go

It’s Easter.

Today I woke up, put on a dress (my least favorite thing to wear, ever, which is why Sunday afternoons are basketball shorts/sweatpants capri days to reward my morning sacrifice), and walked to church with Dexter (also known as Rogelin, who is a student living at the Pathways building). Who consequently got some friendly teasing from the guards on the way out the gate for walking with one of the white chicks to church. Amy would have been with us, but I have a group coming tomorrow that I am leading, so she had to take the one that came yesterday and they are out at Leogane.

It rained last night, thank the Lord for rain to knock down Port-au-Prince dust, so it was muddy on the way to church. The Chacos didn’t fail me as we navigated muddy rocks, large puddles, the part of the path we affectionately call ‘the bush’ because it really needs a good machete chopping, torched patches from neighbors burning their trash and gravel piles as our neighbors work to build up their homes. Really, this is how everyone should have to get to church, because riding in a car is so easy. There is something about the walk soaking in the morning sun and Haitian humidity that makes church a place you have to make an effort to be present.

Turning the corner on the home stretch, we came upon the woman who goes to the market for Jumecourt and a friendly ‘Bonjour!’ was tossed her way. She was in a beautiful coral colored dress and high heeled shoes with her hair resting in perfect ringlets around her face. My frizzy mop knotted on top of my head, long dress and sandals paled in comparison.

When we walked up to Ebenezer Church, a couple of the girls from Source de la Grace were making their way across the street and one grabbed my hand. We all got stopped by the ushers at the door, because they were praying inside. As I stood in the doorway, I couldn’t help but notice the man decked out in ALL white sitting at the front. White suit, white shirt, white vest, white tie, white socks and white shoes…Pastor Claude was in his Easter suit.

Dexter came to my side and said, “I’m going to sit with the kids.” I replied, “Great! Me, too.”

As the prayer finished they beckoned us inside, and started walking toward the kid side when the usher tried to redirect us. Telling her we wanted to sit with the kids got us the Haitian hand slap basically signifying ‘whatever.’

I slid into the row with some older girls and Dexter sat next behind me with his ‘village son’ who still lives at Source.

The singing began and I pulled out my Chants d’Esperance to sing along. I wasn’t listening well, so I missed the song number and the girls next to me were quick to help out. Several of the kids turned around and saw me there, sending big smiles and small waves. The fresh scent of soap drifted into my nostrils as I took in the kids in all of their Sunday morning finery. Girls with perfectly twisted hair, barrettes and bows. Boys in slacks and polos or buttoned down shirts. Haitian men in perfectly ironed suits, and women in beautiful dresses. Haitians dress for Sunday, Sunday doesn’t dress them!

As I started singing, some stared at the white chick singing in Creole. For whatever reason, it always mesmerizes them that I am really participating in the service and it makes me smile to myself every time.

Stand up. Sit down. Sing. Pray. Sing some more. Announcements…these can go on for well over 30 minutes. This is their community time to let everyone know what is going on in the life of the church, and they do not waste it. The choir sang, and then more prayer. Friends, talk about storming the gates of heaven, Haitians know how to pray. Complete lack of caring that anyone else can hear them. Their voices are released into the atmosphere as the most beautiful chorus reaching out to their Savior.

Merci Seigneur. Thank you, Lord.

Jesus vivant. Jesus lives.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Prayers for Pastor Claude’s message came next, and then we dug in.

Matthew 28

Isaiah 53

Matthew 18

The most poignant moment of the entire Easter service was Pastor Claude weeping while reading Isaiah 53. Weeping, friends, weeping…

“He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed…It was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs…” [Isaiah 53:1-5; 10]

I was so caught up in the text he had read thinking about being in Jesus’ lineage as an heir that I would have missed Matthew 18 if it hadn’t been for my friends looking out for me and pointing out we’d switched back to Matthew.

I am accustomed to Easter services in the States being all about joy and light and resurrection. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are for the somber services, right? Easter is reserved for joy and new life! It’s not that Haitians don’t have those services, we could hear them singing over the walls at Jumecourt the other night. And it’s not that they were not celebrating resurrection, because they definitely got their praise on with ‘Jesus vivant!’

It’s almost as if the bearing of their sin and the call to go is so intense in their lives that the hope in resurrection lives through each of those moments, instead of having its own separate time. Truly, new life and the new Kingdom is such a strong focus here that it does make sense. Though, remember, my Creole isn’t stellar and these are simply observations merged with what little I understand.

Pastor stopped in the middle of the sermon and had the congregation stand and sing this chorus:

A toi la gloire – O Ressuscité! A toi la victoire – Pour l’éternité!

To you the glory, O Risen! To you the victory – for eternity!

Death became life. Life defeated death. However you want to look at it, what happens after is the call to go. The call to be love. The call to move forward the message of the Gospel. The call to live out the resurrection. Without living out an answer to Jesus’ taking on the pain of the entire world’s sins, without accepting the reality and miracle that was his resurrection…who are we? Definitely not one of his heirs.

There is a reason Jesus didn’t appear to the disciples and say, “Fellas, I know it’s been hard, so hole up here in this room and they won’t kill you. This is the safest place to be and I want you to be safe.” That looks weird even to type it. Instead, Jesus sends them out with the exact radical message of love, grace and championing the least in their world that got him nailed to a cross.

The entire chapter of Matthew 28 was read during service this morning. This is what happens after resurrection:

“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this; I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

Complete authority, not partial, complete.

Go and make disciples. Or the “Stephanie Interpreted Version,” go and love Jesus so much that others are drawn to do genuine Gospel life with you.

Baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Teach to obey all commands.

I am with you always.

Read between the lines…the Trinity is real, God’s love justifies, Jesus fulfilled every single prophecy and that is a message people will be thirsty to hear and learn in doing life with you. You are a redeemed people. There is hope for this world to be restored. God has not forgotten his creation. The Kingdom is present now.

A large part of that Kingdom surrounded me after church was over…as Pastor Claude had read from Matthew 18:1-6. Kids shaking my hand and giving the customary benediction that for today changed from ‘Bondye beni ou!’ or ‘God bless you!’ to ‘Bon fet Pak!’

Happy Easter, friends!

Jesus is resurrected and says GO.

sabbath

Sabbath. We don’t use that word very often, and more times than not we probably clump it in Christianese verbiage that most outside of the church don’t understand. We are bad about that verbiage. We desperately need to communicate the Gospel in a common vernacular.

Sabbath: divinely set apart for rest and worship.

Technically observed as Sundays for Christians and Saturdays for Jewish folks, but that’s assuming God really cares what day of the week you take actual time to just be.

When I was in church ministry, Sundays are never a day for Sabbath…only work, so typically ministry staff that work on Sundays take a different day off. My Sabbath day was Thursday, and I had my own version of rest and worship. Since it wasn’t a ‘normal’ day to gather as a group of believers, there wasn’t any corporate worship in my day. There was worship in community, which is just as sacred. I didn’t have meetings that day. I didn’t set an alarm to wake up. Sometimes I’d go for a swim, and those were incredible times of prayer…lap after lap of chatting with my Jesus. Sometimes I would find a quiet Panera corner and dig into the Bible. God would show up in those moments at Panera, and I would learn things that I wouldn’t normally learn if I hadn’t actually taken the time to grow and be present. Honestly, I had to work hard at keeping that day set apart. Life likes to creep in and take over. If I didn’t work hard at keeping it sacred, and if I didn’t actually block it off on my calendar and commit to keeping it unplanned…it would have been full and I would have been more likely to just go through the motions instead of simply resting in him, however it materialized, in those days.

For some, Sabbath can become going through the motions of what it should look like as a socially labeled Christian with all of the social assumptions: do a quiet time, disciplined prayer, go to church – don’t forget to dress nice and modest as well as act as you are supposed to in church, church council meeting, sing in the choir and volunteer somewhere.

“Quit your worship charades. I cannot stand your trivial religious games; monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings – meetings, meetings, meetings – I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evil doings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.” [Isaiah 1:13-17, MSG]

Strong words…blatant words, I think it is why I like The Message Bible version sometimes. It cuts straight through the bullshit. When believers find themselves going to church because they are ‘supposed to go to church,’ they start walking a very grey line between going through the motions and honoring God through worship. God was pissed at the Israelites, because they were going through the motions of religion and didn’t want to connect with him. They didn’t need him. They were giving sacrifices for their sin as a show, and didn’t care about forgiveness. They were ignoring the things God cared about, and it angered him that they were not willing to ‘Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.’

If you are going to church on a Sunday morning only to be seen, and not seek to encounter the heart of God for you and this world…then what is the point? If you are taking communion because everyone else is going to the front and not coming clean with God…what is the point? If you are going to small group to check that off your Christian list for the week, not for community and make yourself Gospel literate…what is the point? If you are joining the mission trip simply because your friends are going and you want to take photos to show people on social media the good you do in the world, because you are a good Christian…what is the point? If you are going to the homeless shelter to serve food to appease your guilt of your abundance…what is the point?

It comes down to your motives. Who are you looking to please when you participate in the life of the church? Are your motives pure? Is it all in expectation? Or are you looking to impress someone with your holiness and righteousness, but spent an hour yelling at your family before you came to church or small group?

Sabbath is not a particular day. Sabbath is not for ‘religion.’

Sabbath is for your relationship with the one who reigns over the universe, and has love so intense for you he sent his son as the ultimate sacrifice. Sabbath is for you to take a breath. God commanded Sabbath because he didn’t create us to do EVERYTHING. He knows we need our connection to him. He knows we need rest.

God’s heart for you is to be whole in him, and that includes a day set apart to seek him and take a deep breath, because for the other days of the week God is very serious about, “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” [Isaiah 1:17, NIV]

church

Where I live, wheelbarrows have many uses. As general transportation, gravel mover, nap location, boom box blast station and storefront…among other uses I am sure I am not aware of in Haiti. The point is that it is still the same object, a wheelbarrow. But the creativity, sometimes out of lack of anything else, of what it can be used for is insanely broad.

A wheelbarrow is so specific in the States and we have a very narrow view of a wheelbarrow’s function. There are so many ways that the wheelbarrow could be used, but we limit it to what it has always done instead of thinking outside the box and letting our God given creativity loose.

The American church has become just as limited, wasted in some aspects, and it is wearing people out on ‘doing’ church. Creativity is stifled. Holy Spirit inspired vision is suffocated. Passion is told to simmer down, it’s too much. Don’t even try using the ‘D’ word, discipleship…it takes too much time, but could be a great hobby for some people. Calling has become something you ‘should’ follow, but support of the church community in that calling is nowhere to be found. Well, that’s also assuming community is genuine and present among believers within a church. Come Sunday morning, worship isn’t what you really want, and whoever is preaching is not the person you hoped it would be. Trust me, I’m just as guilty here, too, all reasons I justify ‘righteously.’ For those with families it’s a struggle to get there, and then your kids don’t want to go to Sunday school. Everyone in the family was grumpy. Your kid wants to wear the superman socks where the cape floats off the back of their calf, and you would be mortified if anyone saw them. Or worse *gasp* the only thing your family wants to wear to church is jeans and a t-shirt.

People are burnt out on ‘doing’ church and the expectations it brings. It’s exhausting, and ultimately those distractions take away from the Church. Notice the caps. Not the building you show up at on Sundays and Wednesdays, or any other day of the week, but rather, the Church. I will confess to being jaded by local church. Working every Sunday, morning AND night, will do that to you eventually. Walking a thin line between it being a job and pouring into the church as a believer is hard, especially when you are passionate about discipling others into God’s calling on their life and being involved in student ministry, which both happen 24 hours a day. Politics within a church building will cut you, and damnit, it hurts. Not being wanted for who God has called and created you to be will also make you jaded. Desperate love for God’s Kingdom, Holy Spirit leading and living a sent life is ingrained in me in a very deep way, but local church can be very fickle when it comes to those three aspects of the Gospel.

However, within this confession has to be a joyful proclamation, full of God’s glory, that I am in love, absolutely infatuated and intensely in love with the global Church.

I see faith. I see hope. I see sacrifice. I see strength. I see loyalty. I see community. I see people fighting for justice. I see disciple makers. I see risk-takers. I see a deep reliance on the Holy Spirit. I see people sensitive to God’s heart. I see a reckless abandon in prayer as they connect with their Father. I see a thirst for God’s word to speak. I see a desperate desire to preach the Gospel. I see Pastors come alive as they lead their congregation into areas that are heavy in the chains of evil to drawn people into the freedom of Kingdom life. I see dependency on God in everything.

“Missio Dei, as I understand it, is that God is reaching out to the world, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Although God could have used other methods to proclaim the message of salvation to the world, He chose to use the church. God needs the church as instrument of mission, not because He is incapable of reaching the people in other ways, but because He chose to use the church. And for this reason, the church is not unnecessary in mission. The church is a vital part of God’s plan to reach the world. And where the church refuses to take up this task, God’s work is being hindered. And this is quite a frightening thought!” [Taken from ‘Missio Dei, the Role of the Church’ by Arnau van Wyngaard]

American church, it is time to take a real good look in the mirror, because even though it is not a competition, when it comes to reaching out to the world through investing in relationships and community, the global Church is kicking your ass. And at the moment I am really glad they are, because your version of church is diluted and fractured.

For those offended by that statement, I would encourage you to pray. I know many believers and leaders of churches that are not in the majority of the statements I am about to make, and I am encouraged and inspired by you, but there are many more that need some real self-examination through discernment and prayer.

It is time the local church stopped with the asinine arguments and pointing fingers because they feel blame needs to land on one person. Set differences aside and figure out a way to move forward as one church body. Ironically, in Chinese culture, blame is shared by the whole community. It never rests on one individual…just a random thought.

It is time the local church embraced God’s creativity in how the Gospel is put forward into the world. A million programs and running church like a corporation is killing you. Jesus met people on a personal level, why aren’t you? Jesus sent out the disciples, and never once did they have the same experience in a city, with a family or on the road. Led by the Spirit Jesus breathed on them, they took the stories they had witnessed out from their home base. And when they returned, their stories invigorated the other believers and continued to draw others to life with Jesus.

Your people are worn out from this world and its’ death, sadness, sickness and fighting. But, you see, it’s not this world they are fighting for…more for the one that is to come. Fully restored, renewed and reclaimed by God. That’s what the Truth draws us to in Jesus. It’s time to inspire them beyond this pathetic, sad world and motivate them to fight for the real Gospel, and point to the new Kingdom to come.

It is time the local church removed the glue from pews and started pushing people out of the building and into the life of the city and neighborhoods. Be radical. Cancel church on a Sunday morning to be OUT and WITH people, but disciple your people to be real, not fake. And while I’m on a roll, quit perpetuating the idea that people with kids are exempt from living out the Gospel simply because they are ‘busy’ with kids. That’s a bunch of bullshit. I know plenty of families that are teaching their kids to live a Gospel life by actually living for God’s Kingdom while they are raising them and bringing them along. Confront fears they have of being ‘outside’ the church walls and among people, and don’t make it a check list of things they need to do. Lead them to live their Gospel led lives everywhere God places them. There is zero reason to make believers feel guilty for missing youth group when they are at baseball practice to pull others into God’s Kingdom by being present in the relationships he places around them. Be a support system, but ax programs that teach them their place is only within the building. It’s not there. Jesus didn’t actually build church buildings, he preached on hillsides, in homes and in synagogues that were already built then toppled a few tables because of the disrespect he saw within the building. Hold believers accountable to acting in love, and not judgment, within their relationships. The world needs no more ‘righteous’ people, it needs confessed sinners who are transformed through Christ’s love and grace ready to tell their story to draw others to their own transformation with Jesus.

It’s time the local church stopped seeing boundaries between each other and embraced a Kingdom community of believers who are led to transform this world together, not individually. And I’m not talking about a once a year retreat ya’ll combine on to save money. I’m talking about every day. Take a big risk and choose to be Church as one community together under the peace and direction of Christ as the perfect Cornerstone. Our foundation as believers is so much deeper than we tend to grasp. There is a long lineage that has gone before us. When we are truly built with Christ as the starting point of the foundation, crazy Kingdom things happen that are absolutely unexplainable and 100% of God. Wouldn’t it completely fulfill Christ’s call to the Church if we all advanced his Gospel forward as one body, with all of our quirks and callings embraced? What if our community so radically loved each other that people were actually attracted to God’s love among us?

I know there are church leaders who would prefer to debate this point by dreary point, but the reality is I’m not an expert and I’m honestly exhausted by the debating. I’m just one believer trying to discern what God has for me, my community and words he wants shared. Has anyone ever considered that the endless arguing by believers is actually being used by the forces fighting against us to distract from the real mission we’ve been given? We need to find common ground, and that common ground is Jesus. I am inspired by the believers I meet in the majority world, and I am inspired by believers within the American church. But as a whole, we have a lot of praying to do for the American church and for me I generally start with get them off their asses and into their communities.

Clarity comes when you are removed from unhealthy environments, and thankfully for me, it enhances the flow of my creativity and I find myself more in tune with Kingdom perspective while I am side-by-side with the global Church. For instance, in a place with a plethora of uses for a wheelbarrow…I think I will get one to use as a shelf for books. It’s got so many uses, it’s just seeing through the right creative lens for how it will be used this time, but it has a use.

voice

I know God’s love. I know the freedom and acceptance that comes with God’s love. I like to think I know his heart…not just for me, but for others, especially when I make life choices based on where I am called to love others for him. But sometimes we need to know his anger, his utter disbelief and how much his heart truly breaks at the sin surrounding his beloved children.

Recently I was in church being used as a jungle gym. Schnider would not sit still. We had already gotten a drink of ‘dlo’ before I sat down in church, and his frustration at my not taking him again, when he knew I could understand what he was asking for in Creole, was very real. But he didn’t want to go alone. Instead, he sat. He pouted. He shifted. He stood on me. He stood at my side. He laid his head on the bench in front of us. He put his head on my shoulder. He moved my water bottle. He flipped through the pages in my Bible. He sat again. Then he stood on me.

There’s a pattern here. He did not want to be alone. He wanted someone with him. And he was not ready to sleep…yet…

In the midst of all this shifting, I found myself getting annoyed that he couldn’t get comfortable. Relax already, friend. I am here for you.

But also in that exact thought was this awareness that someone had left him. For whatever reason…reasonable or wholly unreasonable…Schnider had been abandoned through whatever situation had landed him at the village. And that awareness flooded me with pain that this was not right. This wasn’t how it was meant to be.

As much as my heart broke in that moment for this little guy, as much as it breaks for all of the orphans God has placed in my path over the last ten years in a myriad of places, I find that God’s heart breaks a million times a million more times for those who are abandoned. For all children, adults, anyone…God’s heart breaks for the ways they have been abandoned and made to feel they are unwanted, unworthy and unloved.

It is absolutely beyond my comprehension how anyone could choose to leave a child, and this is coming from someone who does not even have children. I am profoundly sad for who the world calls orphans. Parents die, or cannot provide for them. Grandparents, aunts, uncles…no relatives to choose to take care of them. I think God shares in my disbelief. I think God feels that utter disbelief when the connection created through birth is ripped to shreds when a parent, through death or stripped of dignity for whatever reason, leaves their child as an orphan.

God did not create us for this. He created us as whole beings, meant for his Kingdom and to live as Kingdom walkers. He created us for love, and the sin of this world breaks love.

In Isaiah 58, God is calling out his people for fasting and not meaning it.

‘For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God…you cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.’ [Isaiah 58:2, 4]

I have been seized by this passage for four years this month. Obsessed is probably not even a strong enough word for what hold this passage has on me. It starts calling everyone out on how they say they know God, but only for set apart times and not with their lives. Then moves into what God does want them to be doing…that they are not actually doing.

‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?’ [Isaiah 58:6-7]

I remember asking a friend what he thought the beginning meant, ‘Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet.’ His response has stuck with me, ‘Be loud. Talk about what God has been opening your eyes to in these verses.’ With those words, he ignited something in me. I realized I had a voice and I wasn’t using it the way God wanted me to be using it.

Granted, with that advice, over the last four years my voice has been met with resistance, anger and disrespect, yet also love, camaraderie, understanding, awakening and more than anything else a trueness that many of us are speaking the same Kingdom language.

But we need to be speaking that language louder. We need to be calling out the things in this world that fight against the heart of God.

Our silence is our acceptance.

I adamantly refuse to accept that God wants children to be abandoned by their parents or left alone in this world after their parents are gone, but that is my voice and my calling, and consequently where I find myself living. Refusing to be silent is part of what landed me in Haiti, allowing God to use me to love his kids and journey with others being ignited to the same.

What are the things you show you accept through your silence?

God has given us a voice for the abandoned, lost, lonely, broken and outcast. Where your voice takes you is between you and the Savior you serve. It will make you cross paths with people you never thought you could meet. It will make you uncomfortable. It will challenge your status quo. It will transform you. It will also draw criticism from others who profess to believe what you believe. But the bottom line is God is calling on you to use your voice.

‘Shout it aloud. Raise your voice like a trumpet.’

I am called to use my voice for the orphan, and I will be shouting that from the rooftops while annoying all within my shouting distance. I refuse to let the world tell orphans they are worthless, no one wants them and they deserve to be an orphan. God’s heart is for the orphan. God’s heart is for them to be made whole by being a part of his Kingdom family. I choose to be used as a jungle gym, then a soft place to land and sleep. I choose to love with abandon. I choose to love with whatever amount of God’s love I have flowing through me. I choose to go deeper, and I choose to know God’s heart…even when it breaks me.

layers

Above me is a ceiling made out of a quilted patchwork of multi-colored tarps held together by a myriad of wires, ropes and thanks to some wacky Americans…zip ties.

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*This photo is for ‘sale’ on my photo blog at sojourner4jesusphotography.com. Selling photos is one of the avenues I use to raise money for mission trip travel.

It holds so much beauty in its own right, but then add to it a Holy purpose and all of a sudden it is transformed into one of the most amazing worship areas I’ve ever been honored to worship God under.

The electricity of the Holy Spirit was tangible, and needed no translation among a group of believers speaking multiple languages.

Layers of worship.

What does that mean to you? What do layers of worship look like? If you could peel back every layer it would have the same core of the God we serve, but each of those layers look different based on where you are worshipping.

I’ve worshipped in gilded Russian Orthodox churches to the makeshift sacred space of classrooms in China to mud floors and rusted tin walls in Guatemala.

But layers of worship gained immense meaning for me in Haiti in May.

Our teams’ task the first two days on site at Olivier Methodist Church in Haiti was to transfer the rocky rubble of the earthquake torn church building to the back of the compound where it became Holy ground for the church pews on Sunday morning.

Setting aside my general awe of the beautiful way most other countries use everything while we toss aside things that are perfectly good…God opened my eyes to the layers.

On Haitian ground covered with the earthquake rubble of the past building sat the pews in groupings and rows expectantly waiting for a community to come together under the shade provided by colorful tarps, woven together behind a church building slowly being put back together.

The community could have fallen apart. Haitian community is based around church gathering places. When the church buildings collapsed, the community had nowhere to gather that was protected from rain and sun. Our first night after working there was a major rainstorm…the next morning we found half of the tarps sagging under ponds of water from the rain.

The community could have relocated. Many had lost their homes and others their ability to earn money.

The community could have said ‘There is no God. If there was, why would this have happened?’ But the beauty of the Haitian people is their ability to turn their hope toward eternal life and life beyond this world.

The community could have said it’s not worth it. We have natural disasters all of the time why would be rebuild.

But the community is strong and stubborn in all the areas it should be.

Instead the community holds onto the ‘espwa’ of Jesus. (‘espwa’ is ‘hope’ in Creole.) They cling to the strength community brings as one whole instead of each alone. Their songs of worship are yelled to their Savior as their hands sway in the Holy Spirit saturated air. And they stand together as one community seeking the one true God in layers of worship.

dresses

I hate dresses. Really. Huge hatred for dresses. I don’t have good mobility. I have to cross my legs…the list could go on. I’m just a jeans and fleece girl. I remember when I was a kid, my mom and aunt were trying to get me to like a particular one that was white with big huge flowers on it, I think I was about 9 and it was for a wedding…ugh, bad memories!

I didn’t like them as a kid, and I only wear them as an adult for other people. About 1-3 times a year I succumb to ‘a dress would be best in this situation.’ Easter being one of them, and several people tried to catch photos on their phones. Now what are they going to do with that?

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In high school I didn’t go to prom as a junior, and my friends talked me into going as a senior. The last thing I wanted to do was find a prom dress…or ask a guy to go with me! But it was what was expected. I did have fun, and actually had a date who was a good dancer. But it wasn’t about the dress or how I looked, it was the friends I was with instead…

As much as I hate dresses, there are a million girls who love them, and a million girls who cannot wait to go to prom and live out the fairy tale. I’m just not a fairy tale girl. I’d prefer to watch Duke play over The Bachelor, and action/superheroes over chick flicks. When a friend was talking about the price of engagement rings yesterday, I actually said, ‘I think I’d want a big-ass TV instead of huge bling.’ I’m ‘girly’ in other ways…I’m just not a ‘frilly’ girl. I love to cook (and yes, I know boys cook, too), and don’t even get me started on my art side.

Yesterday I saw our church turn into a community center, and it was beautiful. Bus loads of girls came in to our Prom Boutique held for the first time in our Worship Center. They have been doing it for 9 years, many of those years in our gym. In one day of the 5 day boutique, they had over 400 dresses given away.

Girls were everywhere trying on dresses. The Worship Center had been turned into a actual store with several dressing rooms set up. But there still wasn’t enough space for the hundreds of girls here to find the perfect Prom dress.

Girls were in bathrooms. Girls were in the Lecture Hall. Boys bathrooms where turned into dressing rooms. Our bride’s room was a satellite dressing room, perfect with the mirrors on the walls.

IMG_9472And all of the seating areas around the WCC Café? They became waiting areas for dads, bothers and boyfriends.

Yesterday afternoon there was so much life in our church building that it was as though you could touch the energy itself with your fingers.

I cannot even imagine this week how many young ladies will come through our doors that have had a bad experience with ‘church.’  Who have been outcast for their sexual orientation, rule breaking, ‘sinful’ living or *gasp* teen pregnancy. Just because you have made a bad choice does not outcast from you a group of believers that follow a Lord who served the prostitutes, adulteresses, tax collectors, broken and poor. That should give you an engraved invitation to be loved and brought into the family.

IMG_9452The ladies serving in the Prom Boutique have a beautiful opportunity to not only provide a dress, some jewelry, shoes and perhaps a handbag…they have a opportunity to touch the life of a young teenager.

To show the love, compassion, kindness and grace that Christ desperately wants these ladies to know personally. Because the truth is you never know what a kind word or a quick smile, in a room where 825 worshipped that Jesus had risen last Sunday, will mean to someone. I guarantee you there is some Holy Spirit in that room.

Join me in praying for these servants and the lives they will be touching this week. That they may be renewed and refreshed by King Jesus, and that they would be discerning of interactions God has prepared for them to be a physical piece of Him.

I may hate dresses, but there are over 400 girls just yesterday that say I am the minority…and that’s ok because the mission of God is progressing while I’m whining about wearing heels.

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Our father…all of heaven roars your name. Sing louder, let this place erupt with praise. Can you hear it? The sound of heaven touching earth…

God purposely creates moments of praise in places you would least expect. Sometimes surrounded by people you would least expect as well.

That is the most beautiful thing about the Holy Spirit…(whisper)…it’s everywhere…

Spirit break out. Break our walls down.

We get so comfortable when we are surrounded by other believers. We fool ourselves into thinking worship can only happen a certain way, and it has to be in our comfort zone. What we rarely think about is how worship surrounds us in so many ways throughout our day.

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I’ve been with Woods Chapel families this weekend, and tonight I listened to their stories about the places they served today. Kingdom House, Crisis Nursery and The Bridge in St. Louis all had part of our team working with them today. Each family has incredible stories! Each family served their Lord with all of their energy and strength.

And each one worshiped today surrounded by people whose lives have been transformed through the grace of Jesus.

King Jesus…your name we are lifting high…we wanna see your Kingdom here.

I pray you are surrounded by all kinds of people with a myriad of ways to worship, experiencing the fantastic power of the Holy Spirit. And in that moment your ears would be graced with the sound of Heaven touching earth.

(lyrics from Spirit Break Out by Kim Walker Smith)