Sunday, September 21, 2014

On being home: Part I

So how does it feel to be back?

Good question.

In the last 35 days, we have moved back from Haiti, moved into an apartment, unpacked, painted, gone to church, to Fredericksburg to get Tim’s car, unpacked more, gone to community group, a going a away party, back to work, to Richmond for 3 nights for Labor day, to Farmville to see Amy, shopping to set up our apartment, going to appointments, updating insurance, car stuff,  phone plans, address changes, life details, catching up with friends, etc…

So I’m not really sure.  These first few weeks have been very heavy on logistics and light on processing and feelings. Except for that one day when I cried.

Because why do I get to come and go back to a life of comfort and ease when so many are seemingly stuck in deplorable conditions?

What is my responsibility to those I’ve met and the needs I’ve seen?

How do I help meet needs THERE when I am HERE and in a way that makes sense and is effective?  (while also engaging in life and ministry here helping to meet needs right where I’m at) For the moment I feel like I’m not doing a darn thing to help anyone because I’m not there but I’m also not fully here. Meeting needs was so tangible and outward and here I almost feel like I need to go find a way to help.

What kind of help and for whom? How do I choose when the needs seem so overwhelming?

I’m back at a desk with excessive AC , 3 meals a day, plus snacks, and my own car and money to put gas in it, a comfy bed, a full wardrobe, education, opportunity, enrichment, pleasure and pretty much anything I want right at my fingertips. And there are all of the hidden things that just seem like a given like they just exist everywhere, but actually don’t. 24/7 electricity, hot and cold water that is safe to drink and available in multiple rooms in every house, safe roads to drive on, enforced laws and overall safety, etc…

Yet, mothers are still hauling water great distances, selling items on the street, forced to leave their children in unsafe conditions and children are enslaved, hungry, isolated and without care, love and safety day after day after day.

My mind is haunted by these images of orphanages bursting at the seams around every corner and my heart is heavy with a desire to do SOMETHING.  Families feel an orphanage is the only option for their children to be fed, clothed and receive some type of education. In so many cases, these children are LOVED yet left to the care of an institution.  They have parents who would care for them if they could. The issues are so much bigger and deeper than what they seem.

What am I possibility supposed to do with this information?

I feel this sort of pressure to have these obvious differences in my life based on all of this. But, what are they? Maybe its pride wanting me to look better or some outward evidence that I am doing something to help because what kind of person would just come home and not have some obvious differences in their life? I know I’m different, but how?

In some ways I think that if I allow myself to settle in and embrace my life here that it somehow signifies moving on and that somehow that means forgetting. I’m afraid I’m not doing enough or giving enough or changed enough. But this is about me and if anything I’ve learned it is SO not about me. I’m humbled over and over again to shift my focus off of me and ultimately back to HIM where I can then see clearly again. This is where I can see the changes He is doing in my heart and as this beautiful and painful process unfolds, my heart is molded more like His and the natural response to the needs around me are to love others and help them see Jesus.

My inward view is complicated, full of pressure, desire to please & perform and for the world to say yes she is different and I want to be like her.  When I take my eyes off of me, it is simple, my view is full of peace, desiring to worship & adore and for the world to say yes HE is working in her and I want to be like HIM.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What I didn't share yesterday

Follow up to our few minutes of sharing about Haiti at church yesterday.  I think being sick, home for just a week and trying to put a year in Haiti in just a few minutes was more challenging than I anticipated. I left feeling like there was so much more I wanted to say to our church family who played such an important role...

In the few minutes that Tim and I shared at church yesterday about the last year in Haiti, I felt like there was SO much more that we wanted to say and it’s really difficult to put it all into words.
I don’t want to bombard everyone from all directions about Haiti, but there are a few follow up thoughts that have been going through my mind and more about the heart behind the few things we were able to share.
First, we didn’t do anything special or out of the ordinary.  GOD did. We were going about our newlywed life just figuring out what was next and God put the opportunity to move to Haiti in our path. He gave us the strength to say yes and He provided the sustaining grace to face each day.  What seemed impossible one day was HAPPENING by God’s strength and provision the next. It was like a wave that couldn’t be stopped. God was doing the work and He invited us along for the ride. We couldn’t have made it all happen…I know that for sure!
If someone told us to put all of our possessions in storage and quit our jobs and move to a 3rd world country we would have thought that sounded crazy, just like anyone else.  But in so many ways God’s will was so evident and more powerful than the craziness of it all. It was one of those situations where it felt crazier to say no even though there was a list of reasons to run in the opposite direction. So if I can, I’d love to challenge you to entertain the crazy ideas! It doesn’t hurt to ask “what if?” It IS scary and at times you will wonder what have I done!?  But, the underlying assurance of knowing that God is directing, providing and leading gets you through those really tough moments. Ultimately our faith was strengthened in those times we found ourselves at our end emotionally, spiritually & physically. We found ourselves clinging to the truths of the gospel to sustain us and motivate us to continue on.
Secondly, we want to express our gratitude for the ways that Redeemer served us from afar. So many of you provided help in various ways from moving, packing, taking care of vehicles, airport transportation, logistics, care packages, painting and unpacking in our new apartment this last week. I could go on and on!  We felt encouraged and very much a part of a family. We hope that we can serve others as well as we were served. We look forward to opportunities that God may open for us to serve missionaries overseas or even people in our own neighborhoods.  When we felt lonely and isolated, we know there were people we could always reach out to and depend on for help & guidance.
God provided for us and answered specific prayers through all of you.  We learned about the opportunity in July and moved in September last year. It all happened so quickly! What seemed like an impossible amount of money to raise for our financial support to go was quickly provided and even exceeded our goal.  What would have been a barrier and even prevented us from going wasn't even a worry. The kindness and generosity of people we know well to people we’ve never even met blew us away. We were challenged in a lot of ways to ask ourselves how WE respond when a need is presented and humbled by how God provided through our brothers and sisters in Christ.  
We loved receiving the thousands of meals that you all packed around Christmas time. We had the privilege of delivering those meals to orphanages and even our neighbors in Port-au-Prince.  The craft supplies that were donated were SO much fun to share with children who may not have the opportunity to color, play or enjoy being creative and having fun. With so many needs around us each day, these things were such a blessing to be able to share with others.  We are also encouraged to look around our community now that we are back home and look at ways we can serve and meet needs right here. We came face to face with hundreds of orphans and God has burdened our hearts to continue helping in some way. But we also want to serve and care for the least of these in our own city. 
We are grateful to be a part of a community that said YES with us.  My prayer is that in whatever God is calling you to do whether its reaching out to a lonely neighbor, moving to a neighborhood out of your comfort zone, traveling overseas, really anything that God puts on your heart that seems crazy, we could encourage you to take the risk, go down the bumpy road, get your hands dirty, ask for help and do whatever it is God has equipped you to do to make an impact for Him.  The craziest decision I’ve made so far is moving to Haiti and you know what? It’s the BEST decision I’ve ever made. And just because God opened the door and directed doesn’t mean it was easy!  I’d say quite the opposite. We were in lower valleys and higher mountains in the last year, but what we learned above all was that God NEVER left our side.  Thank you for going on this journey with us. We look forward to serving with you and seeing how God will continue to challenge us individually and as a church body to take bold steps to serving those around us and encouraging each other along the way.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Psalm 4:8 Project...complete!

In July we visited an orphanage where they had just experienced a fire in the boys’ bedroom.  This orphanage had been brought to our attention as they had pretty much run out of resources and had very little or no food at times.  We were able to help with this shortage on an emergency basis through funds given to the Haiti Emergency Food Pantry Food at AWAA. 

What they did have for beds, which wasn’t much, had been destroyed. To be honest, the girls’ room really needed some TLC as well.  There was no question that I wanted to somehow help them, but I wasn’t exactly sure how.  Sometimes it’s easy to be overwhelmed when there literally seemed to be a need around every corner.  But, I knew that God had brought us to this orphanage at a time when they had some unique challenges and we hoped that we could help in some way! 

The first thing I did was reach out to all of you to start getting the word out. My mom shared about the needs at my home church in ND and people started giving!  I knew this was a project that I couldn’t accomplish on my own.  But I also wondered if people would be interested in helping with a project so far away in an orphanage they had never even heard of or seen.  Silly me!  God knew just what was needed and moved in people’s hearts to give and so many of you did. What an amazing example of the Body of Christ coming together to meet a need.

I did rough estimates on bunk beds, paint, supplies, mattresses, sheets and some basic bedroom essentials and to be honest, the perfect amount of money came in. 
Shopping was a unique experience in Haiti as it involved pulling over on the side of the road and ordering the beds and coming back one week later to pick them up and delivered. They made all of them by hand!

We also bought some plastic covering to protect the mattresses and someone sewed the covers for us and put in a zipper to make them easily removable. We followed behind the truck to make sure we didn't lose anything along the way! On the bumpy road, I thought for sure something was going to come flying at us, but somehow it all stayed put!

Each child got his or her own little basket with some toiletry items and a bath towel and wash cloth. We were able to purchase a couple of fans and everything they need for everyone to have a place to lie down and go to sleep at night!
It was a joy to be able to deliver these items to them.  They all had such a cute, quiet curiosity in their eyes and many of them jumped in to help!
I got to share with them that many people heard about their orphanage and wanted to help.  I also talked with the children for a couple minutes that as they go to sleep at night that they would be reminded of the safety & comfort we can know through Jesus.  They asked that I would share their gratitude with you all and tell everyone THANK YOU for them!  I asked the orphanage director to share Psalm 4:8 with them which says...

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Thank you all for your kindness and generosity that made this project happen.  It all came together really quickly as we were leaving Haiti.  God worked out a lot of details so that from the time we heard about the need until the beds and supplies were delivered was just about ONE month! I’m so thankful for the tangible expression of care and love we could show to these precious children because of your willingness to help. I want them to know that they are not forgotten and I hope that this is a reminder to them that they are noticed and matter.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Saying Goodbye

Below is a post from Tim. He wrote it last week, but lets just say blogging hasn't been on the top of my priority list in the midst of a big move and getting settled back in! It really has been an amazing journey together as we spent 11 of our first 15 months of marriage on this adventure together.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't have tears in my eyes this morning as we went our separate ways.

The time we had together and learning to work through challenges wasn't easy, but I know it has built a foundation for our lives together. Tim was completely on board with moving to Haiti, but it was more "my" thing". It was through my job and a perfect next step to the work I love and have been investing in for many years.  It wasn't that he wasn't all for orphan care, adoption and running a guesthouse in another country! But it was an area that he hadn't necessarily delved into as deeply as I had and it was a big step of faith to lead our brand new family of 2 to a third world country. It was amazing to see God open His eyes to the needs of orphans in a new way and experience a new culture, language and way of life.  These experiences have taught us so much and grown us individually and as a couple and we are praying that God would show us how to respond and now build our lives together in a way that can best serve others.

I can't count the ways that He served and blessed others in our time there. Simply the fact that he drove around on the crazy, bumpy, hectic roads was a MAJOR help to me. Many evenings he was at the sink washing dishes. Other times working hard to arrange car repairs, coordinate translators & drivers, playing with children at an orphanage, helping with projects, etc...He quietly served not waiting for any praise from others. He never wanted to be the one swooping in to save the day, but preferred to serve quietly in ways that were unseen.  He put up with A LOT of crazy ideas, silliness & emotions from me and was there when I felt overwhelmed or homesick but also to laugh and have fun. I'm humbled by the opportunity to serve alongside him and see his heart for Jesus. It was so evident to me in certain moments when I saw his heart for the older children, his tenderness with the little ones and his compassion towards the people on the street & the children who have special needs. 

Through all of the ups & downs, sweat, deet, stress, joys, sunshine, beauty, sadness, adventures, laughter, mistakes and everything in between, there is no one else I would have wanted by my side.

As I mentioned...this is Tim's post. I guess my intro got a little long :)  Photos courtesy of Instagraimee. (aka spy wife)

Tim's post...

This week we said goodbye to many little friends at an orphanage that Aimee and I have worked with this year in Haiti.  Quite frankly I had to hold back tears, as I held and played with some of the most awesome children in Haiti.  I thought to myself, “how can it be that this many children are either without moms and dads, or are at least unable to live with the family they do have? As I scanned the numerous children flooding the hallway of the orphanage, I became overwhelmed with sorrow on behalf of these lonely and abandoned children.  Some appeared so overwhelmingly desperate for attention, while others played or sat quietly in their own little space.  Another child appeared overtly sad about his wait to be with his parents.  Still, hope seems so far from him - much like a horizon does to the beach-vacationer, gazing out into the wild blue ocean.  As tears ran down the face of this kid, I knew he must think his parents are never coming for him.  But soon.  Soon, he will be brought into a family that is eagerly awaiting his arrival into their arms.

As I sat upon the dirty, sticky, and well-worn floor of the orphanage, I began to think about the seemingly long-wait to be with our adoptive Father, Jesus Christ.  Once again my mind began to make the connection between the gospel and earthly family adoption.  Often, I must admit, that I simply doubt that my Father loves me as much as He says he does.  I find myself questioning the reality that I am an adopted Son. Some days it simply does not feel like I am a part of the family of God.  It feels more like I am an orphan sometimes, as if I have been left to my own devices to navigate through the complexities of life.  But that is a lie.  One of Satan’s many goals is for the Christian to doubt the love of God, to believe they are on their own and without a Father - often leading them to discouragement or perhaps anger.  

In times like these, we (Christians) must remind ourselves that we have been bought with a price.  We must counsel ourselves that before the foundations of the world, God knew and purposed that we would be His children.  So while it may not feel true sometimes, and in fact life may seem so lonely, complex, and indeed infuriating — God is not unaware.  He is coming to the rescue.  He will complete the adoption process that He started before he began the world in which we live.  It was a very expensive process:  It cost Him his only Son, with whom he had spent eternity with in perfect holiness, love, and unity.  Very soon, though, the day is coming when He will take his children home with him, capitalizing on the ultimate and cosmic “gotcha” day.  
I am reminded of these words by the Apostle Paul — (Romans 8:15-17, ESV)

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Monday, August 11, 2014

Things that make me happy or say huh!?

Sometimes I forget that blogging can be light-hearted and not just a place to pour out every thought, feeling and question I have about life.  So if you're looking for something deep to mull over and make you question everything you ever believed about better move on because this is a post of "many of the random things I saw in Haiti and took pictures of and other things that made me happy or say huh!?"

If you need logic and order this will not be the place to spend the next 5 minutes. We are talking every thing from the price of Velveeta to glasses on a pineapple. 

Just so you know-the poor grammar and punctuation=sarcasm. 

aaaaaaaaaaand let's jump right in, shall we?  

 Roller blading behind a tap tap is a good idea. Said no one ever.
 Come on, cooling towel help a guy out.
Never will this be a good idea to drink on a roasting hot island. Never ever. NO.
 To say my hair looked awesome every single day here is a huuuuuuuuge understatement.
For sale...for cooling food and drinks. For me?! No sir. ICE BED!
Dear husband, please guard all the men while I put my swimming suit on here behind this SUPER private rock so that I can swim in that basin to see the pretty waterfall.
 If I could imagine what it felt like to walk on the moon...this.
Please, just please, tell me how this is possible.
One time I tried to make fly traps. No flies were trapped.
A massive care package...actually care SUITCASE. ridiculous and awesome. 
 $3.22 for this little hunk of processed cheese don't even get the cool box. no thanks.
Where better to play your guitar than on the roof for all to enjoy. There was probably a breeze. I'd stand there too.
 I've seen A LOT of tap-taps this year, but NONE as cool as the one we ride in. Meet The Shark.
Now go with me to the back of the tap tap...want to get out just "tap tap" the tooth brush on the window. Genius I tell you. Give your knuckles a break.
In other tap tap news, at times I decided to not sit in the back but to cram myself in the middle in the tiny front cab. Why not I say.
Oh the glorious times we ventured up the mountain and breathed that cool, non dusty air. Mountain fresh for reals, people. Just look at us filling up our lungs.
And then there was the time that the 3rd pineapple got a bit of an extreme haircut. He was embarrassed a little. The glasses made him stand out less. There, now he fits in with the cool kids. not.
Come on...tie the herbs together and then poke the cloves into the tiny flaming hot pepper then the sauce will taste like magic gravy. Cooking brilliance right there.
 Oh this guy. I miss him. He's going to be 5 soon. He's the cutest in his #wilsonsWENTtohaiti shirt.
I'm ashamed to say just how many times we talked to and made up responses from cows. and goats. ands dogs. and pigs. the end. help us.
No one said there wouldn't be a fish head in that pot. Its not their fault I looked. *silent scream*
 And then the bananas walked down the street.
 How does everyone know whose goat is whose...paint their horns. duh.
 Don't even get me started on how little I exercised here. Lets just say not many and it ended like this.
I told you not to look out the window at the fast approaching bend on the mountain roads with very steep drops while driving really fast. I warned you.
 Seriously making a run for it. They were so confused. Buddies, its not safe out here. Go home.
Just how is it that a mosquito net can block SO much air ? I can see you through it, why can't the air come in? I don't understand. 

 My dream come true. Meet Billy. So dirty. So cute.
And then we pulled over and took a picture. Because hello.
 Stop. The bird is totally whispering something crazy in that cows ear.
 Gremlin, I feel ya. By the end of the day I feel this way too.

And the mangos...perfection. But mango upside down cake? Take my spoon away and you'll be sorry.
No amount of sunscreen kept me safe in this moment. After 100 degrees, I stop caring. I don't regret it at all.
Guys, I saw this piece of trash. It had the most lovely spatters of paint on it. I went back. Twice. They cut it to pieces. and. I. bought. it. I need help.
That time at a lodge/hotel/restaurant in the mountains I asked if they made dessert with the strawberries they grew and then they brought me to the kitchen and told me to make one. Ha!
When they say the World Cup is a big deal here. Believe them and multiply your expectations of "big deal" by about 1,000 and then paint your house your team's colors. Then, you might fit in here.
 So proud of my little traveling circus. tear.
Oh I wish I understood all the jokes he was telling in French. For 2 hours. Must learn all the languages. now.
 The 2014 Lizard/Pen races. Fascinating, I promise.
 Found me some 'merica.
Can I just say this didn't work and my dad brought a camping/picnic tent that we slept in all year. love him.
told you.
How do they turn the rice this color? And can I please have fresh squeezed juice every day forever and ever?
Please no spicy in my peanut butter. Thanks.
Warm. Who says 114 is "warm". Get a grip and stand outside for 5 seconds and then reword your weather forecast.
Some things are scary like riding in the tap tap on really bad roads and then you see a burning building and just want to get home and hug your blankie.
 I appreciate the honesty.
 My heart flip flopped.
180 eggs just chillin in my lap on REALLY bumpy roads. One cracked. Of course it did.
 When I say its hot...I mean it. Like oh my word their is sweat running down my leg right now.
 $13 for ice cream. WHY OH WHY DO YOU HATE ME!?
 oh no.

Discovered completely by accident. Mosquito trap...aka left over cough syrup in a cup. AND THAT THING IS HUGE.
 I'm in a freezer. In a winter coat. With all the ice cream. Yesssssssssss.
 Just let it out, cloud.
 The coffee to sugar ratio is out of this world.
And just like that, this post is done. I told you your life would not be changed. Have a nice day.