March 23, 2011


This is the first installment of a ten-part series on my trip to Haiti—the things witnessed, the relationships formed and the experiences shared. And how God revealed His glory through it all.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:19-20)

Of the four mission trips I’ve been on, the “roster” for this one was the most unsettled. Our team continually fluctuated as folks signed up, cancelled, re-registered and added on at the last minute. Plans changed. Minds changed. Circumstances changed. I didn’t know who or how many people would end up in Haiti.

Thankfully Bob, our leader, remained flexible through the flux because by the end of the trip I saw how God had specifically called each person to be there—in His own timing and for His own purpose.

How remarkable that out of the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who heard testimonies by or received personal invitations from former Haiti missionaries, this exact group of 18 ended up together in Haiti. Certainly divine guidance played a role, but each of us also had one important thing in common—our willingness to say “yes” to that guidance.

That “yes” required letting go—of time, money, comfort, convenience and more. Many received criticism and questioning about their decision to go. Yet each of us persisted and knowingly made sacrifices. Sacrifices like:
… saying goodbye to sad children (and spouses) who didn’t want us to go away for ten days.
… traveling to a place that might be unsafe and dangerous.
… leaving behind the comforts and conveniences of home.
… missing important family activities.
… trading in vacation time and money.
… having no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
… setting aside business opportunities and possibly losing income.
… going even though we felt completely unqualified.

But doesn’t Jesus ask for personal sacrifice—and a bold response—from His disciples?

In Matthew 4:19-22, Jesus walked along the Sea of Galilee and called out to Andrew and Peter as they fished, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.”

“At once they left their nets and followed him.” James and John respond the same way: “immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

Let the disciples' response sink in. Their boldness is truly remarkable.

Jesus didn’t tell them where they’d be going. He didn’t give them time to make a decision. And He wasn’t clear on what they’d be doing (because “fishing for men” doesn’t make sense).

And the disciples didn’t offer any qualifications for their calling. They had no religious pedigree, advanced education or prior experience. Truly, it seems their only credential was their willingness to say, “Yes.”

How easy it would have been to say, “No.” Or, “Not now.” Or, “Let me think about it.” To have considered calendars, comfort, commitments, convenience or common sense in making a decision. Surprisingly the disciples didn’t do that. They dropped what they were doing, left their work and their families, and followed Jesus.

Perhaps a few family or friends supported their decision, but somehow I doubt it. In fact, I bet plenty of folks said they were crazy!

But just as Jesus invited the disciples, He invites us: “Come, follow me.”

We cannot be a follower of Jesus if we’re not willing to actually follow. If we’re not willing to set down our “nets”—our work, families, fears, plans and expectations. To boldly step out of our comfort zones.To say, "Yes."

To follow Jesus we have to move—from where we are, to where He is. Wherever that may be.

Saying "yes" to Haiti was a bold step, but I want to live with this same willingness to follow in my day-to-day. Even still I cling to comfort. I cherish convenience. I applaud common sense. And I crave control. Yet with each “yes” to follow Him to places like Haiti, I let go a little more. And in the letting go there’s a finding that initially frightens but ultimately frees and fills.

One of my friends took a LONG time to say “yes” to Haiti. In the end she said, “God put a call on my heart that was so strong I just had to follow.”

Where is Christ calling you to follow Him? What is keeping you from setting down your nets and taking bold—and obedient—step just like the disciples…just like my friend…and following Him?

Sunrise from the roof.
Mountains upon mountains. With people living in poverty.
Rural houses
Camp Hope
Following up the mountain to Balizaj

March 17, 2011

Down from the Mountain

Wow! It’s been a busy week and a half since coming home from Haiti. My bags are finally unpacked, my blisters are healed and my tan is fading. But, my heart is still bubbling over with love and joy from our trip. What God did in and through us during those ten days is incredible.

I can’t stop thinking about Haiti. Or Jude. Or my other Haitian friends. Or our team. I miss them all so much and have spent a lot of time on Facebook looking at pictures—remembering and reliving.

Last night I shared the message in prison on Haiti. (This is a major step of faith because I’ve never done this before.) It was such a blessing to share even though I had to leave out so much because of time limits. The men seemed truly engaged in my stories. I loved that I could tie my experiences in Haiti, to our experiences worshipping together in the prison chapel…and how connected we are as brothers and sisters in Christ, members of the same family…and how the God I experienced in Haiti is the same God we can experience here at home. Readily available to all who seek Him.

This touches on a fear I have…that my (and our teams’) stories make it seem like unless you travel to a place like Haiti…or Africa…or some remote village that you can’t experience God in profound and powerful ways. Without a doubt, our time in Haiti was remarkable and special, but the Spirit of God is freely available to all people, in all places at all times. No matter where we are, Jesus invites us to follow Him. I think that our intimate experience with God is more about being willing to “go there” with the Lord, to step out of our comfort zones on faith—and to be open to receiving what He has to offer.

As much as Haiti was a mountaintop experience that I want to stay on/in forever, I know that’s not the Lord’s desire. Even after the disciples had their own mountaintop experience with Jesus during the transfiguration, Jesus quickly led them back down the mountain into the valley—even though they wanted to pitch tents and stay awhile.

The mountaintop is for spiritual refueling. Refocusing. Renewing. The valley is for living. So I am learning to live in the valley. Looking to see how God wants to use me, redirect me and change me from Haiti.

I said that I planned to do a series on Haiti and I will. This week I spent so much time putting together my message for the prison that I didn’t have any time for “recreational” writing. I planned to start today but since this post is already getting long I think I’ll wait until the beginning of next week to start. I know you’ll be waiting expectantly until then!

In the meantime, can I ask you to pray for everyone from our team that they continue to follow the call God placed in their hearts in Haiti. For some He’s wooing them back to Him. For others He is calling to a new phase on their walk with the Lord. For others He’s healing and restoring and repurposing.

On a side note…please pray for me! My sweet little girl turned 16 on Tuesday. And the day brought with it the thing that many a 16-year-old dreams about—a driving permit. While I am so happy for her to take this next big step in growing up, I am scared to death.

Dan and I are teaching how to drive my stick shift VW bug, which no doubt makes learning to drive MUCH harder. Yesterday, during our training session, I think I pulled the emergency brake four times! I’m not sure who is more nervous…my daughter or I. At this rate she should be ready for the open road by the time she’s 18!

Bondye beni ou! (God bless you)
and toujou lave men ou avan manje ou (always wash your hands before you eat.)

A woman walking on the "main road" up the mountain to her village
A family we met on the hike up to Balizaj.
The gorgeous beach we went to for some well-deserved rest. 
My sweet, crazy, singing, dancing, Jesus-loving roommate. I miss you CC!
Pastor Valentin and our awesome group from Woodside!

March 11, 2011

Knock, Knock

I'm writing at Internet Cafe Devotions today. I hope you read on and join me over there. I'm still pondering my "Haiti series" and hope to start posting next week. Stay tuned...

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
(Revelation 3:20)

If it’s true that a front door is a home’s smile, then mine is frowning. Dull, dinged and drafty, my door has seen better days. My husband and I decided it was time for a new one.

Hooray! I cheered and embraced the search process. I scoured the internet, pored over catalogs and talked with sales people. We talked to friends and examined every front door in our neighborhood.

Still I’m even further from making a decision than when I started. Who knew there were so many choices? Solid or glass? Elegant or understated? Steel or fiberglass? Double door or single with sidelites? Dark or light color? I have made up and changed my mind dozens of times.

My husband has patiently listened to my many door iterations. But last week when I presented my latest idea—and then changed my mind the next day—he jumped off my crazy train called indecision.

“I thought we’d made a decision,” he sighed.

“I don’t know. I’m still not sure.”

Not that I know what I’m looking for, but I know I need a vision to move forward. It’s just the way I am. Plus this really is a big decision. A front door is expensive and it sets the tone for what’s inside. It’s where your home puts its best foot forward. And I don’t want to misstep.

A while back I was a newer Christian and everyone was buzzing about finding their purpose—the thing that God had put them on earth for.

“What’s your purpose?” others asked.

“Uhh, I don’t know,” I replied.

Honestly I don’t think I’d ever seriously considered the question before. But, since I was committed to growing as a Christian I figured I should put “finding a purpose” at the top of my to-do list. [Read more...]

March 8, 2011

We're Back

"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe … All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need … Every day they continued to meet together … They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts … And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."  (Acts 2:42-47)

As I wrote on my Facebook wall: Back from Haiti. What an awesome trip! What an awesome team! How can it be that when I leave my life of comfort and plenty and go to a country of hardship and want, my heart fills to overflowing? God is so good.

To say it was a great trip is an understatement. I left apprehensive about the situation in Haiti, unsure about what we'd actually be doing, and questioning whether this was really where God was calling me to. I returned awed and amazed at our almighty God who's orchestration, protection and provision defined this trip completely.

This trip to Haiti was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and certainly the most impactful mission trip I've taken. Even though friends have asked what made this trip so special, it's hard to find the words to adequately express what's been imprinted on my heart and spirit. I'll try to paint a broad overview. (In the days to come I'll be working on a series of more detailed stories.)

Our ten days followed a mission trip model set up by the Foundation for Peace. It included five days on the work site, a medical activity day, three worship services with local churches, two VBS's and one (much-deserved) beach day.

Our team of 18 came from coast to coast (PA, NJ, MA, RI and CA), including six from my church. We'd all never met before. (I didn't even know most of the folks from my church very well.) We ranged in age from 20's to 60's and brought with us a wide range of talents, faith journeys and life experiences. The way that God weaved these disparate strands together as a team—unified, and singular in heart and purpose—was a beautiful display of His craftsmanship and creativity.

One incredible team

We spent every waking hour together. We toiled together—working harder than many of us had ever worked before. We praised God together in morning devotions, frequent prayer, enthusiastic Haitian worship and late night singing. We talked, ate, hung out, recreated, rode the bus together. And no one tired of anyone's presence. No one got on anyone's nerves. When one was weary, another came alongside to lift up. We became attuned to one another's needs and gave from our excess. It was community in the most wonderful sense of the word. And we all recognized it as something extraordinary.

Group back rubs

The work we did was hard. It basically consisted of digging trenches for a vocational school. Lots and lots of trenches (each about 2 feet wide by about 4.5 feet deep). Working with our Haitian friends, we used pick axes to break up the hard packed, arid soil. Then we shoveled out the loose dirt. This task pushed every one of us to—and past—our physical limits. Yet, we pressed on, determined to make our mark, knowing that this school represents the future of Haiti in this part of the country. 

 There's much more to tell...and I will...but the most meaningful experience for me was visiting Camp Hope (the camp I worked in after the earthquake). God really moved in me when I was there last year. Our group had made friends and I was anxious to see them again. But the person I most wanted to see was Jude, the teenage boy I worked with and befriended last year. There's something special about Jude. And even though we don't speak the same language, our hearts are connected. I've kept tabs on Jude as my friends have traveled to Haiti in the past year and knew he was OK. But I was dying to see him again.

We first arrived at Camp Hope on Friday to visit the school (that FFP built last year). I looked for Jude in the classrooms and found him quickly. When Jude spotted me standing in the doorway of his small classroom his face lit up with excitement and he jumped out of his seat to see me. We hugged for what seemed like a minute. It was a precious moment filled with such love that I could have left Haiti right then, satisfied.

There is so much more to tell...our day of worship, visiting, VBS and soccer at Camp Hope...our "50-minute" hike up the mountain to distribute aqua-tabs to people in a remote village...a relaxing day at the beach to restore our weary bodies...the worship services at local church...early morning devotions on the rooftop...the family we formed, Haitian and America, bonded together for all of eternity...and so much more.

There is something about Haiti that's so special. I see God there in the people and the country. I feel His presence in the worship. And I find rest in my spirit that is so absent as home.

Thank you for your prayers for our trip. They were most definitely answered. I am so thankful for the experience and hope our ten days in Haiti planted seed that will bear fruit for a long time to come. I pray that all we encountered, and all of us Americans, are forever changed—because in Haiti we met Jesus.