Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Lengthy Brain Dump

Dear Holland, Allendale, Grand Rapids, and surrounding areas of Michigan-

Your family members are on their way back to you.

Again, thanks to all of you who were so kind to get us TOTALLY SET-UP for the baby. We easily have a four month supply of diapers and formula and enough wipes to wipe every butt in La Digue if I choose to, you are very kind to care for us and your generosity is touching.

On behalf of Lifeline we thank you for the many medical supplies your team bought and donated for the clinic. It is an awesome start and we're anxious to put it to good use.

For all the stressing & worrying we do about teams, and how it will all go, things seem to wind down without fanfare or trouble. No one had food poisoning on my watch and unless I missed hearing about it, there was not even one case of Haitian Happiness to report. That is what I call success. For Troy's part he felt that everyone got to use their God-given talents and lend a hand at the mission or in the villages. That is what he calls success.

The bigger thing than any of the work that is accomplished is the work the Lord does in all of our hearts. Learning to work together and traveling as a team to a new place is a growth experience. As long as it is not your waistline growing ... Growth is good. We will be praying for the team as they go, that the things God wanted to show them in their week here will be revealed clearly and that they might go back into the three churches they represented and be salt and light to their friends and neighbors. We also pray that the Lord would show us what *we* are to learn from each interaction and team experience.

This morning as the team left we had an opportunity to pray together. It is in those quiet, reflective moments that my heart is warmed and the purpose of a mission trip is realized. Just to go humbly to God with our thanks and our requests was meaningful. Troy and I and our kids thank the team especially for the prayers you offered on our behalf. We appreciate it more than we can adequately express.

We are sorry that you had to see Noah streaking through the house unclothed a time or two, but overall he really did buckle down and do his best not to offend. He has come a long way.

We talked a little bit with the girls before the team came about how careful we must be to allow each person to take Haiti and the needs in ... Trying not to come across as uncaring - but as realists. Because we have lived here for most of a year now, we have a different view on doing ministry here. To a new-comer it could seem like we don't care for some of the people or situations. A visitor could misjudge the the work we often do to qualify needs before we decide to jump in and help. That is never the case. We care deeply for the people.

We have simply learned that not everything is as it appears. Not every problem is ours to solve ... Not every problem even has a solution. We qualify needs due to a desire to be responsible with God's resources, encourage honesty, build self-reliance, and relationships in the process.

The best example I can give is of a family just outside the gates. The family has a very ill son, suffering with a terminal illness. The family has capitalized on his illness. Rather than having his best interests in mind, they are out to see what they might be able to get because of his bad situation. I bet that sounds horrible to you. It does to me too.

It's kind-of like Munchausen Syndrome, Haiti style. Over and over this boy gets into bad health situations, even when much of it could be prevented. Over and over they use him to get things, all the while not caring for HIS needs. In the last many months we have seen our efforts to help him end up getting diverted in some perverse way to benefit is dad or his mom or some adult in his family.

Do we still help? Yes, of course, but with parameters. Do we still show kindness to his messed up family? Yes, OF COURSE, but with parameters. Do we feel upset with them for using this boy this way? Yes, we do, but it is outside of our control so we set up systems to offer help without getting taken for a ride. We pray for him, we pray for them and we do our best to love them and teach them how to better love their sick son.

Looking from the outside in, we might seem callous or uncaring to have the boundaries we have. But they are there for everyone's good. That is the hard thing about ministry in Haiti.

Everything is not as it appears on the surface. It is sad, it is challenging, it is reality. If I had the power to put him on a plane, make him my kid, provide for his medical needs, and get him the heck away from people who don't care all that much for him, I would. But because none of that can happen, we just try to help him and show them all love without perpetuating the family's habit of using him.

These are things only God can do. God changes the hearts of man. I don't. God only requires us to seek Him, do what He asks and pray. I can do that.

These are the sorts of things that are hard to learn and difficult to accept. But we have found again and again that He is enough. He can give peace that passes understanding, even in situations that look like chaos to our earthly little eyes. God loves the Haitian people and His plans are for all to fully know who He is. Even if we don't know Him. He knows us.

I get to help out here and there, sometimes the work yeilds results, sometimes it doesn't --- but I am just an insignificant little tool in the massive, fully stocked, tool shed He owns.