Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas is Coming...Even in Haiti.

Is it really Christmas-time?  It’s hard to tell here.  It’s 80 degrees and sunny.  There’s no cold wind or snow.  No one bustling about in their coats, hats, and mittens.  There’s no need for those adorable scarves I’m seeing on my North American facebook friends...  There are no shopping malls all lit up with tinsel and twinkling lights, with Salvation Army bell ringers ringing away at the doors.  My kids won’t be watching at the frosty door for loved ones to arrive. My neighborhood is not aglow after dark with bright lights in all colors and styles.  There’s no fire in the fireplace and I don’t feel like cocooning inside layers of cozy blankets when I crawl into bed at night.
Naomy blowing bubbles in the sunshine yesterday.
For the most part, I can’t tell that Christmas is coming in Haiti.  

To give credit, I did see a Christmas tree in a little market store the other day.  And, there was a decorated tree in the Haitian church we worshipped in last week.  Our missionary neighbors have their home decorated--nativity and all--and our kids got to make Christmas cookies a few days ago.  The sounds of rehearsing for the Christmas program at school have been delightful, too!

I go back and forth between missing all the lights and Christmas “buzz” back at home and feeling a little... I dunno... relieved--is that the word?--yes, relieved that I don’t have to endure the onslaught of commercialism, Black Friday violence, and over-the-top Christmas chaos.  I don’t have lists of gifts to buy and wrap and I’m not scrambling to put together fancy cards to send out to friends and family (sorry, everyone--it’s just too complicated to get done from here!).
Danielle's drawing--as you can see, she remembers what last Christmas looked like!
We get to make this Christmas our own and we get to focus on the reason we celebrate it in the first place.  We borrowed a string of lights and a 12 inch tree from our friends.  We made some ornaments from cardstock that are hanging from the ceiling in the family room.  Our advent calendar and study are ready to go for December 1.  We have been pouring over uplifting messages from friends and family, reading Christmas-y books together in the evenings and drinking hot chocolate whenever the temperatures dip low enough to make it enjoyable.  We play all kinds of Christmas music from our laptops as much as possible.

And in the moments when this season feels too quiet, I’m trying to remember that it must have been this quiet long ago just before Jesus arrived as a babe.  No one knew what was coming except for maybe Mary and Joseph.  There was no excitement, no celebration, no “hustle and bustle.”  

Sometimes, calm and quiet isn’t so bad.  I have a feeling this Christmas will still somehow be remembered as a very special one.

Isaiah 9:6-7  “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Thoughts

So, Thanksgiving has come and gone!  Before November is out the door, I wanted to remark on a few things I'm thankful for...

1. I am so thankful for friends from home who donated copies of "James and the Giant Peach" for my 5th/6th grade class!  We were nearing the end of the book last Wednesday, when the clock said Reading class was over.  The students pleaded with their homeroom teacher, Mr. R. to continue--we had only three more chapters!  I think Mr. R. wanted to hear the ending, too.  So, we read through to the ending, which was met by a big round of applause.  They wanted to know if there was any type of monument in NYC's Central Park that gave a nod to the story and I couldn't answer--I've never been there!  (Readers, do any of you know?)

Reading "James" has been so exciting!  I have been so happy with how engaged the students have been.  We've even been watching segments of the movie and talking about how it compares.  And, we've talked a lot about the character James and how he has transformed throughout the story.  I think it's so fitting since many of them--at age 11-ish--are starting to change and grow themselves.

We're going to keep the Roald Dahl momentum going by reading "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" next.

The 3rd/4th grade class is about halfway through "Mr. Popper's Penguins" and we have a laugh every day as we read.

2. I'm thankful that God's been listening to my one-word prayers for my three kiddos.  Danielle hasn't yet failed to meet a new challenge with bravery--and those challenges present themselves weekly, at least.  Elli has been conquering new tasks toward more self-sufficiency left and right!

She has mastered tying her shoes!

She's showing lots of improvement in cleaning up after herself and taking care of her belongings.

She is exploring on her own and bringing home lots of treasures...

And, she's reading!

Naomy makes new discoveries every day and talks and talks (and talks and talks) all about them to whoever is willing to listen.  She is most excited lately about a) the helicopters and planes that she sees "flyin' in da sky!" and b) her achievements on the potty.  She's on Day 6 with no accidents and is even staying dry through the nights!  Her discoveries keep all of us very busy... and sometimes, I wonder if I need to make her prayer weekly--rather than daily???  Just yesterday, she "discovered" what blue chalk looks like on the outside wall of the house...and even as I scrubbed it off this morning, she "discovered" what it looks like on the tile floor inside!!  Gaaaah!  (Then, she "discovered" the reaction that mess got out of mommy and "discovered" what a spank on the bottom feels like!)

3. I'm thankful for new friends in Haiti who share their wisdom and experience, hearty laughs, can openers, a Thanksgiving meal, and loads of encouragement as we struggle through life here.  And, I'm ever-so grateful for friends from home who never stop letting me know they love me and miss me.  My "Haiti-8" team from our March trip to Port-au-Prince gave me a call the night before Thanksgiving and it was oh-so encouraging to hear their voices and laughter.   Thank you, friends.  Thank you, God, for my friends!

2 Corinthians 9:10 "God who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Catching Up

Back in October when J Sniff and Adam Provance were here, they spent part of a day at Cowman International School doing basketball lessons with the students.  It's been a while since then, but the kids here are STILL talking about "when the coaches were here."  I've been wanting to show you these pictures for a while, but haven't had internet access to be able to upload them until now.  So, here they are!

There are lots of visiting teams here in Haiti right now.  The hot weather of the summer has past and temperatures are very comfortable now.  I'm amazed at all the different projects I see going on...  Farming projects...  house building (Mark L, the house your team built in October looks great!), education projects, well drilling and repairing, women's conferences, and much more.  

I think the presence of these teams is enormously encouraging.  Thank you to all of you who have been here to serve on a team and to all of you who have supported a team financially or otherwise.  What's especially inspiring are the projects that aim to truly partner with and empower Haitians so that they can continue the work themselves once the teams have gone home.  

Proverbs 16:3 "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Road Less Traveled

I went for a run tonight.  
Oh, yes, friends in North America.  A run.  In shorts and a t-shirt.  In the warm Carribbean air.  
I've been oh-so jealous of the autumn weather you've been enjoying, but now it's getting a little winterish, right?  You can feel the sharpness of the cold mornings telling you winter is right there knocking at the door.  Maybe you've even had the first snow already?  
Not here.  It was 81 degrees and gloriously sunny today with a perfect breeze.  
And I went for a late afternoon run.

Ahhhh.  Just me and that dirt road, with Jason Aldean singing to me through my headphones.
Well, me and the cows, roosters, and goats.  Maybe a stray motorbike or two.

Here's the Running Road.

It winds around through trees and pastures and has a fairly steep hill that gives the course a little extra challenge.  When you get to the top of the hill, you're rewarded with a beautiful view of the mountains. 

And today I noticed the gate.  Off on the right side of the road at the top of the hill--there it was.  
A wooden gate to nowhere.  It was charming. 

Just after I took this photo of the gate, I headed back down the hill and toward home as some dark clouds began to roll in.  I had my music playing softly because on the roads here, one must be alert to motorbikes that approach, because a) they don't exactly take a lot of care to avoid hitting pedestrians and b) they tend to drive erratically from one side of the road to the other, depending on the potholes.  So, I noticed right away when I heard foot steps on the road with me.  

Not one set of foot steps.  Not two.  Five.  And they were keeping up with my stride.  A quick glance over my shoulder put me at ease--it was children.  Smiling, happy, curious children.  They ran with me for a while, and then asked me to slow down. 

They spoke to me in Creole.  What is your name?  Where do you live?  Are you married? They wanted to examine my phone.  One boy told me my hair was pretty as he touched it.  I answered all their questions and asked a few of my own (in Creole!):  What are your names?  What is in your bag?  Are you all in the same family?
Yes, they were siblings.  I can't remember all their names now, but one was Johnson Joseph.  They had bread in their bag and they were headed home.  

They let me take their photograph and they laughed when I showed it to them.  

I told them I would pray for God to bless them.

Then, instead of asking me for food or money, THEY started giving ME gifts.  
First, they gave me a small bag of rolls.  Then, as we continued on down the road, one boy asked me if I like mangoes.  When I said yes, he told me to wait and he promptly shimmied up and then down a nearby tree and brought enough fresh mangos for each of his siblings and a few for me.

We reached the main road and they motioned that they were going to the right.  I was headed to the left.  "Ovwa!" they said, with smiles and waves.  And off they went.

Aren't they precious?  
I had set out hoping for some time alone, but reached home thankful for my newfound running buddies.  They blessed me with much more than bread and mangoes!

Hebrews 12:1  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ti Kay!

Romans 8:26 "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with utterances that words cannot express."

We've moved!  Here is our new little ti kay (little house).  We were doing okay in our other house here in Haiti, but it was a lot of work every day to generate our own power and maintain a tolerable water supply.  And, when I say a lot of work, I mean A LOT.  It was a full time job.  If anything broke (which it did seemingly every other day), we had to fix it.  So, when new friends here offered up a house on the campus of their seminary (at a price in our budget), we jumped on it.  Power provided?  Clean (hot, even!) water provided?  A beautiful mountain view?  Complete with neighbors who have kids for our kids to play with?  Say no more.  We're in.

I'd say it was everything I was praying for, but it wasn't.  See, I had no idea this house was an available option.  I thought we would have to get by with what we had.  I wasn't praying for this house.  But, the Spirit was!  Maybe YOU were praying for us, too?  And, God was listening.  

As of today, we've been here for one week and it's been blissful!  Last Friday evening, I had my first hot shower in about three months!  NOT having to focus all our energy and time and money on everyday survival opens up so many opportunities for us to focus on teaching, building relationships with new friends, the Hoops ministry, spending time together as a family, and walking closer with the One who brought us here. 

I have also been hugely blessed this week by visitors from home!  A women's team from Eastview Christian Church in Normal, IL has been here this week working in Pillate.  They have been busy!  I've tagged along as they photographed students, led a women's conference, and visited with Haitian neighbors.  Let me tell you--their conference was all the talk among women in this area!  Women in attendance showed up in their finest ensembles--feathers and sequins and more!  Thank you, ladies, for sharing your smiles and hugs and words of encouragement with me.  It was just what I needed.