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Get outside your comfort zone

Posted by Kathi on Friday, July 10, 2015 |

Recently, something has been germinating inside my brain, working its way into my core.  This blog isn’t directed at anyone, it‘s a response to a few years of random comments.  A reaction to people wondering, “Why travel to 3rd world countries to volunteer, when there are so many volunteer opportunities in our community”.   These past few months, I have been listening to messages on compassion and servant hearts. Messages SO poignant, they inspired me to write what has been on my heart.  Warning: this blog is meant for followers of Christ. It is a blog about what it means to show compassion to the “least of these”.

One Sunday, the message was about the cost of following Jesus. When Jesus was at the pinnacle of his career (that’s how us business people would describe it) - a man came to him and asked if he could follow Him, be one of his disciples. The successful man went on to explain that he had obeyed all the commandments, he was a good guy and he was ready to follow Christ. Jesus very quickly assessed the situation and detected that the man loved the “good life”.  So Jesus explained what it meant to be a disciple. In Luke 14:25 Jesus is very clear about the cost of following him. It is a high cost, but one worth every penny.

We need to abandon everything we hold close. Jesus explained - we need to love God more than we love any and every thing’ AND more than we love anyone else.  In other words - we need to get out of our comfort zones , and  this is where it gets tricky.
‘Really,  am I supposed to love God more than my children, more than my husband, more than my house, my mother, my father, my life’???  Don’t shoot the messenger, I am just telling you what it says in Luke 14:25.  Now, I am not advocating that we abandon our families to serve God. But I am advocating for us to get out of our comfort zones.  Serving the “least of these” does not mean helping out in homeroom or working at the school carnival.  These are all good things to do, but they are not serving the “least of these”. A Pastor, I know,  explained (I am paraphrasing). ‘It is easy to love and serve our neighbors, not so easy to love the unlovable or the malcontents or the people who are very different from us’. Hence, the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s easy to volunteer or love people just like you – not so easy to cross to the other side. The minute you start to serve the poor, the spiritually bankrupt, the sick, the imprisoned, the orphan, the widow, – your reality changes, your heart softens, and compassion finds a home in you.

I am blessed to work with a group of people who follow Christ’s call. It isn’t easy; they all have families, and they know the sacrifice that comes with stepping out of the comfort zone. When you start to volunteer and serve people that are OUTSIDE your daily environment, well, that’s when compassion develops. It isn’t easy listening to an impoverished mother tell you she doesn’t know how to feed her children. It isn’t comfortable working in a homeless shelter, or holding the hand of a dying patient,  or providing mentorship to a  prisoner. It makes your heart ache, which increases compassion.

So what’s my point?  I am advocating for each of us to take time to assess what God is calling us to do. To step outside our normal routine.  To love God more than we love anything else, especially our status quo. To love and to love without boundaries. I am grateful for the teams and volunteers that serve in Haiti. Even going on a week long mission trip gets you out of your environment and opens your heart to what breaks God’s.  A mission team member knows that sharing God’s love requires sacrifices and builds compassion for others. If we all took a deep look inside ourselves we would see how much we have to share with the hurting of this world. Step up, step out - compassion will follow and your life will blossom.

As Mother Teresa said:  Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. GIVE THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; t was never between you and them.

 

 

Blessings,
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Let your light shine

Posted by Kathi on Thursday, November 20, 2014 |

 

Children in L’Artibonit Program Children in Bel Anse Program

This past week in Haiti was one of my personal highlights. I spent 4 days visiting our feeding programs in 3 different  remote villages. It is amazing to see how God is aligning our work – these villages now have Pastors that are being trained under Highlands Church’s Bible College and new  churches that were built thanks to the support of New Harvest Church. In addition, we have started feeding programs under the local Pastors  of these churches. In L’Artibonit through Highland’s support we feed 200 children 3 times a week, in Bel Anse  150 children receive meals and this week we launched a new feeding program in a mountain village near Mirebalais. We had anticipated starting this program with 200 children, but God has a way of quickly changing our man-made plans to help us see HE is the one in control.  And that is where my story begins……

 

Our mode of transportation Our amazing team

A group of us had been traveling the country for 3 days,  spending over 10 hours in the truck on dirt roads getting to these villages. So as we approached our last site, we were all pretty tired, running on little sleep and not much food. We knew the last village would require a 3 hour hike straight up a mountain   Sharon (our Medical Director in Haiti) and I made a pact with each other to not complain and gave each other a little mantra to remind us of our purpose – Let your light shine. And that was our goal, to let our light shine and not complain about the hike, the conditions, the sun beating down on us,or our fatigue.

 

Unloading the truck/Loading the Donkeys The steep climb                          

We arrived at our starting point at 9:00 in the morning and unloaded the 500 pounds of food, the 50 gallons of water, the cooking stove, and the 300 pound s of plates, utensils, pots. Etc. As we unloaded we wondered how all of this would make it up the mountain – as there is no road and the path is only passable by donkey or on foot. About ½ of the supplies were loaded on donkeys and we started up the hill. But we had to leave over 600 pounds at the starting point, since we only had a handfull  of donkeys.  We started the hike, a bit worried about getting the rest of the food and supplies up. As we got about ¼ of the way up the mountain we were greeted by families coming down to help us. They had run from their village to meet us and help bring up the rest of the food.

 

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of these families with their children in bare feet and the parents, thin as rails.  I doubted that they would be able to carry much, but prayed that God would provide a way to get the rest of the food up.

 

It took our team (Pastor Maxime, Nathan, Sharon and I) about 90 minutes  to get to the midpoint. As we were resting in the shade, our mouths dropped as we saw the families we had seen 30 minutes earlier all climbing the mountain - each child and parent carrying 25 pound boxes of food, or 5 gallon jugs of water. They had made it down the mountain and back up in ½ the time it took us..

It was a sight that completely humbled me. They were laughing and running and helping each other with the loads. They were enjoying their service for God, their church and their families.  I will never forget their gratitude as we shared our water and our snacks with them. I laughed  at myself, as I thought about my preparations for the hike – “did I have my hat, my sunscreen, my bug spray, enough water, a rag to wipe the sweat off my brow”….. And these  children were walking in barefeet, not a care in the world and certainly not worried about bug spray, water or anything else.  AND they did it while running up a mountain with a 25 pound box of food on their head - talking the entire time My priviledged life - hit me smack in the face.

 

We continued the hike together, families, children, and us “foreigners” -  it felt like an adventure and fun all of a sudden, as we listened to the children sing and giggle. We arrived at our destination in record time – the children’s energy and enthusiasm bolstering us as we climbed.
 
The sight when we arrived at the village will be forever etched in my mind.
 
 
 
Approximately 1,300 people crammed inside and outside the church waiting for our arrival. Greeting us with blessings and salutations as we entered the church.
 
There are 1,500 families that live in this remote village area, and I would have sworn that they all were there. It was overwhelming to look at the sea of people, all coming to the church to see if their children could be part of the feeding program – again, humbling. As our group entered the church, the 4 of of us, just stared in amazement. We kept looking around and taking in the emotion of it all. A few of us teared up as we watched how proudly the families had dressed their children in hopes that they would be able to participate.
 
 
We watched as fathers waited for hours with their children in hopes they could participate, mothers soothed their babies and toddlers as they waited patiently for their names to be called. We had over 600 children in the church that afternoon – we had planned to enroll 200 in the program. God changed all those plans.
 
 
We took names, photos and ended up registering 400 children, basically starting 2 feeding programs in this village. Thanks to donors who supported this effort we had the funds to do so. We hope after a few months of serving 400 we will be able to add the other 200 children on the waiting list.  The process of registering children took over4 hours, and there was never a  problem or outburst. Parents and children waited patiently for their names to be called At the end, when they realized that some children were not going to make the list, then things got a little bit more tense – but that was certainly understandable. In the end, we accepted 400 children into the program which will begin December 1st and we served about 400 children food that afternoon.
 
 
 
 
 
As we finished serving the meals we looked at the time and realized we had NO daylight left. We packed up our few things and started the long trek down the rocky path – in the dark. Within minutes we were joined by the Church Deacons, who guided us the rest of the way down the mountain (using flashlights).. I couldn’t help but be grateful for their servant hearts, after all, this was their second trip down and up for the day. But we really didn’t need the flashlights, because the glow from the light that God placed inside each of us that day was shining ever so brightly!!!!!  

Blessings,
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Easter 2014

Posted by Admin on Thursday, April 24, 2014 |

Here in Haiti the battle between Satan and God is most evident over the Easter week. It’s the time when the followers of evil (voodoo worship) and the followers of Jesus collide. There are voodoo marches most nights and sometimes the streets can be blocked for hours while they dance and chant in a procession. And as the noise from these processions blare, it collides with worship and praise music coming from the windows of each church along the route.  Haiti feels spiritually “on fire” during Easter week. It is a battleground between good and evil.

  

My own spiritual battle occurs when I let frustration and disappointment wear me down.  I open the door to darkness when I quit trusting in God and start doubting. The voodoo drums start beating inside my head. Dealing with staff problems, vehicle issues, health challenges, blah, blah, blah -  I let the negative things start to discourage me and actually announce to God “I’m done” – “I don’t want to do this anymore” – drums beating loudly.

But our God is loving and patient and in these days of darkness he usually shines a light for me to claw my way out.  Just like the voodoo procession that looses its steam when encountering the melodic chorus of Praise music from the open church windows – my darkness abates with an act of service. While organizing a feeding program for 100 malnourished children in a remote province, my heart is softened.  Through the efforts of Highlands Church and New Harvest Church, I am forced to quit thinking about my own needs and see life through the eyes of a malnourished child who hasn’t eaten in days. Instead of focusing on my own stomach issues and cold, I focus on what it feels like to not know when you will eat again. To focus on a 5 year old with no muscle tone, red hair and a distended belly.  But God wasn’t done; He knows I am a slow learner so on Easter he added an extra bit of encouragement.

  

After Easter Service – I was told that a visitor at the church was looking for me. She had walked over 8 miles with some of her family members, because she had heard I lived in Kenscoff and had a picture book identifying me and our daughter, Esperancia.  The doubting starts again….the voodoo drums start pounding…does she want money? What does she need? How will this affect Espie? Who is she? Will this become a bigger problem? On and on and on…… as the drums crescendo I hear the chorus of “Whom Shall I Fear “and know that angel armies are at my side.  I make a decision – “I’m done.” Done relying on my own understanding, done doubting, done questioning? I am choosing to trust. Because if God brought her all this way, today, on Easter, He knows what is best for Espie and I. So I went back inside the church and for the next few hours met the woman who had just as much love for our daughter as I did. 

Talking with Francine and learning about her family, her children (13 of them), her life, her mother – it was surreal. Two of Espie’s sisters were also there – but Espie hadn’t come to church that day because she wasn’t feeling well either. So I called her on the phone and invited her to join us if she was comfortable doing so. The look of PURE JOY on Francine’s face when she saw Espie is something that will stay with me all the days of my life. Her voice began to lift as she praised God for seeing her daughter, for holding her in her arms.  Her sweet Esperancia, grown, beautiful, poised, sweet and with those same piercing eyes as when she last saw her 7 years ago; it knocked her breath away. It was a moment of undiluted and unconditional love. We all talked and laughed and shared stories. Espie and I invited them to join us in a few weeks for dinner and I just pray that all 14 won’t show.

I offered to give them a ride home since they had walked so far, and one of my coworkers (Noe, who had helped me with some of the translation) offered to drive for me. I asked Espie if she would like to take them home and she jumped at the opportunity. She held her little sister on her lap. They were gone what seemed like an eternity to me and the entire time, not a moment of doubt crept in. When Espie returned she was beaming. She hugged me more tightly than ever and said “Thank you” about 200 times while we hugged. Tears fell and when we could finally talk, Espie said  “What do I call her?” 

 “Well,” I smiled “You call her Mom, honey, she’s your Mom.” 

“But that won’t upset you? You’re my Mom.” She replied. And I smiled with the confidence that only comes from God and said,

 “What a great Easter gift God brought us today, another Mom that loves you as much as this Mom.” 

And with that we said a prayer of gratitude and listened as harmonic chords of worship drowned out the beating voodoo drums.

P.S. The day happened so fast, that I forgot to take any pictures, but don’t worry, I promise to add them after our big “family” dinner.

Hope you all had a blessed and peace filled Easter.

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The Have Nots may actually Have More

Posted by Kathi on Saturday, March 01, 2014 |

It is Carnival season here in Haiti  and  as I contemplate my return to Scottsdale for Espie’s school break, I can’t stop wondering how I will react. How I will react to grocery stores with a million choices of a million different products. How will I react when I overhear the conversations in my health club where people obsess about their next workout, diet, dinner, or fashion statement. Don’t get me wrong – I am as guilty as the next Valley of the Sun resident. But much has changed for me after 7 months of living in Haiti. How will I react to the disparity living in the world of the ‘have nots’ to the world of the ‘have too much’. As with any transition, I will need lots of time in reflection and prayer.

I have learned many things here in Haiti, but one of the most poignant lessons is that even if we think we have everything we need and want, it will never be enough. The race to consume more, to buy the next object of our desires will never fulfill our deepest needs. Sure that new iphone would be nice and might bring fleeting happiness, but it will never bring the peace that comes with knowing where true happiness is found. 

 

Here in Haiti, in a country of ‘have nots’ – I find true happiness each day in the people I encounter. A mother with absolutely no idea how she will feed her 2 children, doesn’t act miserable - instead she goes to the park with her girls and laughs as they play.

 

When a young boy carries a 40 pound bucket of water overhead up a steep hill, I don’t hear him whining and complaining – I hear him singing and making clicking noises each time a drop of water spills.  When a laborer (dirty, exhausted, sweaty, hungry and tired) who has spent all day in the hot sun sees me, he doesn’t look down, he greets me with a smile and the pride that comes from earning a day’s wage. When an old man hobbles up the rocky road on his walker, wearing the same clothes he has worn every day for the past month his reply to my simple inquiry of “how are you today?” – is “tre byen gras a DIEU” (very well thanks to God). You see, people that have the least are often the happiest – and let me explain why I think that is……

Our American society is based on material consumption and we are blinded and oblivious to the trap we are ensnaring for ourselves. We can’t fathom the reality that 
2 billion people in the world live on less than $2.00 a day. When we think of developing countries we think about  suffering, poverty, corruption, hunger, pain. While these things exist for people living in 3rd world countries, it doesn’t mean they are unhappy. You see,  they have resigned themselves to this fact. They have found acceptance in their situation and have set their minds to making the most of their friendships, their families, their love of God. It is these things that sustain them – it is their relationships that bring them happiness - not their lack of material possessions.

 

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, where thousands of children die before their fifth birthday. Children should have opportunity to live a healthy life, attend school and pursue their dreams.  They shouldn’t have to live in such dire conditions, but yet despite their difficulties, they have learned how to be happy. They take nothing for granted, there is no “entitlement” generation  - they are appreciative for many of the things our U.S. children take for granted.

So as I return back to my home country for a visit, I hope that my heart will remain open and remember the true source of happiness which I have learned from my friends here in Haiti. Happiness comes from my relationship with God, from the love of my family and the support and love of my friends. I am grateful for every challenge and every success that comes my way. I am making the decision to be happy - a great lesson from people that have nothing.

Blessings,
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No one is going to tell you how long you have left…

Posted by Kathi on Friday, February 07, 2014 |

No one is going to tell you how long you have left – you have to live thinking it may only be for today. KJ

I was reading a blog recently and came across something that caught my attention….

 “Who knows if you’ve really got time to clean out the garage, or to read this endless news feed, or to pick up and move to Haiti and live your dream of spending the fleeting time holding the hands of forgotten ones.  No one tells you if you have enough time to try to change the world or just enough time to try to change your own story. If you knew how much time you have to live, you’d know how to live. ” ~Ann Voskamp A holy experience

This week, as I was on my way to a meeting, I came face to face with this reality. You never know…….

Especially, here in Haiti. Every day I witness car accidents, hear of a death in someone’s family, or in rare cases, see something like this.  Living here sharpens your focus, awakens your senses and makes you take nothing for granted –appreciating each hour. Some days, I want to quit - go back to my “normal” life.  But I can no longer live my life on autopilot, continuing to focus on my own needs. I have to do the hard things to live a life of radical success.  Success for God, success for myself and success for others. 

At the end of our days (whether that’s tomorrow or 50 years from now) we want to be able to say we lived full and passionate lives. A life well lived. That requires making tough choices and doing the hard things. As I was contemplating all this, I received this inspirational message from Craig.

You have to do the hard things.

  • You have to make the call you’re afraid to make.
  • You have to get up earlier than you want to get up.
  • You have to give more than you get in return right away.
  • You have to care more about others than they care about you.
  • You have to fight when you are already injured, bloody, and sore. 
  • You have to be kind to people who have been cruel to you.
  • You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that are unparalleled.
  • You have to be accountable for your actions even when things go wrong.
  • You have to keep moving towards where you want to be no matter what’s in front of you.

You have to do the hard things. The things that no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that make you wonder how much longer you can hold on.

Those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make the difference between living a life of mediocrity or outrageous success.

 

So whether you are committed to being the best mother, the most thought provoking teacher, the greatest sales person, the most sensitive missionary or just simply setting goals for yourself – the key to life is to live it fully. Live today as if it is your last. I am sure the man I saw lying dead on the streets of Petionville, didn’t wake up thinking it would be his last day on earth.  So rather than waiting for your last day, week or month – live for today. Whisper words of encouragement to your children, hug someone you may not want to hug, let go of resentment, love unconditionally, forgive openly, laugh heartily, and give thanks to God continuously. And if we are lucky enough to see another day, we will know that we have lived each glorious day to its fullest.

Life is precious and time is a key element. Let's make every moment count and help those who have a greater need than our own.”  Harmon Killebrew

Blessings,
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What does Laundry have to do with orphan care……

Posted by Kathi on Monday, January 20, 2014 |

Happy 2014 everyone - this year the focus of my blog posts will be on Gratitude.

Here in Kenscoff , it is hard to prioritize my tasks in the morning.  We get cloud cover and rain most afternoons, so one of my first priorities, is getting clothes washed, allowing enough time for the sunshine to get them dry. I know that is an odd concept, since most of us 1st world dwellers, never think about line drying. But here, the electricity (on the rare days when we have power) is so weak, it won’t heat a dryer and our propane dryer is very expensive to operate. So, back to my morning priority – getting clothes washed and out to dry before the rain comes. Most families hike down to the spring to fill buckets of water to do their wash. Fortunately, my 1st world status, has afforded me the privilege of having water right at my faucet. What a luxury!!! , Running water in my home,   I will never take that for granted again. Every morning,   I watch countless children lugging gallons of water up the steep terrain for bathing and laundry. Once they fetch the water, then it has to be heated –which means lighting a fire for most families and boiling water. For me, again, thanks to my privilege, I have almost instant hot thanks to a hot water heater (another thing I don’t take for granted anymore).  Getting a basic task, like laundry, completed here in Haiti, is a herculean feat. So when at 8:00 am I have our laundry done and out on the stairwell to dry – I feel a genuine sense of accomplishment.

 

As a member of a privileged society, I take great pride in my new found “laundry” skills. My Haitian friends have taught me how to scrub garments, make my white clothes look brand new, and ring sheets and towels to reduce the drying time. I realize this all sounds silly and far from why I came to Haiti in the first place – but believe me, it sums up so much!!  Because, I take nothing for granted anymore. I realize I don’t know squat about much, because everything here is so much more difficult. But when you accomplish something simple– like clean clothes, there is complete joy.

Now imagine this task multiplied by 48!!!! This is the thankless job of 3 women who are responsible for the laundry for our 48 children. Towels, clothes, sheets, blankets, shoes – it is a 30 hour a day job and these three women work tirelessly for the sake of our children. Imagine spending 10 hours a day hunkered over a laundry tub doing wash.  And never complaining.  Singing songs of praise while your hands shrivel up. I complain about hand washing clothes for Espie and I – imagine my embarrassment as I watch as these women wash laundry hour after hour, day after day. They don’t moan or groan, instead, they greet me with a smile and joyful voices.

It’s these kinds of experiences that teach me so much about life and my privileged status as an American. By stepping out of my comfort zone and living a life radically devoted to serving –perspectives change, the American dream looses its luster and complaints are replaced with gratitude.  As I start this New Year, I have 3 simple resolutions;  to love more deeply, to laugh more frequently and to be grateful continuously.  I am grateful for every single opportunity (good and bad) that comes my way. I am grateful for an amazing group of friends, donors and colleagues who support our efforts in Haiti. I am grateful to a family and husband at home who love and encourage me. And above all, I am grateful to God for opening the doors that allow me to experience and share His amazing love with children in Kenscoff, Haiti.

“we always have bright, clean clothes”

My wishes and prayers to you and your  families for a healthy and happy 2014.

Blessings,
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