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Faith That Climbs Mountains: Haiti Days 4 & 5

On Wednesday, we got to the orphanage early because the kids at school have chapel first thing. As we got there, the kids were all lined up outside. They sang a song together that they had sung in church. After that, they sang the National Anthem of Haiti as they raised the flag over the school. They then prayed and went into the main room for chapel. Each class walked in one by one in an orderly fashion in their bright red shirts and blue bottoms.

 

 

Once inside, we sang several songs and prayed. One of our students had volunteered to teach chapel that morning. He told them the story of a father who had a son (me) and a daughter (my wife) (This created many jokes from the Haitians all day!). The father gave each of them a mango seed. One of us threw it away and were mad because all they got was a seed. The other was great fun and buried the seed. They watered it and cared for the tree as it grew. When it was old, the tree produced more mangos that people from all over could enjoy.

  

He then shared how what God gives each of us may not seem like a lot. What matters is what we do with what God gives us. Many people throw away the little things God gives them because they seem insignificant. But if we are willing to plant it, cultivate it and feed it, God can use it to plant seeds in the lives of so many others. He pointed out that each person who took a mango from the tree not only walked away with food, they walked away with a seed they could plant. The replication of the growing process is endless as long as we use the seed for its intended purpose. 

After chapel service, the kids went back to class and we went back to work. We were able to finish all of the projects we were assigned to do. The pirate ship was now painted with weatherproof paint and the ground behind the school was level. We gathered out front, cleaned up our messes and the kids came out for recess. We played with them, loved on them and many were coved up by them. They love to pile on top of people. It seems the more they can get on you the better. 

  

After lunch, we held a service for the orphans. Our students reenacted the story of David and Goliath. It helped that we had a boy who was fairly short and one who was 6’9″. The kids watched in amazement as he fell. They were told that they can defeat the things in their lives that they’re afraid of. We then sang, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing that He cannot do for you!” After singing. We handed each kid a paper and crayons. We asked them to draw the thing they were most afraid of. After they showed others what they were afraid of, they ripped the paper and declared that with God, they don’t have to be afraid. 

  

On Thursday morning, several of us got up early to climb the mountain across from our guest house. For me, it’s always a spiritual journey. As we go up, there are Haitians crying out to God, praying and signing. It’s a very reverent thing for me to walk by as they pour out their hearts to Him. I often pray for them as I walk past. The path is very steep and rocky. There are many times people on the team want to give up. I tell them to quit looking at the summit and find a place about a hundred yards away. I ask, “Can you make it to there? Then let’s go there and rest again.” We inch up the mountain at times, but in the end, when you reach the summit, the view is all worth it. You almost forget how difficult it was to get there.

  

In our Christian lives, it’s very much the same. The path is narrow and often rocky. There are plenty of opportunities to give up. If we are willing to walk along side of each other, we can help motivate and encourage each other through those times. God did not intend for us to stay in the valley. He wants us to climb to the top of the mountain like Moses did and spend time with Him. When we finally get to Heaven, I don’t think we will complain about the climb. We will rejoice that we made it and celebrate together.  

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Faith That Works: Haiti Days 2 and 3

Our second and third days in Haiti were filled with work. We split the team up to get some maintenance things done around the property of the orphanage. We took a group of guys and went behind the main building to do dirt work. At the back of the property, there was a hill of dirt that sloped down into the cafeteria building. We spent three days with pick axes and shovels breaking up that hill and shoveling it into wheel barrows. We would take the wheel barrow of dirt and dump it closer to the building to level out the ground.

The sun was hot and we often tried to find shade from its heat. As it got higher in the sky, shade was increasingly more difficult to find. We drank plenty of water, but we kept at it. We were able to make it level where once it was not. I kept thinking of the scripture in Matthew 21:21 where Jesus said we could speak to the mountain and move it if we had faith. I was then reminded of James 2:17 that says, “Faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative or dead).”

  

Often we try to speak to the mountains in our lives asking them to move without ever picking up a shovel. We want God to do all the work while we simply “believe”. One of the things I shared with the team on these days is that God always requires a proactive action on our part before He moves. We must seek if we are to find. We must knock if the door will be opened. We must ask if it is to be given. We must draw near to God if He is to draw near to us. I have yet to find a place in scripture where we don’t have to be proactive before God moves. We can’t wait for God to do something. We have to step out in faith first.

On these trips over here, I remind the team that they are coming to put sweat equity in the Kingdom. We come to work and to serve. It’s hot and dirty, but God honors us and the work we do when we do it with a cheerful heart. Our second team was painting a pirate ship that was built for the playground. The first day of work on it was tedious. They had screw drivers and were digging rocks out from in between the boards before they could paint  it reminded me that God is in the nitty gritty details. We look for Him in the big picture, but we find Him in the small things.

  

On Tuesday afternoon, we were able to do a Bible lesson for the kids. After the lesson we took them on a nature walk / scavenger hunt outside the walls of the orphanage. As they walked down a dusty road, several of us were spread out along it. When they came to us, we acted out different emotions and the kids determined whether the actions were pleasing to God or not. After they found the last person, we continued walking to a dried up creek bed. There were mango trees all along its banks. The kids picked up rocks and threw them at the tree to knock down the mangos. 

We walked further down towards some other mango trees that didn’t require rocks. We picked mangos from the branches we could reach and gave them to the kids. Some mangos were ripe and others had more time left. The kids would bite through the skin and peel it back to get to the sweet pulp. We sat under the trees and laughed with the kids as they enjoyed them. It was an incredible afternoon that gave us a refreshing from our hard labor. The team was reenergized and and ready to work more the next day for these kids.

  

On Wednesday afternoon, we took a beach trip to jump off a cliff into the ocean. It was a long journey across the beach, over boulders, up rocky cliffs and over crevices. When we got there, we took a rest and began jumping in. Standing on the edge of the cliff looking down brought fear to many. It was a long way down to the water, but everyone who went up there faced their fears and jumped in. Fear paralyzes us and tries to prevent us from doing things. So many Christians stand at the edge of a cliff and never take the leap of faith. They’re scared to do anything for God, so they spend their lives in that place. 

God has asked us to live by faith and not sight because sight brings fear. It tells us the journey is too long, too hard and too far. It asks all kinds of questions that prevent us from taking those leaps of faith. If you’re in that moment of standing on the cliff with God calling you to jump, don’t stand there and think of everything that could go wrong. Step out in faith, trust God and jump. It will be the ride of your life. When you put action to your faith, it brings great power. 

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Showing His Love: Haiti Day 1

 

 On our first full day in Haiti on this trip, we started off going to a church service with the orphans and the local community. As they sang songs of worship, it was incredible to watch young children raise their hands and sing. During times of prayer, many children would get down on their knees and face the benches they were sitting on. It was moving to see so many of them engaged in the service knowing that very few of them had probably ever been to church before coming to the orphanage. 

After church, the kids changed clothes and we got to play with them. One of the incredible experiences of coming on a journey like this is that you get chosen by the kids. They run through the crowd of the team looking up at each face and determine who their “blanc” is. For the rest of the trip, the children who chose you will find you each time you’re there and climb in your lap, hold your hands and love you. Watching it happen reminds me of how God seeks us out like the one lamb who got away. Once He finds us, He holds us and gives us unconditional, undeserved love.

As we were playing, a bell started ringing from the cafeteria and the kids immediately ran to go eat lunch. While they were eating, we took a walk into Maya to visit with some of the locals. On every other trip, they have come to us, but this time, we went to them. On our first stop, we encountered a man who was proud to show us his two bedroom home made of rock and mortar. It had a tin roof, dirt floors and no electricity. His face beamed as he showed us his handiwork. He then walked us over to a 3′ by 3′ house looking structure. He proudly proclaimed that is son built it. You could see from wall to wall how much his son improved each time. This father had now passed down the ability for his son to survive. 

After visiting a few more houses, we returned to the orphanage. We played with the kids some more and then went to the covered porch during the heat of the day. Several kids layer down on our team members to rest. As I looked on, I thought of how my own son loves to lay up against me or my wife. Doing so provides them with a sense of security and love. These orphans don’t have parents to give them that. It was a blessing to watch our time provide those emotional necessities to these children.

After playing some more, we then returned to our guest house in the city of Gonaives. The team cleaned up, ate dinner and then met for our own service. We shared stories of things that we had seen that touched our lives and how we saw Jesus in those things. We were reminded that Jesus shows up every day in our lives all around us. We will see Him if we take the time to look. We also have the opportunity to be His hands and feet to others if we will be available when the opportunity arises. 

God’s desire is to use each one of us daily to show His love to someone. There are hurting people that sit next to us, walk by us on the street and post on our social media feeds. It’s up to us as believers to reach out to them and show them the love of Christ. If you don’t, who will? Jesus said in John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (NLT)” How will you show love today to prove to the world that you are His disciple? 

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Be In The Moment

On my last trip to Haiti, there was a young lady on the team who brought a video camera. She wanted to film the different things we did on the trip and would then make a video for us. Throughout the trip, I would tell her, “Get your camera ready. You’re going to want to get this! Sit in this side of the truck, the view will be better.” Then at some of the places we were, I’d look at her and she wouldn’t have her camera out. I’d go up to her and say, “Can you get this? I think this would be great for the video.” She would oblige most of the time.

After one such incident where I noticed she didn’t have the camera out, I asked her after, “What’s going on? You’re missing some key moments of this trip.” She simply responded, “I’ve learned that it’s ok to just be in the moment sometimes. I don’t have to capture everything. Some moments should just be shared among us and not with everyone else.” In those few sentences, I’ve learned so much because I’m a go, go, go kind of person. I rarely stop and smell the roses. I hardly stop and celebrate success.

I think it’s part of today’s culture to be that way. When we do something good at work, instead of celebrating, our leaders say, “Nice. Now prove it wasn’t a fluke by doing it again. This time do better.” In our lives, we are off to work first thing, we power through lunch taking calls, after work we grab the kids, eat fast food, take them to practice, run home, bathe, homework and get to bed just so we can do it again tomorrow. We’ve forgotten how to be in the moment. We’ve forgotten that’s it’s ok to breathe and relax sometimes. We’ve forgotten how to have fun.

Ecclesiastes says there is a time and season for everything. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. I believe there’s even a time to relax and enjoy moments. I believe God set this example in creation. The Bible says that on the seventh day, God rested. I think after all that work, He wanted to take a moment to soak it all in and to enjoy it. When we don’t stop and enjoy moments, we run the risk of getting stressed and burned out. That doesn’t help us or those who are close to us.

I can tell you that things will still go on. Things will still happen even if you take a break, this world has gone on for years before you were here and it will go on for years after you’re gone. Things can still turn out fine even if you take time to just be in the moment every now and then. That video that she produced was amazing. It captured our trip perfectly even though there were moments that didn’t make it into it. Those of us who were in those moments have a certain bond that only we share because we took the time to be in the moment.

If you’d like to watch this 4 minute clip from our trip, you can watch it here.

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Haiti Day 5: We Said Goodbye

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Instead of going to a traditional church on Sunday, we took church to the Myan orphanage. We sang a couple of songs in English and then did one in Haitian Creole. Some children got up and recited memory verses and others sang a song they had learned. A few members from our team shared scriptures and short messages for each child. We then stood in a large circle around the room and went one by one telling one thing we are thankful to God for. The answers from some of the children were clothes, a bed, food, a beautiful house, someone to wash their clothes and one just thanked Him for everything that’s been done for her.

After we said our tearful goodbyes, we went back to the guesthouse to put our work clothes on. We headed to the Gonaives orphanage to finish the job. The children loved the warm yellow that we painted it. The old gray didn’t have a happy feel to it. It’s amazing how a little paint can transform not just a house, but a child’s outlook on life. Every new orphan that walks through the freshly painted gates will be greeted with a heart to show them love and a beautiful house to welcome them home.

The words “home” and “family” mean so much when you see the world through an orphan’s life. They don’t have a mother or father that they can go to for advice. They don’t have a safe place they can go when it storms. There are no family reunions that they can go to in order to connect with their roots. They aren’t even guaranteed their next meal or clothes when they grow. They miss the chance to be children when they have to grow up so fast in order to survive. That’s why orphan care is so important.

We may not be able to help every orphan in the world, but we can make a difference in the lives of a few. At our nightly devotional, we each shared the name of an orphan who changed our lives or touched our heart. We collectively smiled as each name was called out. It was the smile that says, “I know that kid! They touched my life too.” These team members may not have known the name of an orphan before they came. As we are leaving, I can tell you they don’t just know the name of an orphan, they know one personally.

I often think I would like to have known James in the Bible. He was hard nosed and didn’t pull any punches. His book in the Bible is short, but power packed. In the first chapter verse 27, he said, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” This week, each member of our team got to experience what pure and genuine religion feels like. My hope is that what was born in Haiti will carry on with each of them for the rest of their lives. May they never stop giving what God has placed in their hands or serving Him faithfully.

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Haiti Day 4: Feeding The Least Of These

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Day four started out like most days. We were up early, ate breakfast and had a morning devotion. We heard from one of our team members about I Corinthians 13:1-3. It doesn’t matter what we do on this trip or back home. If we don’t do it in love, it’s not worth anything. We were challenged to look at our motivations in helping these orphans. We also shared some take aways and what God spoke to us the night before.

We went back to the Gonaives orphanage to continue the paint job. The day before, we had done cut work and trim work. Today, we had to retouch, finish cutting and then start painting the walls. The children loved the bright yellow that we were painting. We also painted the outside wall to the orphanage so that the entrance would stand out on the street. The staff seemed to enjoy it as well.

We took a break from painting when it got close to noon. We loaded up in the trucks and drove across town. We went into the poorest part of Gonaives to a place called Raboto. It sits right on the ocean and is where a lot of fishermen are. The beaches are covered in the filthiest trash you can imagine. There are pigs roaming around eating what they want. Broken boats and boats that look broken are also strewn about the beach. Children are running around in all of it as well. Their houses, made of tin, line the beach and have walls up to keep them from seeing it directly.

It’s in a place like this that our team not only encountered Jesus, but became His hands and feet. We weren’t going just to see how the poorest people live. We were taking them food. About 150 children crowded into the room where we were setting up to feed them. They were singing and laughing. The energy level was high. You sense how excited they were. Our being there meant that they were going to get to eat that day. Their parents have barely enough money to feed themselves, let alone their children. This food is the only meal most of these kids will get.

I watched as a couple of them brought other containers with them. When they were handed their food, they carefully split it up and put some into the other container. I thought, “Wow! That kid is taking their parents some food.” As I watched a couple more kids do it, I remembered that it was Saturday. We typically bring food in Monday through Saturday. That meant these kids were rationing their food so they would have some the next day when we don’t feed them. It broke my heart to see that.

After our team served these children lunch, I took them to the back to show the school we had built. Since so many children were coming each day for food, we decided to provide them with an education that they couldn’t otherwise afford. I had them look at the beach and pointed a few hundred yards away to the salt flats. There, people dig holes so when the tide comes in and goes back out, they are filled with water that drains into the earth leaving salt behind. It was there that our youngest orphan was abandoned by his parents. He had been left to let the tide take him out. God ordained that a fisherman would come into that spot and hear his cry. His life was rescued.

We went back to the orphanage to continue painting and doing crafts with the kids. We came back to the guesthouse to clean up, have dinner and devotions. God moved again during our time of honoring Him. The message we heard was simple. God wants to use what we have. We heard stories of an 8 year old holding a concert in their front yard to raise money for orphans. We heard about a 16 year old who raised $16,000 in two months to be able to outfit and paint every room in the Myan orphanage. We also heard of a dentist who took 100% of what came in on one day at his practice and donated it.

Each of us have something we can give God. The less we have in our hand to give Him, the greater the miracle He can do. He is looking for us to offer Him our everything instead of excuses of why we can’t do anything. He is looking for people who will listen to what He wants to do through them in their community and then to step out and do it. Each one of us are able to reach people that others can’t. Each one of us have God given ideas. If God gives them to you, He wants you to do them. He’s not asking you to tell someone else to do it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have enough in your hand to make it happen. Step out in faith and let Him work. If He gives the vision, He’ll make the provision.

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Haiti Day 3: God Refreshes Us

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Exhausted. Tired. Wore out. These words aren’t strong enough to describe how this team felt at the end of yesterday. Have you heard the saying, “Leaving it all out on the field”? That’s what this team did yesterday. They worked their hearts out in the hot, Haitian sun. They gave everything that was in them to these orphans and God has rewarded them. When they were tired, they kept going. When they wanted to take a break, the kids kept coming up for love. At the end of the day, everyone was talking about an early bedtime.

We started by eating an early breakfast. We separated into three teams who each had a different purpose and team leads. We loaded the trucks with the supplies we needed for the day’s work and then headed to the Gonaives orphanage. As we pulled up, you could hear the excitement in the children on the other side of the gate. We went over the plan one more time before the gates were opened. As we walked in, the kids grabbed our hands and asked to be held. We sat down with them and then explained we had a surprise for them.

On my last trip, we took many of these children out to Myan to see the new orphanage and to play with them. They’ve heard stories about that orphanage so we thought we’d introduce them. As they walked around it, many kept talking about how nice it was. One even asked if they had TV’s. They began comparing it to their home. So on this trip, we decided we would paint their home and make it look nice. They cheered when they heard the news. We told them that they were going to go play with one team while the other two painted.

After painting the window frames and trim all day, I met with the missionaries and we decided to take the team to the ocean to swim and cliff dive. We made the drive winding down a dirt road through the beautiful scenery. It took about an hour to get there. We unloaded and then had to walk down a beach and over a half mile of boulders with jagged edges. Our knees and hands were skinned up. Our bodies were covered in paint. As hard as it was to get there, we all made it to the cliff. People who were tired became exhausted. The ocean waves became more difficult to swim in as the tide came in.

Jumping off the cliff into the water was fun though. It was an exhilarating reward for the work it took to get there. I jumped off with my sister in law. We were among the last to jump. We counted to three and over the side we went. It seemed like forever until we hit the water. When we did, we must have gone under around 20 feet. It took a while to come back up. When we did, I grabbed her and we decided to try to swim around a big rock and head for shore. The more we tried, the harder it got. Fear set in. Hopelessness started to creep up. Our exhaustion was beginning to overpower us. The waves and current were stronger than we could manage and the group had already moved on.

We made our way to a rock. The edges cut our hands as we tried to hold onto it. The waves hot us and pushed us into it time and time again. We stopped and prayed for peace, wisdom and safety. She said, “We have to get on this rock.” I made my way up it and pulled her up too. We then started to make our way back to the rocks that would lead us to the group. We got the attention of one of them and he stayed back to help us navigate through the boulders. She said, “Jumping was the easy part.” If you’ve ever stood on a 30 foot cliff and thought about jumping, you know the first time isn’t easy.

We arrived home, changed clothes and went to dinner. The team was beginning to ask if we could just have our nightly devotion at the restaurant. We toyed with it, but decided it was best to keep the routine. We arrived home and headed for the balcony. As we began to sing the first song, I recognized there was something different about this service. During the second song, one of the missionaries spoke what God told him. We began to push into God’s presence despite our exhaustion. We sang louder than before. Our hearts opened wider to receive from God. People stood in the street and watched as we worshiped corporately.

Mike Reizner spoke up and shared how in Acts 4 it talks about the disciples praying and being filled with the Holy Spirit. They had already been filled in Acts 2. Why did it mention that they were filled again? It was because when you give out what is in you, you need to be filled again and again. We had given everything in us and all needed to be filled up again. We were on empty. One by one people walked into the middle and we prayed over them. The presence of God was thick and refreshing. We could have stayed on that balcony all night singing and praying.

As I spoke to them, I remembered what Isaiah 40:31. It reads, “He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind (MSG).” I recited it to them and reminded them how tired we all were. No one wanted to go to bed at that point. Everyone was energized by God’s presence. We refreshed and renewed. We’ll need it because we are only half way done.

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