Saturday, March 17, 2012

Reconnecting with Marie

(Written January 31, 2012- for the protection of this individual, her name has been changed.)

I just returned from a quick trip to Haiti with Real Life Christian Church- my home church in Orlando. We were in Morriseau, Haiti for 4 days and then they flew back to Orlando. I, however, couldn’t go to Haiti without going to visit my dear family in Grand Goave at Lifeline. I was only going to be there 4 days, but I had so many people I wanted to see. I knew the moment I had to say hello to a dear friend, might be the time I would also have to say goodbye with my time there being so limited. One person I was hoping to see was Marie, the beautiful girl I met in 2010 who touched my heart.

I saw Marie yesterday- the first time since I left August of 2010. Earlier in the day I had complained of my frustrations with being able to speak Creole but struggling to hear it. But for that hour I talked with Marie, I barely spoke; I listened, and I heard almost every word. God opened my ears. I could see the heaviness on her heart because I could see the pain in her eyes; the tears were just millimeters from falling out and rolling down her cheeks.

The twenty-year-old was wearing a denim skirt with a sun yellow tank top with knitted sleeves. Marie is in her last year of secondary school (equivalent to our high school) and hopes to go to college for communications or something in the business field. But her real dream - to be a singer. And with her voice, she could. She has one younger brother and has been raised her whole life by her mother who is her closest friend. Her father has always been absent from her life, in part because of his “maladi nan tet” (sickness in his head). (Two days after this conversation, I was walking through Grand Goave and a friend pointed out a man sitting across the street. I know the majority of Haitians have nothing and many are homeless, but this man looked like even in the culture of Haiti, he would be considered the homeless town crazy. Then my friend told me he was Marie’s father.) She is such a beautiful girl, but there is no glow in her eye; only pain and years of hurt and loneliness. She has felt abandoned and alone.

I’d love to tell you she has many great girlfriends to support and encourage her, or even just one, but I can’t. The friends she does have, have always been boys. She began to tell me about her desire to have a boyfriend. She didn’t have to say it in so many words, but her desire stems from an emptiness and loneliness inside- this void. But the boys in Haiti, “They’re not good boys,” she said. They like the girls from the U.S., Canada, Europe- the “blans”. And those girls have the nice things, the sensual dresses, the pretty sandals, cars, and money. But Marie’s not that girl. Maybe not because she doesn’t want to be, because I think a part of her does want to be- if it means earning a little more attention in hopes of filling that void, then to her, it might be worth it. But she’s not that girl because those girls have money, and that’s one more thing that’s missing in her life.

I told her I understood. And I do. There are Friday nights that pass when I wish I wasn’t alone, when I wish I had someone there. I want that fellowship and friendship. I also want to love someone and have that someone love me back. But I know that that time will come, but not in my timing, in God’s. I told her that the boy she finds some day needs to be a great guy. Not a guy, but a man. A man that will first love the Lord, and then, will love her. It’s like a triangle. God is at the top, and the man and woman form the two points of the base. If the man and woman individually are seeking the Lord and keeping Him first, then as they draw closer to God, they will naturally become closer as a couple. But if before the Lord, is each other, they will only stay on the base line of the triangle and God will be forgotten, and their relationship will suffer.

I think she liked that whole thinking, but I think it also made her think it was too late because she’d already messed up. She had a secret; she’d gone too far already with a guy. But then, he moved to Port au Prince and left her- left her alone and overwhelmed with guilt, more pain, more loneliness, and a void that had grown in size. The closest person in her life she could share her dark, painful secret with- her mother. But that would hurt her mother too much. So other than me, she’s only told one other person- a guy friend from school.

Maybe she should go be a nun. There aren’t any guys worth hoping for, so that seemed like a good option to her, an easy option, a safe option. She knows God has forgiven her, but I don’t think she knows how to forgive herself. She hasn’t been to church regularly in a while now either.

I’d love to tell you there’s a happy ending to our conversation, but at this point, there isn’t. After an hour of talking, we both had to leave, so I prayed for her. I told her how much I loved her but that God loved her so much more. She cut me off as she said, “Sarah, I know, I know.” I think she does know, but I’m not convinced she believes it.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.” Psalms 25:16-18

I’m praying for you dear friend. I love you so much and pray that you will soon allow Jesus to fill that void. He’s the only One who can.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


(Written on 2/2/2012)

On the walk back to Lifeline from visiting Mykenlove’s house, I got another surprise I had so hoped for but had given up in my head because of the time- getting to see PeterLee- the 18 year old boy (now 20) who I worked with all summer in 2010 in therapy after the quake. When Dr. Bill saw him right after the quake, he wrote him off as dead after being found buried alive for two days in a huge building in Grand Goave that had collapsed. By the time I met him five months later, it was an absolute miracle he had survived, but he couldn’t walk on his own. Throughout the summer though, he was a daily miracle as he gradually got stronger and began to walk again. By the end of the summer, he couldn’t stand because his balance was bad, but he could finally walk by himself! But yesterday, for 30 minutes, God blew me away speechless with what I witnessed...

I saw him up off in the distance on a street corner, and our eyes met at the same time! There he was, standing on his own! I couldn’t believe it! The word “miracle” almost seemed like an understatement for where he is today. I ran up to him to hug him; he looked amazing! “I’m so happy to see you!” I said. “How are you?”

With the biggest smile he said, “Sarah, I walk well, I run, and I play fĂștbol (soccer) now again.”

WHAT!?!?!?!! Are you kidding me?! “PeterLee, you are a miracle!!” I was astounded and speechless! Since I was still with a team of “blans” (white missionaries), we had to keep walking back toward Lifeline, so I asked him if he could walk with us, and so he did for our remaining good half mile walk. As we started to walk, he looked down at his shirt and brushed it off and half ashamedly said to me, “I’m dirty because I was working.”

“You’re working?!?!? WHAT?!?!” Joys of laughter poured out of me.

“Well, it’s not for money, but just to help my dad.”

“But, PeterLee, that doesn’t matter! You’re capable of working! You thought you would never walk normal again, but now you’re working!” Having the ability to work means that this young man has the skills to be able to provide for himself someday; a man who should have died and when he didn’t, he should have been critically crippled the rest of this life. But now, he’s capable of working!

We walked and talked down the streets of Grand Goave, neither of us able to stop smiling. I asked how JeanEllie, his younger brother who was also injured though not nearly to the extent of PeterLee and trapped in the same building, was doing. “He’s doing well,” PeterLee told me. “He’s as tall as you now.”

We continued walking and I had to ask again, “You can run?”

“Yes,” he said with a smile.”

“PeterLee, run!”

He chuckled, “No.”

“Yes, PeterLee, I have to see you run!” He laughed and shook his head again. “C’mon, I’ll run with you!” I grabbed his hand and pretty much pulled him, and off we ran for twenty yards. Again, I burst forth laughter of joy and praise to our great God!

I stopped and looked at him in the eye and said, “PeterLee, do you realize, do you really understand the living miracle that you are?! You shouldn’t be here today. You shouldn’t have made it, but God saved you! You’re a walking miracle and you have to share your story with everyone. You have to tell everyone about what God has done in your life! I don’t know why God chose to save you, but He did, and so you need to honor Him with the rest of your life by giving your life back to Him, by serving Him and telling everyone what He’s done for you!”

“Sarah, I can’t thank you enough…”

“No, this,” as I pointed to him, “is not me. I had nothing to do with you. How you are today is so much bigger than anything I ever could have done!”

“I know, but I mean, after God, it’s because of you.”

“PeterLee, you need to tell people your story. But when you do, I don’t want you to even say my name because this is all God’s doing, and He needs all the honor and glory for His miraculous work in your life!”

We continued to walk on, in utter delight of seeing one another. I couldn’t cease to be in complete awe and amazement of this living miracle of God walking beside me. We got to Lifeline’s gate and I had to say goodbye. I gave him a hug and told him I had no words for how happy I was to see him. He looked in my eyes and with all sincerity said, “I will never forget you.
You will always be in my heart.”

...Lord, “Thank you,”? Those words don’t do it. “Miraculous”? That’s not it either. YHWH- the letters the Israelites used for the name of the LORD because His name was too great to say and they were too unworthy. I have no words. YHWH.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Longing for home

I began a Beth Moore Bible study this past January that just ended in April. The study was through the book of Revelation. In one of the last lessons, Beth asked, “Have you ever longed to return to a place, a geographical, physical place? A place that is familiar with things and places you know? A place where your family or friends are?”

“YES, YES!!” I shouted to myself, “Yes, I want to go there!!!”

“And then have you ever noticed, that if you’ve returned to that place, after a while of being there, you realize that deep longing you have for home is still there? And it doesn’t make sense because everything you longed for is now right there in front of you. But, I think,” Beth continued, “what we are all really longing for is not a physical home, but our heavenly home with our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I had never thought of that before, but I knew it was true, because I’ve had similar experiences in my life before. When people ask if I like Florida, my response is, “Yes, I do like it here, but I miss Wisconsin and the beauty of the state, but most of all, I miss people- my family and friends SO much.” And it’s true, but the longing that I have that is so deep inside of me for home, I’m pretty sure wouldn’t be fulfilled if those people of home were near me. At first, yes, they would fulfill, but after a couple weeks and life going back to normal after the reunion, I know I would still find myself longing.

Never in my life before have I ever experienced this longing for so long that is so deep. I don’t even know how to put words to it. I am just so needy for Jesus. When I get “homesick”, it usually hits me out of nowhere on the weekends when I’m not on the go and have time to think. I’ll be fine one moment, and the next, tears will come. And in those moments, I tell Jesus that I still love and trust Him, more than ever, but I’m just reminded of all that He has blessed me with at home, and I miss those blessings. It’s weird, but I experience His peace that transcends all understanding simultaneously as I experience this deep sadness and longing for people. Sometimes I get those feelings confused with thinking that I’m longing for a husband so that I could be married and daily have someone by my side who will not leave me. But in those moments, I have to remind myself, that none of those people could ever fulfill me. Only Jesus can fulfill me because He’s the only and everything that can fill.

All of this theory and hypothesis by Beth Moore was proved true a couple weeks ago. My mom came to visit me Mother’s Day weekend. We had SO much fun, and I loved every moment and now miss every moment. But that Sunday we were sitting in church; at the end of the message as we entered communion time, the tears came again- out of nowhere. And I was so confused. Usually when that happens, it’s because I think about how much I miss my dad, mom, brother, friends; but this time, my mom was sitting right next to me, so how could I miss her? I realized, I wasn’t longing for my mom; I was longing for Jesus. Eternity is set in my heart, and I’m longing for home.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country…for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God…

…All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:8-16

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The peace that transcends all understanding

Whenever I talk to people about how I’m doing, they ask if I’m homesick. My response is, yes, I miss the people at home so much. I think about everyone all the time and can’t wait to see everyone again. But even though I miss them, there’s this peace that I have about being here in Orlando that is totally separate from my sadness of not seeing the people I miss at home. It’s like, I can have a longing for people, but simultaneously have this joy. I’ve had a lot of thoughts swarming through my head, and I’m not sure how many conclusions I’ve come to, but I want to share them anyway.
I think it could be easy for Christians to look at my life and think, “It’s so simple for Sarah. God is blessing her in so many ways, everything is falling into place perfectly, she’s filled with joy, and there’re no hard times. God, I trust You. I’m trying to be faithful. Why am I struggling so much with discerning Your will and seeing the good and everything turning out for the best like us Christians always preach?”

To this question, I don’t have any conclusions. I don’t believe that our God is one of golden stars or stickers. I mean, I don’t think His thoughts are: “She did something good; one golden star for her. 9 more to go, and she will have another blessing!” And I’m not about to say that being married or having a family holds you back from living in God’s will.

But for myself, this is what I do know, and I’m trying to piece it together. I’m not married and don’t have a family (don’t be offended Mom, Dad, and Josh; just stick with me). I don’t have to worry about other people in the decisions I make (I don’t mean that in a selfish way, but in an “ability to serve God” kind-of-way). I know the passions God has placed on my heart, and when a door of opportunity has opened, I haven’t had to think about how it will affect my husband’s job or where my kids will go to school. I mean, I applied for this job, was offered the position, and moved across the country to Orlando and started working within three weeks. It’s definitely a desire of mine to get married some day, but I know it will happen in, yes, “God’s perfect timing” and so until that day comes, I’m determined to keep seeking Him daily.

But the other thing that I believe has made the biggest difference has been moving past just, seeking God. Over the past four years at Northwestern, God continued to teach me over and over about His faithfulness. It has been the theme of my college years and especially this year. Back in January, it was my desire to be in Physical Therapy school this fall; I spent three years preparing for it. But I got to a point in February, where I knelt on my bedroom floor in my Northwestern apartment one Saturday morning and prayed, “Lord, I desire Your heart, not mine. Whatever happens is okay with me. I can let go of my desires because I know that Your plans for me are far better than I could ever plan for myself. So take my life, all of it.”

Then I went to Haiti this summer. It was incredible! But towards the end of the summer, I began to realize that I would soon be re-entering the United States where I wouldn’t be going back to school. I had no idea what would happen. So one night on my bed I was praying. The words that were screaming in my heart came out expressed to the lyrics of Chris Tomlin’s song, “Take My Life.” (Chorus: “Here am I, all of me. Take my life, it's all for Thee.” Look up the verses too- so good!) That song became my theme song. The day after I got back from Haiti, I went on a run and remember praying, “God, this is the first day of I have absolutely no idea what’s next. ‘Here am I, all of me. Take my life, it’s all for Thee.’” One month later, I moved to Orlando.

I know that throughout this year, as I’ve prayed that prayer to God, I have fully, completely, given Him my life- my whole life, holding nothing back. I didn’t want to keep any part of it for myself. And so now, here I am. He up and took me across the country by myself to an unknown territory where I knew one person. At first, I told people I was scared. But then, I realized I wasn’t scared. I knew everything would be okay because I knew the One who was taking me. Was it hard to say goodbye? Most definitely! I cried every day from the time I got offered the job to the time I moved down here. But they weren’t tears of fear. They were tears of sadness knowing that I was having to say goodbye, at least for a little while, to the people that God had put in my life over the past 22 years to so richly bless me.

And so, now I’m here. And yes, I still miss all of you more than you could understand. But those feelings of sadness are so separate from the peace I have about being here. Everyday, God makes it so evident that this is where He has put me and where I need to be. Because of that, I have experienced this “peace that transcends all understanding” that Paul talks about in Philippians 4:7.

And so this is the thought I’ve been pondering (it’s not biblical, just Sarahicle): In order for us to experience the peace that transcends all understanding, we need to give God our whole life, all of us, because it’s all for Him, holding absolutely nothing back. Because I think if there would have been one speck of something I was too afraid to give Him, one thing I would have held back and not laid down before Him, I’m pretty sure that one thing, no matter how minute, would have blocked me from experiencing that complete peace.

And so this is my continued prayer for myself and for you: “Do NOT be anxious about anything, but in EVERYTHING, 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,” Philippians 4:6-7.

A lot of funny things happen in language translation

So at work, I speak Creole about ¼ of my day and am constantly trying to learn more and speak and understand it better. But, whenever you are learning a language, funny things tend to happen. Here’s one from yesterday:

There are a lot of low back pain issues and for a lot of people, simply stretching the correct muscles will do a lot of good and take a lot of pain away. So the other day I was stretching a Haitian woman’s hamstrings (muscle group on back side of your legs). To give you a visual, she was lying on her back on our treatment table with one leg up in the air. I was kneeling on the table facing her with her elevated leg against my shoulder so I could lean against her to stretch it. The stretch I do is one in which I lean against her to stretch the muscle, then I have her push against my shoulder so that muscle is contracting, then she relaxes and I push, etc. So when I have her push against me, I usually say, “Peze mwen,” which means “press me” or more typically, I say, “Puse mwen, puse mwen,” which means “push me, push me.” After I said this repeatedly, she and another Haitian woman in the room had a little conversation going between them and were laughing. I said, “What, am I saying it wrong?”

Laughing, they said, “No, but it’s funny when you say, ‘Puse, puse,’ because that’s what you say to a woman when she’s in labor and you want her to push.” Haha. I assured them no babies were going to be born in our training room. They assured me I could continue to use that phrase, but I’m also sure if I do, they’ll continue to laugh.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What are the chances? I guess with God, pretty good

June 17, 2009, I was on American Airlines in Port au Prince ready to fly back home to Wisconsin after spending 3 weeks in Haiti interning with Lifeline Christian Mission. I was flying by myself, but the Lord put this sweet Haitian lady in the seat next to me. My Creole wasn’t the best, but I prayed God would give me an opportunity to reach out to this woman, and so I said, “Hello, how are you?” in Creole. It was definitely one of those moments where God opened my ears and mouth to understand and speak Creole better than I normally could. After learning that she’s lived in the U.S. for nine years and was home visiting Haiti, has a son who lives in Boston, and was flying back home to Florida, she handed me her ID, passport, and green customs/immigration form for me to help her fill out. I figured she didn’t read or write, and so I read the form to her and helped her fill the whole thing out. I remember this distinctly because I praised God for the opportunity and prayed that He used me to bless and love this woman.

This morning at work, I walked out of my room, and this Haitian woman approached me. She told me that she knew me and asked if I knew her. She went on to explain to me that she thought I was the girl that sat next to her on an American Airlines flight from Haiti to Miami a year ago and helped her fill out her form! WHAT?!?!?! I laughed because I was speechless and in so much shock and awe of our GOOD God. We shared our memory of the moment from our perspectives and sure enough, this was the woman who’s lived in the U.S. for, now, ten years, and handed me her customs/immigration form so that I could help her fill it out!!!! Together, we laughed, hugged, and praised God together.

Oh, LORD, how good and wonderful are Your ways and Your diving timing! Thank You for confirming, once again, that this is indeed where you want me and have placed me! To You be ALL the glory! May Your name be exalted and lifted up, and may the world come to know Your love and the joy You give as I have been blessed to know!

Lessons from Rosa

I have a friend, Rosa, who works in the custodial department. Rosa is my Gospel-singing, Jesus-loving, “I’m gonna tell you about HIM,” sister! I asked her today, since she’s worked for Disney for many years, the lines between work and Disney policies and being a Christian. She didn’t hesitate in her response and gave me the best sermon I’ve heard since last Sunday! She reminded me of a wonderful story in the Bible (Luke 15:3-7), “The parable of the lost sheep.” When one sheep out of a hundred strays away, the Good Shepherd will leave the ninety-nine to go find the one that’s lost and joyfully bring it home.

In our society, we talk about drug attics, alcoholics, and label people by their addiction or lifestyle. But as Christians, we shouldn’t look at them and call them with those titles as the world does. Instead, we need to look at each of those individuals and see a lost sheep. Unlike Cain in Genesis 4:9, we need to be our brother’s keeper, go find them, love them, look after them, and lead them back home to our Shepherd. We can’t hide from the Lord. He knows where we are at all times, and He will come searching for us. And He will knock on the door of our heart. But He’s not going to make us open it and invite Him in. He wants to pick us up, put us on his shoulder and carry us back home where He can call everyone together to throw a party for us and rejoice in our homecoming (Luke 15:5-6). But He’s only going to do that if we allow Him too.

As Christians, we’ve had that party thrown for us. We know the goodness of it, and the joy and blessing it is. How selfish it is for us to not extend that invitation out to the lost sheep in our world, to be our brother’s keeper. If you (if I) call ourselves Christians, then for goodness sake, let’s live like it! The world where God has placed us is our mission field! Look at it! We live in it, and here, we will find lost sheep all around us. Let’s bring them home for a homecoming party!