Brothers.

I cannot imagine losing one of my teenage brothers. My heart aches for sisters all over America.

I want to use my voice to say that I am sure it is not a light thing to be the one who has to make the split second decision that an officer is trained to make, decisions that are necessary to train for in their dangerous and self-sacrificing line of work.

I also want to use my voice to say that it is not fair that I do not have to have the same fears as others about my brothers being exactly what they are – teenage boys.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, their towering height is not perceived as a threat as quickly to strangers.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, their stupid decisions (because all individuals under the age of 25 haven’t fully developed parts of the brain that think long term) have a lower risk of them ending as a statistic or a hashtag.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, you don’t double check your locks or avoid eye contact. You aren’t conscious of the bag you are carrying when they pass you on the sidewalk.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, hoodies and being out late at night are a part of life that is associated with being typical, not being criminal.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, I want to celebrate every time that they seek to learn from others.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, I value every experience that increases their celebration of diversity and brings perspective to their worldview.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, I will get uncomfortable and risk the push back of a controversial post.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, I will annoy them with taking up an afternoon or two with explaining systemic racism and the jump start we have with our lighter skin – our ancestors were most likely getting educated and employed while our friend’s ancestors were building this country with their blood and children and no credit for it.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, I pray that they are growing to have genuine, deep, life-sharing friendships with people of all walks of life.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, I will ask them if they want to purposely eat at a restaurant where we may meet someone who just moved to America, or whose family sacrificed everything to get them here when they were a child.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, I will pray for wisdom with my passion as it tends to act before I pray – I want to model how to advocate and not stay silent, but I don’t want to walk all over others and thus be a noisy gong.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes, I started writing this blog when there was a sister who lost her brother in Central Ohio last week. I saved it as a draft. I don’t want to get in the mix, start comments, or speak when I know so little.

Because my brothers have white skin and blue eyes – silence is a privilege that I have the option to sit in. I am not perfect. I do not know everything to say here. I may easily get facts wrong or rub someone the wrong way.

But if I would argue so fiercely that you should not choose silence with the gospel just because there is always more to learn, always a question you will not be able to answer – how in the world can I justify choosing silence on an issue that is clearly a part of a holistic gospel?

I want to be a part of redeeming spaces.

I want to be a part of this space being redeemed.

This is why.

“Mwen to vle mouri” – “I wanted death”

This is what he said after talking about where he was a little over a year ago.

This is what he said when we celebrated the difference of how he feels today.

This is what he said after sitting with us and talking about dreams – literal dreams – and how he is called the leader among the leaders among the young adults who are bringing change in the community through how they are talking about Jesus.

This is what he said as we talked about how much purpose he has now.

He said it in the past tense. He said it as someone in a totally different place. He said it as someone who is intentional, busy, influencing others, and who laughs more than anyone around.

Truth.

Confession:

I feel that I am in the completely wrong place, doing the wrong thing, the wrong way, with what is adding up to be three years of wrong and irreversible mistakes or seasons of selfishness, in the wrong country – a lot.

I just finished reading an e-mail and the feelings tempted the corners of my thoughts,

then flipped over to social media where I follow plenty of people in this beautiful Caribbean nation who seem to be getting it RIGHT. Great life choice. Tempting thoughts from an e-mail intensified to assured emotions that I suck.

If you aren’t floating in missions circles and at conferences talking intentional work, I also happen to live in what ‘everyone’ seems to call the lost cause. Beyond hope. As a republic of NGOs (non-profits), it’d be better if at this point everyone just left and let it be as it’s OVERsaturated. Every bad example of working cross culturally or in a developing area seems to be taken from Haiti. Those comments are not missed, they’ve planted in my memories and always seem to float to the surface at times like this.

There are plenty of people who don’t agree with what I do.

There are plenty of people who are super friendly, wonderful people who do not have  a problem with me (that I am aware of)….but who still turn quietly away from me when I have to tell them “no”. They may not have a problem, but they are not being helped either (it feels). What is the point of being here if all I can do is frustrate hopes that built up as people made the trek to knock on the gate and wait to see me today?

Some days I wish I had been more informed of the world and done a completely different track, starting a business that would actually DO something for people knocking on the gate looking for a way to feed the family, pay for a birthday gift, or help with a need.

I confess this because if I don’t, then you may let yours fester.

What was that line again, as the first characters of a beautiful, intense story unfolded in Genesis that would lead up, down, and all around to Revelation? The story that helps define perspective, reality, my purpose – the one that uncovers my own soul to me…a BOOK knows how I function better than I do.

Oh yeah. There it is. As the enemy who hates us – not dislikes, but HATES – slithers up. Full of pride and called the “King of Lies” because he doesn’t flinch or feel guilty like we may – there he goes. To a woman living in the CENTER of her very PURPOSE, intentionally stitched and placed with love and care – thriving where she is.

“Are you sure that’s what He said?”

That’s how he breaks into the scene – the first recorded temptation. It seemed completely realistic at the time, and he put up a good argument. We paint Eve as stupid sometimes, falling so quickly. Really? Was she?

My confession is not a confession of failure – it is a confession of FEELING like one.

Boil it down and there that serpent sits again, trying to be high and mighty (which is ironic since the serpent has been cut down to no legs…..just sayin), “Are you sure He said here, Haiti, and YOU?”.

That’s what’s going on here.

I do not question the people I am surrounded by. My team with Breathe is amazing – more than I could ask for.

I do not question the way that I got here – a “yes” to Him.

I do not question that I stayed and committed as a staff member – it was God motivated, not Steph motivated.

I do not question the fruit that I have seen, or the fact that I am not a superhuman who can help everyone in every need outside of where I see fruit.

I do not question my model – and as Piper put it so perfectly, “Jesus loved all people well. And many did not like the way he loved them.” (If I am not Jesus…..we know I can barely love well if at all….so not having many fans makes sense)

I do not question that my passions, desires, processing, and history matches up SO WELL with where I am.

I do not question the NAMES, the REAL PEOPLE around me, and their value to Him. The ones that I do not SAVE – but that I sit around with on a Monday morning making jokes with.

Y’all. When you feel it – and I kind of hope you do, because it means you are actually DOING something and then wrestling with the real emotions that come with it – do not let it win.

Emotions do NOT get to call the shots. Lies that have been on repeat since a few days after the creation of man do NOT get to go un-examined – they are getting thrown out. Comparison? What in the world am I giving it time for. “They are killing it and I am not – plus they look cuter doing it with those outfits” is an alarm to close the tab and talk to God about how he purposed STEPHANIE, in HER lane. When I can get my forgetful self back in check, THEN I can use networking to LEARN from others or ENCOURAGE them while being drunk on the Spirit. Otherwise…..why you lookin’ at them, girl?

You know what fasting is about? The HEART of it?

Getting that stubborn self of yours in CHECK. NO, you can’t have it just cause you want it – that is a complete lack of self control and purpose! Flesh does NOT get to call the shots – flesh won’t even get to BE around when we’re chillin’ in the new earth & heaven, the home being built for us right now.

There’s confessions,

and then there is Truth.

Truth reigns, y’all.

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My Father had PLANS for me to know that I am helpless and needy – SO IT LEADS TO HIM! Then I can work hard and let go of the results, love hard and let go of the need for people’s approval, and LAUGH AND HAVE FUN while posing in dresses that Gina is selling without attaching some need to be serious and perfect and inviting her into the sinner’s prayer every time I see her. He has PLACED me here in this tough, real, hot, emotional, hilarious, fun, GOOD life!

 

Someone Did It.

I’m thinking of a wonderful, wonderful soul that I get to see around a few nights a week because he is a leader in Young Lights. Soft spoken with the biggest smile around, he gets loud when he starts talking about dreams and vision. Leadership. Potential. Being different.

Zoom out for a sec: We may talk all day or see t-shirts in every design talking, “Hope 4 Haiti” – but the truth is, the Haiti dream is usually to get out. Fly to another country, find opportunity there. People talk about doctors, lawyers, technicians, leaders, creatives….they leave. Sometimes with plans to come back – and then, some times, those people really do. I have so much respect for those that stay, or for those who come back. Pastor Chelo is one of the people that came back – he did not have to.

Those who stay back – and those who leave as well – LOVE being Haitian. They love the pride of nationalism, they sing the songs and wear the colors on Flag Day….but typically, they are also frustrated by Haiti. The leadership. The deep, tangled mess that is systemic poverty. The theft and looking out for yourself that somehow simultaneously exists in a culture with so much sharing and looking out. The lack of trust. The small groups that make problems for the majority with the way they handle their frustrations through road blocks or other forms of protest. “Where there is no vision, the people perish”….well, there are times this is felt. I can’t tell you how many gourde I’d have by now if I was handed one every time I heard, “Gade yon peyi….” (Basically – “Look at this country…” in a frustrated way)

Now that you have that background – let’s zoom back in to my friend. The one who hugs me with joy, who shows up early, who doesn’t let leadership slips slide…because he believes in a standard BECAUSE something is being built.

He has so much vision for Haiti. For himself, for those around Him, for his community, for His country.

So. Much. Vision.

With passion. With dreams. With creativity. With invitation extended to others. With ACTION.

And I was thinking about how much I appreciate him, how much I respect him, how encouraging he is to me. How different he is.

And then I thought….I wonder what it was?

I wonder what he picked up and where, what he has listened to in his life? Likely, some of it was without those around him even knowing he was paying attention. Or he was small and distracted – the kid you are rolling eyes at in your head or that you are half-invested in cause honestly it’s hot and they have a lot of energy and yours is limited. How many people talked passionately about the ability for ANYONE – “including YOU” – to be the change to that little boy who has now turned to a young man?

Did he have the same smile then, or did he develop it later?

Was his heart still as big then, with his whole face transforming at YOUR bad news that troubles him? Or was he softened by the gospel and traits like being burdened alongside others came later?

Who introduced the gospel to him in such a light that he is so on FIRE? Who showed him something in life that has him messaging me, biting at the bit to pour into more people and start something for the NEXT generation, since he already is a part of his generation doing things?

Who modeled that to him?

Who spoke words in him for what they see in him?

Heck – who got him here with nutrition to develop and enough shelter, food, and clothing to HAVE the freedom to have vision or the energy and passion to look outward to others?

It makes me think of the kids today.

The crowds where no one is listening (it seems).

The time poured in, poured out, poured all over the place. The mundane – that becomes bigger when you realize day by day has turned to year by year.

Who KNOWS who the next visionary is.

Did the ones who were a part of my friend’s story know? Do they have a clue now?

Makes me think of some Elisabeth Elliot, as she quoted Lilias Trotter.

She writes, “God may use…the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessings of souls unknown to us…God only knows the endless possibilities that lie folded in each one of us!”

Elisabeth says later after quoting some more of Trotter – “I am one of those souls unknown to Lilias Trotter, blessed by her surrender and sacrifice…”

And Elisabeth – who I have never met, and never will this side of creation as she passed away not too long ago – wrote that in the preface of one of her many books (A Path Through Suffering) that has been a gem to this weary heart as I am now an unknown soul to both of these women. And so it goes.

Now, Lilias Trotter was talking actually about our suffering leading to unknown possibilities for others unknown to us. But really – isn’t even just continuing to show up a way of suffering some times? Not to be melodramatic, but our culture already is with suffering. Any selflessness is an inconvenience, and quickly boiled down to a form of suffering (even if we are only thinking it).

So yes, 45 minutes of intentionally going deeper than JUST babysitting when you have a room of younger people with you can be called suffering. At least for the western audience of 2016 that would read this blog. Or maybe the time torn away from your phone and into face-to-face time with a sibling. Possibly preparing, working, planning, sacrificing, and fighting to be on a team that stands with others and looks community members in the face, claiming “This space CAN be transformed, and you WILL be the one able to do it!”

But this suffering, or whatever you want to call it as we move past Lilias Trotter’s point of suffering and more to the heart……

We have no idea.

YOU have no idea.

The next counter cultural visionary just may be able to trace it back to you one day.

I don’t know who it was, but SOMEONE was the crimson cord for my friend.

What a thought, right? If you met him, you’d know why it’s so crazy. Just trust me when I say that as your jaw dropped and your eyes couldn’t move off of his passionate speech of transforming spaces and a new country and a generation with purpose, you would be amazed at even just the THOUGHT that you could be the puzzle piece that pours into someone else that is going to do the same thing one day.

Keep showing up.

“Shall we not go all lengths with Him in His plans for us…?” – Lilias Trotter

 

The Purpose of Missions is Not to “Fix” or “Save”

Jillian Kittrell

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Summer is coming to a close. And the crowded city streets packed by oversized trucks with short-term mission teams in the bed are staring to slow down. Although teams come to Haiti year round, summer is by far our country’s busiest season to host foreigners who come to serve.

And that’s great.

And it’s not.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

There’s been a significant amount of open dialogue lately concerning the efficiency of short-term missions. Which is wonderful and much needed. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know I teeter the fence. I am a product of short-term missions. Years of coming to serve in Haiti for a week or two out of my summers was what cultivated my love for this country and my calling to live here full time. If it weren’t for those visits, I may have never moved to the orphanage. Never have…

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Every Last Piece.

As a girl, it feels whiny & emotionally driven – at least it feels as if it will be taken that way – if I take a stand against porn. If I challenge the cultural norm, talk about the facts of how it harms, and try to give a reality check in what has become a norm in society.

So when a GUY shares Fight The New Drug or is straight up on the facts – scientific facts about the effects, or the trafficking industry, or fueling abuse – it makes a huge difference. It’s heard differently than my voice, the same facts are said but not seen as emotionally driven, and credibility comes with him more than me.

That’s just the way it is – sociology and psychology would agree with the difference.

So think.

I have white skin.

Imagine the difference if I use my voice to join the fight with others.

Because when I stand up to say, “Why are we still telling racist jokes?”, it isn’t taken as me “taking it personally”.

When I point out that it isn’t fair and it isn’t the same, the way my 6′ 5” white teenage brother can interact with the Reynoldsburg police versus 33% of our city’s population – it is not written off because “it always is a race issue with her”.

My honest observation and admission of my own blind spots and the reality that racism still happens can come off differently, and it will not be reacted to with a “slavery was years ago, get over it”.

My voice being used for a five minute conversation on systems and history and the bigger story and how it all plays into white people having an upper hand in many areas….it won’t be seen the same.

Every. Single. Piece. of us was stitched together intentionally, with purpose, and with a plan on redeeming spaces. Our wealth (whether we have managed it in a way where we feel wealthier than the rest of the world or not) – that piece is intentional. Our gender – intentional. Our peers, co-workers, families – intentional. The spaces we spend time in because our favorite food or hobby – intentional.

Our skin color – intentional.

Every. Last. Piece. is to be used with intention, for things bigger than us.

Titanic.

This is going to be short and only be the tip of the iceberg.

Friends, I just want to help more people understand something about poverty. Material poverty.

The cycle is not just poverty – someone comes alongside – long, deep process – finally get a step UP (a goat, a small business, a job, a tool so you can have a trade – YAY!

The cycle looks a lot like this (a glimpse – a GLIMPSE! I could make this SO much more detailed):

Poverty – someone comes alongside, or you take your own initiative – long, deep process and hard work and investment and dreams and hopes and standing up when falling – finally get a step UP – when someone asks how you’re doing a few weeks later, you respond you were robbed of that step up.

OR,

Poverty – someone comes alongside, or you take your own initiative – long, deep process and hard work and investment and dreams and hopes and standing up when falling – finally get a step UP – your family member gets sick, and everything goes to helping them. Every last drop. – (repeat the process….)….step UP again – a different family member needs help paying for a funeral, or school starting – (repeat the process……)

It is so much more. So much harder.

The resilience I see is ridiculous. The lack of motivation and apathy I sometimes run into, I can understand (after I get over being frustrated when someone doesn’t jump onto an opportunity). The optimism in some of my friend’s eyes humbles me, because my day is wrecked over changed plans and I still have a home and two big meals and financial security.

Hard working teenagers are robbed by peers that they know – peers that do not work hard, but are rewarded by quick theft and intimidation. These hard working teenagers, friends, are somehow always the ones encouraging ME. They teach ME how to love. They serve their community and neighbors way more than me.

My friends keep loving. Even after their own peers, community, sometimes family…may hurt their trust or use them or hurt them.

I process culture stress cycles and am fighting tooth and nail to break down walls of distrust and negativity,

and my friends, neighbors, and heroes….they are loving.

Fighting.

Getting back up again.

Still dreaming.

Still screaming out, “HE IS GOOD!”

“PRAISE THE LORD!”

Still looking me in the eye with that sparkle that shows up when there is positive affirmation or dreaming of the future around.

I am so prideful, I am so comfort-driven, I am so easily shaken, I am so lazy because life has ALLOWED me to be. And in this – I am so, so, so thankful that He would place me where I would learn and watch, over YEARS of this deep cycle, beautiful people teach me things that you would not be able to comprehend our sisters and brothers in humankind can do, withstand, fight through, and dare to dream in….because poverty is not simple, y’all.