But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The Lord is great!”
It is hard to believe it is November as I watch the kids search the calendar already counting the days till Christmas break. I’m thankful the roller coaster month of October is over. The month began with a slew of disappointments. Discouragement continually knocked at our door. So many people prayed and gave so that we could purchase a generator that would provide power to our home. It was our daily hope since our return to Haiti in September that our purchased generator could be delivered. Delay after delay continued to defer our hope until our hearts were sick and our bodies saturated with sweat and sleep deprived were nearly depleted. It was hard not to despair. We needed the glad game.
One of my favorite childhood films is “Pollyanna”. Pollyanna was the orphaned daughter of missionary parents. The story begins with her coming to live with her unhappy rich aunt whose money controls the entire town. Pollyanna spends her days finding miserable people and changing their perspectives about their predicaments. One day she happens upon the town preacher practicing his sermon in a field. She shares a story about how as a little girl on the mission field she wanted a doll very badly so her father sent word to the missionary society asking for a little doll. But to her great disappointment the missionary barrels only brought her a pair of crutches instead of a doll. That’s when her father made up the glad game. The game was to just find something about everything to be glad about-no matter what it was. “Did it work?” asked the preacher.
“Oh, yes,” nodded Pollyanna, emphatically. Father said he felt better right away, that first day he thought to count ’em (the “glad passages” in the Bible). He said if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times in the Bible to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it.” The preacher said, “Well I don’t see anything to be glad about a pair of crutches.” Pollyanna replies, “We decided we would be glad that we didn’t have to use them.”
The first disappointment was finding and fighting lice…again. Our boys had picked up head lice from a summer camp they attended in the states and we fought it for weeks trying to make sure we had thoroughly extinguished the problem before returning to Haiti. We did not bring anything back to Haiti that would have been contaminated as I feared how much worse it would be to try to get rid of it here. Plus, I didn’t bring any supplies and couldn’t find any here. So we looked up natural remedies and spent many hours with mayonnaise and vinegar on our heads. If we were playing Pollyanna’s “glad game” we could say that it’s a good thing we didn’t have the generator or we would have been sleeping in our bedrooms with fans. Why is that a good thing? Because we were camping outside on the porch where it was a tiny bit cooler and not in our beds, we didn’t contaminate the bedrooms with lice. I wasn’t playing the glad game but as I prayed for the lice to go away I remembered the story Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom shared about her experience with lice. When lice was added to the unbearable conditions they suffered at the concentration camp, Corrie adamantly told her sister Betsie that she refused to thank God for the lice. A few weeks later the sisters learned that the reason their Bible had not been confiscated and their nightly sharing of God’s word with their prison mates had not been disbanded was because the prison guards avoided them out of fear of catching their lice. Betsie turned to Corrie and said, “See? Be thankful for the lice.” While I could not bring myself to be thankful for the lice, I was thankful for the many hours of one on one time I got to spend with Ethan while washing and combing through his hair (before we finally just chopped it off). I was able to be glad that the plague hit our boys whose hair we can chop and the kind of lice we picked up in the states do not like the kind of hair my girls have. Lice is not typically prevalent in Haiti. In fact I have never heard of anyone here having a lice problem. One more reason to be glad.
Next up was the culmination of a six month battle to get a contract agreement for our Haiti rental house. Just as we had done everything in our power to make peace, negotiated till we were blue in the face and thought we could glimpse a light at the end, the exit was blocked by Haitian logic (or the lack thereof) and we were held hostage in the dark tunnel. We sadly put the delivery of our generator on hold as we waited to see what would happen. We were summoned to court three times, threatened and falsely accused, had to get a lawyer, were told we would now have to pay more for our rent since the landlord felt it necessary to hire a lawyer to threaten us (even though it was his own responsibility to give us a contract before we could pay him) and were forced to look at other housing alternatives which took up a lot of time and energy. In the midst of this time consuming and extremely frustrating process I began to feel very sick. At first I just thought it was dehydration and general exhaustion. Then I thought it was the flu or another common virus. But as the fever, chills, and severe body aches subsided and gave way to an unbearable aching, stinging, burning in my hands and feet I gave up all hope that the chickunguya plague I had dreaded so much had not succeeded in finding me. This was a very low point of discouragement for me. Even as the pain began to subside I found I had very little physical energy. I had already felt so discouraged with the lice, lack of electricity, and house drama on top of the typical difficulties we daily encounter in Haiti life that there had been little time or energy for ministry. I found myself asking things like, “God, did you really send me to Haiti just to swat mosquitoes all day?” The kids would return from school and say, “Mommy you are still sleeping?” Not exactly. Try sleeping in 100% humidity without a fan, mosquitoes, noisy neighbors, barking dogs, and a loud and busy two year old that lives in your house while someone is beating your raw sunburned hands and feet with a whip (that’s the best I can do to describe what “chick-v” felt like after the fever, chills, and body aches). I wish I could say that at least I could minister to the needs of my family but just cooking dinner was a giant stretch. I am not typically prone to depression but found myself nearly there. Though I resembled one of the miserable people Pollyanna came to visit, I found it easy to play the glad game during this time. I am glad for a servant-leader husband who presses on with ministry, puts others needs before his and loves me so well even when I am high maintenance and unlovely for weeks on end. I am glad for four sweet children who dress themselves, help with housework, diligently do their schoolwork, and who can even cook a few things. I am glad for kindhearted Miguel living with us, helping Eric at the school, helping the kids with their schoolwork as well as taking over the ministry of teaching English classes to our Haitian neighbors. I am thankful that in Haiti even though we don’t have the amenities I once couldn’t imagine living without in the states, I never once imagined that I would have a maid to help me around the house. So I am glad for Genise who helps us so much with many time consuming and physically demanding tasks. I don’t know how I would have survived the past month without her help. I am thankful to experience the prayers, care and concern of others in so many ways from encouraging notes on Facebook to special bug spray, batteries, vitamins, essential oils, healthy foods sent by mail or brought in by friends coming to Haiti. I found myself glad for every little breeze sent our way. I am glad for the opportunity to read God’s word and be reminded by the first missionaries that I am not alone in distressing circumstances and that God is faithful and purposeful in his plans for me too. During my sickness I read the biography of Mary Baker who was a missionary to Africa. Her story not only encouraged me that even she was disabled from continuing many of the ministries to which she had been called during long periods of sickness or political instability, but also influenced in me a stronger desire to not waste the times we are able to actively pursue sharing Christ love and the gospel at every opportunity. If I had not been hot, sick, and under the stress of summons to court and potentially having to move while reading this book I doubt I would have read it with the same perspective. I read of the many ways Mary Baker played the glad game in her trials and in the end decided that if she could play in her circumstances, I certainly could too. I am glad that I don’t have to worry about contracting the awful chicken ick again since you can only get it once. If anyone else gets it, I am glad I know how it feels and can take care of them.
Next up were the Evan episodes. Feeling a bit better I desperately wanted to get out of the house to go to church and make the trip to Port au Prince to get groceries and supplies for the week ahead. Sitting in a lawn chair at our beachside church service listening to Eric give the morning devotion, I scanned the ground to see where my kids had landed. Scanning, scanning, scanning the many dark faces on the ground, I spotted three of my four children. Evan was not on the ground so I started scanning upward. Like a koala bear clinging to a tree, there he was in his preferred habitat. After the service he climbed a little higher and found himself disturbing the home of some Haitian wasps. The swelling that accompanied the several stings he was served on his face, ears, neck, and arms kept him looking like an alien for the next few days. I was glad for two things. He didn’t fall from the tree (on this occasion) but somehow was able to calmly climb down. And like Ethan with the lice, I was gifted the opportunity to spend some extra time with Evan as he stayed home from school and recovered. Like today. Today Evan is home from school recovering from another tree incident. We are glad he is alive and is miraculously only a little banged up on the surface after falling at least 20 ft straight down from a tree house rope swing. We are thankful for the body of Christ who came alongside us to help check Evan out to make sure he was ok. We have so many reasons to be thankful for God’s protection and are reminded not to fear what man or tree accidents or sickness can do to us. Our lives are but a thread, but God is in control. There is nothing that happens that He does not will. This became very real to us this past week. We were enjoying some time with other missionaries at the beach before Evan fell from the tree. On the way there we were talking to our kids about boat safety and how dangerous it could be if they did not follow instructions. Evan said, “What if something did happen to one of us and we died?” Eric’s response was, “Well, I would be very sad because I would miss you but I’m thankful that I know where you would be and that I would get to see you again one day in Heaven.” We thought about this conversation later and have not stopped giving thanks that our Lord has granted us more time on this earth with our son.
A few days before this I was walking with my friend Betsy who had come from Port au Prince to visit us on her days off work. We were walking in our neighborhood where I had walked many times before. I don’t ever walk alone as we have experienced dangerous situations in the past and usually don’t carry anything with me but my water bottle. Eric asked me to take my phone the last time I had walked that stretch and Betsy’s phone needed to be charged, so I took a cheap little phone along. We came to a wide slippery slope of rock out in the middle of nowhere with no one in sight. We had just began our decent when out of nowhere a well built man came out of the grasses, quickly cut across the path and seized my arm. It happened so fast I didn’t realize what was going on or what he wanted. Betsy tells me I said something neither of us remembers and put up a good resistance. Once it dawned on me that the man was after the little phone in my palm, I simply let him have it and he ran off up the hill the other direction. Now I knew Betsy, who I met in Haiti during the riots of 2010 when she was serving as a nurse at our girls orphanage had been in a few sketchy situations before. I didn’t worry about this incident scaring her as now she is a nurse on Haiti’s first emergency helicopter ambulance so is used to high level Haiti stress. We continued on a pleasant walk and a few minutes later Betsy asked me if I was shaken or upset by what had happened. I said, “I have been wanting a new phone anyways and apparently he needed that one more than me. But I am frustrated that this happened because I don’t want this beautiful walk to be taken away out of fear of things like this.” The rest of the day we found lots of ways to play the glad game. We were glad it was an old cheap phone that is easily replaced. We were glad that I had already lost all the numbers from having to switch out the SIM card when returning to Haiti so I didn’t mourn losing them twice as I had only saved four numbers in that phone in hopes of getting another soon. We were thankful that there was less than $1 worth of minutes left on the phone so the guy didn’t get off with much. We were thankful that it was only a phone that was taken and not one of us or that he didn’t try to harm us in any other way. Betsy and I joked later about what might have been and decided that together we could have tackled him and made him regret messing with us. But then we thought about all the rocks around and that Haitians don’t like to fight fair. We know from past experience that if we had done anything that harmed the guy (even if only a tiny scratch) it would have been us that would have suffered the consequences due to the lack of justice in this country to foreigners. So let’s be glad there was no more drama than that was worth. The same day Eric came home with a signed contract and had given the final payment for our house which ended up being exactly what we had asked for months and months ago. For this we are very glad and praise God. We don’t know why we had to go through all that drama, but trust that God wanted to teach us more about the Haitian court system, prepare our hearts for the possibility of moving at a moments notice, allow us to count it all joy when we were falsely accused in court, feel the prayers of the saints, and use these experiences to prepare us for whatever He has for us in the future that will bring Him the most glory.
We are playing the glad game a lot these days as we enjoy the blessing of our new generator that has been dubbed “Julie” named after one of the many people who has never been to Haiti, but has a huge heart for serving our Lord, Haiti and us. There is no way to truly express in words what it is like to sleep without sweat and mosquitoes buzzing over our heads, to enjoy a cold glass of water, to be able to use the coffee pot in the mornings, to keep foods fresher for longer in the refrigerator and freezer, to sleep in beds at night.
We are still taking bucket baths and hauling buckets of water to wash dishes, clothes, and flush toilets. However, we are glad that the only reason for this is that we have been so busy lately we just haven’t gotten around to fixing up the new pump. After laying around sick for two weeks, busy and the fact that my hands are allowing me to type this much are very good things. We have also been so glad to have back to back visits with friends the past week that encouraged us greatly through their fellowship. The Pfaff family (check them out http://pfamilymission.com/) who is prayerfully planning to move full time to serve in Haiti is here for a month and we were able to bring them out to stay with us for a few days. After only having met them twice before in Haiti and Atlanta, we bonded with them instantly and look forward to being lifelong friends. We dropped them back in Port au Prince and picked up our dear friend Betsy whom I mentioned earlier. We had some overdue girl time catching up and encouraging one another that we both really needed at the end of a long month. We piggybacked the trip taking Betsy home and paid a visit to our favorite Haiti missionaries, Wallace and Eleanor Turnbull. Wallace and Eleanor, now in their late 80’s and 90’s are both second generation pioneer missionaries in Haiti who have been living and serving in Haiti for 70 years. They are “know it alls” (in a good way) and we love them for that as they certainly have earned that right. We got to know the Turnbulls during the three months we temporarily lived at the Baptist Mission back in 2012 and have learned more from their stories and wisdom than we have from any of the books we have read (except for the ones written about them). The kids and I had the privilege of visiting their Virginia home during our time in the states and we always look forward to soaking up their adventure stories. They are back in Haiti for the next few months and brought a computer for us that my parents had sent with them, so we were glad to have a good excuse to travel up to the mountains of Fermathe. Seeing the joy in their wrinkled faces after so many years of so many hardships and even the death of one of their sons in Haiti tells me that they must have been playing this glad game all along. Wallace left us by saying, “You know, even though I now have to walk with this walker and there are certain things I can no longer do, I wake up each morning and pray that God will allow my life to count in some way today.” Some might say they have done enough, but here they are still pouring out their lives and asking God to make them count for eternity. I’m so glad for examples like them.
Have you tried playing the glad game lately? Try it! You will be glad you did.
“It’ll be just lovely for you to play — it’ll be so hard. And there’s so much more fun when it is hard!” -Pollyanna
I’ll play right now. Genise just brought little Evangeline to me sick. Miguel is home sick today as well. I am glad to have a sweet friend named Angie who introduced me to essential oils that I am using to help them and that helped me so much when I was sick. (Plug: If you have ever wanted to try essential oils, ask me how to order! I am now a distributor for Young Living and am trying to just earn enough points to keep us stocked up in Haiti.) I am thankful to have a home with power where we can be refreshed for service, where the weak can rest and for a God who heals. We are glad we have so many reasons to praise God for His protection, provision, and promises in the past month. We are glad to have so many friends and family members praying for us around the world. Thank you to those who have sent us your praises and prayer requests. We love the privilege of praying for you too! The following are some specific prayer requests we have at this time.
Pastor trainings: The larger pastor trainings have temporarily been stalled due to lack of funding for those hosting the trainings to house and feed the Haitian pastors that come from all over the country. Please pray that these will be able to start up again soon.
Church: The Sundays we do not have ministry responsibilities at Haitian churches, we attend Montrouis International Fellowship, that is about 50% missionaries and 50% English speaking Haitians. Eric enjoys helping lead and our family is enjoying being engaged in this body. There is a family preparing to move to Haiti in January to pastor this church. Please pray for this transition to go well.
El Shaddai Learning Center School: Eric stays busy helping direct the school, leading and ministering to Haitian students, their families, and the teachers 4 days each week. Please pray for direction for the school’s future and transition to one school building currently being enlarged due to the rent being raised again on the school buildings.
HGIM Godet Children’s Center: The children’s center (18 kids, several caretakers and employees) that our mission organization (Heart of God International Ministries) supports is going to be experiencing transitions over the next few months. The missionary who has been on the ground there the past two years is moving back to the states soon and others are needed to fill her shoes in many ways. We are praying about how the Lord would have us be available to help during this transition and future opportunities to serve in Godet (which is about a 3 hour drive from where we currently live in St. Marc).
English Classes/Miguel: Miguel is currently manning the neighborhood English classes (as well as helping supervise in the high school at El Shaddai) and we are so thankful for his heart to serve. Please pray for this young man as he seeks the Lord with his whole heart and for direction for his future. Also please pray for his health as he has not felt well since arriving in Haiti and we suspect he may be suffering from chickungunya at this time. He is praying that if it is the Lord’s will for him to return in January after Christmas break, that he will be able to raise his funding over the holidays.
Kofael (Women’s Microloan Program): The women’s program is going well and growing fast. Four grant applications were sent off for submission in October that we pray will provide the funding to expand this sustainable program to other areas beyond Port au Prince in order to help more women provide for their families. The Port au Prince program is at full capacity and there is much work to be done. Please pray for continued wisdom and direction and provision for this program. Our Haitian Kofael directors Frantz and Julienne delivered their first child this past week. Her name is Jochebed (Moses mother’s name in the Bible). Mother and baby are doing fine but had an extended and much more expensive hospital stay after a cesarean was required. Please pray for financial provision and also for Frantz and Julienne as they transition to being new parents with the demands of ministry, work, and school as well.
Upcoming travel: We are prayerfully planning a trip to the next Kofael expansion site in Trou Du Nord, near the Dominican Republic border at the end of November. We are planning to take the whole family as this could be a long trip, Eric needs to do the driving and the women have been waiting a long time for Elisabeth to come. We are hoping to be able to drive over to the D.R. since we will be so close and spend Thanksgiving there with our family and Miguel (who speaks Spanish). We need to be able to acquire the necessary documents/tags for our vehicle to cross the border. Please pray for all these trip details and travel safety.
Funding: We are so thankful for the many ways God has provided for our family to serve in Haiti. Please continue to pray for full funding that will enable us to serve to the best of our ability and provide for our needs fully.