God’s Will is Always the Best Place

“What was the best part of your trip?”

I’ve fielded that question many times since Corey and I returned from Haiti. So many really good things happened over the course of our week, but I have determined that the very best part was an ongoing overwhelming sense that I was exactly where God wanted me to be.

I got worn out. (Take a look my tired self in this photo just before our flight back to the US. If those puffy eyes don’t say exhausted, I don’t know what does.)

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And I missed my three handsome fellas back home. (Look at those faces. How could I not miss them?)

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And this introverted gal longed for a couple hours in a place void of people and noise. (My comfy bedroom chair was calling my name by the end of the week.)

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But even when I was a little homesick or uncomfortable, I knew I was smack dab in the middle of God’s will.  And there is no better place to be. Whether in the densely-populated poverty-stricken capital of Haiti or a cornfield-surrounded two-stoplight town in the middle of Iowa, God’s will is always the best place.

And I’ve found that often when I am in God’s will he allows some really good things to happen.

One of those things on my Haiti trip was the opportunity to fill this pastor’s arms with dresses for his ever-growing congregation. Pastor Brucelee (Phonetically his name sounds just like the iconic martial arts expert, though I’m sure I just mutilated the spelling.) leads a church of 900+ people, and it was a blessing to me to be a blessing to him.

Any really good things ever happen to you when you were right where God wanted you to be?

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Color and Contemplate: Can You Read This?

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If you were with us last Thursday, you know the drill. Print and color the picture. Contemplate the statistic of the week.

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”  – Frederick Douglass

The literacy rate in Haiti is 49%. You read that right. Half of the adult population of Haiti cannot read.

We were concerned when our middle son struggled with reading a few years ago. So concerned that we took a very proactive approach and sat through some pretty painful read aloud sessions with the phonetically frustrated seven-year-old. He thought he was reading to earn silly bands and football cards, but what he didn’t realize was that he was reading to improve his whole educational experience. Reading finds its way into every subject of school and virtually every facet of life. And we take it for granted here in our nation where the literacy rate is 99%.

Next time you hear your son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter slowly working their way through One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, treasure the moment. The ability to read is a gift.

And if you want to provide the opportunity for a Haitian child to learn to read, check out the Mission to Haiti link in the right column. When you sponsor a child you change his (0r her) future.

*Haiti info from UNICEF 2011 stats. US info from cia.gov.

**I’d love to display some completed coloring pages, so take a photo of your child’s handiwork, send it to me and I’ll post it on the blog or over on facebook.

Dresses and Desserts ~ Our First 500 Dresses Party

dessert and dressesMom heard someone on a radio show talking about an event called  “A Party with a Purpose.”  She liked the idea, and we decided to put our brains together to plan our own purposeful party.

The premise is pretty simple. Eat desserts and learn about 500 Dresses and Mission to Haiti. All three of which I am passionate about. If you spent some time at my house, you would soon realize that it is impossible to be a Harms and not be passionate about dessert (especially chocolate.)  And my boys have learned that being a Harms means being passionate about Haiti too.

I know the North Central Iowa location will hinder some of you from coming, but we’d love to see anyone who can make it. Plus, if you bring a donation, we”ll put your name in a drawing for a Jan Nelson American Girl Doll dress.

Color and Contemplate: How Old Are You?

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I just finished telling people I have no artistic talent over at 26 Letters, and now I’ve published a beautiful hand-drawn sundress coloring page. (OK, so it’s not beautiful. How about cute? Is it at least cute?) It was actually about 75% tracing 25% Kim’s personal touch. Meaning I added the flowers and the ruffle on the bottom.

I’m a flower doodling  pro. I draw about 100 of them on my notes at church every Sunday. (I can doodle and pay attention to the sermon at the same time by the way 😉 I’m a woman. I multi-task. )

Now I’ve gotten myself off-track…

Each week this summer I will be doing a color and contemplate post: Print and color the dress. Contemplate the Haiti statistic.

 They say knowledge is power. But I prefer to think knowledge can lead to compassion. So let’s squeeze a little more knowledge into our brains, shall we?

What is the life expectancy in Haiti?

a) 40

b) 77

c) 62

What is the life expectancy in the US?

a) 78

b) 52

c) 84

The life expectancy in Haiti  is  c) 62  according to UNICEF 2011 statistics. The life expectancy in the US is a)  78 according to World Bank 2011 statistics.

**I’d love to display some completed coloring pages, so take a photo of your child’s handiwork, send it to me and I’ll post it on the blog or over on facebook.

Donate That Prom Dress in Your Closet

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You don’t like to sew.

Fabric stores scare you.

And you couldn’t thread a needle to save your life.

So you just check in on our little ministry from time to time to see pictures of little girls in super-cute dresses.

That’s okay. We’re fine with that.

But 500 Dresses might just be up to something in which you can take part.

The photo above is a little dress shop in Port au Prince, Haiti. It is Mission to Haiti’s venture into working with people to learn vocational skills and providing an outlet for them to use them. And most importantly, it supplies a bit of income to people in rather destitute circumstances.

In this shop which is run by Brunel and Madame Benison (whose name I am totally spelling phonetically), they rent wedding gowns and sell dresses and a variety of other items. I’ve recently learned the shop could use some nice (think prom/bridesmaid) dresses in the store.

We would love to send a few of these types of dresses along with our next shipment.

And I’m thinking some of you may have a dress or know of someone who has a dress they’d like to donate to a worthy cause. I’m telling you, Mission to Haiti is about as worthy of a cause as you will find.

All you have to do is get your dress to my mom or me, and we’ll ship it to Haiti.

There are a few parameters, however…

I’m not talking about your 1982 balloon of a dress with the enormous side bow, or your 1992 sequins from top to bottom with shoulder poof that doubles as a flotation device dress.

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I’m talking simple, elegant and stylish. Something current that an American gal would wear today (a modest American gal). I don’t want to send your junk to Haiti. I want to send your pretty stuff.

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If you think you might have something for us, please contact me at 500dresses@gmail.com, on facebook or leave a comment on this post.

*need both small and large sizes

**If you have no dresses and don’t like to sew, but your heartstrings are being pulled to be a long-term influence in a Haitian child’s life, please click my Mission to Haiti link on the right and look into sponsoring a child. You won’t regret it.

A Change of Perspective in Haiti

Kim Teaching 5Brunel translated as I shared a devotion.

Back in the day when Carter and Owen didn’t need deodorant and ate less food than I do, I started writing a series of devotions for them loosely based on their “little boy” experiences. My dream was to write 30 devos, have my fantastically talented brother illustrate them and then create a book. Well, the book hasn’t been published, but it hasn’t been a complete waste either. Some of the devos have found their way into publications, and I’ve been able to use them on various occasions. Most recently on our mission trip to Haiti.

My new friend, Paula, and I took turns sharing a short devotion at the beginning of our afternoon sewing classes with the youth. My speaking-in-front-of-a-group nerves melted away when the kids’ school teacher giggled as I talked about my boys coming home caked with mud from the creek.  Smiling back at her, I had an awesome moment of realization that she and I are both just regular moms. We simply happened to have been born into very different life circumstances.

Several similar moments over the course of my Mission to Haiti trip changed the way I think of Haitians.  Instead of thinking of “the poor Haitians” en-masse, I think of the school teacher with the smiling eyes who used hand motions to tell me she was pregnant with her second child. I think of our translator Billy who sat with me on two occasions and talked about his life. I think about Alix who will soon move from his mud and thatch house to a home with a roof that Corey helped build. I think of  our student Marilyn who was by far a better seamstress than me…

Haiti is a poor nation. But that nation is made up of individual people who are not so different from you and me. They just lack the opportunities that we take for granted. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to take that perspective changing trip.

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Below is a copy of the devo I paraphrased for the kids in Haiti, along with an illustration by my brother.

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Psalm 51:7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. NIV

“The sun is out!” Michael was thrilled. He shoveled his pancakes in his mouth and went to find James. After a week of rain, the boys were tired of being stuck in the house.

They pulled on their rain boots and hurried out to the creek behind the house. It was like a wonderland of water and mud. Soon they were on their hands and knees on the wet mushy ground digging for worms.

Covered in mud up to their elbows, they played happily letting the wet dirt soak into their shorts and t-shirts. By lunchtime, they had a bucket full of worms and bodies caked in mud.

“Let’s go home and get something to eat,” said James pulling a long worm out of the ground.

“Yeah, and I want to get this mud off my arms and legs. It kind of pinches my skin when it dries,” said Micheal as he worked on getting the mud out from between his toes.

Their mom started laughing when two mud-caked boys arrived at her door. “You can’t possibly be James and Michael. You look more like mud monsters. Let’s go over to the side of the garage so I can hose you down,” she said.

James and Michael watched the mud run off of their skin and down the driveway along with the water from the hose.

“Do you know what this reminds me of?” their mom asked.

“A big mud puddle?” asked James.

“Well,  it does look like a big mud puddle, but that’s not what I was thinking,” she said. “What it makes me think of is how Jesus washes away our sins.”

“Oh, like our sins are the mud?”

“Yes, and when we ask Jesus to forgive our sins, what does he do?”

“He washes us clean, just like you are doing with the hose.”

“Right! When Jesus forgives us he takes our dirty sin and washes it away.”

As the boys watched the muddy water flow down the driveway, they decided it felt pretty good to be clean.