look

Last Sunday after church, several boys guided us to the new deck area that is open at All In One Family, each grabbing a hand and pulling us along into this mostly unexplored space of new, vast views for these short fellas. They immediately ran to the railing, curious at what made them go there first out of all the spaces to consider, I followed them. Each looked back at me, enthusiastically pointing at something they wanted to show me. Chickens, motos, cars, people on bicycles, the roof across the street going on a new Sunday school space for the kids and the man high in a tree collecting mangos elicited several giggles. There were new views and new aspects of life. There were never before seen angles of the everyday life surrounding them.2.2015 All In One Family

Consider the perspective of the kids…theirs is mostly ground level and, until this new space, hardly ever over the compound wall. They peek out the gate, sometimes ride in a car or bus, but never this bird’s eye view of their world. They can see far and wide. Instead of just seeing the moto drive by the front gate, they see it until it disappears down the long road. They can see out over the valley where Port-au-Price sits and all the way to where Petionville and Delmas can be seen climbing up the mountain. They can see the mountain ranges on both sides of the valley. Their entire worldview expands with just a few more steps carefully taken up to the third floor above their school classrooms. Imaginations ignite. Dreams get busted wide open. Perspectives are changed.

All as we look out in the vast area surrounding our life.

We have all had tunnel vision to a particular goal at some point in our lives. In a lot of areas tunnel vision is not only a healthy way to see, but very beneficial to the cause. There are a lot of churches going from a wide vast view of how to help in the world to a laser, tunnel vision viewpoint in the world. Going all in at one location and honing in on ministry there. I’m not starting that debate, because honestly I fall on both sides depending on how the Holy Spirit is leading a particular community. Following the Holy Spirit has never steered anyone to invest in a life that wasn’t meant to be invested in.

But tunnel vision can be deceiving. Different perspectives can be ignored and missed by focusing so intently on the end goal. Tunnel vision can make us blind in so many different ways, especially when it is not a Holy Spirit led endeavor.

But what if we allowed ourselves the space to engage the pureness and enthusiasm of seeing the vast, wide Kingdom that God is building? God’s Kingdom only knows tunnel vision to one thing, and that is seeing this world restored to its original creation.

What if we allowed ourselves to look out at God’s Kingdom and see something new?

What if enthusiasm for what we see was contagious to those around us?

What if we asked God for the Spirit to lead our eyes to look at the world as he sees it?

What if we really let ourselves look from an upper level view of God’s world? Where would God lead our eyes?

What if we took a cue from the kids and experienced extreme excitement at taking it all in from the third story view?

What would happen if we willingly sought out different perspectives in our daily lives that guide us to observe closely, pray intensely and move as the Spirit leads?

What I do know is that enthusiasm is contagious, and contagious is what draws people deeper into God’s heart for this world. Deeper into God’s Kingdom.

I want the sparkle in my eyes as I look out at the world around me.

I want to point out things that I am excited to show others.

I want to draw people into God’s perspective.

I want to look at this world as the boys were looking at their world last Sunday.

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education

I live in a place where parents are faced with the indignity of giving their kids to a children’s home so they can go to school, or keep their child with their family at the perilous cost of not gaining an education. I cannot fathom having to make that decision, but in Haiti and other majority world countries around the world…it is a reality.

Is education always the answer to breaking the cycle of poverty and injustice? No, there are too many factors in play for it to be as easy as one answer. However, it has been proven to give kids more options to break into the dreams of their future.

The GO Project Pathways program exists to train young Haitians in trades when their level of education is expensive or not on par with their age. Many of the kids who are 18 are at a 5th or 6th grade in school. When they are 18 and are not allowed to be in the home with the other kids, their grade level is not high enough for them to continue regular school. The Pathways program stands in that gap and says that the sustainable future of these kids matter. I know several of these young adults. I know their smiles. I know how they tease. I know they need encouragement. And I know that they are grateful for a place to belong and skills to have the opportunity to provide for themselves.

IMG_3764The Pathways program is very similar to Russia’s tech school system. Russia’s tech schools are government run, and have so many in regions that it is hard to keep track of what tech school teaches what, but Russia has the same problem as Haiti. Kids come into the orphanage at a much younger grade level than their age would put them, and when they are no longer allowed to be in the orphanage at age 16 they are not at a grade level to send them to go to college or university.

After 6 years of traveling to Kurlovo orphanage in the Vladimir region, there was one young lady that went on to university out of all the kids that passed through the orphanage. One. Many went on to tech school, some to extended family, and Russian statistics show many kids at age 16 are left on the streets to be prey to sex traffickers, prostitution, drugs and suicide. When Kurlovo closed and our community went through the painful process of praying and discerning what next there were a lot of questions up in the air. Every piece of who you are individually and as a community is thrown into long-term relationships with a group of kids, and when you are told it is finished long before you imagined it would be, there is a lot of logic in not wanting to do it again

But by the grace and orchestration of God, we were drawn as a community to be an even larger community with a group of kids in Velikoretskoye. There were many reasons we were drawn to this unique place in the middle of nowhere. Really, it is in the middle of nowhere, but many come to this destination because one of the Russian Orthodox icons of St. Nicholas was found on the river banks.

One of the biggest draws was that the orphanage director was also the school principal and was already sending kids to university or college instead of learning a trade at a tech school. Tech school is a great option for learning construction, mechanics, interior decorating, cooking, working in a business and tourist trades for hotels and trains. However, colleges and university provide education for professions that would pay more for your knowledge.

Clearly, his dedication was something we connected with and wanted to support him. After our first year traveling, he had a young lady go to medical college and a young man go to design college. There have been kids that have gone on to succeed at tech schools, and some of the guys who gained education in construction are making an incredible living as Georgyi told me when we were there in November.

IMG_5606

Nastya is one of the graduates that came back to visit while the team was at Velikoretskoye this year. She is at university to become a teacher. Her situation was one that Georgyi championed when she expressed the desire to go to university, but her grade level was not to her age. Ignoring Russian laws, he kept her at the orphanage beyond age 16 so she could graduate high school in order to continue her education in university.

Georgyi graduated seven kids out of the orphanage last year, and last September had all seven kids in college or university. *Collective cheer!* I talked about this a little in my massive post I put up a few days ago about the trip this year.

God has grown me to the point where I hate seeing things sent or donated somewhere they are not needed. The locals on the ground need to verbalize a need before I can make sense of sending a plethora of clothes, shoes, toiletries and a myriad of other things to their location. When you send things they don’t need, all it does it inundate them with things they don’t have space for and in some extreme cases will sell it for the money. Not the original intent.

This year, Georgyi has verbalized a need for tutors for all of the kids. Last year, we talked with him about help for the kids that were graduating and several of us within our community raised money for that need. In that spirit, Lindsay Evans and I asked our friends and family to forgo a ‘traditional’ Christmas gift for ourselves and instead give money toward tutors for the kids. What better gift that to know that the kids we know and love will succeed in higher education AND provide income for local tutors? This year, to get tutors for all of the kids, it is going to be a bit more than what a few people might be able to generate and will end up being about $4,200.

In honor of a silly named day, ‘Giving Tuesday,’ (Shouldn’t it be ‘Giving Every Day’?!?!) I am putting up this post with links in it to support the future of kids in Haiti and Russia.

Go to ‘Change Their Story’ on the Children’s Hopechest page to support tutors at Velikoretskoye. You can do it a couple of different ways. Simply support our team, or if you want you could even become a team member and send folks to contribute on your page for the team. Here’s to ALL of the Velikoretskoye graduates going on to college or university from this point forward, friends!

Go to Global Orphan Project’s page to contribute to the Pathways program. If you have spent any time reading this blog, then you know how much I love getting to know some of these kids. Their smiles tell it all, friends. You couldn’t possibly make a better investment…

Do Christmas different and let it be about how we are impacting the future of kids told they are not worth anything, instead of the more socially accepted purchasing of things we don’t really need. I welcome and enthusiastically cheer on anyone willing to support the future of some pretty incredible Russians and Haitians.

prayer

I know one thing, when something bad happens to me I hope that I have a crowd of Haitians storming the gates of heaven on my behalf, because in the moments I’ve been a part of their raw prayer…I know they are intervening and being heard by our Savior.

Several months ago we were sitting at dinner when we learned that two Pathways boys had been hit while on the side of the road by a drunk driver. The flurry of action that followed was led by some very passionate and angry Haitians who care about these kids. Honestly, it was amazing to see them come together for these boys. The Pathways director was on the side of the road arguing with the driver of the car for quite some time, and then when the police did not come, charged another of our staff with watching him and drove to the police station to get help. All while another staff member was driving the boys to the hospital in Port-au-Prince, and another was leaving his home to meet them at the hospital.

This began a long waiting period where we felt it had been hours since the last update…yet it had been 30 minutes.

When the Pathway girls came back to Jumecourt, we pulled all information they had out of them to understand what was happening better. They hung out a bit…then argued over each person’s perspective…then wanted us to open the upstairs classroom to pray.

Here is where I am unable to have the right words to express what that time was like with the girls. Friends, you have not prayed until you have prayed with Haitians in pain with many questions surrounding a situation. The amount of grief, pain and pleading that poured out of these girls was substantial. And it poured out…

Prayer in Haiti is a very deep action. Prayer comes from the depths of who God has created us to be. It is a soul cry to the One who hears, sees and is all. The emotion involved that night was overwhelming for me as someone who absorbs the spiritual cry of others. Yet, at the same time the Holy Spirit presence in that room was not only tangible, but electric.

When a young woman groans ‘Mesi Seigneur’ something rips in your soul as tears are falling down her face, and suddenly you feel wetness dripping down your own. Somehow, even in the midst of pain and confusion, these young women were still yelling, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ There were moments within this time of prayer I legitimately thought Jesus was going to walk in the room and give an update on the boys’ conditions. The veil between heaven and earth was that thin.

What I wanted to tell the girls was God hears you. God knows your hearts. God knows every hair on the boys’ heads. God knows you are pounding at his figurative front door. You are heard. But words would have been completely inadequate compared to the rawness of the prayer we’d experienced together. Who needs words when you have literally left everything at the feet of the One who knows?

For that night that is what prayer was for us, to draw near to God in every tangible way. To lift our voices to him in song, and raise a chorus of simultaneous prayer in groans and fervor. To connect not only with one another, but with the one who created all of us. To be a united front for these boys that we know, we care about and want to see live into the calling God has placed on their lives.

Now months later, the boys are healthy and strong. They both only had to stay in the hospital one night, and when we saw them a few days later looked much better than we had expected. You never know what will happen in Haiti…but I do know that I’m a part of not only a strong prayer support in the States, but one in Haiti that will not hesitate to storm God’s front door.

*I actually wrote this the night of the accident and couldn’t bring myself to post it with all of the varying emotions, and then I forgot about it…better late than never!*

surreal

Surreal moments. Those places in time and space where you can honestly not believe you are where you are and observing what you are observing.

Acts 1:8…come on, quote it with me, you should know by now…

My obsession with this verse is old news. Very old news. I remember a couple years ago when I had the random God thought that the verse got complete turned on its head when you heard it while living in a different area of the world. That thought busted open a new worldview for me. What was my Judea as the United States would be Europe for someone living in Europe, while Europe was actually my ‘ends of the earth.’

Imagine my utter astonishment to find myself sitting in church on Sunday as a Haitian Pastor preached Acts 1:8 to a congregation filled with Americans, Canadians, Haitians, Europeans…all living in Haiti.

It was such a surreal moment for me that I am certain I chuckled under my breath.

As his comments unfolded, it became very apparent that God has worked this verse over on this Pastor in very similar ways that he merged it into my vernacular.

I sat in awe as he asked the congregation, ‘Where is your Jerusalem?’ Your city, he stressed.

‘Where is your Judea? In all the departments of Haiti!’

‘Where is your Samaria? Friends, how do you feel about Dominican Republic? God is calling us to be witnesses even in Dominican Republic.’

His reference to Samaria’s place that makes Haitians uncomfortable should enlighten you on how Haitians feel about Dominicans.

And then…then he spread both hands wide and shared with the congregation that he knows ‘God is calling Haitians to the end of the earth. For hundreds of years, Haiti has been receiving missionaries. It has become normal for us to believe that someone will help us and that people will come. We have become too ready to receive help from others. Who here is God calling out of Haiti and into the world to be a witness for Jesus?’

I got goose bumps at those words. I have said them myself in a post I wrote last summer called ‘dare.’ As the pastor continued, I heard my own words ironically echoing in my head, ‘Americans will not save Haiti. Instead, I firmly believe that Haiti will save America. And if the world chooses to pay attention…God will use Haiti to change the world.’

Friends, God is doing something spectacular in Haiti and he is intentionally placing Haitians where he needs them to be his witness.

I hear Haitian pastors preach on excellent topics quite often. In most recent months it has been a lot of calling people out on their sin, imploring couples to get married after years of living together, confronting voodoo social practices and church planting around Haiti. It was inspiring to hear a Haitian pastor preaching for his people to seek God’s calling on their life, and to be open to the possibilities that it may be beyond Haiti.

Haitians are typically not dreamers. Americans are raised to dream big, the sky is the limit. However, when most Haitians are concerned daily about how to pay for school or where food will come from tomorrow, dreaming is not a reality.

Inspiring Haitians to seek their calling from God is monumental. It’s exciting, and it opens a new Kingdom door to Haitians that has previously been unrealistic. I am honored to join Haitians in prayer to seek their calling. In order to join then, are you willing to set aside any preconceived notions that Haiti is just a country seeped in poverty and dangerous? Are you willing to see differently? Are you willing to see Haiti as a hopeful nation? Are you willing to see how God is working in the lives of Haitians?

I cannot wait to see how God will be speaking to not only individual believers here, but how he will continue to use the Pastors to speak into the lives of the congregations. And a large piece of me breathes a sigh of relief that others are hearing the same thing from God when it comes to scripture.

men

I’ve seen countless women answering God’s call to be present within the orphan window around the world. Obvious reasons feed into why women are drawn to orphan care. Each has an innate way they nurture, love and care for others. I’ve even been surprised to see some of these qualities come out in myself. What I really wish is that social expectations for those qualities in men were higher, with much respect for what they already bring to the table.

Realistically, I would trade 5 of these phenomenal, Jesus’ lovin’ women drawn into orphan care for ONE MAN who is passionate about Jesus, willing to surrender himself and step outside his comfort zone to pour into the lives of orphans in this world and those who care for them.

No, ladies, I am not disvaluing your continual presence in the lives of orphans you care about, and it is always a joy digging deep into the mess of relationships with the kids and laugh until I cannot breathe with you. I am emphasizing the importance of men who are not afraid to show they love Jesus in the lives of kids who have been abandoned, and have few examples of the strength found in men that embrace their love for Jesus, and then their love for wife, family and friends.

If you hear one thing let it be that orphan care is not for one gender or the other. It is equal opportunity for all to be active in God’s Kingdom. Let me also clarify that orphan care is all inclusive of many different people in our world. When you define an orphan as someone who has no one to champion them…that busts open a new worldview to orphans being elderly, single moms, widows, foster kids, abandoned kids, kids with no parents, kids with parents in jail and the teenager down the street whose parents have decided they are done parenting.

Orphan care is also not just for those of us who happen to be called beyond the borders of the United States. It is for every believer living in God’s Kingdom who is a neighbor, employee, spouse, parent, sports enthusiast…the list goes on. Orphans surround you on a daily basis. Granted some are living in far more extreme situations than the neighbors of those that are reading this, but to God each orphan is equal to the next. No orphan is loved more by God based on the situation they find themselves.

IMG_1114I’ve had some unique opportunities to see men active in the lives of orphans around the world in the last month. In October, there was a group of 22 that came down to Haiti. Four in that group were women. Do the math…that’s eighteen of the male variety. What I saw in that group was the admiration on the kids’ faces as the men led games. Joy when a kid found themselves on the top of a man’s shoulders. Intense concentration as a man’s hair was braided, then pride in the result. Complete abandon as men held them and ‘hopped’ them through a potato sack race. There is great responsibility when a man steps into the life of an orphan, because that child of God is looking at how they treat the wife and kids they are traveling with, as well as the others on the team. They are watching, because they don’t see it very often.

IMG_5081The kids rarely have men play with them, and each of those interactions is a mark on a young boy or girl that has few models to look to in their life. I love the translators that work with us in Haiti. They have genuine love for the kids they see, and it’s no coincidence that the kids gravitate to these strong men who love Jesus. A few months ago one of the male social workers was at the village when a group pulled in to visit. He had a swarm of older teenage boys hanging around him as they kicked a soccer ball around. Another village we support has mamas and papas who live with the kids. The respect the kids have for the papas who are with them every day is evident. When you look around the village you see a lot of women taking care of the kids, cleaning clothes, cooking meals and male Pastor who is leading them all. What is absent from the daily life of most villages is the presence of good, strong examples of what it looks like to be men who passionately loves Jesus and choose to be present with the kids. There is definite strength in the women surrounding the kids, but God wants to use the presence of men in the kids’ lives to enrich their view of his Kingdom, too. Does it help an orphan connect with God when they see the real life example of what it is to be a man running after his Father’s heart? It was beautiful watching the kids come alive around the men on the team, but equally beautiful watching the men come alive as the kids soaked up the time they were given.

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers; or else I will strike the land with a curse. [Malachi 4:6]

My hope is that men would inspire men to go deeper into God’s heart for the orphan, but that means time and loyal investment into the messy areas of orphan care. It means making time to walk through life with someone else. It means spending time with other men struggling through a calling to be present in the lives of orphans. It means digging deep into relationship and in the best case scenario…discipleship. And ladies, it means no guilt trips when your man is working through answering his calling. Take pride in that with him and support him, even if that means a fraction of time away from your family. He will be a better dad and husband for answering God’s calling…I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

Recently I traveled with a group to visit the kids in Russia that we have known for six years. These are short visits with long-term commitment that God is richly showing up in as we gain shared memories with the kids. Kids and their American friends write letters throughout the year, and once a year we get to physically be present to connect with kids, as well as their caregivers, teachers and the man who directs them all. These relationships have taken years to develop and much patience with God laying a base of trust. It has been a hard road, but worth every messy minute to be a part of what God is doing now.

IMG_5817This year we had four people, two men and 2 women, after several years of only one man traveling on our yearly visit. Much time was spent with these fellas being goofy, leading activities and allowing themselves to simply be present in the moments God put before them. We spent a lot of time in the gym, and there was a constant line of boys challenging the American men to different athletic endeavors. But it wasn’t just about a show of strength, it was about connection. It was about how you act when you lose, and how you represent yourself in a game. It’s about taking opportunities to be on the same team. It is about a young boy looking at an older man and craving to be known by someone that cares about them. It is about the moments in conversation where life is shared. It is about respect. Men crave respect, and it is no different when you are 14 or 55. How a man respects another man in the context of a challenge shows their character, and as far as the character in the lives of the Russian kids…not many take the time to pour into it.

One of the conversations I had with the orphanage director this year was how impressed we were with the amount of college and university students he had this year. He humbly blew off the compliment with a response that they may be getting good grades, but their character is lacking. His example was how he can provide for them and they can get good enough grades to move on, but after that it is up to them while living on their own. I’m praying God will raise up Russians to help pour into his concerns, at the same time I know we will seeking God in ways we can help support him to grow character in the kids. It is God’s Kingdom community working together that dissolves language barriers and country borders.

I am blessed to know many men who are active within the orphan window and passionately love Jesus. These men have incredible character, and love for their families. I get to see every aspect of these men come alive while being present with some incredible kids. It’s in those moments I see God’s Kingdom come to life.

Many of the kids I know names and faces of throughout the world never knew their father. The fathers are the ones that, unfortunately, are more likely to not take responsibility for their families. I also know many men that are taking responsibility, whose character is strong and love for Jesus is written all over their lives. I believe God is calling these men to call out the men who have not taken responsibility for their families. I get that it’s hard. I get that you don’t think it’s your responsibility. I get that it’s easier to pretend that single mom is doing great on her own, but if you are a great father then disciple other men to be great fathers. Imagine an absentee father on his knees asking forgiveness of his children, imagine the grace possible…imagine the picture of a family restored because a community of men came around another man whose relationship with God needed restoration. A Kingdom life restored to God’s glory. Men, it’s time to be men…real men who stand up for what is good, right and just in this world. Hold fathers accountable to being present with their families, and keep their family unit whole. Embrace how God has created you and lead with confidence.

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers; or else I will strike the land with a curse. [Malachi 4:6]

God is calling men to take seriously the spiritual role as head of their families. God is calling the men who already are to disciple those that are not leading their families. God is calling men to seek the gentleness, playfulness and compassion within the strength he has given them. God is calling men of all backgrounds to be present and pour into the orphans of this world…the real question is which of those men will have enough crazy and courage to say yes.

 

 

 

camp

Even countries apart, it astounds me how God connects us in peculiar, yet pure Kingdom moments.

Several days ago I got a Facebook message from a friend that the Methodist camp staff in Missouri had been let go. To be completely sincere my initial reaction revolved around the fact I live in Haiti and while I was sad for the pain those I love are experiencing…there is not much I could do. I wasn’t even at camp this year, and due to work related mission trips, I hadn’t spent a whole week at camp in a couple of years.

Then, more and more things started popping up on my radar. More Facebook messages. More text messages from students that were heartbroken, and wanting to know what I thought. More photos assaulting my Facebook feed. More emails. Then last night as I saw a photo that got posted…I was reminded of camp in 2011.

Honestly, I didn’t want to be there. I was organizing the biggest relief effort the church I worked at had ever fielded. I was sending teams and leaders twice a week for what would be an entire year, and traveling myself at least once a month…on top of everything else I was already doing. The friendships gained over that time were countless and so incredibly special. However, while I was juggling mission responsibilities and student ministry responsibilities I was completely burning myself out…because I was giving myself to good, God honoring things and in my heart I did not have time to be at camp.

But God’s time table did place me at camp.

I was placed as a leader in a small group that would have a ripple effect on my life, and life outside US borders for years to come.

I shared about surrender one night. One of my co-leaders had shared from the perspective of marriage, and I felt led to share my perspective on surrender as someone who God has created and called to life beyond ‘social norms.’

Afterwards, one of the students followed me and said, ‘Can I talk to you about what you were sharing?’

I will never forget that night. I will never forget that conversation. I will certainly never forget the intense presence of the Holy Spirit over what was shared.

My friend shared that she felt called…to a strange place she had never been and couldn’t explain why she would feel called there. Those she had already shared it with had told her she was crazy, and it couldn’t possibly be a real thing. Callings like that didn’t come to people like her.

I was the first voice in her life to say she wasn’t crazy. She felt called to Africa, and I knew she wasn’t crazy because when I became a believer in college I had the same calling in my life. I had the same well-intentioned, or not, people tell me I was crazy, and even ‘You are a young, new Christian. All new Christians feel that and you will get over it soon.’

I knew what it felt like to be in her place. I knew what challenges lay ahead for her. During that evening I knew God had placed me in her life to encourage, love and pour into her with all of the gifts and experiences God had placed within me. It is called discipleship…and it started at camp.

We prayed her through years of obstacles, and she traveled to Haiti with me in 2013. It wasn’t Africa, not yet, but it will be. She came back to Haiti with the organization I work with in Haiti this summer. She has been ignited, and went home ready to change her major at her university. Now we are praying her through God’s plan for her. He is certainly the only one right now that knows where he will lead her.

I first felt the call to Africa in 1999, God didn’t send me to Liberia, West Africa until 10 years later. Now he has landed me in a place that if I arrived blindfolded, then had it taken off outside of the airport, I would ask ‘Why has Liberia started speaking French?’

Calling is real, and sometimes God speaks into it in the most beautiful ways.

I did not grow up in church. I never went to ‘church camp.’ My first experience with church camp was as a leader for our students as a student ministry director. Our church had many discussions on where we should take our students to camp each summer. This particular camp is not the slick and modern camp that many of our students were craving, and thought they wanted. The tradition of silly songs is awkward for me at times, but this is a place God preserved for transformation. It is a place students are challenged to leadership in planning, praying through and doing nightly services for their peers. It is a place where all are told they have talent and all talent is affirmed. It is a safe place to toss out your doubts, your disbelief and be challenged to be more for the Kingdom of God. It is a place that the Holy Spirit shows up in very significant ways.

God has used so many moments within the camp setting to heal, ignite and send out students to live a Kingdom life. Even in my short time with the leaders and students, I have a plethora of stories I could share.

Nothing within me naturally wanted to be a part of camp, but God revolved it around a deep community that I was absorbed into so easily and seamlessly. Kingdom community is sacred. It does not always revolve around place, nor should it, but sometimes places are sacred, too, not as an idol. Moses didn’t take his shoes off to idolize the ground, he took them off because he was on sacred ground.

This community is my brand of crazy, and they desperately want to preserve time and space for God to show up…in whatever way God has planned. But in God’s plan, not the human plan that revolves around human perspective and opinions. Five years ago, I never would have cared that a Methodist committee decided to close some camps, but God does usual things at times and I find myself wanting my friends to persevere in how they feel God is leading them. I find myself praying for the leadership, students, staff…that God would speak for all to hear and obey gracefully.

I have no revelation about where God is at work in this. What I do know is that his glory will shine through this and I desperately want the time preserved for young women who are from small churches to meet other crazy, Jesus loving, Kingdom living women so they can hear that they are not crazy and God’s calling is real.

pathways

Sometimes I wake to screeching through my bathroom wall. Nope, not roosters, more human….it sounds like a plethora of teen girls, but in reality…I have lived next door to the Pathways boys for 6 months and when they argue over whose turn it is to use the shower it sounds like a teen girl-cat fight through the wall. It really does make me laugh, and gives me a great source of material to tease them about.

But don’t let arguments over showers sway you on your opinion of these young adults, because they are a phenomenal group of young people being empowered with skills to lead a life of sustainability in Haiti.

IMG_0136 (2)Global Orphan Project has an amazing discipleship journey that brings 18-21 year olds into a program to teach them life and trade skills called Pathways. One of the things I love most is the students are physically learning with their hands. Most schools for older kids in Haiti are all classroom work and teacher led, nothing is hands on learning. The Pathways instructors are physically out in the field instructing the students, the sewing teacher is sewing with the girls, the decorating teacher is working bows with the girls, the boys are physically working with chickens at the chicken farm…they are gaining experience in everything they are being taught.

The other thing I love is the students are being discipled by Haitians that are passionate about teaching others what they know and passing on their knowledge, which includes everything they know about Jesus, the Bible and how to lead others in the faith. When the Pathways students start praying, watch out because heaven and earth will move, friends. And their worship through song…love for their Savior flows from these young adults in mesmerizing ways.

On a recent Friday night, I passed one of the boys in the corridor and said, “Bon swa! How are you?” The response I got in Creole accompanied by a massive smile was, “Good! I wait for Sunday!” I stopped, thinking I translated it wrong in my head, and yelled after him in Creole, “Did you say you wait for Sunday? Today is Friday, tomorrow is Saturday.”

He responded, “Yes, but I am waiting for Sunday. I love Sunday. I love Pastor Claude. I love church.”

I know a LOT of teenagers who love church. I know a lot of teenagers that love Jesus, but I doubt any of them would tell me on a Friday night in the States that they are waiting for Sunday. But here in Haiti, this is the devotion these young adults have for their Savior and the love they have for communally worshipping through prayer, song and the Bible.

One of the girls I love to laugh with was walking with me last weekend, and as we both walked off to our separate rooms, she grabbed my hands and said, “I will pray that Jesus will bless your dreams tonight!” The spirit of joy and love for Jesus in this young woman is a constant source of inspiration for me. She is constantly making us laugh, and is a huge fan of inside jokes. I truly think it is a longing to be known by others that connects us to her, as well as fuels her love for Jesus.

For the last six months I’ve had the privilege of sharing a lot of the same space with the Pathways students, but last weekend the boys moved out into the new Pathways building that will give them space to grow. It is an exciting time, not only for the current students, but to see how God will continue to grow opportunities for so many more kids in villages that are not at a high enough grade level to continue their education into university when they have to leave the villages at age eighteen.

We will miss the abundance of life the students have brought to Jumecourt. The girls are still here at the moment, but as the boys moved out, they were visibly hopping, running, jumping to load their belongings. The energy was electric around here last Saturday as they moved.

IMG_0121 (2)A new first year joined us a night early, and we found out he was from a village one of the second year students was from. Yelling to him as he played basketball, ‘What village are you from?’ He responded by thrusting his arms into the air with his hands formed into fists while flexing his muscles, and then yelled back in English at the top of his lungs, ‘Biggarouse!!! I am from Big House!!!’

The pride and confidence in these students for not only where they come from, but that it means something to them is palpable. They own their place in this world, and it is amazing to see them embrace their story. Their story is a victorious one. They had some place to go when they had to leave the village, and within that place, they are embracing who God has created them to be.

That first weekend, we also got to see their confidence as they absolutely acted like ‘older’ kids when the first years arrived to join the second year Pathways students. Perhaps too much cockiness was in play, but it was great to see their confidence in the path of learning they are on, what they have learned over the last year and excitement for what they will be learning in their last year of their two years.

As one of our organization leaders says, you cannot care about orphan care without caring about orphan prevention.

Realistically, orphan care without emphasis on orphan prevention is only a business of moving money and bodies. Do some orphans get genuine care and love? Of course, but unfortunately emphasis on the monetary aspect has brought a lot of dishonesty within the ‘business’ of orphans. God calls us to defend the orphan, and care for the fatherless. A large part of that defense is providing jobs to keep poverty orphans with their families. God’s heart is not in the ‘business’ of orphans, but it is in preserving the dignity of the parent who is able to provide for their family.

Orphan care cannot outweigh orphan prevention, and God willing orphan prevention will make orphan care obsolete. The Pathway students are a piece of that orphan prevention. If the poverty orphan cycle stops with these educated, cross-trained young adults creating businesses and remaining employed as they have families of their own, then Haiti moves forward in reclaiming their employment independence from organizations and countries that unload their excesses here plaguing any efforts for sustainability. And that is a very exciting future to pour into with Haitians that we are honored to know, love and see grow into strong leaders in their communities.

Join me in praying for the second year students, new first year students, instructors, directors and all of those that support them from the States. As someone who deeply cares about these students, I know your prayers will be received with much gratitude and any glory given straight to our God we serve.