Friday, October 30, 2015

you deserve to die...

This post will have NO photos. 

There are very few reasons a spider should deserve to live. I can only think of a couple:

  1. You are very skinny and small and you make webs in the corner of my room to catch mosquitos
  2. Actually, I can't think of anything else. I guess there is just one thing...
My encounter with spiders here has been therapeutic if that's even possible, by helping me somewhat try to overcome my fear. Legitimate, irrational fear. They get to be the size of dinner plates. Thank you Jesus that I have not actually seen one of those... However the ones I have encountered are big enough. 3-3.5" diameter is large enough for me. Thus there are many, many reasons that spiders here deserve to die.
  1. You can't make a web.
  2. You are too heavy to stay on a web even if you could weave one
  3. You have more hair than me
  4. Your hair can be braided. 
  5. You are anywhere remotely near anything that belongs to me. This includes, but is not limited to my room (especially my bed), my closet, my shoes, my bathroom and my food.
My very first week in Haiti, almost 2 years ago, I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye. I jumped and screamed only to see it was a cute little gecko. I went about my business. Sundays, church started at 6am. That meant that we left at 5:30am every Sunday thus I got up at 4:45am every Sunday. My first Sunday, I was in my closet getting clothes and I saw something large move out of the corner of my eye again. I assumed it was a gecko. I turned and naturally since I'm NOT scared this time,  it turned out to be a 3" diameter spider right by my face. I screamed and jumped and tried to run out of my closet to get help. The nasty thing crawled into my light fixture. Luckily Michelet was around to come get it. He laughed at me.

This has been the situation time and time again... They stalk me. They know I'm scared and they try to find me. But by the grace of God I have not EVER seen one on my bed or near my bed. I've prayed protection over my bed. I told God if He wanted me in Haiti, I would go, but He has to keep the spiders away from me! Apparently, my first month in Cap there were tarantulas everywhere. I never saw one. NOT ONE!! Thank you God!! I was told later that they were on the door to my house all the time, the walls, the ground... 

Youvenx told me later he thought I did a good job with them considering how scared I am. NEVER SAW ONE!!! That's grace covering me. I truly believe that! I have enough trouble with my nightmares that they are dropping down on to me... tons of them. It's horrible. I actually get a physical reaction. I start shaking, I start to go fetal, I involuntarily start to cry. It's embarrassing. I try to hide this from the kids because they are boys and will inevitably throw them on me as a joke.

Just for entertainment sake. I will tell you one last story. I was visiting an agro project outside Cap Haitien in 2013. I had become too comfortable in my environment. I walked through the cages for the chickens while listening to my site host talk about the project, the benefits of raising and selling chickens, selling eggs, etc... 

As we finished our tour of the farm, I told my gracious host that we should take a picture. We did. Then I said we should take one holding a tray of fresh eggs. He went and got a tray with about 25 eggs on it and came back to where I was standing in front of the large egg laying cage. My friend Linsey was ready with the camera for the egg picture. He handed me the eggs and out of the corner of my eye I see movement. I look down and see a LARGE nasty brown spider with racing stripes running towards my hand/arm. Naturally I let out a scream that has been played time and time again in horror movies. The kind that starts off deep in your gut and gets louder in volume and pitch as it continues to shrill from your gut.

I did not want to drop the tray of eggs since this is the livelihood of these hard working ladies, but the spider was now running up my arm. I tried my best to remain calm while handing Benito the egg tray without dropping them, but needed to go into the shaking part of fear to get the spider off of me. as I started jerking and shaking, the spider fell off me with a THUD on the ground before it ran away (yes, it was that big)... The best part about this story...

All the Haitian women who ran to where we were to witness this were saying out loud "why is she scared of eggs?! Ha! ridiculous... who's scared of eggs? 

I lied... here's a picture after I calmed down and Benito (with the little old woman) were making fun of me. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Plunge!!

Plunge: verb
1.     jump or dive quickly and energetically.
2.     Push or thrust quickly.

For the month of August we held separate classes every Monday and Friday evening to learn and dialogue about baptism with the kids. 

The kids at the end of a baptism class

Now, step back a minute. Most of the schools in Haiti operate by squishing a ton of kids into a classroom and having them memorize lessons. This is how “Sunday schools” also operate for teaching kids the bible. I much rather prefer the Socratic method. I want these kids to think for themselves. I want them to know why they believe in something; not just memorize it and put a label on their identity. So we switched up the lessons many months back. The kids and our Haitian pastoral staff have been adjusting nicely to this way of learning.  We read scripture, and ask the kids… “what does this mean to you?” or “what do you think this is saying?”… they are more than happy to participate. We give the kids context, examples and we do little skits.

Left-Right: Rémy-Manager of Christian Studies, Me, Pastor Isaac, 
Fredlyn, Smitty and Linsey

Here comes a great example of God working out the details and me being a brat… 

Our kids are great when we have visitors. GREAT! We get so many compliments on how well behaved they are, even from Haitians. This is true. But what always happens in a family once the visitors leave? The kids act up for the parents!! Right?! So naturally we start these baptism focused classes. The kids are:
Everyone is talking, laughing, being sarcastic, making jokes, throwing things at each other. The new shelter kids are trying to stab each other with shiv's made from sticks... 

Ugh!  During the 3rd class, Pastor Isaac asked one kid his name (Isaac works with the raw street kids and doesn’t know all the program kids by name) to ask him to stop talking and being disrespectful. So, of course little Franky said his name was “Gethro” so Gethro would get in trouble later. Luckily I heard that. 

Multiple times that night I had to ask the kids to be respectful, so did Isaac and Fredlyn. Finally, at the end of class when I am telling the kids that we are about to close in prayer and explaining what we are about to pray for and why… they are laughing and talking… so I lose my patience. Not my finest moment. I raise my voice (loud!) and tell them to be quiet. I tell them I can’t believe how disrespectful they are being and that "I don’t even know who you are right now!". 

Baptism class...taken the night of my self proclaimed "blow up". 

I may or may not have thrown in how Linsey was in the US working 14 hour days to raise school money while they chose to ignore their chores and disrespect every staff and me all day. They act entitled and think they are more important than everyone working to make their lives better.  

42 blank stares… make that 46. Even the staff had drop-jaw. Then naturally leave it to Johnky to pop off with sarcasm and then John Peter to say something obnoxious and blatantly rude. I then said “everyone who is 5 years old, stand up” Judelin, of course, stands up confused. So I proceed to go off on the older boys by congratulating the 5 year old for his exemplary behavior! I said “he’s 5 and he is behaving better than most of you 14-19 year olds., learn some respect from the 5 year old!” Of course Judelin had a huge smile on his little face and got a roaring round of applause… but I was already over it. 

Praying after classes

Pastor Isaac prayed, I told them I love them but I don’t accept this behavior and I left. I left upset with how disrespectful they had been, but more upset with myself and how I handled the situation… I scrutinized everything I said, everything I did. I vacillated all night with frustration with them and then myself and whether I have had any impact at all.

Ok. Moving forward 3 weeks. The classes got better and I went in with more patience and just ignored the bad behavior.  And then…whaaa?! We just baptized 24 kids!!!!! Amaze?! Cynicism and doubt had gotten to me and I hate to admit, I had many moments of:

“What the heck am I doing?!"
"They don’t care!!" 
"We probably won’t even have 2 kids want this" 
"What's the point"

Wedky coming up. This kid has come a LONG way! 

I realize now, all along there were the kids that really wanted to come and learn and listen; these kids behaved. Then there were the “trouble makers”. I was so worried that they were too distracting for the ones “that cared” that I didn’t realize, in their insecurities, the “trouble makers” were there to listen and learn too… they just didn’t think they were good enough for Jesus... so they acted out. 

Of all people to understand that mind set. To have had that same mind set. To have felt that way and to have over come those thoughts. Me. And I missed it...

I finally saw it the day we went to the beach. A handful of the kids were nervous. After a week of serious excitement for baptism… some of the boys changed their minds. They were “too bad for Jesus to forgive them” and they were also “too bad to change and God would eventually get mad and turn His back when they sinned again”… this broke my heart. 

I know that feeling of not being good enough. I know the condemnation of “making the same mistakes”… feeling like I am not and will never “be good enough”. And the feeling of God will hate me if I can't "do better".

Samson was one that "wasn't good enough"... I met him my very 
first trip. He too has come a long way! 

Linsey and I divided and conquered the fear, the legalism and the lies. From these conversations a few more kids ended up praying to accept and follow Jesus, and get baptized. 

I told them the thought "you aren't good enough" is not God and the faint whisper "You are worth it" is God. This may have been one of the most surreal and coolest days of my life.

As for the definition at the beginning…. Haitians don’t mess around. When they tell the kids that for baptism they will "plunge" into the water. They mean it! A few of the little guys scared me… They hit so hard I wasn’t sure they’d make it back up conscience! Ha! 

Selfishly I really wanted to baptize EVERY kid, but I shared and let Isaac, Fredlyn and Smitty do most of them. I stepped in for a few very sentimental baptisms. 

Kenel came to me a few months ago and asked me to pray for him. 
He was cursed by a Boko (Voodoo priest) and would go through long spells 
of not talking and essentially "zombie-ing" out. So much so, he failed this 
past year in school. He wanted to pray to break the curse. After he came 
back up... I reminded him "you are a new creation now, there is no room 
for the curse". He smiled and said he could feel it. 

So surprise… I made baptism certificates for all the kids (and Linsey). They will get a black and white copy to hang in their rooms and the color, original signature certificates will go in the office in their file with their birth certificate. They also each got to pick out a photo of their baptism to remember this truly amazing day.

NOW... notice the difference in our techniques?

 no splash

PLUNGE: huge splash!! haha

Saturday, September 19, 2015

telling the kids...

 waiting for everyone to come out side... they were watching "Last of the Mohicans"
Talking with the kids and night staff

I did not want to spring the news of me leaving on the kids the week before I was leaving. I wanted to have plenty of time for them to process and for me to process with them. So, one night after dark, I drove out to the house and surprised the kids. They sat respectfully (after one blow up they didn’t want another!) and listened. I asked questions about what they remember when I came, how long we said I would stay and so forth. We talked about why I was in Haiti and how all of that came to pass… then I told them I was leaving. I let them know it was not because I didn’t love them or that they made me mad or that they weren’t important. We talked through all the details and I let them ask questions. Rather than be sad (I choked back a few tears) I chose to focus on how far they’ve all come. I called out a few boys to give examples of how small or rough they were when I came and how tall or kind they are now. Even the guys that haven’t been around for a very long time. They are already changing and this is so evident of God working in their lives. It's so beautiful that they are allowing this great love to transform them. 

Some of the questions were:
"Is it easy for you to leave?"
"Will you come back?"
"Do you think you will remember us?" 
"Can I come with you?" 

Some answers were: Of course it's not easy to leave. Knowing that this conversation was coming, we have been talking about hearing from God and being obedient to what we don't understand... and naturally using bible stories to show the kids how what seems to be odd to us, or confusing to us makes perfect sense once you see the full picture. We talked about Paul (not that I compare myself to Paul!) and when he left cities where he worked (Specifically Ephesus) he and the people he worked with, who became his dear friends and family, bawled their eyes out from sadness; but they were still obedient. I told them I don't know what the future holds, but God has got this and I trust Him. What I thought would be a 15 minute conversation was just over an hour, but it was very fruitful and I am quite certain the kids felt incredibly respected by how I was open to giving them details and answering their question. 

I hold these kids in my heart. They are each very special to me; I started praying for them almost a year before my first trip to meet them. I cannot and will not ever forget them. 

The boys (specifically Samson and Wedky) said I could not leave with out praying for me. This of course brought so much joy to my heart!! We formed a very large amoeba-ish circle of kids and staff and I was shocked at how many of the kids wanted to take their turn to pray for me!

Thank God the kids have been very upfront with me about their thoughts. I really thought some of the kids would pull away from me emotionally. They have not. Quite the opposite. Some of the kids that had pulled away from me before the news have actually been spending more time with me. Now when we have staff or visitors come and they hear I am leaving, I have the kids tell them why to make sure they fully understood why and the details behind it. It's very cool to listen to Johnky give the details of my life.

I also broke the news to the kids at street church not long after this... these kids, surprisingly have also said they will miss me and have become more affectionate; that was the biggest surprise. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

One year. Congo... come again?!

Is it really a year?! It actually feels like years have past, that is how much has happened! It’s one thing to know life would be different and I would face challenges, but nothing could ever quite have prepared me to walk through them. But for every challenge there has been great reward. And for every story, there is a new chapter!

Whoever invented Apple's Photo Booth is my hero. Hours of entertainment!!! 
Me and Johnky acting like fools and laughing for what felt like hours. 

What I’ve Been Doing
My roles and “title” have morphed over the last year. But my objective is the same: Love big. Take time out of the administrative tasks to respond to my name for the 78th time in 2 minutes with a smile, to shoot a basketball, and to give a hug. Sit with the 20 year old and practice writing his name. Surprise the kids at school so they know I love them enough to check in on them. I will never forget Wedky (one of our rougher kids) at this past annual Karnaval. I gave him about $10 to go pick up something and bring me change. Another “regular” kid told me I shouldn’t trust him with money because “he’s a street kid.” Before I could say anything, Wedky turned around with a smile (not a razor blade!) and said “she’s my mom, she has complete confidence in me.”
me and Wedky... I've known this kid for more than 2 years. He's come a LONG way!! 

And I do. I have confidence in these kids because they are working so hard to change their lives, and I’ve seen the change. They are studying after school. They are practicing soccer and basketball to learn to be a team. They do their chores. But for me, more importantly, they are grasping the concept of Gods grace and mercy. God is love. He is encouragement not judgment. He offers forgiveness not shame. The change in these kids’ attitudes and behavior is astounding to me when I think back to what they were like during my first trip summer of 2013… whoosh!! These are different kids all together. My heart is full.

Challenges and Rewards
I’ve had some real heartache this year. For example, some kids made the heartbreaking choice to leave our program and go live back on the streets. A young girl who lived in the slums, Emmanua, really won my heart. But she died unexpectedly this year, without the ability for her family to get her medical help or even properly bury her body. And most recently, voodoo practitioners trying to affect the outcome of local elections murdered street kids (not in our program). One of the kids was murdered near my house, and I was one of the first responders on scene. Not only am I dealing with the aftermath of that personally, but I’ve also helped other kids talk through this. Even now, every day I pass this part of town, I look down hoping that it never actually happened. But the blood stains are still there. It’s hard to keep tender-hearted and full of love and joy in the middle of all this.

Markny made the decision to return to the streets while I was home in June. 
As I sit in a hotel writing this blog he is outside on the streets calling my name. 
I go outside, give him a hug and a kiss. Tell him he's better than life on the streets and God has a plan. 
He says he knows, but just can't go back... 

One of the ways I’m staying strong is by remembering the rewards! I have seen many more street kids come into our program this year. Because of our love, academic focus, and Christian development activities, I have seen beautiful growth in the kids! I have had the privilege of leading several youth and staff to Christ and help them begin their faith journeys. And I got to see the kids’ lives changed when we moved them into a much bigger, cleaner group home. I’ve led Bible studies, baptized kids, helped kids learn to read, and scooped boys up off the street to forever transform their lives. That’s amazing! I am humbled to have been a part of these transformations.

What’s Next: “No Way!”
Much to my surprise, a couple months ago I felt the Lord was leading me to go serve the women and children who are victims of rape and violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. This will be a far more challenging mission assignment than my current one, so I sought counsel from advisors and input from my pastors. They agreed that this was how the Lord was directing me. While this will be hard, I’m committed to going wherever Jesus leads me.

Pastors: Vanessa, me, Ester and Camille Ntoto (of Africa New Day) and Niki last October meeting over lunch

Thus, I’m currently wrapping up my season at Streethearts. I’m transitioning the Christian Studies program, saying goodbye to the boys, and finishing well. While my heart grieves the goodbyes, I’m really excited about this next adventure. I plan to spend the latter part of this year moving out of Haiti, receiving missionary training, joining my new mission partners, and engaging in some long overdue soul care. At the start of the next year, I plan to join a Christian organization called Africa New Day in Goma, Congo to help with their women's and children's programs. Even though the region is different, the objective is the same: Love big.

What You Can Do!
I’m embarking on a great Kingdom adventure, and I’d love for you to join me! To everyone who has supported me this past year, I say THANK YOU! You’ve provided me with the means to do the work I am called to do. Not only have you sustained me, but also you’ve enabled me to help feed and provide for several street kids.

Me and Ti-ton. He's pretty quiet, but when he opens up, he's funny and very smart

 Please consider partnering with me again to love and serve women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I will need your help and support to stay safe and to keep serving. Here are two ways to partner with me:

Financial Support- My current goal is to raise US $22,000 to cover all my expenses for one year.  This will cover my health insurance, travel and transportation, room/board, phone and Internet, clean water, food, and security (which is critical in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). 
For tax-deductible monthly or one time donations, you may send checks made payable to: Mount Vernon Foursquare Fellowship (“MVFF”) 5200 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite 200 Alexandria VA 22304; **please be sure to designate your donation by writing  “Missions- Congo” on the memo line of your check. You can also donate with credit card at (Please note, however, that if you choose this option, 4% of your donation will be deducted.)
Prayer Support & Encouragement- Please pray for my spiritual and physical health and safety. Please pray for the armor of God to guard my body and spirit, and that no weapon formed against me shall prosper. Please also pray against sickness.  If you could possibly send me encouraging messages or notes, it would mean a great deal to me. Even if I’m not able to immediately write you back!

Countryside in Haiti... Gorgeous. I will miss it here
Thank you so much for reading this blog and considering my support needs. Please continue to follow my blog here at Also, if you have any questions or if you want to know more about what I am doing or if you know of anyone else who would be interested in hearing about my mission work, please feel free to forward my information.


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