Thursday, May 31, 2012

House Church

We go to a house church here in Haiti. It meets in the headquarters of World Relief, an American NGO. The building is a giant pink and white palace.
Watching our "pastor" on a projector
Snack time upstairs
Ben chatting with Jodie
Muffins and Le Nouvelliste
The congregation :)
Our worship team. I particularly love our percussion setup.
Our house church was formed last year in the Whites' home. Then this year the Whites went on sabbatical and we moved to World Relief. Next year we're moving again since the WR family is leaving.

We used to sing along with worship DVDs, but now we have Josiah and Jarrett to play for us. We listen to various sermons from guys like Andy Stanley, Matt Chandler, Tim Keller, and others.

Cool things about a tiny house church:
  1. We rotate bringing breakfast so there's always yummy food for all.
  2. Due to our small size we can have a group discussion after the sermon.
  3. Some people bring tithe money and then we vote on who to give it to.
So that's where I am on Sundays!


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Post Dedicated to Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson was my youth pastor. He is a legend in Texas youth ministry; he's been doing the job since before I was born. He is prone to blurting our phrases such as "hot tamale!" or "holy moly, Jody!" or "joy to the world!".

This man changed my life, and Ben's life, in countless ways. He and our dear friend/children's minister Sweet basically taught us everything we know about ministering to young people. 

Essential lesson #1
The absolute key to a successful youth retreat is........
affirmation cards.
For those of you not lucky enough to spend your teenage years in Randy Johnson's youth group, an affirmation card is a little note of love or encouragement. At every camp or retreat of Randy's, you will be sure to find bags with each student and counselor's name attached lining the walls of some central area. Everybody is expected to write masses of these.

At our 11th grade retreat, all 25 students wrote every other student a love note. They could not wait to open their bags at the end.
 Some kids had an idea- they asked me if I would bundle up their cards and save them for a year. I'll return their cards the last week of their senior year.

Randy, I have every card I ever received in your youth group. Literally thousands of cards. I treasure them. Even more than ten years after receiving the first notes, I still find myself opening those envelopes and re-living the affirmation when I'm at my parents' house sometimes.

Thank you for teaching me how to love teenagers.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Haitian Horses

Ranch le Montcel, Belot, Haiti
A few weeks back I joined the Quisqueya 11th grade retreat at Le Montcel, in the town of Belot, about 14 kilometers up the mountain from Port-au-Prince.

Le Montcel's greatest feature is the verdant green pastures, complete with animals sauntering nearby.

You may know I'm from Texas, but don't get the wrong idea- I'm a city mouse, not a country mouse. Born and raised in Dallas, land of malls and toll roads.

I went on a walk around the ranch with my friend Brittany and her two toddlers. Le Montcel's horses were shrouded in mist, and a baby horse shyly and warily let me come closer.
Brit shows the horse to her boys
Baby and mama


Monday, May 28, 2012

Ranch le Montcel

Quisqueya planned an 11th grade retreat in the mountains of Haiti, and I went to speak about preparing for college applications.
Main building at Ranch le Montcel in Belot, Haiti
My dear friend and QCS counselor Irene was supposed to lead these sessions, but she came down with a nasty case of malaria at the last minute.

Ranch le Montcel is Haiti's only ecotourist hotel, with 16 acres of farming, animals roaming, and gorgeous natural landscapes.

Le Montcel is only 14 kilometers up the mountain  from Port-au-Prince, but it takes two full hours to reach. Thirty of us- the 11th graders plus several teachers- jumped in cage trucks and SUVs of various reliability and trudged up the switchbacks and over the unpaved mountain hills.

In the chilly weather, I wore a three shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes and was cold. On the mountain there are no mosquitoes and the air is crisp; it is easy to see why the rich prefer to live there.

I took a nature walk with the Meadths: Rod (my principal), Brittany (his wife and my friend), Asher (almost 3) and Isaiah (born one year ago today!).
Asher found a tree house
I'm sorry, did I stumble into a teleporter from Haiti to Europe?
Wild berries
Walk down that lonesome road all by yourself
The piglet refused to play
Garden growing carrots, green onions
A carrot birth!
Somebody is missing a part
Strawberry fields

Can someone please identify this fruit? The Haitian men working the fruit fields told Rod it was German; they also later told Irene the fruits were Peruvian. Hmm.

I taught about five hours that weekend: everything from how to use the College Board website for research, to setting senior year goals, to navigating the process of acquiring recommendation letters.

The facilities at Le Montcel were comfortable and certainly above-average for Haiti hotels. The cabin where I stayed was, I realized, the only 100% wooden building I've seen in Haiti. Sitting on the balcony of the ivy-covered restaurant Le Geranium, we ate produce grown right on the property. The cows were sauntering in view of the patio; you can't get more "locavore" than that! The mint leaves in my tea and the strawberries in my juice all come from the ranch as well.

My soul felt good out there.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chickens at the Beach

My discipleship group went to the beach a few weeks back along with my pal Brittany's group. One of the girls' families has a home on the beach just a little over an hour from Port-au-Prince.

Take your right hand and make a backwards "c". That's what Haiti looks like. Now, right there in the squishy part where your thumb meets your pointer finger, that's Port-au-Prince. It's a big, dirty city build to accommodate 300,000 that now smashes in over 4,000,000 people. It's smack in a bowl of a valley. There is a brown haze over the city.

People in the middle and upper classes go to the beach when they can, along the beautiful coastline around the bottom of your  pointer finger, just north of PAP. The air is clear, and the beach is just as beautiful as when Captain Morgan and his fellow pirates used to hide booty here. Some very large families even own beach homes. And, luckily, I scored one of those kiddos in my discipleship group.

So we went. The family hosting us was incredibly gracious. I loved hearing their stories of life in Haiti and all they've gone through raising a family here. I enjoyed the heck out of hot showers and tropical fruit juices. Haitian cherry juice is the most delicious drink I've ever had. There was peace.

Ben was in the Dominican with the Quisqueya basketball team, so I just got to pour into my girls and look at the ocean.  
Brittany (holding her son Isaiah), the girls, and me
Brittany plus her husband, two boys, and the youngest daughter of our host
Brit's son Asher loves to hang out with the ladies
Me, very sunburned, relaxing with Isaiah in the hammock
We had three group talks with worship and prayer, plus a one-on-one chat with each student. Those talks were my favorite part.

Love my chickens.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Lurve My Chickens

This is my discipleship group.
I have lunch with them every Wednesday.
I lurve them.
My belurveds in my classroom this afternoon. One little chicken is missing here.
I call them my little chickens.
They call me Mama Poul.
(Mama Chicken)

Oh how I love them!

Only one more Wednesday left in this school year.

Two little chickens are flying the coop,
heading off for college in Canada and France.
A very long way away for a little chicken to fly!

Sigh. That's the worst part of being a Mama Poul.

Here in Haiti everybody greets each other with a cheek kiss. The most Frenchified go for two cheeks.

In the morning every arriving student goes around kissing every other student's check- dozens and dozens of greetings!

None of the students kiss me in the morning.

Except my chickens :)

That's the best part of being a Mama Poul.

Oh how I love them; Oh how I pray for them.  God has given me this love. They're just regular girls. Full of crazy. Sometimes they lie to me, manipulate me, skip my meetings or cheat in my classes. But I'm just crazy about them. I think God gave me this love. It isn't human.

Will you pray for my chickens? Anais, Sasha, Axel, Christina, Krystelle, Virgloty, and Valerie.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Anpil Liv Yo!

My teacher made me take this picture.
Translation: Many books!

Fridays are my favorite. Mail comes in once a week on a little old plane from Florida. It's in our mailboxes by Friday at lunchtime, and we teachers sit at the picnic tables and rip open envelopes or cardboard.

My fellow teacher Amber's mom DVRs television, burns the shows to DVDs, and drops those in the mail. Josiah recently got a mandolin out of customs. Next door neighbor Jill has discovered Etsy.

Another friend recently had the awkward experience of receiving a hot pink package labeled "Victoria's Secret". She begged us all to believe it was a swimsuit :)
My students ask where they come from. I say my friends are sending them.

Their response: "Why!?" They can't believe it.

Thanks for loving them. Pray for them- so much growth this year, and so far still to go.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Eternal Significance of The Infinitely Insignificant

And Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is 
as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 

He sleeps and rises night and day, 
and the seed sprouts and grows; 

he knows not how. 

The earth produces by itself, 

first the blade, then the ear, 
then the full grain in the ear.” 
— Matthew 4:26-28

Forget about trying to see the fruit.

That’s the way the kingdom is.

We often do not know what God does
with our service.

We plant the seed,
go to bed,
and, while we sleep, 
God germinates the seed 
so that life grows and eventually produces a full harvest. 

Then God Himself reaps for His own glory. 

We simply need
to forget
about trying to see the fruit of our service

It does not matter if we ever see it.

We are called to take the light and let it shine,
then let God do with it whatever He pleases.

from R.C. Sproul, 12 May 2012

Discipleship group at the beach last month
That is exactly what I needed to hear today. I do three things: I teach teenagers, and I try to make disciples of teenagers, and I am a sort of life coach to teenagers. These things do not produce immediate results, if any results come at all. It isn't guaranteed. You cannot see the grass grow. You cannot always see the Kingdom of God growing.

I do not see Jefe growing, but he's gone from 1.2 to 5 pounds in four short months in front of my very eyes.

the Kingdom of God
is like Jefe.



Sunday, May 6, 2012

Yesterday Sucked

Yesterday was one of those days.

We had a full day of things to do (naturally). B and I woke up early to do grocery shopping at the "nice store" up in Petionville, which is the only store in the country I think that sells fresh jalapenos. I needed those to make a huge batch of salsa, because it was Cinco de Mayo and we were having some people over for dinner.

The ride to the store and back, though it's only a few miles, took over an hour. The traffic was bumper-to-bumper. We don't have AC in our car; the windows must be open. It seemed that every giant dump truck in the city was directly in front of us, belching black clouds of smog into my open window. I got nauseous. I got a headache. We sweated through our clothes.

I was feeling sick, so Ben very lovingly offered to do the next errand alone: taking the dog to the vet for his rabies shot.

Ben got all the way to the vet's office (another 30 minute, 3 mile drive), and then realized he had left Jefe's shot record on our kitchen counter. This is the document that the vet needed to stamp so we can get Jefe into American when we come home for the summer. Ugh. Now we have to go back again, and we can never get the vet to answer phone or emails.

A few moments later, Jefe had had his shot and was very unhappy about it. Ben prepared to drive home. The car wouldn't start.

Ben called our trusty mechanic friend Piedens. He said he was happy to come help Ben, as soon as he was finished with his current job.

In five hours.

Meanwhile the dog got sick and vomited in his brand new doggie carrier. Ben and Jefe sat outside in 100 degree, car-fume haze. He called me and we literally begged God that the car would start. He got ahold of our friend Robbie, who said he would try to get a school vehicle key and come get Ben in about thirty minutes. Just before Robbie was to arrive, the car started.

Ben and Jefe arrived back home, both a sweaty and upset mess. I got out of bed, still feeling sick, and cleaned up the vomit chunks out of the dog carrier, while Ben started cooking. Remember, we're supposed to be having a big dinner in just a few hours' time.

Then Ben realized he had forgotten a key ingredient in the dinner. He had to get out in the heat, again, but this time he had to walk to the grocery store, since our car was kaput.

We made salsa, prepped the dinner, cleaned the house, and showered. The house was getting really hot, but at least we had EdH (city power), so our AC wall unit was on, keeping things close to ok.

Then the city power went out.

Then Ben opened the fridge and a glass bottle fell out of the door, smashing and spreading all over the kitchen floor.

It was fish oil.

Like, the Thai food ingredient that we bought but never used because it is the nastiest smell possible. It's fish guts soaked in oil.

We mopped it three times: once with water, once with Haitian cleaning product, and once with straight up bleach. Bleach. Also, there are glass shivers stuck all in our tile, because our grout is mostly gone, so the dog had be to put up. So the soundtrack to our trying-not-to-gag mopping adventure is a 5-pound dog howling.

The house smells so bad we have to open every window and door. It's now one hour until party time.  Because the doors and windows are open, the house becomes the same temperature as outdoors.

I light a pack of 20 tealights that were in our "emergency stash", because they are vanilla scented. They all blow out due to the three fans we had turned on.

Friends start arriving. I wasn't ready- my hair was in a wet bun.

By some miracle of heaven, the power came back on.
Us, finally smiling, posing with our "ugly chic" homemade pinata
Asher contemplates the pinata. He's not so into pinata-ing.
Anna, as next youngest, gets to smash it
We always knew he was an ass.

When your day sucked, one of the best cures is time with friends. We had trouble having fun, because we were so frazzled from the day.

The rest of the evening was a blur. At about 11 pm, I realized two things:
1) I never ate dinner, and
2) I never put on a bra.



Happy Cinco.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Trades of Hope

Once again, another darling website selling products made by third-world women as a means out of poverty...

Trades of Hope.


My two favorite items:
1) A set of three wire bird ornaments.
2) This great big woven bag, for a not-big price.

I found out about this website because they have just recently added products made by Haitian ladies as well.

Cute stuff. Helping women out of poverty. Win-win.



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