Category Archives: Life

Reflecting on first week

Today marks one week that we have been in Haiti.  It is amazing how quickly this week has gone by!  One reason this week went fast is because each day, or even each moment is filled with new experiences.  The days themselves and life for that matter seem to go by at a slower pace but it is because they are so full of newness that it feels like yesterday we were getting off the plane at the airport.

Martha and I have been warmly welcomed by the World Concern Haiti staff.  The spirit here is very open and hospitable.  In the Port-au-Prince office, which is where we are based, there are approximately 40 employees.  I am learning that Haitian names are incredibly interesting and diverse.  Some are long, some short.  Some names reflect the French influence on the country and others, from my limited experience, sound like something deeper with an unknown Haitian meaning.  We are doing pretty well with the names so far and thankfully the staff are very forgiving.

Life here is interesting and lively.  This is probably because Haitians are interesting and lively!  Although I am not a lover of all things urban (if you know me, you know I would rather be lost in the mountains), I am learning to appreciate the things a dense urban city can offer.  The sound of women chattering as they cook, kids laughing, singing from a nearby church, are all reminders of community.  Haitians are communal.  This is of course very different from our individualistic culture in North America, but different is just fine.  I think there is plenty I can learn from those around me about community.

As you can see, our first week in Haiti has been about getting settled, becoming acquainted with those we will be serving alongside, and observing how people live.  We are eager to begin meeting the people World Concern serves and share their stories with you.  Since a picture says a thousand words, I will leave you with some photos of our first week here.

 

 

Haiti bound!

It was the end of December last year when Martha and I, after much prayer and consideration, decided to accept a position to serve with World Concern in Haiti.  We said yes not knowing when we would leave for Haiti but ready to begin the journey.  Well, one year later, Martha and I are excited to share with you that we have booked tickets and will be arriving in Haiti on January 18!  This would not be possible without the prayers and on going support of many people.  Thank you very much for your faith, time, resources, encouragement, and passion.

It seems like this past year went quickly, however I remember many days feeling very slow.  We spent this year traveling, reading, praying, studying, training, preparing, and waiting.  With all of those things came joys, tears, laughter, excitement, and frustrations.  It was a unique and diverse year to be certain.  Looking back, Martha and I are most of all simply thankful.  God has been terribly good to us and taken care of all of our needs along the way.  We have learned a lot about ourselves, each other, and of course the beautiful nation of Haiti.  Amidst the beauty, there remains many needs.  Martha and I hope not to fix things but work alongside our Haitian colleagues and partners to foster transformation both physically and spiritually.  Thank you again for helping us do just this.  Merry Christmas to each of you!

Stay tuned as we continue to share with you about this journey we are on to serve the most  vulnerable.  Haiti, here we come!

Hope you enjoy some pictures from our trip to Haiti in June.  We are thankful to serve and walk alongside some incredible people.

 

Better than gold

Martha and I have been planning, preparing, and praying for Haiti and our role there for nearly a year now.  At times I have wished more than anything to just be in Haiti; sweating, working hard, learning new things, meeting great people, and loving every minute.  The question, “Is it possible to have too much time for preparation?” has entered my mind a few times this past year.

The philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

Reading this today was all I needed in order to reflect this past year on the rich conversations, fellowship, and community I have experienced with old and new friends precisely because we had not left for Haiti yet.

The past three weeks alone have been unique and encouraging.  Martha and I have been church hopping a bit lately.  We found ourselves recently at Bethany First Church, Central First Church, and Core Church at Aspen Creek.  These communities have welcomed us warmly and have been generous by allowing us to share our story and about our work in Haiti.  For me, it has been refreshing seeing faces that I haven’t seen in a long time; and amazing for Martha to meet new faces and see how much support we have just in this small pocket of the States.

In hindsight, we as humans see our missteps, victories, and blessings.  For me, I am thankful today for twelve months of crying, laughing, praying, meditating, dreaming, and growing with some of the most incredible and generous people on the planet.  It is not necessarily what I would have chosen for Martha and I, but that goes to show that perhaps I don’t always know what is best.  I am still eager to arrive in Haiti and began our work there (expecting to be perplexed and amazed even more at how God uses others to bless us!).  However, I am arguably more ready and energized for what lies ahead now because of the many hours dear friends have poured into me this year.

Just one question.  Who have you blessed today?!

 

 

Giving Thanks

We said we weren’t going to think about all our “lasts” leading up to leaving for Haiti.  The last time to eat here, the last time to see them, and it goes on and on.  I suppose we just wanted as natural of a transition to our new life in Haiti as possible.  Despite trying to avoid this, I found myself a couple days ago as we sat around the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day, thinking just that.  I allowed the thought to stay because I realized I wasn’t sad at all when I realized that this will be our last Thanksgiving with family for awhile, it actually made me smile.  I smiled because I felt so grateful for that moment.  I (Austin) have not spent Thanksgiving with my family for several years.  So being able to be in Oklahoma on Thanksgiving, with Martha, and surrounded by incredible people that we love, definitely made me smile.  That moment on Thanksgiving Day put an exclamation point on an encouraging couple weeks where we have been constantly reminded of God’s faithfulness.

Here are some highlights…

Successfully packing up/giving away/selling our stuff, cleaning our apartment, and saying goodbyes to Seattle friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completely our 2,600 miles cross country journey and arriving in Oklahoma in one piece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing some incredible friends on our road trip

Learning that our monthly support has continued to increase in the month of November (closing in on 90%!)

Receiving Martha’s new passport safely in the mail

Having an awesome family in Oklahoma that would receive us with open arms and allow us to live with them

Arriving just in time for Thanksgiving, eating great food, enjoying family traditions, and being reunited with distant relatives and friends

A full house!

 

 

 

 

 

Wouldn’t be a family holiday without some friendly competition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God has been so good to us lately.  Of course there are always bumps along the way, but we have been reminded recently of how faithful God is despite our own shortcomings and the craziness of life.  How are you seeing God work in your life recently?  We would love to hear!

Moving on

Martha and I are officially not Seattle residents anymore.  It feels funny to even type that!  Yesterday, we began our 2,600-mile trek across the country to Oklahoma.   As we drove through the city, got on the highway, and watched the buildings become more and more faint, memories of our past two years in Seattle came streaming back…

Getting married at a beautiful park on a sunny (thankfully) spring day
Finding a church home at Bethany Community
Walks to Sunset Hill Park
Coffee, coffee, coffee!
Learning to be content
Making lifelong friends
Understanding my desperate need for Jesus
Stumbling across this really cool organization called World Concern

And it goes on and on.  Although we will miss many things about this city, the fondest memories are of course those that involve people.  God has been faithful in many ways during this season of our lives, but especially so in giving us wonderful new friends.  There is a certain unexplainable joy we as humans get from being in honest, fun, vulnerable, spirit led community with other people.  We are really going to miss those people that God has put in our lives in Seattle!  Thank you (you know who you are!) to all of you who have poured into Martha and I for the past two years.  Thank you for your humility, accountability, wisdom, joy, generosity, and hospitality.  We have seen Christ in you; so thank you for sharing life with us.

As I reflect on all the great relationships God gave us in Seattle, I am reminded of how relational the gospel really is.  God is intimately invested and engaged in this world and for some reason has chosen to use humanity to complete his story of redemption.  We were made for relationship.  Jesus’ life and ministry are testimony to the relational nature of God.

We are definitely sad to leave behind some wonderful people in Seattle.  However we wait eagerly and in anticipation for the friends we will make in Haiti.  Aside from the work we will do to help the World Concern team in Haiti serve the poor, we really see building relationships as a foundational element of our ministry.  We expect to be blessed by others in Haiti and in turn we want to empower, edify, encourage, and live life with others.

Pray with us in advance for the people we will meet in Haiti, whether that is a fellow staff member, neighbors, or those World Concern is serving.   Martha and I are thankful for our time in Seattle and excited about what lies ahead.  Thank you for your friendship and partnership in serving the poor and building Christ centered lasting relationships in Haiti.

Elevator Speech – Our life and work in Haiti

Since receiving our call to serve in Haiti and beginning this journey with World Concern, I have been looking for the perfect elevator speech.  Do you know what I mean by elevator speech?  We often get asked, “So what exactly will you be doing in Haiti?”  If I am not careful, I can let my passion and excitement get in the way and pretty soon I realize I have been talking for ten minutes straight!  An elevator speech is just that.  A quick look at how we will be serving in Haiti that can be shared with anyone I meet in an elevator.  Well, here is my attempt at giving you the ‘quick look’ of what God has called us to do in Haiti.

Providing training to farmers in southern Haiti

1)   Serve the poor
Martha and I will be working alongside our Haitian colleagues to meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable in Haiti.  World Concern excels at providing relief in areas not serviced by other agencies.  As an organization, we go to the hard and remote places in rural Haiti.  We believe God desires for all things and people to be redeemed to Him, including those affected by physical poverty.  Our skills in communication will help World Concern’s transformational work in Haiti continue.  In a recent blog post, I talk about the power clean water can have in meeting the needs of a community.  I hope you will check it out!

2)   Communicate stories of hope and transformation
Martha and I are honored to be given the task of telling individual’s and community’s stories of transformation.  The poor are often neglected and oppressed in society.  We seek to offer an avenue for those who have experienced poverty, to share about their journey.  Our hope is that the stories we collect will serve as an encouragement to those inside and outside of Haiti.  Additionally, Martha and I hope to spur on individuals and churches in North America and beyond, to become involved in partnering with World Concern to alleviate poverty in Haiti.  The story of the community of Lavanneau is one in particular that accurately captures the transforming work that we get to be a part of.

Equipping entrepreneurs and small business owners through microfinance

I (Austin) will also be assisting the local staff in areas of grant writing and preparing project reports.  This writing and administration assistance will be a huge help to our staff in Haiti.

3)   Move the staff and those we serve closer to Jesus
Martha and I are committed to speaking truth and providing spiritual encouragement to those we meet in Haiti.  We will have wonderful opportunities to especially connect with the World Concern Haiti staff.  Each week we as a staff come together in the office for a time of devotion and study in scripture.  Outside of this structured time, we will be focusing on building relationships with the staff members and those we serve.

While attending a cross-cultural training course at Mission Training International, we were reminded of how our love for one another is our greatest ministry.  In the book of John Jesus reminded us of this truth; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Our colleagues and those we serve will be watching how Martha and I treat one another, and therefore we see huge potential for ministry in this area.

We want to equip individuals and communities with the skills to move out of physical poverty, however we also desire to see people come to know the freedom found in Jesus.

Thank you for giving me a few minutes (okay, it might have taken longer than an elevator ride to read through this, it’s a work in progress)!  I hope you walk away with a better understanding of the role Martha and I will be playing on our team in Haiti.  We have developed such a love for Haiti.  I hope you can sense our heart for the people in this lovely country.

If you would like to be a part of serving the poor in Haiti through our work with World Concern, we would encourage you to become a monthly partner.  This means committing to financially support us each month for the next two years, and to pray for us on a regular basis.  If you feel led, you may sign up to become a monthly partner on World Concern’s website here.

Faith of a farmer

I must say, it is nice to be home.  As you may know, Martha and I are fresh off a four week traveling adventure throughout the midwest.  We thoroughly enjoyed the time we had making new friends and re-connecting with old ones, but there is something comforting about being home.  As we have been settling in and doing lots of laundry, I have been doing some reflecting on our travels.  I won’t bore you with all of my thoughts, but I wanted to share something I learned while Martha and I were visiting her grandfather’s farm in southwestern Iowa.

I learned that farmers have a lot of faith.  Don’t worry, this was not the first time I had this realization, it just stuck for some reason on this trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was fun being with Martha’s family as they told stories about farm life.  As a city kid, I find the farm a foreign but intriguing place.  The open spaces just scream adventure to me.  I heard that as a farmer you have to be diligent and hard working, but at the end of the day there are some things you can’t control.  How much rain and sun come at any given time is not up to you.  You are forced to focus on the work you can accomplish and give the rest to God.  What an awesome life lesson.

As our discussion about farm life continued, I couldn’t help but think of the farmers we’ve met in Haiti and the kind of faith they too must possess.  They also are hard working and diligent but in a similar way there are things in their life that cannot be controlled.  I mulled on this for a bit, and then thought about how honored I am to be a part of an organization that walks alongside farmers in Haiti.

As an organization we try to partner with farmers to achieve success in the areas they can control, while encouraging them along the way when they face challenges in areas of life they cannot control.  What does this look like?  In southwestern Haiti World Concern operates an agricultural training center where we teach area farmers about developing a quality seed and increasing yield.  At another community in the south, we helped rebuild a water canal which now provides steady irrigation to local farmers.  Our desire is to provide the resources and encouragement individuals and communities need to thrive, both physically and spiritually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you may know, Martha and I have recently made the decision to quit our day jobs and focus on preparing for service in Haiti full time.  So this lesson of faith made me think about our brothers and sisters in Haiti but also about this season of life we find ourselves in.  There are certain things Martha and I can be doing now that will prepare us well for our time in Haiti.  However, there are some things that are simply out of our hands!  We have to trust that God is in control and that He will provide for all our needs.  Haiti is such a beautiful place with so much going for it.  We see lots of potential for growth and lasting change, and we can’t wait to return.

 

Iowa

Martha and I have just spent the last week in Diagonal, Iowa.  This was our first stop on our month long summer traveling adventure.  Martha’s mother grew up on a farm near the small town of Diagonal, and the family was gathering here for a reunion.  It was my first time in Iowa and my first time meeting many of Martha’s extended relatives.

Along with Martha’s parents and her brothers, we got to Iowa a few days before the reunion to spend time together.  We ate good food, played games, and enjoyed the open space that farm life gives you.  One highlight of the week was the 4th of July celebrations.  We went to two parades, ate kettle corn, watched our nieces compete in the pedal tractor pull, and ended the day with a firework show.

 

The reunion was on a hot and dry Saturday at the town’s community center.  Over 40 family members from across Iowa and beyond came together for food and good conversation.  Martha and I also had an opportunity to share about our work in Haiti.  We had pictures with us, so we enjoyed showing everyone what Haiti looks like and what World Concern does.

The week was a huge success!  As you can see, Martha was able to get more acquainted with her camera and snapped some good shots.  Now we are heading to Ludington, Michigan with Martha’s parents.  We’ll be sharing more about our travels as the month goes on.

Martha and I wrapped up a trip to Oklahoma and Kansas this past weekend.  We got to celebrate my sister’s college graduation, see some close friends, and share with others about our future work in Haiti.  We were so encouraged by the conversations we were able to have and truly thankful for everyone’s continued support and enthusiasm.  Here are some highlights and pictures from this past week.

Oklahoma City
Megan, my little (or not so little anymore!) sister, graduated from college this year so we were able to celebrate with her.  On Saturday we were able to attend her convocation and make a lot of noise when she walked across the stage!  My mom had planned a casual, yet well-decorated and classy lunch at a small café near campus where friends and family joined us to celebrate.  We spent that Mother’s Day Sunday with all the moms in our family that live in the Oklahoma City area and then made the hour and a half drive back to Tulsa.

Tulsa
I grew up in Tulsa, so coming here definitely means ‘coming home’ for me.  Martha has been to Oklahoma a handful times prior to this trip so she also is becoming more comfortable with my family and enjoys seeing familiar faces.  We started the week in Tulsa by getting to hangout with my best friend, Joey, and his wife who happened to be in town that weekend visiting their folks.  It was short, but sweet!  Later in the week, we got to host our good friend Hailey, who we worked with in Amsterdam, for a couple days.  Martha and I had not seen Hailey since we left Amsterdam two years ago so it was a long overdue reunion!  On Thursday afternoon, the three of us went downtown to check out Mayfest, an annual arts festival in Tulsa.  Not only did we see really funky and creative artwork, but we also got to see the Batmobile!  This was an exciting moment for us since we are big Batman fans.

We have some long time family friends that live in the Tulsa area that we wanted to see, so my parents hosted a dessert night on Thursday.  This evening was all about eating good food and enjoying fellowship.  We counted nearly 30 people in our living room that night!  Martha and I used this opportunity to share about our future work in Haiti and express our need for ministry partners.  We are really blessed!  Those that were able to attend were encouraging and responsive to our call for prayer and financial partnership.  Thank you to my folks who opened their home and to everyone that was able to come.  For those that were not able to come, we hope to see you on our next visit!  Martha and I are grateful for all of you.

Kansas City
On Friday morning, we piled into the car and drove to the Kansas City area with my dad.  There is a family in the area that have been great friends of our family for quite awhile and have been incredibly supportive of Martha and I’s future ministry.  They offered to host a dessert night for us so we could share our vision and story with some people in their circle.  What a night!  We had wonderful conversation with a small group of people Friday night and got to talk about Haiti and World Concern.  Martha and I aim to be advocates for Haiti so we were encouraged by everyone’s interest in Haiti and our ministry.  Thank you to our family friends who hosted us and have been so supportive.  We are grateful for those who spent their Friday evening with us in Kansas City.

As you can see it was an awesome week.  I am reminded of how important relationships are and of how God has blessed us with many good friends.  Pray for us as we get back into our routine in Seattle and make final preparations for a one week trip to Haiti in June.

 

Friends, meetings, dinner parties – a week in review

This has been a full, yet fantastic week.  Martha and I are doing a pretty good job of balancing our day jobs with making preparations for Haiti, raising support, and touching up on some skills.  Some days are longer than others, but all in all we’re growing more affirmed in our future ministry and have been given all the strength we need to ‘keep on keeping on.’  I wanted to share a couple highlights from this past week with the hope of letting you see what our lives are like doing this time leading up to our departure for Haiti.

Martha and I have applied to receive support from our church here in Seattle.  This week we had our first ‘interview’ with some members from the mission committee.  It was encouraging to hear about the vision the church has regarding missions and how our work with World Concern fits into that.  Following some good conversation, we had the opportunity to pray together.  This was another reminder of how blessed we are to be a part of a solid community of believers.  The next step in this process is to make a presentation of our work to the entire committee in the near future.  Looking forward to that.

As you may or may not know, Martha and I have begun learning French.  We are using a software called “Tell Me More.”  We decided to go with a software option versus a class or tutor because of the low cost and flexibility.  In general we are pleased so far with the program and since we both enjoy language it has been fun.  The majority of Haitians only speak Creole.  Why then are we learning French?  Our Haitian supervisors and colleagues at the headquarter office in Seattle agreed that having a basic understanding of French would be helpful for the transition to learning Creole.  Additionally, some things like government documents in Haiti are often in French, so it will be valuable to understand the language for that reason.  Eventually we will focus exclusively on learning Creole with the end goal of becoming fluent.  We want to invest in our Haitian coworkers and neighbors, as well as do our best to share accurate and in depth stories of what World Concern is doing in Haiti, so really knowing the language is essential for us.  In addition to using the “Tell Me More” language software to learn French, we have been listening to French music and watching French movies.  This week we watched a French film called “The Class.”  It follows a classroom in urban Paris that consists of a diverse group of lower class students and highlights the issues they face.  Slow moving at times but I really recommend it.  We’re hoping simply hearing the language will help us pick it up quicker.  We’ll see!

One of our goals prior to arriving in Haiti is to really be present each day and build strong relationships with people here.  A way we are attempting to do this and at the same time tell more people about our future work is through dinner or dessert nights.  These informal, laid back events may be hosted at the home of a close friend or anywhere else that a friend of ours allows us ‘into their circle.’  Our friends Andrew and Tessa invited us to join their small group this week for dinner and to talk about what we are up to.  It was really fun meeting new people, hearing their stories, and sharing ours.  If this sounds like something you would be interested in hosting for us let us know!

So this was our week.  We are always amazed at the people God puts in our lives and how he provides for us.  Pressing forward in anticipation for what He has next.  Happy Easter:)

Oh and it was my (Austin) birthday this week!  How could I forget?  I think 26 is going to be a good one.