Saturday, November 20, 2010
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.
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
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!
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!
We sat down for announcements, and I thought to myself, “You know, in Haiti at church services, when there is a visitor, they have the visitor stand up in front of everyone and introduce themselves. I wonder if they will do that today. And if they do, do I speak in English, or attempt Creole? Don’t panic; don’t think about it,” I told myself. A woman I recognized from work was ushering up and down the isles monitoring the scene- common Haitian church practice. I caught her eye, and she came over to me and was sure to tell me that when they ask for visitors, I needed to stand up and present myself. “Okay, what do I know in Creole and how fast can I come up with an introduction on the spot?!”
The time came. Everyone in my pew turned their heads toward me, and along with the three other people there, I proudly stood up (trembling inside) waiting for my turn. I wanted to listen to what the other Haitian visitors were saying, but let’s be honest, I was just practicing my introduction over in my head. Then, the pastor looked at me. I took a breath, saw everyone staring at me, and said in my best Creole, hoping my voice wouldn’t crack, “Hello. My name is Sarah, and I just moved to Orlando, and a friend invited me to come to church today.” I think everyone was staring at this white girl in joyful surprise, but I was focused on the pastor. Then he cut me off from the rest of my rehearsed lines and went off on this little tangent. I have absolutely no idea what he said. He was talking too fast, and I was too flustered to understand. I then just saw my whole pew motioning and telling me to sit down. So I plopped down quickly.
I tried to listen to the sermon, but like Haiti, the Pastor spoke with such power, that the speakers were bursting with loudness. Unlike Haiti, the church was inside, enclosed (and air-conditioned) so there was no place for the sound to travel except to pierce my ears. I’m pretty sure I had temporary hearing loss after the service. This kind of distracted me from trying to understand what the Pastor was actually saying, but the nice man next to me tried to translate parts here and there. He was shouting in my ear so I could hear him over the pastor, but it was thoughtful nonetheless. Bless his heart. I’d like to go back sometime, but with my hair down to hide the earplugs that will be in my ears =)
Thursday, November 4, 2010
I was talking with a friend later and told her what had happened. She said, “Sarah, it’s neat. Maybe God brought you to Florida to interact with the Haitian people, love them with the love of Christ, and be a witness. But maybe it was also just so you could be a source of encouragement to the ones there who already know the Lord.” How right she was.
I don’t write this because I’m proud of my decision to move or because I want people to acknowledge some “great ability” I have to connect with the Haitian people. No. I share this because this is a testimony of the Lord working in and through my life. This is about how He is moving and the gifts and abilities He has created. And these things, to HIM be ALL the glory, are the things He is doing in my life, and the gifts He has bestowed upon me. I share this because God is confirming each and every day that this is where I need to be. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but for such a time as this, this is where He has placed me and this is where I need to serve. May we be encouraged together at what the Lord is doing.
Esther 1-9. “And who knows that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
Mom was with me as we road tripped across country to Orlando, Florida. A two day drive, but it was good time to spend together. I think my favorite seen was when we finally got to Florida, we stopped at the Florida Welcome Center for a couple maps and our free glass of orange juice. But as we pulled up, it was me, mom, and everyone else over the age of 65. My favorite sight: Grandma driving, Grandpa riding shotgun with a flat-brimmed baseball cap on, handicapped sticker hanging on the rearview mirror, and a bird in the birdcage in the backseat. Oh, God bless the Snowbirds!
I’ve noticed a lot of differences in the last month that I’ve been here compared to my Midwest upbringing:
- The grass is different. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s so full and thick, the blades are wider but not as soft.
- There’re palm trees- you just don’t see those in the Midwest.
- Town houses (like what I live in) are everywhere. It must be the way to go in Orlando.
- Alligators are supposedly the deer of the south- but I still haven’t seen one yet =(
- An armadillo is the raccoon roadkill of the south. I saw one the other day when I was with my co-worker. I got a little excited- yes, I’m new. She told me to make sure not to hit them with your car, though, because if you’re going fast, they can overturn your car because of their rock-hard shell.
- Okay, then there’s the road rules. Driving in a city has its own set of rules. On more than one occasion, I’ve come home and drawn out a scenario for my roommate and asked her how you’re really supposed to handle such a situation. For example, if you’re turning right on red, there’s usually a sign posted to say if it’s not allowed. But if there’s no sign, and it’s a red arrow, then doesn’t that imply you shouldn’t turn? I’d think so, but not here. If it’s a red arrow and you yield to oncoming traffic, then go ahead and turn on right…I guess. And if you’re in a turn lane, what’s the point of using your turn signal? Nobody does here, not even the cop I saw yesterday. And U-turns: they are everywhere and are legal; that also requires a learning curve.
- Along with driving, when mom and I were coming down here driving through some of the major cities, we came across those wacko drivers who are speeding 20+ miles over the limit and weaving in and out between vehicles across multiple lanes. I would see someone make such a move, and say, “Oh my gosh! What an idiot! What’s he doing?!” Well, after only a couple weeks in Orlando, I’ll be driving and when I see such a situation, I’ve noticed my attitude has changed slightly. Instead of being ticked by someone’s stupidity, I find myself in admiration, with a slight chuckle to myself saying, “Hey, nice move man. Impressive.”
- I’ve also noticed them temptation to fall into the sin of road-rage. I haven’t cursed anyone out yet, and I’m pretty sure that’s not really part of my nature, but I’ve noticed a slight increase in irritation.
Well, more differences and observations to come I’m sure.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
The 25th was a Wednesday so I gave myself until the following Monday to relax before starting the joyous job search. When Monday rolled around, I knew I needed to treat searching for a job like it was my job- so from 8-4:30, Monday through Friday, I spent my time at the table in front of my computer. (The joy of it not being a real job was that I was able to hang out in my favorite red, plaid, flannel boxer shorts all day.) This was the life I lived for the next month- productive, yet not seemingly. I wanted to find a job in the area where I could be an athletic trainer so I could put into practice what I’d spent the last four years learning. I quickly realized, though, that I would likely have to choose between finding a job doing anything so I could stay in the area, or be willing to go anywhere to find an athletic training job. I was open.
There were days where, well, I’ll be honest, I was bitter. I was bored and couldn’t stand having no one around all day while I just sat in front of a computer. To me, being at home this time was different. I wasn’t there for 3 weeks over Christmas, or even 3 months during the summer before school would start. Northwestern had already resumed its classes and I wasn’t there. My friends from college were working real jobs and getting married. The reality of, “I’ve entered the real world,” was finally hitting. I had no idea if I’d be living at home for a month or a year. I had no idea how long I would be jobless. Do I unpack all of my stuff and really move back in, or only what I need so when I do move out, it won’t be so difficult? Josh was living at home too, but he had a job, and at least he could buy his own groceries and not worry about how he was going to fill his gas tank. My family would get home from work and ask me how my day was, and with bitterness I’d say, “Oh ya know. Another 8 hours in front of my computer with no social interaction.” I’m sure I got a little lecture from my dad one night. But it was good. It slapped me to my senses a little as I thought to myself, “Really, Sarah? How many people in this country have been unemployed for months now due to the economy, and you’ve been at this for how many weeks? For goodness sake, girl! Where did you just come from?!?! You spent 3 months in a country where people are living in tents, not knowing where or when their next meal will come, and you are complaining because you have a beautiful roof over your head, plenty of food to eat, surrounded by people that love and care about you?!?!?! Shut up, be thankful, and count your blessings!”
So I did make a conscious effort to be thankful every day, but it was hard. Not because I wasn’t grateful; I was. Mom told me one day, “Sarah, we know the job economy is rough right now. It’s not easy to find a job, but you’re trying and we know that. You just spent the whole summer in Haiti doing wonderful things, so until you find a job, we’re here for you. There’s food for you to eat; we’re not going to just throw you out on the street.” I knew that; I expected that because of the amazing, loving parents that I have. And so, I was grateful, but I was learning something about myself that was hard. God was teaching me a lesson on humility, to a degree I’ve never before experienced. I was reminded that I LOVE to serve, to give, to help, to encourage, to interact. I was also realizing that I was more independent than I knew. However, it’s hard for me to receive. I don’t like that end of it. I don’t know, maybe it’s because when I get to give, I know I’m honoring God and He is pleased. But when I have to ask for help because I can’t do it on my own, and this time, from more than just God but from other humans, does that bring Him honor to? Can I worship Him by receiving? Well, I knew I couldn’t worship Him by receiving with a bad attitude, and so that needed to change.
I had heard before that it’s better to give than to receive, but in order for someone to give, someone must also receive. I knew that was true, and so this time, I was having to learn to be the receiver instead of the giver. But a friend pointed out to me, that maybe in all of this, not only was I learning how to receive, but also how difficult it must be for other people who have to receive. I had never thought about that before. Whenever I give, even if the receiver says, “I can’t take that; it’s too much,” it would make me feel all the more blessed because I sincerely wanted to and could give it all. But now I realize that when you give, you have to be sensitive to the receiver because sometimes, it is nice to receive, and it is a blessing, but I think many of us deal with pride issues and wanting to be self-sufficient, like I was. We don’t want people’s hand-outs. We want to be able to take care of the obstacles in our way and be that giver, humbly and quietly, but we are unable. And so, we must receive.
Jesus tells us to pray for others, but aren’t we also told to ask for prayer for ourselves too? “13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective,” James5:13-16.
[On September 25th, one month after returning from Haiti, I accepted a job in Orlando, FL and moved there one week later.]
Friday, September 10, 2010
Throughout our lives as Christians, we tell ourselves (and God too) that we are being faithful to Him. We tell Him that we’ll do anything He wants us to and go anywhere He takes us (but in our heads we’re thinking, “But I really do prefer where I’m at right now, and look at all the ministry needs right here! God, it’s probably best for me to stay here.”). So, we walk the walk and we talk the talk.
But what happens when we suddenly realize that God has taken us to the edge of a cliff (or opened up the airplane door) and He says, “Thank you for submitting yourself to Me and telling Me how faithful you are. But now I want you to show Me. Now, if your faith is in Me, I want you to jump.” Is it possible to turn back and not jump? Yeah, we can always say no to God because He gives us the freedom to choose; to say yes or no; to be obedient or disobedient; to be faithful or not; to choose His ways or our ways. But we want to choose His ways, and in our hearts, we really do want to be faithful. So we look out the plane door and realize, the only thing left to do is jump, trusting that God won’t let us fall to our death, but instead, that He’ll give us new life we’ve never experienced before!
But then we start to think again: “But if I really jump, I’m going to have to sacrifice so much. Up until this point, I’ve been able to carry my securities in my luggage- family, support, money, practicality, a job, familiar territory- but now I’m there, inches from falling out of the plane, and I can’t take any of that with me, I have to drop it all, leave it, and jump. All I have is God’s faithfulness to me.” But in the midst of all our fear and doubt, we know that God’s faithfulness is all we need. And while we’re waiting there, feeling the cold gust of wind in our faces, seeing the clouds below without a window in between, the thousands of feet below us, and everything inside of us screaming how insane, dumb, and crazy this is, we get this little sense of peace. We know that not only will the Lord of lords catch us, but He is going to be strapped onto our backs jumping with us. In fact, He’s the one with the parachute. Even if we forget everything we’ve learned along the way and we do everything wrong, His grace for us can’t stop the chute from opening. And so, He says, “Are you ready?”
And we say, “Is it time?”
And He says, “It’s time.” And we go; we jump. We jump! We’re freefalling and it’s CRAZY! But after a couple short seconds, we realize that even though we’re freefalling, it’s not scary anymore. It’s exhilarating! It’s freeing! Our screaming has turned to uncontrollable laughter in the freedom we feel in falling, knowing that everything is going to be fine. And then, after a short time, He pulls the chute. And we stop falling so fast; now we’re just joyously floating down. And we look around at the beautiful view, and are just overwhelmed with goodness at what just happened and what is happening. Just for fun, He soars us around a little; because he’s in control, and He can steer us too.
As soon as we touch the ground, we can’t help but think, “I can’t wait to do that again! I’m ready this second to go back up and jump again!” We realize that the scariest part was the few minutes leading up to it. The jump itself was awesome (after the first couple seconds in which we’re still realizing what we actually did). It was the buildup, the hype, the thoughts that almost made us turn back. But, we did it. And we have no regrets.
When God takes you to the edge, the questions and doubt will come (I’m not old enough, I can’t do it alone, I don’t have enough money and I have students loans, everyone will think I’m crazy and foolish, I don’t have a backup plan, let alone a plan…). But if God clearly takes you up and opens the door to the plane, will you jump? Will I jump? I dare us to, because I’m pretty sure once we land, we’ll have no regrets and want to do it all over again.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
All summer long, we’ve been telling our work teams on their last night in Haiti that when they go home, they need to have a 3 minute speech prepared to tell when people ask, “How was Haiti?” I’ve put that off because I had all summer. But now I’m home, and people are asking, and I’m struggling with my answer. I have so many thoughts, saw God in so many (every) ways, learned so much, and was stretched beyond what I ever thought. So many thoughts but few words to express them (or more words than necessary to try and describe what’s going on in my head =). Here’s my attempt:
- There is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is based on our circumstances, but joy comes from the Lord and is renewed each morning. Life after the earthquake for the people of Haiti did not bring happiness. Each day is still a struggle for most everyone. To say that there is great need in Haiti is an understatement. The people there are hungry, need a safe place to live, healthcare, and education. Life is burdensome, onerous, and unyielding. But this is not the end of the story! Despite these things that are true, for basically everyone, the people that know Jesus have so much joy and put me to shame with my lack of joy. They find their joy and their strength in the Lord each day. With every right to complain, they don’t; they praise. Gaston, one of the masons who can work endless hours nonstop mixing concrete recites over 40 verses and passages from scripture by memory. Madame Therese who lost her sister a few weeks ago to malaria continues to dance and sing for the Lord with joy radiating on her face and cares for numerous people in her house beyond her family. The little kids from Jeanty church sing in church from the bottom of their hearts at the top of their lungs, eyes closed, hands raised to the heavens, all praise to Jesus. The adults from the church meet five days a week at 4:30 in the morning to pray, study and memorize scripture, and sing for over an hour. The teens meet at 5:30 in the morning on their own to pray and sing.
Joy does not come from circumstances. It comes from the Lord. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.” Psalms 86:3
- You can’t save everyone. This was a hard lesson, especially as I did therapy. You can’t come to Haiti and not be overwhelmed by the need and devastation. It would be so easy to walk away from it feeling hopeless because even if you could do something, it wouldn’t even seem to make a dent in the problems. But I heard a story this summer that stuck with me and showed me the approach we [I] need to have (in Haiti and everywhere). There was a grandfather who saw his grandson off in the distance along the beach throwing starfish who had been brought on the shore by the tide back in the water to try and save them. The grandfather went to his grandson and told him he might as well quit because he could walk forever along the shore throwing starfish back in the ocean and he’d never save them all. The grandson picked up another starfish and said, “But to this one, it does matter because his life has been saved,” and he threw it back in the ocean.
I wanted to save everyone, but I couldn’t. But God didn’t send me to Haiti to save everyone. He just wanted me to love the people he put in my path every day because to that one person, I could make a difference and touch a life.
- We’re really the same. Every other time I’ve gone to Haiti, I’ve been hesitant to do certain things because I realized I was the foreigner and felt the need to just watch, observe, and learn from them. I did not want to impose my American ways on them or offend them because of my cultural ignorance. However, after being there three months this time, I began to feel a part of the community. I saw the cultural differences, but those seemed to be just that- cultural. At the heart of most things, we really are more similar than different. One way I saw this was in the example of beauty. The beginning of the summer, I had my hair braided by some girlfriends of mine. When they were done, I had twelve random braids sticking ridiculously out of my head. But, oh, it was so beautiful they told me. I wasn’t sure I saw that beauty. Cultural difference: what they think is pretty in Haiti isn’t necessarily pretty in the U.S. and visa versa. However, in my last weeks in Haiti, I had the opportunity to meet with my group of teenage girls. As we talked, I learned that girls everywhere desire the same thing- to feel beautiful and know they are loved. This is not cultural; this is the way God made us.
To my dearest family and friends in Haiti and at Lifeline: I love and miss you so much. I’m realizing more and more that home is not where four walls meet and a bed lies within those walls. Home is where the people you love are. The U.S. is my home because I have many people I love here. But Haiti, you are my home too. Thank you for welcoming me in as one of your own. I cannot wait for the day when the Lord presents me with the opportunity to return to you. Until then, know you are constantly on my heart and mind and in my prayers.
With each team that came to Haiti this summer, we took them to Jeanty church one night (Jeanty is the name of a nearby community). It is a small but thriving and growing church. I LOVE going there; they are the most welcoming and loving people, and every service is full of heartfelt, lively worship. Pastor Julio’s wife works at Lifeline, and she asked me one day the end of July if I was going to sing the next time I came to Jeanty. I responded with, “Maybe I can do that,” thinking I was going to be leaving Haiti before I would be returning to Jeanty so I would be off the hook. Well, as it turned out, I stayed another month and had two more opportunities to return to Jeanty. It was on the back of my mind that first week that they may ask me to sing (in Haiti, there’s not a lot of warning about these type of things. It would probably be something like the Pastor seeing me from the pulpit and calling me out in front of the congregation to come up and sing.). There was a woman, Weena, on the workteam who I had become friends with and asked her if she would want to quickly learn a song and sing it with me in case they called me up. She has a beautiful voice and a heart for music so she quickly learned the Creole song. We got to church, worshiped with them, but they never called me up. Whew; got past that easy enough.
Well, a couple weeks later we returned to Jeanty; this was my last time going before I was really coming home to the States. I had kind of forgotten about the song thing until a couple hours before we left. I knew there was a chance they’d call me up, but they didn’t last time, so they probably wouldn’t this time. We got to church, and as I sat down, I realized I was sitting next to Pastor Julio’s wife. A few minutes later, she leaned over and, of course, asked if I was going to sing. I panicked a little…I didn’t have a partner to sing with me this time. I also get a lot of attention from the Haitian people because they know me from being there so long, and I didn’t want to put myself on a pedestal in front of the Americans to show off my relationships with the Haitians or how well I knew Creole. I tried to come up with every excuse possible to not, but she just was not buying any of it. After a few minutes of this, she said, “So can you sing?” I clutched my camera case so hard. See the problem was not singing in front of the Haitian people; it was singing in front of the Americans.
One thing that I love about Haiti each time I come is their heart for worship. They understand that when they worship, it’s not about a show or impressing the other people sitting next to them. They don’t debate in their heads if it’s okay to stand up, clap their hands, or raise their hands, because, it doesn’t matter what other people think. They’re not there to worship or please men, but God. I think most Christians in the States, myself included, so easily miss the point of worship in our churches because we are so concerned by these things and our appearance before men. I don’t consider myself to be a singer. I can sing in a choir, but I’m no soloist. But in Haiti, that doesn’t matter. There are Haitians who can’t sing a pitch, but they will stand up in front of a congregation and sing a solo to the Lord, and everyone just encourages them. I knew if I sang, it would mean so much to my Haitian brothers and sisters. This was no longer about attention for myself, but obedience and worship to my Lord.
I told her I could. A couple minutes later, I got called up front to sing. All my fears and inhibitions escaped me as I said, “I want to sing a song tonight, but I want to sing it to the Lord. I think it’s a song many of you know, so if you know it, sing with me.” And I began my favorite song in Creole: You’re holy, You’re good, You’re able, You’re mighty, You’re powerful, Lord. Everywhere on the earth people are singing You’re holy, good, able, mighty, and powerful.
Lifeline has been in Haiti for 30 years, and 2 ½ weeks ago, Lifeline’s church in Grand Goave celebrated their first church service 30 years ago with a revival that lasted all weekend. Lifeline has numerous churches all over Haiti and so people came from all the churches to celebrate and praise together. It was fantastic to see so many people there. Probably over 2000 people! There were people cooking out of the school kitchen to feed the masses- spaghetti one night (Haitian spaghetti), Haitian bread with a homemade hot chocolate-like drink for breakfast, rice and beans, beef (I didn’t try that one, but I saw the carcass☺). The worship began in the early morning at 4:00 or earlier and went until 10:00 p.m. or later each night. It was continuous singing, dancing, praying, preaching, and teaching. People were camped all over Lifeline’s compound, in the school, and in the clinic for this event. There were tap-taps (Haitian taxis) and vehicles parked everywhere and coming and going with people. It was incredible!
A highlight of the weekend was that a group of kids from the children’s home came to stay at Lifeline for the weekend (since they are located near Port au Prince). There were about 20 girls and they all stayed up in the dorm with me and two other girls who were at Lifeline throughout August. It was so much fun to live with these girls for 3 days and see how they live- their morning and night routines. I’m sure they were just as curious about us. In fact, I know they were as they would stare at us get ready in the morning (contact lenses are quite foreign to them), watch us do our hair, or put makeup on. One of the funniest things happened to Kelsi, one of the other Americans. She forgot to put her (electric) toothbrush away one night and noticed it was moved the next morning. Fearing it may have been used by someone else, she opted not to brush her teeth. She went to the bathroom, and while in the stall, heard the sound of her electric toothbrush turn on. She peaked her head above the door to see what was going on, and caught a couple of the girls using her toothbrush to brush their eyebrows! HAHAHA, too funny. I think the girls dropped the toothbrush and ran. Toothbrush, eyebrow brush, I guess it could be used for both. (Note: Kelsi got a new toothbrush to use for her remaining days in Haiti.)
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Yesterday, two men stopped by. One of them was them was from Outreach International, one of Lifeline’s food suppliers of the food that we feed our children in our schools and nutrition programs and distribute to other missions. The other man with him named Roger Elmore works at Iowa State University as an Extension Corn Agronomist. As soon as I saw his polo with ISU on the side, we began talking since we were from the same neck of the woods. I said I graduated from Northwestern College, to which he responded that he knew people that went to school there. Come to find out, he knew four people that went to school at NWC because they were family friends from his home church. The first girl he mentioned was Stephanie Powell! I was shocked! Steph graduated a year ahead of me, but I actually met her before NWC because we did New Way Singers (a summer choir tour group for high school students) together for three years through Nebraska Christian College. He used to live in Nebraska and went to the same church as Steph (and a couple other girls I met through New Way Singers) and he and his wife were really good friends with her parents. It was crazy to meet this wonderful man of God in Haiti of all places.
Last night, four Haitians stayed with us here because one of the men, Pastor Mioche Rock, has a mission in northern Haiti but receives food from Lifeline to feed children in his programs. Pastor Rock attended Crossroads Christian College for four years and was very good friends with Nichole (Howells) who grew up in my home church. Nichole was someone I always looked up to and admired. It was crazy to meet this man I had heard about from Nichole before, in Haiti of all places.
It’s a small world after all, but how comforting it is to know God makes our worlds smaller, maybe so that we can be encouraged by those in it that we’re privileged to meet.
Beauty, I’ve learned, is cultural. What we think is pretty in the U.S. isn’t pretty in Haiti and what’s pretty in Haiti isn’t necessarily pretty in the States. For example. When I first came here, some girls wanted to braid my hair. I let them and when we were done, I had 12 random braids plastered to my head coming out from all directions. Then they told me how pretty I looked; I wasn’t sure I agreed. Last week, we were walking through town and saw a woman wearing a red blouse with a white lacy bra over the top. Christi and I looked at each other and smiled. We decided either the bra was a little too big and fit better when worn over the top of her shirt or she thought the lace added a pretty new dimension to fancy her shirt up a bit. The other day I decided to braid my own hair into pigtails. I made them loose braids and it kind of had that “messy” but cute look to it. But here, the girls didn’t find the loose, “messy” look so attractive. They thought it should be plastered to my head.
Nonetheless, all girls desire to feel beautiful and to be told their beautiful. And when we feel beautiful, we hope we’ll be loved. I asked the girls what they do to make themselves feel beautiful. The girls answered, “We shower and put on clean clothes; we do our hair and put gloss on our lips; we wear shoes that match our dress; we wear bracelets and earrings, and then when we walk in town, we hope that people, especially the boys, will notice and say, ‘You look beautiful!’.” As I listened, I couldn’t help but smile, because if I asked a group of girls that in the U.S., I know they would have the same answers.
I shared with them a favorite scripture, 1 Peter 3:3-4, that talks about true beauty. True beauty doesn’t come from outward adornment- braided hair, wearing gold jewelry, or fine clothes, but true beauty comes from the inner self; it’s the unfading beauty of a gentle and quite spirit, and this beauty is of great worth to God. I emphasized with the girls that it’s okay to do things to help us to feel pretty- God clearly gave all of us that desire, and so it must be okay, but those aren’t the things God cares about. He wants our hearts to be beautiful and to be filled with the same love for others that He has shown to us. And only His love is perfect and fills the desire we have to be loved. The girls sat there and listened intently.
We prayed and then fellowshipped with one another. I shared with them a cake that Lakey and I made that used granadia juice that I squeezed…I’m getting better with granadia. They are such girls. Since it was now “fellowship time” they began talking away like girls and giggling and screaming at random things. They wanted to sing a song so we did, and then we played a name game and they put me on the spot to name all the girls there. I was pretty proud of myself for learning most of their names. It was time to end our time together, but we planned to meet next Thursday at 4:00 again. Pastor Luc was there and said there was another church program at that same time, so I told him we’d find a new time because I didn’t want to pull the girls away from anything else, and he said, “No. This is a really good, and the girls need to hear this. They should come here.”
Thank you for your prayers and thoughts with these beautiful girls; I’m excited to continue to share with them.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
- Things I first saw as junk here I’m now seeing as gold: plastic bags from the grocery store. At home, we save them until they take up half a closet and then pitch them because of the nuisance they’ve become. I have had to keep my eyes open for plastic bags this summer because I didn’t bring anything to carry my things around. And yesterday, we needed to tie shoes together so pairs wouldn’t get separated in the shoe pantry; solution: tear plastic bags, that we had just designated as “trash” because they had holes in them, into strips to use as ties.
- Large pill bottles become water bottles.
- Paper doesn’t enter the trash until both sides of it are completely full; where else where you write notes? I came across a notepad for Christi the other day- she was so excited!
- Junky boxes when unfolded become a mattress to lie on or a corner of it becomes a fan for church.
- Empty plastic juice bottles become Tupperware and empty tin cans can be used as containers or recycled to make graters, musical instruments, or who knows what else.
- One minute I see a dirty pen cap on the ground; the next minute, I see a brand new whistle for a little boy as he blows through one end of it.
A tote bag, a water bottle, sticky notes, a simple place to sleep, storage containers (for all of our STUFF), toys…These are all so commonplace, things we have in abundance, or things that seem essential. We don’t think twice about them. When we need a plastic bag, we go get one from the closet. When out water bottle gets a little worn, we go buy a new one. When we can’t find the matching Tupperware lid after 2 minutes, we get frustrated and go buy a new stack of Gladware. When our toys stop working, we trash it and then go buy the newest latest and greatest. We do all of this without thinking, without hesitation.
Here, it’s different. When you find a piece of paper with a blank back side- keep it; you’re going to need it soon; thank you, Jesus! An old piece of paper or a small piece of cardboard becomes a fan! Praise the Lord! So simple, but so beneficial! I can’t begin to count the number of times I have needed something so small, something that at home, it would be nothing to go get it or buy it, but here, when I spot it or something that could work for what I need, it becomes a treasure- thank you Jesus! I know this is a gift from You!
When you have less, you begin to understand Jesus more. “The Rich Young Man” (Mk. 10:17-31) turned away sad when Jesus told him that in order to inherit eternal life, he should sell everything he had so he could follow Jesus. The rich man walked away sad realizing all he would have to give up. “The Widow’s Offering” (Mk. 12:41-44) was worth more than what the rich men gave. She had almost nothing but gave everything she had. She gave without thought, without contemplation, without hesitation. It was instinct; it was natural; it was right. How do we become like that? We live with less because then we need God more. When we need God more, we see God more. When we see God more, we understand God more. When we understand God more, we know God more. When we know God more, we need God more.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Keith and Christi had joked about me leaving with all the work left to be done, but I knew there was an element of seriousness to it in that if I was here, I could definitely be used. After talking with them a little more seriously, I decided to email Gretchen to say that if I would be of use and benefit to stay, then I would be more than happy to do so but not because I wanted to, but only if Lifeline needed or could use me here. I was happy to stay or happy to go home. I got an email back from Gretchen saying that she had wanted to ask me to stay but didn’t because if I couldn’t, she didn’t want me to feel guilty about going home. (I love seeing God in every little detail of life). I then emailed the three most important people in my life- Dad, Mom, and my brother Josh- to get their thoughts and make sure if I stayed I wouldn’t be missing anything at home. I was so overwhelmed by their response and with how incredibly blessed I am to have them as my family. Mom and Dad said that the selfish side of them wanted me to come home so they could see me, but they knew that if I was going to stay, God’s timing in all of this was perfect and if God was opening this door, they would gladly support my staying with their blessing. Josh emailed me and in a sentence said, “You know I’m a logical guy, so it’s pretty obvious what you should do; see you in a month!” Mom, Dad, Josh- I love you guys more than you know; there are no words to express my love and thanks to God for the gift He gave me with you.
However, my Haitian friends have been clarifying with me for the past couple of weeks that I was leaving on July 28th. Thus, I began receiving many hugs, gifts, and goodbyes last week. It has been a blessing to tell my dear friends that I am staying for one more month and to hear their shouts of joy and receive their huge hugs. I got called up front in church on Sunday to give my farewell address and to sing a song. I thanked them for the blessing they have been this summer and then gave them the news. Wow, the shouts of joy! But all rejoicing and glory must be given back to God, for that is where ALL glory is due. My favorite response came today though. I hadn’t seen my sponsored girl Mykenlove for about a week. She hadn’t heard the news yet. When I asked her if she knew when I was leaving, she said, “Tomorrow.” When I told her, I received the biggest hug and smile; similar to the first time she saw me the beginning of the summer. I love her with all my heart.
Thank you ALL for all of your prayers, support, and encouragement. I will see you August 25th.
Friday, July 23, 2010
For the most part, my closest friends in Haiti are guys because there are a lot of young men that work for Lifeline but few females and none that are my age. Because I work with these men a lot, I’ve gotten to know them the most and have become good friends with them. However, this summer, I have gotten to know more girls, most of them in their late teens, but it has been such a blessing to develop some girl friends this time! Yesterday I was sitting outside reading, and I saw young woman, Jordanie, walking my way. I’d talked with her a few times but didn’t really know her other than she’s the girl that everyone knows as the singer because she has a beautiful voice. She sat down and we began talking. (It amazes me how God opens my ears and mouth to understand enough Creole at times when I can’t rely on anyone else.) She was telling me about her family and said that her father isn’t around. I asked if he died, and she said no. He is crazy in the head and abandoned her and her mother when she was very young. “I’m going to cry,” she told me and continued as her eyes welled up with tears. He is not a part of her life and does not love her. She also told me that she doesn’t have girl friends here in Haiti because girls here aren’t always too nice. The friends she has are guys because they encourage her to sing for the Lord.
My heart broke for her, and as I saw her eyes well with tears, mine started to do the same. The hurts in her life are not specific to Haiti. Her longing to have friendship and be loved is the desire of every girl and woman. Every female on this planet wants to know that she is loved and that someone will be there to fight for her, and I think the most important initial source of that love that a girl can know, is the love from her earthy father. When girls don’t experience that, it has lasting effects on their life and relationships down the road. I wrapped my arms around my nineteen year old friend and was thankful for the words God gave me in Creole: “I want you to know that even when you don’t have the love from your father here in Haiti or on this earth; when girls are not nice, and you don’t have any friends; you have a Father in heaven who will always love you and always be there for you. He will never abandon you, and you are His daughter. I know you already know that, but never forget that.” Her eyes glistened over with tears again as I spoke. Oh how my heart broke for her while simultaneously overflowed with love for Jordanie.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2: 9) Jordanie, you are the daughter to the King. You are His princess, and He lavishes His love on you.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Around 2:30 today, the wailing, singing, and music began. I still had to finish my work for the day, and some of the translators I know were planning on going and they weren’t going to be there until 4ish, so I knew I was okay. I ran back and quick showered and changed into my black and white outfit, typical Haiti funeral attire, before going over. When I got there, the church was packed, and it had begun raining. I was standing in the front right side of the church, opposite the casket, which was closed. The choir had just begun singing; it was heavenly. After the song, Pastor Luc began his message. Gracienne and some of my other girl friends were now standing with me. I asked Gracienne if he knew Jesus. He did. She probably told me some other things about him, but I didn’t understand it all, but I did understand that he was tall and that many people knew him, which was evident by the number of people there. I remembered a few weeks ago during a Ladies Bible Study, Chadavoine began crying, but I didn’t know what was wrong. I asked Gracienne if she was crying about her brother that day, and she said yes.
I was hoping to see Chadavoine to pay my respects or however they do that, but I never did see her. Apparently she was sitting towards the front with other family, but there were so many people there, I couldn’t find her. After Pastor Luc’s message, they must have removed the casket, though I didn’t see it leave, because the next time I looked, it was gone. Many people had left too, but a bunch stayed while some members of the band continued to play music. I think they were headed to the cemetery. I was a little confused by those of us who stayed behind because the music was upbeat, people seemed to be enjoying themselves, and some people were even dancing. Gracienne left, but some of the other girls I knew were still there. They wanted me to dance. I know I’m in another culture, but it just felt wrong. I asked if people are happy at a funeral. The family is very sad and the others are less sad, but I was assured it’s okay to dance to the jazz music that was playing. It seemed odd at first, but I guess it’s the same way in the States. The family is very sad, and the other people are sad too, but yet people also are enjoying one another’s company and catching up on what’s going on in each others’ lives.
I left at 6:00. When I saw Christi, she asked me about the funeral. “Was it Rudolph’s son?” Everything started to click. Rudolph is one of our head masons for the homes we build. I had met his son, Tiga, a couple times earlier this summer out in tent city. We prayed for him once because he had some sort of illness in his head, but I didn’t understand what. He had approached me another day, remembered my name, and I prayed for him again. He was a very tall, good-looking man who appeared healthy. I had no idea his sister was Chadavoine or that Chadavoine was also Rudolph’s daughter. My mood had already changed now thinking I knew the person’s funeral I went to. I had only met him a couple times, but now the body in the casket had a face; I knew his name, and he knew mine. I asked Sylvia who was working in the kitchen if the funeral was for Tiga. She said yes. My stomach dropped. I didn’t do all the “why God?” questions, but my heart truly hurt for Tiga’s family.
1 Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer. 2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods ? "Selah" 3 Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him. 4 In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. "Selah" 5 Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD. 6 Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?" Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD. 7 You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. 8 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written in my blog, so here are some things and thoughts that have happened since I last wrote.
- I was really busy helping lead the workteams while the Dimbaths and Curlees (American staff) were in the States celebrating Lifeline’s 30th year anniversary. All four of them returned a week ago, and that’s been a blessing to have them back.
- This past weekend included some downtime and relaxation before this last team arrived last night: a drive to DP, beach, hamburgers, church, and restaurant.
- Sunday after church, I was walking back to the house where I’m staying and heard some children yelling Sa-Rah! repeatedly and in unison from behind a fence about 100 yards away. Since I had time, I went over there to say hello. They were so precious and of course told me everything they needed- shoes, clothes, etc. I told them I didn’t have anything I could give them, and then they said, “Priye pou nou.” (Pray for us.) That of course I could do. I absolutely love hearing the way people say my name, especially the children, but I prayed that they would shout the name of Jesus before they would shout my name. Then, through the fence, I gave them each a kiss.
- Last week Wednesday during Ladies Bible study, I sang another song with my friend, Gracienne. It was such a privilege to be able to sing praises to our Lord with my dear friend in a language that is not my own.
- Yesterday I was with Gracienne as she was teaching me a new song when a crowd of high-school age people began gathering. They were about to begin repetisyon (choir practice). I sat with them and listened as they sang. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was.
- God continues to open up my ears, mouth, and heart to Creole (praise God!). I have begun praying in Creole with some of my patients in clinic. I tell them what I don’t know how to say, God hears in my heart. I’m so thankful for how God has been answering that prayer, especially in the last month. I pray for motivation to continue to learn it when I go home.
- These sweet Haitian people are always praying, and they always remember us Americans in their prayers too. I have been so blessed as many of them have told me they are praying for me. And they main thing they are praying for: a husband! “Sa-rah, you are 22 and you finished with university. You need boyfriend and then husband! Why you not have boyfriend yet?” (If any of you have a good answer for that question, let me know because I’ve been trying to figure that one out all summer ;-) One of the ladies who works in the kitchen, Madame Therese, greets me with a hug every morning and says, “How is my little girl? My baby! Me your mommy! I love you!” Last week she told me she’s praying for her son, and after the conversation we had just had about my lack of boyfriend, I know her “son” was referencing a future tense noun.
- The team that got here Monday night is the team I will leave with next week Wednesday. Part of me is ready to go home to see all of you whom I miss, but at the same time, I’m not at all ready to leave. I have been praying a lot over the last month that God would give me guidance and wisdom as I begin this new phase of my life when I return home, since I will not be returning to Northwestern this fall. I really have no clue what will happen in the next year of my life, but I am excited for the opportunities God has for me at home and for the doors He will open. I pray for the next opportunity to return to Haiti and that it is sooner rather than later, but I know it’s not about what I want, and that God’s plan is sovereign. As is a common phrase here in Haiti, si Bondye vle (if God wants).
God is so beautifully good. Someone on a workteam this summer asked if my internship is paid. I told him I get paid so much more than what I deserve, but not with money. I know God has used me to touch and bless lives of Haitian people in His name, but I feel so much more blessed. My heart continues to overflow with love for these people.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
OKAY, AS I’M TYPING THIS, I KNOW I JUST SAW A CRITTER OF SOME SORT CRAWL UNDER MY CLOSET DOOR!…I’M NOT SURE WHAT TO DO- IT’S EITHER A MOUSE OR A COCKROACH…I’M NOT SURE BUT NEITHER IS OKAY WITH ME…I’M GOING TO CONTINUE TYPING AND PRAY IT GOES AWAY AND THEN PROBABLY SLEEP WITH MY COVERS OVER MY HEAD TONIGHT.
…there were many cockroaches. I did not appreciate them, but for the most part, they confined themselves to the stone wall that boarders outside. I reported this to Bobby who then fumigated the room for me the next day. Problem solved.
Next critter: at least 3 tarantulas. Once again, do not like them nor appreciate them in any way, but, they too, still confine themselves to the stone wall. I won’t bother them and will pray that they don’t bother me. I’m not sure where they have disappeared to, but I have not seen them for awhile. Thank you Jesus.
And the next: this critter revealed itself to me late last week. As I was working with a patient lying on my therapy table, I looked up toward the stone wall…
JUST SAW CRITTER SLOWLY MOVE OUT FROM UNDER THE CLOSET AGAIN. IT WAS DARK COLORED BUT I DON’T HAVE MY GLASSES ON SO I’M NOT SURE WHAT IT WAS…WHERE IS A MAN WHEN I NEED ONE??!?!
… which houses the box air conditioner. I saw something tan colored and fuzzy. “Hmm, that looks like it could be…”; take a step to the right and make eye contact, “Yes, that is a mouse.” I don’t like mice. A mouse is a rodent. Not okay with me. “But I don’t see it’s tail; that makes it a little better. Sarah, it’s almost cute.” No, not cute; never cute…still a rodent. Pastor Raburn notices my distracted eyes and inquires. (The dialogue between us is also comical but too lengthy to add to this blog.) I spotted this mouse again this past Monday in the same spot. Definitely alive but has not entered the room. This makes me feel better because it knows it is not welcome further in. But this scares me. Why hasn’t it moved? I don’t like mouse babies. Today, no mouse sighting….
OH MY GOSH, I SAW IT…IT IS A MOUSE!!! AHH, HEART IS RACING…BE STRONG…I’M A BIG GIRL…IT’S JUST A LITTLE MOUSE…CONTINUE…
Okay, today: I enter my room beginning with my usual ritual. I see no rat or mouse. Check. But there is an usual trail of black leading to the center of the floor. There is a highway of ants. What crumb was left on the floor I do not know. Who left that crumb, I do not like. But as unappealing as these creatures are, I have to admit they are quite fascinating and impressive. The way they work together to accomplish the same task; they are so organized…surely there is a spiritual application here. My friend, Christina was with me today. I sent her back to the dorm to get a bottle of ant killer. She returns and begins to fumigate, and the genocide begins. I tell her that they appear to be trailing along the floor of the stone wall, so she sprays there too. Mind you, I currently have a patient on my table that I am working with (sweet little Passianna). (This table sits parallel and about three feet off of the stone wall and I am on the side of the table facing the wall.) As Christina begins to spray towards the walls, a couple cockroaches magically appear from behind the stones. She sprays them. But they are feistier than the ants; they fall to the ground but don’t die so suddenly. This spraying action, however, causes more unhappy roaches to reveal themselves from behind stones. Thus, she sprays them, but this begins an unwanted cyclical pattern of more and more cockroaches coming forth. (NOTE: these are not little cockroaches but average 2 inches in length.) There are now cockroaches spinning in circles on their backs on the floor. The logical thing to do would be to step on them and kill them, but this I will not do because they are too big and that would be disgusting to feel the crunch beneath my foot. As she sprays the wall directly across from me and my patient, I see the cockroach fly off the wall. Then I feel something land on my leg. I drop Passianna’s arm, shake my leg, see a roach fall to the floor and stomp on it…DEAD. Victory! Now, I am overcome with a superSarah strength and killing rage. These roaches will not kill me; I will kill them! Any roach that makes its way towards me meets my foot. Stomp! Dead! Another and another! “Bring it on, roach!” This went on for about five minutes. There were a few on the wall that I know I couldn’t stomp. I grabbed my gun (aka. a crutch) and jab at it! Miss. Shoot. Jab again! Dead! Victory! Meanwhile, Passianna is lying on my table not completely sure of what all is happening, but she is laughing at the high excitement and emotion in the room. Finally, we are done. Pastor Raburn goes to find a broom. He sweeps the corpses into the center of the room. Probably 20 of them. I grab my camera; “Souri!” (“Smile!”) I say to them, and snap their photo. Pastor sweeps them into a bucket and disposes of them outside. Victory is ours. No, victory is the Lord’s! We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
IT IS TIME FOR ME TO POST THIS BLOG AND GO TO BED. I’M NOT SURE WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE MOUSE IN MY CLOSET. I PRAY I WILL BE ABLE TO SLEEP. I’M NOT SURE HOW I WILL GET MY CLOTHES OUT OF MY CLOSET TOMORROW MORNING. I WILL PRAY FOR THAT AND ASK FOR YOUR PRAYERS ALSO.
Monday, July 5, 2010
We got back, and I was going to wash up quick before lunch, but I was told I was needed in clinic right away because, Pete, an American man who was at the other house site “broke” his finger. My athletic training mind kicked on. My initial thought was, “That looks dislocated,” but I’ve never actually seen a dislocated finger before. I was really hesitant to do anything because it could have been broken too, and I didn’t want to cause any further damage. Pete’s wife and another gal were out there (both nurses). A couple of the Haitian nurses were there too, and one of them tried to reset it. Pete is a strong man, but he was doing everything he could to not scream his lungs out. It didn’t go back in. I then had a “for such a time as this” moment. I knew I needed to try to reduce the dislocation and put it back and pray I wouldn’t make anything worse. I got down, pulled on his finger, knowing Pete was dying with pain. We all heard a little pop, and thought it went back in. It looked a little better, but it still wasn’t fully back in. I began feeling nauseous and a little dizzy and had to kneel on the floor. We decided to try one more time, but I knew I couldn’t do it; it was hard for me to even look at it. Amy, one of the other nurses, decided to try; we again heard a pop, and it went back in. The girls then splinted his finger, and then we headed back for lunch.
I was so frustrated and disappointed in myself. I know I’m not a failure, but I felt like one because I should’ve been able to relocate a finger; I’m an athletic trainer for goodness sake! What’s my problem? I was very thankful that Amy was able to reduce it, but why couldn’t I do it? What does this mean for me in the future when I’m in a situation and I have to do something? Am I going to feel nauseous again? I know that nobody was disappointed in me other than myself, but those were my thoughts.
I was walking back for lunch from the clinic having all these thoughts when I spotted Lorita (our other sponsored girl) and her mother. I was happy to see them but very confused because they live a few cities away, and it’s not like them to come unexpectedly. Robenson, my translator friend, was with me and helped me out. Apparently when my parents were with me last week and we went to visit them at their house, they told me they were coming, but somehow that was missed in the translation that day. I wasn’t sure what to do because I was still filthy dirty, already a half hour late for lunch but couldn’t just leave them there either. They were wearing their new clothes we had given them the week before, and said they had a gift for me. “A” gift that consisted of a large pot and bag of food- enough for a small army (I can’t imagine how much it cost them)! Pineapples, coconuts, bananas, mangos, corn, granadia, eggs, avocado, and some other things I had never seen before! I was speechless; it was such a beautiful but unexpected gift. I wasn’t sure what to do with it all, but we shared some of it with those who were standing around. It felt like a mini-Thanksgiving in Haiti. I ate a mango and everyone laughed at me because I had juice all over my face and mango hair coming out of my teeth. I don’t know how they eat them and stay so clean. It was sooo good! We talked some but mostly just enjoyed one another’s company. When it was time to leave, I said, “I don’t want to give you a hug because I am so dirty.” I heard them say the word “rad” which means clothes, but didn’t understand what else they said. Robenson said, “Sarah, you are not dirty; your clothes are dirty.” (One of those comments that just makes you smile and think.) (Mom and Dad, I know that gift was intended for you too =)
I get so much joy out of giving- physical and material things and my love and services. It brings me so much joy. But it is sometimes hard for me to receive. However, if we want to grant others the joy of being able to give, there must be times in which we receive. Lorita and her family have thanked my family and me repeatedly for all we have done for them over the years, and being able to see them receive our gifts has felt like a bigger blessing for us than for them. But the table turned Thursday; it was a very humbling experience to receive their gifts, and I hope that they were able to receive the blessing of being able to give.
All of this happened within an hour, and I think I experienced every emotion possible.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
I don’t want to agree with her, but I can’t lie either so I say, “But soon you will get a new home.” I know that two men who come to Lifeline regularly have recently decided to purchase a Lifeline home for AnneRose after seeing the conditions that she lives in. “Even when you get your new home, there will still be a better home waiting for you in heaven.” It’s silent for a few minutes as we just sit there, AnneRose ashamed of her living conditions but glad we were with her, and Emma and I processing the moment of reality we were taking in. There’s only so much we can say with my Creole which is improving, but limited nonetheless. So we begin to talk about something we all understand- pop music: Celine Dion, Maria Carey, Beyonce, and Shakira. We begin to sing “My Heart will Go On.” After that I mention Beyonce and say, “tout fi isi pa gen ménage,” which means, “all girls here don’t have boyfriends”- my best attempt at translating “All the Single Ladies”. We laugh and all put our fists in the middle of the circle and repeat, “tout fi isi pa gen ménage!” “My sister!” AnneRose says grabbing my hand. Then looking at Emma and grabbing her hand says, “My sister!” and pulls us both onto her bed.
We all lay down together with AnneRose in the middle. Still holding our hands, AnneRose brings our hands to her chests and looks at both Emma and I and says, “Mwen remenm ou anpil, anpil, anpil!” (I love you so, so, so much!) I ask her if she sleeps well, fearing I knew the answer. “No,” she said as though it wasn’t a big deal, rather just a fact of life. “Gade” (look) and she pulls up the air mattress and points to all the ants crawling around. She acts out that they bite at night when trying to sleep. I ask about when it rains; she motions that it drips in through the tarp and runs in under the tarp. It’s been rainy this week, and I can tell that that ground inside the tent is damp. We continue to lay there. Part of me hopes that I can fall asleep for a little bit so that I can wake up sore and barely begin to understand what she must feel every night. We have only been laying there for about five minutes, and I can already feel the discomfort of two boards from the pallet and the gap between them. We lay there; I don’t know how long; it seems like ten minutes, but maybe it was only two. I listen to every sound I hear around me in tent city: a metal spoon stirring in a pot, a basketball bouncing, music playing through a speaker far off in the distance, a child crying, feet shuffling on the ground, a goat bleating, a mother speaking words to her child I don’t understand.
Soon this precious six year old face walks in. It’s AnneRose’s little sister. She just arrived home from school. She greets us all with a hug and kiss and then halfway hides behind the cloth partition and strips her dress off so she can put on shorts and a tank top. A few minutes later, another sister of about sixteen years walks in holding a black bag. She too greets Emma and me with a big smile and a hug. She reaches into her bag and pulls out three packages of Rika chocolate sandwich cookies and hands one to each of us. Emma catches the eye of the littlest sister and holds out a cookie to her; she grins big and walks toward Emma and takes the cookie, and then sits down on Emma’s lap. AnneRose says to her, “Chante yon chant.” In her raspy, soft voice, she begins to sing to us. Emma tells me that this is the same girl that she met the first day she came out into tent city to pray with people. She latched onto Emma that day and is loving Emma just as much today. We finish our cookies and tell AnneRose we need to get going. AnneRose gets up with us and walks us out of the tent back toward the gate of the compound. As we step outside the tent, the cooler air and breeze hit us. “Thank you so much, Sister,” I say to AnneRose, “Mwen remenm ou anpil.”
Hours later, I’m laying on my bed in my dorm room. I have two fans blowing on me, a pillow, and a sheet. I’m exhausted but comfortable. I drift off to sleep thinking about AnneRose sleeping on her pallet.
Last week, I went to grab a ball from the floor to use for an exercise. As I picked it up, I innocently said to myself, “This ball is really dirty,” and I began to wipe the dust off on my dress.
“My sister Sarah,” Pastor Raburn began, “if this is dirty, what would you think of my house? What would you think of her house?” pointing to Passianna, my patient at the time. Stab in my chest. I fumbled over my words for a couple of seconds trying to explain what I “really” meant. But knowing nothing I could say would cover up what had been said, I apologized. “Pastor, you are right. I am sorry.”
This week in clinic, my patient Kesnel came in asking for medication because he had a headache and because he was not able to sleep. I was finishing up with a patient so Kesnel was waiting in my therapy room. A few minutes later I looked over at Kesnel who was sitting in a chair with his head against the wall asleep. I looked at Pastor and smiled and said, “Well, I guess he can sleep okay now.”
“You know why he can sleep? Because this room is the kind of place everyone should be able to sleep in. Quiet. Cool temperature. Safe. Clean.” The tents that many people, including himself, live in, don’t provide those things. “Oh my sister; we are human. We are not meant to live like this.”
Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Matthew 8:19-20
Friday, June 25, 2010
In an earlier post, I talked about the balance I’m trying to find between being emotionally exhausted with the fact of reality of life in Haiti for most Haitians and seeing that reality without it draining me emotionally in a way that prevents me from doing the work the Lord has called me to do. For the most part, I’m not daily burdened with the troubles I see. But I am thankful when I do see or hear something that for some reason, grabs my heart; it reminds me of why God has sent me here and of the things God taught me with my first trips.
One afternoon during free time, our American youth that was here were running around playing with some Haitian kids. I was walking back to the dorm carrying my tennis shoes that I had lent to a friend so she could play basketball when I heard my name. It was a kid I had been seeing in therapy and his friend. They were watching a game of soccer between the Americans and Haitians. The friend called out to me in Creole and said, “You give me shoes.” I hate it when people ask me for things because I’m not allowed to give anyone anything during times that aren’t designated for giving through one of Lifeline’s ministries and because I’ve learned that a lot of people ask for things just because they see that I’m an American and their perception of all Americans is that we are rich. Many times, they ask for things that they don’t need. I love to give to those who don’t ask, but when people ask out of greed, even if they don’t have a lot to begin with, I get frustrated.
I called back to the boy, “I can’t give you anything.”
The boy that I knew yelled back at me, “Ou kapab paske you gen lot.” (You can give me because you have money.) I walked away frustrated and disappointed with this kid because he asked me for something he didn’t need but wanted, and then tried to make me feel guilty about it. I thought to myself, “He thinks I’m so rich and I can buy anything I want to. I must have a lot of money because I am an American, so I must be rich! He has no clue! Actually, I have more debt after just graduating than he could ever imagine. He probably has more money than I do because of how much money I owe.” Seven years ago, I would have wanted to cry with his words, but today, I was upset by them.
I don’t know why, but his words wouldn’t leave my mind. He doesn’t know how much debt I have; but I do have some money. Even though I owe a lot of money, I know that I will eat at every meal and have a safe place to sleep. If my shoes get worn out, I’ll go buy a new pair. And I know I’ll be able to find a job and pay off my debt and then be able to continue to work and then save money. He is right; I do have money. I wanted to cry when I heard his words again in my mind. I felt fifteen again and like I was in Haiti for the first time.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Her story broke my heart. We talked and prayed together, and I pointed out that at the moment she was praying, asking Jesus into her life, a thief broke into her house and stole everything she had. She could have chosen to be mad at God when she got home, but I don’t think she was because when I saw her that day, she still wore her beautiful smile and laughed with her infectious giggle that I will never forget.
I think often times when we choose Jesus and we desire to be more like Him, it often may feel like we are robbed of everything we have. It may be because as we become more like Christ, we become less like the world and sometimes that means giving up things that had been familiar for so long. Other times, our relationship with Jesus may affect our relationships with others we love or may cause us to undergo some degree of persecution. It may be easy to feel like we’ve lost everything we have because we’ve lost the ways of the world. But fortunately, when we choose Christ, in the midst of those feelings, we also feel complete wholeness. A void that after years of trying to fill it with everything else and no matter what we tried to fill it with it just didn’t work, is finally filled.
Pastor Raburn, my translator, and I took her out to see Sé (Sister) Matilde who runs the clothing pantry. We told Matilde Passianna’s story and soon got Passianna some new clothes. On top of that, Matilde did a little of her own preaching and teaching, which I expected. Passianna returned for therapy that Friday, and I again invited her to church. When I saw her yesterday for therapy, she told me she was at church, but I didn’t see her. I’m continuing to see her for therapy, but honestly, my main objective for having her continue to come back, is to encourage her spiritually, not physically. Yes, I think therapy is helping some, but because of her age and motivation, I don’t think anything we do will bring about lifelong changes. The pain she has just tends to move around her body with each visit. So, we do some exercises; I rub her down with my “placebo cream” (Icy-Hot), and we pray.