Serving Others

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“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” Martin Luther King Jr.

(This is my friend Paula working with Venette on a treadle in Haiti. In the background, you can see the wedding gowns that Dorcus Ministry Shop rents out.)

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The Trivial is Drowning Out the Eternal

It’s midnight and a slightly broken heart and a brain on overdrive won’t let me sleep. I’m not gonna tell you what has me all twisted up inside because it is almost embarrassingly trivial. But that’s what I do. Sometimes I let myself get worked up over things that have zero eternal significance and very little earthly significance.

Since I figured my tossing and turning was affecting Corey’s sleep, I decided to head to to the couch, open my laptop and find something brain numbing to keep me entertained. (Hey if I can’t sleep I may as well be entertained, right?)

But here’s the thing. I started thinking about how last April I was in Haiti. And how last April I was absolutely heart-broken over things that have much earthly and eternal significance. And now  because of that, I’m still slightly heartbroken with a brain on overdrive, but I’ve got a layer of you-are-so-shallow guilt thrown on top of it.

Good golly, I’m destined not to sleep tonight.

My life of All-American abundance allows me to focus on things that really don’t matter much in the big picture. I wish it wasn’t the case, and I wish I could say that after praying God took away all the crappy feelings inside me and I now have a mind focused solely on him. But I can’t.

Maybe I’ll get there, but I’m not there yet. In the meantime, I am sharing this story that I wrote a year ago today. Tonight God used Billy to make me feel overwhelmingly guilty about my current state of mind remind me that I’m focused on the wrong thing. So much for finding something brain numbing to pass the hours that I shouldn’t be awake… Maybe I’m not alone and somebody out there needs a reminder too.

 

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I sit enjoying Billy’s company on a wooden bench shaded from the hot Caribbean sun. He is eloquent. He is intelligent. His smile genuine. His joyful spirit contagious. He speaks excellent English with a beautiful accent.  Dressed handsomely in navy blue pants and button-down shirt, he may as well be an old friend from back home.

In just one day, my Haitian brother has gripped my heart.

He did not choose poverty.

He did not choose hunger.

He did not choose life in Tent City.

He asks about my life. What can I say? I live in a 5 bedroom home, of which only 3 bedrooms are slept in on a regular basis. I have cupboards full of food and regularly toss uneaten leftovers down my garbage disposal. Clean drinking water flows from multiple faucets and ice pops out of my freezer with the push of a button.

My voice falters. I can’t verbalize the discrepancy between his life and mine. So I speak of things that don’t accentuate the contradiction that is my abundance and his scarcity.

Then he asks the question I can’t sidestep. The one that now drifts through my mind a dozen times a day.

“Have you for even one second in your life been hungry?”

It takes all I have to look into his eyes, but I owe him an honest answer.

“No, Billy. I have never known what it is to be hungry. Every day of my entire 37 years, I have had more than enough.”

And now as I am back home, my more than enough breaks my heart into pieces.  Every bit of abundance causes an ache inside. But I trust that God breaks hearts so he can mold them into something new. So he can impart his perfect love into my imperfect being.

I know that as I sit here with my coffee and my laptop, my God – the one who is able to save little American girls and little Haitian boys – is working on the inside making me a new creation to do the work which he has prepared in advance for me to do.

And my friends, a new creation ever growing in the desire to serve and obey my God is exactly what I want to be.

Heading to Church in Haiti

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Revelation 7:9-10 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

***

(In Creole) 9 Apre sa mwen gade, la anvan m’ te genyen yon gwo multitude ki pa gen moun ka konte tout nasyon, branch fanmi, moun ak lang, kanpe devan twòn ak devan ti mouton an. Yo te pote tou rad blan, yo te pran fèy palmis nan men yo. 10 Et yo pleuré nan di yo byen fò:

“Delivre appartient pou Bondye nou an,

ki chita sou ou twòn

, ak pou ti mouton an.”

A New Home In Haiti

 

This was Alix’s home. This little structure of sticks and mud with a tin roof.

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This is a photo I recently received showing Alix’s completed new home.

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Alix is a young man who was sponsored through Mission to Haiti, and Corey had the opportunity to work on his house last year.

My hubby spoils me here in the US with his amazing design and construction skills, and I love that I have had the opportunity to live in more than one home that he has constructed. But I love even more that he saw my heart for Haiti and chose to give up a week of his time to follow me to the tiny country and use his talents to help bless a Haitian family with a roof for their new home (while I used my mediocre seamstress skills to teach some sewing classes).

My husband is awesome. And seeing this family beside their new home is awesome. And the good that Mission to Haiti does for so many is awesome.

God changes lives through Mission to Haiti: often through their child sponsorship program. Regular meals, regular medical check-ups and a Christian education give these kids hope, not only for their lives here on earth, but also for their eternal future. And for some kids, like Alix, it can mean four stable walls and roof over their heads.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child, visit  Mission to Haiti online and take a look at all of the children in need.

The photos below were taken of the house in progress while we were in Haiti.

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Weddings In Haiti

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Almost 20 mother-of-the-bride dresses, a handful of flower-girl dresses and a bunch of sewing supplies are heading to the Dorcas Ministry Shop. (If you are interested in the background of the bridal shop, you can read about it in Haute Couture in Haiti, an article I had the privilege to write for Today’s Christian Woman last summer.)

Many people have asked me questions about weddings in Haiti. With the extreme poverty, how can people even afford to get married? Is a bridal shop a lucrative business? Are Haitian weddings like American weddings?

Honestly, I don’t know a lot, but I’ll share what I do know.

I think the answer to the question, How can people in Haiti afford to get married?, is: It’s hard.

There are a lot of costs involved including some kind of marriage fee to the Haitian government, the actual wedding ceremony and meal and all the various costs that go along with that, and housing. From what I understand, a groom is expected to acquire a respectable furnished place in which to live with his new bride.

Three Possible Scenarios.

Some couples can afford to get married. Haiti is the poorest country in the world, but some people do have money.

Some couples scrimp and save and work very hard for a long time to have the finances to get married.

Some couples want to get married, but because they cannot afford it, they choose to live together without getting married.

I also know that weddings are a big deal in the Haitian culture, so a bridal shop makes sense. There will always be weddings, so there will always be a demand for wedding gowns and other bridal attire. Since Dorcas Ministry Shop rents and sells inventory at a reasonable price, they are helping the bride and groom as well as providing much needed income for their employees.

I’ve tried to do some research ino Haitian weddings online, but I haven’t found a ton out there. I did find this post, A Haiti Wedding, with some info and a number of photos from a Haitian wedding to give you a taste of what a typical Haitian wedding might look like.

I don’t fully understand that ins and outs of planning and paying for a wedding in Haiti.

What I do know is that God has opened up this opportunity for us to serve, and we will continue to do so as long as we can be beneficial to the ministry. I do not think it is a coincidence that my mom, who has been sewing for weddings since before I was born, was connected to this little bridal shop in Port-au-Prince. And when God takes your passion and says – “Here, I’ve got this sweet way for you to serve me”- serving him in that way is exactly what you should do.

Shamed By Selfishness

I’m moving soon. Like 8 days soon. Whew.

I could gush to you about my awesome creative husband who builds beautiful houses which we enjoy for a few years before selling, only to start the whole crazy process over again. But that’s not the thrust of why my move has made it to this blog so I won’t go into the whole back story.

I will say I am totally on board with the overall picture of our goals in this build, move-in, sell, move-out routine.

But there are days I want to sit on my living room floor and cry.

Days that I don’t want to pack another box.

Days I am filled with sadness that I will soon walk out the front door of this home for the last time.

But then I am overwhelmed with my selfishness.

I have the opportunity to live in beautiful homes. I get to redecorate every few years. I will never fear becoming a pack-rat because I have learned the art of donating and tossing. I have the blessing of being reminded of my over-abundance as I box up my clothes and bubble-wrap my photo frames. And yet, I let these feelings of “whoa-is-me” sneak in.

It is so yucky. Seriously yucky. I cannot let myself go down that road of I-have-to-pack-up-all-my-stuff-again-self-pity. Blech.

I need to be reminded of the many people in this world who live in places like this.

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and this.

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And when I think of of this home that Corey helped build in Haiti for Alix’s family last spring, I am shamed by my selfishness.

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Psalm 119: 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

I am thankful that God has blessed me with the opportunity to see poverty first hand. And I am even more thankful that he has given mom and me this ministry that helps me keep from focusing my eyes on worthless things. It is when I get my perspective right and focus on things that really matter that I can get up out of the pit of self-pity and be thankful for the road God has me on. Even though the house number and street name change every few years.

Lord, please help to live in such a way that I am always aware of just how much my blessings outweigh my inconveniences. Amen.

Highlighting Heartline Ministries

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I recently connected with Tara Livesay, who has been loving and serving Haitians in the city of Port-au-Prince for the past eight years. She shared a post at 26 Letters as a part of my Sanctity of Life month guest posts, and I wanted to highlight it here too.

I love what they are doing, and I am sure you will too. Take a look at her Hope Realized guest post and head on over to the following website links to learn more about the Livesays and Heartline Ministries.

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Beautiful Girl

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As I’m preparing to talk with a group of women about being prepared to do the next thing God calls us to do, I’m remembering my visit to Haiti and all the beautiful women and children I had the opportunity to teach and to bless with dresses.  And I’m remembering how they gave me so much more than I gave them…

It’s fun to look back and see where God has worked in my life through this ministry and exciting to think of what he might do next!

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Pray for Madame Brunel

Life is Hard in Haiti

Life is Hard in Haiti

God used Familise’s (Mme. Brunel)  story in a pivotal way to encourage Esther to seek to bring hope to helpless single Haitian mothers. Esther followed God’s lead and eventually opened Shop Ministere Dorcas through Mission to Haiti.

Familise has been working full-time for a missionary who takes in orphans, but has recently been bleeding and has become very weak. It was discovered that she has a tumor and is in need of surgery.  Please pray for Familise and her children.

The following is a piece of the story I wrote for Today’s Christian Woman where you can learn a little more about Familise:

It was my experience with a Haitian woman after the quake that was a turning point,” said Esther.

Familise is a young mother Esther started helping in 2009, but it was seeing the woman near death in 2011 that changed Esther’s focus from simply opening a store to finding a tangible way to help single Haitian women become self-sufficient.

For Familise and her four young children, including infant twins, every day was a struggle for survival after her husband was attacked and killed and his truck stolen in 2008. “We (Mission to Haiti) began giving her beans and rice and clothes and tried to help. And I had medical teams check on the babies and give them milk. But you know, it was an afterthought,” Esther remembers.

When Esther became involved in a traditional Haitian wedding, her eyes were not only opened to a new cultural experience, but to a business opportunity that would benefit Haitian brides and employ destitute Haitian women.

Then in May of 2011, Familise got seriously ill. “We sent a nurse who found her near death,” said Esther. It was over the course of Familise’s three-week hospital stay and five blood transfusions that God broke Esther’s heart for the many Haitian mothers who could easily suffer the same fate or become one of the many who turn to prostitution simply to put food on the table.

But Familise refused to become a prostitution statistic, and her testimony became Esther’s catalyst to turn her desire to help into a thriving business. “Familise shared with her church that (even in the worst of circumstances) she just trusted the Lord, and the Lord was faithful. Learning that was a turning point for me. I knew I needed to go the next step,” Esther said. But she wasn’t sure what that would look like.

(Haute Couture in Haiti, TCW, June 2013)