30 November 2020

what God will do

 As I was working on some marketing stuff for Emmaus yesterday, I stumbled across this powerful testimony again, reaching me today... Be challenged, be blessed....


let us see what God will do. 

Let me tell you about the darkness, for a moment, so I can tell you about the Light.

I'm not sure when lawlessness has run as rampantly in Haiti as it does right now, and days are filled with horror stories and rumors, and little by little, you realize that which is insane has become quite horrendously normal.

It is crazy to me that things have gotten so bad that good people trying to do good things for the good of Haiti are having to do it in secret, hiding it, to avoid attack. It is crazy to me that men and women fighting for the good are being threatened, that children are being threatened, that education is being threatened, that businesses are being threatened. It's crazy to me that evil has become so prevalent that good has to hide to carry on.

As people wonder who is good and who is bad and which side is right and which side is wrong and what to believe in this mess, I don't know.

But I do know this. 

Men threatening to kill children and burn down schools, for ANY REASON, are evil men.  Men burning down businesses and robbing and hurting and violating innocent men, women and children are ruthless and evil men, working for darkness and destruction. 

The enemy is the one who is bringing death and destruction and lies and fear and confusion, in my life, in your life, end of story. 

That which Haiti once celebrated: a child going to school, a person having a job, having products to sell, having a bit of food to eat...Haiti is now hiding, if courageously fighting for it, at all.

As I continue my Bible readings now through Ezechiel and John, is not that different from where God's people were at thousands of years ago, where God's people have been, and where God's people are in many other places around the world, TODAY.

There is an area not far from here called Bois-Caiman, a huge open field and surrounding homes where for 200+ years, political figures, business men, witchdoctors and people from all across Haiti have come because evil spirits are known to be powerful and very present there. Different voodoo celebrations throughout the year are often held at Bois-Caiman, lots of sacrifices, horrible stuff I can't write about. 

The main spirit there calls itself Briz, and it comes down when conjured from the mountain in a huge wind. Every time it returns to the mountain, it takes the life of one of the children in the homes around the area of Bois-Caiman. 

There are many believers who have lived within minutes of Bois-Caiman for their whole lives, but who have never set foot there, because THAT area of ground belongs to Satan. Out of fear and perhaps an effort for righteousness, the church and Christians have stayed far away, not wanting to be a part in darkness. 

Over the last months, more and more parts of Haiti have been given over completely to that same darkness.  Parts of every community. Parts of people's lives. The ugly parts that come out when desperate. The evil parts that come out when afraid. 

In times of darkness, darkness grows, and it was with the realization that Haiti is in a battle it seems to be losing that caused Pastor Lucner--our dean of advancement at Emmaus, our brother in Christ, the senior pastor of the Vaudreil Church, an Alumni of Emmaus and our friend from day one in Haiti--to go on the offensive.

Last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the Vaudreil Church fasted, prayed, worshiped and preached from 8 am to 3 pm.  Everyone. Everyday. They saw healings. They saw conversions. They saw freedoms. And as they studied His Word together, they remembered and fanned that mustard seed of faith into a fire, instead of huddling at home fanning fear.

I LOVED experiencing this fleshed out through Gertha, just a member there, as she grew in courage last week, and announced on Thursday that she WOULD be going with the church on Sunday, marching to Bois-Caiman for the first time in her life, breaking chains LONG standing, claiming the bloodied soil for Jesus, lifting up praises to the Lord, praying for the people, claiming the area to NEVER be touched by spirits and demons again, claiming the land for Christ.

And they did. 

Twenty four churches under 24 pastors marched to Bois-Caiman Sunday morning...walked the three miles singing and praying, and as they did, believer after believer came to Pastor Lucner along the road, warning him that the main witchdoctor of Bois-Caiman was going to approach him, and offer him his hand, and that when Lucner shook it, the demons of Bois-Caiman were going to kill him on the spot, in front of everyone

"Let us see what God will do," Lucner said over and over.  "Have faith."

The churches had been threatened already. They were going to have rocks and bottles thrown at them.  Politicians who come all the way from Port-au-Prince routinely to tap into the evil power at Bois-Caiman for their financial and political successes were going to hire thugs to kill them. The demons were going to eat them upon their arrival on 'their' land.

"Let us see what God will do," Lucner said over and over again.  "Have faith."

The Church, our brothers and sisters, our family, your family, were so many that they surrounded the entire area in a huge circle, and for the first time in the history of Bois-Caiman, 200+ years, GOD'S praises rang out. 

I don't care what you think or believe about spiritual warfare and demons and their power and what you've seen or heard or haven't or how it seems to be different in Haiti than it is where you are...

An area of Haiti that has been in utter darkness and horrific sin and where His name has NEVER been lifted up was totally saturated in hymns of light and praise and glory on Sunday, and THAT is exciting.  

The sacrifice of faith was given instead, communion was taken by hundreds of believers, the wine poured out in remembrance of THE Great sacrifice that covers all.

And as they sang and prayed and gave the place to Jesus, the people of Bois-Caiman came out of their homes and celebrated....for they have lived in fear FOREVER. They have lost their children. They have lived in bondage, and the church had NEVER come. Light had NEVER been brought.

A man far across the circle emerged...aggressively walking alone, hand out-stretched at Lucner, who smiled again even in the retelling of the story.

"When he finally got to me, I grabbed his hand like he was a dear friend I hadn't seen in 20 years," Lucner said. "I shook it in front of everyone like my grip would break his bones, and it was totally silent, as everyone waited."

"He finally let go, and stared at me," Lucner said, and I grinned at him and began to tell him about the One True God."

"When I did not fall, when NOT ONE BOTTLE had been thrown, when not one pebble had been cast, when not one threat had materialized, when not one old lady had even grown faint in the hot sun, he scowled and fled the circle, for after all these years, his ground had finally been LOST."

Renaming the area "Zion", a symbol long representing the longing of wandering people for a safe homeland, hours later the troops marched home for a worship service unlike any other.

This morning, Lucner popped in my office on his way to his.  "How are things in Vaudreil?" I asked casually, but he is far too on fire for anything casual.

"There is FAITH this morning in Vaudreil," Lucner grinned, laughing. "There is faith this morning in Vaudreil, for everyone who used to think that certain places were for Satan, that certain people were for Satan, that certain things were for Satan and to be feared are NO longer afraid, and they are claiming it ALL for Jesus."

Talk to me family. 

Where are those dark places we all tiptoe around in our lives? What are those 'off-limit' things we don't address and therefore have been giving power to? What are those strongholds in our life that have never been flooded with HIS light and His sacrifice? Who are those people that we just won't GO there with? What are those human high places that we simply. won't. take. down.?

Do we have that mustard seed faith today? Do we have faith that those hurts, those sins, those people, those strongholds, that those places we thought couldn't possibly be healed, those hurts we thought couldn't possibly be forgiven, those horrors we thought couldn't possibly be redeemed...can be? Have we fought for them? Have we even simply shown up there? Have we courageously brought other believers there to fight with us? Have we dragged it into the light for Him to work? 

This is the time for Haiti.  

This is the time for your life, your place, your world.

This is the time NOT to stay home, but to march there. Not to abandon ship, but to fight harder.  Not to "leave it alone," but to face it. This is the time to call in all the reinforcements and to bring His light and His praise into places you have left alone and perhaps even guarded for lies and darkness and destruction to dwell.

Tell a godly friend or two about that dark place and ask them to help you break those chains once and for all by His power.  Bring a godly friend or two or ten and pray alongside them for that necessary forgiveness or healing once and for all. Ask the Lord to show you where the shadows are. ASK the Lord to bring them into the light of His grace and presence and power, for life abundant.

Whether you believe in the demons Haiti sees every day or not, Satan IS in a battle for you, and he will use even the tiniest shadow where God has not been allowed to shine for Satan's glory, for his advancement, and darkness doesn't just dwell...it grows.

I am praying for you, keep praying for us.  Let us rise and march there today.  Let's GO there.

Let's RENAME those areas, Zion: His holy place, His total presence, completely His.

Let's shine--just a fraction of His glory, radiant on Lucner's face today, as a man in danger of death and destruction, who trusted the Lord, instead...knowing that at the VERY worst, all that man could do to him was bring him into the precious glory and presence of our God.

Fight for Light in Haiti today. Fight for Light in every area of your life today. Fight for those around you, fight for your marriages, fight for your children, fight for your faith. Fight for those dark places. It is in the times that Light is most bushel-ed that it is most badly needed.

May we reach out our hands boldly to that which threatens to diminish, destroy or shake us, for "The God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet," Romans 16:20.

Things are awfully bad in Haiti today. Maybe things are awfully bad where you are, too...even if under the surface.

Let us see what God will do.  Have faith.
Lucner, in the pink shirt and smile, with the other pastors leading the day



28 November 2020

Arkansas

Yesterday we drove a few hours to Arkansas and met Aunt Sharon and Uncle Martin for Thanksgiving weekend, and tonight their son Isaac met us, too.  I am thankful for these short days of relaxing and hiking and fall and exploring and family.  Being able to see family without spending more than 5 1/2 hours in the car is usually pretty impossible...so I'm feeling very blessed that they would meet us in the middle!

Today, the kids "met" Santa for the first time, ever. Nora had no idea why she should tell two complete strangers what she wanted for Christmas, and Ben was not trusting it, not one ounce. But, Lily and Sofie thought it was fun to introduce them, anyway, and it amused me that even Lily had never "seen" a Santa before! They are also learning that kids in America believe in Santa...something children never spoke of or sang about or believed in in Haiti. So interesting, the little ways America continues to baffle these four.
There is little I enjoy more than exploring the outdoors with our kids, and I was so thankful for a great day and great place to run wild. 

Lily and Sofie, who had wanted to rent four-wheelers, thought maybe they would be just as happy if Uncle Martin and Dad let them drive the golf carts instead...and they were :) 

Grateful for Isaac and Uncle Martin and Aunt Sharon in our lives.  

I CHERISH watching our children know and trust and love them well.

25 November 2020

all the little ways

I'm thankful for the little ways that He reminds us that He is faithful...

A passage from His Word in a whole different light. A vulnerable note from a neighbor kid. A meaningful conversation at bedtime with precious girlies. A text from a neighbor telling us that we're what she's thankful for this Thanksgiving. A friend making us dinner. Sweet moments in homeschool. A precious email from Haiti. A house full of friends the kids genuinely enjoy. Kisses from Ben, always always asking to "help you!" 

I don't always know how to reconcile it all...how to have hearts in so many places. How to miss, always, so many people. How to understand value the way He does...how to see our lives the way He does...how to live at home in this world, not our home. How to live the truly abandoned life He has in heart for us when there are so many things, blessings and burdens, to hold onto.

He's going to have to keep being the Lord of my life, because I have no desire to be in charge.

Matt has this week off, spent yesterday in Alabama with board members and today running a dozen errands. The girls and I are working hard at school, and we're all getting ready to head to Arkansas for a few days on Thanksgiving for Mishler/Ayars weekend. The girls' Friday program has stopped until January due to so many Covid cases.

We had great neighbors for dinner tonight, all the neighborhood kids off school have been helping our crew keep the Ayars house fun, and when Sofie took Lady Jane some of our Chicken Parmesan for dinner, she sent home our very first sweet potato pie...That was a good trade!

What are some of the little ways He's at work that have you Thankful?
























22 November 2020

still our hope

I'm having a hard time getting it together...just struggling. I'm homesick. Struggling with sadness I'm used to carrying lighter, struggling with sadness I'm unaccustomed to. Struggling with feeling very alone and foreign and small. Struggling with the past year, parts of it so painful, struggling with healing. 

I use the word "struggling" because I'm actively working it through. I'm continuing to battle until He brings me His peace. He's not finished, I'm not finished.  He's not going anywhere, and neither am I.

I'm just down. He's here, too. 

I know some of you can relate, and I trust He's faithful and good--those are HIS character, even when I'm struggling. Even when I'm not good.

So I pulled up an old post today, from last year, and I was in the middle--365 days ago--of a different heavy struggle. I wrote this--to you then--and maybe this time, to me.

 Even in the darkest moments, He is still giving gifts. He is still working miracles. He is still redeeming, He is still loving, He is still meeting us, He is still bestowing unmerited grace. He is still our Hope.

SO THEN.

Let us not give up hope, friends.

Don't give up hope for your long lost child, living so far from the Lord that it seems impossible that they would ever come to love Him. Don't give up hope for your broken self, falling into the same traps over and over again, discouraged. Don't give up hope for your imperfect church, don't give up hope for your bitter and broken marriage, don't give up hope for your deeply hurting friends, don't give up hope for all that has been lost. Don't give up hope for your country, God on the Throne.  And don't give up hope for Haiti, nor a one within her. 

Because HOPE, hope, it depends not at all on the situation, nor the object, nor even upon the men and women seeking it.  

Even in the darkest moments, He is still giving gifts. He is still working miracles. He is still redeeming, He is still loving, He is still meeting us, unmerited grace. He is still our Hope.

19 November 2020

that which is trust...

 Two years ago today my precious little niece joined us, months too early and with incredibly chaos and several near tragedies. I sat a million miles away on an island suffering it's own great instabilities, and never in my life have I prayed and waited, waited and prayed like I did that night and coming days. As I re-read what the Lord was teaching me that day two years ago, it is STILL with tears, for the MIRACLE of every day with Mayah is STILL so fresh.

If trust isn't coming easy these days, I hope this testimony from 2018 encourages you...





that which is easy, that which is trust

Monday morning I sat in my office in my teacher clothes, but not teaching.  Instability rocks the island, people are afraid. Public transportation is either striking or hiding, probably some of both, making it impossible for most of our staff and students to come. 

So I sat in my office instead and prayed and worked on my sermon for Friday's chapel, growing from a passage I was studying in my daily devotions last week, Jeremiah 17, growing from my experience in the street a week ago with the flying rocks. 

Thankful for some unexpected quiet hours to study and prepare, I looked at the two paths of trust Jeremiah 17 outlines: Trust in Man, or Trust in God.

Apparently we can't build our trust on both, since verse 5 talks about those who rely on human strength having turned their hearts away from the Lord.

Those who trust in man, Jeremiah shows us, live in a barren wilderness, look like stunted shrubs in the desert. 

Not only will trusting in man, including trusting in myself, fail us every time (experience alone shows us that is true), but trusting in man also plunges us into survival mode.  It takes all our energy, and with only the little water man can give, we become stunted and dry and exhausted. 

We have no extra water to even think about bearing fruit, no extra water to flourish and offer shelter or nourishment to others.  We can't possibly posses the qualities that bless others when our trust is in man, our interactions with others cannot bless them, strengthen them, or encourage them.

Worse yet, we can't receive from Him because when we're spreading our roots of trust into the wells of man, we can't receive what only HE is offering.  We're living on man's shallow resources, missing out on His blessings of peace, of contentment.  Wisdom, hope and joy...missing out on His blessings of HIMSELF. 

Dry and weary we are indeed, useless and always thirsty, offering little and driven by every wave life throws us.


But, says Jeremiah further, when we trust in the Lord, we have a secret life. A secret source. A deep well that never runs dry, a flowing of fresh water within that drought and heat cannot touch.

We have deep roots and are not easily shaken. 

Don't get me wrong...the sun will still scorch our leaves, the drought will still touch us.  But we are unharmed, because our deeply hidden roots are still saturated in Him.  We can stay green and flourish despite our circumstances, we can enjoy Him and not be damaged by life's many storms. 

We produce fruit when we trust in Him, and we possess the qualities of Christ that DO bless others...people can find shelter in us during their storms, they can find nourishment.  Our effort is not consumed by survival, so our effort can be in fruit-bearing. 

Best, when our trust is tapped into Christ, we have HIS blessings pouring in and through us.  His hope.  His confidence that cannot be shaken. We have HIM, and He is bottomless. 

I worked through these images yesterday, developed my thoughts, pondered through a few illustrations, including both the rocks in the road from last week and a well we had dug for church plant that seemed to have been done well, producing good water in the rainy season, but this summer in the drought started producing nothing but mud, showing that below the surface, it was not dug deeply enough.

"So, where does our trust lie?" I will finish with asking.  "Praise the Lord for difficult times that reveal where our roots are embedded...and if we're looking more like a desert shrub than a flourishing tree today, we have misplaced our trust.  Let's dig deeper.

As I wrote to the eerie silence of the street outside my office, I prayed for all our staff and students, for our dear Haiti, for the hearts of all the men and women of Emmaus to be deeply rooted in trust in Him as the country bulks over who it can trust after being manipulated, deceived, robbed and lied to so many times in so many ways...As many continue to put their trust in man, disappointed and dry and devastating, over and over.  A dry and weary land, indeed.

And as I worked through the sermon, I was praying it for myself because I've been struggling with a seed of bitterness.

A few weeks ago someone suggested to me that I couldn't understand how difficult it is for them when they can't be there for their family and friends, because we have been here a long time.  It rubbed me, it angered me, and I wasn't even sure why it secretly upset me so much.

Then AGAIN, a few days ago, in light of Thanksgiving and Christmas and the holiday season, another person noted that for new missionaries, it is very hard to be away from friends and family, because they are not used to it like we are.

I realized this time that it angered and frustrated me because they were mistaking my TRUST for my EASY.

They were mistaking my often-times VERY by-choice, very painful, often tear-soaked TRUST in the Lord--trusting Him with my heart and my family and my friends and my children and in His calling, trusting Him with my hands on His plow--for it being EASY for me to be away from friends and family. 

It was gut-wrenchingly hard when I called my sister on my sweet niece's first birthday Sunday and found her, instead of celebrating with cupcakes, in the urgent care with her 2 year old, getting stitches in her lip.  It was gut-wrenchingly hard when I hear all the exhaustion in my 27-weeks-high-risk-pregnant sister's voice, because she needs a snack and a nap, not four hours in urgent care with a hungry, bleeding toddler.  So I talk and listen, and pray, and call again later, and Monday morning even found a way to send her a piece of cheesecake.

But there is nothing else I can do but trust, and so I TRUST. 

I do not EASY.  I TRUST.  I choose it, I hold it, I hang my hat on it, I wake up to it and go to sleep to it and sometimes stay awake with it and He is deep water.  I TRUST because He tells me to.  I trust because He who calls is Faithful, and not just to me. 

I trust, not because it is easy or convenient (when worry and self-pity volunteer their life-sucking services), but because I have wrapped all my hope and confidence up in the Living God, the Lord of Heavens Armies.  I trust because He is trustworthy, because He is deep water, because I am NOT strong.

Jayla's got stitches in her lip, my sister's 27 weeks high-risk pregnant, my father-in-law has still not met Benny-boy as he wrestles with cancer, our families are making plans to all be together without us for Thanksgiving once again, so DON'T CALL IT EASY, I yell in my brain and even then have to go to God again as I prepare to preach. 

Because there is no room for trusting in man, but there is also no room for seeds of bitterness or self-pity.  My trust being misunderstood is not my problem or mine to right or justify.

The Lord knows, He is my secret place and my secret strength.  And I can trust Him with what people think.

I praise the Lord as His word helps me, I go home and make soup and love on the kids and praise the Lord for how He's provided and I pray for Haiti and I pray for our people and my people and His people and I dwell by the river that never runs dry.

And then right before bed last night, I get the international call--no, not even a call--a text...that mirrored what I planned to tell the students on Friday to be thankful for, because it causes us to evaluate wherein we lie our trust.

My little sister, just moments after I'd last been texting with her Monday evening, started bleeding and was pummeled into a traumatic, emergency c-section in Philly.

Last night my little 2.5 lb. niece was rushed into the world, unready, my sister rushed into surgery, unprepared. Last night my heart stopped and my prayers and tears poured and my phone sat black when I wanted it to somehow teleport me.

This morning, classes still cancelled, rocks still continuing to fly, flights in and out all cancelled on all airlines, this morning, I still haven't heard the voice of my sister, I stare at a photo of my tiny, tubed, perfectly formed niece, born exactly 366 days after her sister, this morning, I praise the Lord for holding both my niece and my sister in stable health and this morning...

This morning it is not easy.

Twelve years in Haiti, thirty years of following Jesus, in good times and bad, in sickness and health, in richer and poorer, it has nothing. to. do. with. easy., and neither the life of our Savior nor the words of our Lord ever once said that it would.

This morning is about Him. His streams of living water. 

And if I trust Him.

And I do.

17 November 2020

built in forever friends

 My sister and her family and my dad and his wife left this morning around 10, and man, what a weird and quiet and hard day!  What a gift to have those precious days with them, especially after it had been SO LONG. We were also so blessed to celebrate Addy's 3rd birthday and Mayah's 2nd birthday (November 18 & 19), and it was such a gift to be a part of that. They are all such miracles, but Mayah especially (born at under 2 lbs) just strikes me again and again as she runs and tumbles and chatters...what a miracle, every day.

Our time together was precious...long hours on the porch and in the yard, neighborhood walks, a petting zoo, reading books, doing crafts, eating good food, staying up way too late...it was just sweet to be with family, with those with whom no explaining is necessary...and to watch the eight kids just relish EVERY second of built in forever friends.

Tomorrow we jump back on the school thing hard, and keep trying to answer those hard questions of "why do we live so far away?" You'd think we'd have a good response by now. 











15 November 2020

Thanksgiving

 We had such a great and special Thanksgiving...our first with family since...since pregnancy with Lily!

Tomorrow we celebrate Addy and Mayah's birthdays (November 18, November 19) and enjoy our last day together before everyone heads home Tuesday...our diets and home and schedules are all the best kinds of wrecked, and I'm so so thankful for this rich time with my dad, sister, and all the people God's brought into this family!































14 November 2020

family

 Twelve in a house and Dad and Cindy arrived yesterday is a bit much for blogging, but here are some fun pictures of precious people and such priceless time with family!!