Pics: Orphanage at Tamazeau

I wrote about our orphanage experience in Haiti, but wasn’t able to post pictures.  (You can read the story by clicking HERE).    The pictures are now posted below.  Click the picture to get a larger view and more description.

Tent to Tent Visitations

We maneuvered around the slimy brown muck, careful not to lose our footing and FALL into the slimy brown muck or, even worse, into the side of someone’s unstable shelter.  The paths only allowed for a single file line, as the tents had been placed as close as possible to accommodate as many tents as the empty field would permit.

Tent City residents rarely have guests, except for the occasional non-profit relief groups who offer day clinics or pass out food; they definitely never have guests who walk from tent to tent and ask to sit and visit with them!  Because of the news reports of rapes, crimes, & violence within the tent cities, most guests fear the worst.  But, having good rapport with each tent city’s manager, we felt led to meet the families in THEIR environment; to go to them instead of having them come to us, wait in line for an hour, and then only get to interact on a limited basis.  Furthermore, in the three days that I’ve been in the tent cities, NOT ONCE have I felt unsafe.  In fact, I have experienced only sincere hospitality and gratitude.  NOT ONCE has any person been threatening, hostile, or even rude.  I know that crime runs amuck in these chaotic environments, but as Christ followers, we are to obey the Spirit’s leading without fear, but with confidence, power, and a sound mind.

Every person we visited today affected my hate/love relationship with Haiti.  The people are precious – their kindness, their contagious smiles, their openness and honesty. They exhibit determination and perseverance, even though they feel hopeless.   It’s hard to not fall in love with them.

I HATE the situation they are in…more specifically, I hate their government, or rather, their LACK oF GOVERNMENT.   NO cleanup has started (except for individuals taking initiative on their own homes).  Buildings remain in dangerous heaps, some still leaning on the structures next to them.  Their waterways, sidewalks, and streets are basically trash dumps. I’ve been to some pretty nasty places in my life…none compare to Port-au-Prince.  I did not see any signs of an organized trash collection; the people literally just throw everything (and I mean everything) into the streets or streams.  Portable bathrooms (some just wooden walls with holes in the ground) add to the dangerous, unsanitary conditions…all because the government won’t get their act together.  It’s frustrating…many of us here found ourselves not just saddened, but angry.   And don’t even get me started on the education and health systems!  I may have to write about those later on, because the truth will astonish and overwhelm you with just how oppressive the government treats “their” people.  We just do what we can and then pray that God will shake up the government and either change the hearts of the leaders or replace them with those more compassionate and honest.

My breaking point today came with the second person we visited.  We trekked our way to a tent nestled between another tent, a high concrete wall and thick, low-hanging banana tree leaves.  The tent barely covered a small twin size mattress…just enough protection for a night’s sleep.  Outside the tent was one pot for cooking beans or rice.  The young lady who welcomed us to her “home” looked no older than 20.  She was petite and thin.  Her husband was at the market trying to find work.  She stays home because she is pregnant and needs to rest.

We chatted for a while, then I asked her when her baby is due.  Her eyes slightly danced around, looking for an answer, but then she simply replied, “I don’t know”.  I, confused, looked at my translator.  He apparently understood  my facial expression and proceeded to explain that most pregnant women never get to find out their anticipated due date because they never get to see a doctor during their pregnancy.  It’s too expensive.  So, they have to just make guesses to their dates.

Just the day before, I held a 1 day old baby, thinking about the conditions of her birth.  And now, here I was talking with a pregnant girl, overwhelmed with the realization of the conditions of her pregnancy.  Never knowing the health of herself or her baby.  Never getting to hear his or her heartbeat.  Never getting the opportunity to fully prepare for the new life that she will soon be blessed with…  No wonder she is scared.

We prayed.  She smiled. I cried.

Day 2 Itinerary

Today we’ll trek into a tent city and do a variety of ministry – mobile clinic, food distribution, and then simply interacting with the people who are waiting for aide.

I expect that we’ll see things beyond what we’ve seen in the media or even imagined.   Along with being  physically intense, It has the potential to be an emotionally and spiritually challenging day…malnourished children, infected sores, “untreatable” illness…

Welvis, a 10-12 year old Haitian boy, has become an already familiar face around the house.  But you won’t see him playing soccer for hours, like the other boys.  He’ll try… but after only a short time (think 7-10 minutes), he’s exhausted.  Welvis is sick.  A lump, the size of a child’s fist, sits on his jawbone and he’s plagued with fever.  Our clinical nurses and doctors have done a great job taking care of him, but he needs much more.  When they initially met Welvis, they took him to the hospital, but he was turned away, being informed that there was nothing they could do.  That answer was not acceptable, so they kept looking for help.  This week, Welvis had a biopsy on the lump, but the results so far have been inconclusive.  His mother, Iphanette, who once saw a hopeless situation, now sees the possibilities of health…all because GCOM volunteers and staff showed love, offered encouragement, and have not given up on a precious boy.

As we go into the tent city today, please pray!

  • Pray for Welvis and all the other people who have medical need, but can’t find adequate help.
  • Pray for the nurses in our team who have the responsibility of treating the Haitians we encounter today.  We know we can’t treat everyone, so pray for wisdom, guidance, and discernment.
  • Pray for our health…we’ll be doing physically demanding work in the heat and pounding sunlight.  Also, there is no air circulation in the tent cities, which adds to the difficulties.
  • Pray that we’ll heed the Spirit’s guidance.  For boldness to speak, and discernment when we just need to stay quiet and listen.  That we are not passive with fear, but act in the power and confidence that Jesus Christ offers to us…because it’s not really us working, it’s HIM working through us.
  • Above all, that God is glorified today!

10 Years: Ministry

One of the greatest things about being married to Josh is that he loves God and loves people.  He’s a giving, compassionate man who shows God’s love through action.  Being able to work alongside him in ministry is one aspect that keeps our marriage strong.

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Social Gospel Tree-huggin’ Weirdo

My brother has called me a “Social Gospel Tree-huggin’ weirdo.”  Of course, it was done in jest in our B/S Chronicles,  but I’m a firm believer that there is an element of truth in all jokes geared toward other human beings.  Someone may say, “ah, i’m just kidding”…but, really? are you?

I did not take offense to his statement at all.  In fact, it made me laugh.  But then I started thinking Is his statement true?  Is it even partly true?

Let’s dissect:

TREE-HUGGIN’: I start with this one because it’s the easier of the two ideologies.  Often, I enjoy hugging trees.  Their rough, grooved surfaces against my skin bring smiles to my face, especially on those occasions where I’m in need of a really good back scratch 🙂

Seriously, I’m more of a wanna-be tree-hugger.  I think as Christians we are commanded to take care of the Earth God placed us on.  It is not good stewardship to litter the ground with cigarette butts, contaminate the waters with junky chemicals, and treat animals with disdain and apathy.  When the opportunity to be kind to our Earth is convenient and truly important to me, I take advantage of it.  If recycling, purchasing organic produce and meats, and using biodegradable products makes me a tree-hugger…then I guess this statement is true.  (However, my car is not electric, i don’t have my own garden [even though i want one], and I have no qualms about killing an animal for food [as long as it’s done correctly].)

SOCIAL GOSPEL: First, it depends on the definition of “Social Gospel”.  My minimal research produced the original definition:

a movement led by a group of liberal Protestant progressives in response to the social problems raised by the rapid industrialization, urbanization, and increasing immigration of the Gilded Age. The social gospel differentiated itself from earlier Christian reform movements by prioritizing social salvation over individual salvation…social gospel advocates supported the labor movement and called for an interventionist welfare state. They differed from secular activists in that their ultimate vision was not just a more equitable balance of power within society, but a Christianized society in which cooperation, mutual respect, and compassion replaced greed, competition, and conflict among social and economic classes*

I admit that I am not an expert  on social gospel movement (SGM), but from my quick internet study i have learned that the social gospel movement has reappeared in our modern churches (being mainly associated with the emergent church).  Although the SGM is not out to save society as a whole, there is a huge emphasis placed on social issues…poverty, injustice, human rights, fair health care, etc.  One article stated that it’s a “vision that emphasizes tolerance and social justice more than sinners repenting and believing the Gospel of Christ”. 

It is because of that last statement that I can emphatically state I AM NOT A SOCIAL GOSPEL FOLLOWER

There is no greater message than the Gospel of Christ…that Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, came to Earth, was tortured, bruised, and sacrificed on the cross for the redemption of all sins.  He rose again and then ascended into Heaven, but one day will return to Earth.  Salvation is free and available to any person who acknowledges Jesus Christ as Savior, repents of their sins, and follows after Him.  It is through grace, not works or deeds, that a person receives salvation and eternal life.

Yes, I do believe in fighting for the rights and betterment of all human beings.  I take Jesus literally when he tells us to take care of orphans and widows, to feed the hungry, and to give to those who are poor.   It’s important to fight for victims of sex trafficking, unborn children who are murdered daily, and people who are bound in silence because of unjust governments…but I don’t do these things in place of the salvation message; I do them in conjuction with one another.  I’ve written before of my opinions & experience on this subject HERE.   

So, Social Gospel?  Nope.  not in the way that it’s commonly used concerning the emergent church.

WEIRDO:  I have no counter-arguments against this term of endearment.   But aren’t we all weirdos to some degree?

Now that we’ve dissected what I am and am not…we need to alter Jeremy’s description of me to…well…just WEIRDO.   🙂

Out to save their souls

Last Wednesday morning on the radio, I heard a clip of a man witnessing to another man on the street.  His conversation starter stems from “The Way of the Master” program by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron.  Basically, the idea is to get the person you’re witnessing to to admit he/she is a sinner.  There are different ways of doing this, but one of the most popular is to ask him if he thinks he’s a good person; he’ll almost always say yes.  Then, have him name the 10 Commandments and ask him if he’s ever lied, stolen, or dishonored father or mother;  he’ll almost always say yes.  

“AHA.  So you’re a lying, thieving, dishonoring/disrespectful person!  I’ll ask you again…are you a good person?”

From there the one witnessing can go into how we all are sinners…and then proceed into Jesus’s Salvation message. (There are many aspects to this way of witnessing that I like and some things I don’t; but I don’t want to get into that today).

Now, to the point…in the radio clip, the one being witnessed to was not interested in anything about God.  He basically said that he didn’t really care about his eternal state, that if he goes to hell, then he goes to hell.  Why? (here’s the kicker for me)…because since he’s been “broke“, he doesn’t care about what happens after he dies (my words, same idea).  He repeatedly used that phrase “since I’ve been broke” in a very literal sense…he is having money issues.

I was screaming at the radio, “DO YOU HEAR HIM?  STOP THINKING ABOUT YOUR NEXT QUESTION AND LISTEN!”  It was obvious that the man was going through some very difficult life situations, and his physical needs hardened him from anything spiritual.

Most often there is a deeper reason why people are turned off from accepting of Christ as their savior.  We, as Christians, need to LISTEN to people.  ASK QUESTIONS to get to the heart of the matter.  And SHOW TRUE CONCERN & COMPASSION about their life circumstances.  It is then, once someone knows you really care, that they’ll be open to listening to what you have to share.

That’s how people work…often they won’t listen to spiritual issues until they believe you sincerely care about them in the present, in the physical, and in relationship.

Jesus cares about the whole person…not just his eternal salvation(even though that is the most important).   Throughout scripture, Jesus consistently takes care of the physical and emotional needs of the people around him – He listened to them…and then the Spiritual needs were addressed.

Since the conversation was confined to radio timelines, the entire interview was not aired, so I don’t really know what happened once the audio recorder was shut off.  I truly hope and pray that the man witnessing reached out more.

But it was a good reminder of James 1:19, My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak

Reach Out Day 4 & 5

Day 4:  Practical Acts of Kindness. Currently, A popular trend in evangelism is to go out and do practical acts of kindness…little (or sometimes big) actions that make people stop and think, why are you doing this? The acts of kindness range from washing people’s windsheilds while they gas up their car to holding a free car wash.   Pretty much, any act of kindness can be considered evangelism if the goal is to get people thinking about God and His love towards us.  This form of evangelism is mostly comfortable and easy for anyone to do.  It doesn’t take deep biblical knowledge or years of following Christ to tell someone that God loves them while handing them a bottle of water.

Thursday, we tried out our very first “Acts of Kindness” outreach.  We started by taking rolls of quarters to a local laundry mat.  The goal was to pay for people’s loads of laundry and talk with them while helping fold their clothes or carry baskets to their cars.  To our surprise, there were only  3 people at the usually busy laundry mat.  One guy flat out refused to let us help.  He wasn’t rude, just hesitant…but he watched us interact with the other two people we did get to help.  The woman I helped spoke no English, but love and kindness transcends all languages.  Between my broken Spanish and her broken English, we were able to carry on small chitchat.  Before she left, one of our guys spoke with her in Spanish and we were able to pray with her and her children!

Since the laundrymat had emptied and we were just standing around, we decided to head over to Wylie’s Music in The Park Night.  It’s a free concert.  My thinking was Free outdoor concert +  Public Park  = Hot & thirsty people.  Handing out free water and popsicles to the kids would be a great act of kindness.   We toted our couple hundred waters and popsicles over to the park only to see that another church had the same idea…except they had several huge bounce houses, free pizza, and free sodas.  By no means are we in competition with other churches; God’s Kingdom is God’s Kingdom no matter who presents the Truth, right?  Since the people attending that concert would be ministered to by the other church, we took our stuff to a different park…a park crowded with people! There were more people to talk to here than at the concert.  Making our way around the park, we explained who we were and what we were doing.  Many people initially gave us funny looks, and some even asked the question we wanted to hear “WHY?”  And happily we told them…“To simply show you God’s love in a practical way”

Day 5:  Servant Evangelism at The Friendship House.  If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you’ve heard me talk about The Friendship House (aka FH).  It’s a Christian organization in downtown Garland that provides food, clothing, furniture, household items, and some financial help for people in Rowlett, Sachse, and Garland.  I used to work for FH and still strongly support their work.  The Director and the volunteers that serve there deeply love the Lord and truly love and care for the people that come to receive help.  They never turn away anyone…even if someone comes who does not live in our area, they’ll still not let them walk out empty handed.  It’s truly a place where people’s physical and spiritual needs are met.  Friday, we spent several housing working at the Friendship House…the children and teens helped watch the children, the woman worked with the clothing and food, and the men did some appliance deliveries and helped in the food pantry.

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