Tag Archives: community

Goodbyes and what we can learn from them

My parents can attest that I have always had trouble staying in one place.  As a youngster I was always on the move.  As an adult, although I’ve bid farewell to (most) of my bad fidgety habits I still have trouble staying in one place, geographically speaking.

In the past four years Martha and I have lived in three different cities, in three different countries.  Port-au-Prince is home now and while I am confident this is where God wants me to be and I absolutely love the excitement and adventure of living in such an interesting and vibrant place, I don’t enjoy the frequent goodbyes that come with living in a transient city or with moving every couple years.

Goodbyes are bittersweet.  There is a sense of excitement for the person who is leaving and beginning a new chapter and at the same time a sense of sadness knowing that your relationship with this person will look different in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Haiti is one of those places where people, namely foreigners or the Haitian diaspora or educated Haitians, come and go.  You often to have look hard to find people who have been here for longer than a couple years.  This is for a variety of reasons but the proximity to the U.S. and Canada, and the “short term contract/commitment” culture are major players.

Thankfully Martha and I have found great friends in Haiti and are slowly building a strong community here.  However recently we did have to say goodbye to one of our friends, Dr. Joanne, who was also a colleague at World Concern.  Dr. Joanne served as World Concern’s health program coordinator and was a wonderful friend to Martha and I since our first days in Haiti.  She is the kind of person that always lights up a room when they walk in.  Her godly leadership and sweet spirit will truly be missed.

Dr. Joanne will be staying in Port-au-Prince.  Haiti is her home.  So we’re happy about that and we will likely stay in touch.

Although we’re excited for her as she steps into a new ministry role with another organization, we’re also saddened by her departure.  Her leaving not only has made me think about my mixed feelings with goodbyes, it has also reminded me of the importance of being present.  Meaning, I need to make the most of the moments I do have now with the people in my sphere or office or apartment building or church.  This is something that takes practice and I am still figuring out but am seeing the importance and value of it more and more.

Here at the World Concern office in Port-au-Prince we had an awesome party for Dr. Joanne last week that honored her very well.  It had some serious moments and some hilarious ones.  There were speeches, prayers, stories, snacks, and laughs shared.  One highlight was the ‘dancing game’ that was organized beforehand but that no one knew about.  I had no idea some of our staff could move so well!!  Unfortunately there’s no video footage of the dancing but I did want to share some photos of that party with you.

What a good looking bunch!  World Concern staff surround Dr. Joanne (center, holding plaque).

What a good looking bunch! World Concern staff surround Dr. Joanne (center, holding plaque).

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Finding community

One of the first things I noticed about the World Concern staff in Haiti is the sense of community that is felt in the office. Whether praying together, sharing a meal, or just joking around, the staff here are close. It has been a joy to witness this so far and we’ve felt welcomed into the ‘family’ here.
Assimilating (or attempting to) into a new culture always has its’ challenges. I remember even when Martha and I first moved to Seattle almost three years ago now, how different things were from other places I had lived in the States. As I eventually learned, people in Seattle do not prefer to honk while driving, use umbrellas, or drink ‘corporate’ coffee. Who would’ve known?! You don’t expect to have to go through a period of adjustment when moving to a new city in your own country but it happens. Anyway one good thing about figuring out a new place is that you get to observe and just take everything in. It has been during this ‘observation phase’ that I’ve noticed the closeness of the staff here, which is a great thing.

Martha and I got to see more of this last week when we took part in a special luncheon for about fifteen of our health staff.

Since 2009 World Concern, working with local and other NGO partners, has had the opportunity to serve people living with HIV/AIDS in the Port-au-Prince area. In Haiti, if you have HIV/AIDS you face significant stigmatization and discrimination. This population is marginalized. While area hospitals are able to provide medicines and other clinical services to people living with HIV/AIDS, there are often limited resources available to meet their non-clinical needs. This is the gap that this project filled. At seven different centers throughout the city, thousands of people including children who live with HIV/AIDS received psycho-social support through the project. This happened through support groups where people are able to discuss their challenges, vocational training, HIV/AIDS education, assistance with school fees, and creative programs for kids. These activities help give people self-confidence, provide them with tangible skills so they can earn an income, and help them see that they are valued and important.

This luncheon was a time for the staff to just be together and reflect on the project. An especially meaningful moment was when everyone took turns going around the table and saying a thank you or encouraging word to each person. I am still far from fluent in Creole but I felt like I didn’t have to know exactly what was being said. In the air was a sense of belonging and togetherness that was so refreshing. As I was taking everything in and trying to follow the conversation, I thought of the sense of community I have felt among the staff so far and how this luncheon was definitely a highlight in that regard.

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Once each person had shared and we had finished a delicious lunch, everyone gathered around to end in prayer. Myself and two others were asked to pray. I’ve found this to be a funny experience to be asked to pray in a group, mainly because of the language. It’s really an honor to be asked to pray I think, especially at a special event like this but I always get nervous. Do I struggle through a prayer in Creole and sound like a 8 year old or pray in English even though only three people in the room can understand me? This time I decided to give it a try in Creole. Thankfully out of the three I was the last to go which gave me plenty of time to search my brain for all the ‘Christianese’ words I know in Creole and craft my prayer. Eventually it was my turn and although I still felt a little intimated, I went for it. To my surprise, I made it all the way through without stuttering or having or a complete brain fart! Learning how to get out of your comfort zone and just try things even if you look or sound ridiculous is a good skill to have in Haiti I’m learning.

This past week I was reminded that there is great community here within World Concern and I’m thankful to be a part of it.

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Thanks

Just a few reflections on thanksgiving as we have gotten more settled this week.

I’m thankful for Michelle (not real name), who each day faithfully cleans our office along with the rest of the building.  Thanks to her, my desk will never be dusty.  We do not always understand each other but she has a big smile that is contagious.  She is a diligent worker and reminds me of the kind of servant employee I would like to become.

I’m thankful for electricity.  In Port-au-Prince, the city’s grid gives on average 10 hours of power a day; more on some days and less on others.  When the city electricity suddenly goes out at home, the lights may flicker but remain lit thanks to battery invertors that are connected to our apartment.  Sensing that the grid has temporarily “given up”, they automatically kick on.  We can always tell when this happens because a heavy, monotonous buzzing sound accompanies the invertors.  Relying on candles, cell phone backlights, or perhaps a flashlight after dusk is common for many in Haiti including many in our neighborhood.  To learn more about electricity in Haiti read this really interesting article.

I’m thankful for community.  Martha and I are a long ways from many friends and family who make up our community, but we are reminded often of those strong relationships.  Even while in Haiti, because of the wide world web (what an amazing invention!), we are able to receive words of encouragement and truth from people all over the world.  This morning actually the first email I read was from a friend reminding me about hope from the book of Ephesians.  “..I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you..”  Our community is getting larger as we build new relationships even in these first few weeks in Haiti, and for that I’m also thankful.

I’m thankful for the World Concern Haiti family.  They have welcomed with us open arms and have shown great patience as we struggle through language and learning about a new place.  I’m also thankful for them because I have seen how they exhibit the same amount of grace and love to those we walk alongside and serve.  It is encouraging to see how they take great care of these people who have endured so much.  There is both meekness and power in how they minister.

What do you have to be thankful for today?

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?!

 

 

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.