Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Finding a sense of home: Being not Doing

"The LORD is my strength" to sit still. And what a difficult accomplishment this is! I often say to others during those times when I am compelled to be still, "If only I could do something!"... Yet to do nothing except sit still and wait requires tremendous strength. - Streams in the Desert, Cowan
 We have been in Haiti three weeks now. It's hard to believe really. This is the longest our family has been in the country. (I was here for a few months teaching English back in 2002 but it was an entirely different scenario because I was single then.) As they say, home is where your heart is. We have been in a time of transition these last weeks as our hearts are somewhat still in California with our community there but we are trying to physically and emotionally be here in Haiti following God's leading to serve with Christian Friendship Ministries. We are on a new journey seeking a sense of home.
 Our new reality includes waking before dawn to the sound of roosters outside our window. Children are constantly playing in our yard. The house is full of bustle: ladies cooking meals in the kitchen, men tending the crops in the garden adjacent to our house, people walking through the property to get down to the river, neighborhood kids playing soccer in the front yard by the church, another lady washing clothes and hanging them on the line out back. The rhythm is very different from what we experience in California.
 Walk down our street (Rue Pastor Bell) in Haiti and you may see a pig rolling in the mud, a little boy skittering down the street with only a ripped T-shirt on, my friend Tanya frying up plantains on a makeshift coal grill, ladies braiding each other's hair on the front porch fanning themselves from the flies, teens talking on their cell phones, Suzelene selling cold cokes from her store front, another man adjusting his tin roof to prepare for afternoon rain, adolescents playing soccer with a homemade ball of tape, motorcycles beep-beeping us to step aside.

What a switch from our Fig Garden neighborhood in Fresno with it's neat rows of houses and green lawns with perennials out front! The kids there ride bikes and scooters with brightly-colored helmets. Our neighbor walks her well-manicured little dog and stops in the shade of the trees. Businessmen are taking a stroll and gabbing on their iPhones on their lunch break. The loitering happens down at the 7-Eleven. Some people pull their cars into their two-car garages and never speak a word.
 I don't view one as better than the other. Just different. We are shifting home. At times I long for the comfort and convenience of American life. (After all, I am 19 weeks pregnant!) I miss the days when electricity and hot water come quickly at the flip of a switch. I dream about sitting in my bath tub and letting bubbles float over me. But I know deep down there is much to learn here. I don't have a long to-do list. I don't have any story times or play dates planned for my kids this afternoon. We will probably laze on the swing out back. My girls' highlight will be washing clothes with Madame Mariles - the simple joy of dipping their own shirts and dresses into soapy water and scrubbing back and forth. This evening we might take a stroll down by the river or I might sit on our front "lawn" and knit with my friend Louinise.

God is calling us to build our nest these months on an island far away from family and familiar. My new sense of home is gathering my family under my wings and savoring each moment, this gift of time together. We are called to listen to the Haitian people. We are compelled to observe their way of life. We pray and put our minds together on ways we can encourage their destitute spirits. We try to tell their stories. We are opening the eyes of our hearts to learn from them.

My friend Terry astutely reminded me that we are not human doers; we are human beings. I am learning to just be in Haiti.

Home for now is in the smiling faces of two orphan boys who sing a song of praise in front of the church on Sunday night. Home for now is fried plantains, chicken and squash in sauce with fresh-squeezed limeade. Home for now is roosters as my alarm clock and tropical rains in the afternoons to lull me to sleep. Home for now is in the brilliant red of the hibiscus flowers in my neighbor's yard. Home is gathering my girls in my bed under the mosquito net and reading from the yellowed pages of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." My mama read to me from this same weathered copy when I was Meilani's age.

We are finding home just being together.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Haiti Health Clinic: A New View of Health Care

Part of our work here this summer is listening, observing and telling the stories of the people and parts of Christian Friendship Ministries. Our dream is to find ways to improve the good work that has already been started and to provide funds for more resources. The following is a sketch of a recent visit to the clinic in St. Raphael with Pastor and Madame Louis.

When I walk toward the clinic a crowd of people – maybe 20 – are waiting outside. The clinic is located on the far side of the school building on the property in St. Raphael. It consists of three rooms. The first is a kind of waiting room set up with rustic wood benches with backs. These are lined with people – young and old – who have come today seeking help for their ailments.

I ask one woman with sun-weathered face how she is today and she matter-of-factly explains that she’s not too good and that’s why she is visiting the clinic today. I’m really not sure what to say to her.  I try my most sincere Kreyol words, “I will pray for you.” And I did immediately.

Continuing through the clinic there is another small room which contains a front desk like in the U.S. People check in here and are given numbers. Then they are called into the patient’s room one by one. One of the faithful older ladies from the church helps out at the desk. I recognize her right away and she greets me with a cheek kiss and a broad toothless smile. She exudes a warmth, a hospitality toward me and these sickly patients. I’m grateful she is there.

One young mother waits with her sick baby. The little girl is dressed in Sunday best with ribbons in her hair and scuffed white shoes.  She is beautiful with her sad eyes and it takes everything within me not to grab the sick child and rock her to myself. It’s a mother moment, I suppose.

Suddenly, I am back in downtown Fresno in a MediCal doctor’s office. This waiting room is perhaps twice the size but in the same way packed with mothers, concerned looks fixed on their faces as they clutch their crying children with sniffly noses and swelling fevers.

I am a foreigner in this place as I timidly walk in with my two healthy children gripping my hands. We sign on our names on a dirty spiral notebook list. We are number 26. I ask about our 10 o’clock appointment. The nurse grins at me, “We don’t really do appointments here,” she says. You have to wait your turn.” I explain that I really am only here for a prescription for a summer trip to Haiti. She nods as if to say, “Sit down.”

I am humbled.

I don’t know why I think I’m special or I should be given the right to skip ahead in line. I can only think about all these sick kids packed into this room breathing the same air and what my girls might pick up if we stay too long. It’s selfish, I know.

I muster up a few Spanish words and the kind mother next to me explains that the wait is on average two hours in this place. I cringe. Other friends have told me this is what public health care entails. I know I should be grateful but it’s hard. I miss our comfortable Peachwood doctor's office in north Fresno from a few years back. Let's just say it's not on the MediCal list. I am acutely aware of how different the haves and have-nots experience health care.

Soon I am back in St. Raphael, Haiti, peeking in the door of the clinic’s third room where patients are seen. Madame and Pastor Louis are seeing patients today. They wear white lab coats, dress the part. The people are so trusting and grateful toward this couple. They administer the clinic here twice a week and then twice a week in Pignon in between running just about everything else in this ministry.

The clinics were started by Grandma and Grandpa Bell (my husband's grandparents) when they first moved to Haiti in the late '40s. Grandma Arshaloos writes that the clinic happened by accident. "A lady came to our door with a deep sore on her forehead asking us to give her something to heal it. We brought out our family medical kit prepared for us by Peter, my pharmacist brother, and through trial and error we discovered the cure for it....We threw ourselves upon God and made our meager medical supplies available to them. The Lord worked miracles in the selection and application of the medicines for the different diseases."

Through the years, Grandma and Grandpa gained more experience and eventually a Haitian doctor came to help them with the clinics. Louis was also trained through the years and in turn trained his wife to help the people. 

Today, the medical supplies are piled on a table in the corner. All of these are bought with Louis’ own money. Pills, ointments, bandages for all occasions – tools for healing in this place and covered with a host of prayers.
An older man sits before Madame Louis. She takes his blood pressure and then listens to his story about an ailing foot. He pulls back a pant leg to reveal a crusty foot with white bumps. I look away.

I can't help but think about how Pastor Louis and his wife are the real heroes. They sacrifice their time and funds out of giving hearts. This clinic is simple.  They give out over-the-counter medicine. They might bandage wounds or pull teeth. They dole out sound advice and comfort young mothers. The true miracle is that neither Louis nor his wife have ever been seriously sick.

I will remember this scene, this place, when I return home. I will remember when I’m tempted to complain about long spells in crowded waiting rooms. I will remember when I show my insurance card and see a doctor for no extra cost. I will remember.

For more details about the Health Clinics that are part of Christian Friendship Ministries or a chance to donate, see www.ChristianFriendshipMinistries.org.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

All-Natural Haiti: A Photo Essay

Ok, let me start with a quick disclaimer: I'm not a photographer. I love photography but I'm pretty spoiled at home in Fresno because a few of my best friends are photographers and many friends have state-of-the-art cameras. That said, we wanted you all to have a view of our life in Haiti through pictures. Most days our internet connection isn't fast enough for uploading photos but we went for it today. Enjoy the journey!

Ericlee, Giada and Meilani hang out in the pool at Smith's Guest House/Hotel in Port Au Prince. This was the first time we have ever seen a swimming pool in Haiti so we were pretty excited. We were blessed our Haitian Director Peter is good friends with the owner and we got a great deal.

This original Haitian painting depicts the earthquake that happened in Haiti on January 12, 2010. The details speak of the damage and chaos in the aftermath.
Ericlee and Peter were eager to dive into a meal of Haitian fish soon after we arrived in Haiti.

Our Giada is in love with all the little goats she sees in the streets of Pignon. The kids from the orphanage next door are raising this little goat. Giada loves to feed it grass and chase it through our yard.

Kids from The Bridge Christian Children's home welcome our family with open arms. They were eager to get a game of soccer aka futbol going right away.

Milove and Guetchine pose with their handmade pillows from the Vasquez family in the U.S. The kids loved these fleece pillows with pockets and little toys hidden inside.

Judelene shows off her skills carrying a bucket on her head. This is the typical Haitian way of carrying very heavy loads. In the country, women (and some men) line the streets carrying large loads of coal, buckets of water or baskets of fruit.

Ericlee hugs his goddaughter, Keta. She was born 10 years ago when we first came to Haiti for the Sports Camp with friends from Evangelical Free Church of Fresno aka The Bridge. Now she's a beautiful young lady.

Mangoes are our daily dessert. Meilani and Giada feast on them every afternoon.

Girls in the Pignon school attend the End-of-the-Year chapel on Monday. Pastor Mele gave a message to encourage the kids.

One of Meilani's favorite new past times is washing clothes with Madame Meriles. (I hope this eagerness sticks when we get back to Fresno.)

Karissa Perla is our friend Nella's new baby girl. She was born a preemie about a month ago. 

Estisonn begged me to show him how to knit after he saw me making a baby hat one afternoon. He was so determined he spent the next several hours learning the technique.

Our girls love riding in the new truck and especially our road trips to St. Raphael, which include driving across the river.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Life in Haiti: Biting into Culture at the Saturday Market

Market Day. 

I love Saturdays in Haiti because the village comes alive for the market. I have traveled to many markets in several different countries like Spain, Guatemala and Costa Rica. This is my favorite way to taste a culture to see the nature of the people. Back home in California our family makes a regular trip to the Saturday farmer’s market. Not only is it our chance to buy less expensive fruits and veggies, but it’s also an opportunity to talk with local farmers and friends.

One of the largest markets I’ve ever perused was the Masaya Mercado in Nicaragua, one of the largest in the world. There were blocks and blocks, rows upon rows of stalls – vendors selling everything from suitcases to handmade jewelry to sides of beef to salted cheese kept in fish tanks.

The marketplace is the heart of culture here in Pignon, Haiti too. People sell their wares and garden produce every day of the week but Saturday is the big day when people come from the outlying areas to sell and buy items.

This morning our French housemate, Ben, took me to the market. I decided to leave the kids at home so I  could savor the experience rather than worry about them in all the market chaos. I call it chaos because people park themselves all over the streets to sell. There is an actual “marketplace” with some markings of stalls but they are hardly identifiable on Saturday. All the adjacent roads are covered with people selling out of carts, baskets, wheelbarrows. Some women simply spread out a cloth or fill up a bowl/basin with pasta and 

Ben and I head first to see our friend Louinise. She helps out at the house and I’ve known her since she was a teenager. She lived me when I was here teaching English in 2002. Louinise has her own little square where she sells near the center of the market. She makes piles of potatoes and garlic. She stacks small towers of mayonnaise and cans of tomato paste. I pick up a can of American corn and another of sweet peas she is selling. The most popular item she has is bouillon cubes that sell 5 for a Haitian dollar, which is about 12 cents. She sits on a bucket that holds her money.

I pull out my shopping list scrawled on lined paper. She snags it from my hand – her way of saying, “I’ll help.” Ben stays to watch her stall while Louinise yanks me through the crowds of people to find what’s on my list. We stop by her friends’ booths first. I get 3 onions for 5 gourdes, 3 tomatoes for 15 gourdes. Pretty sure most of it is organic. Mere pennies compared to the market back home.

We snake our way through the muddy streets (remnants of yesterday’s rain). My eyes bulge a bit as I see a hacked off head of a pig thrown on a table next to a woman who is cutting up goat meat in the middle of another crowd. A basket of shriveled up fish with no eyes are laid out on a tray next to her. Every large market I have been to has its “meat aisle.” I thank God I am not in my first trimester of pregnancy anymore. I know I would be assaulted by the smells. I hold my breath and keep walking.

Louinise grabs my arm as we venture down another street in search of eggplant. I hear a beep-beep and we all must press ourselves together on a curb so a truck can pass. Why they would attempt driving down the main street of the packed marketplace is beyond me. We repeat this routine two or three times throughout our search. One woman pushes me forward and says in Kreyol that I’m not moving fast enough. That makes me smile. Just a part of the Haitian market experience.

My bag is full now: carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, and onions. After a week of mostly fried food and rice & beans done several different ways, my stomach aches for more vegetables. It’s a good thing I practiced living out of the pantry back home because that has been our week. Our final stop at the market is to buy chicken. 

At first, Louinise misunderstands me and I almost end up with 3 live chickens, feathers and all. Finally, I am able to find the words and gestures to communicate that I want cut-up dead chicken legs. A young man pulls out chicken legs from a plastic grocery bag using his bare fingers. I pay 5 U.S. dollars for 10 legs. A pretty price for someone else doing the dirty work of killing, pulling feathers and cleaning the bird. Maybe another day I will tackle that task.

Ben and I head home with the bounty. I am reminded of all I love about this culture – pulsing with life, people not afraid to speak their minds, and even the uniqueness of the cuisine.   

*"Life in Haiti" an occasional series on our family's daily life in Haiti.

June Gilmore Gazette: Finding Joy in the Struggles

Bonjou Faithful Friends & Family,

I know many of you have been keeping up with us on a daily basis through Facebook (Dorina Lazo Gilmore) and our family blog (www.AlohaGilmores.blogspot.com). However, I know we all have busy lives and sometimes a quick summary is helpful . We have been in Haiti for a week now. I wish I had time and good internet connection to write more often but the truth is each day has been brimming with so much to do and see.

We arrived safely last Friday despite the horrible rains that have been inundating Haiti and causing flooding. 

Our Haitian Director Peter was en route to pick us up from the airport but his truck broke down in a particularly muddy area. We appreciate your prayers because we know these helped us navigate the airport rather easily and quickly find our designated ride who took us to a nearby guest house to wait for Peter. Using a borrowed truck, Peter did finally arrive in the evening. We ended up spending Saturday and Sunday in Port Au Prince as we waited for the truck to be fixed. Over the years we have spent little time in Port Au Prince. 

We usually head straight for the mountain town of Pignon. Although we were anxious to get to our new home, this time in the capital city was beneficial. We were able to make some connections with some other people working in Haiti (particularly in sports ministry and fair trade handicrafts). We also saw a whole new world full of contrasts: tent cities, rubble from buildings fallen during the earthquake next to huge, modern grocery and furniture stores.

On Sunday, we headed for Pignon in the fixed truck. The first part of our ride was fairly smooth sailing on the paved road, which reaches to Hinche. After that, it was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride as we bump-bumped through the mud and rocks made even more difficult by the storm. We did finally arrive and we were happy to be greeted by many familiar faces just as church was letting out. Unfortunately, Ericlee and Peter had to turn around and leave Monday morning to return to PAP to pick up the new truck we bought.

I have to take a moment to praise God for His provision of this new truck, which we will use while we are here and will bless the ministry when we are gone. This was a major piece of our personal fundraising started back last September. We are so grateful for so many of you who have given along the way, even run a half marathon to raise dollars and have prayed us through this need. We are blessed to report that the final $4,500 we needed came in just days before we arrived in Haiti. Our God is never late!

The transition to now living in Pignon has been hard for us. We generally come to Haiti for a week or two at a time. We approach our time here like an exciting backpacking trip. The inconveniences are a novelty and the challenges have an endpoint because we know we will be going home soon. That’s not the case this time. Our week has been full of growing pains as we learn to lather our kids in bug spray every few hours, teach them to bathe and keep their mouths closed so as not to swallow unfiltered water, learn to negotiate the money exchange and set up phone/internet here in the house. The humidity is exhausting and we find our sleep at night is often restless. We share these hardships so you can know how to pray for us more specifically.

Each afternoon we have a Kreyol language lesson with two young leaders from the church. They are eager to teach and learn some English in the process. How grateful we are for this one-one-one time with them. Our brains are spinning as we try to absorb a new language as quickly as we can so we can communicate more effectively.

We continue to covet your prayers as we discover more of God’s purpose for us here in Haiti for these first three months. The needs abound in every corner and our desire is to stay focused on what God has for us. These few weeks we are visiting the schools and churches and offering a listening ear to many Haitians to hear their needs and dreams. We are encouraged by how much we have learned even in one short week about how things work here and ways we might support our Haitian partners in the future. We are looking forward to two teams coming from Fresno during early July. Our role will then be as host family for our American friends and family.

We think of you often. Thanks to all who have been encouraging us through text messages and e-mails. 

Please let us know how we can be praying for you!

In His Grip,                                                                                              
Ericlee, Dorina, Meilani, Giada & baby Girl Gilmore

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Culture Shock Sets In

Culture shock is the difficulty people have adjusting to a new culture that differs markedly from their own.
I know it's coming. I experience it every time I am here in Haiti. I suppose knowing culture shock is coming makes it easier to cope but really I'm not sure that's true. It's like going through the grieving process over someone's death. You may have knowledge of the steps you will experience, but you still have to go through these steps to get to the other side of healing.

I figured out this my eighth trip to Haiti in the last 10 years. Pretty amazing to think about. I suppose that shows how much this place has truly captured my heart. The people. The culture. The food. Even the mountain landscape continues to lure this big city Chicago-turned-California girl. Of course, it's never easy. We usually come to Haiti for 1-2 weeks at a time. We are here now for 3 months with the possibility of returning again in the new year for even longer. I have realized my attitude is so different this time around.

I usually approach time in Haiti like backpacking. A spirit of adventure wells up inside me. I believe I can handle anything. Living out of a suitcase seems an exercise in simplicity - almost appealing compared with our usual life overrun by stuff. When I am backpacking the food tastes amazing. My energy level soars.

Now I've been in the country for five days. My outlook is very different as I approach a longer-term stay. For one, I approach this stay with my mama eyes. It's not just looking out for myself. I have to look out for my girls. I survey the surroundings for what may be a hazard to them. While I consider myself more laid-back at home, I feel so overly vigilant here. I have to constantly be on the girls to wash their hands, keep fingers out of their mouth, wear shoes or sandals wherever they walk (even in the house), ration the snacks because if you eat 5 chocolate chip Zbars in one day you won't have them in a month. Try explaining some of these to a 5-year-old, let alone a 2-year-old.

Our first few days in Haiti were spent in Port Au Prince. In some ways I felt like I was in the lap of luxury compared to our simple mountain town life we were anticipating. We had to stay in a guest house (so thankful our friend Peter knew someone who owned a great place and gave us a steal of a deal!). They had a restaurant, pool, free phone and internet in the lobby. The shower was tiled and the toilet flushed. Original Haitian artwork adorned the walls. Ericlee and I felt almost embarassed to begin our stay in a place like this when just down the street were rows and rows of tents where earthquake survivors are still living. Piles of burning garbage are on every street corner. Fallen buildings remain a mess of concrete and metal.

I can now identify my culture shock when every other thought in my head is: I want to go home. I reached that point on Sunday when we were driving from Port Au Prince to Pignon and the road started getting bumpy. I knew it was coming but didn't anticipate how bad it would be. The road is actually paved most of the way from Pignon to a small city called Hinche not far from Pignon. That last stretch of road took us about two hours to drive. Mind you, it's 19 miles. I'll spare you the details except to say that this pregnant mama prone to motion sickness actually felt great relief in puking. Ugh.

That's when I started saying over and over again: I want to go home.

I think they call this the Negotiation Phase. Look it up on Wikipedia. That's what I did since most of my cross-cultural living books are packed in a box somewhere in Fresno.

I have learned to allow myself some time to complain - whether in a journal or to my hubby or in my head. I need to go through that part of the culture shock too. I also am forcing myself and my girls to rest. The last few days Ericlee has been traveling to and from Port Au Prince with Peter to buy a new truck and pick up supplies. I've been flying solo here at the house (with some help from the French intern, Ben, who is also living with us).

I've tried to set up some rhythm for us. Every morning we eat breakfast together, read devotions and have an activity (while most of the kids in the neighborhood are in school). The girls have chosen painting the last two days so that has been fun. We also got use out of the "sun print kit" Meilani got for her birthday from dear friends who were thinking ahead toward our summer in Haiti.

After that, I tackle bathing them. There's no tub for long, luxurious bubble baths like my girls have in the U.S. Instead I put them in a laundry tub and fill it with water and tell them about 100 times not to get any water in their mouths. (Our filtered water is only in the kitchen.) Last summer, Giada was too young to understand avoiding the water so I had to boil it all, cool it and then bathe the girls. That took hours.

Yesterday, I started reading them Winnie The Pooh, which is free on my iBooks. While listening, they learned about washing clothes by hand from one of the ladies who works here at the house. We spy on the cooks while they are preparing our lunch. (I hope to learn some Haitian cooking by the end of three months.) Then we have our lunch and nap/rest in our room. After they rest, we head over to the orphanage to play with the kids who are home from school by then.

I'm not sure this will be every day but I know some rhythm and routine is important for us to cope with the shock of moving from the developed world to this developing country. As for my own coping, when I'm tempted to feel really sorry for myself (usually when I'm sitting on the toilet again or when I'm staring down Giada's blistering bug bites) I get out my gratitude journal.

I'm continuing to count the gifts around me. It's surprising, but gifts abound.

I take my cue from so many Haitians. In the face of struggle, their faith is strengthened. Staring down poverty, hunger, even hopelessness, they praise God. They see the gifts in this simple life; It's all they know.

737. Red hibiscus plant on the road lifting my chin with hope
738. Familiar faces waving hello as we tool down the dust road
739. Explosive smiles from kids in the orphanage
742. My girls narrating everything these see with wonder & honesty
743. Mangoes!
747. Fans left in the closet from last summer since we forgot ours
755. Our friend, Dartiguenov, home from the hospital
756. Delivering handmade gifts from friends at home to kids in the orphanage
757. A night without any mouse sightings
759. Breathtaking view of the sunset from the orphanage roof
781. Voices rising early in song
784. Reminder that He alone is our peace in times of struggle

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Miracle of our House

More than a year ago when we started to feel God prompting our hearts to pursue a calling to Haiti. The first part of that journey was to downsize our possessions. Ericlee and I prayed about it and we really felt like downsizing for us meant selling our Fresno home. Our beautiful, four-bedroom home nestled in Fig Garden has been a place for making memories and for cultivating community. We have used it as a house of ministry as we have had the opportunity to invite many friends, relatives and missionaries to stay with us through the years.

But we started to ask ourselves if we really needed a 4-bedroom, 2-bath house with a pool when it meant spending so much energy spinning our wheels to pay the mortgage. We had less and less time for family and even fewer resources to serve and share with others like we dreamed.

We originally put the house on the market in September 2010 over Labor Day weekend. We hired my brother, Paul Lazo, who works as a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Town & Country. He helped us make some updates and clean the place up. He also gave us the hard advice along the journey when we had to reduce the price because of a struggling housing market.

We prayed for a miracle. And so many of you prayed right along with us.

We expected a miracle.

Sometimes miracles come in the most unexpected ways. God has built our faith through this journey of waiting. We believed that when He raised the money we needed and sold the house it would be our time to go to Haiti.

On Thursday, May 26, we decided it was time to try to rent out the place. We knew we only had a few weeks before we were slated to depart for Haiti for the summer. Within a few hours of posting the rental on my Facebook page, our phone was ringing off the hook. Paul also listed it on Craiglist and officially on the Multiple Listing Site for real estate.

That weekend we had 12 families come see the house who were interested in renting. Two additional agents called to show the house to potential buyers. We are excited and exhausted by all the action. In the midst of all these visitors, one family in particular stuck out to us as being very responsible and someone we would love to see enjoy our home. Ericlee actually had a connection to them through a classmate at Fresno Christian.

Long story short we negotiated and the family accepted a two-year lease on our home with the option to buy in two years. They were willing to pay $400 more a month than we originally proposed. We will not go into any debt renting out the house. They even asked my brother to be their agent for a short sale on their current home. How God's story is always more intricate and nuanced than we expect.

Ok, let's be real; it was crazy! We had less than a week to totally clear out the house and clean it for our new renters. I am tempted to dwell on how last-minute all that felt. We were certainly blessed by a small army of friends who came and helped pack boxes, haul our stuff to another friend's house for storage and even cleaned and dumped garbage. For a full day of that process, Meilani, Giada and I were in bed with a nasty flu (a story for another day). How humbling to sit and allow others to serve.

My brother and family came up from L.A. to help in the final paperwork and move. The cousins finally did get in some playtime. Paul drew up the paperwork and we signed on Sunday with the new family. We departed for Haiti on Monday. Yes, it was a whirlwind. God bless my parents who had to deal with the aftermath of items left behind, items to be donated and even mailing us some of the the things we forgot (like all our malaria medicine!)

Now sitting on this side of that wild week, I am so grateful. I see that God was always working underground while we are waiting. I can't imagine being in the desert for 40 years waiting on God. One year felt like my eternity. Yet, I know He was growing us at this time. He was preparing us for what is to come. He was working out all the details for this new family to live in our home. He was putting together puzzle pieces I still do not understand.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

From Downsizing to Packing for Haiti

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus Christ has given me - the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace. ~ Acts 20:24

We are in a whirlwind right now. I feel my heart rate quickening as the final mile of this marathon is in sight. The end of this journey of downsizing and waiting and packing is so close. June 1 was the official start date for us as we commit to serving one year with Christian Friendship Ministries - connecting resources to Haiti. We will be living June through August in Haiti and then September through the new year in Fresno. Our third baby girl is due appropriately at Thanksgiving time. We hope to return to Haiti sometime in January or February with our three girls.

This weekend we will complete the packing and storage of all of our things. We are shipping off all our furniture to different friends in town. We hope to be signing papers Saturday with a family who will start their own journey of memories in our beloved Fresno home. Sunday we will be commissioned at our church, The Bridge, during the 9:30 a.m. Cafe service and 11 a.m. Main service.

On Monday, we depart for our "extended summer adventure" living in the mountain town of Pignon, Haiti. When we arrive in Haiti, a new journey commences, a new race will begin as we immerse ourselves in the culture, attempt to the learn the Haitian Kreyol language and host several short-term mission teams this summer. We are excited but we know we have a hard transition before us.

I hope when I get on the airplane that I will have time to blog about some of the myriad miracles God has performed over the last year on this journey to Haiti. I can't begin to highlight how many times He has provided the funds, the food, the community of people we needed at just the right time to care for us through our trials. I've sometimes wondered if God was a little behind schedule, but in my heart I knew He was always just on time with His plans. I've learned to trust this. And I've learned so much about His faithfulness.

Ericlee and I were up most of last night with our youngest, Giada, who caught a 24-hour flu bug in the midst of our crazy week. As we were taking turns changing soiled sheets and running her to the toilet, I couldn't help but ask myself how I could possibly be ready for all that is ahead. I'm not. Lord, give me the strength. Of course this is nothing compared to what our Haitian brothers and sisters endure daily. I know God is calling us to that place.

This morning we read one of our favorite devotionals, Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman. This quote from the missionary George Mueller just lept off the page: "The only way to know strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm through severe testings." Mueller's astounding faith in God's provision helped him start an orphanage in China decades ago. His story always buoys me up in my resolve to follow this wild call to Haiti.

We are so deeply grateful for each one of you. Now we covet your prayers.

Will you pray over these final details with us?

-Continued fundraising. We are still $13,000 short of our final goal so we can buy our vehicle in Port Au Prince next week. We already have put a $10,000 down payment on the vehicle. We know God can provide the exact need!
-Packing up everything in our house to be out by Saturday and transporting it to storage and friends' homes
-Paperwork and details to be covered with new renters of our Fresno home
-Last-minute errands and gathering of supplies for Haiti
-Packing our 8 family bags, 4 carry-ons, that we might not forget anything important
-Departure on Monday at 1:30 p.m. from the Fresno airport arriving later that day in Tampa at the home of dear friends in Tampa, Florida
-For our three days of rest and retreat in Florida before we fly to Port au Prince on Friday, June 10
-That all our bags will arrive safely in Haiti with items undamaged
-For our meeting with our Haitian Director Peter Constanatin and the bumpy truck to our mountain home in Pignon
-For the transition to a new home, a new life for the next three months
-That we might see the light to our path as God guides each step

Thank you for praying for us and with us. We know we could never run this race without the support of so many friends & family!