Jesus answered, “the work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” -John 6:29
As I was sitting on the couch getting my thoughts together in preparation for all the questions that my accountability group would be asking me in regards to my trip to Haiti, I was struggling putting the pieces together to tell the story. For those of you who know me well know that I struggle pretty severely with focusing and remembering events…this trip to Haiti being another example of that. Becca, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. Her memory is amazing. She actually made me promise to take notes and journal during my trip so that I would be able to reflect back on the details. She knew that I would, more than likely, forget. She also wanted to see and experience the feelings I was having during my time there. As we were sitting on the couch a few nights ago she asked me a pointed question. I stumbled to make connections and to understand what she was asking. She said, “Would you like for me to recap your journey?.” In less than a minute she put all the pieces together for me and it all clicked. She led me down this journey and it became amazingly clear to me that God had orchestrated everything from the very beginning. He is the reason I am writing this post…to share it with those of you who are interested and to provide a way for me to reflect back on my experience in Haiti.
Earlier this year God blessed me financially and had been pulling at my heart to do something with this blessing. However, I couldn’t figure out how or where to use it. Moving forward 3 months to my time in Haiti, a friend of mine who had also been blessed financially, quoted Luke 12:48b “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required…” I thought a lot about what he repeatedly shared with me and thought it summarized exactly what God was trying to tell me 3 months earlier. The things tugging at his heart were tugging at mine as well.
I have been going to church consistently for the past 10+ years, but like many “Christians” once church was over I was not consistently living my life for Christ. I would come out of many sermons feeling convicted, ready to take on the world, but by Monday that conviction would slowly be overcome by the busyness of my “day to day” routine at work. I rarely spent time in prayer, was not as giving as I should have been, and was not actively seeking out opportunities to spread God’s Word. The latter was due mainly to fear of not knowing how to do so and being immature in my knowledge of Christ. I have also been guilty of holding on very tightly to “my” money, just ask Becca. I am more than willing to give my time, but when it comes to money I struggled to let go. I am a planner and constantly saving. I am someone who is always thinking about the future and want to be “prepared” in case anything happens. I have a tendency to fear the future. I live a fairly debt-free life because of this fear. I am, admittedly, guilty of “trying to keep up with Jones’” which is not an easy task living in Flower Mound. When I did give, it was always far less than what God required of me. If there was a master’s degree to be given when it came to making excuses on why I couldn’t give, then it would be held by me. Here are just a few examples of those excuses I told Becca and myself:
- I will start giving next year after I get a raise
- I will start giving when I have x dollars in the bank because I need to make sure my rainy day fund is set just in case I lose my job.
- I will start giving once I pay off the cars so I am more financially stable
- I will start giving when….(you name it and I could justify it)
Anyway, to get back on track. I had this new financial blessing, but once again, I found myself struggling to “let go” even though I knew I needed to. Thankfully, God has blessed me with an amazing wife who is constantly holding me accountable. She not only holds me accountable as a father and a husband, but as a Christian man as well. On January 29th, while attending the Village Church, Matt Chandler spoke a sermon called “The Nations”. It was focusing on missions and spreading God’s Word across the globe. I would highly recommend that you make time to listen to it as it had a huge impact on me. It was the starting point of this journey. Here is a snippet of the sermon that pointed me in the direction that placed me in Haiti.
Then a couple of weeks ago, John Piper wrote a blog on the Desiring God site. I would strongly encourage you to look it up and find it. He was quoting a guy named Robert Woodberry, who is a sociologist who did 10 years of research on really the effect of Christianity globally. He said what he found was like an “atomic bomb” to him. The atomic bomb was where Protestants landed globally for the purpose of conversion. Not just digging wells (although I’m for that), not just providing aid (although I’m for that), but where we have landed as Protestants for the purpose of conversion. “We believe you’re outside of the will and kingdom of God. We have come to speak the gospel so you might receive the gospel and become followers of Christ.” Those countries, those cities, those towns where conversion had been made a priority were in far better shape in every other measurable, including socioeconomic, disease. All the build-outs of what we would deem as healthy cultural growth were found not in trying to establish those things but rather in seeking converts. Why? Because it’s a transformed heart that transforms lives that transforms neighborhoods that transforms towns that transforms cities that transforms countries. It’s not policy. It’s new hearts. What the gospel promises is new hearts.
It was this segment of the sermon that convicted me and got me thinking long and hard about how we would give. After hearing this sermon it was no longer “ok” in my mind to just give some money to a charity. I felt compelled to give, pray and share. At this same time my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, along with my father and mother-in-law, had just returned from their trip to Haiti with Mercy International. This is a charity that was created by Dr. John Leininger who is an unbelievably godly man. He has dedicated a good portion of his life to helping the people of Haiti and sharing the Word of Jesus Christ. After reading Sara’s post about Haiti, seeing the pictures, and talking to Alan and Jean I knew this was something that God was calling me to do. A few weeks later the opportunity came up for me to go with my brother-in-law, Brian, to Haiti in April. It was last minute, but I didn’t care, I just wanted in! It was by the grace of God that I had the funds to go. Becca was very supportive, and even though she was worn out taking care of a 4 year old and an 18 month old she told me to go. She knew better than I that I needed something like this. Again, she is a true blessing from God. You can read her journey with me in this here He Left His Heart in Haiti
During the weeks leading up to the trip we kicked things into high gear. We started working on getting donations for clothing, soccer balls, and toys. I also reached out to some of my friends at work who had also recently been blessed to see if they were interested in giving. In less than 10 minutes of that email going out one friend replied and said “I will donate a house” and two others were willing to donate money to Mercyintl.org as well. I was not really expecting much of a response from my email so I was blown away at what God was already doing. I gave my friend the information to make the house donation and sent over Dr. John’s contact information…that was the last I had talked to him about it. 3 weeks later I sent out another email asking for clothing donations to take on the trip with me. My friend called me and asked me to resend him the information to make the donation. I told him I would make it easy and just swing by and pick up the check. Later that evening, while Becca and I were at dinner, I sent my friend a quick text stating that I would be by in the morning for his check. He replied “ok” and then asked when I was heading to Haiti. I gave him the dates…figuring he just wanted to know when he needed to get me his clothing donations by. Then it happened, the text popped up… “can I come”? There were multiple emotions running through my head. Was he serious? What would the trip be like with someone from work coming? etc etc. Becca’s first statement was that there would be no discussion of work on this trip. I immediately called my brother-in-law to make sure there would be enough room. Two days later my friend had his ticket booked and things were set! Again, this is the same friend I referenced at the beginning of this blog who was being pulled in the same direction I was and quoted Luke 12:48.
After all was said and done, we had a 15 member team heading to Haiti. Through The fund raiser in Roanoke, and the donations we got online we had received a total of 3,000 dollars J which meant that the 4 of us guys from Dallas were going to be able to build 15 bunk beds!! We also collected about 600 pounds of clothes, soccer balls, shoes, toys, and other needed items for the village and orphanage!! It was amazing the amount of people that wanted to give! We actually had to turn people away because we couldn’t fit it all.
During our 5 day trip we were able to complete and install 12 of the beds. This was no simple task, but it was such an awesome experience. The joy on the people’s faces when we showed up at their house and started building the beds is something I can’t fully explain. Dr. John did a great job of identifying the families in the village who needed these beds the most. In all of the cases there were people who were sleeping on a hard concrete floor without even a blanket or some type of padding to lay on. I will have “house number 41” burned in my head forever. This house was at the bottom of the hill and when I walked in I realized what Dr John meant when he told me, “everyone in the village is very poor, but there are levels to this. You will be able to identify the poorest of the poor by the possessions, or lack there-of, they have in their house.” When I walked in I realized that this lady and her 3 children had absolutely nothing. The only thing in that house when we left was a new bunk bed where the 3 children would share the bottom bunk and mom would sleep on the top. The two little boys had no clothes, and the little girl was wearing a sun dress which looked to be the only piece of clothing she had. It was at this point that I fully realized the severity of poverty in this village, and what it is like across the poorest country on earth. (Note: When I got back home I kept telling Becca about House 41. We soon realized that God had placed this house number on my heart for a specific reason. Becca’s grandmother gave us money for a donation so we used it to help furnish house 41. They now have 4 chairs, a table, dishes, toothpaste, and a hutch that Dr. John gave them. Also, thanks to a generous friend, this family will now have food on the table every night, and the oldest child’s school paid for. God is good!!! You can read the story behind House 41 here… http://mercyintl.org/2014/04/25/the-baddest-lady-in-the-village/
My next post will be about the kids in the village. I will be blogging separately about the kids because they deserve a post all their own!