(Sorry for the delay in posting. Due to a country-wide blackout, the Girl’s Home, which is where the Internet router is, unfortunately had no power and therefore no Internet. The generator at the Grace International Children’s Hospital (where I am staying) fortunately is still working, but we are conserving the electricity just in case of an emergency. Now I want to buy the Girl’s Home a generator…
Anyways, as you’re reading this, I’m at the airport waiting to board the plane back to the States!)
Everything folded together beautifully today.
Last night, before we went to bed, several of us decided to pre-empt the darkness we experienced previously by worshipping with some of the young men working at Grace International until the sun had slipped away and our eyes were literally dropping shut. We prayed, we heard more stories, and we slept long and peacefully.
This morning, I said my temporary good-byes to Amy, Tim, and Sharon, as they headed off to Gonaives to visit Beyond All Boundaries, while Ms. Tracey and I stayed behind to work at the Lord’s Kitchen.
As we peeled garlic, stuffed peppers, and sorted through beans, we shared what was on our hearts and re-hashed what we felt and saw during this trip. We were completely blown away by the almost unreal stories that we heard since Wednesday, and shook our heads in awe of the power and might of God our Father. Here are some of the stories we heard:
Chris had been walking home from school when the 2010 earthquake hit. A benefactor of Grace International’s Boy’s Home and schooling system, Chris had been raised as a believer in Christ and educated at a great school. He didn’t realize it, but that day, God spared his life. For some strange reason, he felt the need to leave school early that day and head on home before classes had ended. As he was on his way, walking down the middle of the road, the earthquake hit hard. He had never experienced an earthquake before, and was terrified at what was happening. Buildings around him literally crumbled into rubble before his eyes, and people were crushed and killed right in front of him. All he could think about in that one moment was “Jesus…please save me and my family!” And the quake was over. With destruction and devastation literally surrounding him, he had been spared without injury. The school he had been in just minutes before had collapsed, and his teachers and classmates had been crushed. It took him an entire day to walk home, but his family, who God had also spared, rejoiced and praised God to see him alive and well, when they had feared the worst. Ever since that day, Chris has never worried or allowed fear in his life. He lives with a passion and security knowing that God had been the one who spared his life, and that very same God did so for a reason. Therefore, Chris, who desires to become a preacher and run his own orphanage and school one day, does not worry about how or when this will all come to being, but works hard day-by-day knowing that our God works miracles, provides for his needs, and will ultimately fulfill his dreams.
Madame Jeune’s story sounds like something straight out of a novel or drama. She was born to a young black girl that worked as a cook at a girls’ orphanage and a married white European doctor that had been volunteering at the very same orphanage. When the doctor found out that the young girl was pregnant with his child, he tried using pills and a coat hanger to abort the baby, but ultimately, both attempts failed. God had bigger plans, the baby was still coming, and there was nothing that the doctor could do about it. Despite the laws at the time concerning unwed mothers and mixed blood children, when the baby was born, the orphanage’s headmistress compassionately allowed Madame’s mother to stay and work as a cook…on one condition: The headmistress would adopt Madame Jeune as her own daughter, and the cook would not be allowed to show even a hint that she was her real mother. Madame recalls her days living at the orphanage as frustrating, harboring an immense dislike for the cook who was inexplicably mean to her at every turn. What she had been unaware of was the fact that her real mother was doing this to harden her daughter’s heart and keep them emotionally distant for Madame’s sake. And because of her mother’s sacrifice, Madame grew up with an education, Christ, food and a home. Unlike other girls her age, she never had to even consider selling her body for money, nor would her convictions allow her to. Finally, on the day of her wedding, Madame’s mother finally revealed her true identity, and the two were joyfully reunited in love. Michael, Madame’s son, laughs as he ends the story. “If you saw my mother and grandmother standing next to each other, you can see that they look identical! I have no idea how she (Madame Jeune) didn’t realize it sooner!” God obviously had a plan for Madame and knew that she would be one half of an amazing partnership that would affect hundreds of thousands of lives. Abortion, laws, and circumstance couldn’t outdo what God was doing in her life and now her legacy stands as testament to this.
Edward is an older gentleman that stopped by Grace International’s campus twice to show us his arts and crafts and sell them to support his ministry. Under Michael’s advice, we asked Edward to share us his testimony and life story, and he happily obliged with the English he picked up on his own. When he was a young man, Edward had been blessed with a wife and two children. But one day, during a hurricane, both his wife and children perished and he was left as the lone survivor. Instead of raging against God, Edward picked himself up and realized that God had spared his life for a reason, and was given a mission and desire to start a ministry of sharing Christ to others. On his first day of ministering to his Haitian brothers and sisters, 5 people came to know Christ. On his second day, 15 people. On the third day, 25. On the fourth, 50. God kept sending him people that ultimately were moved to give their lives to Christ and turn away from their old ways and practices. Today, Edward tells us with a huge smile on his face that he is re-married and blessed with 6 children. All of whom have joined him in his cause to minister to his fellow Haitians, and support him through the creation of the hand-made crafts that he was selling at Grace International’s campus. (Needless to say, our team bought a bunch of things.)
Every Christmas, Madame Jeune organizes a huge Christmas event for thousands of children in Haiti (from both inside and out of Grace International’s campus) to give them donated toys, a hot meal, and a Christmas pageant that teaches them the story of Christ’s birth. The year of the earthquake was a particularly difficult year. The number of donated toys that came in was very limited, and Michael saw that the 2,500 donated shoeboxes from Samaritans’ Purse were not going to be enough for the 5,000 children that showed up. Madame was adamant about giving the toys out nonetheless and told her son to start handing the shoeboxes out. After arguing back and forth over the logistics of passing out 2,500 toys to 5,000 kids that had the potential to riot, fight, and go nuts, Mom’s voice reigned supreme, and Michael obediently instructed the volunteers to continue handing out the boxes one-by-one. They saw in their inventory that they only had a couple hundred boxes left to hand out to almost 2,000 more kids. But they continued handing them out one-by-one, and before they knew it, every child in that room left the event with a shoebox. The numbers didn’t make any sense at all. There was such a huge disparity between the number of boxes and children that it didn’t make sense for there to be additional leftover shoeboxes to be given to the volunteer’s children. And there were 15 of those extra boxes. Michael could only shake his head in awe at the miracle he witnessed.
(There are even more stories, but these were the ones that resonated with me the most. If you want to hear more, let me know, because I’d love to share them and pass them along!)
Before Ms. Tracey left, I talked to her about something that lay very heavily upon my heart. On the first day of our trip, when Michael gave us the tour of the campus, he told us about an issue that was occurring Haiti-wide due to the lack of food: girls under the age of 12 were selling their bodies to men for a single plate of food. Not even money…just food. And men were taking these children up on those offers (which infuriates me). Ever since I heard that, every little kid’s cry in the night made me wonder if something abominable was happening to him or her, and I couldn’t rest easy with that thought in my head. More than ever, the need to fund Grace International’s feeding program is evident. Not only is it sustaining the lives of these kids and their families, but it’s also keeping them from having to do irreversible, terrible things in order to get a little bit of food. By feeding the children every day, we are taking away the desperation that causes little girls to think that they have to take such drastic measures to survive.
Ms. Tracey left for the States soon after, and I stayed back alone to work at the Lord’s Kitchen. I was given a 20-pound bag of beans to sort through. Yesterday, it took hours for 3 of us to get through one bag, and on my own, I was hardly making a dent. For the type-A personality in me, I was incredibly frustrated that this 20-pound sack of legumes was besting me.
As my mind raced and my little hands attempted to work as quickly and efficiently as possible, I heard God laugh at me. I pouted internally.
“I wish You could grow me another pair of hands, Lord.” I muttered immaturely, scooping beans into my lap.
God shook His head and gently said, “You’re asking for the wrong thing, my love.”
I sighed, looking at the huge remainder of beans that were left. “I know…I know you’re trying to tell me that I can’t do this alone.”
He smiled. “My silly daughter, you are always trying to do even the smallest things in your own power. Even now, I know you’re calculating how long it will take you to complete this task on your own, when this task was never meant to be done alone. Why do you have a hard time trusting that I have others out there that are willing and waiting for the opportunity to help you?”
I continued sorting and muttered, “Something tells me that You’re not talking about the beans anymore.”
He spoke again, graciously ignoring my back-sassing. “If your life ended tonight, would there be anyone out there to pick up the baton where you left off and run with it in your stead? Or would this entire endeavor die with you? And since when were you ever doing things on your own? The prayer warriors that are covering you at home, the hundreds of donors that contributed your call to action, the job you have that supports you flying out of the country for missions…I am the One that provided all of these things, and yet you’re still trying to think things through with your own power. Now ask me again, love.”
I stopped working and laughed quietly. I realized that during the past several months that I spent raising funds and supplies, I never once prayed to God for a team of people to run this race with. I gave it another shot. “Lord, you know that I am grateful and joyful at this opportunity to serve the people of Haiti and work alongside with Grace International. But at the end of the day, You and I both know that I am just one person. Lord, I ask that You send me an army of people with a heart for the orphans. People who are just as passionate, if not more passionate about feeding these children…people who want to partner with this mission and add their two hands to this project…people that can, in turn, raise their own armies and make a real difference.”
God smiled. “Do you believe that I can provide this?”
I smiled. “Yes.”
“Trust and know that I Am. And be ready for whatever comes.”
After lunch, Alex (a young man working at Grace International that I had met in 2010) and one of the older ladies working at the Lord’s Kitchen helped me tear through the bag of beans that triggered a wonderful conversation where I was able to ask my Father for something that He knew I needed.
Another 400+ children were fed today, and treated with candy that had been donated and brought by our team. At the end, a small mob of men had attempted to storm the gates to demand food long after it had run out. They were quickly ushered out by Grace International’s security guards and local volunteers. It was quite an eventful way to end the program, but I was impressed to see how well-equipped Grace International was with both their security and volunteers, who respectfully but strictly kept the compound in order.
The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent talking with more people (including the new group coordinator Grant, a young man who moved from Oregon to Grace International for 3 months when he heard God calling him to Haiti) and typing out their stories. After listening to the testimonies I heard, witnessing the things that I saw, and all in all having the time afterwards to be still and quiet in the presence of God, many of the worries and troubles I had battled with in the States seemed so miniscule and petty. Not because the problems were petty or miniscule, but because I had held onto them instead of completely trusting those problems to God. But seeing how God worked literal miracles in the lives of my friends, and seeing them walk in faith humbled me and encouraged me to do the same. I worship the same God that spared Chris’ life. I worship the same God that brought Madame Jeune to where she is now despite the efforts of man’s every attempt to prevent even her birth. I worship the same God that multiplied those boxes on Christmas in abundance. I worship the same God that gave Edward back his life in excess, with a new mission and purpose. And I worship the same God that was willing to talk to me while I sorted through beans for my own benefit. That same God will continue to care for my life and use it as He sees fits. And I trust that He will continue to speak to me and to the partners and people He wants me to join hands with.
I’ll be flying home tomorrow and will be back around midnight. Thank you all for your prayers, donations, and covering. I am so excited to come home and share these stories in person, and am looking forward to the next time I get to come back to Grace International!
PS: I couldn’t find Clemen. As she was a girl living in the tent community around the Boy’s Home (a 5-10 minute drive from the Grace International campus), no one at Grace International knew who she was or where she lived. I will continue to pray for her and will cling onto the hope that I will find her one day.