friends in the United States who aren’t believers and how hard it is for me to witness to them, hoping deep down in the deepest parts of my soul that my actions are true to my words, my beliefs. 

I think of the popular saying, “You may be the only Jesus some people see.” Am I reppin’ Jesus good enough? 

I think of my close friend who confessed over dinner how hard it is to believe in God when all the “Christians” at her workplace are the most judgmental people there. What does that say? How ugly religion can be.

I think of the Haitians who believe “white” people are in Haiti just to make money or to elevate themselves. Do the Haitians think this of me? Am I being transparent enough? Can they see my heart? Do they see Jesus?

I’m humbled by the words written by Paul in the book of Romans that I read this morning at my kitchen table:

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

10You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

– Romans 15:5-10 –

 

I think of how human and messy I am. It’s not my place to judge, tell or condemn. The greatest commandment I have been given is to love and am I loving deep and good enough? Loving not out of convenience or ease, but instead loving when it’s hard and against the status quo?

What it dwindles down to is Jesus. The sacrifice He made for all. The Jews and Gentiles. The rich and poor. The educated and illiterate. The weary, the broken, the sinful. All of us undeserving, yet, He chose to die for all.

Do we allow that kind of mercy to overflow? Do we allow grace to humble and love to shatter the darkness?  

My prayers are that as my children grow they will see a mama and a papa who lived out lives doing just that. A mama and papa who spent their lives being love. Children who grew up knowing their identity in Christ and never went a day without knowing about the place that is being held for them in heaven. 

My prayer for my little Wishla is that when the day comes for her to look in the mirror and get ready for the big, big world she will know what confidance and real beauty look like. She will know what authenticity and real love act like. She will know because she grew up watchin’ her mama.

That’s my prayer, which is way easier prayed than lived out some days, but it’s my prayer. 

  

 

the beauty of redemption

The word redemption has been on my mind and heart lately.

redemption: 1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed. 2. deliverance; rescue. 3. deliverance from sin; salvation

I wrote about finding redemption in my family and through my kids over a month ago, click here to read that specific post. So, it started then, this search for the real meaning of that word.

You see how I have been redeemed – set free – by the truth of the gospel. Before marriage, before kids, before our non-profit, before Haiti, I was lost from this truth. The world had shown me its ways and I believed in them. Walked its ways, talked its ways and believed that happiness could only be found in the American dream. What I really believed in was the truth at the bottle of a tequila bottle.

But, the gospel set me free from these lies.

Jesus taught me – little, lousy me – what its really meant to be set free and to be redeemed in Jesus’ name. He set us free on the day His hands were nailed to a cross and how can your life not be changed and renewed by this act.

I stopped believing I had to meet all the protocols of our society and my heart was set on fire for the poor as my eyes were opened to the realities of the poor in Haiti. I never meant to move to Haiti, but the Lord does crazy things with people who find redemption.

So, having myself found this redemption through the gospel, I set out for the Caribbean. I settled in a home with a handsome man and we took in three children. These three children, again, painted a clear picture of what redemption and being set free from evil looks like. My faith grew as our family did.

The first initial dreams were dreamt up on the mountaintop, where our school would be built. I learned, realized and concluded that the only way to raise a generation out of poverty was to educate them. Webert was already at work on this and our non-profit Touch of Hope was founded to help Webert grow his school. I have a notebook full of stories (obviously, this is a figurative notebook in my head, because I’m too lazy to actually write them all out) of children whose lives have been changed because they have found a school to go to for free and are no longer bound by their poverty to abstain from getting an education. After 3 years, nearly 900 children enter through our gate. They sing a hymnal by the flagpole each morning before the school session begins. I stand in the kitchen, which is full of women cooking and humming along, and see how redemption has come.

Another lady announces to me she will be getting married in October. “Will I be her godmother?” she asks. Of course.

Another ViBella employee starts the foundation to her new house – with the help of over 30 people – and I wrap my arm around her, boasting how I am so proud of her. Over lunch break, the rest of the artists stand in a line and toss rocks into the foundation.

Don’t you see, we are being set free. Marriage, jobs, houses. Poverty no longer reigns, redemption has come.

And in God’s perfect timing, I have been offered a new job that will require me to go to the city twice a week. After a year of also searching for a new car, God plopped a car made just for my family on the side of the road the same day I accepted this new job. What’s the new job? I will be working with Papillon Enterprise in Port-au-Prince, managing all of their loose clay beads. Sounds boring, maybe, but not at all! Shelley, the founder, has redemption seeker written all over her and I can’t wait to learn from her. Papillon Enterprise employs over 200 artisans, making jewelry from cereal boxes, clay and aluminum. There’s a pottery project, sewing project, a boutique and a daycare. The managers at Papillon also have the opportunities to learn english, typing and excel.

As Shelley shows me the daycare and computer lab for the first time this past week, a woman walks out of the lab with a printed out chart of something. She shows it off to Shelley and is literally glowing with dignity. Redemption has come.

I will be working alongside the artisans at Papillon and also working with all the customers who place orders. I’m going to be challenged and the opportunity is going to allow me to grow in so many ways. I see it everywhere, people being set free from the poverty, and I am excited to get my hands into this with the hopes I can provide more jobs and bring redemption to more people.

I see how redemption is first and foremost found through Jesus as He offers us eternal salvation. But, I am also seeing how redemption comes as we relieve people from their sufferings. For me, it is relieving them from their dire needs caused by poverty. For you, maybe it means breaking an addiction, clearing all debts, recovering from depression – evil wears many masks – but redemption has one name and one face: Jesus.

I believe Jesus has not forgotten about the poor. I believe His heart is for them and as believers our hearts should be for them as well. I believe He will bring redemption to all people who believe…someday. I think He could easily overlook the village of Simonette and its occupants. Tucked down off the main road, right by the ocean, there just isn’t much to our little village. There has to be much bigger problems out there than the hurting people down here. But, He doesn’t forget about us.

And, what I am most humbled by is that He allows me to live and work where I do and be witness to His many works of redemption. He allows people to be set free even by my works. He places specific visions on my heart and He remains faithful, allowing redemption to come yet again. I come asking and seeking, time and time again, and He, the God of the universe, hears my cries and He provides. I ask for school buildings, people to sponsor our kids, houses for families and jobs for the hopeless. I seek wisdom, peace and contentment. He remains faithful as He has worked wonders on the mountaintop providing so many children with education. He has sent many new families to sponsor children this past month for our sponsorship program. He provided all the money for me to build six new homes for families (three of them are officially finished, the final three to be finished this month.) He has created jobs and ministries like ViBella and Papillon Enterprise, and so many more people I could list here as I have ventured with my boutique, Rosie’s, for a year now.

*enter here another figurative notebook full of miracles, provisions and stories*

And what amazes me is that He continues opening doors, always allowing me to grow and discover Him more. Learning that redemption is never a finished work. It will always be showing up in new ways and at work.

My prayer is that my heart will never be hardened to the truth of redemption nor my eyes blinded by the beauty of redemption. May I see the wonders of His works in the smallest of details in this life; may I not take them for granted; and may I always give glory to the Creator of all things good, the one who makes redemption real and new everyday.

stoop church

“The eyes of the LORD watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.” – Proverbs 34:15

I am always asked questions like “what do you miss most from America?” or “what’s the hardest part?”

After nearly three years of living here, hands down, the thing I miss the most is the convenience of going to the grocery store or running to Target. Not only is the nice grocery store over an hour away from my house, it is also not necessarily safe to go there by myself. So, everything becomes a spectacle. Much planning goes into grocery runs and it just sucks (sorry mom for using that word) some days.

That would be the biggest thing for the day-to-day stuff.

For the life stuff, though, I miss church the most. I’m exhausted by the church. I’m tired of the politics and the people asking for money in the house of God.

Haitian worship is so beautiful and it fills me up with all the good stuff. The sermons are hard because they’re in Creole and I have to use too much of my brain to understand it all. There’s a two-year-old who sits on my lap during church; she requires a lot of attention. There’s shaking of hands and kisses on the cheeks, but mostly from strangers or from worn out moms who offer a begging hand. Teenage boys ask me for one dollar and I tell them – in not a very pleasant tone – how I come to church to worship God, not hand out money. Call me what you want, but the Sabbath is my day off as well.

Maybe this is hard to understand and maybe I am just being too harsh, but it’s the truth of my heart and it’s hard.

I miss real fellowship. I miss grandma serving me cookies after church and handshakes from familiar faces. I miss being honest with people and having conversations that include laughter and sometimes tears.

It’s hard to always be the person who gives, the person who always has the one dollar.

stoop1

So, I’ve been searching for a new altar to lay it all down at. A place to sit and be with the Creator. A time to tear off the masks, show the burdens and come as I am.

I’ve been waking up as the rooster crows and finding myself sitting on the stoop in front of my house that leads to the ocean. The quiet ripples of the ocean, the promises of a new day and the fisherman at sea warms and settles my heart.

I go and He meets me there on that stoop. I am certain of it. I ask Him for things: peace, redemption, justice. I pray for things: provision, new chances, forgiveness. I lay it all out there. The ugly and the good.

He has been showing me how church doesn’t have to be a Sunday morning thing. Church can be an anywhere thing. He shows me scripture and turns them to life. He walks with me through the day. He’s brought church to ViBella, where we gather each new morning to pray together. He’s shown me church in the small huts, where I pray for my elderly friend. He shows me church on the mountaintop where the children’s laughter fill my empty cup. The little school boy grabs my hand to walk me across the schoolyard, the walk reminding me to have a simple faith like a child.

Yes, it would be best if I could find a church that I felt a part of. Would be even better if they offered a nursery, children’s programs, and a Bible study for little worn out me, but for today the stoop is going to be enough. The church shall be on the stoop and the stoop shall become the church.

stoop3

stoop2

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” John 17:20-23

how redemption has come

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

If you follow me on Instagram (start now if you haven’t already @kaylainhaiti :)) or liked me on Facebook, you will see that I’m practically obsessed with my kids. Most all of my posts are about them and the adorable things they do. I may be bias but I think they’re the best.

What’s hardest about these three children of mine is that they’re actually not mine. I make them appear as if they are mine and take care of them as if they are mine and I set their bedtimes, feed them and clothe them as if they are mine, but the reality of it all is that they are not mine.

My youngest, Wishla, is officially a diva. She’s two and a half years old as of this week and she’s done a very good job becoming just that: a two and a half year old. From the first day I met her, I knew she was sick. Sick with a AIDS and HIV. Sick from malnourishment and not enough lovin’. But, it didn’t phase me. Not the medicine, not the diagnosis, not an ounce of her 8 pound self scared me. We fell madly in love and the last 18 months of role playing her mom has been my greatest reward. Surely the sleepless nights I could have done without, but those moments when she cuddles up so close and blows her snot all over my cheek…nothing better, my friends.

She has also recently discovered our water cooler. You know the ones with the five gallon jug on top and the two knobs below? Yes, well she is just at the right height where she can flip the knobs on and off and allow our kitchen to turn into a small lake. She thinks it is the funniest thing ever. We also have a new kitten. A one pound, grey kitten that Jeffte has named William. He is kind of physco, so he fits right into the chaos of our house. Well, Wishla and William have it out for each other. Whenever William is peacefully sleeping on the couch, Wishla will come up and start pulling him by the tail. However, he fights back and pounces on her back when she is crawling. Its a spectacle and adds for some entertainment.

In all seriousness, I admire Wishla’s entire being. I get to speak witness to the miracles that have happened for her to be here today. She speaks joy and charisma into me. It’s a beautiful thing.

Wishla was 8 pounds, 11 months old when I met her. We found out quickly she has AIDS and would forever be on medication. I made a promise to her one Sunday in church, after the Holy Spirit had spent enough time convincing me I would call her mine. I promised her I would take care of her, no matter what sicknesses, challenges or mountains we had to climb. I would see to it she would survive. She would quickly begin gaining weight and showing us her quirky personality. But, she didn’t want to ever walk. At she turned a year and a half, I began to worry why she wasn’t getting any closer to walking. At two years old, I noticed her feet never went flat and something was hindering her from walking. I went home to the United States in September and sought out a pediatric orthopedic. He diagnosed her CP and said she needed a surgery to fix her feet to make her walk. I returned back to Haiti with a mission to get Wishla a medical visa so she could travel to have a surgery, but after a few days I got word that some doctors from Canada were visiting a hospital in Port-au-Prince so, I headed in to get another opinion from them. They gave her the same diagnosis and said they could do the surgery the next day at 8 a.m.

I know, miraculous.

So, the week of my 25th birthday started with Wishla having surgery. They ended up lengthening her Achilles’ tendons in both feet to allow them to go flat. A surgery I never even imagined could happen in Haiti, happened AND I only paid $5 for it.

Wishla spent about 5 weeks in casts and I expected her to come out of those babies running. But, she didn’t. Around Christmas another doctor from Canada was visiting Tytoo Gardens orphanage, so I asked if he would do a physical on her. He became worried about a few things, recommended some physical therapy and suggested she have some tests done neurologically. Again, things that don’t just happen in Haiti.

So, we went to Wishla’s family and told them everything. Mind you, Wishla has been with me for 18 months and has seen her mother one time in this time frame. Her grandma visits frequently, but never the mom. The mom, for lack of better words and since it’s the truth, is a nutcase. She’s irresponsible and sadly could care less about Wishla’s health or well being. Enter the heart break for me.

The family agreed they would go to court to sign over all the last rights in order for us to pursue a medical visa for Wishla. Two weeks ago, we piled in the truck to do just that. We got to the court only to discover that Wishla’s mom has no birth certificate or national NIF number (their form of a social security number). I was devastated. But, this woman didn’t even seem to care. She even had the guts to ask us for money at the end of the day…as if caring for her child wasn’t a big enough favor.

I could go on and on here, I could vent and say ugly things. I spent three days crying about it and just am still not over it. I don’t get it and it’s just not fair.

And sadly, the situation is very familiar for my oldest son Jeffte and his family, except that Jeffte doesn’t have medical issues. Whenever we have contact with his family, all they do it ask for help, even though the mom has had time to bring two more babies into the world.

Most all of the children at Tytoo Gardens orphanage have parents. They are there because their parents couldn’t care for them. How broken and awful is that reality? Statistics actually estimate there to be 380,000 orphans in Haiti and most of them are not true orphans, but abandoned because of poverty. The one thing I have learned is that the answer is not in creating orphanages, but in providing sustainable jobs that will in turn stop parents from dropping their own children off at orphanage gates. Surely, we need to keep on caring for the orphans, but the focus should be on why they are there to begin with.

The three kids I now call mine are a part of this statistic and truthfully I hate it. I love this little family of mine that God has put together so graciously, but the earthly realities of it are just too hard some days.

Jeffte was abandoned at the age of one and a half and lived in a hell hole I personally witnessed. The children slept on the dirt, ate one meal a day and the woman who ran the orphanage ran it as if it were a business. When teams would bring donations, she would turn around and sell them in market. By the grace of God, Jeffte got so severely sick, she handed him over to Webert and I so, we could take care of him. Webert, again by the grace of God, was able to find Jeffte’s biological parents and gain full custody of Jeffte. Loveson at the age of two was also abandoned at an orphanage, one I have never been able to visit because it was shut down. We are told the children were held like prisoners, never allowed to leave, only fed once a day and babies were rescued with signs of rats having eaten their ears. After two years of searching, we located Loveson’s biological family and their testimony was almost predictable: no money to feed him and some weird stories about Voodoo. We have now obtained Loveson’s birth certificate and are waiting to set up a court date to gain full custody. Wishla, also abandoned at the age of 11 months, was just a baby.

My kids have already noticed I am white and look different. They know we aren’t a “normal” family and have begun asking questions. We tell them that God has a very special plan for them. They were once in very bad places, but God was good and put them in a house with a mama and papa.

I believe in these truths, and sometimes I have to tell the story all over again just as a reminder to me: yes, God is good and He has a very special plan. Even though it is very, very hard to see some days. I cry some days just over the thought of having to abandon them. That there was a day in the history of this world where their moms just couldn’t do mom and left them at an orphanage gate. I think it’s so sad and I get buried in that reality, because how do you change it? How do you shine light onto something so unnatural? Moms are suppose to hold their babies tight, teach them how to fly and see them to the end; not cut the story short, lose all hope and leave them in someone else’s hand.

I never dreamt of being a mom. But, now I am one. And I became one in the most miraculous sorts of ways. I am recognizing the hurt in the world through it, but allowing the beauty of it to soak in deep too. I think of all the orphans and how so many of them are hungry and without a bed. I pray for the country of Haiti every single morning, that today would be a day of redemption. And when I don’t think I have seen redemption or feel like giving up on a God who knows only good, I remember how He saved me. That in and of itself being redemption.

And then, how He turned me into a mom in the most unlikely of ways, to three children who desperately needed a mom. And now these babies have full bellies, a bed to lay their tired heads on and someone to kiss them goodnight.

Realizing all along, redemption has come.

The lesson has been that no matter how hard it hurts knowing they are not mine, they never will be. This whole time they have been HisThey are His. And, He is the one with the plan and it is my job just to raise them up in the right way, hoping not to mess up on the way there. Loving them every step of the way.

Please, though, keep on enjoying my cute pictures of them, because, let’s be honest, they are so darn cute. But, know it’s not all easy. There has been a lot of pain growing into the family we have become, but we are stronger and more alive and filled with more joy because of it all.fam1sm

fam2sm

Filled.

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

So he began teaching them many things.”

–Mark 6:34

 

To celebrate Christmas I decided to read through the gospels to see what else I could learn about this guy we call Jesus and whom we celebrate on Christmas day.

So many of the stories are so familiar being that I have heard them since I was a child in Sunday school: the five thousand being fed by a few loaves of bread and fish, Jesus walking on water, the sick being healed and the blind receiving sight or the story about the paralyzed man being dropped through a roof for Jesus’s healing touch.

I remember many of these stories by pictures or skits or cheesy vacation bible school songs. What I don’t remember being taught is how upside down and inside out these stories really are. How Jesus’s actions went against the society He lived in and the society we now live in. I don’t remember words like radical or compassion. I don’t remember skits about Jesus belittling the scholars and taking sides with the sinners.

This time around I discovered a new Jesus. Time and time again, stories and passages describe Jesus being filled with compassion and in turn manifesting some type of miracle.

“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.” –Mark 8:2 (the feeding of the five thousand happened next)

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” – Matthew 14:14

 “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” – Matthew 20:34

“A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” –Mark 1:40-41

The gospels in my Bible are now highlighted with passages that exploit a compassion Jesus had towards the crowds, the paralyzed, the lame, the sick, the sinners and lowlifes. Stories of compassion and miracles filled up the pages in ways I had never seen them before.

Sure, I’ve been hearing about the feeding of the five thousand since I was six. I’ve colored in scenes with my Crayola crayons of baskets full of leftover bread and a small boy who carries the baskets. The pictures were full of people sitting on a hillside, full and satisfied, with Jesus in the center. We were always taught about the miracle, but not the heart behind it.

The only reason Jesus fixed this meal was because His heart compelled Him to. He did not do it to gain fame or to have the headlines read “Jesus does it again; He feeds a large crowd with nothing but a few loaves and a leftover fish”. He did not do it to gain popularity or show them Pharisees wrong; he did it because his heart was filled with compassion. Bless him. In fact, after performing most miracles, Jesus tells the healed not to tell anyone about what has happened to them.


 

I have a hard time explaining how I feel some days when I stand in a home made of tattered tarp and floor made of dirt. Happy, sad, joyful, angry…I have never been able to find the right word. But, Jesus pinned this feeling of mine as I rediscovered Him this past month: compassion. Compassion that flows from the heart of our God and dwells in us because of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve learned and relearned that miracles are what follow when compassion is felt, embraced, dreamt up and lived out first. First, compassion. Second, miracles. First, going out and loving people. Second, God showing up and making His own miraculous moves.

At first glance compassion seems like such a beautiful word and feeling. But, I’ve learned its actually quite ugly and hard.

Jesus was filled with compassion when he saw the hungry, sick and sinners. I am sure he’s filled when he sees the happy, healthy and well off, too, but the stories in the gospels tell of him being filled with compassion when he saw something ugly and hard.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to see the darkness in the world, because He had the power to overcome it. He wasn’t afraid to be acquainted with sinners, because He had a message that would redeem them. He wasn’t afraid to surround himself with people full of sickness, because He had the ability to heal them.

Jesus taught me not be afraid, but to go into the world filled with compassion. I have seen my hurting neighbors. I cry when I leave their broken homes or when I don’t have another job to give or sometimes I cry for no good reason at all. I see poverty every day and it crushes me. But, I will no longer be afraid of it.

I will allow the Spirit to fill me with all the compassion my little heart can hold and breathe out life where it has been taken. Letting the miracles take place and allowing God to work His wonders.


 

Every single time I visit the “blue tent city” in Minoterie I am filled with compassion. I haven’t been able to describe what I feel for a long time, but Jesus has now taught me what it is. And I know compassion is what Jennifer and Lydia Lee felt as they walked the dirt paths with me, too. We dreamt up a better tomorrow and I’m honored, humbled and quite frankly blown away.

I am forever thankful for your generous and compassionate hearts. I am grateful to all of you who clicked “share” and got the word out about our friends who are living in such unbearable conditions. I can’t say thank you enough for those of you who followed through and clicked the PureCharity or PayPal link or donated through Touch of Hope. You are superheroes. Your donations mattered and they are going to manifest into something so very beautiful.

Today, I am honored to tell you that all the money has been raised to build the five homes for the five families who have been living in tents over the past five years. Today marks the 5 year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti 5 years ago, how appropriate we can remember it with such exciting news.

Additionally, I would like you to meet Yolanda.

YOl

Yolanda is the daughter to Yoline, a cook at our school. They have been living in a tarp structure for five years and it is where Yolanda has grown up. She is in first grade, has the sweetest smile and gives the most gracious hugs when I see her at school. Her mom started working at our school last year and this is the first real, reliable job she has ever had. I see them every Sunday at church and there is a glow that radiates from both of them that I envy. I visited Yolanda last week to deliver a Christmas present from her school sponsor. I entered through the twig frame and stood with Yolanda in the middle of her “house.” I asked her where she slept and she pointed to the bed behind her. I looked above and saw a very large hole in the tarp so I proceeded to ask, “Well, what happens when it rains?” Her reply, with a giggle in her voice, “I get wet.” Enter feelings of heart breaking and compassion filling every ounce of my body. Her mom gave me the grand tour, showing me around the back of her house where tarp was shredding and other pieces were sewn together with yarn. Yes, a house sewn of yarn.

Two days later, I totaled all the donations and discovered we not only had enough money to build five houses, but enough to build SIX. First, compassion. Second, miracles. Yolanda and her family will be the sixth family to have a new house built and I can’t wait to visit her in the near future and ask her what happens when it rains and her response be, “I stay dry!”

People, thank you for showing up and donating to this cause, I am forever humbled and grateful. May you be blessed tenfold. Updates to follow as the houses will be built in the month to come!

“Whoever claims to live in him, must walk as Jesus did.”

– 1 John 2:6

 

just throwing a Hail Mary here

Beach days are the way to my heart. I get 8 hours to escape from the kids, work and all the other troubles before me. I soak up the Caribbean heat; usually enjoy a good steak sandwich (it’s a beach day must) with a cold Prestige (also a must). We don’t get them often, but when we do, beach days are always the best.

Mid-November I found myself reclining on the beach reading a book. With the sand in my toes and no kids needing my attention, it was the perfect day. Except for the fact that I was feeling quite empty that day. Quite used up and washed out. Something had been missing and it was around the time I was looking for a way to cultivate my heart. The enemy was whispering lies in my ears and my heart was beginning to believe them.

Your time isn’t being spent the right way. You’re just not doing it right. Your work does not matter.

Truthfully, I am amazed everyday when I wake up with the ocean in my front yard with the responsibility to care for three little orphaned children. I search for reasons on how to explain my story and all the miracles that have gone out before me. The growth of the school, the faith of the ViBella women, the trust of village kids, the provisions time and time again. There’s only one reason this happened: some time ago we decided to say “yes” and this is what God has done with our “yes”. But in the midst, I get selfish and prideful. I forget to say thank you and give praise. My heart hardens and I worry about all the day’s troubles.

In the midst of it all I believe all the lies and being amazed is one thing, living it all out is another.

And on this beach day, with a good book in my hands, beautiful and important words spread out on the pages before me and the Lord spoke a vision to me.

“Don’t think for a moment that bold vision is reserved for the next generation…audacity does not discriminate on the basis of age or disqualify because of wasted years. No matter how far behind you feel, or how many opportunities you’ve squandered, you can begin to ask God to do the impossible in your life right now…But audacious vision never cowers in the darkness. The darker it gets, the brighter our faith can shine. Audacious faith takes Jesus at his word. We are the light of the world: we cannot be hidden and we have no reason to hide.” – page 30

So, the vision of a large worship service was born.

The first purpose of the service would be to carve out a time and really thank God for all He has done on the mountaintop. We wanted the entire community to join and share how this is all been God’s work. I wanted this to be a chance for the community, students and staff included, to get together like they have never done before. An opportunity to also feed them both spiritually and physically. A time to give thanks for how Touch of Hope, as a non-profit and ministry, has grown in such a short time. For the ways, we as a family, servants and humans have grown and changed.

The second purpose of the service was to be a sacrifice of our time and money for something bigger than the both of us. Webert and I fasted and prayed the month of December for discernment of the future for the school, our careers, our family and our mission as we led up to the service.

So, we marked the calendars and began planning a large worship service for New Years Days.

I shared the vision with friends who were visiting on Thanksgiving Day and told them how we would need some funds to pull off the service and meal. The next day we would be handing out over 100 bikes to students who walked over a mile to school. Six children from Northwest Iowa has raised over $8,000 for the cause and they spent their Thanksgiving break in Haiti to see all of the students receive a new bicycle. The night of Thanksgiving they decided whatever money was left from the bikes would be given to help us with the worship service. And of course, the next day, after handing out all the bikes, we went to count the leftover money and it was $1,000 (the amount I had told them we needed).

I e-mailed my parents the same day, telling them of my idea and if any random donations came into Touch of Hope I would like to put it towards the service. Within 24 hours, a $1,000 donation came in with a note to use for evangelical purposes. And a few days later a $1,200 donation came in to purchase and hand out Bibles; the church that made this donation didn’t even know about the service we were planning!

Seriously, the vision was given to me and before I even told many people all the money for the service and meal was at my disposal.

And then New Year’s Day rolled around and it was time for the big show. We think close to 2,500 people gathered in our schoolyard and 8 different churches led worship on a stage set up on the basketball court. School kids ran around with a look of freedom on their faces, mamas lifted their hands high in the air and babies fell asleep on their laps. The worship lasted for over 3 hours and a meal was given at the end of the evening.

someone once told me they thought God spoke through the suns rays, I like to think they were right.

someone once told me they thought God spoke through the suns rays, I like to think they were right.

sun3

“where 2 or more are gathered in my name, I am there with you” – Jesus

sun2

It was crazy, but perfect…to me, it was a glimpse of what heaven will be like as the sun rays from the sunset fell upon the crowd.

For 2015, I don’t really have any resolutions but I am going to start praying for God to do the impossible more in my life. More for the people around me and more for the country of Haiti. I’m going to pray for miracles and expect them to happen. I’m going to throw my arms in the air and throw out some Hail Mary’s as I adventure through this life. And, truthfully, I think these are the kind of prayers God wants us to pray: prayers that could change the world and bring a little bit more of heaven to earth.


The book I was reading on the beach day was Sun Stand Still and it is based on the story in Joshua 10 when Joshua asks the Lord to make the sun literally stand still so he can fight off the Amorites.

“Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. There was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.” Joshua 10:12-14

I have maybe read the book of Joshua once, but this was stunning to me. Who even has the audacity to pray for the sun to stand still? Seriously, I want some faith like that. So, I am challenged. Challenged to pray for things so much bigger than me. Challenged to pray with such a faith and belief that the impossible can happen before me.

So, the first big prayer was for the worship service. God showed up. Big time.

The second prayer happened on December 23 when I threw out another Hail Mary – literally, as I hit the publish button for 5 homes in 2015 I threw my arms in the air, kind of like you do when the quarterback throws one last long throw at the end of the game, and said “OK God, you got this”. It felt way out of my control, but I could already see the foundations of the homes before a penny was even donated.

Monday will be the 5-year anniversary of the earthquake and we will be announcing where we are in our efforts to build 5 new homes for 5 families who lost their homes in the earthquake. Please pray a sun stand still prayer with us for the final donations to come in for our goal to be met.

See you all on Monday,

Love from Haiti.

Reference: Sun Stand Still. Steven Furtick. Page 30.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,234 other followers