Saturday, October 11, 2014

She's Dead

(My first conversation with a neighbor since being back. I was on a run.)

…“How is your Mom?”
“She’s dead”, Otianee said.
“What? Your mom?”
“Yes, she died.”
“What happened?”
“She got a fever. She had it for 8 days. She died at the hospital.”

Otianee lives right around the corner. I run past her and her mother several times a week saying hello. I sit with them shooting the breeze, eating their homemade peanut butter underneath their awning.  I can’t believe it! Otianee’s mother is dead.  Standing speechless my heart ached.

Yesterday afternoon my run took on a whole other meaning.  Thoughts enveloped my mind; ‘No wonder the awning hasn’t been up, shielding their porch from the sun.  This is why I haven’t seen the little store in front of their house. I thought things looked different... I never told her about Jesus. All those times sitting with them I NEVER once said Jesus’ name.  Why didn’t I?  How can she be gone?  She was a strong woman. She’s wasn’t even skinny, wasting away like some. I can’t believe she’s dead…’ 

(picture above is Otianee's home. See the blanket up shielding them from the sun?)

While running during the day many people yell to me, “Anpil Cho”. Which means, it is very hot. (Most Haitians think I am crazy for running in the heat of the day.)  I get a lot of “Blanc”(white person) too.  Today was no different.  Though, as I was turning at the halfway point a man on his bike yells to me, “Bondye Renmen Ou”.  God Loves You.  Right then and there I got all choked up ready to cry on the side of the road.  And it wasn’t because someone finally said something different than “blanc” or “anpil cho”.  It was because he told me God loves me.  Now it’s my turn.
Returning to Haiti, from the States, showered with anxiety and restlessness I asked the Lord what I am to do with my time here.  God has made two things clear to me. Death is knocking at Haitian people’s door daily. Death comes with little warning.   Haitians need to know God KNOWS their name and died for them.  God has sent me here to do just that, tell them of His love and sacrifice.  I have known this yet never grasped the urgent need to speak of Christ. What a prideful mentality, ‘I will share Christ when I am ready’.  I am ashamed of these thoughts I have had.  God’s will for all Believers is to share His story.   And share it when His Spirit prompts us to. And second, my focus needs to stay on my kiddos.  Most of my time is spent with my children. And I won’t replace that for the world. But sometimes it leaves me wondering why I am living so far from “home” when I am with my kids most of the time.  The answer is, I am making disciples.  This is the time to pour into my children, making them disciples for Christ; teaching, showing, living the gospel for their eyes to see.  It is where I am to be and need to be focused.  Those couple hours 3 days a week when I can get out and meet my neighbors are a precious time. It is a time when disciples can be made. 
Pray for us as we share Jesus with those around us. Pray for boldness despite inadequacy, which lies deep within. Pray the Gospel will penetrate souls and bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ.  

Matthew 28:19-20  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

He's in the Boat

Yesterday, marked as a day of heaviness.  Not  knowing what to make of it until after lunch.  Josh gone for the day.  Kids outside playing.  I went to my bedroom, closed the door, and said, "I am listening Lord".   Mark 4 was on my mind as I heard Pastor Begg's podcast earlier.  I turned to it.  Mark 4:35-41 was where I sat. Still. Pondering.  We all know the story.  Jesus was in the stern, 'asleep on a cushion'.  A big storm comes, 'waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up'. Disciples wake up Jesus totally freaked out, as my daughter would say.  Jesus got up, said a few words to the wind and sea.  Everything...'perfectly calm'.  Jesus then asks the question, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?".   (At that moment I knew what the heaviness was related to.)  "No Lord, I don't have the faith."  Ever so quietly I sat.  Why is this?  With whispered prayer,  "I feel like I am the boat.  Waves crashing over me.  Water filling up.  Sinking me.  I know You're on the boat.  I know You are.  What am I afraid of?  Where is my faith?"

   I am not sure I know the complete answer to my questions.  Lack-of competency might be one. Feelings of unworthiness might be another.  Not really understanding my path here, another.  Through all of this I am reminded in the beginning of Mark 4; Faith as small as a mustard seed can do great things.  We might never know what comes from those little tiny seeds. Though my insufficient faith might I still be used for Him.

   That afternoon I went visiting.  You might ask what a typical visit looks like. I walk down a dirt road to visit some neighbors.  The visits are almost always outside of the home.  Homes are small and used for sleeping and storing things.  It is not typically a place for visits.  It is very hot in the home.  Little ventilation.  Windows and doors are almost always closed due to unwanted bad spirits that could enter in.  So we sit outside.  Plastic chairs are for visitors only.  After the visit they are put away, back in the house.  I sit, asking how their family is.  Asking how they are.  Listening a lot.  Not really knowing what to say.  My heart, today, must have been on sensitivity alert.  I have lived here for a year and a half and didn't see the filth as I saw yesterday.  Compassion over took me.  Sitting next to their store, which is on a cart, I was surrounded by hundreds of flies.  My neighbors looked dirty.  Not the 'dirty' you might think of.  Soiled might be the better word.  I never noticed the dirt.  How come?  I don't know why.  A boy sitting by me had this cough.  I never heard a cough quite like that.  It made me concerned, wondering what his future holds.  Thoughts whirled; What must the neighbors think of ME?  What am I doing sitting there?   I want to tell them that Jesus wants to be on their boat.  How can I when they are dirty, smelly, hungry, sick, hurting, angry, drunk?  And I am clean, clothed well, not hungry, have insurance and 'well off'….I visit one more family. Their house is made of sticks and tilting so far over, a big log is perched on one side of the house to keep it standing! (This is the family with the pigs.  The boy who washed my window? I told you about them in the last post) I visit them.  The cousin had a baby.  I held the baby.  What a lovely family.  Yet, oh, does mom look tired.  The no-way-out-look.  I sit.  Asking about family again.  And a few more questions.  I felt this warm feeling on my leg.  The baby peed.   Most can't afford diapers.  So babies go where they go.  Can't help it.  They felt bad that this happened.  I reassured them it was no big deal.  After awhile, I head home, wondering how someone like me can tell them who needs to be in their boat.
  I am reminded of Moses. He had many excuses as why he couldn't be the one God would use. Through God's love, graciousness and compassion he reassured Moses and also sent Aaron as his helper.  I know I am a Moses.  So unsure of my usefulness.  Faith so small.  I pray my faith will grow, knowing I am right where He wants me,  rooted firmly,  in the boat with him having NOTHING to fear.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Using the "Poor" to Glorify One's Self

Yesterday a neighbor boy came over asking for food.  This simply prodded me to ask him why he is hungry.  We know his family owns at least 10 pigs.  So I ask.
"Why does your family need food?"
     His response, "we don't have any".
 "Do you have pigs?"
     "Yes. But those are my dads."
"Where is your dad?"
     "He is not here."
"Where is he?"
     "He is somewhere."
"You need to tell your dad to sell a pig so your family can eat."
"Why not?"
    And the conversation continues.  We told him we will give him some food if he washes one window. As he is washing our window my heart is aching.  All these thoughts are running through my mind. I know it is not his fault he is hungry.  He is just a boy. I know they are "poor".  He shouldn't have to wash my window for food.  But if I  give him some food without work he will be back everyday asking for food.  Oh! the battle that waged within.  Meanwhile, the boy's mother comes walking to our house as her son is washing our window for food. I talk to her asking her why, if they are hungry, aren't they selling a pig so they can have money for food. I don't get a response at all.  The young boy finishes the window and I give him a peanut butter sandwich and a cookie pack knowing he most likely will give that food to his family, leaving nothing for himself.  This is just one story of many that happens throughout our days in Haiti.
   The big question is, who is poor?  I believe "poor" is based on each individual's perspective. People living in the United States look at Haiti, for example, and think "poor".  However there are Haitian people who do not consider themselves as poor by any means. In fact, this little boy's family who has the pigs?  They 'look' very poor yet compared to their neighbors and others in Haiti they "have money" because they have animals(the pigs).  Ownership of animals is a mark of wealth here. The managing of their money might be the issue; choosing other things above needs. For Example, our family gave another neighbor family new shorts for Christmas because they were running around in their under ware. It is the end of February and the kids are still running around in their under ware. We assumed they would love getting those shorts for Christmas. So where are the shorts?
   Restoring dignity to Haiti is a must. Countries around the world have told Haiti they are poor.  When one is told over and over again what they are they begin to believe it when it isn't the truth. Poverty, in some aspects, is all based on perspective. I drive down roads, here in Haiti, seeing signs.  Well known organizations put up signs in front of homes they built.  These signs have the word "poor" in them or "needy".  I don't know about you but how would you feel driving into your free home seeing a sign that reads "this is for the poor" or "(a named organization) built this for the poor"?  Deep down I would think, "I don't feel poor.  I have a job, house, clothes and food…but"  As time passes by, hearing people tell me I am poor and seeing signs that say I am poor makes me start believing I am poor.  Haiti has been given lots of things because they have been labeled as "poor" and this has crippled them. Honestly, it is hard figuring out where the fine line is between helping or crippling my neighbors. I know some of them need food.  But I also know most can do things to get food.
   The Bible has a great story which explains how one man handled people coming to him asking him for food.  Joseph.  Joseph had control over all of Egypt during the great famine. He had people coming to him daily asking for food because of this famine.  First Joseph sold the grain for money.  When the people ran out of money they came back to Joseph saying, "give us food, for why should we die in your presence?  For our money is gone".  Genesis 47 NASB   Did Joseph just give them the food?  NO.. He could have felt guilty…but instead this is what he said, "Give up your livestock, and I will give you food for your livestock, since your money is out."  When their food ran out they came back a 3rd time begging Joseph to buy THEM and their land for food.  Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh because every person was out of money.  The people ended up working on the land they sold to Joseph keeping 1/5 of their product for themselves.  The rest went to Joseph to manage.
   What we are trying to do here in Haiti? We are trying to restore dignity that has been lost. In order for people to understand God's love for them they need to be told they are worth it.  If they don't believe they are worth it they won't believe they are worth being saved by grace through Jesus. We can't cripple people in order to calm the guilt we have placed in our hearts. We must live and do without wanting to be recognized. Lots of organizations in Haiti have their names plastered over every thing they have made or done for Haiti.  We must ask ourselves, do we "give"/ "serve" out of the need to feel good about one's self or because we feel guilt?  Or do we "give" and "serve" when the Spirit prompts? When we serve and give it is done quietly, without others knowing, not loudly so all can see(glorifying our self). All we do should glorify God not ourselves.  Haiti, sadly, is a picture of people serving others to glorify oneself(not all of course..but most). Leaving behind a big mess. Dependency.
   When someone comes to my door I ask the Lord for discernment. I ask for the Spirit to lead, not my emotions.  I am still trying to figure out who truly is poor in a country, from our perspective, where all appear poor.   My heart seems to tug more at those who are poor spiritually.  That is almost everybody! The question that lies now is, how do we share Jesus to those who view us, white people, so differently than themselves? The answer is NOT gathering a crowd telling them they need Jesus and then giving them fun things afterwards. That is a false sense of evangelism.  We do as Jesus did.  The best example.    We walk alongside each other daily. We Love despite differences. We look for opportunities to teach. We live next to them daily, sharing struggles in this world. We be their neighbor.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Crossing Cultural divides...My sister-in-law's cancer to my Haitian friend's headache?

 Last month I got an email from my mom, hearing words I never thought I would hear, "Tracy has cancer."   My sister-in-law, Tracy, hadn't been feeling well for a while and knew it was more than just "not feeling well". Through a series of tests and the removal of her thyroid, cancer was found. She is still undergoing tests and appointments to kick this thing as they have found more cancer in her lymph nodes.

My friend, Marilude
  Last week I visited Marilude down the road. We both had the flu bug a month ago so we hadn't seen each other for a while.  When I got there she was still sick, battling a bad headache.  She was in bed most days due to this relentless headache.  I had those headaches too but Advil took them away so I could function throughout the day.  I couldn't believe she was still sick! I couldn't imagine STILL being in bed! I felt the Lord was prompting me to bring her some Advil that day.  So I did, trusting the Spirit's leading.  The next day I visited her to see how she was doing.  She was up and about! The headache was gone!

  Laying in bed,  2 things came to mind about Tracy and Marilude.  The first thing, I was glad Tracy lives in the United States.  She has access to good health care and all measures will be used to kill the cancer.  My friend, Marilude, here in Haiti?  She left the doctor finding out she is anemic and has bad headaches.  There was no plan to help relieve her from the headaches.  Not even medicine.  The second thing I thought was, I am so glad Tracy and Todd(my brother) love the Lord and have Him to rest in. I can't say that for my friend.

 While living here in Haiti I have come to find that there are 2 specific needs which cross the cultural divide. Physical and spiritual needs.  If these 2 needs aren't met very little hope is found.  Having hope makes all the difference in the world.  For example, my sister-in-law, Tracy. She has hope.  She knows the Lord will carry her through whatever comes her way.  Even through the most difficult words such as "you have cancer", Tracy has hope.  Despite not really knowing a whole lot about the battle before her, she has hope.  Tracy is surrounded by good, skilled doctors and nurses and she has hope in the Lord.  Does she growing weary? Yes.  Does she feel lost, wondering what is going on? Yes. At times, does life feel like it is too much to bear? Yes. Yet, they(Tracy and my brother, Todd) can cling to verses such as Matthew 11:28; "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yolk is easy and my burden is light." What if they didn't have those precious words to cling to at a time like this?  What if she didn't have the well-trained doctors and nurses able to treat the cancer?  She would have no hope.  Which makes me think of my dear friend, Marilude.  Putting myself in Marilude's shoes I would feel defeated and weary.  No health care. Headaches so strong I am in bed, not knowing when they will end.  No medicine available to take the headaches away.  (And there is a simple, over the counter, cure for her headaches. Advil.) No Jesus, comforting me and spurring me on. Ugh! There would be no hope for tomorrow.
      What does this mean for me living here, in Haiti?  The need to be tuned into the Holy Spirit, yielding to It's call, is key.  When the Spirit prompts,  I need to act.  But only when the Spirit prompts. I can't act because I 'feel bad' for those around me.  That would cause a whole lot of other issues for myself and those around me. I have been here over a year and continue to learn about these "helping" issues.  It is tricky line to walk in this culture and environment!  At the end of the day, I have to trust God to lead me in these new-budding relationships, giving me wisdom, discerning each situation.  And at the end of the day my friend needs Jesus so she can have hope. So she can "Come to Jesus" for rest. So she can ask herself, 'what value is in this trial that the Lord would have me walk through it?'  So she can cling to Isaiah 41:10; " not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
     To wrap this up, Tracy and Marilude have both encountered difficulty yet their outcomes and outlooks are very different. They both are women, created by the same God and are sick.  They were born into 2 very different countries and cultures BUT their needs are the same! These 2 simple needs cross the cultural divide.  Now all I have to do is keep working to truly figure out what that looks like here in Haiti!  Wish me luck!

Friday, October 18, 2013

It's Time!

   A year has gone by, some language is under my belt so it's time to meet new people. Monday, Thursday and Saturday are my typical running days.  Running seemed like a good way to meet people. Run by, say hi and pray I have the nerve to stop and say hello.  The first month I just ran. I didn't stop, just waved.  The second month I prayed the Lord would give me the boldness to stop and say hi.  The first time out, I chickened out, not stopping. Second time out?  Chicken again! I was soooooooo nervous not able to get passed fear. Third day, a woman stopped ME! ME!!  I whispered to myself, "Thank-you Lord, oh thank-you Lord".  Poor guy (the Lord), working with me.  He must think, "Oh dear, I have another Moses on my hands! I have to, like, throw people at Joy to be able to use her!'...The woman and I chatted for a few minutes and I felt like I had succeeded, overcoming my fear, even though it wasn't on my terms! The next time, another woman stopped ME (thank-you Lord, again) and I have been getting to know her ever since. Currently, I have faced my fears meeting family after family along the road I run on with the basic Creole I know.  I run for exercise but with a purpose; stopping and meeting neighbors along the way. Instead of the little children calling out, "Blanc!! Blanc!!"  now they yell "Madame Josh, Madame Josh".  It is slowly beginning to feel like home here.  One morning a week I walk and pray with Pam (missionary friend) for this little neighborhood we are a part of.  And in the afternoon we visit one family, trying to get to know them better. Pam is fluent in Creole which makes for a better understanding of how each family works. I also work on my Creole getting pointers from Pam after our visit.  I have learned a lot from this community.  Most women in our area have children and are living with other women or family members.  A friend of mine sells alcohol to men after the work day.  I have been surprised to learn their struggles are a lot like ours in America.  Broken homes. Alcoholism. Struggle. I know I will learn much more as time goes on.  My desire is, a year from now, I will have the boldness to begin a Bible Study with the women from my running route. My language is still very basic yet I hope in a years time it will grow as I am out more and more among the neighbors.

 Josiah and Hope are now in the 3rd and 1st grade. I school them at home.  Our school year is going smoothly.  Josiah has quickly picked up Creole. He can take things to our neighbors or ask them questions for me, all in Creole. He is always playing with the neighbor boys.  Some of them are around his age. Hope's language is coming along. I think a lot more is in her head! I think she knows more than she lets on. One day I overheard her speaking to our neighbor! I just about died because I had no idea she could understand let alone respond in Creole. That girl! Hope just celebrated her 7th birthday playing games the neighbor kids thought were crazy!! It was a great time!

   Josh continues to work with the workers hired through Paulos Group.  He also has been building relationships with the men who are directly related to building the houses. He loves to joke with them and also figure out their struggles and frustrations. Josh continues to keep Paulos Group's finances in order. He has also taken up soccer, playing a couple times a week with our neighbors.

  All in all, relationships are growing and forming. Reaching people for Christ is not just providing nice housing with plumbing, electricity and a refrigerator. This is what people 'see' Paulos Group doing.  It is the behind the scene things that people don't see. Our relationships with people, striving to love them, forgive them and respect them during difficulty. Living among them, day in day out. Facing some of the same difficulties they face. Our actions "show" Christ.  Loving them through difficulty is hard to do at times.  Sunday mornings we open God's word in their language, teaching them things they have never heard before.  We pray solid christian leaders will be formed through this. The huge obstacle we face is why they come to church and why they "love God". Are they saying the right things and attending church because we are white Americans and have something nice to offer them, such as a work opportunity or a home? We are trying to figure out how to overcome this.   Just the color of our skin sets us completely apart from them.  We pray and trust that one day we will see a life truly transformed for Christ. We pray our hearts will be attentive to the Spirit, following It's leading.  You might have heard or read about someone working in another country. They plaster the number of people that have 'come to Christ' on their website or newsletter or in their speech.  "327 People accepted Christ",  "135 people accepted Christ".  Now that I have been here for a year and see the difficulty for 1 Haitian to truly know God puts lots of questions in my head about the "number game".  Desiring hearts for Christ should be our desire, not to make us feel good or to see people as a number or project. It is out of genuine concern for their soul, not being able to tell home (Americans) how many lives have been saved. It is a lot to think about...
    This past year has been a year of learning, growing, battling and loving. It has been good. But it is also difficult. We are beginning to truly love this country and  its people. And our hearts break more as we see their need for a Savior.  Pray for sensitive hearts ready to receive the Love of Christ. Pray for our family, endurance, grace, and a servant's heart daily. May we live out Christ and speak Christ to those around us.  Pray for Paulos Group as we move forward seeking the Lord for the months and years ahead.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I Ache...But Have Hope

This morning as I was getting breakfast ready I heard the little neighbor girl screaming. As I looked out the window I saw her older brother beating her with some kind of rope or switch. For what reason? I do not know. I stood frozen wanting to go save this girl from her ruthless brother.  I didn't go. I didn't stop him. But why? I don't know how to act in a culture where these type of beatings are normal.  Had I stepped in I could have cause some serious trouble in this place that could possibly get me or my children hurt. What do I do?  I Ache...praying for Jesus' return.

Over the past few moths I have been talking with a young woman who struggles with anorexia. She is a beautiful young woman, smart, fun and has a servant's heart, however she does not see the beauty she is in Christ, which far surpasses the worldly junk shoved in her face. I cannot wrap my head around why us women try so hard to attain a beauty that is in vain. Why? If we see ourselves as completely whole in Him we would care less about beauty and care more about our life in Christ. I fall for this same type of lie! How is my worth somehow measured by my beauty? When it is spelled out like that it sounds absurd! This young woman tried to reach this 'skinny' goal that almost cost her life. By God's grace she is recovering and clinging to Him tonight. I Ache...Jesus please come. 

As I was reading in 1 Corinthians  today I read the part when Jesus said, "but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong."  We are strong in the Christ. We appear weak in the World's eyes but not in God's. Our strength comes from God's Word, something the World sees as foolish.  He can use us to love the hurting, encourage the weary and serve selflessly.  He can use us to be examples to other Believers struggling with worldly ideals. He can use us to choose the unpopular decisions in this selfish world. We are the example. We need to live it out! 

  This week, I have been humbled by many simple prayers God has answered in the way I desired them to be answered. And through this I have come to understand His deep care for me and my simple prayers for those around me. I felt the Lord tugging at me to write something to make you stop and think AND encourage you today. He knows your NAME..He formed your body perfectly...He knows your struggles and CARES!  We, as Believers have hope in the Lord as we try to live in this world. I can't imagine not having that hope of eternity with Him. 

  As I was on a run awhile ago the Lord showed me something in the way of my shadow. As I turned onto the dirt road that leads to our home, immediately my shadow fell right in front of me. As I ran I watched my shadow.  I took a step to the left, my shadow stepped with me.  I stepped to the right, my shadow followed immediately. I ran straight ahead and my shadow stayed straight ahead of me... My prayer is I shadow God as He leads me in this life. Stepping to the right and the left as He leads. If I do so, my 'race of life' will be unwavering and complete, the only thing worth desiring. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Let's Celebrate!

This morning as I woke up and walked out to the living room, the first thing on my mind was, "What goals am I going to accomplish today in order to get this mess of a home back in order."  (We're in the process of moving EVERYTHING in order to accomplish some final projects.  We don't have a lot but when things are all piled in the middle of every room it creates a huge mess!)  Then Joy walks out within a minute or two and sits down next to me and says "Happy Anniversary".  Can you believe we've been married for 11 years.  We definitely count it a blessing and are very thankful for each other.  God has blessed us in too many ways to mention.  We are excited about what the next 11 will bring.
Well, today turned into a day unlike any other anniversary.  It began with doing some work in the garage.  Due to some complications with a power adapter, generator, and inverter we spent 2 hours trying to fix a problem with our problem solving skills that should have taken 15 minutes.  Unfortunately due to lack of available equipment we we had to hold off on fixing it.  As we were nearing the end of this job our neighbor Jul Nor came to the door asking for rubbing alcohol, we didn't have any so he left.  Moments later Joy came running down to us frantically.  She explained that our friend and neighbor, Pa Jul had just cut his arm with a machete while working and blood was gushing out.  So Shane and I dropped what we were doing to see what was happening.  We quickly realized that Pa Jul was in need of some medical attention.
As we approached the hospital Shane drove by it because it looked completely different.  From what we've heard some of the walls have recently fallen down.  About half of the building seems to be missing.  So as we walked in climbing over rubble, the nurses were sitting out side just hanging out.  We approached them and they looked on without any appearance of concern or need to move towards action.  You wonder if they had a hospital to work in that wasn't missing its walls, that had running water,  working sewage, and solar power, if their attitude towards their work would be different.  They were very nice people but their environment definitely hasn't been a motivational factor.  So we waited as we all hung outside chit chatting.  They eventually decided to numb Pa Jul up, stitch him up, and hydrate him with some fluids.  By the time we left, we spent 200 goudes which amounts to about $5.  That's nothing for you and I but it's a little less than a days wages for those here in Ft. Liberté.
So that was my 11th Anniversary.  Real exciting huh?  It's definitely not what I've been accustomed to.  But as I've been thinking about my 1st Anniversary here in Haiti, it hasn't felt the same.  Usually in the States I would find my way to a nearby store to purchase flowers and a card for Joy.  I might also find something else to give her has a gift.  I don't have the same options available here.  We don't have a vehicle yet so I couldn't drive to a store and buy a gift.  I'm pretty sure there isn't a flower shop nearby either with the latest Hallmark cards.  Right now, the best thing I could give Joy was my work and the hope of a cleaned up home.
As the day unraveled, these events displayed our organizations work.  Our work is cultivating proven and innovative solutions to poverty.  We believe that the word "proven" is interchangeable with "biblical".  As we incorporate infrastructure and new technologies into our community we have to work out the kinks and we've learned a lot.  We are adding opportunity and improving our community that many will benefit from.  But then as Pa Jul had his accident we chose to step in because Pa Jul isn't just a guy that lives "over there", he is our friend, our neighbor, and part of our community.  Caring for and about our community is our work.  That is what Christ has called us to do.
Now one thing that our anniversary typically does is that it reminds me that Christmas is right around the corner.  But at times I've had to remind myself that this is the Christmas season.  We have attempted to maintain some of our traditions, but it doesn't feel like Christmas is here.    First, it's still in the 90's and there is no snow, or even talk of it.  We didn't go to the nearby tree farm and cut down our tree and sit by the fire drinking hot chocolate.  We haven't walked into any stores and looked at the Christmas decorations, and we haven't been bombarded by the commercialization of the holiday.  We haven't sang any Christmas songs at church or heard of any upcoming Children's programs or cantatas.  And Santa Clause is nowhere to be found.  With all this on my mind I must ask myself two questions.  What brings the feel of Christmas and what am I celebrating?  Is Christmas a mood that we set with our surroundings?  Or is Christmas a time to reflect and remember?  Am I really celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ?  Or am I enjoying the traditions handed down through my family and our culture?  My question is not intending to over spiritualize this but to remind me why it is I celebrate.  Does the absence of our old environment and traditions take away the value of the season?  In years past it has been easy to get caught up in the traditions of the celebration and become distracted from celebrating the reason for the celebration.  This even includes the traditions we've established at church.  But when all the distractions are stripped away, all that is left to celebrate is the birth of Christ or to let the day pass.  It is my hope that this year there will be a celebration!