Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections on Christmas...Gratitude.

My sweet baby girl in front of the Christmas tree.

Wow, what a wonderful holiday it has been!  Different in so many ways, we spent our first Christmas with only our small family unit and our first in Haiti.  While much of the holidays is steeped in tradition and the anticipation of as much, everything being different here has helped us decided what we really treasure at Christmas.  We have missed spending time with family and friends in the states, but have also grown so much closer as husband and wife and mother and father to Willow worm and on the way, baby girl #2.  I can say with the utmost confidence that this is the HOTTEST Christmas I have ever experienced, and while listening to  non- stop Christmas music on 88.7 Way FM and 106.9 The Light streaming radio for the last three days, it has never felt weirder to sing along to Let it Snow!  :-)
Daddy and daughter having a brief moment of insanity. :-)

Although the temperature is different, growing in knowledge of the Lord, in understanding of what Jesus’ birth means, and in maturity as a mother and wife,  I am thankful for the lessons we are learning this holiday.  The topics of “what does Christmas mean,” and “why did Christmas begin in the first place” and “do I really want to start the Santa thing with my kids?”  have been whirling around in our missionary circles and on Facebook as of late, and, realizing I no longer get to postpone my thoughts on this, I have been allowing myself to ponder these topics too. What I realize, without any solid conclusions of my own yet, is that majoring on the majors and minoring on the minors holds true here too.  What Christmas is supposed to mean is the greatest gift of all that we were given in the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the gratitude that should overflow in response to that gift.  What it isn’t supposed to mean is “what all can I get off my gift list so that I feel satisfied with life and content to start the new year” or “how in the world am I going to distribute charges across my credit cards to make all of my kids equally happy this year with their loot.”  If this is where our minds are, we have severely missed the meaning of this treasured time of the year.  I have never been more happy to not receive anything ( I didn’t forget all the early present maternity clothes, mom, or the amazing book, Patsy, so THANK YOU!!) for Christmas and to just really spend time with and love on my husband and baby girl.  Making them their favorite snacks and baking with Willow was so much fun, I didn’t notice we had but one present under the tree, and that one for munchkin.  Acts 20:35 How much more {truly} “blessed is it to give than to receive”?  I have been saying this verse to myself and others for years growing up, and while I believed every bit of it, I also never realized how much of my excitement for Christmas lay in “what I was going to get.”  So, today, I am thanking God for lessons being truly sealed to my heart and for growing up this holiday season.  Maybe those lessons are ones you don’t really learn till you hit 30…right? :-)  I decided that was my excuse for it taking so long to sink in…

While learning these gratitude lessons, I was also struck with the reality that we, Matt and I, have been given more love and provision than we could ever begin to deserve.  From parents paying for bills, to parents paying for a constant supply of goods coming our way, to friends and loved ones dropping unexpected “gifts” in our paypal that will sustain us through next year and allow us to have this baby, what in the WORLD is the presence of/lack of material loot under our tree.  It seems ludicrous and makes me ashamed to think I have been expecting that deep inside somewhere for so much of my life.  And while I am learning these lessons, I also realize that the struggle with this is not cut and dry – it does not come with easy answers.  While we have an 18 month old who is satisfied with Tupperware from my kitchen shelf to bang on, and whose eyes shone at the baby doll and stroller she received from “Santa” for Christmas, many of you have teenagers who have true confidence issues related to what they have in comparison to their peers.  For those of you in these situations, ones I have yet to encounter, none of these lessons are easy.  What I do know, though, is if our hearts are drawn to the gift of the Savior, and our children see us modeling that gratitude, we have done our job and He is responsible to see that play out in the lives of our children and their peers as they grow in the Lord.

Whew!  What a journey growing in the Lord has become…
Fully concentrating as she opens her present. :-)

The best picture of Willow I was able to get...she NEVER STOPS MOVING!!

Willow and I (and the bump) at the beach property for a little snorkeling and play time.
On a lighter note, we enjoyed a beautiful morning at the beach yesterday, snorkeling and playing in the sun.

  We were also blessed to have Jude, Yanick, Ricardo, Emily, and Edner for lunch and a quick beach property visit on Christmas Eve day.  We all enjoyed local Haitian cuisine including boiled plantains and whole grilled fish! Previous to the weekend, we were also blessed to be in attendance at one of our staff's wedding.  Ezekiel Henry married the intern of his dreams on December 21st and is all smiles as a married man.  The wedding was beautiful and made for a fun celebration surrounding Christmas time.

Myriame looking beautiful as her dad walks her down the aisle!

 What a wonderful season it has been and we are excited about the year ahead.  We have many teams coming to help us get connected in the community and to start to see the work of the Children's Retreat Center come alive.  Thank  you for your support in 2012 and your ongoing commitment to the work of the Lord and trust in His calling for us in Haiti.  We love you all!! Now...I'm getting off of the computer to ring in the New Year!!!! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!!

The Rideouts

Hoping New Year's Eve is more lively than Christmas Eve...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

…And we pack one more suitcase.

Welcome to our life for the last 10 months. Living out of suitcases and packing and repacking every time we turn around has made for quite the chaos.  There is the usual excitement in that process that always comes with the anticipation of the trip.  However, the extra energy consumption and unpacking that also follow cannot be ignored.  Combine that with sickness x 3, pregnancy and a 17 month old that’s fast as lightning – wow, life is crazy right now!!  We are extremely excited anticipating the birth of our second (third in our hearts) baby girl, but have a lot to get done in preparation before April hits us.  First things first…a house!

A few neighbors came over to meet us.

God, in His perfect timing, has found us a rental house in Montrouis!!  We are very excited about moving and have been painting and repairing some things on the house before officially relocating. We picked out paint, hired a carpenter for cabinets, replaced toilet seats, etc.  . Matt was able to coordinate with Octolem, our trusty overseer at the land, to help with painting and oversight at the house until we move in.  

The Accemes starting things off right with fresh paint.

It took 67 gallons of paint to finish the job.

Kitchen cabinets built & installed completely by hand without the use of a single power tool. 

19 friendly neigbors helping move the generator.

We also were blessed to have a great Thanksgiving meal with our Haiti family.  I wasn’t able to consume anything because I ONCE AGAIN had a stomach issue…but everyone else thoroughly enjoyed my menu and Brittany’s cooking!  Brittany saved the day and showed her fiancĂ©, Kessy, just how domestic she could be. Fun was had by all and we were able to get the Haitian staff to eat “blanc” food which doesn’t happen around here very often.  We were also able to serve our ladies who tirelessly feed us each day, so it felt wonderful to serve them in return.  I am extremely blessed to be feeling better.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sarah and Hurricane Sandy

Sarah is feeling much, much better. Baby #2 is healthy and active. We are are so thankful for the encouragement and prayers lifted up by everyone. We had a few scary days, and we really felt the support everyone gave us. Sarah finished her last dosage of antibiotics today and will be returning to Haiti later this week.  I can't wait for both of them to back home!

They aren't accustomed to this cold weather!

Willow is loving time with the grandparents, and apparently had a blast at the church fall festivities.

Caramel Apple Love

I returned to Haiti just as Hurricane Sandy struck the island. We received massive amounts of rain, and heavy surf at the beach property. In our part of  Haiti we saw very little damage as compared to the southern region. In the south, there is significantly more damage. This afternoon, Greg and I attempted a trip to the DR to finish up a project. We were unable to make it... It appears that this river has changed course and is now flowing through town instead of in the riverbed.


The river crossing we decided not to attempt. Lots of spectators watching for carnage.

 At the Retreat Center property we lost a section of our sea wall, however we gained 3 feet of fresh sand on the beach!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We've got Power, Power, Power

One year ago today, I stepped foot on Chadasha's Orphan Retreat Center property for the very first time.  During those days in 2011, I wrestled with whether or not God himself was calling my family to a slice of prime Caribbean beachfront, or if it was the selfish desires of my heart.

One year later I can definately confirm beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was (and is) God's plan for our lives.  We've had more difficult and discouraging days than you can shake a stick at. However, the good has always out-weighed the bad. The past few days have renewed my sense of purpose...

Hurricane Isaac did very little damage to our property. Except for washing 100's of large rocks onto our beach. This week we cleaned up the rocks, restoring our beach.

Approximately 25% of the stones that were removed from the water.

We now have fresh water on our property. This is huge! We have been working to make this happen for 5 months. The next time you visit our beach, you'll be able to rinse off the salt compliments of our new shower!

As of Monday, we have ELECTRICITY!  This is especially exciting after hearing from several sources that it could take months to have a legitimate, legal connection to state power (know in Haiti as EDH).   We were able to secure a contractor and have our pole and transformer installed and connected in less than a week. Not only do we have a connection, we have all the papers from EDH making it a proper legally registered connection.

Here is  a 30 second version of how to install a pole by hand. It was amazing to watch this crew work. Three guys dug an 8 foot deep hole in 30 minutes and then dropped the pole into place.

They did everything by hand, including hoisting the 400 lbs transformer.

The transformer goes up!

Boss Josue supervising

The finished product, 50KVW power.

Soccer is a big deal in Haiti. American's love for football, pale in comparison to Haitian's love for soccer. Even the poorest of the poor find ways to play their beloved sport. They almost always play barefoot, and rarely have an actual ball. For many kids, getting to play on grass will be a huge deal.

For those of you who know my background, you understand why this is exciting for me.  We were able to round up a tractor to begin preping our new soccer field.   Machinery in Haiti is very rare, this is largely due to the abundance of cheap labor. I can't tell you how excited I was watching that green paint roll through the gate...

John Deere 5075E compliments of USAID and the American People!
Within an hour, the guys raked and burned the old vegation to allow the tractor to plow. It was hot, really hot, and the burning debris only made it hotter. For some reason, the heat didn't seem to affect anyone but me...

The heat doesn't slow down Octalem
Josue continues to 2
Turn and Burn!
Day 2 of field prep, tractor love.

Almost finished with the tractor.

Tomorrow, we will hand rake the surface and comb for rocks.  Josue and I have scoured all of our contacts to find grass seed in Haiti. Apparently, grass seed  is not sold in Haiti...

However, this weekend we will sow a hybrid, (traffic and heat tolerant) Bermuda seed. A big thanks to Bruce Hooper of  Hooper Supply in Murfreesboro, TN for helping us with the seed. Check out their website:

I can't wait to update everyone in 6 weeks when we have a lush carpet of grass covered with kids playing "football".  We've attracted quite a crowd with the tractor, and most of them have never played soccer on turf. Let's hope that the weather cooperates!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

When the rubber hits the road

A few weeks ago, Hurricane Issac passed over Port au Prince. I am sure many of you have seen the news reports, tracked the radar, and prayed for my family & our community. I posted a status update on Facebook that read "As of 9pm, we still have no rain or wind to speak of in PAP. Thank you for prayers. Our house is concrete and will be just fine, they are 500,000+ others who live in tents and under tarps who will not be sleeping tonight. Please join us in praying for them."

We were blessed with a weaker portion of the storm than many others. The day after the storm, you could hardly notice that any damage had been done.

Well, until all of this hit home. Until it affected someone I knew very well. His name is Fritz.

An old photo of Fritz studying

Fritz doesn't have much by the standards of this world. He lives in a tent camp for internally displaced persons called Caradue. He is 32 and lives with his elderly mother. As Issac approached, his mother fled the camp, and Fritz stayed behind to weather the storm and protect his family's belongings.

During the night, around 3 a.m. the winds picked up and destroyed his tent. The same winds, that my family slept through without even noticing in our concrete house. There was no sleeping for Fritz, or his neighbors, who in the commotion ransacked his home and stole his belongings.

When we returned to Karadue 48 hours later, we greeted our students and learned that all of them had weathered the storm with little effect. Everyone except Fritz. At first glance, it was a typically day, hHe was dressed in one of the same 3 or 4 outfits we always see him in. However, this afternoon we didn't see the engerized, warm and welcoming spirit we've come to know in him. This day, we saw a man hurt, who's spirit had been broken. He told me the story of what happened, and how he lost everything.

Fritz took John and I to visit his tent, this is what we found....

All that remained of Fritz's home and belongings

We took him home with us that afternoon. He spent the night at the guest house, and we found him some clothes, fed him, and talked on the porch for hours.

The next morning, all Fitz wanted was to return to his friends, neighbors, and family in the tent camp. He never asked us for anything, he was very appreciative of the hospitality we had given him. We gave him a new tent, and he returned joyful to his home. We checked in on him a few days later, and he was so happy with his new tent. He was proud of his new home.

My interactions with Fritz crushed me. In the begining, I was so worried about bringing him home with us, I was afraid we would never get him to leave. I  WAS WRONG. I was worried that he would ask for things I couldn't, or selfishly wouldn't give him. I WAS WRONG. I was afraid that once Fritz saw how we lived it would put distance into our relationship. I WAS WRONG.

I allowed the devil to creep in and cast doubts about helping Fritz. Fortunately, I didn't rest in those thoughts. I didn't not choose to distance myself from the poverty that we are surrounded by. Wouldn't you know, my God honored that decision. He has brought so much depth to my relationship with Fritz because of that situation, that I cannot begin to explain in words.

Phillipians 4:9 reads "Do what you have seen and heard in me, and the God of peace will be with you."  

Over the last few weeks I begun striving to live this verse out daily. I am committed to living out my days serving the God that loves me more than I can fathom, even though I do not deserve any of His love.  When I have moments of doubt or selfish thoughts with regards to helping someone I am choosing to charge past them... I am going to give until hurts. I am going to live by the example of my heavenly Father, who hurt so much that He gave his own Son to die for me.

Monday, August 13, 2012

His Promises Never Fail, We Just Gain Perspective

I'm not even quite sure as I begin this post where it is going to end up. I find myself awake at 5am, in the same position I was in at 2:30am.  I am a mom.  I don't sleep much at night because we are sharing our room with a budding toddler.  I get naps when i can.  :-)
My toddler playing in the bubbles with her buddy Isaac.

I decided to take advantage of this night waking and journey back a little to a place my heart doesn't want to go. I have been running from writing this for too long. Two and a half years ago, I sat in an office in Asheville, NC, looking for peace in my heart and plunging head first into a journey that I had no idea would bring me to where I am.  I began loving and pouring my time into a country I never dreamed I would end up in. In the process, I began loving and pouring my heart out to a tiny 2 year old in a small orphanage in that country.  To say I was grabbed with a passion I have never felt before would be an understatement.  One could simply look back at my blog entries (all two or three of them) and see the excitement.  So rich was that excitement, that my blog stayed empty most of the time, as I spent hours and hours doing and researching, in search of a plan to bring this sweet little girl home to live with Matt and I.  I was so engrossed, in fact, that at one point, my sweet husband asked me to reassess what  was important to me - him or this new infatuation with the country and the girl.  Don't get me wrong - he loved this little girl too, but there was a slow fade happening with me that he was keenly aware of.  One that was taking me far from the priorities that I would readily verbalize if asked. "oh sure - as a woman of God, my God comes first, husband second, and ministry/passions, 3rd."  His recognition of this shuffling of goals came as a surprise, but a welcome one all the same.  This country - Haiti - and mission I had fallen in love with, including my love for little Ashley, very prayerfully took a backseat, as  I vowed to pray more and research/agonize/scramble less.  Hence, the reason for the adoption blog stopping so abruptly. 

 About the same time that the blog entries stopped, my hope began to wane.  We had been fighting in every avenue we could think of to get our sweet Ashley home, and though we had felt the Lord pushing us to pursue her and this process, we kept getting road blocks that left us puzzled at every turn.  I had never felt so sure of anything in my life that seemed to be moving in no direction at all.  The last time I had visited Ashley was in October of 2010 where I also found out we were pregnant with our first biological child.  What a blessing we had been given!  However, my first thoughts were ones of fear instead of immediate contentment and excitement.  I have always wanted to be a mother both to biological children and adopted.  We had been told that having biological children at that stage in adoption was a mark against us, and as crazy as this sounds, I was immediately troubled at this new life growing inside me, thinking we had jeopardized our sweet Ashley's potential position in our family.  While this may sound insane, it was a natural outpouring of my stream of consciousness.  Thankfully, even though my worry was futile from the outset, I was also assured by the lawyer that all would be well and the pregnancy was not a mark against us.  This all played out in October of 2010.  After telling Matt on skype that we were pregnant :-), I was quickly and lovingly ordered to be as careful as possible and to come home with no plans to return.  The growing baby in my womb needed priority and God would tell us what to do in the meantime as HE took care of Ashley when she was out of our ability to care for.  

Months passed, and the continued word from the lawyer in Haiti was that we needed to wait until the laws changed to actively pursue Ashley or we would be wasting money and spinning our wheels. So we waited and waited while I became a first "all the time" mom, though I had been a mom in my heart for more than a year by then. I enjoyed every moment of growing, delivering and raising Willow that summer, including living in three places between the school grounds, our new cabin, and camp.  All the while, I kept wondering what God was doing and when He would fill this long awaited place in our home with little Ashley.  While bringing Willow into the world, we were approached about praying through going to the mission field full time in Haiti.  I will write more later about that process, but during that time, we were so tossed about that would happen to Ashley. Would we be able to have her live with us when we move?  What are the laws governing all those specifics?  Should we move? Would that hurt her chances of getting her because we would suddenly be on a mission budget instead of an account that looked "acceptable" to a home study agent?  So many questions flooded our minds on top of all the others related to moving a new baby and our whole world to a third world location.  As you can imagine, we prayed until we were blue in the face.  As you well know, God did answer our call to move to Haiti, in ways that knocked our socks off, especially Matt's.  As we prepared to go, we hesitated many times, wondering about how much control we were supposed to have related to Ashley's future.  In all of our wonderings, we finally realized that control wasn't ours to begin with. That Ashley also wasn't ours.   I had journaled a thousand times before that the most important thing I could remember as a mom was that every child I was blessed with was the Lord's.  Remembering this allowed me to know once again that control was out of our reach for good reason.  We don't know best - He does.  

The most recent picture we have of Ashley.  Matt's visit in September 2011. She was almost 4.
For the sake of updating all of you on Ashley, I will fast forward to present day.  For so many reasons we are unable to share, the minute details will remain unspoken regarding Ashley's fate with our family.  She has not been able to come and live with us as we had hoped.  We are no further in the process of trying to adopt her.  I cannot tell you how many times I have asked God "why are we on this ride?"  What happened to get us here?   Emotions have ran high, low, and around and around.  There have been tears, silence, anger, bitterness, understanding, peace, and joy only God can give.  I have many opportunities to rest in the anger and tears, but as I have been promised over and over "joy comes in the morning." So as for me..."I will sing about your strength; i will praise your loyal love in the morning; For you are my refuge and my place of shelter when I face trouble." Psalm 59:16  
 I have realized that when anger was so quickly on my lips, speaking it would only result in pain.  Our mission to Haiti was to relieve pain - not to cause it.  Although I am sure I have caused unintentional pain along they way in my stumbling in this missionary life, I will not willfully hurt someone because I have been hurt.  We, Matt and I, have been called to a higher standard.  The same God that willed us to recognize Ashley's need for a family that we could provide and to love her how we do, also spurs us to love others who are harder to love.  The call is the same, however. And the love story He is writing that started with a young, eager couple, unsure of the future, but sure of His call to love a little girl and then to love her country - it is still being written! Though we are no longer actively pursuing adopting Ashley due to promises broken and walls we aren't able to cross, we will always consider her our firstborn. We haven't seen her since January 17th, 2012. We pursued her living with us for 6 weeks and were then told she had been promised to another family.  We were devastated. We will always love her. We may never understand why we were lied to.  We do, however, serve a God that knows all the whys. That is the beauty in all of this...I stand before a God - I SERVE a God - who knows no beginning or end and sees the end of our days and knows their outcome and will never stop walking beside us for eternity!  That is the promise we have.  Thank you for reading this. Thank you for walking beside us. Thank you for supporting us.  We are forever grateful for you, friends and family.  I pray you continue to walk this journey with us...
Willow and Daddy...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Motorcycle Mayhem

We have big news, really big news for our ministry... and a BIG thanks to our supporters.
Daniel and his brand new Sukida 150cc motorcycle!

We received an anonymous donation to help Daniel purchase a motorcycle. This is a big deal for him, and a big deal for us. Daniel has been saving to buy a vehicle to help him travel to school, work, and to church.

An anonymous donor helped him by giving half of the total money required to purchase his motorcycle. Daniel saved the other half, about 5 months of his entire wage.

This new motorcycle will allow him to spend less time commuting to school, which will free up  his time to help Chadasha's ministry in Port au Prince. When he finishes school, he we be able to get a better job, because he is able to provide his own transportation to job sites (he is almost finished vocational training for a/c repair).

Mystery person, you have changed someone's life for the better. You payed it forward. You have given hope and encouragement. You have rocked Daniel's world. For this, we are incredibly grateful.

Sarah and I are humbled by the generosity of our donors, and friends who enable us to be working in Haiti. We could not do this work without your financial support.  If anyone is interested in partnering
with us to purchase additional motorcycles for our staff, please email me for details.

Daniel headed home to show his family the new motorcycle

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Men of Chadasha

Honestly, we are still recovering from last week's craziness. John Fitts along with our male staff were in the Dominican Republic ministering to Haitians living in the DR over the past week. We did not want to advertise their absence for security reasons.

While they were gone, I truly realized how much those guys do. I also realized I do not THANK them enough for the effort they put into our ministry. I'd like to take a moment and introduce each of them to you in no particular order.

Daniel- chief mechanic & chicken wrangler

Zeke- soldier & evangelist

Josue- project manager & English teacher

Kessy- aka Dr. Blackberry & Dominican boss

God is using these men in great ways. They are a real asset to Chadasha's ministry in Port au Prince, and we would be lost with out them. I love each of them like a brother, and am blessed to have them as a part of our family.  Each of them have taught me something about life, authenticity, and most of all our Savior. I am excited to see how God will use them in the years to come, to influence our community.