mighty refuge

There is so much pressure in the States.

Pressure to have all the answers. Pressure to be excellent. Pressure to be the best. Pressure to make the most money. Pressure to make your name mighty, to be remembered.

But the only thing that pressure is telling you is that you are the focus. You are the purpose.

You. You. You.

I have an incessant need to know that God is mighty. That God is God. And that I am not. I can’t explain how this happened, and I know others struggle with it. But for me it has always come easy, because of that need to know it is not all me.

In Kingdom moments we need to know we are not the purpose. God is the purpose, and we get to be the conduit. We get to honor him as he would use us in his story. We get to reflect his heart.

I need to know that there is someone is greater, because I would never be able to withstand that pressure.

I need to know someone has my back, and will not abandon me at the most opportune time.

I need to know that there is a Creator who is a mystery and that it is okay to not know everything. That it is okay to not have all the answers.

Even David shared the same sentiment:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. [Psalm 62:5-7]

Even in my most impassioned moments, when I am yelling cuss words at my Creator, deep down, I need to know that there is someone Greater. Because I don’t need or want the pressure.

I value my choice within this world, and I honor the God who was creative, humble and gentle enough to give that choice. But in the end, I need to know he is mighty. I need to know he is my refuge. I need God to be God.

 

injustice

My morning rhythm has various OCD tendencies, and the most important of all is grabbing one of my Papillon mugs and putting creamer in it before walking upstairs to join the myriad of visiting Americans sating their java addictions at the coffee pot. One morning last week was no different…Bible in hand, mug in the other, walking across the parking lot, eyes blinking against the intense Caribbean morning sun, up the stairs and straight to the coffee pot. No eye contact. No talking. Just trekking. Ugh. Why does my mind and body have to hate mornings?

Resisting the urge to yawn yet again while holding my precious elixir, I walked to the upper deck for devotions with our group that is in town visiting the Pastor’s kids. As I sat, I was jolted awake with captive interest at the Bible verses for this morning from Isaiah 1. I could have bypassed the coffee pot entirely this morning had I known conversation with friends, bouncing perspectives off of each other and digging into Isaiah 1 awaited me on the top deck. This paragraph alone should tell you how thankful I am for people to talk Bible with are in country. Contented sigh and heart full of community.

The book of Isaiah ignites my natural passion to fight the injustice of this world. Isaiah 58 will always be imbedded in my calling. Actually, passion is a really tame word for what God ignites in me. Injustice makes me f-ing angry, and no one ever wants to see a redhead angry. Trust me. There are so many things that are just not right, and if I do not use the life I’ve been given to fight for those are stuck in a hopeless cycle of injustice or those who feel their voice doesn’t count and use my voice to make sure they know their worth…my life is wasted.

A good Biblical definition of injustice is this:

A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away. [Proverbs 13:23]      

Injustice is not fair, and while living outside of the States…it is overwhelming the amount of injustice you are assaulted with on a daily basis. I am given a front row experience on what real injustice is in the majority world.

It is not fair that people are hungry.

It’s not fair a 5 year old girl bears the raggedy scars of abuse up and down her arms and back.

It is not fair that parents drowning in their lack of basic needs like food, water, clothes and education feel no choice other than to give their children to an orphanage for someone else to take care of them.

It is not fair that a lack of health care for the general population results in unnecessary deaths and diseases of ALL ages, some easily preventable or curable.

It’s not fair the unemployment rate is 70%, stripping dignity of the people to earn a living wage and provide for their families.

It’s not fair that when they are employed, yet they are not earning a living sustainable wage.

It’s not fair that politicians are so selfish and corrupt they are immune to their countries’ needs.

It’s not fair those that lead the country cannot seem to get their shit together for the good of their people.

The injustice is overwhelming.

Seared into my mind is the day God brought me to the words of the prophet Habakkuk. I was struggling with a wide array of opinions surrounding my choice to go to China during the summer of 2001. By that point, I knew who God had created me to be, but the opinions around me were not forming the same consensus. I’d been sitting on a bench, at a lake I typically escaped to north of Des Moines, when a deer approached me. Stunned, when the deer left, I dove back into the word and there was a deer photo on the book of Habakkuk in my study Bible and I started reading. Habakkuk was not shy with what he said to God, actually I imagine if he used current world language there would have been a healthy dose of cursing. He saw the evil, the sin taking over and the injustice that overwhelms the poor in the world that comes with both of those factors. He was pissed, and felt it was God’s role to do something. When I read Habakkuk in 2001, he knew where I would be living 15 years later. And when I think about all of the things that are unfair in Haiti, it would make complete sense for me to echo Habakkuk who was confronted with the similar visuals:

How long oh, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?

Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. [Habakkuk 1:2-4]

These words are so pertinent to Haiti right now, and it would take me 4,000 more words to help you understand why. I don’t even know the half of it, but it continually makes my heart ache.

When Watson got sick, he was taken to 2 hospitals that denied him and was at a third being checked in when he died in the arms of his caretaker.

When Watson got sick, he was taken to two hospitals that denied him and was at a third being checked in when he died in the arms of his caretaker. He has come into care of the local church about 3 months prior so malnourished with his twin that they had to be immediately hospitalized. His twin sister didn’t live beyond that hospitalization. A group snapped this photo the previous weekend when I was at the Pastor’s church with some visitors.

There are many in the States who are passionate about justice, and confronting injustice. A lot of social campaigns, a lot of social media words and so many conferences devoted to the ‘battle.’ It is a Gospel truth, and I am very grateful it is resonating among those in the States God is moving among. Believers and those that don’t believe…God is the core of that movement. But how much of their passion is hollow? How much of that passion really has follow through? Are they empty words and promises?

But the thing I keep thinking about is that they don’t know the small girl with eyes filled with a blank deadness, marks of pain all over her body, flinching at every small movement around her, the skinniness of her frame after it had suffered her entire life and craving the enormous gift of protection. They don’t know how her joyful, spunky personality that has exploded once that protection was given.

They don’t know the names and faces of the people who rescued her from that certain death.

They don’t know the names and faces of those that are helping support the people who gave her that protection.

They don’t know the names and faces of people who give to that entity that supports them.

But do they need to know their names and faces?

God calls his people to fight injustice, to defend the oppressed, to cloth those that need clothes, provide a living sustainable wage, to stand up to bullies and to support those that are on the front lines of that fight throughout the ENTIRE world. The States included, because God calls his people to all facets of this world. The reality is God is calling his people to participate in EVERY aspect of that fight. Some are never meant to be on the front lines. I know I am not on the front lines. I am close, but I am not on the front lines. That is where the pastors and their congregations are called to minister. It will always be a million times more effective for Haitians to minister to Haitians in a culturally effective and honoring way. I do know the names and faces of those on the front lines, and I call them friends. I get to encourage them. I get to be sad with them. I get to celebrate victories with them. This is where God has called me to be.

The question is where is God calling you to step into his heart? Where will you use the gifts and talents he has given you to help fight injustice?

These are questions you need to wrestle with, because it isn’t always going to be like this. God is moving. God has promised. God redeems and restores. It is exciting that each of us is grafted somehow into his victorious story. It is exciting to see him show up, yet still only have a small piece of the massive redemption story of this world.

Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. [Habakkuk 1:5]

look

mountains beyond mountains‘Dèyè mòn gen mòn’

‘Mountains beyond mountains’

I always think of this Haitian proverb as we are driving throughout Haiti and moving through the mountains to visit the Pastors and the kids they are caring for in Haiti. It’s hard to miss range after range of beautiful variations of green and brown reaching to the crystal blue sky.

I will fully confess to falling in love with the proverb simply because of how in love I am with the mountains of Haiti. They are beautiful, and when you get to a summit, the view is insanely spectacular. I just want to stare until my depth of vision carries me to the farthest site I can glimpse.

There are a lot of different ways Haitians will use this proverb, and isn’t that the beauty of proverbs? That they can be individualized to the one who is using it?

I just sent a text to two Haitian friends asking them what it meant. One sent back, “Everyone has someone more powerful than her/him.” And the other one said, “There is always something greater and can be used for wealth, strength or any other value. Like ‘You think you have strength? There are mountains beyond mountains.’”

Other things I’ve read and heard are references to when you solve one problem another presents itself to solve, or endless opportunities.

Somewhere in my crazy head, as I look at the beauty of Haiti and bask in the visual feast of the mountains, it has become a reminder to carry vision for beyond what I currently see in front of me. As I continually walk in this journey with God, it is at times a massive leap of faith and other times so perfectly in line with my calling that it makes the difficulty of decision making void. Always listening. Always discerning. But I am constantly putting my hope where Jesus consistently told his disciples to look…God’s Kingdom. The thing is, I do not look to anything that makes earthly sense, but my soul knows it is there and it resonates intensely. It is unexplainable. It is supernatural. It is the absolute core of God.

‘As we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.’ [2 Corinthians 4:18]

 

voice

You have a voice.

I have a voice.

All people have a voice.

There is a lot to be said for how you use the voice God has given you.

Sometimes we use our voice to hurt others, and strip them of their God given dignity.

Sometimes we use our voice to build people up, and empower their God given gifts.

Sometimes we are told our voices do not matter.

Other times we enthusiastically applaud people when they use their voice.

Last night, I was in a conversation with a team in country about poverty and how poverty is perceived based on an American perspective, and then from the perspective of the person American perceives to live in poverty. Simply because our American definitions place people within poverty, doesn’t mean the people we apply those definitions to perceive themselves as poor. In my experience, even in countries that the world hypes as ‘most poverty stricken in the *whatever* hemisphere,’ there are always people within those countries who do not consider themselves poor, that Americans would consider poor, because their neighbor is worse off. In Haiti, when you pray before a meal, it is customary to pray for the people who do not have food to have food to eat. And in the instances that those Americans perceive as poor are asked, they do not emphasis the lack of material things that the Americans would initially notice. Instead they list things they lack such as dignity, respect…and lack of voice intermingled with hopelessness. There are a lot of ways to dig into this, but what keeps rolling around my head from the conversation last night was that those perceived to be living in poverty feel they have no voice.

I don’t ever want to be arrogant enough to think I have the ability to give someone their voice or even worse…be their voice. It shatters my heart into pieces that any person living in this world would feel others are so apathetic that they choose to not listen and give value to anyone’s God given voice.

IMG_1491It is incredibly appropriate that today, of all days, while I am wading through some of these thoughts I found myself hanging with my friends next door. As we found a quiet corner in the large compound with almost 80 kids and 21 visiting Americans, I sat my young 4 year old buddy on the table in front of me in their cafeteria. My other buddy was standing next to us, as I looked at him and said ‘Let’s practice numbers. Count for me.’ I raise one finger and in English, not Creole, he easily pronounces ‘1’ and proceeds to go all the way to ‘10’ without hesitation as I held up the fingers for each number. When he finished reciting in English, we said, ‘Ok, in Creole!’

‘One, two, three, four, five, six…eight…’ he recited in Creole.

Um. No, little buddy, ya missed seven.

Oh, my Lord. My older buddy and I looked at each other and busted out laughing. Completely thinking at the same time that he had counted perfectly IN ENGLISH, however, did not know his Creole numbers. We decided to give him another chance and he nailed it, and then received quiet the celebration from us! I was yelling ‘Yay!!!’ as loud as I could, and our friend started shouting, ‘Good Job! Good job!’ as he giggled and jumped with a massive smile on his face. He then planted his smiling face into my young buddy’s lap and wrapped his arms around him giving him the biggest hug. I then wrapped my arms around them both. Fully recognizing the amazing feat I had just witnessed, and so, SO proud of him.

I’ve seen his journey over the last year and a half, and I’ve seen him find his voice since he started school in September. He talks clearly, really though he doesn’t stop talking now, he sings ALL of the time…English and Creole…but most importantly he is learning to use his voice.

And when I look at him, I never want him to grow up in Haiti and feel like the voice he has worked so hard to find at such a young age is not valuable to those around him. I want him to be heard. I want him to feel like his voice counts, and heaven forbid I ever meet someone who tries to strip that voice away from him. I. Will. Take. Them. Out.

If you really think about it, don’t all voices start out this way? Every single voice that is told it doesn’t matter throughout the world, started out as a young toddler just trying to figure it out. All voices started out as equal, and the sin of the world got in the way as it always gets in the way. As the sin divides and separates, we start ranking importance.

The bottom line is the value God places on voice. Each of the prophets used thought no one would ever listen to them. God uses the voices of those the world considers lesser to guide his people into building his Kingdom. God uses each and every voice of the world, in every context, it is us that get in the way and shame and devalue them.

In Isaiah 58, God is calling out his people to stop fasting in ways that are not genuine, not unlike some that only fast during Lent because it is the ‘right’ thing to do. However, the key in the beginning of Isaiah 58 is how God is telling Isaiah to live out his calling and use his voice:

‘Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious. They come to Temple every day and seem delighted to hear my laws. You would almost thing this was a righteous nation that would never abandon its God…’

How loud was God asking Isaiah to shout? Like the voice of a trumpet blast.

One of the problems with the world is that those perceived as poor are shouting out God’s words, they are full of the Holy Spirit and they DO have a voice that is incredibly valuable. Truly, it is a voice that could purify the world for God if the world would allow it. But those with the most in the world refuse to value those voices based on an assumed definition of poverty and the egotistical posture they take when looking at those in the world with less than they have.

You have a voice.

I have a voice.

And every single person created by God has a voice.

Choose to listen. Choose to empower. Choose to build dignity.

Choose to see value in each and every voice.

 

gather

IMG_9079 (2)And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. [Acts 4:31-35]

Every time I read Acts, I just cannot shake this feeling that were we in the same time period…these would be ‘my people.’ I function in a pretty awful state when I feel disconnected from my people. God didn’t create us to be alone, so when we sequester ourselves for whatever reason, it creates feelings of loneliness and isolation that God never intended for us to feel. We need people.

When my people gather…watch out, because craziness is about to explode all around us. Laughter. Antics. Cuss words come into play at some point. Wine is normally involved. But what is really happening is connection and within that community connection, God functions at his highest through us. God is growing us to be a community of Kingdom storytellers. When I read Acts 4, it is hard to miss what occurs AFTER they prayed together. *Enter visual of Haitians praying together simultaneously, each verbal prayer individual to that person.* The Holy Spirit fills them, and they CONTINUED to speak God’s word with boldness. It bears repeating…they were in their normal rhythm of community when the Holy Spirit SHOWED UP and they continued to speak boldly. This wasn’t an unusual day. This is what happens when believers gather. 

While I was back in the States during November and December, I was looking forward to studying Acts in person instead of over text or Facetime. But each time we got together, something else needed the focus and we needed to be present with each other as listeners and express ourselves as the fighter at each other’s back. We needed to know we still operated as a whole, not women who are separate and alone. We needed prayer. We needed to feel the value of those God has given to walk with us in this journey. Each time we gather in the same place, we need to remind each other over and over again this is true. Every. Time. It’s true.

In the times we cannot gather in person, we gather in our group text. Sometimes the conversation that gets tossed around there is utterly ridiculous, other times, incredibly serious. But it is our connection point throughout the week when we cannot be physically present with each other. It’s amazing how often, as super strong, independent, Jesus following, insanely gifted woman…that each one of us feels alone. That, friends, is when we point out to each other, is not the heart of God. It is the work of those that fight against him.

We’ve been reading through Acts together, and when I read these moments of community, like in Acts 4, I do think of my people. Of how much I miss their passion for God’s Kingdom. Of how much I just miss them in general. To them I am not weird, I am just how God created me. I value the same in them, especially in all of the ways each of us has been pulled into the orphan window in Russia or Haiti. At the end of the day, each of us needs to know the rest have their back. When shit hits the fan, we do not run in the opposite direction. We operate as a solid unit. We know we are better together, because time and experience have proven that over and over again. So as I raise my glass to my people in celebration of what God has done, is doing and will do among us, I crave all the more the next time we gather in one place.

IMG_6371

We have been trying to get a photo with all of us in the same place for well over a year. There is zero documentation of us together. Haha! It’s actually very ‘us’!

disciplines

There are certain things I am good at and certain things I am not good at.

Running for instance, I suck at running.

Swimming…I can hold my own, as long as you have no competition aspirations for me.

Numbers. Just don’t. I can’t even.

Words. Addicted. LOVE them!

I do know how to read a clock, but I struggle with being on time. Not because I want to be rude and disrespectful, but I am normally caught up in a conversation or God moment I cannot gracefully end in a timely fashion.

When it comes to actually being disciplined at something, I rarely excel. It’s probably part rebellion from order, yet also part that I naturally operate in the whim of a moment. I love spontaneity. I love conversation, and if that conversation happens to go three hours I won’t stop it to be somewhere else because that time is priceless and sacred. I am Spirit led, and in the midst of that, it’s hard to continually be consistent in a daily rhythm outside of washing my face, brushing my teeth and collecting my hair into a messy concoction.

Something I struggle with in my spiritual life relates to the exact same things when it comes to a rhythm of that life with God. How do I make time to know him? How do I know his voice? When do I learn from his word? When do I make time to give thanks?

I have always, always sucked at ‘quiet time.’ If I plan it, then I fail, then I feel guilty. It’s an awful cycle that I truly believe God wants me to be free from. Not ‘scheduling’ time with God doesn’t make me any worse of a believer than a believer that does get up at 6a every day to read their Bible. I have time with God, but I don’t force myself to do it every day at 6a. No one wants to see me at 6a, not even the one I serve. He created me with distaste for mornings, so it doesn’t surprise him. When I feel pulled into that revelation of his word, drawn to something to pray or bust out in my current favorite worship song…that time is sacred. It is spontaneous, and I love it!

That all being said sometimes I need to be challenged to be in God’s word more often.

Several years ago, some friends and I got a crazy idea off of an Instagram photo-a-day rhythm over Lent. We blogged the word they had posted for the photo theme every day for the entirety of Lent. It was actually really cool, and this year, we are attempting it again. It was a sacrifice, as Lent is the time to sacrifice pieces of you to draw closer to Jesus. It was a challenge in the whirlwind of a chaotic life, BUT we did it. And we had no regrets. Plus we were drawn closer as a community as we shared the struggle of our commitment. We’ve done various things over the last several years, but nothing has been like that first year.

As each of us are currently in a wide array of seasons of life, who knows what will actually happen. I’m convinced I’m not even going to make it to the first Sunday ‘off day,’ because I have a group coming into the airport today and will be here until next Monday. That takes a LOT of time out of the next week.

But. I am willing to try. And not give myself a guilt trip if I fail. Technically, this is an extra post…so I should get a bi-day, right?!?! Leave it to me to break rules before we even get started…

Here’s to a delightful Lent season where we can all grow closer to Jesus as we walk the path to Easter.

IMG_1752

 

storytelling

It is enthralling how one experience…one moment of just fifteen minutes…could change your entire perspective on how you see the world and how everything fits in it. I tend to sit in those moments and soak them up for months afterward. It is such an intimate God moment that sometimes I wonder if it actually happened, and then realize God has sunk me deeper into his Kingdom and given me a clearer vision of what he needs me to be within his world to help bring restoration and reconciliation.

That, or, maybe I’m just over caffeinated this week, it could go either way.

What I do know is that God has brought clarity of the importance in telling his stories while he has had me living in Haiti. I remember sitting with our staff in the office during my week of training before I moved to Haiti. They were telling incredible stories that were busting open my worldviews. One of our staff said to me, ‘You will have your own stories to tell soon enough.’ Though I didn’t take him completely seriously…he was 100% accurate.

Somewhere along this journey of healing and calling I became a storyteller. Each of the stories we tell chaotically yet perfectly merge into The Story, it is just a matter of actually making the effort to see where it connects to God and his heart. It’s there, I promise. The stories we tell point to the first Storyteller, and Jesus spoke those stories to include all – believer and nonbeliever. You could claim to be atheist your entire life, but you will have a hard time ever convincing me God did not use a piece of your story to build his Story. As we are gifted with the opportunity to be storytellers like Jesus and point to the Kingdom of God, we get to actively point to the one who owns all our stories.

“Another story. ‘God’s kingdom is like a pine nut that a farmer plants. It is quite small as seeds go, but in the course of years, it grows into a huge pine tree, and eagles build nests into it.’ Another story. ‘God’s kingdom is like yeast that a woman works into the dough for dozens of loaves of barley bread – and waits while the dough rises.’ All Jesus did that day was tell stories – a long storytelling afternoon. His storytelling fulfilled the prophecy: I will open my mouth and tell stories; I will bring out into the open things hidden since the world’s first day.” [Matthew 13:31-35 MSG]

In that spirit of storytelling, I am compelled to share a story that I could have told months ago, but there was just something so precious about it that I didn’t want to let it loose yet as well as things I still needed to learn from the experience. Hindsight being 20/20, I’m glad I waited, because last summer the story was only beginning…

IMG_3651At the end of the summer of 2015 in Haiti, church had just finished at our local church partner we were attending with our visitors that were in country, and the kids were running to hug their friends they had met the day before. I was standing off to the side when I saw one of the first year Global Orphan Project Pathways students with a woman that was crying. It’s not uncommon for us to see the students of the trade and discipleship program at the local church partners, since that is where they come from before moving into the Pathways building or their Pastor from home guides them to that church for Sundays while they live here for two years.

I remember praying in that moment for whatever was happening. Was it his mom? His aunt? Older sister? Congregation member he was praying with? But even within that prayer and those questions, I had no need to know what was happening, because I am an outsider to their culture and country.

Then he walked over, ‘Can I talk with you?’

‘Of course.’

‘We need Jonas to translate.’

‘I can understand you. It’s ok.’

‘No,’ he adamantly said. ‘We need Jonas.’

‘It’s ok! I can understand a little.’

‘No. We need Jonas.’

‘Really?’

‘We need Jonas.’

I had been trying to avoid pulling Jonas away from helping our visitors communicate, but the young man standing in front of me was insistent and I had no choice but to ask Jonas to help.

As Jonas and I walked to the back of the church with the young man, he took us to where the woman was standing with tear streaked cheeks glistening in the sunlight.

Immediately, my mind starts raising red flags. What is he going to ask me for? What does he think I can provide? How do I gracefully and kindly tell him I can’t give him anything?

It is constantly a balancing act in Haiti between helping and hurting, and being an ambassador of sustainability in a culture that looks to someone like me as having everything: money, food, candy, soccer balls, etc. It’s not false in comparison, but as the random white person living here, I never want to elevate myself to being the one who can ‘save’ them from their circumstance or look at them in pity from posture of superiority. Whether it be perceived or unperceived. There is so much value in Haiti, but in action and vernacular, the world tells them they are nothing, even from something as simple as calling them ‘third world’ and the States ‘first world.’ In many ways, Haiti should be elevated above Stateside cultural norms, but in so many ways our government, actions and people make them feel inferior. Just as another government will not solve their problems, I will never be the answer to any Haitian struggle and my actions cannot make them rely on me…God is so present in their lives and he is their answer. Every time. Not me. God has given me permission to not feel guilty about saying no, and that it is sometimes the best word to use while in this culture and space. My mind settles on when he asks for what he needs, I will send him to the pastor. The local church will be what he needs no matter what the ask.

As evidence of my multitasking skills, all of this is going on in my head while I am still listening to this young man’s story, with interjections by the woman every now and then:

The woman is his mother. They lost everything in the earthquake 5 and half years ago, but walked away with their lives. She has not been able to get a job since they lost everything. That was when he started being care for by the local church Pastor that Global partners with in Haiti. His mother comes to church here about once a month to see him, but it’s hard for her to get here across the city. He has three older sisters, and all of them are married. His mother lives with one of his sisters, but this morning she came to church crying. His brother-in-law has been physically and emotionally abusing his mom, but she has nowhere else to go. He feels sad, because he has no way to help her. He has no way to rescue her from that situation, but she is his mother and his desire is to see her taken care of and safe. He feels hopeless.

As they wrapped up, I looked at Jonas, ‘What did they ask for?’

‘Steph, they didn’t ask for anything.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes, I am sure.’

As I looked to the young man, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, ‘Why did you want to share this with me?’

‘You saw my mother crying, and I wanted you to know why she was crying,’ he shared as the innocence in his eyes catapulted me into the deep depths of shame for thinking every thought I had been thinking while this young man and his mother poured their hearts out to me.

‘Could you please pray for your mother and I will pray with you? I would pray, but I want her to hear Creole words instead of my prayer being translated through Jonas,’ I asked him, unwilling to break the air of intimacy through garbled language.

As his prayers flowed over his mother, we stood there with our arms around each other in one of the most intimate God moments I have ever experienced, or probably will ever experience. Simultaneously, I had never felt so accepted and valued as a foreigner in Haiti, further exploding my view of God’s Kingdom with no borders, language or culture barriers in my soul. We were united, with God’s presence through the Holy Spirit at the very core of our small circle.

I hugged him and his mother as I thanked him for sharing with me, and promised them I would continue praying for their family.

As I walked away, my shame washed over me in torrents. ‘I am such as asshole,’ kept running through my head on repeat. Quickly followed by, ‘I am so ashamed.’

By the time Jonas and I had walked through the church and out the side door, I had to stop by the outside wall of the church. Jonas stopped and turned back to find tears running down my face and panic in my eyes.

‘What happened?’

‘Jonas, I am so ashamed. The whole time he was sharing his story I kept trying to figure out what they were going to ask for. I am such an asshole. I am so ashamed.’

‘Steph, I was waiting for the same thing. I was waiting for them to ask us for something.’

‘What? Really?’

‘Yes, it’s not unusual for congregation members to come with needs on Sunday mornings and ask people to help them.’

‘But they didn’t ask for anything…’

‘I know. I was surprised, too.’

‘He only shared, because I saw his mother crying.’

‘He shared, because you are his friend.’

Within that shame I struggled with was also a realization that the Pathways program is not simply for these students to gain employment and have the means to provide for their future families after being raised as orphans in the care of a pastor. The Pathways program is a way for them to take care of their existing families. My friend was hopeless, because he had no means to take his mother out of a really shitty situation. He had put his hope in God that leads, and had placed him in the Pathways program. But my realization also came with the one truth that…he still had a year to go before graduation.

I’ve prayed so often over the last several months that God would protect his mother as he finishes the Pathways program, and that God would bring him peace, not hopelessness. I have been given a deep love for this young man, my friend, and the God moment he led us into last summer. I guarantee you I will ball like a baby when he graduates in August of 2016, and that comes from someone who rarely cries. Oh, man, get the tissues ready.

Each time I see him, I ask about his mother and how she is doing, always reinforcing that I am praying for them. In October, I saw him at the Pathways building, and asked again. Joy lit up his eyes to a level of sparkling I’d never seen, and his mannerisms exploded, lifting his hands to the air.

‘My mother has a job!’

As his friend, I celebrated with him that victory. I know what a victory that is in this economy. I have seen that weight on him, and then was relieved with her employment. I also celebrated that she will be okay until he can graduates and is able to take care of them both.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw him at Life, SA, the GOEX sewing production plant in Haiti, as I was giving a tour. Surprised at seeing a student there, I said, ‘What are you doing here?’

‘I am here two days a week to learn new things!’ he said with a big smile on his face.

A week later, I was there again and introduced some visitors to him. He graciously shook hands, as is Haitian custom, then putting his arm around me, telling them, ‘This is my friend!’

Choking back liquid ready to pour from my eyes at the compliment, I couldn’t even translate what he had said until later that night when I was sharing his story with them.

Because his story carries so much value in Kingdom currency.

Friends, these are the stories we get to tell. These are the stories that point back to God in such a way I would never be able to articulate on my own. These are Kingdom stories, and it is our responsibility as believers to share those stories as Kingdom storytellers, as well as all the times our story and God’s story has intersected.