The Struggle is Real….

 

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Every time I return from Haiti, it is a struggle. Leaving a village that has no running water or electricity, parents struggling to provide one meal a day for their children,  and dear friends of mine fighting for their lives as disease slowly takes over without the means to see a doctor weighs heavily on me as I board the plane to come home.  Much of the time, the U.S. does not even feel like home. I spend so much of my time here in the States feeling like an outsider. Like I just don’t fit. As if I was created for something different.  Often loneliness sets in. Other times I withdraw- not meaning to- and stop answering my phone because I am stuck in the world of in-between. In-between my life here and my life there.

The struggle is very, very real.

I  got back last Monday and had lunch on Wednesday with one of my closest friends, who happens to be a therapist. She texted me days later and asked if I was ok and said that she was worried about me. It was  then I knew I was not adjusting back to my American existence as well as I thought I was.

This trip was the hardest transition so far- out of at least the 20 times I have been to Haiti. I think my dream team of three was able to really engage with our friends there and  realize how many obstacles they face. To have the time to truly listen to their hearts and God opened many doors.

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Jean Marc suffers from pain every day due to a genetic disease that affects his joints. In spite of it, he has always been outgoing, confident, and has overcome all the obstacles. This trip I sat with him while he recounted for me the stories of how he was told as a child he “was nothing but a cripple” and how people discouraged his parents from sending him to school because they said he would never amount to anything. A Christian school by his house

IMG_1455actually refused to allow him to enroll so he was left walking 1 1/2 miles in the mountains in order to get an education. Some days his legs got him there and other times the pain was too much. Listening to him recount how he has carried this with him all his life was heartbreaking…..but such a privilege to share in his struggle.

 

 

The school where we work is grades K-6th. It has been our dream for years to add a secondary school but the cost has been too much for us to manage. As it stands, students who graduate from our school must leave the village for 7th grade and live 20 miles from their parents to attend in Port au Prince. They must have approximately $500 US per year for books, uniform, and tuition and have a place to stay (at an additional cost). For the farmers in Chauffard, this is rarely an option. So after 7 years of applying themselves academically and overcoming so many obstacles, the students are forced to quit school. Even though I knew this was a problem, I was overwhelmed with the reality when I saw one of our graduates, Julie, selling in the market because she was not in school.

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One day a student, the next a graduate, and then the road to education stops. Why? Money. Smart, motivated, studious, and driven but hindered simply by the fact that her parents are farmers and cannot provide an education for her. As I snapped the picture of her in the market, I was weeping. Weeping over her and the other 16 students who graduated last year from our school who are not able to continue. On the plane ride home as I was wrestling with this, I came to a realization. Education has always been an issue in impoverished countries and will continue to be if we are not advocates. If we don’t stand in the gap for those who have no voice. So my attitude has been slowly shifting. As I have begun to recover from the despair and desperation I feel for these students, it has turned into a feeling of thanksgiving that I get the opportunity to be the voice for them and the one who fights for education. In a country where we very much take schooling for granted, I get to educate others on the struggle that occurs all around the world. As my friend so simply put it …….

 PAIN INTO PURPOSE.

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The stories from this one trip could easily fill up a book. The lives full of loss and gain, triumph and defeat. Not much unlike our lives, but the struggle is so extreme in Haiti that sometimes my mind cannot even comprehend it. The people of Chauffard have never seen a cent from the government- NOTHING. No help with education or roads or food. They are contributing members of society yet they are declined anything to improve the way they live.  And yet…..they persevere through the hardships and the disasters. I have yet to see one of them give up. I will never understand the capacity of the human spirit in them. It will always be a mystery to me.

The mountains are calling and I must go.

My shoes sit by the door and I am ready to go. To help. To learn. To encourage. To be blessed by a people who teach me more in a day than I could learn here in a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haiti…..Days 4 and 5

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It is Saturday! That means no school and lots of adventures! I am really hoping to spend time shooting some pictures because I am going to be able to hang my photography in Mitchell’s in December! So excited.

Besides picture taking, we will be visiting families and talking and doing life together. This is the best. We will also watch some soccer, watch Shelly jump rope with the girls (just kidding), and continue to pass out the awesome uniforms and shoes and socks to the students.

On Sunday we will attend church, maybe provide a meal for the village and then unfortunately, head down the mountain. At this point, everything feels like a whirlwind and it hard to believe it has flown by so fast. I will probably cry as we leave, hoping that the children will stay in school and not have to quit to work on the farm for their families’ survival and that we don’t lose anyone to simple infections while I am gone.

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Then on Monday, we will fly back to the US and advocate for our friends in Haiti. So their voices are heard and their lives matter. And then the process begins again as I prepare for the next trip and the next group and the next time I get to go to the land of the beautiful people.

 

Haiti…..the rest of the journey

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The next 2 days we will be waking up to roosters and people working around 5 AM. You can hear the laughing and chatting while people walk to the farms where they are working and I am usually up early getting the Coleman stove ready for my instant coffee and Savannah’s much better coffee, and Shelly’s oatmeal.  MMMMMM……

School starts at 8 AM and by 7 AM I like to be sitting on the side of the mountain watching the students come down the little foot paths from all over the area.

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The students will all line up and have their pledge to the flag, recite Scripture and start their day. We will spend the day checking with teachers about students, taking pictures and measuring feet. All 130 of our sponsored students!

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We will then work on getting new students signed up for the sponsorship program so we can come back and get new sponsors so we can keep up with the expenses of the school as it grows and the needs continue to grow.

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Then we will spend the afternoon hiking to make home visits, seek out children who have not returned to school, talk to their parents, and encourage them to send their children to school. We will have community sitting on little, tiny chairs talking about life, dreams, hopes, and struggles. It will be beautiful and hard- all at the same time.

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That night we will go to church for a few hours until we cannot stand any longer. We will fall asleep to the sound of worship that will last until 2 or 3 am and prayer will begin at 5 am. Humbling. As we sleep they worship, pray and go back to work as soon as they are finished. Sleep to them is optional.  They are more drawn to God’s presence than rest. I will go to bed humbled and wake up amazed at their endurance. It is beautiful- the sounds, the smells, the people, and the life.

Haiti Day One….

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By the time this publishes, we will be landing in Port au Prince. The flight is only 2 hours long which is crazy. From my bed in Lakeland to my bed in Chauffard, it only takes about 12 hours. It blows my mind that such unbelievable poverty is so close to the US and so many people do not even know it.

Today will be stopping by the grocery store in Port au Prince and then driving the 20 miles in the truck for 3 1/2 hours. We still in the back of the truck and take in the fresh air, the smells of people cooking on the sides of the road, and transition into a different world. A world without electricity, running water, medicine, or 3 meals a day.

We come bringing shoes, socks, and uniform shirts. The students at the school will be so excited! Shoes without holes or having shoes at all is a luxury. Shoes won’t end poverty but they will help our students avoid injury in the mountains and make them feel taken care of in a small way.

Once we get settled into our bunkhouse, Shelly, Savannah, and I will go find our friends who are like family- Jean Marc, Junior, Milo, etc. If we have time we might even go on a short hike to see families who live a little farther away.

The first day is always a huge transition. Exhaustion from traveling, feeling overwhelmed with the conditions-even if you have seen it many, many times, and excitement for the adventures we are about to encounter.

On this mountain I feel the most alive. There is no place I would rather be.

Morning thoughts about purpose…..

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The house is a WRECK- I have not unpacked from the weekend, the litter box is toxic, and my office is even a nightmare to a hoarder, but I had to sit and write.

 

 

When God is prompting I have learned to listen because the filth and clutter can wait and it will be back tomorrow anyway.

Thursday night was the Zoe’s Journey fundraiser banquet, Saturday was our second Light Breaks Through Women’s Encounter in Madison, FL and in a week I leave for Haiti. Am I exhausted? Absolutely. Is my to-do list long? Yep. Am I right where God wants me to be? Without a doubt.

How did I end up helping facilitate two non profits and beginning to volunteer at another? People ask me constantly, “How do you have time?” My answer- how do I NOT have time? To serve women who need to hear grace, mercy and that they are worthy and to serve hundreds of children in Haiti who would not have a school if we were not there……how do I not respond to that call on my life?

“But you have a family! Your husband is a pastor! You need to take time for yourself. You need balance in your life. You can’t do it all.” This is usually how the conversation goes. All of those are completely accurate and I would not disagree. But there is one argument I would make…..

I just decided that when God calls me to hard places I will say YES. I am actually very, very particular in how I use my time. I don’t do big non profits with huge budgets and a lot of wasted money,  bogged down by an endless amount of committees and boards- too much work for me. I don’t get on board with flashy, here-today-gone-tomorrow justice fads or dramatic, religious, overnight poster children for Jesus. That is not me. But I do get behind a vision. A dream. Someone’s pain turned purpose. And for this reason I go to the trenches with people like me, who are not too good to stack chairs, dig a ditch, or pray with the kitchen staff at an event.

In the past week, God has reminded me that He has gifted me with quirky, messy, oddballs like me who want to say yes……Shelly, Carol, Jerriann. And this weekend he added a few more. I am not alone.

There is kingdom work to be done and in my crazy brain, here is the motivation: life is very, very short, our time is valuable, God will make me enough, and sleep is overrated. Period. I get up everyday and these are the four ideas that immediately come to me.

It is ok to be different. It is ok to be a little (or a lot) manic about what you are passionate about. And it is ok to be exhausted and realize you can get up tomorrow and do it all over again. That is what LOVE DOES.

This is not a plea or call for anyone else’s life. I promise- not a guilt trip, conviction notice, or a statement of “rise up and conquer, people!” I just woke up this morning and needed to share my heart. I am sure my motives are not completely pure because when are they ever? But I am at the point in my life where I want to be known- even the parts of me that seem socially unacceptable and not-so-much-like-Jesus…..because I struggle too. I struggle A LOT with pride, insecurity, and masks of perfection. And I pray that the rest of my life I will commit to sharing my story and encouraging others to do the same so that we can get real with each other and dig that trench together…right where God called us to be.