The Next Step. Will You Take It With Me?

I can remember the night as clearly as the sky was, stars all over as the moon shone over us while we met on the roof of the guest house of the Sant Mouvman. Besides our property and a few odd homes with generators across Bercy, there was no electricity from EDH (Electricite d’ Haiti) and it created a beautiful dark night as a result. Our CPR-3 staff was meeting and just talking about highs and lows, experiences and relationships. It was here that I announced what I am writing to tell all of you today.

March 5th marks a full year since I first landed in Haiti to serve with CPR-3. CPR-3 & I have decided that this is not the end, and through lots of prayer to guide me I have committed to serving for five more years in Haiti with CPR-3. I’ll be a career partner, our word for missionary, and I’ll raise all support to live and serve here until Westhalineda is old enough to be in second grade and Simon is in his twenties (finally reaching the age he already thinks that he is).

In five years, Biyence (Beyonce) will almost be a TEENAGER! Oh, no. I can't even think about it.

In five years, Biyence (Beyonce) will almost be a TEENAGER! Oh, no. I can’t even think about it.

I could write a post about deciding to live in a country where I can only understand a percentage of the language, or about what I’ll be ‘doing’. I could process what all of this means today, or I could attempt to be inspirational.

But instead, I very intentionally want to share with you a story that I shared that night. At the time, that story wasn’t a part of me saying yes. They weren’t connected, it was just a story as we talked about relationships and re-entry after going home for a wedding in August. But it has everything to do with being here.

You all know the name Nadine. She’s been a pretty heavy part of the stories that I have chosen to share with you. She was the topic of the night for me as we talked about transformation over the past few months, and then I was asked for more of her back story. I’m going to basically catch you up to speed & throw you in mid-conversation. We talked about my first conversation with her, how she was so clearly on my heart and attached to me after that (despite the fact that this wasn’t something “new” or some story that was unique or had a reason to have SUCH an impact on my heart). I then explained what I found out a month into investing in her, no idea still at that point why she was so clearly on my heart: (in the words of anyone who would describe her), she “worshipped satan”. In Haiti, this can mean a lot of things, but we can all see the basic issue – that’s not good. She’s a beautiful but lost soul. My mind thinks and talks contextually, and this led to the next part – me describing Nadine as well as her family, in light of this news. (This news, by the way, that God knew the entire time. The second we started talking, the moment I felt an unnaturally strong tug on my soul, He was not surprised & He knew the entire time.) My words came out like this:

“If someone just walked up to Nadine [and her family] & told the gospel story, they’d laugh and make fun of you when you walked away – if they didn’t do it to your face. Sure, you might not even realize it as they make fun of you right there, but that’s not how to reach their hearts. You see, they’ve even heard it before, it’s not about hearing the story even if they WERE receptive.

It’s about the day to day, getting in their lives and being consistent. Like so many, they’ve heard the Good News enough to finish your lines for you when you’re struggling (Really, Nadine has even done this for me). But SEEING it, that’s what they don’t get. Especially from teams coming for a week, or an intern staying for a few months, how will they see? It’s the day in, day out, coming back after the hard days unconditional love that they need to see. THAT’S what will get to their hearts. 

I’m not sure why that’s me. I mean, I’m sure God could raise up a Haitian girl who A. speaks the language & B. doesn’t stumble culturally every day, while sticking out like a sore thumb as a “blanc”. But that’s the thing – it’s me. No one else is doing it. That’s why I’m here, this is something that can’t be done unless I choose to stay here. They would never be reached without someone living here, intentionally pouring in.”

As I’ve wrestled with our wonderfully patient Father, tears and questions and all, he’s been such a gentle Teacher. That question has come up so many nights, at painful times after frustrating days. But then he whispers to my “Why’d you choose me to be here for them?” questions, “It’s not about them.”

Don’t get me wrong – it is about them. But the WHO that he chose to live it out, the American girl who feels inadequate instead of a woman born and raised in the culture, God is telling me that is for me. He has chosen me not just to reach them, but he’s chosen me in this challenging environment for myself too – to refine and grow that faith that is more valuable than the most precious jewel.

This baby's joy. I love it. Given to her by a beautiful mom in love who used to try to convince me she belonged in an orphanage.

This baby’s joy. I love it. Given to her by a beautiful mom in love who used to try to convince me she belonged in an orphanage.

Love her. Love that we can joke together, no matter how many cultural mistakes I make as I learn what kind of jokes I can even make in Haiti.

Love her. Love that we can joke together, no matter how many cultural mistakes I make as I learn what kind of jokes I can even make in Haiti.

I told you that I chose this very intentionally to share with my announcement for the next five years. I want to ask you a question about your year, about your next five.

Who is your Nadine?

There is someone in your life that has heard it all. They know the story (or at least think that they do), and their family does as well. Invite them to church, and they’ll be happy to critique it the entire time. You know them. You might be intimidated by them. They might not even be someone you’d choose to be around, I know that my dear friend happens to be quite aggressive, especially before you know her well. But they’re in your life for a reason. Maybe God even implanted them onto your heart like he’s done with mine, you aren’t sure why you can’t stop thinking about them in your free time. That’s been done for a reason.

And maybe it’s scary, or you feel inadequate. Maybe you aren’t sure why He chose YOU, of all people. Someone else could do it better, you’re sure.

But that’s just it, He chose you. And He goes before you and beside you.

If I haven’t portrayed it well enough through the past ten months, let me say it now: There is nothing special about me. But everything special is in my Jesus.

He’s giving you a Nadine. That someone who isn’t going to see love, not the beautiful unconditional love that is a brand only He can claim, unless you wake up with the purpose of showing it to them. He has an opportunity for you to trust Him and take a step.

What are you going to do with it?

Bonus picture: I love the transformation of our strong & adorable little Hope. Giggles, games, and two-year-old babble are my favorite languages with her.

Bonus picture: I love the transformation of our strong & adorable little Hope. Giggles, games, and two-year-old babble are my favorite languages with her.

 

Bonus picture: I love the transformation of our adorable & strong little Hope. Giggles,

As of today, I am adding a “Partner With Me” page to Jezi Se Espwa. With my decision comes $29,000 to raise every year. If you would like to partner with me financially, please look at the information on this page – or better yet, e-mail me! My e-mail is steph2haiti@gmail.com & I’m happy to talk.

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Because a Kitchen Sink to You, Is Not a Kitchen Sink to Me

My hands are covered in bubbles from a soap that will never be the same as the fun & fruity scented liquids in America. With one hand on a sponge, I turn my ear to Simon as I wash the dishes, offering advice as he asked me to listen to a story of a problem he is facing today. We talk through it as he is unnaturally timid as he stands asking for help, and he’s quiet after we settle on a solution to try. In silence he watches me finish the last pan, lifting it over and into the sink of bleach water to make certain there are no parasites in the dish water that may cling to the dish. He’s not sure what to do with himself since I asked him to follow me with his questions since I had chores to do, inviting him to talk while I worked in the kitchen.

“Where does the water go?”

I’m surprised at the innocence of the question for a second, my friend seems to have been through it all in his young age and is no stranger around the Sant Mouvman. I smile and turn to him, explaining it the best that I can and asking for thirty seconds to dry my hands – with a promise to show him.

I drain the sinks after placing the last piece on the drying rack and grab a towel, drying my hands and calling him over. I open a cabinet and lean down, signaling him to come over and look. As we bend down and peer into the under workings of the sink, I point out the pipe and ask if he remembers the construction site last spring. He gets an “of course I do!” look (much more typical of his personality than the shy persona he gets when he is serious) and we talk about how the water flows to the ditch that was dug behind the house that we both remember being dug last April.

He’s a smart kid, and quickly understands. Now that the topic has been opened up, the questions keep flowing as he slowly looks at the second sink.

“Will water come out if I turn this?”

“You can turn the spout over either side?”

“Is this what your kitchen in America is like?”

(I laughed at this one: Not quite. The Sant Mouvman has an amazing kitchen.)

Oh wait. Attitude check.

Because you see, Simon is impressed by the fact that the water leaves the house through a pipe, never to be thought of again. The faucet spits water with the simple turn of a knob, and all of this is done into a clean sink.

(We haven’t touched on the 24/7 electricity or appliances such as a fridge.)

Man, am I blessed. Yes, Simon, I think all of the homes in America have sinks like this. The sinks aren’t hooked up to a chateau (water tank on the roof), instead there’s water pipes hooked up to the city that bring it to the house.

“So you don’t have water trucks in America? You don’t have to call someone to bring water when you’re out?”

“How much do you pay for that?”

“How do they know how much you pay?”

Though it’s hard to explain the universal water system in America, Simon comprehended what I was saying the best that he could. We talked about sewer systems, meters, and electricity bills. I tried my best to explain as each word only hit my heart harder than the last, “Stephanie…you don’t even have to think about these. You don’t even fully understand how it works, because you don’t have to think about it. The systems have been in place, your parents have always paid the bills before they could be shut off, and you could drink the water from your toilet and not get sick if you wanted to”. (I don’t want to, by the way.)

Each attempt to better explain the way that things work where I grew up only cemented the fact in my heart that there is so much that I take for granted in the day to day. We’re not talking food, we’re not talking water. We’re not talking clothes or the roof, we’re talking things that are in no way part of something that I have done. I happened to be born in a country where, years and years ago, sewage systems were created. Water to neighborhoods and the universal basic of sinks and indoor plumbing were made so natural that you’ve had a unique experience if you’ve been in an outhouse. (Don’t even get my friends started on the idea of a Port-o-Potty.)

I have never – NEVER – wondered where the water goes as I’ve grudgingly done the chore of dishes.

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Simon is a constant around CPR-3, both a jokester & a hard-working business man. He’s quick to volunteer to help as well as the first to try and sell you a handmade bracelet. I call him ‘neve’, nephew, and he calls me “His Steph” (which we’re working on, he keeps trying to joke that I’m his madame). He recently found a home to call his own after years of being the equivalent of a couch surfer at the age of 15, because his father – and extended family as a result – will not accept him in his home.

I love the curious and innocent questions of a friend with big eyes, looking under the sink with me. I hate how quickly I confuse “want” & “need” while for some, something like indoor plumbing still seems like a wonderful story from a book.

Let’s never stop being thankful for the things that have become natural details in our lives.  The things we don’t have to think about, aren’t things we don’t have to thank about.

We are so blessed. So dangerously comfortable, but so blessed. Did you hear my thoughts on our soap? That’s what happens when I get comfortable. The soap isn’t good enough. While Simon watches in amazement at our sink.

It’s funny…I end up cheating myself with my discontent at something that someone else finds pleasure in just learning about.

Baby, Don’t Hurt Me, No More…

What is love?

Love is loving when the feeling isn’t there. With wisdom, choosing truth over emotion in a world that screams otherwise.

Love is doing it when it’s not exciting anymore. It was fun when it was new, now it’s almost a chore. But choosing it anyway, that is love.

Love is working on your attitude instead of going through the motions and getting through it to “be nice”. (I know someone…I mean, he’s THE One…he can see the motives anyway)

Our society throws love around and even in the phrase “I love you”, has somehow made it selfish. Because in that statement, we so often make it about us in what is unsaid. “I love you….because this is exciting right now“, “I love you….because I feel happy right now“, “I love you….for what you do for me“.

But we’re called to love our neighbors.

God knew our tendencies and then told us – ANYONE can love someone who is nice to them. I’m talking, enemies are neighbors too.

And loving them means treating them like you treat yourself. And you LOVE yourself, that you are definitely good at. For example, I just paused typing to get a citronella candle and warm up some mint hot chocolate since I’m outside. I know how to treat myself right.

I know I’m truly loving when I have to ask Jesus for some help first. When I started my day in prayer, REALLY putting my heart into the words of submitting myself to Him, that’s when I know I’m loving.

Thankful for his work in this human heart of mine.

Ouch. A Hit Close to Home.

I write to you guys with a hit straight to the heart, stinging as I look over at nine month Wes sleeping on my floor and turn new facts over in my head.

She was worn out after her mother played dress up with different Raising Cane's hats my sister sent down to Haiti.

She was worn out after her mother played dress up with different Raising Cane’s hats my sister sent down to Haiti!

Nadine and I balance comfortable silence with conversation about everything, what she’s looking at in my bag, Westhalineda’s health, a phone conversation with her mom, and ‘the news’. Word of mouth is the most reliable news source around here – it resembles gossip, but it’s different in that it’s genuinely reliable and the main source of what’s going on. And I swear it travels faster than the most popular post on Facebook.
We’re usually out in Bercy or at her house, but I’ve been trying to get lots of “office work” done today and after hours of waiting for me to “come out & play”, Nadine eventually opened my door and walked right in, plopping next to me with Wes as I worked.
In the middle of typing, talk of the night wrapping up, and getting Wes to fall asleep – Nadine randomly drops the line “Someone died today.”
Conversations take turns like this sometimes. No transition, just a miniature dropped bomb. I always have to check my Creole, repeating what I heard and asking if it was right. I heard right, and she listed random facts about where, the name of the person, and the word “pregnant”.
Sparing you the long conversation to piece it all together, a young woman who was pregnant died. She was in the middle of a procedure that had to do with the baby, and they both passed. Further talking told me that she was 17, the same age as Nadine, and a friend of hers. The father of the baby “wasn’t there”, that’s the most detail I got on him, and I’m guessing that’s described him for the past four months (that’s how far along she was). It was a sad story, and it definitely put a solemn tone to the conversation.
Nadine then told me that her friend had no mother, no father.
And then she broke my heart.
“Just like me.”
Said with a face that was just resigned with this fact, that she just leads a life of going it alone. The non-verbal here said so much more than those three little words. (Well, in Creole, the phrase was actually only two words. Said in a tone that seemed to just give up.)
We’ve talked before, you and I, about Nadine’s mom going to Venezeula (with at that time 16-year-old Nadine being the one taking the most charge of the home of no adults as she also mothered Wes). Well, Juslaine (in Venezuela now) is not actually Nadine’s mom, but the mom of Christella (or TiKris, one of the girls left in the home with Nadine). TiKris & Nadine share the same dad. I assumed for a long time that Juslaine was Nadine’s mother as well, but Nadine has actually been adamant the past few months about not being “a part” of the family (Juslaine’s family and many aunts who live around the house). “That’s not my aunt”, (and after a recent death), “That wasn’t my grandmother, I’m not going with the family to visit”. She seems determined to be alone to an outsider, as I see a girl who has had too much loss and abandonment to risk seeming vulnerable or attached again. She lived with her father and one of his ‘madame’s for a year at one point, but he left for Brazil years ago and Nadine has said that he has forgotten her – it’s just a fact. Her actual mother actually died when Nadine was an infant, and a stranger took Nadine in. That woman died on the day of the earthquake when she went to market (they lived near Port-au-Prince). That’s when Nadine was passed to her father, when she was in her early teens. Nadine moved in with Juslaine and helped out a significant amount in the house when her dad left the country, settling in a place where there wasn’t even really “a space” for her. Living here in Bercy, she got pregnant a little over a year ago (with Evans, the father, quickly trying to wipe his hands of responsibility).
She thinks that she is not only alone, but has to live this way. Maybe even because something about her as a person, this is who she is.
And she is not the only one. One of the reasons she knew the girl who died today was because they were friends based on the fact that they understood each other, they saw themselves as being alone in the world. Maybe even surrounded by some extended family, or the family of a half-sibling, but alone in the midst of an overcrowded home. In the midst of an overcrowded country, in fact (Haiti is the size of Rhode Island, yet it holds about 10 million people).
And for her friend, her life ended in a procedure where she was left alone in a hospital, at the end of hope as she did an act that broke even her own heart – but the same culture than condemns the procedure also condemns teenage pregnancy and scorns the pregnant teenager, especially for someone who is alone and ‘cannot really raise the child’. The shame is extremely heavy, despite the fact that children are seen as “the wealth of the poor” in this beautiful country. She felt alone and helpless, and went to get an abortion. And she didn’t survive it, leaving this world alone.
No one stepped up to tell her there was another option, no one reached out to her before the procedure or even before the pregnancy even happened. She did not know that she was not alone, that she was cherished and wonderfully made with care. She was knit together in the womb of a mother that passed away, by a Father that never leaves us. She was a beautiful young woman, and there has never been and there never will be someone else like her in this world again. She was a daughter of a King. She was not meant to carry the weight of her world alone on her shoulders, but she did not know that her precious Bridegroom was ready to carry it for her – no one told her that he had carried her worst already, and laid it down with his own life on the cross. She did not know that he rose again, she never felt victorious and did not feel that she had the right or ability to stand by the ultimate victor. Above all else, she didn’t know that she was loved. I mourn the thought of a girl walking through hospital doors feeling so utterly alone.
Friends, this world needs us. Oh, how this world is hurting. The young women, the baby boomers settling into retirement communities, the infants sitting in the nursery of the maternity wards across the world. Every single individual needs Jesus in the midst of their loneliness, and He does not need us but he WANTS us, and this hurting world is waiting for us to wake up and walk out the door and reach out our hand to stand side by side with someone who thinks that they are alone. He wants us, and He wants to use us in this way.
I look over at Wes and just thank God, with tears welling up, that her mother is here. That that strong heart and stubborn attitude keep going, that she fought a society that said she couldn’t raise a baby at her age and she loves this little doll with her entire heart. I thank God that Nadine’s story is not the same as her friend. And oh, how I am praying with my whole heart for her soul. For her to understand the depths of what I mean when I respond that she is not alone. For when she says back to me, “Yes, we have God as our Father” (the truth that she is used to me proclaiming with a smile in the midst of the fatherless), my soul cries for her to understand what this means, not just recite it. Oh, Lord, how my soul hurts as I watch her fight this world with her own heart filled with more hurt than a seventeen-year-old should be able to hold.
But for now, he has sent me. To love my sister as she adds, “and you’re my mom!”, and I vehemently reply “no!” and we laugh loud enough to stop a fidgeting Wes. To put aside my work when she barges (literally) into my room and give her the attention she craves. To be the one voice in a sea of negativity saying, “No. That is not the truth. You are loved. You are beautiful. You are not alone.”. He has sent me to be the finger constantly in the air, point up as I say what she already knows to expect from me now, “We have a Father, Nadine. And He is GOOD.”
He is good, indeed. Look at this joy!

He is good, indeed. Look at the joy of this doll face as she learns to walk!

Reflecting on this recent death, hitting so close to home for the girl just like Nadine who did not feel loved, I want to ask what side of the story you are on. Are you feeling alone, at the end, unloved? These truths are for you. Please, please read them and know that they are for your heart and they will refresh your soul with their truth.
Are you on the other side? You ‘get’ it? Please, stand with me. Oh, how I cringe when my schedule is intruded on. How I love my own time and I get tired of playing the “I don’t know if I can trust you” game. But I will keep walking out that door (or…leaving it unlocked for others to come in) to fight against the loneliness in this world. I do not want to hear more stories of girls who do not have someone to let them know that they are a precious gemstone. My soul aches for the loss in a world where too many people feel alone. Please, take someone’s hand.

Verse 1

One of the better ideas to come with the New Year.

twentyfourintwelve

Happy New Year and welcome to Twenty Four in Twelve!

Twenty Four in Twelve was inspired by Beth Moore’s SSMT (Siesta Scripture Memory Team) that takes place every other year. Because 2014 will be an off year for the SSMT, I wanted to create a way to hold myself and others who wish to join accountable for memorizing Scripture. I also may post on different days of the month as time allows about what I’m learning or link to different articles/blogs that have encouraged me.

Here’s how it works: on the 1st and 15th of each month, I will post what verse/verses I’m currently memorizing for that two week span. You may also add your comment of your verses so that we can share in this journey together. God’s Word has been one of my greatest sources of joy and strength through the mountains and valleys of life. He speaks…

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