November.

What a whirlwind of a month!

As I was typing my latest prayer update here to send out tonight, I couldn’t keep track in my head of all of the things that have happened this past month! So, with the internet finally working at a decent speed I am taking FULL advantage to give you a ‘snapshots’ blog on life since my last post, when I was still in America.

So I landed the first week of November and…

We had a pastor’s conference which included over a half dozen deaf pastors – Creole, English, and Sign Language were all happening! – and some great time with American partner pastors who gave time and wisdom to spend the week with us.

There was a team that came and did an awesome job at being learners, focusing on relationships and going deep in the time that they were here.

I saw Nadine & Wes the first day, as they knew when I’d be in and came to see me right away – and I couldn’t believe how BIG Westhalineda is!

Full mouth of teeth as she takes up her momma's lap - she's officially on her way to being a toddler!

Full mouth of teeth as she takes up her momma’s lap – she’s officially on her way to being a toddler!

I was excited to see Nadine and talk about the potential surgery. I was bummed and even frustrated at the idea that “there’s always SOMETHING” as she pointed out that Wes cannot grip or use her right hand (it’s constantly a fist). I love that Sonya, from the Red Thread Promise, visited later in the month and pointed out that the surgeries will give Wes the gift to WALK – and make such a huge difference.

I visited Simon’s house after being told that I had already been gone for too long, and I was greeted with smiles and friendly faces. I cannot emphasize the difference, especially in the women, from just months ago.

image1 (1)These same women sat with their family in the front row at church, would you believe it?! I still can’t get over their warm smiles and conversation when I see them.

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How would you like your baptisms to be in the Caribbean?

I loved this one. On Sunday, I got a surprise from Samedy as he informed me they had five baptisms planned that day. This means loading up a tap-tap with both the entire visiting team and the church of Canaan and driving to the ocean, stopping on the side of the road. This. Was. Beautiful. It started with the entire church praying and singing, as loud by the water as any other church would be with a sound system. With clapping and praising under the hot sun, they didn’t stop until all five – two young men and three young women, one pregnant! – were out of the water. And then they kept it up once we were on the tap-tap – packed like sardines in this truck, standing and some of them wet, for almost a half hour drive they kept singing praises for everyone around to hear. Some days I’m blown away that God lets us be a part of this.

In the middle of the baptisms, a team member nudged something on the seashore and asked “Is that….?” – it was a doll. I almost didn’t write this, because vodou is way Hollywood-ized and this may only hammer the misconceptions of vodou in, but I can’t not share this visual. But it was a vodou doll, the first one I’d seen, actually (because they aren’t a main part of vodou). But you can focus on the doll, or you can look up and see Samedy up to his elbows in clear Caribbean water holding the hands of a young man who is now a part of transforming his community. All of a sudden the dirty, washed up, forgotten doll of an enemy whose power is limited and defeated anyway….that’s all it is. A washed up doll. How awesome, to be a part of the baptism of not one but FIVE young people and literally walk over the broken pieces of this country as new life is being breathed in. (In Haiti, baptism has a lot of weight. Baptism is how you show people, “I’m in. I’m not just saying it and it’s not just for Sundays.”) So some people may focus on the doll, but I love the visual – look up. Look at what God is doing. Look at how much bigger it is, how insignificant the rest becomes when we look up.

Okay, next. I loved getting to see little ones again – some of them who I have now known for two years! (since 2012 when I came for a week) For the first time in a while, people’s eyes got big when they saw me as I haven’t left Haiti for this long before. In Canaan, I got a totally new response as kids who normally run for the team said “Stephanie is here!”….once again, I get to be a part of this? Nuts.

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Lovely is just one of the sweet faces after the chaos of everyone running to play, who sits and just loves to BE. Girl loves to play, but she also loves that deeper relationship – and I love that I get to be on the other side of it.

As the team spent time learning from the community and about the community, I actually got the pleasure of visiting for a few hours in Lovely’s home and hearing more about her life. It’s a dangerous thing, listening to people’s stories – you grow more attached, you want to pray, you can’t un-know what you learn.

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Speaking of getting to know….

That picture? I can’t help it. In the dozen that Simon took as he acted like the 17-year-old that he is, this outtake is way more fun of Louis & I. I have loved getting to know Louis this past year and when I walked in the kitchen when she was here – that was a LONG hug! Typical for us, we just started laughing until the echoes probably filled the whole top floor. She told me about life, talked all about what happened while I was gone, and just oozed love as that is who she IS – she’s all about people. After the team left, I enjoyed some time visiting Louis at home and I just love sitting with her and being. I love that our relationship is real, I love how she teaches me. I love that she has a wall of pictures and her grandson Darian leads me over to point us out. I love that she pulled me over and asked for a picture as we left, and I left her strong personality that clearly shows as she said, “Oh, what ‘chu think you doing with that phone? What’s takin’ so long?”

Speaking of home visits, Labourdie can always be counted on for laughter as well – it just comes out in high, giggly pitches. I cannot believe the transformation of Hope & Jessica over the past two years – but every time I pull up on a moto and see their smiling faces, I’m thankful all over again. Singing, running, and braiding my hair, they have changed so much and the Talaberts – who took them in – are just as hospitable and loving towards me as when I left. Manman – I call her mother instead of her real name – told me “her family was back” when she saw me & people kept coming out of the woodwork to greet me, ask about home, and update me on life. Estefan was at my side like usual and once again, I wondered how I get to be a part of these relationships.

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Those smiles!

Like any relationship, both nothing and a lot can happen while you’re gone. Hope is going to school now and a new house is being built, but besides that things were back to normal….until I picked up Biyence (Beyonce) and the biggest, saddest cries I’ve ever heard started to come from this bundle of joy. I looked around at the adults, what on EARTH was going on?

Her mother just died right before I came.

They didn’t live together, but it still hurts. It still means I’m left speechless, not knowing what to say but just hugging her as tight as I possibly can until I eventually think, “Gade, Biyence” (Look, Beyonce) – and then we start to talk about all the people there (over a dozen) that love her. I tell her about how much I love her. Everyone is nodding and agreeing, even the sarcastic teenage girls are sympathetically nodding, “Wi, ou gen anpil moun ki renmen ou la” (You have a lot of people who love you here). Her father walks over, we talk about how much he loves her. She slowly agrees and we just keep hugging tightly, at this point it’s for me too.

Eventually we got that adorable, take-over-your-face smile back. But I was reminded of the pain behind so many big smiles that day.

LOVE the gift of her smile.

LOVE the gift of her smile.

Looking at Hope, who has been much slower to change than her sister Jessica, running and playing this week, I am so thankful that God is known for making things new. I love that these girls were orphaned but placed in a family where they transformed – and the family they were placed in was the same family Biyence is in. God will keep working in her too.

Hope running and playing!

Hope running and playing! She loves games with Amanda.

Okay, are you tired of reading yet? So much happened this month, coming back to a country where relationships are constant and the best chair is always brought out, visiting new homes of people who moved and wanted me to see, holding nine-day-old babies of mothers who were so happy to see me back and then wrestling with their question of being a godmother, getting to meet Adilyn (Amanda & Jordan’s little one!), seeing TiKris and her seven month belly – with such a different attitude than last July when I was leaving and praying for her as she didn’t plan for this, seeing Devinson’s new little brother Jean Carrey and spending time with the family (basically, lots of babies), learning how you build a stick and mud wall for a house when the rain makes one side fall down, stumbling through Creole the whole time, trying food to be polite and praying with each bite that no parasites are in it, hiking the mountains behind Bercy to visit Maxon’s family and see them for the first time in almost a YEAR, seeing the growth of the different partner churches over the past few months…we’d be here all night if I kept going. Like I said, whirlwind. It was just last month that I was sitting in my mother’s house, piecing together blogs and e-mails as we rushed to get things together as it was time to pack for Haiti again!

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Okay, I’ve gotta share the picture of Maxon’s family from that day of hiking because I just love it!

And one Wes picture? I can't NOT, especially with that hat she borrowed straight from my head.

And one Wes picture? I can’t NOT, especially with that hat she borrowed straight from my head.

 

And now I’m back – because of you.

Thanks to Him, transition back into relationships has been pretty smooth. In fact, I have been thankful more than anything else as I sit back and realize….these are officially relationships that know me, these are stories that are not new but being built upon. This is a community that knows my name, these are people asking about my family who know details about them. These are parents who smile as their kids greet me – and we both remember how they let me be a part of their child’s life for the past year and this isn’t new but instead, “Hello, again!”. Samedy walks in to the house singing in Creole, “Stephanie, mwen vin wè ouuuuuu” (I’ve come to see you) and we are friends who have been working together for a year now, not strangers or simply co-workers.

Thanks to Him, He has also reminded me about why I’m here – with hard stories, long days, sad faces, and real problems that people are facing. With the reality that there are way more questions than answers in most of the situations I find myself in throughout the day, and my need for wisdom is desperate – something I constantly ask for in prayer. Even more is my need for love, and the courage to go outside with it now that I am here. It may sound great to a generation in love with adventure to live in another country, but reality is that the long haul means that I am just as human as you – I long for comfort, not to be pushed or questioning things or socially awkward as I learn what’s appropriate.

And that’s where I’m at. That’s November, or at least snapshots of it in 2,000 words for you. Thanks for being a part of getting me back here.

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