Sunday, August 12, 2012

reaching the village

     Is the summer really almost over? It has gone by so fast.  Looking back at week 1 of VBS, honestly I remember thinking it was going to be a long summer, but that isn’t the case at all! VBS has been so much fun and I look forward to the final two weeks (equally 8 weeks total).

     It’s so amazing to work for “an organization following Jesus Christ, [who] exist[s] to bring life transformation to every man, woman and child in Haiti” (Mission of Hope’s vision).  The first four weeks of VBS was very focused on reaching the “every child” part of the vision.  We averaged 800 different kids each week between the 2 different campuses.  And with our 60 Haitian volunteers, the first four weeks went extremely smooth! I have had the great honor to work with our Children’s Church workers to help coordinate the VBS and they have run away with it and taken ownership…I feel like a proud momma!  One of MOH’s core resolutions is “Indigenous Mobilization”, simply meaning…Haitians leading Haitians.  It is exciting to see the 60+ Haitian young people so passionate about leading the next generation, whether it is by telling the Bible Story, playing soccer with them, helping them make friendship bracelets or serving the kids lunch.  

     After the first four weeks of reaching the kids in our immediate area, we had a staff meeting to brainstorm on how to reach further, how to reach their village, friends and family.  We came up with a really exciting idea.  Each Thursday after VBS at both MOH campuses, we would take the VBS to the village where the kids live.  And this past Thursday was so amazing to see.  At the main, Titanyen campus, we bused kids from Minotre and Simonette.  With most of the kids coming from Minotre, that is where we went on Thursday afternoon.  Earlier in the week we met with a local pastor in Minotre to see if we could use his church as the location to invite the kids and their parents.  He was very receptive and willing to help in any way.  So Thursday after lunch, we (the North American teams, interns and VBS workers) loaded up and went to Minotre.  All week the teams had developed relationships with specific kids and on Thursday they had the opportunity to walk through their village and see where they live.  As teams walked through, we invited anyone and everyone to meet us at the designated church by 2pm.   

     The time arrived for the service to start…and if you weren’t familiar with Haitian culture, you might have been a lil disappointed with the low numbers in attendance.  But by the time the program was in full swing…the church was completely full!  (And when I say “church” we are talking about ply-wood walls and a tin roof; the original building was too damaged by the earthquake to be considered safe.)  Throughout the afternoon, Jean Marc led the kids in singing, games and of course some dance contests! But my favorite part of the program was when he would call kids up and ask them questions from any one of the 4 Bible Stories of last week.  Along with the questions…the kids were able to quote scripture from each of the stories!  How amazing is that?!? These kids were quoting scriptures to their parents, friends and community!

     We ended the program by inviting the Pastor of the church up to share a few words to the families from his village.  We thanked him for opening up his church and allowing Mission of Hope the opportunity to partner with him in ministering to the beautiful kids from Minotre.  We invited anyone without a church home to visit his church.  I believe this shows a lot about who Mission of Hope is…that its not about growing our church…but growing God’s Church!  If we are going to see Life Transformation all over this nation…we know it will take the efforts of God’s Church…all believers coming together for a common purpose – to see God move!

     After reading this blog, please take a moment to pray for VBS, the children of Haiti and for Mission of Hope!

Peace, Love and VBS! 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Kids Church - Leveque Edition

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of going to Leveque with about 15 Children’s Church leaders and 15 Village of Hope kids.  We spent all Friday afternoon going house-to-house passing out flyers to inform parents about the launch of Children’s Church in Leveque.  
We wanted the parents to know in advance before we just showed up with our crazy games and loud music.  Plus it was a way of inviting all the kids…and there are a lot of kids in Leveque, beautiful kids. 

The following Monday we pulled up to the pavilion with a canter full of Mission of Hope children workers.  I was only along for the ride and to take pictures.  It was beautiful to see so many kids already in the pavilion, waiting for church to start!  That first Monday we just planned to sing, dance and play with the kids.  
It was a time to get to know the kids and more important…for the kids to know us.  We held multiple dance contests…to the music of Israel Houghton, sang fun, action-filled songs and spent the last 30 minutes just playing with the kids.  We had soccer balls and jump ropes and it looked as if everyone was having a blast.  To be honest, I don’t know who was having more fun…the kids or the helpers!  
As our first time together was coming to a close, we circled up all the boys in a giant circle and the girls in their own circle.  We counted the kids as we passed out Jolly Ranchers and we had 141 kids!  (And I am still amazed and thankful that we had enough candy…with only 1 piece remaining!)  Throughout the afternoon I received the same question multiple times from the parents of Leveque…”when are the white people coming?”  And when I would explain that they weren’t, they seemed confused.  I told them that Monday Kid’s Church is 100% run by the helpers/volunteers from Mission of Hope Church.  And once they grasped the concept that Mondays were all about Haitian Christian leaders wanting to spend time with their kids…they smiled real big and just said, “wow”.

Last Monday we went back for our second Monday Kids Church.  This time we had more of a service planned for the kids.  We still played a couple games and of course sang those action-filled songs, but we ended with a Bible Story.  For the month of April, at our Kids Church on Sunday mornings, we have been talking about having Hope because Jesus is alive!  So we shared the same lesson on Monday at Leveque and the kids were so well behaved and listened intently.  
After the lesson, we split the kids up into small groups to ask questions about the lesson they just heard and passed out Salvation Bracelets.  Because of all our wonderful teams at MOH who donated the Salvation Bracelets, we had enough to share with the adults too! 

I now look forward to every Monday afternoon and the chance to just love on so many of God’s beautiful children!  And it will be very bittersweet when the day arrives that I no longer go out on Mondays.  I will miss it, but it’s exciting to see our Haitian team stepping up and taking ownership of Children’s Church…both in Leveque and here at Mission of Hope.  I am blessed to work with an amazing group of young people who love the Lord and genuinely love the children of Haiti.  Life transformation is truly happening among the next generation, right before my eyes! 

Monday, March 19, 2012

marriage conference

At the beginning of this month, Mission of Hope hosted Watermark Church from Dallas, TX.  Watermark has become a Partner of Hope with Church of Hope.  Before departing for Haiti, they spent many months preparing and praying for their trip.  They came with the agenda of teaching and leading a Marriage Conference.  During their time of preparation, they emailed a few of the married staff at Church of Hope to see which topics would be most applicable.   As it turns out, married couples in Haiti struggle with the same things married couples struggle with in the United States.  Many of the attendees could relate with stories and testimonies of the teachers and couples from Watermark. 
 As a newlywed, I was looking forward to attending the conference with Ruben, my husband of only 10½ months.  As we are learning to live life together and be involved in ministry together, we know we have a lot to learn.  The team members from Watermark were all so genuine; it was a blessing to sit under their teaching during the conference.  Over the two days, there were many laughs, tears and times of discussion. 
The amazing team members from Watermark!
 It is so wonderful to see how God is partnering and bringing together the American Church and the Haitian Church.  And it is such blessing to a part of an organization that is ministering to the whole person.  Mission of Hope does an amazing job at being a place where people of all colors and cultures can come together to worship, pray, teach and learn about the one true God. 
Watermark came prepared with printed material (in both English and Creole)!  Its a great resource for people to take home and continue to grow in their marriage AND their walk with Christ! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Church of Hope - Leveque!

This past Sunday was the launch of our church in Leveque.  It is exciting to have a church for both the current residents and the new deaf community to worship together.  It was a beautiful sight to see, however, when we arrived at the pavilion last Sunday morning…there was nothing inside.  I was a little concerned but remembered how “Haiti Time” works.  My mom and dad were with us and my mom asked, “Where will everyone sit?”   Within a few minutes we saw men carrying wooden benches our direction.   Before we knew it, there was enough seating for everyone.  As people started to enter the “church” you could hear many greet each other with a “Bonjou” and at the same time see others greeting with the sign for “good morning” (I learned sign language in Elementary School…many, many years ago…and I love how a few simple words are coming back!).  I was able to introduce myself to a few people and even learned how to sign “Madam Ruben”. 
Pastor Patrice brought his guitar and began singing worship songs.  Right by his side was a Creole to American Sign Language interpreter, Franklin.  I looked over and the whole front row was following along, signing the words, and praising God in their own way.  I didn’t want to stare, but it was incredibly beautiful.  I started thinking about how God hears our heart…not just the words that come from our mouth.  Anyone can sing the words and recite a prayer, but if we don’t mean it with our heart…it means nothing.  In the book of Matthew, Jesus was asked what the most important commandment is and He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”  It doesn’t say we must love the Lord by singing the best, preaching the loudest, or praying the longest…it says to love with all your heart

After praise and worship, Pastor Patrice shared a great word from God.  Again, right by his side, Franklin was interpreting it to ASL.  

It is such an honor, and I feel so blessed to be apart of what God is doing in Haiti!  

Peace, Love and Sign Language!

Friday, February 3, 2012

a land of starfish

I was talking with some group members today about blogging and when I told them my title...the sooner state and starfish...they asked why I chose it.  The "sooner state" was easy...Im from Oklahoma - the Sooner State.  And for the "starfish", many may assume I chose that because I am living in the Caribbean, surrounded by ocean...and starfish.  Well...that is one side of it.  The other reason is because of a little story I heard once in high school (many years ago) and have loved ever since.

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.  Approaching the boy, he asked "What are you doing?"  The kid replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean."  In amazement, the man said "don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?  You can't make a difference!"  After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the man, he said "I made a difference for that one." 

Back in 2007-2009, I told each of the teams I hosted this story to encourage them.  Many would see all the poverty and be overwhelmed.  Sometimes it is easier for us to sit back and do nothing because we are only 1 person and can't make a huge impact.  Well...this is why I love this remind us 1 person can make a difference.  Even if we only save one "starfish"...its a difference for that one.  

I truly believe Haiti is a land of starfish...both literally and figuratively.  Even with so many lost and broken lives...we can still make a, and through, the grace of God.  But at the same time, even in land-locked Oklahoma (or wherever you are), there are "starfish" that need saving.  

I feel so blessed to work for an organization that believes in changing 1 life at time.  The vision here at Mission of Hope is "to bring life transformation to every man, woman, and child in Haiti."  

Peace, love and starfish.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

a fascinating life

I always thought people who blogged must have extremely fascinating lives.  And I never thought of myself as someone who had very much to say...if you know me, you know I am not a big talker.  So then I started to think about what I have to offer to the blog world...I don't have any amazing/profound advise, nor do I know any arts and craft secrets to share.  And I don't have a kid to blog about all the funny things they say and do.  But then I realized...I do probably have the best job in the world! I get to work with some of the most amazing and beautiful children.  The children here in Haiti have a very captivating spirit, you can’t help but fall in love.  (And even while I am typing this...I have 3 very energetic and charismatic boys in my apartment...Stevenson, Christopher, & Iverson.  They are entertaining my husband, Ruben, and Pearl...our 80lb labordoodle.)  

Ruben and I recently moved back to Haiti to continue to work at Mission of Hope.  And one of my "jobs" (if you can even call it a job) is to help with the children’s ministry here at the Church of Hope.  My other responsibility is to help coordinate the marketing efforts.  (Thank you mom and dad for that marketing degree!)  There is always so much happening around here that we want everyone who is investing in Mission of Hope to know about it. 

So with that, I realizedI, too, live a fascinating life.  I live a blessed life and I want to share it with you.  With this blog I plan to share my experience as a newly married girl from Oklahoma living in Haitia land of starfish. 

Peace, love and labordoodles.