Saturday, August 24, 2013

One Year For ElevateHer

Last year mid August, I locked myself on a seat at Starbucks and began to write my first ever business plan for a vision God had placed on my heart for years: ElevateHer International Ministries.  I remember being so scared to even dare to dream that God could use me to bring about transformation unto the lives of women.  I remember being afraid of the judgment and criticism of others but God continued to move me along. 

I wrote down everything I sensed God was communicating and doing in me through this vision. I was very doubtful that any of it would come to fruition.  I was quite sure that I, Dieula, did not have what it takes to create anything that would be worth it.  But something kept telling me to take a step.  My mantra for each day was: "take a step, one action step each day that moves you toward your vision, your calling". 

And over time fear turned to confidence and confidence turned to women's lives being touched. With the strength of God, I stepped into the Dallas prison and my eyes are forever opened to the needs of women who prostitute themselves, women in pain and suffering; I learned that God is indeed with the broken hearted.  With the help of God, I stepped into churches in women's groups and challenged them to forgive.  With the help of God I stepped onto many pulpits and reminded them that God can use unexpected people to do a mighty work for His glory. With the help of God, I did the international part of ElevateHer and traveled to Haiti and encouraged even more women, men and the youth.  With the help of God, my African (Sudanese) brothers and sisters were encouraged here locally in Dallas. 

God has not only used ElevateHer to help women find life from chaos, He has used ElevateHer to give me life, new life.  He has used it to free me from the shackles that kept me bound.  He has used it to help me remember that it is through him everything flows, there is no calling without Him and there is no  purpose outside of Him.  As much as I love my audience, I am daily reminded that my confidence is to rest on the Lord. I move on His command, and I walk into doors only He opens. 

I used to think everything needed to be perfect before taking that first step, I would obsess over website design, colors and clearly defined goals but now I know it is in the walking that God perfects the vision, no time before.  This journey has been messy, hard and financially taxing; I've had to work multiple part time jobs to make ends meet, I've even accepted full time work elsewhere as a way of staying afloat.  Some days I've even threaten to quit, then out of nowhere someone would email me and call me to speak at their event. Like I said it's a beautiful messy work of Christ.  

So I walk towards another year as I keep my eyes, ears and heart open to what God will do through this vision of elevating women.  One year down and prayerfully many more to go as God allows.

Thank you all for joining me on this journey.  Without your help, encouragement and love, women's lives would not be touched through this ministry, my life would not be touched.  So thank you friends.  

One Year For ElevateHer International Ministries! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Live Life To the Fullest

A while back something happened to me. I suspect it was during my sleep or some kind of period of unconsciousness. It wasn't a huge earth chattering event but subtle.  I can't explain when it actually happened, I just remembered its affects.  It was like a presence that BREATHED NEW LIFE INTO ME. 

And instantly I was different, I had to be different, I couldn't stay the same. Instantly I started standing a little taller. I started trusting my journey and my instincts.  I started BELIEVING IN DREAMS again and boy did I have some dreams.  I started believing that I CAN. I started believing that like everyone else God has created, I had a CALLING, a PURPOSE, a REASON TO BE.  I started pursuing goals UNAFRAID OF FAILURE, but with the full intent of just walking to see the other side. 

I started not taking the CRITICISM of others too seriously.  I started not making decisions based on the OPINIONS of other people. I started approaching life with JOY at the thought of POSSIBILITIES and ENDLESS HOPE. And in that process, I started ATTRACTING OTHERS to do the same. Because that thing that happened to me, that VOICE that WHISPERED to me, that presence that BREATHED life into me wasn't just for my own well being but for the GOOD OF HUMANITY. 

Hell has tried to stop me. The DARKNESS has tried to overtake me. DESPAIR has tried to leave me
empty. DISAPPOINTMENTS have attempted to slow me down... 

...but alas that voice, that PRESENCE, that being has continued to STRENGTHEN me, breathe into me and whisper to me "KEEP ON WALKING, don't stop, I have you at the palm of MY hands...LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST".  So I walk...with the full intent of living every bit of my life to the fullest; NOT HOLDING ANYTHING BACK.  

Why don't you join me?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Haiti: God's always up to Something

Every international trip I've taken I always try to get a sense of what God is looking to address in my life prior to leaving, however on this trip I was clueless.  In fact, I walked into this most recent trip to Haiti more like an expert rather than a student.  I already knew the issues in Haiti, I've already heard the stories, I've already seen the look of desperation, I've already met the mothers who have had to make unimaginable sacrifices to feed their children, I've already seen men wasting away, unable to find meaningful work.  I honestly did not think I could see or feel anything new for Haiti.  I guess I was undergoing missionary fatigue, where your heart stops responding to the very things that would drive your passions. I am so glad God did not leave my numb heart untouched. He invaded my heart once again. 
Our task for the week was to conduct a sport’s camp for a group of some 250 students.  It was a vision my husband had a year ago after seeing the needs of the children in Haiti last year.  His desire was for each teenager to leave the camp with a shoe and a soccer ball.  And that’s exactly what we did. Not only did they leave camp with a shoe and ball, they also received a shirt, bag and medals; all were gifts given by generous donors.  

I absolutely loved watching the girls doing their best engaging in sports, something you don't see too often in Haiti.  They were cute and timid but oh so competitive.  

There is always room for nail polish, whether you're in the US or Haiti; nail polish is always a win. 

They loved showing off their new nails. 

From sun up to sun down, the below field was preoccupied with intense football matches. This view always takes my breath away. 

Our team spent many mornings and evenings eating, sharing and laughing on this balcony.

We joined the students at their play; every night was an evening chapel service where the students sang so beautifully, danced and prayed.  The last evening we were together was the talent show; my husband and our friend Brian's talent was push-ups: who can do the most push-ups? The children loved it. I was a bit embarrassed that my husband found yet another opportunity to take off his shirt.  

God invaded our worlds once again in unexpected ways by teaching us he can take average people and change their hearts for the things that matter the most to Him. These students were in desperate need of love both in tangible ways and for us to model it.  Every morning I would be greeted by: Sister Dieula, you are beautiful and I love you.  Some would say it in creole and many did their best to say it English.  They were responding to what I shared with them on the first day of chapel: you are beautiful and I love you. 

The look on their faces when they walked into the chapel to select their shoes, balls, shirts, bags and medals were priceless. 

On the last day of camp a group of girls and boys came up to share their appreciation for us and what we have given them.  The funny thing is: we gained more from them than we could've possibly given them.  The girls even shared a song to honor us.  

The boys shared words of blessings to us and our families as we traveled back home.

 Pastor Salnave, a dynamic leader with great love, admiration and passion for the youth.  He inspired our team to lead with passion.

In the heated Haiti sun, we would join inside of this corrugated roofed chapel to what seemed like hours, praising and worship; possibly the best worship I have ever heard in my entire life. 

And with every trip, there's always one that tugs on my heart and have me rushing to the throne of Christ for answers.  The youth were so bright, full of passion and energy; many of them were working on their third language but the question that kept sending me to Jesus was: after these students were done with their secondary schooling (for those who can afford to make it that far), what would become of them? The reality is in countries like Haiti, by the time these students are done with their secondary schooling, it is close to impossible for them to continue on. I was on my knees a lot, asking God for more laborers to lend a hand to these students and provide opportunities for them to flourish. 

My proudest experience on the field was how this team worked together.  The US team loved, respected and honored the Haiti team.  The Haiti team felt their sincere love; they shared with us that this was the first team to treat them with such dignity.  The team exemplified the definition of true partnership really well. 

I pray to the Lord that our efforts were not in vain.  I pray our family will become lifetime partners with what's taking place around the world.  I pray that they/we may bend to the Lord's will for our lives before we bend to the will of others and ours.  The Previlons, had another successful mission's trip.  3 down, many more to go...