19 November 2017

faithfulness

It has been a BUSY weekend!

You may recall that because Thanksgiving isn't a Haitian holiday, we all have work and class and school on Thanksgiving.  However, November 18 is Vertier Day, and everything is closed down for that, so every year our missionary family celebrates Thanksgiving on the 18th.  We've gotten so used to that, in fact, I no longer feel sad on the true Thanksgiving to be missing it...because we didn't!  

And that was yesterday, and it was a beautiful day.
We were missing a few folks, but yesterday was still the largest group we've ever had!  More than having lots of people and tons of good food, however, is the joy of having a truly worshipful day together.  Not a lot of families get to make the day all about God's great faithfulness the years past and future.  

This year we started out by all answering a different question...some funny, "Would you rather wash your hair in mashed potatoes or take a bath in gravy?" some reflective, "Who would you invite to today from history if you could" and some devotional, "How do you remember to be thankful in the day-to-day?"  I just love this portion, love hearing from the kids and teens and adults NOT about work and about their first thoughts.
Then we always join in a time of worship, and this year "Great is Thy Faithfulness" really got to me, not only because it ALWAYS gets to me and is so powerful, but yesterday morning my sister texted that her water had broken, and by the time people started to come by the house, she was heading to the hospital.
And you know me...missing out gracefully is not my strength, and I was desperate to be there to help my sister yesterday, to know more, to be involved, to be there, to cherish and love.  And singing that reminder that He gives strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow with all these beautiful voices and the children...that All I have needed, His hand has provided... 

yeah.  I needed that yesterday.  So thankful.
Then, our team patriarch, which has been Uncle Dave every year since I've been here, prays for us all, and I'm just so grateful ANY time we have good time with Dave and Marilyn.  

After a wonderful lunch we got the group picture, and then the kids were off to play and the adults had coffee and pie and spent some time praying for Haiti (we're going through a particularly politically charged season right now), for the men and women we work with and serve and love, for our families and team and nations. 
 
Then a dozen dishes, the men were off to play basketball, and we all put our feet up for a few hours.  The downside is that we all terribly miss our families on Thanksgiving.  The upside is that we're all very grateful to have 40 Christ-followers to celebrate with...and I know one day when Thanksgiving means 6-8 people, the girls won't know what to do with themselves :)
It was a gift of a day, and I'm so thankful.
But that doesn't mean I wasn't checking my phone every 6 minutes.  I was as with my sister in my thoughts and prayers as I possibly could have been, and finally fell asleep last night still waiting for news of my new niece.  I kept waking up to check my phone, and finally got to meet this DEAR little thing at midnight, and finally got to "talk" with my sister for a while.
LOOK at that.  What a fantastic Thanksgiving.  Isn't she precious precious?

Meet Adaly Noelle, born perfectly on Vertier Day, which means nothing to most people and means great Thanksgiving to me!

That makes three precious daughters for Lisa, the oldest being three, and she just has some sweet and beautiful days ahead of her with all this LOVE...strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
By the time we got Thanksgiving cleaned up and put away, I was done, but Emily always goes Christmas the night of Thanksgiving, and the girls were THRILLED to be a part of that.
Emily and Julie (and Bill and Phil :) also made a wonderfully special lunch today of RIBS and potatoes and cake to celebrate my birthday slower than it will be by Wednesday, and we ate out in the yard and the breeze and the sunshine and sat there talking and watching the kids play till past dinner...I may have mostly talked about Adaly, but good friends know what you're missing and let you go.

Always thankful for the special crew of family God's miraculously brought around us and for the ways they family so well...All I have needed His hand has provided.

So don't we think He'll continue?



17 November 2017

giving Thanks

Still no baby for my little sister (though I've been checking my phone every 6 minutes!) and spent most of today getting ready for tomorrow, with the sweet help of some very helpful girls.  Once again, I'm laying down my inner Martha (Stewart, that is) and making decorating a cherished family affair (though I do admit some of Nora's work, mostly done in popsicle, I am redoing.)
This year I went through all the old group photos and printed them out...looking at our team grow and change, looking at our kiddos shoot up from one photo to another, remembering who was here and who came and went...it's all such a flash, when 10 years are hanging on my wall in a row.  

I'm thankful this Haiti Thanksgiving for His faithfulness and Unchanging-ness through it all.  The family we began with is almost entirely different than the family we have here around us now, almost everyone has come and gone, next year will look quite different, still, but He just has been new and unchanging and faithful Ever. Single. Morning, and I'm so thankful for that.  

Here's a few throwbacks...
Happy Thanksgiving! (Even if for you, it isn't :)
The kids officially got too big for the front row last year!  Trying to figure out how to switch that up tomorrow in our utterly flooded yard...

This was the roughest...Cholera Thanksgiving, deep in the epidemic and heavy-hearted, with the nurses on our team running home from the cholera clinic for 15 minutes of turkey and back again.
The only picture I have of people in 2011 is of everyone eating :)

This year was in the old Seminary cafeteria with lots of visitors, and it was Carol and my's birthday that day!

This was previously our biggest year at 36...we'll see how 39 works tomorrow!
Matt was in the States this Thanksgiving, and I remember being very thankful for Dave S and Marilyn helping me with Sofie Turkey.  Yes, those are pajamas.  Yes, I still make them wear fall colors for Thanksgiving, even if it's pajamas.
and yes, I DO wear that same outfit every year on Thanksgiving.  (Did I mention I struggle with change?)  Look at how little the kiddos!
We always stick the teenagers in a very loud corner to themselves :)

I could NOT figure out who the TINY baby was in the middle of this picture until Matt asked, "Where's Nora?" AHHHG.  Was she ever that small? 
This was our very first Thanksgiving in Haiti, 2007...before the team started doing Thanksgivings together. Matt's parents came for the very first time to celebrate with us, and I remembering struggling to make something that resembled Thanksgiving with Haitian ingredients...and with basically NO idea how to cook!  Goodness.  Babies.

Thankful, Thankful.




15 November 2017

keep-on prayers

"Has Aunt Sharon been there like a really long time?" my dear friend Elisa noted this morning, and as true as it is it doesn't seem like it this morning.  She heads out today after two weeks, and all the Ayars are fighting it.  I'm not sure how long would be long enough, but reality is that you just never don't want someone as helpful and loving and patient and fun and family as Aunt Sharon in your house.
She's done homeschool, she'd done finger paints, she's done Uno and dishes and dishes and dishes and laundry and played every game the girls could invent.  She's listened and loved and shared and gotten up too early, and having her with us these weeks is the closest thing I'll ever have to having my mom visit.  Mom prayed for Aunt Sharon many times, long before we ever knew she existed, that God would somehow bring women into my life to guide and encourage and help, bring women into my life to love and grandparent my future children, and it's pretty amazing to watch an answer to prayer snuggle my children.

Trying to replace the gloom of the day with her leaving with gratefulness that that she was so graciously here, and trying to help the girlies do the same!  

Meanwhile, the rains of November continue every day, our grounds soggy, the potholes bottomless and many houses filling and draining and filling again.  Students are still coming to class, though more are staying on campus these days than commuting. This Saturday is Haiti's Vertier Day and our annual Thanksgiving, so we're also preparing for 39 and two turkeys in our home Saturday!

This chicken from Matt's carpool to school this morning has not volunteered, but Brett has two of his turkeys on the chopping block today.
We're still anxiously awaiting my newest precious niece!  Pray for my little sister, Lisa, if you think of it...for healing for her little family of colds and sinus infections and for a beautiful safe delivery...these are those days you wish very badly you could be in two places at once.  I can't wait to meet sweet niece number 5!  (My father is about to have 7 grandchildren, all girls!)

Thank you for your ongoing prayers and love.  He answers them, he answers them, even prayers we didn't understand, prayers we didn't even want to pray.  It often takes a long time, in our perspectives, but His hand is mighty, His ear is close to our hearts, and His timing and ways are GOOD.  Keep on.

12 November 2017

because Haiti's like that

In any country there are places that make you frustrated and discouraged, and places that make you thankful and blessed.  

For me and Haiti, the richest places are usually the poorest, the mountains where I remember again how beautiful the culture is, how generous the people are.
Friday was the muddiest, slipperiest, most challenging climb I've ever made to Coup-a-David, each of us laden down with prescription meds and water for the sterilizer, duffel bags full of tools, even a dental chair.  We'd warned the team the hike was tough, but never imagined how high the water would be, how muddy the climbs and how difficult it would be to climb and descend in such slippery conditions.  Some of the equipment weighed over 100 lbs, and men and women from the church took turns in carrying the heaviest bags.




I got to visit with my triplet friends and give them some school supplies and medical mamba (thank you Molly!)...they are doing SO well.  Their parents just continue to be the kindest couple, and have never once even hinted at asking for one thing, though children and poverty are theirs in abundance.

As we walked, 6 o'clock in the morning, we passed countless barefoot school children, hiking through the mud with their school shoes, socks and books on their heads...walking who KNOWS how far in their perfectly pressed uniforms.  Older siblings carried younger ones on their backs, a few young mamas doing the same.  
Maybe volunteering at your church doesn't look like this:
Maybe loving your children well and wanting the best for them doesn't mean hiking through the mud in your bare feet over mountain tops.

Maybe working hard to provide for your family doesn't mean weaving your home with your own two hands, doesn't mean working the stains out of your children's clothing by hand in the river, doesn't mean carving out the mountains by hand in the Caribbean sun to plant pois congo and manioch, patat.



But if that's what it means in the mountains of Haiti, people work HARD, love WELL, volunteer SACRIFICIALLY, community BEAUTIFULLY.

It was a real joy to minister to over 250 of them Friday, providing consultations and medications, tooth pulling and teeth cleaning, games with the children, love and prayers.
I love days when we can pair humanitarian aid, practical physical help, with spiritually rooted and faithful ministry.
 
This man said his biggest problem was a fear of spending eternity without God in hell...I was so thankful to have brothers and sisters like Walnique and Enick and Phida so anxious to spend as much time as it took with anyone who would listen to share the Gospel, and to know that Enick and his co-workers are still there today and everyday.
Phida, skillfully engaging a whole lot of kiddos.  

Working under brothers Enick (pastor of Coup a David, grad of 2009) and Walnique (pastor of Fev church plant, grad of 2014) was the greatest joy for me personally.



Right around here the team was thinking they were very VERY ready to be there...but it just ain't over till it's over!  The 11 Canadian team members and 11 Haitian co-workers really were fantastic...not complaining, muddy and sweaty and truly "doctors without borders".  I was super thankful to have Haylie helping get everyone there and back and translated for and cracking me up along the way.
We finally got back to the pick-up spot and Phil and Emily hadn't arrived yet when lighting and thunder and pouring rains began.  Quickly, people came out of the woodwork, grabbing medical equipment and hands and pulling everyone through the sugar cane and into their little porches and under awnings.

Because Haiti's like that.

and I'm grateful.