[Missions] see + hear + feel

see+hear+feel

It’s hard to grasp something that doesn’t seem tangible. Honestly, that’s a big reason many struggle accepting faith. Hebrew 11:1 tells us “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” There are going to be times we don’t see how things will work out, but we have hope and conviction through Jesus. Despite life’s circumstances, we know the end of the story. Because of Christ, we fight from victory, and through Christ we have the power to make the intangible, tangible. In Haiti last week, God repeatedly reminded me that He wants the gospel to be tangible to His children.

As I prepared my heart to serve with Mission of Hope: Haiti (MOH), I was ready to audibly share the Gospel. My first rendezvous with MOH was highlighted by time walking the village of Source Matelas praying and sharing the good news with passers-by. At that time, 19 Voodoo strongholds existed and many people struggled accepting Jesus. Sixteen months later, God’s fingerprints have spread throughout the village. Only two Voodoo strongholds remain and every person I came in contact with knew Jesus and attended church regularly. I was elated by the life transformation experienced in Source Matelas through the precious name of Jesus over such a short period of time.

My elation lasted a whole two days of service before discontentment flooded my tainted heart. As I helped entertain children during a Wednesday afternoon kids club, it was apparent that my role in Haiti contrasted greatly from my first trip and I was not happy about it. Instead of walking Source Matelas engaging in conversations about Jesus like I had planned, I played the role of human jungle gym. And that’s when it hit me. Earlier in the week, MOH staff encouraged the teams to spread Love through seeing, hearing, and feeling. A light bulb went off and I realized God didn’t need me to serve through speech. Instead, He needed me to make Jesus known through sight and touch.

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34

In Mark 6:34, the disciples return from their own mission trips. Jesus recognizes their need for rest, so the gang heads to the middle of nowhere for a much needed break. When they reach their destination, over 10,000 people greet them. Rather than entering a place of rest, they stumbled on a giant group of people with physical and spiritual needs. Jesus tends to both and leaves an example for us to do the same. This scripture tells us, and MOH staff reminded me last week, that it’s just as important to see and feel the gospel as it is to hear the gospel.

The crowd sees the gospel when Jesus and the disciples set aside their plans to tend to the crowd’s needs. They hear the gospel when Jesus begins teaching. They feel the gospel when the bread and fish touch their lips. In these moments the gospel becomes tangible.

At Vacation Bible School throughout the week, our team was given the opportunity to pray for the children who adopted our laps as a place of comfort and protection. We got to use our hands and feet to hold the timid and chase the bold. We got to whisper, “Jezi renmen ou” into tiny ears with hope and anticipation that Jesus’ love would be the foundation of their lives (and that they could actually understand our broken Creole). We tended to physical needs by serving warm meals. Our role was revealing the gospel through seeing and feeling. Our Haitian counterparts’ role was a combination of all three. With hindsight twenty-twenty, I wouldn’t have it any other way because the lips sharing the gospel will influence the children for the duration of their lives, not the duration of a mission trip.

I’ve learned that seeing, hearing, and feeling are equally important. It seems to me that we tend to hover over one of the three, but I’m convinced the trio works together to make the intangible, tangible. Yes, hearing the gospel is critical (Romans 10:17), but it falls on deaf ears if people don’t see the gospel through the way we live and feel it by the way we love. After all, God doesn’t just tell us He loves us, He shows his love for us.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

How will you make the gospel tangible today?

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[Missions] A mere 5 days

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It’s been 16 months since the last time I watched the sun rise over the Haitian mountain-scape. And in five days, my soul’s yearning to return will be satisfied. Honestly, my desire to serve in Haiti again is a little bizarre. Fear held a tight grip on my heart for over half of my last stay, but God obliterated fear’s grasp. A few weeks ago, I told a friend I was hoping the Lord would allow our team to return to Source Matelas, the village we served in 2013. Within three hours, I received word we’d be in Source Matelas. God is in the business of redemption. I cannot wait to see how the Gospel has continued to redeem Source Matelas, a voodoo stronghold, and my once fear-filled heart.

Today I come to you with an anxious heart (is it August 2 yet?!) and a request for prayers. Prayers for faith to conquer fear. Prayers for open doors and hearts. Prayers for life transformation for every man, woman, and child in Haiti – including the lives of the four ladies pictured below.

A mere five days. Ekkk!

 

 

[Missions] Haitianniversary

1920223_10152265509670049_147863128_nA year ago today I met this little man. We talked and prayed, but mostly we played. A $1 frisbee linked two hearts from completely different worlds. Only God could use simple things, like a piece of plastic, to change lives. He used a young Haitian boy to show me love isn’t confined by language. He used eight days in Haiti to teach me fearless faith. He used brokenness to reveal His beauty and power to redeem what seems unredeemable.

We serve a God that claims possible the impossible, and proves it daily. Don’t nullify the cross.

Awestruck

I’m repeatedly blown away by how The Lord can use a sinner like me to exalt Himself. Yesterday, I had an interview and I prayed God would use the interview to glorify Himself. I knew I would have one hour with the interview committee, and in that time I wanted the light of Christ to shine, even at the expense of getting the job. Part of the interview included giving a 10 minute presentation about what I wanted to tackle the first 90 days on the job. If hired, my purpose would be to market sustainability. Earlier this week, I decided to begin my presentation with an image from Haiti and sharing how that experience reformed my view of sustainability.

IMG_8090God designed Haiti to be a rainforest, but due to deforestation it’s become a wasteland of dead grass, treeless plains and rocky soil. I attribute this sad reality to sin. God gave us dominion over the earth, but when sin entered the world, perfect peace was disrupted and we’ve since failed to steward what’s been given to us well. The eight days I spent in this incredibly broken, yet beautiful country opened my eyes to the importance of sustainable living. That’s one of things I love most about Mission of Hope Haiti. Their vision isn’t short term. They use Christ’s method of discipleship to equip Haitians in Christian leadership and sustainable practices that will impact Haiti for decades. During my presentation, I shared my experiences in Haiti with the committee and they were enamored with my willingness to serve. Question after question was asked about why I went, what I did and how I would promote sustainability internationally. For those of you who know me, I light up when given the opportunity to talk about Haiti. In a mere eight days of my 22 years of existence God changed my heart in so many ways. There’s not a morning I don’t think about the sun rising over the Haitian mountains at the dawn of a new day full of new mercies. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the 30 minutes I spent playing frisbee with a 6-year-old boy whose stolen my heart. I can only praise God for giving me the courage and peace to clearly share the heart He’s transformed from the inside out.

There’s a chance I may have spent hours preparing for this interview and won’t get hired. Honestly, the outcome doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that for the one hour I was given, the Lord graciously answered my prayers and exalted Himself. I’m awestruck by His goodness.

 

Battlefield

I’ve struggled writing this post because I cannot fathom how my words can possibly grasp and convey the glory and power of God. After wrestling with what to say to portray the way He revealed Himself in the small Haitian village of Source Matelas I came to this conclusion – they can’t. All I can do is channel the raw emotions I experienced and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

I’ve seen God do miraculous things. I’ve seen Him change hard hearts. I’ve seen Him heal. I’ve seen Him provide in perfect timing. And I’ve seen Him send down His Spirit in a way that makes it impossible to doubt His power, grace, and goodness. That’s the story I want to share.

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March 12, 2013:

The morning was physically, spiritually and emotionally exhausting. I have never seen more pain or a greater need for a miracle. It was our first village outreach day in Haiti and I expected to walk the streets, play with children, pray with people, share the Good News of Jesus. We did all of those things, but what I didn’t expect was the roller coaster of emotions and exhaustion I felt at the end of the day.

The first lady we talked to was a street vendor. After asking enough questions to know her name and make her feel comfortable around us we began asking her about her faith, her family and her struggles. Her eyes revealed the deep hurt she felt. She was barren after 20 years of marriage. Her husband left her to work in Miami. She was alone and desperately desired a child. Lindsey (one of our incredible adult leaders) related to her pain and so did I. Last year Lindsey and her husband, Joseph, wanted to start their family, but after miscarriages and a current pregnancy Lindsey worried about her son who was still in the womb until God spoke into her heart and gave her peace that John David was going to make it. Today their “little bean” is learning to crawl and hamming it up every time me and the other girls come over for a visit. John David is proof that God is bigger than barrenness. In that moment, as Lindsey shared her story, I lost it. I wept uncontrollably as I thought about how much Lindsey’s story related to my own parent’s. I am a result of God being bigger than barrenness. I thought about Hannah, who was barren and cried out to God for a child. God answered her cries and blessed her with Samuel. She dedicated Samuel to God and he became a prophet and judge of Israel (1 Samuel 1). Samuel was used for God’s glory, John David is being used for God’s glory, I am being used for God’s glory. The magnitude of those Truths hit my heart hard and the day had just begun.

Our group of 18 split into smaller groups of six and we continued our walk through the village. My group had trekked about 50 feet from the vendor before being summoned to a woman’s home. We were welcomed into her concrete home without hesitation. A puppy greeted us on the front porch as we walked through the front door. The only light in the home shone through the windows. The first room was the family’s dining and living room. We thought that was going to be where our journey ended, but then the woman motioned to a bedroom off to the right of the living space. I was one of the first to enter the room and stopped abruptly at the sight of a small, disfigured body lying in bed. Maxon-louie was 11 years old and had never spoken. The only noise he made was a quiet grinding of his teeth. His head was swollen to the size of a volleyball and His arms and legs were two to three inches in diameter.

Tears. I was speechless and felt completely helpless. When we asked his mother whether she had accepted Jesus as her Savior, she said she wanted to but needed to clean up her life before she could believe in Jesus. We followed up by asking why she asked us to pray for her family if she didn’t believe. She responded with a shrug of the shoulders. She didn’t know why she asked, but it was evident that she saw a Power in us that could heal her son. We laid our hands on Maxon-louie and prayed. We wept. And when we didn’t have the words to say, we sang.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

I wish I could tell you that Maxon-louie spoke for the first time and got out of bed to walk. He didn’t. Although we fully believed that God could heal him of his illness, it wasn’t His plan for that moment. He wanted us to love this little boy and his family for that brief period of time and leave them with part of our hearts and our prayers. My heart broke for this family and for this little boy who has never known the joy of playing soccer with his fellow villagers. I left more broken than I came, but was hopeful that this family would realize they don’t have to clean up their lives before accepting Jesus. He takes us as we are and makes us new.

By lunchtime my emotions were on a roller coaster ride. Joy, pain, happiness, awe, hurt. You name it, I felt it over the course of a couple hours. I didn’t think I could take anymore. After meeting the vendor and Maxon-louie we played with school kids and prayed with a woman who accepted Jesus that morning. It was a beautiful sight to see her drop to her knees in awe of the grace and love she received from Jesus. We walked back to our canter along a stream. In Haiti, there are goats and chickens roaming freely throughout the villages, but on this walk we noticed a pig. When we got back from our lunch break our group marched back through the village along stream. We saw the same pig, in the exact same spot, but this time we noticed a huge tree the pig was resting by. How we didn’t notice the tree the first time is an act of God. Haiti is 98% deforested and this tree was GINORMOUS! You don’t miss this tree unless God really wants you to miss it.

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Naturally the five year old in all of us came out and we started climbing the tree. After a few minutes of climbing and taking this picture we heard a voice start yelling at us in Creole.

Crap. The jig is up.

In the yard next to the tree was a woman. Short ombre micro-braids fading from black to gold fell from her scalp. Two necklaces hung from her neck, one depicting an image of Christ. The atmosphere changed the moment she walked over to us. The cold look in her eyes instantly warned us that something about this place was dark. She came out of her yard and started asking us what we are doing. Our translators explained that we were missionaries from the United States that were praying for people and talking to them about Jesus. The translators informed us that she was a Voodoo Priestess and that the tree we were just climbing was used for Voodoo worship. The following conversation ensued:

Us: Do you believe in Jesus?

Voodoo Priestess: No.

Us: Why not?

Voodoo Priestess: I can’t. 

Us: Why can’t you?

Voodoo Priestess: Because I’m afraid.

Us: Why are you afraid?

Voodoo Priestess: There are evil spirits in the tree. I’ve lost seven children and every time I’ve tried to go to church I’ve fallen down and can’t make it.

Translator: Is it alright if they share a story about Jesus with you?

Voodoo Priestess: Yes.

Translator: Does anyone have a story about Jesus they would like to share?

Alicia, one of our group members, started sharing this story from Mark 9:14-29.

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”

And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”

And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”

And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Most of our group had started praying while Alicia was telling the story. It was evident that this woman had a battle between good and evil raging inside her. My eyes were closed until Alicia finished telling the story and when I looked up the Voodoo Priestess was gone. Our translator remarked that she had been moved. She gave Alicia an out-of-this-world look and stormed off after hearing God’s Word. We prayed over the tree and her home, began singing “Whom Shall I Fear” by Chris Tomlin and continued our journey through the village. The encounter frightened me, but by the time we made it back to the Mission of Hope campus, an afternoon of playing soccer in a skirt and racing with a small child on my back had successfully distracted me from my fears.

During our debrief that evening we talked about our experiences with the Voodoo Priestess. After the meeting, I was unsettled and sent a message to a few family members and friends in the States asking for prayer for the Voodoo Priestess. I had never witnessed such extreme spiritual warfare. I was afraid and wanted to stay as far away from Source Matelas and the Voodoo Priestess as possible. One emotion began to paralyze me.

Fear.

(to be continued…)