We've all spent our last few days of "break" quite sick, first Matt, then Lily, and now all of us congested and hacking and feverish. Nora's got the worst of it, with a double ear infection as far as I can tell, and simply miserable...on antibiotics and asking for your prayers. I am thankful to have been sick this week and not next, for now the season of f-u-l-l is full upon us.
Today, Phil and Emily's mothers and Em's sister arrived, as did Miss Pam, who has been "crossing the pond" to teach at Emmaus longer than we've called Haiti home. Tomorrow, another two visiting professors, Larry and Jerry and Larry's daughter, and Sunday, Charles Lake will be joining us again, this time to teach our "Art of Preaching" Master's class.
Sunday is the 50th kick-off service at the big 'ole church in Vaudreil, where Emmaus staff and students are leading the whole service, and Matt is preaching. It is nearly impossible to wedge into a seat at the Vaudreil Church on any given Sunday, so I can't even imagine what this Sunday will be like with staff and students and alumni and a special day to celebrate!
Monday is the first day of classes, interrupted a bit early by a Thanksgiving service in the chapel with alumni, professors, past directors and students from 11-1. This week has been full of new student interviews, start-up staff meetings, 50th planning, preparing for new courses, restocking the bookstore, finalizing 2016 finances and student accounts, all the start-up food, fuel, propane and janitorial supplies purchasing, and lots of students popping in to finalize course selections and to register.
Personally, it's been a week of preparing for countless visitors and houseguests, which means today, purchasing and paying for the butchering and plucking of chickens, getting ground beef from the butcher in town through three other people, stocking up on all the things you can't just run out and get (which is pretty much everything :) like sugar and flour and rice and oil, cleaning and making beds and buying huge boxes of flimsy toilet paper and sending off the Coke bottles to be refilled, scrubbing and bleaching extra muddy produce, and trying to figure out how to cook for 8 and 9 and 10 with even less options than normal due to this past terrible flooding season, leaving many foods like green beans, squash and pumpkins, oranges and avocados hard or impossible to find. The produce from areas of Haiti hardest hit won't be found throughout Haiti this year, and I hate knowing that those farmers also won't be selling anything this year, either.
I'm very very thankful for Granny and the kitchen ladies and for our neighbors on both sides, all sharing the load and cooking up everything from fried garlic spaghetti for breakfast to fragrant homemade dinner rolls to feed each other and all the people God started sending through the gate this week.
It would be easy to get swept away if He weren't so stable!
I am so thankful for all the ways that God has shown me it is also ok to be a missionary.
I am such a task / to-do list person, and it has been a true journey for me to go from a job-description missionary to a messy-life, big love minister of the Gospel.
I love people...I love getting to know them and seeing their hearts, learning their stories, hearing their heart-cry's, learning from them, growing from them, encouraging them, praying with them, following up.
And the reality is that while a lot of that does happen in the classroom and in church and in chapel and in people's yards, chatting and praying for them, my most meaningful ministry continues to be at home.
Sounding out new words with Sofie on my lap, giving fussy boogie Nora patience and reading "Oh the Wonderful Sounds Mr. Brown Can Do" for the millionth time. Smoothing Lily's hair while she talks about growing up and how badly she wishes Narnia was real. Bringing people in and settling them into a chair, asking and listening and talking and praying. Washing dishes with visitors while they tell me about their families...sitting around the table hearing people's stories. Feeding students and laughing while Matt jokes with them, feeding staff and celebrating life's small victories with them. Feeding neighbors and reminiscing and dreaming. Eating lunch every day with Gertha or Micheline or Noel, talking about challenges in child-raising, laughing about life with these men, talking about struggles in churches and hearts and homes and often pushing plates away to pray, again, still.
(do you remember that story?), He has brought us laughter, He has brought us much needed comfort or wisdom or help or friendship, unexpectedly and powerfully, through visitors...friends and strangers alike. He has brought us cultural help and understanding, language study, lessons for our children, growth. He has brought us help and love and Godly-wisdom and friendship and tears and the reminder again and again through the life of others that He is faithful and hears and sees and knows.
The Bread and Wine book Sharon gave me for my birthday has been speaking to my new found acceptance of this "less important" ministry of house-ministry.
This is what I want you to do, she says, and this is what I want YOU to do.
I want you to tell someone you love them, and that dinner's at six. I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love (or those need love!) into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter.
Gather people around your table and feed them with love and honesty and creativity.
I want you to stop running from thing to thing and to sit down at the table, to offer the people you love something humble and nourishing, like soup and bread, like a story, like a hand holding another hand while you pray.
So, as I wipe my nose for the thousandth time and try to dig deep some energy for these coming days, I stop trying to dig deep. I think about Chambers' advice yesterday to stop resolving and stop promising (for all our promises and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to accomplish them) and instead live with invitation, inviting God to come. Inviting the Holy Spirit.
With love and honesty and creativity and congestion, I am inviting Him to come (and you, too!)...the full season begins!