Wow, we are sure going to miss them.

My Grandpa asked me last week “Stephen, how do you think the change in roles affected your time in Haiti these last 3 months?”

You see, when we arrived we weren’t sure if we would be teaching (like we had done in the past) or overseeing a classroom taught by DVDs, or if our main focus would be more on the discipleship/youth leaders/more-time-for-Mikey/technical skills training. Sure enough, that’s what our role was. We didn’t know how that would affect us, or the kids, but we had been praying that our roles could be more along these lines. We saw how valuable education was, but last fall when Anna’s hand got an infection that required us to fly out for surgery, we (and the mission) realized that the kids needed Haitians to oversee the Abeka Video School program so it could continue even when we could not be there.

We saw the great need for youth leaders to connect, disciple, and just do life with these 30 kids as they grow up. Anna wanted more time to be able to spend with Mikey. I wanted more time to teach the boys mechanics class. So it worked out.

As I look through the pictures on my phone I am reminded of all the fun times that we have had with these kids. So this next section is going to be an over view of my phone’s camera roll over the last 3 month.

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I got to show Carl the Airliner that we fly on to come to Haiti, he was amazed at how many people just kept coming off of that thing!
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Anna, Maria, and Jamesly knitting on the porch
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My twin brothers were able to come and make some fun videos and really connect with the kids. They all continue to ask “when are Paul and Luke coming back?” (photo credit Paul and Luke)
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My twin brothers were able to come and make some fun videos and really connect with the kids. They all continue to ask “when are Paul and Luke coming back?”                (photo credit Paul and Luke)
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David, Anna, and Maria reading “The Chronicles of Narnia” picture book.
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Teaching the kids spoons on fun nights (later we found out that they were playing spoons to gamble for each others crackers they get at recess. We are such great influences aren’t we? haha)
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Soccer tournaments, starting out with the Haitian national anthem.
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Egg sandwiches after the soccer game (because they played so hard for those 90 minutes)
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Spending the night on the boy’s side of the orphanage
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Going to the beach with all the kids, what a blast!
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The beach wore some of them out completely 🙂
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Seeing some of the boys take initiative to make a garden, and being faithful with it was encouraging to see! They are growing cucumbers, carrots, and sweet peppers.
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This one reminds me of Alaska, except it was probably about 75 degrees that morning!
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Dressing up Mikey in his “swag” and taking him to Naton (the fancy store in town)
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Making model airplanes with Jamesly (I’m not sure who had more fun)
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Taking apart model airplane motors and putting them back together to show them how they work.
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Watching a movie under the fort we built in our living room.

When we would try and explain to the younger ones that we would be gone for 5 months over the summer so that Shaggy (that’s what they call me) can go to school to be a pilot they had a hard time understanding that. They would say “Ray and Bonnie always leave for one month, why will you be gone for 5 of those?” So you all know, Lord willing,  we plan to return back to Haiti this fall to continue working with these guys that we have grown to love.

On our last Saturday there, instead of having Bible study at our house we wanted to leave the oldest class of 8 with an idea for what they could continue to do for the summer when we are not there. We all met in their classroom and challenged them to do this every week until we come back in the fall. Pray for them to be faithful in this time. It was such a good time we had there that night, being serous and taking prayer seriously. (something that doesn’t always happen)

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Prayer night in the classroom

So to answer my grandpa’s question I told him, “Well Grandpa, with these new roles we have really been able to grow deeper in our relationships with the kids. We are getting to know their individual personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and how to relate to them on their level better. And the hardest thing we are realizing is, wow, we are sure going to miss them.”

-Stephen

Passing Moments

These days, I can’t keep up with the laundry basket, overflowing in my bathroom.. much less my inbox that overflows with emails, and this here blog that has gone silent for nearly a month now.

I steal moments, here and there. When kids fall asleep on the living room floor. Or early in the morning, just as the coffee pot lights up and the sky turns pink. Moments, when kids stretch across our couches and the carpet, occupied with a movie for 10 minutes.

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These snippets, stolen here and there throughout the rushing of the days… they keep us going.

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In my mind, I try to appreciate the moments… the washing of popcorn bowls, piled high next to the sink after Fun Nights. Good morning shouts of excitement from the diaper twins when we walk down to the orphanage every morning. The little ones who come on a regular basis (and at the most inconvenient of times) to spend a dollar in our little shop and count their savings in my hand. The rain that pelts the tin roof overhead. Carl’s excitement to read, and read, and read. Sunshine that pours through our windows early in the evening. The soccer games played out in the yard.

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I etch the moments into my mind, as if they are tangible fragments of time I can trace. I remind myself of the way I will miss this busy during the long and lonely days that are Alaska. Right now, that seems near impossible, when all I ache for is one hour of uninterrupted time and a night of good sleep.

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The second-hand on the clock ticks, counting the moments. I think of all the moments that don’t feel like enough. The moments we give, and give, and give. The moments that refresh our weary hearts. The moments the worst of my character comes through.. the impatience within my soul, the frustration in my voice, the cynicism of the words I say behind closed doors. Moments of pure sweetness, mixed among moments of total insanity. All of these, moments.

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Early in the morning, before the rush and the knocking and the chaos begin, I find in myself a mix of fear and curiosity, wondering what moments this day will hold. With a whisper, I pray He uses them. And then I pray He makes up for all the moments I fail.. the moments my frustration, doubts, judgment, and impatience get the best of me.

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For here, we find that we are constantly being stretched beyond ourselves. And the stretching of these moments reveals our deep need for Christ to come, and be enough.. to be selfless where we are selfish, humble when we are prideful, patient where we are frustrated, loving when we are hardened. Moments that make us press hard into who He is, as we are emptied of ourselves.

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Haiti’s heat makes my hair stick to the back of my neck as the sun beats the tin roof overhead. Kids sit scattered across the living room and kitchen, working on sponsor letters and watching Lego Batman for the 3rd time this week. The clock on the wall continues ticking away the moments of our last 2 weeks here. But whatever they hold, however fast or slow the pass us by, we’ll give Him the moments we have left.

-Anna

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Labors Not in Vain

The trees overhead shade us from the sunshine, and for the first time since being back in Limbe, I think I almost hear silence. It’s late Saturday morning in Haiti, and we’ve taken a small group of the kids out for a fun day to swim at the waterfall. As we hike up to the waterfall, we pass the skinny little children and scrap metal shacks and voodoo houses. When we make it to the top, we’ve acquired half a dozen kids to our group along the way. At first, we stand and look, but before long, the kids climb the rocks and jump into the water. I sit on the rocks, enjoying the view and the laughter and the change of scene. And suddenly, all of the need here presses in hard against my chest.

Little boys behind me whisper and point to my backpack, where they know I have cheeko’s and peanut butter sandwiches. I’m trying not to notice his thin frame and boney smile. “Bum tikal.. mwen grangu..” Give me a little.. I’m hungry..

It’s not a situation I haven’t been in hundreds of times here in Haiti. Yet this one feels different. Maybe it’s because of the old woman we saw, picking through trash in the ditch on our way here. Or maybe because of the girl who came to the gate with an infected burn; the one we gave neosporin and children’s Tylenol to, and I can’t get her out of my mind 3 weeks later. Or maybe it’s this little boy with a killer of a smile, who followed us all the way up the waterfall hike.

For whatever the reason, today this place feels like it is just too much. And amidst the rock jumping and the beautiful day we’ve had, I find my aching heart crying out, “God..” The need looks impossible, and there are no other words but His name.

Inwardly I wrestle. Because I can give this boy cheeko’s and peanut butter sandwiches now, but what about tonite? I cannot feed him breakfast tomorrow or Sunday supper.. and I cannot feed him and his children and his children’s children for the rest of my life, teaching him to be dependent on handout’s from the white man.

And it’s in that moment, God reminds me of something He has been teaching me in the last few weeks. Something I have known, but am learning in a deeper way… that apart from Christ, all is vain.

I survey a culture so overwhelmingly lost and what I know is this: there aren’t enough orphanages, enough feeding programs, enough clothing drives or free medical clinics in the world that can save this place. None but Jesus.

The physical need here is overwhelming, the spiritual even moreso. And through my eyes -my human eyes with their narrow viewpoint- it can overwhelm a heart to the point where all seems futile…

But for Christ.

Those words. They change everything.

We finish swimming at the waterfall, the little boys who came with us climbing to the heights and plunging down into the water below one last time. We give them 2 bags of cheeko’s and a peanut butter sandwich to share between themselves as we begin the trek back down. I cannot deny the way it feels like not enough.

On the way we stop, because something about all this isn’t right.. with the translating help from one of our older boys, Stephen tells this group of half a dozen a story so dear to his heart, one that has changed his life. He asks if anyone has heard of a man named Jesus, and before long he and Kerlyn give an unplanned Gospel presentation right there on the dirt trail, beside the trash-filled stream and tin shacks.

I pray God knows their needs, that He uses a bag of cheeko’s and the story of a man named Jesus to work in these boys’ hearts. I pray we did more helping than hurting, that God used us to meet a physical and a spiritual need that day. My mind, it can think of the many ways it wasn’t enough… but for Christ.

I find myself resting in those words more and more.. everything I can come up with, of why the need and poverty and spiritual darkness of this place looks impossible to overcome, but for Christ.

It’s why we can wake up for one more day.

Because.. Christ.

-Anna

Luke and Paul’s Mega-Vlog

It’s been a busy past couple of weeks here in Limbe. Part of that busy-ness was Stephen’s brothers, Luke and Paul, came to stay with us for 10 days! We had such a great time with Luke and Paul, their energy and excitement for life refreshed our hearts and encouraged our spirits. Luke and Paul came to do some video work for Grace Mission, and to meet the kids and help out and just kinda do life with us for 10 days. In addition to doing a ton of video-ing for Grace Mission, they also managed to get some video footage for their own personal vlogs (video blogs). Luke and Paul do an incredible job of capturing life here at Grace Mission, and we are so thankful for all their hard work and effort they put in while they were here.

It is a 30-minute mega vlog, but every minute is worth watching! Just make sure you start it when you have time to watch it all, because you won’t want to stop 🙂

https://youtu.be/-_nbeLHgfy4

New Seasons

Popcorn crumbs lay scattered on the kitchen floor. I sweep them into a pile, listening to the sound of school in the classrooms on the other side of the wall. Remnants of last night’s Bible study litter our house. ABC’s echo through the cracks in the walls and ceiling and our wooden front door.

Broom bristles sweep over the cement as I wonder about this new season the Lord has us in. Upon returning to Haiti, we found out we no longer needed to be teachers for the 2nd grade class– something that (last we had heard) was only an idea that we tried not to pin all our hopes on. Now Abeka’s dvd school program echoes through every class on the compound, and I find myself asking, “What do you have for us, Lord?”

We’ve been back for 2 weeks now, Haiti’s winter welcoming us with its 80-degree climate and dew on the grass in the mornings. We are as settled as one can possibly be, I think. Floors swept and sheets washed and lollipops re-stashed for our little ‘shop’. And while we find ourselves excited for this new season -this break from teaching- we find ourselves a little… lost.

I stand at the sink, watching life on the compound go by. Inside my heart is this urge to do something, merely for the sake of doing. Quickly my mind can rush to a list of things I could fill a morning with. Yet I find God whispering no again and again to my heart. Not yet. Not now.

This change brings about the opportunity to do more of what our hearts are passionate about– discipleship, one-on-one tutoring, Bible studies, skills classes, time to invest in Mikey, youth group nights. The freed-up schedule leaves more time for new things, and we are excited about the possibilities and the change in our relationship with the kids. The calendar in the hallway quickly fills with Bible Studies and Fun Nights and times for skills classes, but a heart can always wonder.. is it enough?

The morning after our first girl’s Bible Study, I sit at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. It’s a Bible Study I feel I don’t have the right personality to lead, and discouragement runs deep as I pour my weary heart out to the Lord. The conviction to start a Bible Study, particularly for the 2nd grade girls, has been there for nearly a year now. But somehow teaching seemed a good excuse for what really was a fear of confronting my inadequacies. Stripped of the lesson-planning excuse, it’s as if the Lord is humorously yet tenderly asking me, “What will be your reason now?”

I survey one compound, in one city, of one country.. and I wonder if we can make any bit of a difference. And in the sweeping of last night’s popcorn crumbs, God reminds my heart that it is not about me and what I can or cannot do. Rather, it is about being a very broken vessel, and letting Him pour through all the cracks and flaws and imperfections.

In this new season I find Him calling.. come to Me. With all your cracks and flaws and ways you feel as though you are not enough. Come to Me. And watch as I work through you, despite you. Come to Me. And allow Me to show Myself mighty because of your weakness.

All He ever asks is that we simply come.

Amidst the noise and the humidity and chaos that is Haiti, I have spent the first of many weeks learning this.. this concept of coming that I have known all my life, yet the Lord is revealing to me in a new way. And I pray to know Him more here, to be filled here, to be changed here.

Anna’s Hand Update

The last two weeks have held so much. Everything that I can think of has one factor in all of it… God. His faithfulness and provision, his goodness and love, his timing and guiding, and so much more. He has shown us and taught us that He can be trusted in no matter what we face. There isn’t anything in this world that he cannot see or that comes as a surprise to Him. No matter where we are in this world, He is there with us. 

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First I will give a brief overview of what happened and then I want to share all the “God things” that I wrote in my journal from the last two weeks. I hope they can be an encouragement to you as they were to us. 

Overview- First off I want to start this with the fact that many of the orphanage kids and some staff have been getting abscess. They have been able to “pop” them to release the puss and then put them on antibiotics and they are fine. Must be that Haitian immune system.

Sunday, October 22, Anna was sweeping and felt a pain in her right pinky finger where it meets the palm. It started to swell and by Wednesday she couldn’t write on the chalkboard very well as she taught school. That night it hurt so bad she couldn’t sleep well. So I taught school the next morning as she soaked it. Friday and Saturday went to a Haitian Dr office and an American doctor was able to get some puss out. Kept getting worse and flew out Saturday evening for Miami. They were able to do surgery Sunday morning and said that it was an infection called MRSA, that was resistant to certain antibiotics. The surgery went well and they released us Tuesday the 31st. We flew to Chicago Wednesday and did a follow up appointment the 6th with a hand surgeon here. He said its looking great and her range of motion is amazing! Praise the Lord! Will go into these details more but thats a quick overview 🙂 

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When Anna’s hand started to feel more and more pain we had questions. A doctor that I had known from some high school missions trips messaged me at the exact time we were needing answers and help from professionals. He replied almost instantly whenever we had questions and would look at pictures and give advice. He said to write even in the middle of night if we had questions! What a God send he was. Thank you, Dr. Jay! 
We went to a Haitian doctors office Friday and there was an American doctor there! She comes once a year for a week and was going to be there for 2 more days. She was able to get some puss out and provide some relief both Friday and Saturday. I think she kept the infection from spreading deeper into Anna’s hand (lots of doctors were worried the infection had entered the joint or tendons, but it hadn’t!) What a God thing that she was there! 

Saturday we went back to the American doctor and she found the pain killer shot! We were praising God for that, because Friday when she cut and pushed on Anna’s hand to try and get the puss out it hurt so bad Anna about passed out! Saturday we were concerned on our flight out to Miami that the pain would be so bad that it would be a miserable flight. But because she found the pain killer shot and got 2 teaspoons of puss out, Anna didnt have much pain till we landed in Miami! What another amazing “God thing”. 

When I booked the flights out of Haiti I was able to book the flight with the air miles that we have earned from flying to Haiti and it cut the cost in half! 

Thursday Bonnie started Anna on an antibiotic called Bactrum and the doctors in Miami said that was the best thing we did. Not sure how much worse it would have been if we hadn’t, but we are so thankful for Bonnie and Ray and the wisdom they had! 

Some good friends of ours hadn’t been on facebook or heard of anything going on, but felt God leading them to give us a financial gift. The timing was right after I booked our flights and covered almost the whole cost! Thanks guys!! 🙂

When we landed in Miami, we didn’t know what ER to go to. There were so many. God led us to Jackson Memorial and everyone there that helped us was so nice. One lady at the check in got us priority and knew how serious it was. Because of her we were able to get the surgery so soon! 

The night we got to Miami there was a tropical storm going through. Lots of wind and rain I guess. We didn’t know it because we were inside but even that was a God thing. Let me tell you why. The surgeon said that most of the time they would have emergency surgeries first thing in the morning for shootings and stabbing and such. Because of the storm, the fighters stayed in. So we were able to get the first surgery of the day time slot. That was nice because Anna was nervous (obviously) and it didn’t give us much time to think. They just rushed her right down there and did it. What a crazy God thing!

There was a bench that folded into a bed right next to Anna’s hospital bed for me. That was so nice to get good sleep after quite a few nights of not much sleep. 

The surgeon who operated on her was a very nice guy. They said he was one of the best hand surgeons in the area. Who ‘just happened’ to be on the schedule for Sunday morning. We told him we would like to go back to Chicago to recover and he knew another good hand surgeon/friend here. We saw him yesterday for a follow up appointment and he was such a neat guy!

 -Side note- Anna is still on her parents health insurance plan. We were concerned because it is a local network plan for the Chicago area. We are waiting on the hospital paperwork, and praying it is covered. So far, some stuff has been!

Anyways, when the surgeon in Miami told us of this hand surgeon here in Chicago, we weren’t sure if the insurance would cover him. Anna’s mom looked it up and he was! Another amazing “God thing”!

The doctors in Miami had been concerned about Anna’s range of motion at first, and thought we might need to see a P.T here in Chicago. But yesterday the Chicago doctor saw Anna’s hand and was so happy with its range of motion! We don’t need any physical therapy appointments or anything!

We got released from hospital Tusday and got an Uber taxi. We had never used this new technology but was kinda cool! When we walked out of the hospital, the taxi was waiting right there for us! We didnt even have to wait! 

Eugene (the director for Grace Mission) paid for our hotel room that night before flying back Wednesday. Thank you! Amazing how God provides. It was so nice to be out of hospital and have a nice room in a hotel. We slept like 12 hours!
Another amazing provision is when looking at flights from Miami to Chicago, I found some for $34 per person on American Airlines! I’ve never seen that before!

One of the biggest things God has done is draw Anna and I closer knit together. We know each other so much better know than before. It has been neat to be able to be there for her and try and show her Christ like love even when she can’t pay it back (or couldn’t at the time). It was fun feeding her the first day after surgery, as it is something she just really doesnt like 😉 
Lastly the thing that is so neat to see is the body of Christ all coming together and so many offering support if we need it. It is just so neat to be a part of this Body of Christ that works so well together when we all are doing what God is calling us to. We can really trust God with everything- with our possessions, provision, our loved ones, and our life.

Our plans now have obviously changed 🙂 Until this happened, we were planning on being in Haiti until December 12th. The doctors told us to stay in the States for 3 weeks, but by then, we would be 3 weeks away from flying back out. We prayed about it, and felt like we should stay in the States until January and let Anna’s hand heal good. We plan to return early January, and I am studying for my aviation commercial written test in the meantime. We aren’t sure exactly what God has with all the time out, but He’s been so good and sovereign that we know He has a purpose.

Thank you for all of those who have prayer earnestly for us, it has been greatly felt and appreciated. We hope to earnestly pray for each of you when you ask, the way you have for us. Thank you. 

Stephen
Here’s some pictures of Anna’s hand, before the surgery and how it looks now a week after surgery. The in-between’s are kinda gory, but message me if you want them 🙂 

Anna’s hand in Haiti when the problem first started.

Anna’s hand in Haiti.

Anna’s hand int he ER when we gotto Miami.

How it looks now! So much better!

This Thing Called Hope

Just write for yourself. It’s what I tell myself, sitting on the couch on Sunday morning. I put my headphones in, attempting to block the sound of Haitian church and screaming singers. Just write for yourself..

And so, I do. Free from the weight of expectation or the fear of judgement, I spill myself onto the pages of a worn-out journal with blank ink. 

It is hard to know what to say and how to write an update. There is a part of it that I love.. almost really, need. Because it’s in the words scrawled on paper and the letters typed on keyboards where He meets me, again and again. He whispers the things He has been trying to tell my heart a thousand times.. but it’s here, away from the busy of the day, that I finally listen. Here, where I finally pause and let His words sink in.

I find my perspective renewed, my gaze reset. I find myself amazed at the goodness of the Lord and the works of His hands, here in this place. And I also find myself deeply convicted and ever-challenged to be more of Him, and less of me. 

Haiti is a country I struggle to put to words. There is a sort of beauty here, in this land where children run the trash-littered streets, laughing and happy. You see it on the hike up the mountain, as you climb above Limbe -with its noise and trash and smog- until your gaze falls upon mountain tops and growing pineapple plants and rusted tin roofs. It’s in the morning sky that turns shades of pink as the sun brings the heat of the day. The beauty, when you choose to find it, breathes hope.

But in all honesty, it is hard to see the beauty here. It does not come naturally; what comes naturally, is just the opposite. 

All around me are a hundred reasons not to hope. Hatred, anger, jealousy, pride, and selfishness surround the little life we live here 3 months at a time. And those same qualities sometimes enter that life more often than we would like to admit. Such displays of darkness are everywhere– both great and small. And it wearies a heart. 

I can see it on the streets, where men cat-call and people bicker loudly. I see it in the eyes of the half-starved elderly, who sit in the house near the market. I see it in my own classroom, where anger has such a deep hold, three-fourths of the class wouldn’t talk to us for nearly the entire week. And just when you wonder how there could be any more, you see a facebook newsfeed full of more mass shootings and news headlines and friend arguing against friend. Every day, the reasons to lose heart stack higher and higher.

Desperate, I look for somewhere to hope. Surely in the Bible class our kids are doing this year. Or maybe in the older generation of kids. In the boy with the snazzy wheelchair that makes him grin ear-to-ear, and in the way his legs bounce (actually bounce!) in his jolly-jumper. Or maybe in that one-tooth wonder, who always has a big grin and a warm and sticky hug for you. 

But I find that those things, in and of themselves, still disappoint.

On Sunday morning I scrawl the words of Isaiah 40 onto an index card… those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. I find myself overwhelmed by verses 25-31, pausing to remember Who my God is. I’m humbled, my eyes opened to the way I fail to lift my head to the One who brings out starry hosts and has no equal. 

Why do we so easily forget Who we belong to?

I pray the words of Isaiah 40 over and over, desperate for them to take root in my life. Teach me to hope in You. Show me what that looks like, in any season or any land. I want to know that life promised in Isaiah 40– the one where His people soar on wings like eagles, where they can run and not grow faint.

It’s been almost a week since that Sunday morning, and the corners of that little index card are just starting to turn up. I’m not quite sure how to get there, to that life of hope in Isaiah 40. Somehow I think it’s a work He has to do, in His own timing. But in the meantime, I’ll start here– in remembering Who He is, and what He has done. 

-Anna

An Update

5:30 comes early, awakening me with its pitch-black skies and faint rooster crows. But these days, it’s the only time I can find a moment or two of peace. Coffee steams in the pot on the counter, the open windows bringing in the coolness from last night’s rainstorm. I watch the minutes tick on the clock, begging them to slow down just a little.

We’ve been in Haiti for 2 weeks now. If it weren’t for the calendar on the wall that says it’s true, I’m not sure I’d believe it. It is the end of our 2nd week of school, the books and papers scattered across the shelves and countertops attest to that. It’s hard to know where to begin, or what to say. These two weeks have held more than we know what to do with– joys, so many frustrations, broken-heartedness, and much laughter. Being back is this unexplainable mix of both bitter and sweet. 

Other than a fine layer of dust, when we got back we found our apartment the way we left it– nothing broken or damaged, missing or stolen. The kids took a few days to warm up to us, which we anticipated. Now the little battery-operated doorbell rings every hour, if not more. Little brown faces stand in the hallway, asking “Where Shaggy?” when I open the door. 

Good ole “Shaggy” is a busy beaver these days- working on projects and helping the boys with theirs. I wash dishes at the sink and watch from the windows at the parade of small people who follow behind him in the afternoons. Stephen started Bible study back up again, and so Tuesdays and Thursdays the house is full of lollipops and boys and questions. We plant in hope, and then we let God make things grow.

School is school.. except it is not. Yesterday we were reminded of the so many hurts and feelings and issues that come into the classroom from orphanage-life. And I find myself broken hearted, because these are issues and hurts I cannot begin to imagine or relate to. It is easy to question, “Why have You sent us, God?” But for whatever the reason, He has. We find ourselves asking for His wisdom, His patience, and His grace for every moment. Because 2 weeks into school reminds us that we need Him, desperately. 

Our new books are the amazing and have saved my sanity over and over again within the last 2 weeks. The kids love them too, especially their new Bibles. We have a full day- with group devotions starting at 7:30, and then school from 8:00-1:30 (with a 30 minute lunch break at noon). The schedule is full– Bible, math story problems, spelling, history, writing, math facts, reading comprehension, and science. It is a long day for the kids, and they’ve done well adjusting to it. There’s a handful who have their sights set on the 3rd grade (Kristine with iWilGo has set up an awesome education plan with the 2 older grades) and so that has been motivation for quite a few of our kiddos.

With Ray and Bonnie gone, little David and his sidekick Joshua are my constant companions from the moment I walk out of our apartment door until I peel them off of me in the evenings. They pull at the sides of my skirt wherever I walk, saying, “Pote’m. Hold me. Hannah pote’m.” Such cheeky monkeys that love every kind of trouble they can possibly find. And have a knack for shrieking with a kind of shrill that turns my insides out after about an hour (nevermind that they are being constantly picked on by anyone just a smidge bigger than them). Poor Shaggy gets to deal with me at my grouchiest and tiredest when we come in at 6:30. He is patient and ever-loving, and I find myself grateful for him over and over again.

We are adjusting to the rhythm of life again in Limbe.. crowded market places with sewage underfoot.. humid days that leave you in a constant state of sweat.. hardened cement floors and cockroaches in the cabinets.. the smell of pee on your clothes and skin by the time you close the door every night.. We are reacquainting ourselves with the struggles and the joys. 

By now the sky is a watercolor full of pinks and blues, and you can hear the rumble of mottos on the street. Haiti is coming to life, and the noise will be constant now until we fall into bed tonight. The day lays outstretched before me, full of many unknowns. My heart is weary just at the thought.. But He promises grace for just this one.

So I pour another cup of coffee. We will scramble the eggs and burn the toast, brushing teeth and strapping on sandals in the rush of the morning. And then we’ll step out, into that crazy unknown. And we’ll cling to His promise, that His grace is sufficient for just this day; and dedicated unto Him, He’ll use our labors of this day.

-Anna 

Alaskan Summertime

I originally wrote this on the flight home from Alaska at the beginning of August, so it’s several weeks outdated being that we are now in Nebraska and Stephen is an official certified instrument pilot.

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There’s something about it– the hum of an airplane thousands of feet in the sky with a miniature world down below, the vibration of the window seat and the melodies that whisper through my earbud headphones. There’s a stillness up here, and something about it in which I can find myself again..

Alaska has been hard. I have struggled all summer to know what to say, and flying home in the very back seat of the plane with rugged terrain below me, I leave this place knowing Alaska has grown me.

Evening sun casts shadows on the mountain range. Blue meets white long in the distance of a vast, vast world. The sight leaves me breathless. 

Summer has taught us a lot… about ourselves, about each other, about faith and trust and surrender to the One who knows best. We have been stretched beyond our limits, faced to confront the selfishness, pride, and doubt that easily grows within our hearts. We have been left amazed by Alaska, and the One who breathed it into creation. We’ve been challenged to be clay in the Potter’s hands, more ply-able as the days and seasons pass.

The beauty is always in the looking back… at least, the deep and raw kind that I’ve come to love. Always in the looking back.

In many ways it feels as though we have limped through the summer, crossing the finish line barely able to say “We survived.” Two and a half months are a blur of days and experiences and hurts and challenges and joys I feel I will find myself sorting through during the months to come. 

It’s been a summer of flight training and aviation talk and attempting to grasp what it means and causes and costs to be a pilot’s wife. It’s been a summer of flight lessons and a busy husband and me crying, overwhelmed at the thought of this being the rest of my life, and can I be okay with that? 

Surrender has been a bitter taste on the back of my tongue this summer. Because suddenly I am left with the weight of the thought: what if this costs everything I am, everything I want, everything I deeply love and dream big about? What if this.. this being a pilot’s wife.. costs everything?

Whispy thin clouds pass beneath us, and through the haze you can see the water cutting though the jagged mountains down below. Alaska, in all its beauty, overwhelms me.

I still wrestle with the question. I still fight and I still struggle. The core of it is my heart, struggling to make Him my everything, begging Him amidst the fight, “Do not let me leave here unchanged..” 

Stephen has worked some very long and very hard hours this summer, something I fail to fully appreciate again and again. He’s given this instrument training thing 110% of what he’s got, while still trying to keep up with me and keep up with life and keep his heart fixed on why he’s doing all the training and the flying. He’s been a bleary-eyed, nose-in-the-books, aviation junky this summer, and while he has SO enjoyed the training and we are thankful for it, I think we are both ready for the change of pace and focus that awaits us in Haiti.

The horizon blurs in a hue of colors– the purples and yellows and blues each running into the other. The snow caps are less and less on the mountaintops that begin to hide beneath the fog. The sun sets behind us.

At the time I originally wrote this, Stephen had his checkride scheduled for a Friday. Since then, the weeks have passed and so have his long study days. He’s officially instrument certified, and has successful passed his big oral test and actual flight test! This means he can fly in the clouds now, using the gauges and instruments on the plane to navigate. It’s no small accomplishment; in fact it’s a pretty big and difficult one. He leaves me impressed and amazed, thankful to call him mine. He has many stories from the summer, much different than mine. So maybe once he re-coops from his whirlwind of a summer, he will be able to have the time to find his voice here on this little blog.

Until then, we are enjoying Nebraska, seeing sweet and dear people, road-tripping, and warm summertime weather. 

-Anna

The Brooks Range

9 airplanes and 20+ staff are loaded and ready on the runway. It’s Monday morning, and Kingdom Air Corps is a buzz of activity, getting ready for 2 weeks of Brooks Range Bible Camp (1 week of Junior Camp, 1 week of Teen Camp). We fly 6 hours up to the Alaskan villages, seeing a side of Alaska we hadn’t before. Villages accessible only by airplane. Villages without churches. Villages full of so much need.

It’s hard to know where to begin..
Every summer, Kingdom Air Corps puts on a Bible Camp in the Brooks Range for the village kids in Northern Alaska (also called BRBC). They fly out staff and supplies for 2 weeks in the middle-of-nowhere, Alaska– no cell reception, no internet, no roads. The kids come from 2 nearby villages– Alacacut and AKP. We spent the night in Alacacut on Monday night, finding ourselves weathered in. We spread sleeping bags and camped out in the community building in the village, Alacacut’s sweet missionaries bringing us dinner of soup and hot dogs.
The village doesn’t have running water, and so the main wash house is located in the center-ish of town. For $4, you can wash a load of laundry. And $2 will get you a 10-minute hot shower. The village is quiet when we arrive, and cold. We are a big group of white people, walking in the direction of the Fox’s house (missionaries who live in the village). An occasional 4-wheeler drives by. Village life is what they call upside down– day is night, and night is day. Because summertime up here in never dark. So life doesn’t typically begin until 5 or 6 in the evening.
The next morning, the town feeds us pancakes and sausages for breakfast. I talk with the woman standing over the stove, listening to the story of her daughter who started packing for camp 3 months ago. We quickly learn how eagerly these kids anticipate camp, and how much it means to them. Pancake batter splatters on the stove. I struggle to wrap my mind around village life and how this camp impacts these kids- something I will do for the next 14 days. I ask if I can help, but “No, no. We are happy to be able to do this..”
We arrive at camp, and the set up immediately begins. Tarps need to be pulled across cabin frames and tents set up. A small generator runs electricity to the lodge, and a water pump system so that the kitchen has running water for dishes and cooking. There is 1 day between when we get there, and when the first batch of kids come for Junior Camp. That one day goes fast.
Looking back now, I have to smile at the way the Lord works. When we found out about Brooks Bible Range and that we would have the opportunity to go this summer, I found myself making deals with God. And essentially our deal ended at this, “I will do anything. I want to do anything. I feel adequate to help in a lot of ways, but just not a counselor. Ok, God?”
Sure enough, God has a way of taking that “never” and placing you smack in the middle of it. And Tuesday afternoon, when more planeloads of kids came than ever before and the cabins overflowed, Stephen and I found ourselves as makeshift, last-minute counselors. 43 kids came to camp that week– one of the biggest years yet. The following week (Teen Week) is a lot smaller, and we resume our general staff and craft-time coordinators job.
Planes come and go all day long– dropping off kids, and then turning around to go pick up more. The ones left are acquainted (or reacquainted) with their counselors and friends they haven’t seen since last year. Then, when another plane comes, the counselors and staff are left frantically trying to corral the kids off the grass runway and keep the kids away from the airplane until the propeller stops spinning. We thought we had experienced crazy to its fullest in Haiti, but this was a new one, that’s for sure. haha!
There are aspects to village life we try to understand during our 2 weeks there. “I won’t get picked on this week... There’s too much drama at home, I don’t want to leave camp… We would go to a bible study, but our village doesn’t have one.. Does a person who commits suicide go to heaven?”
 
The devastating need breaks my heart and weighs heavy on my mind. For 2 weeks I find myself constantly wondering, “God does this do anything? It is 5 days of camp. 5 days.” I question and wonder.. why no missionaries and no churches in these villages where kids are hungry for it? Why doesn’t He supply?
We swim in the ice-cold river (ok, I swim twice. And watch the rest of the days). We run around on the airstrip, playing Wreck the Castle and Drip Drip Drop. We sing before chapel time and help kids find the verses the speaker is referencing to. We roast marshmallows and stay up late, late, late. In Cabin Time and Bible study, we tell classic Bible stories that most of the kids have never heard before. One morning, little Anna in our cabin wanted to be woken up early to read her Bible. I asked if she had heard the story of how God created the world, and after she said no, we spent the next half hour reading through the first few chapters of Genesis and talking about the story of creation and Adam and Eve and the serpent.
The need is overwhelming.
Two weeks come and go, with so many stories and experiences between the days. And flying home in a cozy, little 150 plane there is this realization that the need.. it will never end. Somewhere, always there will be need. And so we do what we can, when we can, where we can, for however long we are there.. and trust that God will put us where He wants us how He wants us, and will grow seeds long after we have left.
-Anna
(we have so many stories and photos to share from the past 2 weeks, so rest assured you’ll hear from us again pretty soon 🙂 Leave us your questions in the comments, or things you are wondering about.. so we can try to explain things better to you and know what to write about!)