Yesterday Hunter and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary.
I realize that isn’t a monumental number. It isn’t as cool as- say- a 10-year anniversary. Still, this year felt worth celebrating. Worth remembering. Worth an actual date. Worth actual babysitters and actual food (aka: not rice and beans).
We treated ourselves to a fancy dinner, which doesn’t seem like a huge deal, I know. But you must remember where we live. We dressed up and tried to look our best for each other despite the heat. I straightened my hair and put on lip-gloss. Hunter ironed an outfit and wore cologne. We looked- almost- half way normal.
After dropping off our kiddos at our friends’ house we headed downtown to one of our new favorite spots, Cap20. It’s a new little restaurant ran by a former New York model and personal chef to the rich and famous. This place is super chill and relaxing and the food is super delicious.
The owner knew we were coming in advance and prepared a special three-course menu just for us: mango salad, fish and shrimp, grilled veggies and mashed potatoes. We arrived a little giddy. A night out ALONE. A fancy dinner to enjoy and talk over and one that did not include a high chair.
All was great. We started doing cheesy things like sharing “7 things I love about you most”. I went first, over the mango salad. As we waited for our second course it was Hunter’s turn. I looked at him and noticed he was sweating down his brow. Hunter and sweat isn’t an abnormal pair, especially in July. But this was different. He leaned against the tree truck beside him and told me he didn’t feel ok. The poor man all of a sudden spiked a 102-degree fever.
We boxed up our food and I drove home, trying not to cry. We finally got a night out to ourselves and STILL sometime got in the way. I tried to be considerate and caring, but I mean, for the love!
Anyhoo…another time, right?
I hope it wasn’t ironic that Hunter suddenly got sick while telling me how much he loved me on our anniversary. I hope that wasn’t a reflection on our seven years of marriage thus far. Ha! But seriously…the worst of timing.
No, being for real now. I’m super sad Hunter got/is sick. I’m super sad we didn’t get our fancy date. Nevertheless, I am oh-so grateful to have spent the past seven years married to this man. Growing, serving, worshiping, and parenting along side of him has been such a gift. Now on to seven more!
(Side note: Hunter, by no means, got sick because of the food. He started getting a chest cold earlier that day and it just escalated over dinner. Thought I should clear that up, just in case.)
Please say a little pray for Hunter if you don’t mind. We have a team heading down on Wednesday and he needs to get healthy as soon as he possible. Thanks!
Not like the flooding kind of rain, but the peaceful evening kind of rain.
The kind of rain that covers my steamy, oven-like house with grey puffy clouds, shielding us from the hot Haitian sun.
The kind of rain that brings the children inside, puts all the moto taxis at ease, and creates quiet in the streets.
The kind of rain that makes me grab a blanket, brew a cup of coffee, and relax.
It’s been raining a lot in the evenings lately, and I am loving it.
* * * * *
There is a saying that goes: When it rains, it pours.
I used to say it all the time. In years past I often felt like I was drowning in floodwaters. With rain boots permanently buckled on my feet, I daily weathered storm after storm. Thus was life my first years oversees.
For a long time, I feared the rain, always terrified that it would eventually turn into a storm. But now, I have come to embrace the rain. Again, not the flooding type, but the kind of rain that keeps me humble and reminds me that I still occasionally need to step inside for shelter.
Here is what I have learned overtime: You can’t stop the rain. It will come and go as it pleases. But you can choose how you are going to react to it. You can try to fight it, but you are only going to end up soaking wet and with a cold. You can hide from it, but that can become rather depressing. Or, you can take refuge in God’s shelter and ask Him to make the most of your time inside.
Sometimes, the rain really does pour. Trust me, my rain boots are always on standby. But sometimes, it just rains. Just enough to keep me grounded and relying on Him. Just enough to remind me I am not in control. Just enough to make me stronger, wiser, and more prepared for the next storm.
* * * * *
As I sit here in my bed, I can hear the rain slowly falling outside my window. I have laundry hanging on the line. Oh well. The sun will come out in the morning and I know within hours they will dry. I’m staying inside. All will be well.
I often get asked what the most challenging part of being a missionary is.
It’s a weighty question, mainly because where do I start? And do you really care to hear my monologue?
I have a collection of responses stored away for questions like these. If I don’t really know you and you are asking me about my challenges only in part of a series of questions, I will probably tell you something like: lack of choices, freedom, food, or air conditioning. And I wouldn’t be lying to you. Those are all challenges in my everyday. Living without Blue Bell ice cream is something nobody should have to endure.
But if you are really asking, really asking because you genuinely care and sincerely want to encourage me, I will tell you the truth.
The most challenging thing about living oversees as a missionary is watching others move on without you. It’s knowing that while you work in a far off distant land your friends and family are still back home living lives you long to still be a part of.
It’s missing the weddings of close friends.
Or missing your friend become a mother.
It’s missing graduations, family reunions, and even funerals.
It’s not being there when someone you love is going through a difficult time.
Or not being there when someone you love is going through a time worth celebrating.
It’s missing coffee dates, football games, and going out to eat after church.
It’s missing birthdays and anniversaries, homecomings and deployments, engagements and breakups.
Really, the most challenging thing about being a missionary is missing the ability to make memories with those you love.
At first it’s not so bad. The first few years can feel like an overextended vacation. You’ll be home soon you think. But as time progresses, it gets more difficult.
Skype calls and visits home are all about catching up, but you never really can. You’ve missed too much. Facebook, although a blessing, can often be burdensome as you watch your wall fill up with pictures that you never seem to be in anymore.
So yeah, the “living without ___________” is a good answer as to what is difficult about being a missionary, but it’s not the whole truth.
I think about the man whom Jesus told to leave his father’s burial behind in order to follow him (Mark 8: 18-22). Until now, I have never really understood the gravity of that sacrifice. But now I feel its weight. Now I understand what it means to leave behind your family and friends for the sake of following Christ. And let me tell you, there is nothing easy about it.
So next time you speak with a missionary and want to ask them about their challenges, know that underneath the stereotypical responses of missing Starbucks and paved roads, they are really just missing their people back home. So please offer them a hug and a listening ear. They will be so grateful.
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If you were raised in a church, chances are you have a pretty narrow (yet slightly accurate) missionary stereotype etched into your brain.
It’s okay. You can admit it, because before becoming a missionary, I did too.
As a child, missionaries were the ones who came to church once a year on Sunday nights (a time when I would rather have been watching America’s Funniest Home Videos and Rescue 911). Their clothing was typically a little outdated, the man’s beard a little too long, and the kids a little too unsocial. The man usually gave a presentation using some not-so-good pictures from a slideshow and spoke about things far above my head- things like underground churches, persecution, and unreached people. I was from the south, ya’ll. The Bible Belt. What did he mean “unreached people”?
I remember being told once by a short-term visitor that I was “more normal” than they expected for a missionary. “You wear cute earrings and watch the same TV shows as me,” she said. Perhaps being told you are “more normal” than one anticipated wouldn’t be an amazing compliment to you. After all, it does imply that you were previously assumed to not be normal. But for me, all I wanted to do was hug this young lady and thank her.
There are a lot of misconceptions about missionaries out there. Some are true. Some are not. But today I hope to set the record straight on at least a few:
1. We are not super Christians
Just because we live oversees “doing the Lord’s work” does not make us super Christians. We are just normal people following our calling probably just like you are following yours. We are tempted just as much as you. Sin just as much as you. Struggle just as much as you. Missionaries are simply Christians trying to be faithful, and that does not make us more super than you.
2. We don’t all live in grass huts
Not all of us live in some remote village in a grass hut without running water or electricity. Some of us do, this is true. But most of us live in fairly decent homes. Maybe our water isn’t necessarily clean and maybe our electricity is scarce, but we live rather comfortably.
3. We don’t spend all day everyday evangelizing
Just because we are “missionaries” does not mean we walk around 24/7 with a Bible in hand. Our work comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are nurses, doctors, or midwives. Some of us work in businesses, are administrators, or social workers. Some of us work in gardens, run schools, and teach trades. Some of us spend our days changing diapers and loving on babies while others manage community sport programs. And the list goes on.
4. We don’t all live exotic and dangerous lives alone
I realize it wasn’t a blockbuster, but have you ever seen the movie The Other Side of Heaven? It’s a Disney movie about a Mormon missionary featuring Anne Hathaway. Weird combo, huh? Based on a true story, a young man serves as the only missionary on a remote island in the middle of nowhere. He gets deathly ill, eats bugs, and faces tropical storms. It made for a good movie, but realistically most of our lives don’t like that at all. We get up, get our kids ready for school, go to work, eat spaghetti dinners, hang out with friends, and go to sleep watching Netflix.
5. We aren’t all happy all the time
We are living out our callings, yes, but that doesn’t make us happy all the time. Some days we are outright angry, frustrated, and ready to call it quits. We aren’t happy when we miss family, friends and the weddings, graduations, and funerals of people we love. We aren’t happy when the heat index is 115 degrees and our one lousy fan cuts off for the night. We aren’t happy when locals try to take advantage of us just because of our skin color. But we continue on and learn that if we ask, God can supply joy no matter what the circumstance.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Missionaries are normal people often living fairly normal lives. We may spend our days speaking a different language and eat differing foods than you, but when it all comes down to it, most of us are “more normal” than you would think. At least I hope we are…
What about you? What misconceptions do you have about missionaries? Don’t be shy. Share!
While at the beach the other day, Dalencia and I were approached by a complete stranger and his camera. Sitting on my lap and enjoying the relaxing waves of the ocean, me and my girl were minding our own business when a young gentleman came and stood no further than two feet away from my face. He smiled, tilted his head to the side as if to show us he thought we looked cute together, and stood there admiring us for a minute, camera prepped and ready to shoot.
Unsure of his next move, I began to feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, and degraded, because now I had at least a dozen new eyes starring at me- for we were causing quite the scene. I felt insecure, unsafe, and pressured. And those were just the feelings I felt about me. You should have seen how tight I was holding on to Dalencia. Knowing full well he was going to take a picture of us, my mind began to race. I never knew so many thoughts could run through my head so quickly. How dare this stranger take a picture of my daughter? What will he do when he looks at this picture later? Will he print it and hang it up in his room? Will he fantasize about me? About Dalencia? After all, she is in her bathing suit. Oh God, how can I protect her? Should I run? Where is Hunter?
Then without permission this perfect stranger leaned in even closer and snapped our picture.
“Excuse me,” I yelled in Creole, “Why are you taking my picture?”
“Because you and the girl are pretty,” he replied in perfect English.
Relieved that I could battle this ordeal in my own language I looked him straight in the eye, “But you don’t know us, so why do you think you have the right to take our picture?” I asked now slightly flustered.
“Well, you Americans are always doing that to us. You come here to visit and “help us” (using finger quotes) and you guys are always taking pictures of us with our kids in our homes, in our streets, and in our poverty, and you don’t know us either. And you all NEVER ask us if it is okay to take our picture. No, you just take it. So I thought I would try doing the same to you.”
I sighed. I smiled. I relaxed and I put my guard back down. This young gentleman was no threat at all, actually he was was a breath of fresh air. What he said was true and his little social experiment- to attempt to teach the nearest blan (white person) how it feels to be on the other side of the lens- intrigued me.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Jephte,” he replied.
“Jephte, I like you,” I told him.
Confused, he sat down beside me. I guess after his previous statement, my befriending was not what had he anticipated. Perhaps he expected me to tell him to get lost, not sit down for a chat.
I went on to explain how I live in Haiti, how I wasn’t one of the visitors he was referring to, and how I was actually on his side of the issue. These facts alone surprised him and led him to a dozen apologies- none of which I would accept. I then thanked him for helping me to feel, first hand, what a Haitian mother might feel like when a short-term visitor approaches her and her child with a mere smile and a camera for a photo op. The only reason these feelings quickly subsided for me was because I, unlike a majority of Haitian mothers, had the ability and know-how to stand up for myself. And quite frankly, I also knew I had the “right” to my privacy. If I didn’t want my photo taken, he couldn’t take my photo. Most Haitian mothers do not know they have that “right”- unfortunately because us visitors with the cameras have done a poor job of ever really giving them that right in the first place.
Jephte, feeling rather guilty, looked at me and said, “If I knew who you were, I would not have done this to do you. But this was my intention, to make you feel embarrassed, because that is how visitors make us feel when they take pictures of us. I know you know that. But earlier when I saw you, I just wanted one of you to feel what we feel for a change.”
“And I did,” I replied. “Even though I am not a visitor, I felt it. And I am really glad I did.”
We talked for a little while longer, Jephte and I. We did end up taking a few more pictures together, just to remember our time with one another. And before we parted ways I made him a promise. I promised him that I would share his message with you:
If you ever come to Haiti, which someday I do hope you do, bring your camera. This country and its people are beautiful. But also bring some respect. You aren’t here as tourist; you are here to help. And we aren’t aren’t animals in a zoo; we are people. Our suffering isn’t free for all to capture on film. It is real and it is hard and it is personal. Bring your camera, and if you see something or someone you want to take a picture of, just ask. Ask because it is respectful and because if you were on the other side of the camera, you would want us to ask you too.
For more reading on this subject, check out one of my favorite blog posts on the topic by Tara Livesay.
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The bread there is mediocre, but since I am not much of a baker I can’t complain…too much.
The bread is without preservatives. A plus to our health, I realize. This, however, means its shelf life is minimal. By the time we purchase the bread from the store we have at least two- three days tops- to finish the loaf before mold starts to overtake each slice.
At first we thought the heat may be a contributor, so we tried storing it in our refrigerator. But since our limited electricity only allows us 6-8 hours a day to run our fridge, it wasn’t much of a solution. The mold still came, sometimes even quicker.
So now our bread sits on the countertop, and it’s a daily race to see how quickly we can consume it before the mold- or the ants- take over.
Perhaps this metaphor is a stretch, but sometimes I feel as if life down here is like my quickly molding Croissant D’Or bread. In other words, if I’m not careful, I can quickly let the mold and ants take me over. And too often, I have not had what was needed to preserve me.
* * * * *
About a year after Hunter and I moved to Haiti, my heart turned as quickly as our bad bread. Like, bread of the worst kind- sour, moldy, and infected with all sorts of critters.
A lot of things were at play in contributing to my heart’s downfall. There is really no need to get into them…I’ve ranted and raved enough before. I’m still trying to move past many of such events/people/circumstances, forgiving them one by one.
Regardless, I let the bad, the dirty, and the evil around me seep into the pours of my heart- places which used to be filled by grace, love, patience, and a general optimistic outlook on life. I chose anger over peace, bitterness over forgiveness, fear over trust. And.It.Ate.Me.Alive.
We are told in Proverbs to guard our hearts for “everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4: 23). This ain’t a joke. I know because for a good year or so, I strayed from this wisdom, and I suffered for it.
But not only me. I think I also hurt a lot of people in the midst of my suffering. I took my problems and often threw them back at people. Possibly even you.
And so all excuses aside, I just want to confess today. I want to say I’m sorry. Sorry because I let my heart sit out on the countertop for too long and I didn’t guard it. Sorry for my angry words. Sorry for pointing the finger and casting blame. Sorry for being mean, not kind, and standoffish. Sorry for not being stronger.
* * * * *
When I lived the states my life was fairly easy and my problems were extremely minimal. Moving here, I didn’t know how to struggle well, mainly because I never had to before. I didn’t know what it really meant to have to persevere. I never had an enemy and my only experience with spiritual warfare was what I read in the Bible. In other words, my heart wasn’t prepared for life in Haiti.
I recently read this blog post about missionary burnout. It had a lot of great points, but one statistics she quoted threw me for a loop:
The statistics are scary: 80% of missionaries burn out and don’t finish their term. 46% of missionaries have been diagnosed with a psychological issue, and of those 87% are diagnosed with depression.
There are many dynamics to these numbers, I am sure. But the underlying truth is evident: If you are somewhere in the world working to advance the kingdom of God, Satan is going to try to pull you down. He is going to bring the mold, the ants, and the heat. He is going to try to make you feel alone and make you feel anger and resentment. He is going to try and prevent you from seeing the good so that the bad will make you feel too burdened to continue. He is going to tempt you beyond belief. And he will never stop….
Satan’s destructive ways were in abundance shortly after I moved to Haiti. My heart crumbled with every stab. I was made weak.
So what has changed?
One of my absolute favorite scriptures is from Psalms 51: 10-12. After a while, I got tired of my sick heart. It had contaminated my whole life and I needed a change. So I sang these words, everyday. And slowly but surely God restored in me what was previously broken.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
God is daily cleaning out my heart and renewing my spirit. He is teaching me to be joyful even when difficulties surround me. And He is daily giving me a willing spirit to sustain me.
How about you? Maybe you aren’t a “missionary” oversees per say, but I have a feeling many of you know and understand what I am talking about. All of our hearts are at risk. How do you preserve yours?
Written by: Tanya Pirtle
We are trying to teach our young men to be independent, so while on my last trip to Haiti, when he asked me if Jonathan could go with him to the hospital to retrieve his medical test results, I said, “No, you need to learn to do this on your own, you can do it. Go first thing in the morning and bring me the results when you get home.”
I arrived at Emmaus House late that morning expecting to see him. I didn’t. About 6:00 that evening, he hunted me down so we could talk. He explained that they said he had an allergy. “What took you so long?” I said. He got quiet and explained to me how he woke up at 6:00 AM to be the first one there and he just arrived home an hour ago- almost 12 hours later. They did wait on him first and asked him some questions about a possible allergic reaction he was having.
“Who washes your clothes?”
“Who takes care of you?”
“Who washes your sheets?”
“I do it myself. I live in an orphanage,” he replied. The entire group burst into laughter.
In Haiti, laundry is considered women’s work, something his mother would typically do for him.
They sent him to go sit back down. He was humiliated. He explained to me how this group of professionals sat and talked, ate lunch, talked and laughed some more, helped other patients who came, and placed him on the back burner until they were ready to close at 4:00 at which point they abruptly gave him his paperwork and asked him to leave. Hungry, tired, and ashamed, he finally headed home.
This is why he wanted Jonathan to go with him.
He was, as orphans in Haiti often are, cast aside like garbage that nobody cares about until it becomes a stench and demands to be taken care of.
A fought back tear may sneak by, but it isn’t very often one sees a Haitian man cry. But he cried that day. He was deeply wounded. At almost 20 years old, this experience cut to the heart of this young man’s identity. This is how his culture sees him and the 14 others he lives with at Emmaus House. The battle they fight to see themselves as overcomers rather than as abandoned, thrown away, and bereft is one they will fight every day.
During a seminar I taught on attachment issues in Haiti last month, I relayed this scenario to the participants of orphanage caregivers. Did they see this injustice as a possibility in their culture? They all quietly agreed that this was a very likely scenario as they hung their heads in shame for how their countrymen sometimes treat the ones they are trying to help.
Rejection of the orphan in Haiti is a societal survival tactic in a way. An orphan is seen as a threat to future economic development. They, for the most part, are not educated and grow to become a further burden to a society already in distress. They are not seen as contributing to progress. And why not? Most of the time this is the case. They often lack access to proper medical care and are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Many end up on the streets, increasing crime dramatically. In a culture where so many are simply trying to survive, one is not always afforded the luxury of caring for those in distress. How will the aunt who can barely care for her own children care for her dead sister’s child?
How will these young people make their way in a culture who sees them as nothing more than a burden? The fact that they have inherent value as a creation of God is not enough. At Emmaus House, we are spending a great deal of resources and time on the preparation and education of our youth. We are working to create an identity within them that defies what their culture says they are. We will show Haiti that these young people can and will serve and contribute not only to their country’s economic development and to their churches, but they will break the cycle of creating more orphans. Our standards for our youth at Emmaus House are very high and with good reason. Their culture will not (as America sometimes does) cater to them in any way based on the challenges they face, and their time spent at Emmaus House must prepare them to live in a society unsympathetic to their plight.
As we sat together on that chair and I helplessly watched him hurt, I placed my hand on his arm and we discussed how he is fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who has a purpose for his life. He has a great deal to overcome and his story is wrought with loss and pain. My prayer is that he will not let those around him choose his identity. I pray he will own his identity as a child of God. As we continued to talk, I remembered that this young man is indeed an “orphan.” I forgot. I’ve known these young people for 5 years, and I forget sometimes that they don’t have a family and that others see them not as typical people, but as orphans. I forget that they are bereft. I forget because I see this young man as one who has a sensitive heart that knows how to serve others. He knows how to love despite his loss. He makes himself vulnerable and knows how to make others feel special. He is truly a remarkable young man who is loved by many. Unlike these hospital workers, I see him through the lens of what he has to offer the world, not what he will take from it.
Secretary of the Board
Opportunity is not something we take lightly here in Haiti.
The opportunity to attend school.
The opportunity to have three meals a day.
The opportunity to work.
Opportunity does not come easily for the average Haitian. Opportunity is often for the wealthy and for those with status and connections.
Opportunity is the great divide between potential and success.
For youth who grow up as orphans, opportunity is rare. Many hang onto the hope that a foreigner would one day help support them and their dreams. That hope, however, often comes up empty handed and, quite frankly, is not entirely helpful.
Hope that is solely dependent on the welfare of another is not hope well grounded. It is unstable. Uncertain. Misappropriated.
I’m not saying that to hope in another is wrong. Instead, what often becomes problematic, is when one’s potential is contingent only on charity rather than their work ethic, their personal determination, and even their faith in God.
Sometimes I feel as though “hope” is such a cliché here in Haiti. Every other organization has the word in their name. Heck, we claim it in our mission statement: Bringing hope to the youth of Haiti….
Haiti needs hope. It’s true.
But hope without opportunity is often no greater than wishful thinking.
I know many who hope for a job but have no opportunity to find one; children who hope for parents but have no opportunity to be adopted; teens who hope to finish school but have no opportunity to pay for it. I held a young woman at my gate tonight as she wept over lost opportunities and (what she believes) is a hopeless future ahead.
We talk a lot about hope with our teens and staff at Emmaus House. Accompanied with that, however, we also try to create opportunities for our youth to work for and earn the futures they want if they are willing. And not all are. We have actually had to dismiss youth from our program because they wanted hand-outs more than the responsibility that often accompanies opportunity.
Opportunities are precious down here and we want our youth to never take this gift lightly if offered. We encourage them to dream and to hope, but we also require them to work, save, and earn.
Over the past few weeks many of our teens have had opportunities- opportunities to serve, to translate, to work, and to shadow professionals. All of these opportunities were purposefully and given to them in order to help prepare their for their futures. Here are some snapshots of what they have been up to….
We are blessed to be able to offer opportunities to our youth. And we are thankful to those who are helping us provide them. I continually pray that God would continue to send opportunities our way- opportunities for college education, professional schools, internship, service, and jobs. Opportunities like these don’t come easy for teens like ours, but we at Emmaus House are choosing, despite all odds, to remain hopeful.
Last Sunday at church, somewhere between the second wave of announcements and the sermon, a woman came forward to share with the congregation. Her child (around age 3) had been sick for the past week. Diarrhea. Fever. Stomach pain. The standard here in Haiti. Very animated like, she spoke about how she took her child to the doctor where she received medicine. Now, one week later, her child stood beside her sucking on a bottle full of milk, healthy as could be. Almost in tears she raised her hands and sang praises to God.
Once we got home Hunter looked to me and asked, “So what did you think of that testimony?”
“What do you mean?” I replied. “Did I miss something?”
“Well,” Hunter said, “Her kid had diarrhea for a few days and she went to the doctor and got some medicine. Now her kid is better. It’s not that big of a deal. Kids get diarrhea all the time. Did she really need to get up in front of everyone to cry and sing about it?”
We sat at our table for a minute both silently assessing the former testimony and both feeling slightly guilty for questioning the worthiness of it.
I broke the silence.
“I guess to the mom, her child getting sick (even if with a minor illness) and getting better was a miracle. To her, the medicine was a blessing. To her, God was caring for daughter. Maybe we are the ones in the wrong because we are sitting here questioning it. Maybe we don’t give God enough credit when we have a headache and can heal it with a couple Tylenol or our kid has a cough and we can heal it with some cough syrup. Maybe we should raise our hands and praise God every time He blesses us with healing too…even when the healing seems small and mundane.”
“I think we just expect to be healed of the small things,” Hunter said after a few minutes.
* * * * *
What a luxury.
This is what I have thought about all week.
What a luxury it is that I expect to be blessed. What luxury and a curse.
It’s a luxury that I have always had my small things provided and a curse because in the abundance I have too often failed to see God.
It’s a luxury that God has blessed me so many times in my life and a curse that I often give myself the credit.
It’s a luxury that I expect God to bless me and a curse that I get angry when He doesn’t.
* * * * *
Living in Haiti, among such poverty, you’d think I’d have the hang of this by now. You’d think I would better notice the small things and the Giver who stands behind them. One would think.
One of Hunter’s favorite things to do for me is to find me special treats downtown- things we crave from America but can never find down here. This past week alone he found a Diet Coke, Salt and Vinegar chips, a Kit Kat bar, Doritos, and a large bell pepper. (Which one of these is not like the other?) Every time he brings me a special treat I get super excited- way more than a 28 year woman should honestly get about such things. However, these “small” treats feel enormous to me. They bring me joy. They keep me going. And they remind me that I am thought of and loved by my husband. Back in America, I wouldn’t have even noticed if Hunter brought me home a candy bar. But here, now, I long for the candy bar and praise Hunter when He blesses me with one.
I guess it is the same for the woman at our church. In a country where quality medical care is scarce and medicines are more than the average day’s wages, being healed of any sickness, big or small, is noticed. The “small” healing feel enormous. They bring joy and keep you going. And most importantly, they remind you that you are remembered and you are being cared for by the ultimate Healer.
* * * * *
A blessing is a blessing no matter how small. This week I am asking God to reveal the small things to me. Every. Single. Thing. May I learn from this dear Haitian mother that small blessings are in fact big blessings when they come from God.
I’ve been a short-term mission participant,
Short-term mission leader,
I’ve played many roles when it comes to missions, specifically in Haiti. Overtime I have learned that service without wisdom and understanding is not service at all. So I started reading…a lot.
Today I want to share my favorite books on missions and Haiti. This is not a complete list. There are many other great books out there. Many I have not even read myself. These are just my favorites…today that is.
If you support missions in Haiti, serve here in any capacity (short or long term), or are considering starting something new of your own please pick up one or more of these books.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost you all that you have, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7
ON MISSIONS & HAITI
…you can truly understand only when you realize that to love Haiti is to come away bruised; that loving Haiti is to love something that may not even love itself, but that it’s still love, after all…
Between the 1950s and the 1970s foreign aid had become the only significant source of wealth in the country and because of the associated corruption, negligence, and near total absence of any accountability, it had become a monster. All the politicians and any industrious, entrepreneurial, and ambitious individual focused on the NGOs. Politicians, schoolteachers, craftsman, contractors, they were all feeding at the trough of foreign aid. It was the singular economic force, the pace setter, the final and only front in the war being waged against a disaster that in retrospect I try show in this book was largely the making of the NGOs themselves.
Superiority cloaked in a desire to serve is still superiority. It’s not our words that count but the perception of the local people who watch our lives and sense our attitudes…If you try to serve people without understanding them you are more likely to be perceived as a benevolent oppressor.
Avoid paternalism. Do not do for people what they can do for themselves.
What we do as cross-cultural ministers can have a powerful effect on a country either for or against a movement for Christ. Although our cross-cultural strategies are almost always well intended, they can actually hinder genuine growth of the church of Jesus Christ within nations. Our imprint upon another culture cannot be instantly recalls. As missionaries, our words and actions carry weight for years to come- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I believe that God grieves for every child who is living in an orphanage because that situation was never meant to be. It maybe a temporary “fix” in a time of crisis, but as a long-term solution, orphanages simply aren’t enough to nurture children as God intended.
If we are serious about significant impact, the missions we invest in must produce measurable results. And to achieve measurable change in the lives of the poor and the communities they inhabit, focused, not diversified, investment is required.
ON MISSIONS & MONEY
Good intentions are not enough to ensure good outcomes in cross-culture partnerships.
Besides the differences Westerners face in language, culture, and skin color, they are not part of the basic interdependence of socity, even though they frequently interact with it and constantly bump into it. They are economically independent, so they never have need to be on the receiving end of reciprocal relationships. They obviously are not part of any local ethnic group or extended family. They are usually only present for a short time in an African community. So it is very difficult for Westerners to really fit into African society as equals or even as valid partners. The Westerners are people who appear to have ample resources that many Africans would like to have them share but lack most other qualifications for meaningful relationships.
Our challenge is to find a way to help that does not leave others with the impression they are too weal, too helpless and too uninformed to help themselves.
ON MISSIONARY RESOURCES
This handbook has been written primarily for those who live far from medical centers, in places where this is no doctor. But even where there are doctors, people can and should take the lead in their own health care. So this book is for everyone who cares.
Missionaries who communicate God’s eternal message in the contemporary contexts of the world’s people cannot base that message on Western cognitive domains because they cannot assume that all people accept these domains. They must learn the domains of their recipient culture and judge whether Christianity can be communicated through those categories or whether other categories of reality must be introduced.