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…)

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Majesty in the Tragedy

“Welcome to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened until the pilot turns off the seatbelt sign.”

Touchdown. It was time for the journey to begin. Five months of planning had gone into preparing for this moment and it was time to serve, or so I thought.

After eight days of cold showers, brushing my teeth outside next to turkeys and chickens, going to war with mosquitos every night, and letting “yellow mellow,” I had fallen in love with Haiti. I had come to serve, but God wanted me to fall in love with the barren mountainsides, ivory smiles, and breathtaking sunsets. When people talk about Haiti, they talk about the earthquake that took 300,000 lives. When I talk about Haiti, a twinkle shines from my eyes at the sovereignty of a loving God who makes all things work for GOOD and is making all things NEW. Yes, Haiti is broken, but it is BEAUTIFUL. We talk about the tragedy, but I see God’s majesty. After all, aren’t we all broken, yet beautiful in the eyes of our Father? Weren’t we all destined for a tragic ending until Jesus stepped in and changed the game forever by taking our place on the cross?

Hop on the canter and enter into Haiti, where people live in color and fully rely on God for EVERYTHING. Enjoy and God Bless!

 

(To be continued…)

The Least

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Matthew 25:34-40

Protection, Provision and Port-au-Prince, Haiti

We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. -Hebrews 6:19

I’m just a product of grace spreading hope to the hopeless. In everything I do, I want to shine a glimmer of hope into people’s lives in their darkest hours. As a Christ follower, I want to help people realize better days are coming and have been promised by our Sovereign God. When we feel like the flood of life threatens to drown us, God is still sitting on His thrown making all things work together for our ultimate good. In the storms of life, He is the anchor of our soul keeping us afloat.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. -2 Corinthian 5:17

Over the course of my college career, God has transformed my heart and He continues to mold me into who He wants me to be daily. In the past four years I have served wholeheartedly for Fellowship of Christian Athletes at St. Edward’s University and throughout Texas at summer camps and retreats, and in Memphis, Tennessee over spring break. Every opportunity to serve has impacted my life and closer aligned my heart to God’s ultimate plan to make His name known across the globe. I’ve felt unworthy, uncomfortable, and fearful many times, but God has revealed to me that all of those insecurities are lies and has used these experiences to show me that my love story defined by His passionate pursuit of my heart has the power to impact lives for His kingdom.

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps. -Proverbs 16:9

Recently God has laid it on my heart to once again use my spring break to make much of Him and less of me. In the last month, I’ve been praying for discernment for where He wants me to go. All of the options were appealing (Memphis, South Padre Island, Haiti) and would require me to take a leap of faith outside of my comfort zone to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Internally and externally I’ve toyed with safety issues and the uncertainty of raising support for whichever trip I chose. After all, I’m graduating from college in a month, have no definitive plans, a dwindling savings account, and currently no place to live. So much of my life is up in the air, but oddly enough I’m worry free. Maybe, just maybe, this control freak is beginning to grasp what it truly means to let go, and let God determine my steps. Woah.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” -Isaiah 6:8

After much prayer, two weeks ago I made my decision. I’ve never felt more convicted or excited to share that I will be spending a week in Haiti with Mission of Hope. Serving in Memphis revealed to me what it’s like to have little in the United States and how God can make beautiful things out of dust. In Haiti, I look forward to seeing beauty amidst destruction, seeing joy in smiles of the children at the orphanage, and witnessing to the hope found in the Haitian communities.

As soon as I committed to the trip I had butterflies in the pit of my stomach in anxious anticipation for how God is going to reveal Himself to the Haitians I will be serving and to me. All the fears of safety and finances that consumed my thoughts have dissolved and as I begin writing support letters through tears of joy I’ve never felt more trusting of my loving Father. God has had His hand on me from the beginning of time and looking back it seems ludicrous that I ever feared for my safety or questioned His ability to provide for something that is apart of His will for my life. No, I have not raised enough support for the trip, but I have five months to watch God work and have complete faith in His provision. In the process, through conversations, support letters, and blogging, I get to share why I’m going to Haiti as another way to attest to God’s glory. How cool is that?!

Bondye Bon (God is good),

Meredith

P.S. If you are interested in supporting my trip, prayer is greatly appreciated. If you feel called to support financially, you can donate online at the link listed below. Be sure to include HAITI & MEREDITH BARD in the description line.

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. -Matthew 28:19-20

 

Mission to Memphis: Day 6

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” -James 1:2-4

As I’m writing this, it’s 1:38am and our crew just finished playing sardines and signs throughout the church. My alarm is set for 5am to pack and head back to Tejas…it’s going to be a struggle to wake up, but that’s beside the point!

Another phenomenal day has come to a close in Memphis. Today we served at a church organizing rooms, libraries, wiping down walls, picking up “spiky balls” in the front yard and conversing with people who stopped by for the free lunches provided by our partners in crime from Iowa.

The highlight of the day was a conversation I was blessed to have with a mother and daughter. As we began to talk, the pair opened up about their lives and how they got where they are. My heart broke as the mother recalled being beaten by her boyfriend causing her to become disabled and miscarry her child. It took just about everything I had to hold back tears and continue listening. I couldn’t get past the pain this beautiful woman of God had endured.

When the pair left briefly, Jenny turned to me and pointed out how joyful the mother is despite many trials. That struck a cord as I recalled her finishing the tragic story and immediately following it by singing one of her favorite Beyonce songs. While I was consumed in her misfortunes, she had already moved on to discuss how much she loved music. What a beautiful display of JOY!

To top the conversation off, the daughter revealed her plans to attend college to study science and also shares her mother’s love for music. Hope and joy abound from two lovely ladies.

I’ll forever owe the two women a huge “thank you” for giving me a whole new perspective on what it means to be joyful through trials!

Grace and Peace from Memphis,

Mer 🙂

Mission to Memphis: Day 5

Laughter – such a joyful noise.

For those of you who know me, I’ve been blessed with an interesting laugh to say the least. You never know which one your going to get or how long it will last. Sorry I’m not sorry for the obnoxious sounds God has blessed me with. 😉

Today’s journey in Memphis was filled with laughter and it was absolutely beautiful. Our crew of 15 continues to grow together and become more of a family with every passing moment. So many inside jokes have surfaced and brocabulary is contagious. It’s absolutely amazing to see how God can throw together a diverse group to glorify Him and grow His Kingdom. We may have our different quirks but we have the most important thing in common – Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. Above any relationship, we are each other’s brothers and sisters in Christ and that is the strongest bond possible.

This week has certainly been “a time to laugh.” (Ecc. 3:4)

Grace and Peace,

Mer 🙂

Mission to Memphis: Day 4

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” -1 Corinthians 15:55

I was served a slice of Humble Pie today as our group worked to clean Zion Christian Cemetery. And when I say clean, I really mean chopping down trees and brush with hand saws, axes, machetes, and loppers while digging up tombstones that were buried a foot underground. It was labor intensive work, but the Lord’s strength prevailed.

Here’s a little background information about our location: The cemetery is one of the first African American cemeteries in the country. The last person was buried there in the 1970s. Since then, those buried across the 17 acres have been disrespected tremendously. The cemetery has been used for drug deals and as a prostitution site. The project to restore the cemetery began in 2005 and over 100 groups have served on site.

My experience was capped off when I began clearing out some low brush with loppers. At first I thought I was going to chop down a few bushes and move onto the next grouping until I hit concrete. Underneath all the shrubbery was a tombstone. The Spirit took over as I was digging and I kept thinking “O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?” Despite all the evil that has taken place on that soil, it was being destroyed. Those who’s bodies laid to rest were being dignified again.

My beautiful sister, Claire, eloquently stated her view on the Cemetery as follows:

Looking at the cemetery for the first time, the task seemed daunting. Only five acres have been cleared since the project began (in 2005) and there are at least twelve left to go. It’s easy to become disheartened by the task facing us. It’s only when we started to uncover the gravestones, one by one, that we realized that the mission is not simply to clear land. Every time a headstone revealed the name of someone who was laid to rest ages ago, that person springs alive, into the minds of a generation that had no knowledge of how time is simultaneous to God. Those who lay in Zion Christian Cemetery are now brought back into the lives of the living, and their families will no longer see an empty space in history where their ancestors were lost. One uncovered headstone is a victory for God and all of His children, those living and dead. THAT is the point of our mission, and it will be fulfilled, no matter how long that may take.

Grace and Peace from Memphis,

Mer 🙂

P.S. We celebrated God’s victory with Sonic Happy Hour!

Mission to Memphis: Day 2

“The word of the Lord came to me: I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations. But I protested, “Oh no, Lord, God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am [only] a youth.” Then the Lord said to me: Do not say, “I am [only] a youth,” for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you. Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you. [This is] the Lord’s declaration. Then the Lord reached out His hand, touched my mouth, and told me: I have now filled your mouth with My words.” -Jeremiah 1:4-9

God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

This has been a reoccurring theme in my life the past year and today as we were introduced to Memphis.

This morning started with an awesome worship service led by Alex and a devotional led by John, two of the guys on the trip. It couldn’t have been more appropriate. The Spirit was moving as we made a joyful noise and talked about the ministry of Jeremiah. In 42 years he encountered pretty much everything you could imagine. Although no one responded to his ministry, it wasn’t an accident. Despite his youth and feelings of inadequacy Jeremiah happily served our awesome God.

Mark followed the devotion with his testimony – it was awesome! It’s so amazing to see how God writes each of our love stories and that each is absolutely perfect.

Our next stop was at Fellowship Downtown. The message was on Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-13. The message was absolutely incredible. What stood out the most was that Christ’s transfiguration must lead to our transformation. If you’ve accepted Christ and nothing about your life has changed, something’s wrong. Talk about powerful words that call for a gut check!

And of course there was a tie in to God calling the weak and unequipped. History is proof of that. God’s used murderers, youth, and prostitutes to show his strength in those who are weak. His majesty is manifested in our weakness. He uses our brokenness as a platform to show His glory.

Next our day included a talk on Jesus calling his disciples. During Christ’s time, becoming a Rabbi was the highest honor that all Jewish men ultimately desired. Those who didn’t make the “cut” for Rabbi school were sent home to learn their families craft. Here’s where it gets super awesome – when Christ called Peter and Andrew to follow him, they’d already been sent home. They didn’t make the cut, but Christ changed the game. He said they were worthy to spread the Gospel and that’s exactly what they did. Absolutely incredible.

Still having doubts about God’s ability to use you? Cast them aside, they’re lies from the enemy. God calls you where you’re at. All you have to do is say “YES”! Nothing God does is an accident. He’s ordained you to be exactly where you are to serve as His hands and feet.

Grace and Peace,

Mer 🙂

P.S.

After spending time at the Civil Rights Museum, playing a little Wah and Ninja outside the church, eating an amazing dinner homemade by our team, learning how to play signs and recounting how our lives have been impacted today, you’d think we’d call it a night – WRONGO! Worshipping again and loving it!