Returning from our furlough in mid January was kind of a big deal in the sense of how it would “feel.” After all we had lived in Haiti for only two months and then headed back home for the holidays. Would we be ready to come back? Would we enjoy being back in our new home? Would we be able to transition back into our rhythms of work and daily interactions with the Haitian people and our co-workers? We can honestly say that as much as we loved our time back in the States and time with family and friends, it truly felt good to be back in Haiti and it felt like this is where we are supposed to be working. This is a good thing and we continue to feel affirmed in our decision to accept the invitation to serve in Haiti that we received almost exactly one year ago.
As the in-country workers for the organization (MH4H) we find ourselves at the beginning of what we call “Team Season.” Nearly every week from early January to early August we have a constant flow of teams coming and going. Over 30 teams and some 350 participants will visit our campus in 2019 and experience just a taste of what life in a place like Haiti is like. Our goal for these visitors is the same as it is for the Haitians we work with on a daily basis. Transformation in Christ! We want those who come, even those who have been here before, to be transformed not by what they come and do but more so but what they come and see and experience. Our hope is that as each team participant returns back to the United States that they will choose to live their life a little differently. That perhaps they’ll have a change or shift in their priorities and perspectives and as a result, they will consider more ways to engage and help those who simply have less. Whether that be across the street or across the globe.
During these weeklong trips we take one day, which we call “Program Day” to share with team the heart of the MH4H mission by describing, and allowing them to interact a bit, the six key areas of our ministry. We want, and need, visitors (and you are all cordially invited to come for a visit) to understand the difference between development and relief and to know that while we do some relief work, our primary focus is on development. This is what we do and all of our core programs are geared towards this. This is why we work in Haiti.
We also get to do some fun things too with teams such as put on a “Color Run,” This years we had 230 Haitians between the ages of 15-22 participate in the event. They received a couple meals, a sweet T-shirt, some great spiritual messages about Life in Christ, a Bible (in Creole), and a whole bunch of colored corn starch as they ran the 2-mile course from a church in Pignon to our campus. Everyone involved had a fun day!
The word in the title if this blog that is italicized (Isit) means “here.” We are here working for the Lord and all that we do is done in the name of Jesus and for the glory of God. We believe that it is through development that true transformation can and will take place. It is good to be back in Haiti and working for these things.
Please pray for Haiti. There is a lot of unrest right now in the country. People are protesting, as that is often the only voice they have, against the corruption that is so prevalent in their own government. Gas shortages (because the government is not paying their bills), high inflation rates that are driving up prices for all goods and services, failed political promises by the current president are causing all of this. Most of these protests are happening in the bigger cities and where we live and serve in the Central Plateau is relatively calm. That could change of course so we covet your prayers.
Prayer requests (and Praise report) for this month:
- Continued health and safety for us (Physically & Spiritually).
- For rain. It has been SO dry and we need rain.
- That visiting team participants have transformational experiences.
- For the country and leaders of Haiti as there is a lot civil unrest right now.
- Praise God that he (through generous hearts) provided the funding we need to construct our new school building.
WHAT THE FOODIE IS UP TO
The title “missionary” is definitely official now that we are back from our first furlough. However, I learned something interesting, “furlough” isn’t only applied to the mission field as I had erroneously thought. It could also mean a period of time when an employee is told not to come to work and is not paid, or a period of time when a prisoner is allowed to leave prison. Welcome to the world of “learning something new EVERY DAY!” Coming back to some rhythms that we established and some familiarity was a gift. This time of year for MH4H provides the opportunity to meet many new people each week, I am grateful these “new friends” speak English! Although I think at times I could be the poster child for introverts, I have truly enjoyed meeting new friends and sharing life in Haiti.
People continue to ask, “so what do you do here Shelly?” My title of Spiritual Director could mean many things. To me it means I look for the presence of God in people and our spaces, while encouraging others to see this same Holy Presence. Not that this really clears up the question of “what do you do?”! I do spend much time walking our prayer path in prayer – mostly observing and listening. I have made a prayer guide for this same prayer path that is actually a compilation of my work with my own Spiritual Directors (both formal and informal) over the last 20 years, and of my training at the Dominican Center in Spiritual Foundations, and my own searching for the moreness of God. I will get to create sacred space here too on our campus. And again, what does this exactly look like? It may require much waiting and listening as I get to know people and the culture. I get to share this prayer guide with the teams each week. And I look forward to the conversations it prompts. In the same way, I wanted to share a mini version of the guide with all of you, inviting your responses or reactions! Currently our path has five benches, and thus five words to explore prayer.
At this bench we encourage less wordage and more resting in God’s presence. So often in our prayers, we use our words to acknowledge God, to honor Him, and to praise Him. Our words describe our devotion, love, concerns, petitions, gratitude, thoughts, and confessions. What if prayer isn’t only about the words we use but about us resting in God’s presence? No words needed – only the intentional stopping of our own agenda and functional “control” of prayer itself.
In addition to prayers for protection – which are valid and valuable, here the challenge is to consider if we need protection from ourselves and from our ways of thinking/praying/living that are more habit-directed than Spirit-filled.
Here, at the most secluded of our benches, a type of lectio divina is shared., a slow, lingering, taking-in of the Word, rather than a rushed, large consumption of scripture. Instead of devouring these words like we may consume a fast food meal on the run, consider this a candle-lit, sit-down and savor kind of time with God and his Word. The use of all five senses and imaginations to allow the Holy Spirit to teach and nourish is cultivated.
Pause and consider is one way selah is defined. This definition along with a version of Romans 12 that encourages us “to consider our everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and to place it before God as an offering” comprise the invitation of intentionality in daily life. Tools are given to slow down and view daily tasks/habits through a new lens. Practical ways to pause and consider allow us to bring the sacred to the ordinary.
Restoration in all of our lives is a work in progress as we recognize, first of all, where habits, patterns, and ego-centric thinking keeps us stuck in sin and states of brokenness. Restoration requires first of all a changing of foundations. Three areas considered at this bench are people, land, and relationships. Once foundational beliefs and practices are improved, the second phase of bringing function and beauty can take place. Pausing, savoring, relinquishing, and redefining words like “protection” can be powerful in the second phase restoration. This prayer guide characterizes “what I do here”. It is work that takes time for questions, lessons, the Word of God, and listening to the Holy Spirit to all work together to create. Having the opportunity to basically write my spiritual journey was just as much a gift as a job for me. Food adventures continue! Papaya can be eaten as more of a vegetable when it is used unripe! Unripe papaya is white and crunchy. So I did what has become my default here when produce doesn’t cook the way I thought it would, I reuse it in a different form! Chopped up and thrown together with some nuts and vinaigrette resulted in a papaya salad that tasted more like a coleslaw than a fruit salad.
I’ve included a picture (above) of my “grocery shopping” from last week. Also the apple looking thing (see below) is actually a cashew! You can eat the red fruit part, but what we think of as the actually cashew must be cooked because it has the same toxin as poison ivy, and cooking it actually helps remove the shell. Oh, and if anyone has ever wondered if you can make pesto from carrot top greens instead of basil – you can…. I don’t necessarily recommend it though! I do wonder though if this is just another example of my preconceived ideas of what something should taste like (work like, look like, sound like) negatively impacting my perception or judgment of experiences. Probably another reminder of a deeper spiritual truth – don’t label things good or bad, consider if they are life-giving, or life-stealing. Last week we had a great group from Spencer, IA and Todd taught the agronomy staff and me (as an honorary agronomist) about composting and raised gardening concepts. I get to try some gardening with one of the raised beds (see below), stay tuned, red peppers, spinach, leaf lettuce, carrots, radishes, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli have all been planted. I am both hopeful and realistic that something will grow!! I am hopeful that working with the dirt and growing things becomes a regular part of my days here!
Savoring the Divine,
After returning to Haiti I was able to hit the ground running and was able to get right back to work in the key areas I am responsible to oversee. The first major thing that was on the agenda was the operational opening of MH4H’s first satellite campus in Maliarette, a community just a few miles from our main campus. We have gotten off to a fantastic start. The 35 new moms and babies and our six new Haitian staff members working there are “crushing it. “ These are the breakthrough moments that make the hard work worth it. To see the cooperation and leadership of Haitians in this process demonstrates that development is possible and is happening. Yes!!!
A couple of Haiti “firsts” for me recently. I had my first flat tire on my moto (see picture of perpetrator) and a week later, my first moto accident. While driving back from our Maliarette campus I encountered another moto, with a passenger, accelerating and coming right towards me. A game of chicken that I was not prepared to play so I laid the dirt bike down as I swerved to avoid the collision. A few scrapes and a broken mirror were my consolation prize. My opponent never stopped but a few locals helped pull the bike off my leg and helped me up. After assessing the damage to my body, and my pride, I got back on my bike and drove back to campus.
Later this month we hope to begin construction on our new primary school building on our campus. We hope to erect a structure similar to our three-classroom preschool building that will become our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, grade classrooms over the next three years. Our long-term goal is to add a grade (and hire a new Haitian teacher and helper) every year for the next nine years. Here in Haiti they often say “Si Bondye vlè” which translates to “If God wants.” We are waiting on some funding news as I write this and the result of that news will dictate the when and the what we can build.
Besides Education, Agronomy is another area that I oversee from an administrative standpoint. Next month I hope to share with you all that we do in that area. We have some really exciting projects going on and they are promoting development through teaching our local families self-sustaining skills that can benefit them for year and years to come. Stay tuned!
UNTIL NEXT MONTH…