Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Dreadful Thing!

“For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” 
Hebrews 10:30-31 NIV

Whoa.  That was my verse for today.  And it sent shivers down my spine.  I usually think of being in the hands of the living God as a good thing, full of security and love and protection.  But, now I'm suddenly a little scared of being in those hands.

I suppose it's a little tiny bit like my children are in my hands.  They're loving, gentle hands that put band-aids on owies, give hugs, and hold them when they're scared or tired.  But, sometimes... they're hands that deliver a swat on the bottom when they're not listening or when they've been hurtful or sassy.  We discipline our children because we love them and want them to be the best kids they can be, right?  Maybe that's why God corrects us as His children... Maybe that's part of it, at least.

This verse has me thinking about how I feel when I'm the one who has been wronged, too.  Take, for example, the situation with our truck and Customs.  It was completely wrong and crooked!  It made me feel so hurt and angry.  Then, the latest situation we've been dealing with is our Internet service.  We told the guys who came to set it up and install an antenna that we wouldn't pay until it was all hooked up and working... So, it worked....for FIVE DAYS!!  Then, guess what happened the day we paid up?  Yup.  No Internet.  Hmmm.... They can't seem to figure out what's wrong, huh??

Seriously.  I've been cheated.  I know it's a joke to think we can get our money back.  I really have no idea how I would do it, but some form of revenge would feel SO good.

Or would it?

As I contemplate this verse today, I'm thinking these villains are better left to God's judgment.  It's His job to avenge.

It's MY job to let go of my frustration and anger and forgive.  It's MY job to not let these two issues darken my attitude toward all the other Haitian people I encounter.  It's MY job to set my heart and mind on all the ways I'm blessed every day.

I'm working on it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rooster Recipe

Does anyone know of a good recipe featuring rooster?  I suppose when they're dead and de-feathered, roosters and hens look the same and maybe they even taste the same when they've been cooked.  I have no idea...  But, earlier today I was thinking I'd be in need of such a recipe.

It was about 1:00 pm and I had just laid Naomy down for her afternoon nap when I heard it.  You know, that thing that makes roosters different from hens.  Well, now that I think of it, there must actually be several things that make roosters different from hens.  Anyway... the most obvious way they're different.  No, not their big, shiny, green tail feathers or the kind of creepy, wrinkly red crowns on their heads.  That CROWING noise!  That big, annoying COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOO that they do!  That ear-splitting call that has savagely torn me from sweet slumber so many times in the last month.

And, it was LOUD.  It was CLOSE.  Oh, no you did NOT just crow in MY yard, rooster!

I went to the door and looked outside and there he was, with a hen pecking around beside him.

In. My. Yard.

In seconds, I had my flip flops on and I was out the door.  I was immediately plotting how I was going to take him down.  I picked up a chunk of concrete near the driveway and took my mark.  There he was, over by the wall.  My strategy was to hit him hard in a wing so he couldn't flap away over the wall.  Once I had him wounded, I could get closer.  It would only take a couple of tries and I could hit him in the head and finish him off.

You didn't know I had this brutal side to me, did you?

I took aim and fired off that first rock, surprising both of us with the amount of force and anger behind my throw.  No direct hit, but the rock bounced up off the ground and hit him on his underside.  He probably ignores humans most of the time as he struts around, crowing his stupid fowl head off at all hours of the day or night.  But, now, I had his attention and he could probably see in my eyes that I meant to eat him.

Suddenly, he was squawking like a hen, running around my yard.  He made a dash for our gate, thinking he could scuttle under it and get away, but I cut him off and scooped up another fist-sized rock in the process.  He ran back along the wall and I hurled the second rock at him.  Ooooo.... I was so close!  The rock landed in front of him, and he dashed off in another direction.  I had picked up yet another rock now....and I was closing in on him.  I fired off rock number three and he jumped up in the air, flapping and squawking...

"Get back down here, you chicken!" I shouted as I grabbed another rock.  

But, he didn't listen.  He flapped all the way up and over the wall and I heard him squawking away as fast as his nasty chicken feet could carry him on the other side.  I turned on the hen he had left behind and took aim, but she was already flapping halfway up the other wall.  I threw the rock at her anyway.  It felt good.

She, too, made it over the wall and went screaming away on the other side.

Darn.  No rooster for dinner tonight.  But, I'm stocking up on rocks for the next time, if he dares to return.

Wanna know a little irony in this?  Take a guess what used to adorn my kitchen back in Illinois...

Uh-huh.  You got it.  Painted on decorative ceramic plates...  Printed on the rug on the floor.... Even a cookie jar in its shape, painted in all those bright red, yellow, and green colors!


And I can assure you that all of those decorative items will someday go straight from the storage unit to the garage sale.

Hopefully, he won't be crowing around our house anytime soon.

Mark 14:72
Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Birthday Blessings

Our little Naomy turned two this week!  Her birthday was Thursday and it was a good day!  After school, Mark and Danielle came home with two packages that had been delivered for us. (Let me pause here to explain how we get our mail.  I think I wrote in a previous post about how we do not have an address.  So, we cannot get mail at our home.  Even if we did have an address, I'm willing to bet that Haiti does not have any type of organized mail service. And, even if there was some type of government mail service here, I don't think any mail would actually make it to us. Instead, we have an account with Missionary Flights International and they receive our U.S. mail for us, along with mail for many other families, and they fly it in twice each week.  Then, we go over to the next town and pick it up at the campus for One Mission Society.) We get pretty excited when packages from home arrive for us.  Both packages contained all sorts of goodies--pretzels and kleenex, candy and craisins, fruit snacks and a first aid kit, coloring/activity books and much more! One package even had a birthday gift for Naomy--it arrived just in time!

We had supper that Celine had prepared (fish and rice with fresh mango) and birthday cake for dessert. A fellow teacher had loaned me two candles (And yes, I mean loaned--I will return what's left to be burned again at someone else's birthday. Back at home I would have thrown them away without a second thought, but as you may have gathered by now, things are very different here.) and another teacher loaned me the cake pan.
Candy necklaces, even!
Although Naomy seemed to completely enjoy her celebration, I had to work through a bit of mommy guilt about the fact that her second birthday party was so understated, compared to the second birthday parties I threw for her big sisters. No balloons, no ice cream, no clever craft or goody bags for guests, no stack of presents to open...

And then, we attended a birthday party for our housekeeper and friend, Celine.  We drove into downtown Cap Haitien, parked on a busy street, walked down an alley and up a concrete stairway into a big concrete apartment building.  We made our way down a very, VERY narrow hallway past doorways that didn't have doors to Celine's sister's apartment.  Her whole apartment was the size of one of the bedrooms in our house.  There was one small bed and some shelving on the wall.  There was no bathroom.  There were a few chairs set up and a small table set with trays of chicken, plantain, pasta, and a cake.  Celine's friends and family and neighbors crowded into the tiny apartment and spilled out the doorway and up and down the hall.  It was stuffy and hot and everyone was sweating, but we sang "How Great Thou Art" in Creole and someone led a prayer thanking God for the food and friends and for Celine. Then, someone asked Mark to do the honor of opening a bottle of sparkling grape juice and we clapped and sang the birthday song (in English!) to Celine while ladies poured juice into little plastic cups for everyone. As soon as these traditions were over, Celine told an English-speaking friend to tell us we needed to leave and she would package up some food for us to take with us.  It was obvious that everyone else there was ready to party on, but it was 7:00 pm and it was getting dark and we realized that we needed to leave for our own safety.  And, leave we did.  Celine left her own party to walk all of us back to the street where we parked and she stayed and made sure we drove off before she turned to go back.

So, can you guess how I'm feeling now?  I'm feeling pretty silly for my guilt about not having a big to-do for Naomy's birthday.  I'm feeling humbled...I'm feeling thankful...I'm feeling super duper blessed. I'm feeling so honored that Celine invited us to come to her party--to come and get a glimpse into the reality of life in Haiti.  

Hebrews 12:28 "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe."

Before I sign off, I want to share some photos from school with you!

This is a picture of the Kindergarten class, outside having a music lesson.  They each have instruments and their teacher was talking a bit about rhythm and beats.  Mostly, I think they were just having fun making noise.  That's Elli--the redhead. She's easy to spot.  She loves Kindergarten and she is friends with all of her classmates.  She talks the most about Tony and Emarlie.

These two photos are of my second graders.  There are only 6 of them. 5 boys and 1 girl...but don't worry--Abbie can hold her own.   

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Impossible Impossibilities

We had our first dinner guest tonight!  He is a missionary who has been living and working in Haiti for three years, and he was both a good listener and had many "tips" to share with us.  Even better, he wants to get us connected into his network of people who live and work near us!  What an amazing answer to prayer.

While he was here, he was listening to me talk about the challenges of teaching in a small Christian school in Haiti.  He said he once heard someone say, "Haiti is the land of impossible impossibilities." I just shook my head...  I'm not sure if it even makes sense if you consider the phrase literally.  Nevertheless, it's true.  Everywhere you turn here, you're faced with this kind of situation:

You need to accomplish "X".  In order to do "X," you need to have "A" and "B."  But, you can't find "A" in Haiti and "B" is outrageously expensive.  So, instead, you could do "Y." You start down the path toward "Y," only to find out that it's going to take 10 months to get that done and the person who can help you with it is out of the country. You think about options and maybe talk it over with a few other people and someone suggests that you just rig up a "Z" instead. Yeah, that could work, you think. You gather up all the items you need to rig up "Z" and you think it just might work--maybe it does work for 7 minutes!  Then, the power runs out and you're back to square one.

Gaaaah!!!  It's an impossible impossibility!!

We shared with our dinner guest all the amazing things that God did to lay out the path for us to get to Haiti (remember my checklist?).  And then, we shared our frustration that He hasn't been making things fall into place so smoothly since we arrived here.  What's the deal, right?  Our guest (who is younger, but so much wiser) had the answer:  Satan.

See, when we were back in the States, we weren't causing any big problems for him.  We were under his radar... But, once we accepted God's call to go...we crossed the line.  Now, here we are, right in the middle of God's will with the potential to cause all sorts of problems for him.  He's not going to wait and see if we are the real deal.  No, he's gonna come at us hard and try to stop us before we really even get going! He's going to throw a whole line of impossible impossibilities at us.

So, I guess the question is am I going to back down or step up?

Ephesians 6:11-12  "Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

I'm ready to stop whining and suit up.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

When Faith Falters

So, we made it through the first week of school!  Throughout the week, Naomy continued to have a pretty hard time with the fact that she and I were not together each morning.  There is a Haitian aide, Julie, who is assigned to Naomy at school.  Julie is kind and gentle with Naomy, but Naomy keeps pushing her away.  Through a translator, Julie told me that she isn't sure what to do.  "She doesn't want me," she said.  She was right, but it didn't have anything to do with Julie.  Naomy is a smart girl and she knows where my classroom is.  She knows that I'm there at the school, and she wants me.  Not Julie. She wants her momma. And so, she cries and carries on because she can't have what she really wants.

Aren't we all a little like 2-year-olds when we can't have what we really want?  We make our plans and set out to get what we want, and then when it doesn't work out, we get all upset.  What we forget time and time again is that God's plan and our plans don't always coincide.

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Now, I don't think that means that we shouldn't make plans at all.  I think it just means that when things don't go according to our plan, we should stop and think about how and why we are being redirected, instead of throwing a fit.

So many things haven't gone according to plan since we arrived in Haiti.  And we continue to run up against new challenges and roadblocks.  We were blessed by church family with a truck to use while we serve here and that truck sailed the ocean blue down to a port here in Cap Haitien, and now we can't get it out of customs.  We planned for the taxes we'd have to pay.  We planned for the cost of the shipping.  

What we DIDN'T plan on was the corruption of the customs office here and the $6000 they're demanding that we pay so that they'll release the truck to us.  Seriously.  So, now what?

We've thrown a few fits.  We're angry.  We're disappointed.  We're SO frustrated.

I don't think their corruption is part of God's plan, either.  But, I bet He knew this would happen.  So, I'm asking myself tonight, "What does He want me to learn in this? I know it's His will for us to be able to use that truck... How is He going to make it happen?  What's His plan?"

I don't think I'll have it figured out before I go to sleep tonight.  I'm going to trust that He will reveal a solution--a plan.  Jesus Calling for today: "'I trust you, Jesus'...You need to voice this trust in me frequently.  This simple act of faith will keep you walking along straight paths with Me.  Trust in Me with all your heart, and I will make your paths straight." I'm going to just keep repeating that in my head: I trust you, Jesus.... I trust you, Jesus....

Friends, please pray with us that God will provide what is needed for the release of the truck.  Pray that He will move in powerful ways among the customs agents.  Pray that we will be open to the lessons God wants us to learn as we work through this.

And, pray for little Naomy--that she will continue to adjust to her new environment at school and that she will be comforted and feel safe even when her momma is not right by her side.

Amen? Amen!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dusty Earthbound Paths

This morning, I read the September 5 entry in "Jesus Calling" before I started my day.  Let me share it with you:
     "I am your best Friend, as well as your King. Walk hand in hand with Me through your life.  Together we will face whatever each day brings: pleasures, hardships, adventures, disappointments.  Nothing is wasted when it is shared with Me.  I can bring beauty out of the ashes of lost dreams.  I can glean Joy out of sorrow, Peace out of adversity.  Only a Friend who is also the King of kings could accomplish this divine alchemy.  There is no other like Me!
     The friendship I offer you is practical and down-to-earth, yet it is saturated with heavenly Glory. Living in My Presence means living in two realms simultaneously: the visible world and unseen, eternal reality.  I have equipped you to stay conscious of Me while walking along dusty, earthbound paths."

I had to read it three times.  It spoke straight to my heart.

One of the least favorite parts of my days is traveling on the roads in Haiti.  They are almost always dirt roads (although a few parts of roads in the city are now paved).  And the potholes are unbelievable--some would fit a small car inside them.  The days get very hot and lately it's been very dry here, too.  If you're blessed to have a car, it most certainly does not have air conditioning, so you have to leave the windows down as you drive.  And as people, cows, cars, bikes, motorcycles, goats, dogs, and more travel along those roads, they kick up a lot of dust.  Layers of dust coat EVERYthing here.

But, I am equipped to stay conscious of God while I make my way through each day.  Through the dust. Through the potholes.  We are living in two realms at the same time!  Our earthbound paths and our heavenly paths.  We have to look beyond the dust and see how He is working around us for His glory. I know... that's easier said than done some days, right?

Today was Day 3 of school, and it was the best day yet!  Naomy was happy enough in the preschool for me to teach my first three classes.  I met the 3rd/4th graders, the Kindergarteners, and the 5th/6th graders.  As expected, I found that reading abilities do not always align with grades.  There are some 5th graders who read at a 6th or 7th grade level... and some 6th graders who read at a 4th or 5th grade level.  I can easily break them up into smaller groups according to ability so that I can provide the guidance they need.  I put in an order on Amazon yesterday, though, because the reading texts available at school are very antiquated.  I'm looking for recommendations, friends!  What are your grade school children, grandchildren, students, nieces or nephews reading right now?  What books are they excited about?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Not All Bad...Not Bad at All!

In looking back on previous posts here, I think I've done an awful lot of telling you about the bad things here in Haiti--the challenges, the trials, the hardships.  Today, though, I am filled with thankfulness.  I stand in awe of the Haitian people who are living around me.  I complain about not having running water and electricity and they make do without those things and so much more all their lives.   

We have been blessed with a safe and comfortable home that now has the basic utilities we're accustomed to.  And, it's set in a beautiful place... Most importantly, we're together as a family, learning the lessons God has planned for us here and doing the work He has for us, whatever that may be.            
     This is the view out our front door. That big tree out front is a Mango tree and that's our red gate out to the dirt lane in front of our house.     

Another view of the front courtyard.

Hibiscus bloom continuously on bushes all around the yard... Every morning there are hummingbirds that come to the flowers.

The tiny front yard... That is a coconut tree by the patio.

Coconut tree.  We harvested 3 coconuts last week and got to taste coconut milk.  Fun experience, but none of us liked it--yuck!

Lots of these little lizards bask in the sun on the wall around the house.  They're all different sizes--from 1 inch head to tail to 7 inches head to tail.
This is the view from the roof of our house.  That's Mont Voudreil in the distance.
1 Thessalonians 5:18  "Thank God in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]."

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to (a New) School!

Today was our first day of school at Cowman International School in Voudreil, Haiti!  Danielle went to her 3rd grade class and Elli to her Kindergarten class.  The plan was for Naomy to hang out with the Preschool class with an aide who would keep a close eye on her while I taught my morning reading classes. Naomy, however, was not agreeable with that plan... She was quite overwhelmed by all the students, teachers she had never met, and NOT being near mom.  After about 20 minutes of crying in the preschool room, a teacher brought her to me and she spent the remainder of the day in my classroom.  When my room was empty, I walked her back to the preschool room and hung out with her there to try to help her feel more comfortable.  We'll try again tomorrow...

Here, you can see the cafeteria in front and behind are all the doors to the classrooms. The last classroom is a library. 
This little building is adjacent to the main school building above.  It's the Pre-K and Kindergarten building.  There are lots of ways Cowman is different from the school Danielle attended in Illinois, but one you would notice right away is all the chickens and roosters that meander about the grounds all day.

This is my classroom!  Here, I will meet with each grade for Reading classes.  I will also supervise the three high school students in this classroom.  They will do their classes online, each from his or her own laptop.  Mr. Gross, who is seated here, will be teaching them remotely, but he's here for the first two weeks of school to get the high school students started.

This is Danielle's 3rd/4th grade class.  She's seated at the very back by the window.  Her teacher is Miss Erica.

This is the Common Room for the Pre-K/Kindergarten building.  That's Elli on the rug doing a puzzle with her classmate, Hannah. Notice that the room is a bit dark?  That's because we had no power from about 9 am until noon today.  No one seems to notice when the power goes out... We just carry on!  
 All classes at Cowman are taught in English and each teacher has two grades.  1st/2nd, 3rd/4th, 5th/6th and then there are three high school  students--one 8th grader and two Sophomores.  There are 58 students total.  All students start the day with Bible class at 8 am.  And, all students have Spanish/French class each day.  (Which means that most Cowman students know FOUR languages--Creole, English, Spanish and French--by the time they graduate.)  Finding teachers in Haiti who speak English isn't easy, though, and we're currently dealing with not having a Kindergarten teacher.  This is especially problematic since Kindergarten is the LARGEST class!  For now, the school principal, Angie Bundy, is filling that role on top of all of her administrative duties.
Here, Elli and Naomy are working on a pattern grid together.  As the morning went on, Naomy slowly got engaged with some learning activities.

What time is it?  It's time for lunch! Each student brings his or her own packed lunch and a water bottle each day.

Here is Elli's lunch table. She was happy with PB&J.