Monday, December 5, 2011

The Perfect Christmas Gift

As Christmas is rapidly approaching, many of us are on a quest for the perfect Christmas gift. For Christians, gift giving is symbolic, modeled after the most perfect gift we were given by God; his one and only baby, Christ, whose mission was to save and breathe new life to humanity from death and entrapment by the evil one. Imagine a life warped with addictions, depressions, death and defeat after defeat with no hope of a better tomorrow. Well God saw it necessary to give a gift that would bring joy, hope and love, that if one so choose they may find eternal hope and peace. It was a sacrificial gift no money could ever buy, a gift that met our most pressing need.

So our gift giving, in a sense, is to try to be "little gods" to each other and give a sacrificial gift that offer hope as our Father's did. Sorry to my fellow evangelicals if my term "little gods" make you cringe but I'm using this term in the same way we all do when we sing "I want to be like God" on Sunday mornings. How many fathers don't want their children to follow their examples?

So, in search of the perfect gift, might I give some suggestions? Make a list of all the gifts you can give with no monetary tag. Next, make a list of those you would normally offer a Christmas gift to and identify their most pressing non-monetary need. It's harder to give sacrificially isn't it? Do you feel like you've duped in believing that Christmas was mostly about giving monetary gifts. We buy gifts for people we don’t like and are at war with, instead of making peace with them; the parents who have hurt us deeply, the estranged sister or brother, the fallen out between friends etc. etc. Monetary gifts cannot simply mend those broken relationships; it requires the sacrificial giving of something you cannot buy. We get our children gifts that pull them farther away from us when what they deeply need are parents who can be fully present (no pun intended). We get our wives flawless diamonds, when they're desperately trying to tell you they're dying inside and need you to love them and understand them. We get our husbands things we think they need when there is a weak man inside, slowly dying and desperately needing a wife who cares more about him than the list of how he can improve and make life better for her. We get friends the most perfect and thoughtful gifts when their deep desire is to be known and understood without judgment. We get our parents beautiful robes to keep them warm, when what they truly need is the warmth of our touch, to visit them and spend time with them.

Now I'm not against monetary gifts; hey, I have my eyes on a beautiful fossil bag (the one with suede flowers and leather), I have a thing for hand bags. My point is: let not monetary gifts replace gifts that give life, let not monetary gifts be used to appease deeper needs. On this Christmas, let us do as our Father and give gifts that offer hope, gifts that offer reconciliation and gifts that offer Shalom. And let our sacrificial gifts point to the greatest gift giver of all, our Father God!! Merry Christmas and Shalom to all!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I am FOR LIFE!!!

So about the title of this blog…One of the things I absolutely abhor is politics. I despise how they make simple things very complicated to the point of feeling like you side with a party out of loyalty and commitment rather than true belief and conviction in the rightness, fairness and reasonableness of their policies. This past week as I anticipated my oldest son’s 13th birthday, I started thinking about LIFE. The life of a human being. Especially the miraculous life of my oldest son and how he came to be and that’s when this thought washed over me; clearer than any thought I’ve ever had in my entire life: I AM FOR LIFE! Notice I did not say I am Pro-life, a political statement fueled with hurt, pain, shame, regret, condemnation, blame and un-forgiveness instead I am FOR LIFE. Yeah you can say it’s a matter of semantics but I say it’s a renaming that I pray will percolate into a reclaiming of LIFE.

Your next question might be: what exactly is your reasoning for this renaming and reclaiming LIFE. Maybe a small piece of my story might help. Fourteen years ago, I was on my last semester of college, ready and excited to be the first college graduate of my family when I found myself pregnant. Word to the wise: it is bad news to be Haitian, unmarried, not finished with college and pregnant. My first thought and “action plan” was to get rid of it before anyone finding out as I once did before. I could not bear looking my emigrated parents in the eyes to tell them their plan to give us a better life in the US had failed. So I started walking the path of ending the life that was daily growing inside. I set up the appointment at the health center, pretty sure that this was the way to go. But something happened and I can’t really tell you what it was but it was over a conversation I had with a friend whom I was hoping would side with my decision instead she talked me off the cliff. She said something like: “Dieula, look at my life if I can have a baby as a teenager then surely you can have a child at 21” (Side Note: a couple years ago this friend passed away with colon cancer, her daughter started college this fall. RIP V). I think part of what I needed was someone to give me hope that I could have this child, that I was FOR LIFE.

So this week I celebrate the gift of LIFE of my oldest son. I celebrate and rejoice with the angels over his life that was preserved. I rejoice over seeing his smile, his energy, him in football gear, his very LIFE which was reclaimed. I rejoice because I cannot picture my life without him. I rejoice because his life has made me FOR LIFE.

I said earlier that I couldn’t really tell you what happened when I made the decision FOR LIFE but I know exactly what happened: God happened!

God I thank you for the preservation of LIFE. I thank you for the gift of LIFE. I thank you for being the God of second chance. I pray for hope and healing for women all over the world who have to walk this journey alone and without hope. And I pray for all of the little souls to rest in peace in your care. In Jesus name! Amen!

Happy Birthday Reynel!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Help: Inspiration or Repulsion

Many of us have read the book and seen the movie "the help"! If you're anything like me, you probably walked away feeling inspired and repulsed simultaneously. “How could people be so ignorant and evil?” you might have said to yourself. And if you’re truly anything like me, your thinking doesn’t only stop there; you would take it step further and wonder “Is any of that ignorance or evil in me?” Or better yet “what are we doing in our generation that would make our children’s children repulsed?”

Really think deeply through this question before you answer “Nothing!” What injustice in our generation are we perpetuating? Start in your neighborhood and expand it globally.

Let’s start at home with the guys that cut our grass and the women that clean our homes, would you live in the same neighborhood with them? Would you send your children in the same schools? I know, we don’t know those immigrants and we did hear in the news of this “one” immigrant that committed a crime and for some reason that “one” has automatically put our children in danger. They have no jobs, no morals, and no values for sacred things. I’m just asking questions.

How about that beautiful house you had in the south side and all of the sudden “those” people moved in and what did you and your family do? Again, the question is: What are we doing in our generation that our children’s children will be repulsed by?

How about globally? It is estimated that at least one out of every three women in the world has been raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise violently abused in her lifetime. No this is not a statistic from 1965, this is from 2011. After drug dealing, human trafficking (both sex and forced labor trafficking) is the second largest criminal industry today, a $32 billion enterprise. In other words there are more slaves today then there were in the 15th century. What is going on in our generation that our children’s children would find repulsive and we did absolutely nothing about?

I can go on and on about the things in our society that have gone on under our noses without us saying a peep. The genocide in Rawanda, where a million people died in just 100 days. How about the genocide in Darfur killing hundreds of thousands? How could we live in a world of abundance and in the same world for people to be dying of hunger? Does the current famine in the Horn of Africa ring a bell?

And to bring it back home, what about our views against our President Obama? Is it really about his policies or is there more to it that would cause us to quote Psalms 109:8 against him “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership”. His policies are so horrible that you would wish death on his life? Have we forgotten the part of the Bible that says, “…he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted…”.

What are we doing in this generation that would cause our children’s children to ask “where were you? What did you do to speak against that?”

Before we damn Miss Hilly to hell, we need to realize that we all have a little Miss Hilly in us. Whether we actively participate or we stand to the sideline and do nothing. Martin Luther King once said: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people”. And I ask again what are we doing in our generation that would cause our children to be ashamed of us?

God, have mercy on us! Have mercy on us for we are sinful men and women who struggle to love like you though we profess to want to be just like you. Forgive us for we sometimes actively participate in doing evil things. Forgive us for we sometimes hear of evil and see evil and because of our apathy we do absolutely nothing. Oh God, search our hearts and reveal those dark places that I’ve kept hidden even from me, only your light can drive out that kind of darkness. And God let us leave a legacy for our children’s children; one that challenge them to live beyond the status quo. In Jesus name I pray for our generation.

Monday, August 29, 2011

When Helping Hurts

Have you ever tried to help someone and in the end the help that you tried to offer not only hurt them but you in the process? Well that’s the premise of this book I recently read, "When Helping Hurts". However the main subjects are the materially poor and Us, the haves.

The book forces one to ask the question: How can I serve the materially poor without further exacerbating their struggles?

It is a must read if you’re in the least bit interested in figuring out how to alleviate poverty and want, like the pageant contestants’ most infamous answer, “world peace”. The book starts off by asking a simple yet profound question: “why did Jesus come to earth?” The authors answer the question by saying “Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom and to show the good news of the Kingdom!” This question and answer was a great set up that would be weaved throughout the entire book as we are called to do as Christ and preach the message of healing and restoration but to not only stop with the words but also in deeds, just as Christ did! You can't have one without the other!

The second part of the book redefines poverty. The authors say: "Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings." In other words, poverty is rooted in broken relationships with God, self, others and creation. Here's the added kick, if poverty is rooted in brokenness then "who are the poor?" the book asks. The answer is simple: we all are!

Here's the main point of the book: we must all embrace our mutual brokenness or poverty and Repent of our own brokenness. "One of the biggest problems in many poverty-alleviation efforts is that their design and implementation exacerbates the poverty of being of the economically rich-their god complexes and the poverty of being of the economically poor-their feelings of inferiority and shame". Our work amongst the materially poor often communicates we are superior and they are inferior. We must realize that we are not God ready to save a dying world but we are conduits that God has chosen to use to bless each other. The more involved I become in Mission's work, the more I come to realize outside of God there is no restoration for the materially poor.

The book then led us to what our focus ought to be when fighting poverty; it says Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation, where we are moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others and with the rest of creation. Moreover, material poverty Alleviation is working to reconcile the four foundational relationships (God, self, others and creation) so that people can fulfill their callings of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of that work! Yes!!! When we are able to use our God given skills and talents, it brings glory to God.
The book does a great job looking at the issues with humanitarian efforts from the global and local point of views. It not only looked at the problems but also proposed some answers and examples. One of the challenges you will have when you read the book is that answers will not be sufficient and you will be frustrated trying to apply a one size fits all method for the magnitude of the issue of helping the materially poor.

The main take away for me is learning to breathe dignity into every soul that we come in contact with as we’re trying to help them. The most common thread in everyone who finds themselves materially poor is shame. They carry a tremendous amount of shame and worthlessness. As we are looking to help feed the poor and provide clean water to drink, let’s start by giving them the most precious gift of all DIGNITY and a sense of WORTHINESS. These souls are not helpless, filthy, inept or unaware; they are souls in need of someone seeing them beyond the shell and to pour life back into them.

Finally, a book about the materially poor that speaks the language of moving people from being dependent on foreign aid to dependence on God and their God given skills, talents and assets. It has put into words a number of uncomfortable issues that I’ve been grappling with for a number of years. It has confirmed many strategies I’ve believed were bad practices when working with the materially poor, some of which I have committed. Now this book has given me language to continue to fight for the dignity and empowerment of the materially poor.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's My Birthday and I RULE!!!!

I know the title might force you to make a couple of assumptions. Maybe you're thinking “uh oh this is one of those blogs where this woman is using positive self talk to make herself feel good about her messed up life”. Or perhaps you may also be thinking “she drank too many cups of the pride cool-aid”. Well it’s neither one of those assumptions. But it is my birthday and I want to reflect on my being.
I want to draw your attention on a bible verse that I've found fascinating, Genesis 1:26 "Then God said “Let us make mankind in our image in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground". My fascination over this verse is partly because I don't fully understand it but I also find it captivating over its potential meaning for my life.

My misunderstanding comes from the fact that God is spirit and I'm a physical being and I can't fathom what of God is in me that makes me his image bearer or like him. Simple.

Now let's move on to the intriguing excitement over this phrase: of all of the things that God has created, humans were the only ones he said was created in His image, His likeness. He looked at the tree, nope not so much...he looked at water, unh unh...He looked at the dinosaurs, absolutely not!

But when he came to me, yes me and you too, he stopped and said I will make them like Me. So let's dream a little; what exactly about me is like God? Do I laugh like God? Do I cry like God? Do I create like God? Do I speak like God? Do I love like him? Do I walk and run like him? Do I think like him? Am I free to roam the earth like he?

I really don’t know but the verse above alludes to how we are like God. I, like God, was made to RULE!!!!! What an honor to possess the ability to rule like God, like my Father. I don’t know about you but on this birthday of mine, it makes a girl pretty darn proud to know that I was commissioned by God before the world began to RULE! This isn’t a theory I came up with to make myself feel good but this is something that God has given me permission to do; to stand beside him and RULE. Chew on this for a minute!

I know you may have a many questions about this Rule-ship thing and I do too; the imperfection of man, the irresponsible rulers etc. But those questions don’t negate our standing position to RULE like God.

So on this birthday, I reflect on my being and the honor it is to RULE! I don’t think we were only called to rule over plants and animals but alongside God over our lives, over our circumstances, over our attitudes, over how well we love, over our response to life’s tragedies and even over our destinies. It’s my birthday and I’m proud to shout “I RULE”!!!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The prayers of Haiti Children

If I were to look into your life of prayer, what would be the gist of your prayers? Think about it…when you pray, what do you most frequently ask about?

During this past trip to Haiti, one of the many lessons we taught the children was that God listened to them. The group leading this activity suggested for the children to write down their prayer requests on sticky notes and our team would pray for every last one of them.

Upon returning home, I translated these requests and was immediately struck by a number of things. For one thing, these children understood the lesson and took the activity very seriously. Their prayer requests were not of trivial things, well most of them. We did have a couple silly boys asking God for a cute young girl they saw in camp.

However, the majority of them had serious needs they wanted God to act on. Their prayers fittingly reflected their living conditions. An overwhelming number of them asked God for intelligence to finish school. “God I ask you for strength, courage, health and intelligence to learn in school”.

The other group of requests were about their performance in school. There seem to be a stigma with staying back in school, many of them asked: “God help me to never repeat a grade…”. I wondered why the stigma exists but I think there may be a number of things at play. The first issue is: the majority of the schools in Haiti are private. Many parents have a very difficult time making school payments and they want to make sure their children make the best of their education and that means you cannot afford to repeat a grade. The other issue is: students in Haiti find their self worth and confidence through education. In school they can prove themselves to be worthy. And lastly, education is seen as a way to get out of poverty. Many of the students would say in their prayer requests: God help me get an education to be a doctor or engineer to help my family and my country.

The last big need on these children’s prayer requests were for health. Again this request makes complete sense; these children see sickness and death everyday of their lives. The life expectancy in Haiti is 61 compared to the US 78. There is an overwhelming need for proper medical care, doctors and hospitals to care for the needs that exist in Haiti. And the children’s prayer requests reflect that.
I was shocked to learn so much about the condition these children are currently living in through their prayer requests.

Most gracious God I pray you specifically for these groups of children in Haiti who made their prayers known to us and most importantly to you. God I pray for their well being; spiritually, physically and emotionally. I pray for their education that you may provide for them, not only for them to be smart and get out of poverty but that everything they learn may point them to you. I pray to you for their health and the health of their loved ones. Would you please provide healing where it’s needed? We know that you can do all things and all things are possible through you. In Jesus name I pray for your precious children. Amen!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Not Diamonds or Gold But an Education!

If you've been keeping up with my Haiti journey for the past 2 years or so, you've probably already picked up on my heart and passion for my beloved people. Through my eyes you have probably seen the children I've met and the women and men that continue to inspire me daily. This past journey was no different.

On every trip, I become acquainted with a number of new faces; men, women and children and I always take one with me. Not literally of course but the face, eyes and smile or sadness of one always stand out. And again this trip was no different.

He told me his name was Ary J. I was instantly drawn to him because he had the same name as my best friend's twin brother, who was right next to me when we met. We both looked at each other in disbelief realizing the coincidence that first and last name would be the same outside of the spelling. Ary was not a part of our activities for the week of camp but he showed up to the camp with a buddy of his. Ary began to tell us a little bit about his story, he's one of four children and out of the four his parents were only able to send two of them to school. He was very articulate, he shared with us snippets of all the courses he has taken over the years; French literature, Haitian literature, chemistry, biology etc...I was in awe by how smart this young man was. Ary is 20 years old and he's in the process of completing his comprehensive exams for what is considered the end of senior year in high school. In Haiti, these exams are a big deal, they pretty much determine your future. Much like the SATs but more intense especially for a country with limited opportunities like Haiti.

Towards the end of our conversation, there was sadness and frustration in Ary's voice. The sadness and frustration came from the reality that that’s where the road stopped for him. No really, this is where the road stops for him.

In Haiti without the sufficient financial resources, the highest level of education one can aspire to is 6 grade and if you’re truly lucky a high school degree. A university degree is out of the question for most. Ary was telling me a university degree in Haiti cost approximately $3,000 USD a year.

The other emotion I heard in Ary's voice was desperation. There was an urgency in his voice to tell his story hoping that someone would take him seriously and do something to meet his needs. As he talked to several of us in our group, he did not ask about food, clothes or money for his pockets but help to continue his education. He was not a hustler like his friend John who had a craft to make necklaces and bracelets and sell them. He was very new to this new lifestyle of having nothing to hope for. He was a novice at making life work in the midst of extreme poverty. I tried to exhort Ary by telling him to hold on and pray and I'm often good at inspiring people to hold on and lift their eyes to God but my message to Ary was not penetrating. His need for an education was too dire.

He came back to the camp two other times. When he realized that his dream of receiving help from these American saviors was not attainable, the stonewall look of hopelessness seemed to have covered him immediately. As he spoke still pleading his case, his hands shook and voice quivered. I’ve only seen this look only a handful of times and it breaks my heart every time. That was the look of true poverty; there was no fight for dignity left.

I tell you Ary’s story for two reasons: one is to try to alleviate my own guilt. Guilt for not being able to do something. And guilt for being afraid to do something wondering if that’s the best strategy to help this young man or if he was a fraud. Either way I did not help.

The other reason I tell you this story is in the hopes that you will become more aware of the millions of Ary’s out there and you will be inspired to join the mission and do something!

All week long we had been grappling with the question “what does God expect of us?” We were sitting with that question as if we didn’t know what God was calling us to: to loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free…to share our food with the hungry, to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe them… Isaiah 58:6-7
Well Friends, our Mission is Clear!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Learning to Breathe in Haiti

After every trip, I usually find myself overwhelmed by a number of things; the experience, the stark difference between how we live in America and how they live and the daunting falling back into the rhythm of normal life when nothing feels normal. There’s usually this part of you that longs to hold on to the experience no matter how difficult it was. Worse yet, you feel this pressure of having to report of how your trip was in five minutes or less when words can’t even describe the depth of the experience. This is my attempt at sharing with you some of what we experienced.

We served a group of children in a camp called Camp de la Grace in Pignon Haiti, these children came from a neighboring town. We paid for their feeding and their lodging for the week of camp. We taught them that God loves them so much that He is WILD and CRAZY about them. We taught them these lessons through games, arts and crafts, times of reflection, snacks and bible stories. For these groups of children, I suspect this was a message they desperately needed to hear. Especially when the highest level of education is maybe 6th grade and if they’re lucky high school. When poverty is something they are quite familiar with. When all of what they own can fit into one small backpack. When many of them have never had their pictures taken. When death is something they see every day. And in the midst of all of that to hear a message that God is WILD and CRAZY about you, how does one respond? These children went wild and crazy! They sang the songs we taught them from sun up to sun down. They laughed, played and danced.

I know what many of you are thinking, if God is WILD and CRAZY about these children why doesn’t He do something to get them out of these deplorable conditions?

I have also asked this question of God and the more I ask it, the more I sense God telling me not only are we a part of the problem, we are also a part of the solution.

Here’s a quote about the income of churchgoers alone, if you’re not a churchgoer multiply these numbers by three because the world consist of only 30% Christians: “The total income of American churchgoers is $5.2 trillion. (That’s more than $5,000 billion.) It would take just a little over 1 percent of the income of American Christians to lift the poorest 1 billion people out of extreme poverty. Said another way, American Christians, who make up about 5 percent of the church worldwide, control about half of global Christian wealth; a lack of money is not our problem”. (The Hole in our Gospel, p. 216 Rich Stearns)

I was convicted by that as well; a lack of money is not our problem! If money is not our problem then what is it?

I really don’t know but I suspect it has something to do with: selfishness, lack of compassion, envy, greed, laziness, fight for control, wanting to be the best, the richest, discontentment and not wanting to see ourselves as equals. The truth is every time I go on these trips, these things seem to surface to the top because I’m always struggling with how impractical it is to do more and I feel my grip on my things get a little tighter. I sometimes feel like the 2-year old screaming “mine, mine, mine!”

I am even more convinced now than before that part of the solution lies when we are able to say: “yours, yours, yours!” and surrender it ALL! I know it scares me too!
When we are able to do this only then will we be able to have impact on those we serve. Only then will we be able to see them as equals and breathe dignity and messages of worthiness into their souls. We won’t measure our work by how much we did for them but the time we spent laughing, dancing, playing with them and working alongside them as brothers and sisters. We will no longer look at them as these poor defenseless people in desperate need of American saviors but we will look at all of our own levels of brokenness and we will repent. You will no longer look at them as unclean, filthy and without hope but as brothers and sisters in the human race.

A short term mission trip’s success cannot be measured by how many homes one builds or how many bowls of food you served or the numbers of medical patients you saw but only when you see those you serve as an equal and you breathe dignity into the lives you serve.

This week’s message for me was dignity and worthiness. Are these people worth your treasures; time and money? Are they worth interacting with your children? Are they worth the effort to fight alongside them?

You can learn a lot by observing children. This week I observed how my children interacted with the children in the camp. They played alongside them. It was a reciprocal relationship. Our children taught them arts and crafts, dodge ball and they even lent a hand in serving meals and in return the children in camp taught them techniques in soccer and helped sharpen their kreol skills. They were running around camp together as if they’d know each other for ages, they became friends! There was something healing and human about watching that interaction throughout the week. This is the kind of interaction that’s needed to end poverty and to fight for justice. You must first see those you serve as worthy, you must be willing to breathe dignity into their souls and only then are you ready to join the fight.

Bob Pierce said "Don't fail to do something just because you can't do everything." How about we start with sharpening our breathing techniques!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Haiti Day 2: Where are God's Image bearers?

Day 2: Reflections!

Entered Haiti once again under dark and gloomy skies, kind of strange but the skies seems to mirror what I felt and sensed my Haitian people also felt: we’re tired! Why hasn’t change come already? Where are my people? Where is the world to help make our dreams come true? Where is humanity to help me use my God given talents? Where is humanity to help my children receive an education? Where are my brothers and sisters to help me find dignity? Where are the ones God said were born of his image? Can I look in your eyes and see God? Can I look in your eyes and see me? My potential? My depth? My worth?

My people, my brothers, my sisters, humanity, God’s image bearers, will you join us in the fight for our freedom! Freedom to be all God intended for us! That’s what it means to bare the image of God, to join the fight for one another, for our hearts to break like God’s over the injustices done to another human being, to keep our eyes open and take interest over the degradation of another. That’s what it means to bare the image of God.

Haiti Day 1: Lost Bags-No problem

For everyone keeping up with our trip, you should know by now we were not able to find our children's bag carrying the twins entire wardrobe for the week. At first the thought to panic came to mind; I'm a mom! Naturally I'm thinking "what will they wear for the week?" You do realize that there's no Walmart anywhere in Haiti. I can't just run to the store and replace their clothes as I would if I were back home.

The first plan failed: My optimistic plan of going to a clothing store once we get off the plane. I wasn't anticipating traffic and not being able to sit down for dinner until 8pm.

Our second plan: go through the bag of clothes you brought for your family, let's see how many of our children's "worn out" clothes we can score. Yes we "stole" from our own family. I know you don't see it as stealing but that's exactly what we did.

Here's God's plan: Open your eyes! I want you and your children to see and experience what my children in Haiti go through everyday. Ouch!! Heart Break!! Repent!! If you were one of these families and your children simply had the clothes on their backs, what would you do?

I knew what I was getting into when I decided to take our children to Haiti but I didn't think the lessons would begin so soon.

I don't know if I'll be able to blog again for the rest of the week but It's going to be an Amazing, God moving week!

See you all back home!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Haiti, Limitless God, My Insignificance

Ok, I must admit, when God placed on my heart to take our entire family to Haiti for the very first time, I wasn't fully convinced it would happen. I had two concerns; the first one was: how would we pay for this trip? It's kind of funny how God works; he tells you to do something but rarely showing you the how. By now you all should know that I'm a Christian and Christians read the Bible (Duh) and in the bible God makes some pretty bold promises. One of the most prominent promises is found in Matthew when Jesus says don't worry about what you will eat or drink because if I can take care of birds how much more will I take care of you as my children? That’s bold but we rarely believe this to be true.

Well in these past few months of planning to enter Haiti with the entire family, I saw the hands of the God of limitless resources provide for our family and our team. He used the hands of our family and friends to meet our needs. When we would try talking ourselves out of going, these gifts encouraged us to keep going. From our first gift by our Puerto Rican friends to the most exotic gift, a marimba sold in support of the trip; our children's school principal and friends whom we knew were financially struggling were all givers. We received big gifts and small ones; all of which were blessings to remind me that God is a God of limitless resources. Psalms 50:10 Says “For every beast in the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills”. Whenever I read this verse I secretly wish I was a cattle herder to fully understand this analogy of God’s character, power and limitlessness but I’m learning through different experiences like this one that this verse means everything in heaven and earth is his and we should not worry.

The other apprehension I always have about going is: what good is it going to do to bring a team for a week when the problems in Haiti are so big and so many? I mean really, you go for a week and do a VBS (vacation bible school-church language) for some 400 students and come back home to our well manicured homes and they go back to living in deplorable conditions? I can't tell you how often I've had this conversation with Jesus and the more I have it, the more I seem drawn to going back. Whenever discouragement of this sort overwhelms me the famous words of Mahatma Ghandi always puts things in perspective: "whatever you do will be insignificant but it's important that you do it".

Yup in 50 years, what I do in this world will be forgotten…But when I look at the state of Haiti, I can't get stuck in philosophical debates. When I look at children going hungry, I have no time to wonder whether one week's worth of help is significant enough. When I look at women being abused and dying emotional and spiritual deaths, there's no time to ask what good is it? When I look at men who were created to work and feed their family with no meaningful work losing their joy for living, there is no time to sit in board rooms looking for best strategies. What we will do in Haiti may be of little significance but it is imperative that we do it! I may not change the world but I pray my presence alone may bring hope. I pray that another Haitian girl can look at me as a Haitian woman and dream of better tomorrows.

When I look at people who have had great influence and significance in this world, they never did think about the great significance they were making. In fact when you look at their "production" numbers, they're not very impressive; they simply saw a need and allowed God to use their talents to meet them, one person at a time. Many know of the famous Harriet Tubman but did you know her mission to free slaves was over a 10 year span, taking around 20 trips freeing only about 300 slaves. That's only 15 slaves per year! You mean out of millions she only freed 300? But she was known as "Moses"!

So we're going to Haiti to contribute our insignificant efforts. We're going to sing, dance and play. Hopefully we'll laugh a lot and cry a lot! While we look at their poverty may we look at our own poverty and grieve not just for their living conditions but for us as well.

Keep us in your prayers! Send Blessings our way! I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Muslim School in our Neighborhood

Before I start this blog, I want to put a disclaimer out there. I love Jesus with all my heart and soul; I believe the bible to be the inerrant words of God even the parts I don’t fully understand.

Now that we all know where I stand, let’s talk for a minute. A few years ago a new charter school came into our neighborhood, charter schools are the new trends for many communities. It’s another option from public school especially for parents who are dissatisfied with the level of education their children are receiving from public schools. Charter schools are publicly funded and many are of private school quality. Their emphasis is on academic. This particular charter school has an emphasis on Math and science.

A couple of years ago when my oldest was ready for middle school, I did some research and was contemplating sending him to that very charter school. The application was done, he was accepted, I met the principal, fees were paid but he begged us to go to the school his friends were going to. As a parent who chose my battles carefully, I decided to send him to the public middle school. Two years later, my son who never cared about what he was learning in school came up to me and said “I want to go to the charter now”, “why?” “I’m not learning enough…” This is the moment moms pray about, the day their children can take ownership and responsibility to discern the good, the bad and the ugly…ok I’m getting ahead of myself he’s only 12.

Don’t worry I’m getting to the title of the blog. During my initial meeting with the principal, I noticed he was Middle Eastern. We shared a few pleasant words in conversation, when he found out I was from Haiti, he showed a genuine concern and asked about my family. He asked a few questions about my child's interest in the school and so on. The meeting went as well as expected for a parent/administrative meeting. We never got into his religion or mine.

That's why I was surprised when I heard of several parents' objection to the school, "the principal's Muslim"! The most recent critique I heard was on Sunday when a parent said the entire school was a Muslim school. If I’m not mistaken all of the critique came from well intended Christian parents. It's funny but I have never heard a parent threaten to not send their children to a school run by liars, thieves or adulterers. One of the parents even said "morally I don't know what they'll be teaching my children!" I wonder if its morals we're really concerned about. Just to be clear on something, these critics are coming from white and black Christian parents alike. I wonder if the Muslims living amongst us are as concern about sending their children to schools where they know the predominant culture is Christian. I think they are but they seem to do a pretty good job teaching their children about their religion. When I taught in NJ, some of my Muslim students would often share with me about observing Ramadan and all that it entails.

I'm sorry if my questions offend you or stir up anger in you but I'm a Haitian woman. When I moved to NJ from Haiti in 1987, we were spat on, mocked, ridiculed, my sister was suspended from school, I was beat up on; my mother would have to come out with a baseball bat to protect us. So my perspective is more of grace for this Muslim principal. We haven’t even taken the time to know his name, whether he’s married or if he has any children; we know nothing about him but we do know he’s a Muslim. Isn’t it odd that we would know that piece of information about him and not his arrest record or if he’s on the child sexual offender’s list?

I think Jesus was aware that we would be living amongst those of different cultures and religions. He knew that our children would come in contact with them, after all he told us to go and be witnesses (Acts 1:8). How are we supposed to be witnesses if we create communities where there are no interactions? No opportunities for this principal to meet Christian parents?
C.S. Lewis says “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else”. That’s also my affirmation. I believe that Christ was and is truly divine not just a prophet; I’m willing to put everything on that belief. I think several other Christians would say the same. If as Christians we believe that to be true, shouldn’t we be trying to engage instead of disengaging?

Where do we begin? How about a good slice of American Christian apple pie?! I'm serious! Don't run from these children of God! Be kind and strike a conversation over apple pie. Try to discern whether they want peace or war, I’ve found that most want to live in peace like the rest of us. They don’t want to convert our children; they simply want their children and our children to play together on the playground. By the way, many of them are as afraid of us as we are of them.

As far as our children, what are doing to teach them to enter the world? Are we exposing them to the message of Christ? To love God with all their hearts, mind and soul; and to love others as themselves? When our children learn to truly love, and learn that Christ was the God/Man and we are to live, love and serve like he did, they will then be ready to engage those of different cultures and religions. I know in this blog I'm omitting the "how". How to love? Should we or should we not send our children to a school where the principal or a teacher's of a different background or religion? Those questions are for you to discuss with Jesus in your own time of prayer. And as for prayer, let’s teach our children to pray for the lost and how to love.

I don’t have answers, I’m still in process but let’s not run. Let’s stop and love the Muslim or the “others” in our neighborhoods.

Send me your thoughts, concerns or questions!