Word on the Street

Heard a rumor that because we haven’t built a school / orphanage / visible thing to the community that we are “doing”, that people (locally) are saying we don’t do anything for the community, that we don’t help.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this…and it could easily not be the last.

That statement may feel like a shock to the system if you don’t live here. You may be thinking of the adventure and beauty of international mission, thinking, “people really walk up and say this to your face?” (to which I would respond…yes). Compounded with the “not enough” feeling that already happens pretty often in the attempts to make an impact in the midst of a culture that doesn’t always understand. It’s also easy to get logical and want to have a discussion (see: argument to prove self) – “What about the well anyone passes EVERY TIME they are near us? What about the clinic that people have been asking for, the team coming next week that will serve them like they do every year?”.

But we will not quit because we are misunderstood.

We will not judge our success on what people are saying or the very real emotions that reel as we want to feel appreciated or successful.

We aren’t done yet – and we aren’t going to be frustrated with you, community, because you have not yet caught the vision of what “done” would even mean.

I will not throw in the towel as I consider my calendar, the growing list of what I wish was being done better, and the report that my financial partnership isn’t at the level I need for 2017. These casual comments will not be the “straw on the camel’s back”.

Instead, Isaiah has become one step away from a permanent installment on my desk. I leave it’s promises open, knowing I that the next time I sit down I just may be feeling defeated before I even start my tasks at hand. I know it’s not natural for me to go seeking when I feel I have no strength – so the chapters are waiting there for me instead. Basically anything past chapter 40 is sitting there – today the idea of bold promises as opposed to chaos and tiptoes stuck out.

For the Lord is God,

and he created the heavens and the earth and put everything in it’s place

He made the world to be lived in,

not to be an empty place of chaos

“I am the Lord”, he says, “and there is no other.

I publicly proclaim bold promises

I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner

I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found

I, the Lord, speak only what is true

and declare only what is right”

Isaiah 45:18-19

Are they saying things about you, too?

Cause we are the body of Christ, and this isn’t a Stephanie thing, or a Haiti thing.

WE, together, are being made new. We are being given over for the sake of others and obedience is never in vain. Life is being planted, it is sprouting, it is being harvested. We are comforted, we comfort others. We are pressed, we are not crushed. We are empowered and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are purposed. You specifically are shaped and placed in that spot exactly.

We will not back down.

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Five Years

My passport was sitting out after a recent trip to the bank (where I need my passport as an ID) and for some reason I went flipping through the stamps that customs agents have pressed into the pages, marking entering and leaving as I hop between countries. And there it was – “2012”.

2012?! That was so long ago!

2012, this week exactly in 2012, I was on an Experience Trip in Haiti as Grace Pickerington came down. A new attendee at the church and so unsure about applying that I emailed the pastor asking if it was even allowed to. Someone that got to experience the first steps into Canaan as ORLA and Breathe – called CPR-3 back then – having no idea that these would be memories of many “first steps” I’d get to be a part of. Seeing the first gathering of the church with a woman full of songs and joy that I now know is also full of patience, wisdom, and a heart to do life with others (Pastor Samedy’s wife, Venise). Now the church is celebrating five years. I ate at Yolti’s local restaurant, rice & beans & red sauce with chicken – with no idea that rice would become a comfort food and I would repeat this meal much more than just six days in a row.

Now I sit and realize – that was five years ago.

While I haven’t been in Haiti that whole five years, it would be nuts to sit with that recent college graduate. Literally one week after walking out of Ohio State’s graduation I walking into the Port-au-Prince airport. I had no intention and no idea what five years would teach me and where five years would take me.

Some of the things I’ve learned…

As I ran full speed ahead with the “high” of lots of yeses, obedience – I was never told that there are lows (even in obedience). I have learned so much on the realization – like Peter’s as He denied the same Christ He swore up and down He’d die for – that this isn’t what I thought I signed up for.

This isn’t what I thought I signed up for. There are things I wish I knew and things I know no one could have explained. There are lows that I never considered – there are also ways of truly living that I never could imagine. I signed up with a yes – I had no idea of the good that God was inviting me to.

I was unaware of how deep racism cuts. Not cut, cuts. It is still so active as a force of darkness while we work for redemption. 

True justice is redemption – this concept that goes much deeper than coffee for good and much wider than Genesis 3 to Revelation 20. Our job is not conscious buying and good deeds but being a part of the world back to how our Creator intended.

True justice is actually painstakingly difficult, it’s a long haul deal, and it’s messy. I have literally told God, “I don’t want to do this anymore – I believe in the concept, I’m tired of attempting to live it out.”

God’s grace is ridiculous and His patience the same. He doesn’t take me out when I ask for it and deserve it. He teaches instead – or simply comforts instead.

I’ve learned more and more of a gospel that is separate from our American worldview. (The election hit and I was like “Y’all…this isn’t new news or surprising.” There’s a few of us that have been seeing these things cause God graciously brings us to spaces to teach us.)

How deep my refusal to accept God’s “like” of me was (and still is on many days)

The deep hurts inflicted. The deep healing poured out. Both by people.

Love starts way past landing. Yes – we love and we pour out and we give and we partner and we hug and we teach and we work hard. But then the feelings fade. And the kids fight over something petty. And the neighbors make fun of me. And the gospel turned out to be something some people are peddling for gain. And after that – am I still going to show up? The Bible told me this is when our love STARTS showing up.

I learned I’m a bitter person at times and a reluctant learner many times. Guess who is still reluctant to keep showing up on the point I JUST said, among other points?

A beach day does not change that God is God, and that He is doing mighty things. My afternoon spent getting an iced coffee in Port-au-Prince is being way too overthought. My electricity at night to keep a fan going is not something that I need to feel shamed for. My personal work of putting chains of guilt on in place of rest and care for myself is not helping anyone and it is not biblical. It’s a fight to take those chains off – but they’ve gotta come off.

This world is one big identity crisis…only complicated more by travel. Am I posting on social media for you? Is my blog something that should have a certain audience? Am I “helping without hurting” just right? I’m not doing it like her, or with half the fashion sense as her…what can make me better? Whose expectations am I supposed to fill – my neighbors, my supporters, my organizations, or my perfectionist ideal? Who has the right view of mission and how do I align? How do I apply this article in my life, right now – alongside of three other opinions I heard this week? What is home, anyway?

Jesus is peace. He is peace for my overthinking mind. He delights in me as I condemn myself with things He never asked me to. He is the purpose in my minefield of questions. He is the treasure of my obedience. God of the Old Testament uses my isolation and deep emotions to reveal Himself and only be sweeter over time. His justice reigns and His promises intertwine through every book. There are words I need today that are in books I’ve never even opened before. The Holy Spirit has been present through every. single. step. He is friend, counselor, teacher, and was not absent in the moments, weeks, and months when I insisted I was alone in this. He is everything. He is everything and nothing less, and my faith is weak and brittle but it has the hope to cry out to a Jesus that responded to the father that cried, “I do believe, please help my unbelief!”. The God that stitched Peter together and then aligned Him with Jesus’ path, knowing very well the journey ahead for Him – that is my God. The Holy Spirit that Jesus insisted was better to be with us than Christ Himself sitting in this room with me – that is my ever-present reality.

In five years, I have loved where I’m at and I’ve hated it. I’ve shamed myself, I’ve blamed others. I have taught in front of students and teams and I have hid from the world – either physically or behind shallow answers. I have loved others and fallen in love with the design of community and I have learned that I am capable of fierce anger that I never knew before. I have been sure of my place and I have been tossed like the waves. I’ve had ridiculous views of mountains with Caribbean trees and I’ve gotten the most refreshing jump into a clear blue waterfall – one that I still don’t have a life experience to top. I’ve been ugly with pride and I’ve felt trapped in a cage of apathy and grey, with no vision at all in any ability for myself. I’ve soaked up His word like a sponge and I’ve let my prayer life collect dust. I’ve seen miracles and I’ve wondered if I totally heard God wrong, or if I’m being punished.

And in five years – these are not the lessons. These are not the takeaways, the “Ten Things I’ve Learned As A Missionary In Five Years”.

He is.

Always and Forever, He is.

Direction

I have no idea how to use this blog, what stories to share anymore.

I assume that many people expect and desire pictures of Haiti, stories of adventure and spiritual depth and other worlds. I wrestle with my lack of stories as well as wrestle with the definition of privacy and dignity when there is a story to share.

There are thoughts all the time I wish the world could hear and see – but then there’s not being sure how to share, or it not “fitting” the blog.

I’m learning a LOT in this season and I think we should be talking about it – stress, grieving, self-care, burn out, unrealistic expectations as the severe stresses of life on mission are just part of the job and therefore not dealt with. Should I take the time to write on that?

There’s scripture that I just want to post.

Then there’s just simple things that make me want to shout “Y’ALL. WHO CARES ABOUT A GOOD BLOG, LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS” – things like…I’m updating prayers for job opportunity for a sweet friend. A single mom who wants to provide for her kids. A neighbor with the best sense of humor and a fun heart that is one of my favorite to sit and share life with. A woman who has been wanting a job for the entire three years I’ve known her. There’s just no opportunity.

Wait.

That’s what I need to post on right now.

Three.

Years.

No opportunity for a skilled, able, and willing young woman in her mid-20’s.

There are no jobs. It’s like the Lion King when Simba’s mom is talking to Scar – there IS nothing in the land. It’s not an issue of not finding it.

Guys….we are all exhausted by a hurting world and a constant barrage of images, videos, and stories on our newsfeed that we can do seemingly nothing about.

But this. This reality. I’m not sure what to post, but I know that as long as I keep meeting and doing life with people..today, I will post this.

Change

We’ve GOTTA celebrate something together!
 
Background:
 
I have both a dream, and a little bit of a soapbox I have tried not to step up on, about students supporting missions (or SOMETHING outside of themselves in the world). I’ve almost written a blog a couple times, and then I back off.
 
We (I say we cause I was there) say, “broke!”, #thestruggle, and talk on inching cars along with gas on E.
 
**I am not talking to those actually fighting and working hard to get by, who pay bills and support family or others. I am talking on those with time and money management that keep Taco Bell wrappers filling the car and fashion changes based on the season.
 
Y’all have SO MUCH MONEY. SO MUCH. YES, it can get stretched thin and there are so many things it CAN be used on. Yes, gas adds up quick and food and needs for school and life add up to. But any pair of shoes that you do not NEED (like, you need it for a purpose and not a fashion choice), any form of entertainment (from monthly subscriptions to a new gadget), and the amount of times a week you eat away from home tell the story without a bank account being seen.
 
There is so much potential for personal, generational, and world change if people would step up and make decisions that reflect generosity and money that is not ‘yours’ starting NOW, not before ‘an adult job’.
 
So to my point:
 
I want to CELEBRATE the world changers who are unseen, no one knows what they are doing. 
Because of my role as Compassion Corp Director, I get an insider’s peek as people fundraise, fail, get up again, get encouraged, get discouraged and doubtful, put themselves out there, debate where they could go for help. And then sometimes I hear the stories that turned their doubt around, or encouraged them, or straight had them dancing around the living room.
A student who is fundraising recently had a conversation with me where I suggested what I was just talking about – I said they should try asking  peers. Which sounds crazy. Students don’t have money, or they will say they won’t. Adults and people with jobs and $35 fancy lunches out can’t do $25 a month….a student? That’s the best suggestion you’ve got, director? (Plus – awkward to ask friends).
That afternoon, I got a text about three new financial partners for this Compassion Corp student.
I talked with this student, so encouraged and hopeful about this being doable, and heard more behind stories of complete opposite reactions to what was expected. Generosity, excitement, and encouragement from peers. After school jobs as a source of world change. Instead of shame or awkward conversations, there is an environment of mission, chasing Jesus, and “yes” in the unseen and mundane.
Because these partners will not be known or look for recognition, I’ve gotta say it. I’ve gotta celebrate it. The counter-cultural lief choices, the decisions to honor God that NO ONE will see or know (except for the Compassion Corp student it affects and an accounting firm that doesn’t know the giver), the mundane, the unseen.
This will and already is transforming spaces, y’all.
I have dreamed and written and prayed on the potential if a generation would live like this. I could talk all morning on it with you. But you’ve given before, some time in your life. You’ve said an unseen yes before, some time in your life. I know that you already know what I mean when I say that students – high schoolers, college students – taking opportunities NOW and not separating it from themselves “for the future”, “once I’m an adult”….will change the world.
If you are one of those people – I AM CELEBRATING YOU. Just as much as a Compassion Corp student stepping out in a yes, I am celebrating YOU. I believe in YOU. I am here, I am persevering and creating and dreaming of how to equip and unleash young leaders – because of YOU.
Mundane, unseen yeses and acts of obedience and generosity will revolutionize and change this world quicker than you can say “I bought a pair of TOMS last week”.
Keep being the difference, students. This is me, cheering you on for what no one knows that you are doing.

Mw Pa Kabap Anko

Last night I watched and listened as someone stopped believing in the potential to change Haiti.

I watched a young man who has spent the entire past year, on top of a lifetime here, fighting to love others and react differently and plant vision and push through difficulty….I heard a tone in his voice as it cracked and broke and the sound of hopelessness.

Being done.

Being finished.

Changing dreams and vision, “I always said that everyone wanted to leave Haiti but I would stay. That I could visit other places but I’d always come back here because there is work to be done. I can’t. I can always visit, but I can’t stay here.”

In the middle of pain, hurt, the reality of day to day, the way that corrupt systems trap people in the middle of a rock and a hard place, he kept talking. Saying things I have never heard from him. It all came out at once.

“Haiti resembles a place to put your cattle and goats. It’s not for people.”

This is not said lightly. This is not said after the first hardship. This is not a rambling talk to a group of people. This was one person, in a moment of hurt and weakness and exhaustion, being done. He literally said, “I’ve been trying to have strength, and I know God gives it, but I am done. I don’t have strength anymore. I can’t find strength anymore.”

I say this because we must hear this.

We cannot imagine.

Our presence, our encouragement, our prayer matters.

Deep, deep truths and pushing to CHRIST matters. Christ – and a deep theology that includes suffering – is a MUST. It is not an option and stopping at efforts to love and give without this leaves people at the end of themselves.

These emotions will come to everyone. Betrayal and corruption and jealousy and even just the strain of poverty are so real.

We MUST come alongside.

This is why your presence matters.

This is why disciple making matters.

This is why staying in hard places matters.

This is why experience trips and connections in partnership matter. Our American worldview cannot comprehend the hurt and hardship. I’m not talking food and water and heat – I’m talking people and systems and communities and family. Both the beauty and heartbeat of it all and the very thing that can eat and destroy your courage and wring you out when it is filled with darkness and not light.

Syrian disciples and the less than 2% of disciples in Turkey may comprehend this worldview. Inner city pastors wrung out in the middle of relationships with addicts and broken family cycles may comprehend it. I could start listing but the point is so many of us, including myself, need to hear the worldview of our brothers and sisters.

I have been here about three years and am just STARTING to comprehend it (and let me tell you…just starting to comprehend is heavy. I cannot imagine a lifetime).

There is a hope and Jesus is SO real and active and God will not leave or forsake and there is an active plan and purpose even in this. I do not want to post this and leave everyone feeling hopeless.

I don’t want to post this and say it’s the end for my friend – that he won’t be infused with strength yet again by the Holy Spirit.

As he says “Mw pa kapab anko”, my heart shatters for how he feels now and my soul clings to Jesus and says, “Please do your work”. (Mw pa kapab anko – I cannot anymore)

I KNOW that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot distinguish it.

But as we talk redeeming spaces…oh, friends. Oh, community. I want to be real and open you to this glimpse.

This is why we beg for your prayers, thank you with no words sufficient for you doing life with us, and why it must be Jesus. There is no other.

This is not the end of the story. The end of the story is in Revelation 22, “No longer will there be a curse on anything…”

But it is a part of the story. And I want to share it as 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the body of Christ… “This makes for harmony among the members, so that the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.”

 

Rabbit Trails.

I am the queen of rabbit trails. It’s the way my brain works, stemming off from one topic to another and thinking about expanded perspective and every side of the prism being seen. I am either very quiet and avoiding small talk, or I am a never ending flow of words if we’re talking about something I care about. No middle ground some days.

So it’s fitting that I’m often caught and brought into a truth on the way to another thing I am looking into.

Tonight I’m on the way to encouragement and depth as I am discouraged and my heart and mind need refreshed cause we’re on this side of the new earth and heaven. People are hard to do life with, and I am hard to do life with when I get inside my head too much. People hurt people sometimes, especially hurting people. People misunderstand, especially when you’re trying to aim at Jesus – the ultimate example of being misunderstood (His own BFFs and life on life community…..SO often on a different page).

Here’s the point:

I’m flipping there,

and I pass the book of Jonah,

and once again I am reminded that He is furiously chasing after lost people and will do what it takes to extend OCEANS of grace and mercy. And I am a part of that story. And we will keep going.

Cause it’s about the Ninevites.

And He clearly says that they are worth it.