Monday, 15 April 2013

Yesterday

I leave my apartment late, this morning, on my way to church.
It is quiet and I walk and think about this being my last descent to the Church of Hope. I had wondered while I had gotten dressed just what I would experience. I had prayed that I would be open to worship and to hear from the Lord, not distracted by my self or any one or any thing else.
I hear the singing and it is lovely - the song about that good, that great day when Christ washed my sins away. It is a breezy and hot morning. I pause outside of children's church to wipe off Matthew's face (he's one of our preschoolers). He had fallen and had dust all over his face. I ask if he is okay. He isn't. I ask if he needs something. He shrugs. Maybe water? Yes.
Face wiped, water drunk, fist full of plastic forks and spoons (who knows?? he's a little boy!), spring in his step, he goes back into children's church.
I walk down the sidewalk to the church, circle around and enter through the door closest to where our kids sit. It is a full church today, not a lot of empty seats and our kids are scattered in their section with the rest of our church family. I walk up the aisle to find a seat and decide to sit near the front of the section. As I make my way there I see Linda.
She is a dear lady with a house full of boys. Whenever they are around I sit with her and Ralph, her youngest, who is very tiny for his few years but is such a sweet boy. He doesn't go to children's church. I wonder if he is too small. He sits with his mom and munches on crackers or cheesies and usually has a nap.
 
Irresistible Ralph
 
But today is different.
I hadn't seen Linda since before Christmas, and at that time she was expecting.
Today she holds her tiny new daughter!
Born exactly 6 weeks ago, little Isou (her name is something close to that and with my glee I don't write it down!) is wrapped in a baby blanket, snuggling with Linda.
Of all the gifts on my last day of Sunday church...!
I hug Linda twice and tell her how happy I am to see her on my final Sunday.
And how happy I am that she had had a little girl! She grins and nods in her charming way and we just stare at the baby for a while.
I sit with the three of them and, without protest when offered, hold baby Isou for most of the service.
Linda has had some difficulties with her pregnancies and usually has the babies early - I guess that's why Ralph's so tiny too. Linda is a sweet and loving lady. She is very thin herself but she takes great care of her kids. I met Linda's husband last summer. She was so pleased that he came to church and was introducing him to all her friends. I haven't seen him since then.
During this time of endings in my personal life I sit and soak in the feeling of being loved and blessed with the gift of cradling such a precious new life.
I listen to the preacher (a guest from Compassion International whom I'd met last summer when he did a seminar with our teens... no comment), and we sing the brilliant Creole songs that I've come to love and I weep at the thought of my sad (as in pathetic) lonely voice singing them alone in the weeks and months ahead - there is something about corporate praise and worship here in Haiti that whets one's appetite for the heavenly praise and worship that I anticipate will be part of our forevers.
And the Spirit keeps whispering, as I study Isou's face, "Behold, I am making all things new..."
Which is from the book of Revelation (21:5).
Where we learn that there will be a new heaven and a new earth and peace and love will rule, and our Saviour, who went through death and came back, has covered it with his blood. And He covers us.
And He calls us out.
Out to new things, new places, new seasons; yes. But ultimately to Himself - to a rebirth IN Him who makes everything that is old and tired and worn and broken and used and ugly and dead... He makes it NEW:
and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
 
And suddenly I tune in to His gifts again.
And I am humbled (again) by the beauty and gentleness of the Creator (of everything - including beginnings and endings).
And, though it feels long and drawn out over these weeks and days, it is somehow more okay to leave this place and this role and this season and these people. 
 
Now, come and gaze with me...
 
 
 



 



 

 

Friday, 5 April 2013

What are you known for?

Scratch that. What am I known for?
I've been reading about making disciples (the MOH staff are reading Chan's Multiply) and about how the Bible says we, as the church, will be known. Jesus, Paul and John say we'll be known by our love, our unity and our hope.

It's a strange time for me here. Two weeks from today I leave the mission, my friends, my surrogate family, all the Haitian Mommies and Daddies and the kids that I love so desperately.

When you leave for just a few days or weeks the news of your departure is met with a lot of "what will you be bringing back for me?" type of questions. The kids always want photographs of themselves (which in and of itself is a funny but meaningful thing as they are sorting out their stories in the strangeness of being a child of an orphanage).

But when you break the news, as I did last week, that you are finished your time living day to day in their lives - it is a different conversation that flows out of that kind of announcement.

Now, recently, our kids and staff (both Haitian and North American) have had to say some quick goodbyes. Some people have left within days of announcing their departure (for different reasons). The quick-leave causes a different kind of grief. It's like ripping a bandage off. There's that initial painful protest, but then it's over and all that is left, for better or worse, is the wound to nurse.

We have had that.

This, my leaving, is different feeling to me. It was a surprise to all, including me, that my time here would end as soon as it is. I had a couple of weeks to figure out how it would be okay for me to go and then it was decided and, soon after, made public: I would be leaving in about 3 weeks.

That's a slow rip.

The time has been calculated so that I can do my best to finish well what I have been doing within the Art Therapy setting. The rest of the hours in the day, however, have become strange.

I am working on a teaching and discipling curriculum for our Haitian staff in the orphanage. It is designed to orient them to the mission and support them in increased knowledge and parenting skills - but I will have no part in teaching them or supporting them or anything that will go with the program. Those are bittersweet hours of writing and making sense of data and concepts for them to improve their work... thinking of each of them and the children they parent and hopes I have for all - but will not bear witness to.

Then there are the hours with other North American staff. Only a very few have broached the subject of my leaving in meaningful conversation. Oh, lots of sad looks and I'll miss you's, but talking about how things really are is not easy or really part of the culture here where so much change happens so frequently - and change is another great reason we all keep relationships at a level of comfort... well, not change, we just call it that. Change happens all the time everywhere and often a lot more than here inside our bubble at the mission. I think the real name is fear. But fear in the form of self-preservation.

And then there's the business of life here and everyone's directive to "run hard" - which keeps that ever-changing team focused on their tasks and goals and timelines. And I respect that and want to give it space in this mission culture.

This processing during the leaving is heavy.

But back to the question: what do I want to be known for? I don't really care for the idea of being known for writing programs but not working them out in relation to the people they're intended for. That's just not how I'm wired.

Certainly not fear nor self-preservation. Even if it's been real in my life I don't want to be known for that.

...

There are other hours of the day. And these hours, spent with the kids, are teaching me what I may or may not want to know: what they know me for.

And it's hard and lovely and tentative and sad and makes me melt like chocolate in Haiti.

Because they are sad I'm leaving and are sweet and loving children and teens and Mommies who want me to be sure to remember I am loved and have been enjoyed and appreciated and will be missed. And so:

  • Good things are being said to me, things that I hear with a heart of love and sorrow and things which I know are designed to clarify to me their love and their sadness at me leaving... so perhaps not how they have always thought or felt about me - but how they are thinking and feeling now & sweet music to my heart always.
  • Funny and tender things which they may not have ever felt comfortable sharing before they knew I would be leaving - and so treasures with which I must be careful.
  • Honest ideas and memories that, because I will leave, have cause to come to mind again in my presence... "remember when you said that thing that time?" they remind me with laughter... "I really like how you do this thing with us..." they say with a hand on my arm or fingers in my hair... "when will you visit us? and when you do will you stay in my room?"...

And I want to spend all my hours with them but I know my heart would burst. And so the hours I do have in the orphanage I am trying to use well, to honour each person's spirit, to talk with them and look them in the eye, to hug a lot, and to turn conversation to truth in Christ. 

They have a lot of questions about why I'm going, how God told me to go, was it in a dream, did the mission kick me out, why can't I just stay and keep working? I love them more for asking. I love them for so many things. And I want to assure them that things will be alright - better than alright because God's plan for us is so full of His love for us that we can fully count on that ridiculous and inexplicable joy and love and peace in our spirits as we live for Him.

And that is the truth

And it is also true that life is hard. They know that, perhaps, better than I ever will. They know loss in a way that I've only been afraid of.

And I think of how I know them: for their resilience, their brilliant resourcefulness, their indomitable strength of will... their beauty.

What I want for them, and for me, is that we be known for our love, our unity and our hope. This is our calling. This, as I start to pack, steal moments with children and kisses from babies, work through terminating Art Therapy sessions with precious ones, seek the Mommy who's hand I haven't held this week, write Bible-based curriculum, socialize with dear friends and just say a slow goodbye... this is my prayer now, again:
 
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
 
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
 
Philippians 4:4-7 and Ephesians 3:14-21

Friday, 15 March 2013

"It must sometimes break your heart"

It breaks my heart consistently. That's probably the biggest reason I've stayed here most of the last two years - second only to my (sometimes wavering, if I'm honest) desire to be obedient to the Lord. But you know what I've realised? It is out of my own brokenness that I can best love and serve the broken. I do cry a lot for them and call out to God on their behalf too. And this deepens my love for these precious children of our Father. And then, on days like today, I am confident that that is the greatest thing in this life - to love with Jesus' love and to pray for each other.
 
I wrote this to a friend from years past in an email today.

Then I thought, if I really believe that, I need to back it up.

So I'd like to ask you to pray for a young girl I am working with. I cannot describe her more succinctly than to say she is an utterly chaotic, never satisfied vacuum. On the exterior she is pushy and sometimes overly friendly while other times cold and distant. Her hunger is for love and only our Redeemer can satisfy. Her pain and brokenness is deep and ugly and riddled with shame. And when I am with her I can feel how she desperately tries to both connect with others and to not be destroyed by what is happening inside. It affects every part of her and every part betrays the pain, if you're looking.
It is one of the heaviest things I've experienced but I know I do not carry it alone. I love her, but she is not mine. She is one of the orphanage children, but she does not belong to Mission of Hope. She belongs to Jesus and He is transforming her - He alone has the power to heal this child's horror. Not only is He healing her, He is redeeming her and WILL use every bit of her story and pain to multiply His beauty and love.
So, please, help me love her by praying for her - not by name, but by heart. Pray to release her into His power and light. Her redemption story is already brilliant and God is forever faithful to His children.
Our hope is endless.
There is no end to our Hope in Christ!

Mackenlove

Today we welcome Mackenlove!
Mackenlove is the newest edition to the Village of Hope Family. He is about 20 months old. He arrived this afternoon and had time to play with his new brothers and sisters and eat a great supper before falling fast asleep in his crib.
Please pray with us for this sweet little boy as he adjusts to his new home, his 63 new siblings and life here at MOH.
Our loving Father has placed him here and we are honoured to have him in our family.



Mackenlove
 

Christella snuggling with Mackenlove
 
 
 Mackenlove with some of his sweet new brothers.
They were so welcoming as they shared toys and chatted away to him.
 
 
 
With exicited big brother, Iverson.
 
 
 
Soudline (helping Mackenlove smile) with Julien.
        

 
Welcome Mackenlove!!
 

Monday, 18 February 2013

Embracing Hope

My friend Diana is one of the greatest treasures I've touched on in Haiti.
She is from Ontario and has been teaching the missionary children here at MOH for 5 years or so.
She is brilliant and humble and always ready with an encouraging smile and a soft word of love.
Sometimes when I am around her I realize how my heart has become hard in ways that I haven't been noticing - I see it because her heart is so gentle - and I desire and pray for softening.
I love that we can do that for each other; as brothers and sisters reflecting back the Spirit in us, to each other.
Diana writes great blogs and I read one this morning that I want you to read.
The title of the post is "Pote mwen" here's the link: http://embracing-hope.blogspot.com/

Sometimes it's hard to find words for life, and sometimes, especially, life here. Yet there really is so much to share - so read her post and her perspective and hear the Holy Spirit in her.