Monday, July 30, 2012

I Don't Feel Qualified

Whoever invented blogs is a pure genius in my opinion.  One blog I have been reading for a while is Chatting at the Sky, by a woman named Emily Freeman.  Recently, she posted about how she has been speaking and presenting at writing conferences nationally, and her own amazement that God has given her a gift that she can share.  But her observations are applicable to many other career fields and talents. Here is part of her post:

   "Anytime we begin to discover hints of our own design, the challenge is to know whether or not we should trust it.  How do I know this isn't just me? Am I making this stuff up? Is it selfish to pursue this? And then, there is this one that comes as a statement with a heavy question: I don't feel qualified.  But aren't we all Peter and John, unschooled and ordinary when it comes to the things that matter?  Things of influence and world change and heart?  These men in Acts 4 spoke with boldness, clarity, and conviction.  The leaders were stunned."

In the last few months, the questions Emily listed have run through my own head.  It started as, "God wants me to go to Haiti with my family and live there? For real?  Am I making this up?"  And then, when we gathered a prayer team and THEY prayed and came back to us with the same direction, I knew it wasn't just me.  When I prayed day in and day out that God would open the doors He wanted us to go through and then HE DID... Then, I knew I wasn't making any of it up.

Now I'm working through that last statement.  I don't feel qualified.

I AM going to be teaching English while I'm in Haiti, and I DO feel qualified in that area, because I have an English degree--two of them!  And, I spent 4 years as a teacher and then 10 years as a writer for a kind-of-big insurance company, so I even have some professional experience.... But, teaching English isn't the REAL reason I'm going to Haiti.  I'm pretty sure God wants me there for much more than that.

I've been so encouraged by Acts 4 as I've read through it.  If you are facing any kind of new endeavor, I encourage you to read it.  Peter and John didn't have a master's degree in evangelism.  They weren't the sons of kings or leaders. And yet, Acts 4:13 says: "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."

That's what I want.  I want the people I meet to see my courage, realize that I'm just an ordinary person, and take note that I've been with Jesus.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Letting Go

I've been counseling my kiddos about not holding on too tightly to their "stuff."  Their favorite toys, books, so on.  I've been preparing them to choose a small amount of stuff that will come with us, while the rest of it will be given away or put in storage.

But today, I had an opportunity to walk my talk.  I sold my minivan.  The same one that I purchased with chagrin five years ago because I had always vowed not to be a Minivan Momma.  The one that I have come to feel completely comfortable in.  Man, I loved that car!  Power side doors....plenty of room...6 CD changer that could play enough music to entertain three littles for a long drive....


I sadly watched it roll out of my driveway and away from me down the street...

Before I had too long to pout, this scripture popped into my head:

Matthew 6:33
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

See, instead of watching my minivan drive away, I should have been looking toward God.  I should have been offering Him praise and thanks for the quickly-growing list of thing He has provided (including a trustworthy person to buy that minivan).  Once I started mentally listing all that I'm thankful for, I immediately felt better.

God knows what we need.  He is in motion right now--bringing people and resources together in powerful ways to provide for you and for me.  He will provide a vehicle for us to take to Haiti.  It won't be a minivan--I'm sure of that.  It won't be the kind of vehicle I ever would have chosen for myself.  But, it's exactly what I'll need.

Anyway.  Back to packing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Too Easy

The last couple of days have almost had me laughing.  Definitely smiling and shaking my head.  As we work through more details and preparations for our move to Haiti, we are finding time and time again that God has gone before us to prepare the way.  And I reflect back on these things whenever I'm beginning to feel anxious and I tell myself, "If He's been planning this for some time and He has taken care of things so far, he will not just leave us on our own once we get there.  He will continue to be with us."
Here are a few stories...

Last Thursday, one of my things to do was to call about a storage unit.  We need a smaller unit because we've been able to loan out several pieces of furniture to friends or family, and of course, we need it to be relatively inexpensive.  The facility that was first on my list to call came by a referral.  I dialed the number and told the person who answered that we needed a small storage unit...The response was that none of the smaller units were available and wouldn't be available until October--too late.  Darn. My mind quickly filled with angst...What if ALL the area storage facilities were full??!  What if the only one available was WAAAAAY on the other side of town? Ugh!  I delayed my panic long enough to open up "white pages" on my phone and dialed the first listing that came up for self storage facilities.

The end result?  This facility a) is located closer to our home than the first one I called; b) has a small unit available; and c) is less expensive.

Sweet.  Check that off the list!

Last week I also emailed the principal of the school where our two older kiddos will attend in Haiti--the Cowman International School.  I asked her for directions about how to order their school books so that I could get that going and they would have their books when school started.

Her reply was that back in May, she had decided to order extras to have on hand just in case.  Any guesses about exactly HOW MANY extras she had ordered?



The next thing on the list:  sell the minivan.  We weren't sure how to do it...  Should we sell it outright on our own or try to use it as a trade-in?  Well, God answered our question before we could even decide.  On Saturday evening, we were at Mark's aunt's house, enjoying time with family.  Kids were laughing and splashing in the pool and I was sitting and talking about how our preparations are coming along...  And, I mentioned that on the list of important things we needed to accomplish was selling our car.  Within a few moments, Mark's cousin looked at me and said, "It's a Honda Odyssey, right?"  Why, yes, it is! Well, whaddya know...  She's in the market for a minivan for her growing family.  And, she'd love to buy ours, knowing that we've taken good care of it while we've owned it.  SOLD!  The only hitch was that now she needed to sell HER car.

Yesterday, more family came in to celebrate a birthday and spend time together, but we were ready to head home.  As we pulled in our driveway around 5 pm, Mark received a text message on his phone.  It seems that Uncle Jack wants to buy her car.  Seriously?  And, that's when I was smiling and shaking my head.


I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. Isaiah 45:2

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Rest of the Story

I knew I needed to learn more about how missionaries work in the world.  I enrolled in a class called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. The class started in January of 2010.  One evening a week, I went to a 3-hour class featuring guest lecturers who were missionaries in countries around the world.  I heard amazing stories!  Throughout the weeks, we read texts discussing the history of missionaries--starting with the first ones described in the Book of Acts.   We studied what scripture says about the Great Commission--starting in Genesis.  Our entire class prayed together for unreached people groups--something I had never heard of.  I came home from class those evenings and Mark would ask me, "How was class?" "Who was your speaker?" "What did she/he talk about?" I couldn't even answer his questions until the next day because I was completely SPENT when I got home--both mentally and emotionally.

There were people in my class who were preparing to go out as missionaries to different countries, including Australia and Afghanistan.  I knew as I completed that class that God wanted me in the field, spreading the Good News and making disciples.  But, Mark wasn't on the same page, which was maddening.  Fortunately, I had a wonderful mentor, Ralph Maurer, who told me something one day that gave me peace and patience.  He said that I would know that God's call on my heart for missions was real IF and WHEN Mark felt the same call on his heart.  God had brought Mark and I together and He wouldn't call one of us without calling the other.  Since I knew that what I was hearing from God was real, I knew that it was only a matter of time until He would reveal His plans to Mark as well.

During the months that followed, we met with other missionary families and heard their stories.  We asked questions.  We read books that were recommended by pastors and mentors.  Mark led a Hoops for Haiti team back to Pillatre in May of 2011 and we participated in a missions-focused small group at Eastview Christian Church called Twelve 3.  In late 2011, I began planning a mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti.  I felt strongly that God wanted the orphan trip to be sponsored by Calvary United Methodist Church--the church I was raised in.  I let Him lead me through every step of planning and He raised up all 7 women who would be part of my team.  We served for a week at God's Littlest Angels Orphanage near Port-au-Prince in March of 2012.

This Spring, Mark took the Perspectives class!  He was able to experience all that I hadn't been able to express.  I could only smile and nod as he came home from class full of stories and amazement about how God is at work around the world.  I knew it was coming--the words I had been waiting to hear...

And then, one night, he said it.  "Sarah, I think we have been called into the mission field."  "Um.  DUH!!!" I replied.

Just kidding.  I actually said, "I think you're right!"

We didn't know how God wanted us to go or exactly when.  We didn't know where He would send us. But, we knew we were ready and we knew God would reveal His plan for us when it was the right time.

Then, one night in May--just a few short months ago...  Mark was emailing back and forth with Matt Ayars, a missionary in Haiti whom he had met.  He asked Matt what sending agency he worked with in Haiti so that we could investigate and perhaps put in an application.  Matt answered that it was One Mission Society... but he also wanted to know why we were asking. When Mark told him that we were feeling led into the mission field in some manner, Matt asked about our backgrounds--what skills and talents had God prepared in us?  Mark filled him in...  Finance, economics, and basketball for him.  English, technical writing, photography and soccer for me.  Matt's response was, "You may not believe this, but I've been praying for an economics/business teacher and an English teacher."

By the end of that week, we had assembled a team of 10 couples to pray for 10 days to see what God was telling them about this opportunity for our family.

So, that was in May and now it's July.  In about four weeks, Mark and the kids and I are packing up and moving to Haiti.  Mark will continue to run his business, Aubry Group, from Haiti, and we continue to be amazed at the positive and encouraging responses he has received from his clients.  He will lead the Hoops for Haiti organization.  They have a team scheduled to be in Haiti in October of this year to build another basketball court and run a camp.  He will also teach finance and economics seminars at the Emmaus Biblical Seminary, where Haitian adults are prepared to go out as pastors of Christian churches in Northern Haiti.  I will try to figure out how to live and get around in Haiti.  I will learn Creole and help our daughters transition to a new way of life.  I will likely also teach high school English at the Cowman International School, where our daughters will attend. I am excited to continue my photography endeavors in Haiti, too.

The picture of the work God has for us in Haiti is fuzzy right now, but every day He is making it clearer.  We ride waves of emotions each day--from anxious to excited, from scared to sad... But, we keep our minds focused on the knowledge that God is leading us through it all and we just have to keep walking in faith through the doors He is opening.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Take A Deep Breath

Have you ever seen a child who is frustrated with something?  Let's say she is trying to build a fort out of blankets and can't get it just right....  Or, he's trying hard to make his bed but the covers aren't cooperating...  Or, she's putting on her own sock and the stretchy part for the heel keeps ending up on top... She's on the verge of completely losing it....  Holding back tears.... Flushed in the face.... Anguish in his eyes...

What do you do?

I can't say I do this every time (because sometimes I just can't get there), but what I try to do is...

Sit down beside her and put my arm around her.  I say, "Sweetheart, look at my eyes."  Once I have her attention, I say, "Take a deeeep breath and let it out."  That deep breath brings her to a calmer place.  And then, we make a plan together about how to tackle the problem.

I've been taking a lot of deep breaths myself these days.

When I get caught up and anxious over the long list of things that need to be done....  I'm frustrated because kiddos need me and I feel like I'm not getting anything accomplished....  I'm on the verge of losing it!....

And then I hear Jesus Calling.  He says, "Look at me.  Focus on me.  Take a deep breath."

I listen.  I take a deep breath.  Then, I'm back to a calmer place.  And He and I make our plan together.

Philippians 4:6-7

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Story--Part 2.

Once the basketball court was complete, Pastor Manno took the first shot (and made it).  As we all stood on the court and took shots, he said, "Well, now all we need is to have a basketball camp to teach everyone how to play."  "I think I know someone who can help with that," I said.

A couple days later, I was home again, relaying stories to my husband, Mark.  My husband the former Illinois Wesleyan University basketball player.   "So, guess where you're going next year?" I asked him excitedly...  He laughed, "Not to Haiti!"

I prayed that God would work on his heart. And God did work on his heart.  God got the attention of the whole world in January of 2010 when a devastating earthquake shook Haiti, leaving hundreds of thousands dead, wounded, orphaned, and homeless.  Mark did indeed go to Haiti that year in March to lead the first basketball camp in the northern part of the country.

Guess how he came home from that trip?  With a heart completely broken for Haiti. Just like mine.
We talked.  We prayed.  We founded Hoops for Haiti.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Here's the Story. Part 1.

So, I have started sending the link to this blog to my friends and family.  I have no idea if anyone is starting to read it or not, but I thought I would tell the story about how we got to where we are.  It's a good idea for a couple reasons: 1) so that we have a record of it; 2) so that anyone who may be reading can really know how God has worked this all out.

Matthew 19:14: "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'

It started back in 2008 when my daughter, Danielle, was attending preschool at Cornerstone Christian Academy.  She was 4 years old...

Danielle kept coming home from preschool talking about Mrs. Hatfield's "friends in Haiti." She wanted to take in her whole piggy bank to donate.  She colored pictures for these mysterious friends.  She prayed for them to have food to eat.  She would even try new vegetables on her plate because she knew the friends in Haiti would try them if they were here...  What 4 year old does that?! 

The time came for Open House at school and I tracked down Mrs. Hatfield and asked what I'd been wanting to ask for weeks.  "Who are these friends in Haiti I keep hearing about?"

She explained that she and her husband went on annual mission trips to Haiti each Spring Break, and they worked at a school with many Haitian children.  It was a busy night and there were lots of parents waiting to talk to her, but she looked at me and said, "You don't know anything about soccer do you?"

I thought she was joking.  Little kids tell their teachers all kinds of stuff about their parents.  Surely, Danielle had mentioned that her mommy loves soccer...That her mommy had signed up to coach her city soccer league team the next year.  She went on, "We've been going to Haiti to do these soccer camps with the kids for years and we've never taken anyone who knows anything about soccer." I smiled.  Yeah, I knew a few things about soccer.

I hemmed and hawed and dug my heels in and finally relented.  God sent me that Spring to Haiti with the Hatfields to help with a soccer camp for hundreds of Haitian children.  And, they taught me SO much more than I taught them.  I came home on fire, my heart completely broken for the people of Haiti.

While our team was there in March 2009, we built a basketball court on the grounds of the Pillatre Christian Center.  Which leads us to Part 2 of the story--to be continued tomorrow.


I laid awake last night until after 1 am.  Thinking.  Worrying.  More thinking.  And this morning--surprise!--I woke up tired and dragging.  Then, my daily reading for today hit me where it hurt.

July 10 in "Jesus Calling": 'Though I am Lord of lords and King of kings, I also desire to be your intimate Friend. When you are tense or pretentious in our relationship, I feel hurt. I know the worst about you, but I also see the best in you.  I long for you to trust Me enough to be fully yourself with Me. When you are real with Me, I am able to bring out the best in you: the very gifts I have planted in your soul.  Relax, and enjoy our Friendship.'

When I worry, it hurts Him.  Who am I to worry when He is the King of kings, the Almighty Creator of the universe?  Sigh.


I'm feeling overwhelmed, Lord.  Help me remember every day to trust that you've got everything under control.  Forgive me when I worry.

Monday, July 9, 2012

He's taking care of business.

My prayer back in May was: "Lord, if you open the doors--ALL of them--we will walk through them."  Whaddya know...  He has opened door after door.  And now we are fulfilling our end of the deal.  In about one month, we will be packed up and on our way to Haiti.

God has found us a home in Haiti.  He found renters for our home here in the US.  He has shown us a glimpse of the work He has for us to do there and found a school for our children to attend.

Ok, Lord.  Since you're clipping right along on our "to do" list...  Here's what is next:
1. We need a good home for our cat.  She's 13. She's declawed.  She is tired of dealing with toddlers.  She's ready for a life of quiet luxury.
2. It would be great to sell the mini van.  Yes, the one we just paid off.  The one we've been enjoying not making payments on for the last 3 months.  It was nice while it lasted.  It's a 2006 Honda Odyssey.  Anyone interested?
3. We have a dining room table, 6 chairs, and china hutch to sell.  Won't be needing it.
4. We need a truck.  One that won't get stuck on Haitian roads. One that will haul anything from people to basketball court-building supplies. Oh, and we need to have it delivered to us in Haiti.
5. Boxes.  We need lots of them. And a storage facility.
6. We need a microwave.

That's all I can think of for now.  I'm willing to bet God knows of other things we need that I haven't even contemplated yet.  He's probably already working out those details, too.  He's taking care of business.