“Are you ready?”

This is the question that we keep hearing, and the question that Ryan and I regularly ask each other and our children. In just two weeks, we are bringing our family of eight to Haiti. We wonder how each of the kids will react to the completely different way of life they are about to experience… Will the toddler and preschooler have a hard time sleeping in the new surroundings, heat, and mosquito net-covered beds? Will the older kids miss their grandparents and friends, as well as familiar foods and toys? Will they be able to really see the purpose and joy in serving the poor, and then make the small sacrifices of comfort and familiarity in order to serve faithfully? I wonder if we are ready to leave behind all of the things that make life so comfortable and easy in Texas in exchange for third world country challenges. It will be difficult… often the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We are in the fourth week of Advent, which is meant to be a time of penance and preparation. We pause, clean our homes and hearts, pray, and become more and more ready for the coming of our Savior. How often do we really feel ready for Christmas, let alone ready to allow God deep into our hearts, to bring new transformations? We may be ready to jump into the next season, into something new and big, but we are never fully prepared.

Imagine a young couple who is eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. They are so excited to meet this new little person, and to begin the adventure of life as a family. They make all of the preparations, and become as ready as possible. But, nothing can truly prepare them for the reality of parenting – the absolute joy and exhaustion they will experience, and the love and strength they will need in order to give so much of themselves to their child.

The story of Mary during the Annunciation is such a beautiful example of this. Mary was created in a special way, to fulfill this incredible purpose of carrying the Son of God on earth. She was ready to do this job, and ready to answer, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” Yet, nothing could really have prepared her for the intensity of that moment – being surprised by an angel and given a message that was difficult to understand. She was “greatly troubled” at what was said. It took a great amount of faith and grace to accept the role she was given at that moment.

How appropriate that we are in the final stretch of preparation for our family mission during this season of Advent. It’s a time of waiting. We pray, we talk about some of of the experiences we will have in Haiti. We practice fun little Creole phrases with the kids. We tell them things they will love (playing soccer and doing crafts with the Haitian kids), and things they will probably not love (the humidity and bucket baths). Most of all, we ask God for patience, flexibility, and grace to follow where He has called us, and to take a leap of faith.

 

Trust Without Borders

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters, Whenever you would call me, Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, And my faith will be made stronger, In the presence of my Savior.” Oceans by Hillsong United

My heart for missions began long ago, when I was just ten years old and a missionary from Africa came to speak to my class in church. I saw God’s heart for the poor of the world, and I just knew that I would also become a missionary someday. God’s plans are even bigger and better than we could imagine, because that missionary soon married my mother and became my step-father! He shared with me about his life in Kenya and increased my love for God’s children everywhere and especially for the poorest people in the world.

Several years later, while I was in nursing school, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Haiti with my nursing professor. She was born in Haiti to a missionary family, and she led us through the countryside of North Haiti to visit villages and bring medical care to the extremely poor people there.  While on that trip, I was introduced to her extended family, and met my husband, Ryan! We have been married for 16 years now, and have six amazing children. Our family has kept our heart for missions alive through prayer and financially supporting organizations in Haiti, as well as being involved in foster care and adoption here in the States. Still, we always hoped to return to Haiti with our family.

So many times over the years, Ryan and I would start the process of traveling to Haiti, and then something would happen and we would end our plans. Last year, we were introduced to the directors of Haiti 180, a mission organization located in the remote mountains of Southern Haiti. Very soon after meeting the directors, Ryan and I knew that this was a clear answer to a calling we have been discerning for such a long time. It truly is a calling. Many times, it seems overwhelming and just impossible to bring a family of eight people all the way to the rural mountains of Haiti to serve the poor. Traveling anywhere with young children is difficult. Yet, we are answering this call, and we are ready to begin walking down this path.

I have been brushing off my nursing skills by taking online certification courses, with a focus on women’s health and tropical medicine. I am passionate about helping women during pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work part-time as a nurse in the Haiti 180 clinic. I also plan to begin a training class with the local nurses and young women in the village to encourage healthy families and natural family planning. 

This year has been full of waiting. The global pandemic has changed so many things, and travel has become a challenge. Although it has been frustrating, this time of waiting has been extremely fruitful. Our three oldest children have been homeschooling since mid-summer, in anticipation of our first trip this Fall. Each of my girls are busy learning new crafts and gathering supplies to bring and to teach to the older children at the orphanage – crochet bags, cross-stitched saints, and handmade rosaries! We will spend six weeks in November and December getting to know life at the mission in Haiti 180 – loving on the children at the Kay Mari children’s home, visiting with the lovely people at the elderly home, and serving at the Saint Mother Theresa Medical Clinic. I can’t wait to share updates on this blog, and especially to include blog posts written by my children sharing their experiences!

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