If you are wondering just how we intend to do these things let me fill you in on a dream we have-
We are renting a space where families can come together for movie nights on Friday's, where children can come for homework help after school, where literacy classes for kreyol and french are held for adults in an area where at least 60% of the population cannot read or write, where we dream with the local community about what is important to them, and educate them on the dangers of institutional care for children. We want to have a prayer space open, scheduled bible studies for all walks of life in our community, worship nights, a streamed church service in kreyol, we want to host English classes for all ages, VBS type programs for children, community outreach events, and have classroom spaces for Haitians to empower each other in skillsets and trades.
The dream is BIG friends- but it has been a long time coming. There are so many specifics God has placed in our hearts and is calling us to trust in Him while it all comes together. We are excited to begin this journey over the next year. We are looking forward to working with families and our local community.
"VWAZINAJ SE FANMI"
This Haitian Proverb depicts the nature of a neighborhood here, of the importance of community. It literally translates to the "Neighborhood is Family." Alex and myself have spent the last two years getting to know our neighborhood, having dinners and meetings with our neighbors. Simple things like going for a walk with a bunch of kids has shown us how true this proverb really is. We are incredibly honored to live in this place and in this beautiful culture. Please begin prayerfully considering partnering with us in this next step! Then stay tuned for when we begin the fundraising and announcing of all things Community. (EDIT: DUE TO COVID19 & THE WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC, ABIDE IN LOVE IS HOLDING OFF MANY PROGRAMS FOR WHEN GATHERINGS ARE SAFE AGAIN).
How do we prevent families from being torn apart by the effects of poverty? How do we fight the monster of malnutrition? How do we make a difference in the lives of these families?
Through prevention and empowerment efforts.
The nation of Haiti does NOT need your pity, her people do not need your leftover gifts or tattered clothes, but Haiti Darling does need your partnership and encouragement.
The Haitian people are completely capable, they are completely willing, and are in need of us to begin redirecting how we do our programs and funds to "help" them.
Other than educational means, like I mentioned before with "Joy", there is need for empowerment through Job Creation.
There is need for people to begin building into the local businesses. There is need for trade over aid, or at least a balance of both.
And above all else there is need for LOVE to reign in the hearts of those we work with- through opportunities for families to come together in the Abiding Love of Jesus we plan to grow and empower local leadership to disciple their own neighbors and surrounding communities. We know real change comes from hearts who want it.
Join us in this incredible journey as we move forward to help families Abide in Love!!!
There is a Haitian proverb that translates to "Your Beautiful Greeting IS Your Passport".
With this proverb in mind and our recent evacuation to the states, I would like to take some time to say HELLO and reintroduce myself. If you are new to our blogs, website, or story- feel free to journey back to some of our earlier blogs and get to know us a little better.
For now, HELLO :)
My name is Kristen and I have written the majority of these blogs. My husband Alex is pretty great too. He runs things on the ground down here and is my fix-it guy so I do not force him to write blogs or update you on the socials. If you have ever lived in Haiti you know why I am glad to have a handy man for a husband. If you have not lived in Haiti (or any third world country) then you'll just have to trust me.
We just evacuated Haiti for a couple months because the political situation led to instability and rioting in the streets which led to gangsters and thugs taking the opportunity to block the roads with rocks or line up tires and set them on fire so you cannot pass. Now we are back in Haiti as things have calmed down somewhat and the roads have been unblocked.
So what are we doing in this crazy country?! How we did fall in love with a place that has so much chaos and dysfunction?!
Pull up a chair, it is time for a quick story:
The beginning of our journey started with us struggling with infertility and wanting to become a family. We already felt that someday we would be missionaries, so God connected us to a family from the same hometown in the good ole Mitten State. This family was already living in Haiti and looking to move back to Michigan. After a quick trip, we committed ourselves to the kids we met in a nearby orphanage. We were very excited about what God was doing through us- taking our inability to have children and adding in their need for parents, it was perfect so we thought. We went from zero to twelve and were so excited about being their mom and dad.
Fast forward to us being in Haiti for three months and realizing these kids had parents, almost all of them. Some had just a mom but some had a mom and a dad. These children were not orphaned by poor parenting choices, drugs, or abuse but simply by the fact that they were from a poor and vulnerable family.
Upon learning this truth and meeting almost all of their families (even the three without parents had siblings being raised by biological relatives) we realized our calling was not to continue separating children from family at the promise of better provision; rather, we were being called to equip families and partner with them through empowerment to stay together.
We desire to see children grow up Family Strong!
So we took some time to get to know the country, culture, language, and how to do more than just survive each day. Then God called us to start our own nonprofit organization called Abide in Love. We are beyond excited to launch a community center initiative through this platform. You can follow this journey on here and YOU can even be a part of it! Seriously, you can change the world with us, we would not have it any other way <3
Are you still here?!? GOOD- let's get to know each other better.
So other than living in a country that is a little less than conventional, I am still your average American girl!
I love Starbucks, ice cream, and kittens. I am looking forward to being a mom someday plus I like my husband, like a lot #insertgushyemojihere.
I enjoy nature, taking pictures, reading, and my fur-family!
I might be just your average girl but I have some HUGE dreams for this land I call my home, and for myself someday.
You my friend, might also feel average but can I implore you to dream?! Chase that thing you have wanted for quite some time, follow your heart, because you never know where it is going to take you.
Let's start with a challenge, find one thing you have been needing to do for awhile and DO IT. Simple as that, do the hard thing, just one, and git-er-dun!
Now for the second challenge- go write down a list of dreams and goals you have, then really think about them.
Ok so now you know TWO new things about you-
1) YOU, yes YOU, can do hard things!
2) YOU, yes YOU, can dream
Chase those dreams!
ps- Tell me more about you by sending me an email or leaving a comment on this blog! I would love to know more about you and do this journey together... #worldchangersunite
We went to visit them, one by one, whenever the opportunity presented itself. Mostly on the weekends when the kids did not have school. I could write an entire book on each reaction. The depth, the confusion, the inability to conceal big emotions. It was all so beautiful but also so many other things, mostly sad. There were twelve of them when we first came. Twelve precious ones in a variety of ages- four to eighteen. We instantly saw their value, their worth. Each one full of personality bubbling out, oozing for validation.
When we actually arrived to Haiti there were only eleven. Eleven not twelve. For the purposes of this journal we will change some names. Stevens was gone back to his mom for reasons we will not discuss yet. But for reasons that should not be an issue to a four year old.
I remember being so caught off guard that a child in an orphanage could go back to their parents. I did not realize children in an orphanage had parents and if they did, I had assumed they were unfit to parent... so why would we put Stevens back in an unsafe situation?
The truth of "poverty orphan" was completely lost on me until a full three months into living in Haiti.
An orphan is defined as a child without parents- you can also have lost one parent and still be defined as an orphan.
"An estimated eight million children worldwide live in orphanages or residential institutions and 80% of those children have parents or family members still alive." -https://www.wearelumos.org/resources/children-orphanages-hidden-global-problem/
Eight million children worldwide are being forced to grow up in an institution without their family, even though EIGHTY PERCENT have families they could be growing up with instead.
When we moved to Haiti to work with an orphanage we figured we would become parents to twelve children who had none. Our hearts were honest in wanting to be parents, the effort was noble and from a place of so desperately wanting children of our own. The truth was only three of those children did not have parents (but still had family). In fact, they had siblings who were being raised by extended family.
Think back to a time you watched the movie Annie, or any other movie with a hero that is an orphan. The ideas of an orphanage are absurd for the year 2020. However, we have no problem going to visit one in another country. Often times this orphanage tourism fuels a growing problem of children being separated from their families and made into poverty orphans. "Stevens" went back to his mom because he had one, he had a completely capable MOM. Unfortunately, he returned to his mom with new behaviors, I can almost guarantee, he picked up in the orphanage.
You see, all of these kids were taken from family because they were promised a better chance. They were promised hope and a future without want. They were promised provision of physical needs. At this point impoverished families happily allow their children to go without knowing all the facts because poverty creates a desperation that I hope you never know.
The reactions though, the ones like when we visited "Brian" to his loving mother and he could not bring himself to approach her. He was so excited to see his brothers and was just telling us how much he missed his mom but the anger and confusion of the situation was too much for him.
Or when we visited "Silas" to his mom. He was so excited to hug her and she was so unsure. She introduced him to his newest baby brother at our visit. A beautiful little baby brought so much weight and many tears to our usually stone-faced Silas.
There was the time we took little "Sarah" to visit her grandma and she remembered the exact path through the village to get to her house. She was practically dragging me because she was pulling so hard at my hand telling me how wonderful her lovely little grandma was. When we finally arrived to the house where grandma was raising her other two or three siblings, "Sarah" instantly fell shy and could barely speak. She spent a lot of her time hiding behind me, but she had the biggest smile on her face the entire time.
"Kevin's" dad did not even know where he was or that he was alive for eight years. The reunion was as precious as they come. The time together was brief but both "Kevin" and dad were elated to see each other. So much emotion packed into moments and then just as much while we drove away with his boy back to the orphanage in hopes that dad would come find him.
"Timmy's" parents were both alive and he did not have any siblings. His dad had moved to another country to send some money home while mom was still there. He was timid and so was mom. I know she missed him, I could see it in her eyes. He had outgrown the memories of her at this point because he was so young.
There are seven more stories like these.
But the one that has impacted me the most is the Joy-Bearer.
Joy was aging out (well had been aged out but because of falsified information she was listed as a nanny at the orphanage, this happens a lot with orphanages here because they are not registered with the government and at times the systems in place to protect them fail.)
She came to us seeking help with what to do next- she did not have parents and she did not know her siblings well. One time when we visited her family she sobbed so hard she could not breathe because she had a realization she did not know this family well. She cried because her sisters never visited her, because her sense of identity was solely in an institution where she was a number, not someone who belonged. Joy had mentioned to us on multiple occasions a desire to end her own life. You see, spending any amount of time as a product of a business instead of being loved and nurtured as a though you belong takes a toll on your life and on your brain. We were not made to live outside of a family's love.
FAMILY IS MORE THAN JUST PHYSICAL NEEDS BEING MET.
And it is time for us to recognize the importance of keeping families together, it is time for us to support children being FAMILY STRONG.
This is what being family strong looks like, this is what we are fighting for:
Joy left the orphanage and chose to live with a sister she had over a few other options we had given her! We partnered with Joy in her efforts to stay with her family by paying for this year of school so she can continue her education and see it through to completion. In sharing her worth and value, in loving her right where she was at she has become an entirely new and confident person. The bonds of family are so innate within us and we were more than blessed to watch Joy choose her family over the lies that she did not belong. This is FAMILY STRONG.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." -Lao Tzu
Oh, this journey we have been on- have you been following? It has been a doozy for sure, not one we have ever expected. When we first moved here to work with the kids, we thought they were going to be our kids. However, we learned most orphanages here in Haiti (and many around the world) are full of children who have parents. These children are usually victims of poverty and a system that tells their parents an institution will provide for their needs far better than the parent ever could... you probably already know this about us and actually that is not the focus of this blog. Our journey began when we moved here and met the kiddos. However there was a small part of our journey that came in the form of a tiny cat- and this is where this blog begins.
When we moved to Haiti there was a cat that we kept while her kittens were too young to rehome, and in the weeks where they were getting big enough to walk around, one little one kept finding her way to us while the others stayed close to mom.
This little kitten earned herself the name Journey. I would say we chose her for ourselves but really, she chose us.
Journey was always fearless as a kitten. She was curious like any cat but had no issues taking on our bigger cat Maysi, mice, or even tarantulas. She even loved our giant new puppy Raj and really loved our crazy chihuahua Riley. She snuggled him the most, even though it was not a mutual love.
Journey was fiercely loving and would follow us wherever we went in the house- even as a full grown cat. She LOVED to follow us in the shower. She would wait between the curtains for us to get out, sometimes she did not wait and would walk right in suddenly realizing there was water then rushing out. After waiting for you to finish showering she would watch as you grabbed your towel and then promptly jump up into it as you dried off and she would purr, snuggle, and love on you. It was seriously the cutest thing.
Journey got hurt somehow while we were gone this last trip home and it appeared she had somehow broken her back. She was only two years old and had to be put down.
It felt extremely silly to feel sad over just a cat. In a country where poverty takes it toll on the people we are living to serve, it is hard to justify feelings over animals.
However, I am a deeply loving and mercy-filled person so this little Haitian cat taught me much! Someone helped me to see clearly why I had these sad feelings and I wanted to share with you just what Journey the cat taught me about life.
1. Love fiercely- love whenever possible. Love without condition. Love anyway, even when they do not love you back. She showed this on the daily in her pursuit to make Riley the chihuahua love her.
2. Live your best life- when someone is having a rough day, be present. Maybe that looks ridiculous like attacking them with love and forcing snuggles on them, but you can really impact someone by being there for them. Living your best life often isn't about you at all but by how you choose to impact others.
3. Leave your fear behind- do not let fear keep you from living your life. Life is a gift and wasting any time on fear is not worth the part of the journey you might miss. Journey weighed less than a pound when she adventured around the house to find us. She was not too much bigger than her first tarantula catch either, she lived fearlessly.
4. Loyalty goes a long way- Journey would attempt to follow me into the shower just because she loved being with me, and I will never forget it. She would jump in fearlessly and then get right back out once she got wet but she then would wait for you until you were done. I want to be a loyal friend to others and meet them where they are at (well, maybe not in the shower LOL ;)
5. Locked doors mean nothing- for Journey she learned to knock, climb, jiggle door handles, push, and scratch the door until someone would come and open it. She was relentless and I have learned this same principal applies to our prayer lives. Ask and the door will be opened to you.
I know God uses all things for our good. I am a firm believer that GOD DOES NOT WASTE.
These little lessons from a tiny cat are something that apply to everyone. Our journey in life is small compared to eternity. Our journeys are all but a vapor in the wind but I know when we live for God our journey matters.
What is the one step you could be taking today for your journey? What is holding you back?
So I hope you laughed a little with me about some silly things my silly cat used to do, but more than that- I hope you too, always find God in the small things and joy in your journey.
In Memory of Journey the cat- teaching us lessons about taking the first step since 2017.
We have been back home on this little island now for a week and a half. We have had seven meetings already, eaten our fair share of missed Kreyol Mange (Haitian food), caught a stomach bug that was destructive, walked through the community center house and property again, killed a giant centipede, and shed a few tears for the injustices this nation, these people so often face.
We love this place so deeply. We find much joy here, everywhere, all around. We have learned more than we could possibly offer.
However there is a lot that comes with living in a place so full of desperation and trauma.
Currently there have been many kidnappings happening around Port au Prince. It seemed these are a new form of roadblock, of protest, a way to spread fear.
It's a fear that has become widespread throughout our Haiti home. Our staff travel in pairs. They walk their children to school. They ask us to not go to certain areas even though Americans have yet to be the targets of these kidnappings.
Yesterday while we were at the grocery store I was catching up with one of our favorite grocers. In Haiti it is common to greet with a kiss on the cheek and a light hug. But for some reason, overcome with much joy at seeing his face, I hugged him big and instantly felt the stress and weight shift. We stood and talked about his daughter (she is almost two years old now!) We talked about normal things like teething and fevers but he seemed so uneasy. And then he looked at my face and told me his country has a problem. He told me it has many problems. He began to ask me to be careful while we are out and told me someone was kidnapped by his house. And his face was grave as he told me how he does not want his daughter to grow up in his country. You could physically see the toll of a divided heart. On one hand, he is proud of his Haitian heritage, but on the other he knows there is danger and wants nothing more than to protect his baby girl.
The difficulty he was experiencing was not lost on me. I wrestled with it while waiting in the truck for Alex at the hardware store, while driving, while going to sleep, and when I woke up this morning. My heart is broken for the injustices my friends face.
Can I ask you to try to make this friend of mine your friend? Can I ask you to change his name to your "So & So" and imagine how you would feel hearing this news and seeing his face, physically feeling that stress through a hug. I have no doubt that hug was very intended for Mak right from Daddy God. Something so simple as a hug and a listener. God does not need elaborate or complex but can operate in the simplicity of sincerity. Will you be sincere in simply praying for this country right now? Pray against the fear that is gripping my friends, that is tugging at their confidence in their country, that is ripping apart their hopes, and stealing their dreams.
He just wants a safe place for his daughter to grow up in.
He is not asking for extravagant or excessive, he just wants his daughter to be able to be a child who grows up knowing she is loved, protected, and safe.
We are fighting what they are fighting.
"Justice is NOT a trend, it's the heart of our Father." -Ashley Abercrombie
We love this place deeply and her people so dearly. We want others to realize that justice is not something we do because it is trendy but because we are called to have a heart like the Father's.
Join us in our fight against injustice. Join us in our journey to see restoration happen in this nation. To see people reconciled to the heart of a Daddy God who loves them. To bring the Love of Christ to each and every person we encounter.
This starts with our community center initiative. This begins with obedience and a simple yes.
This is our call to action- please consider partnering with us financially and watching as God works through "The Dwelling Place" to move on the hearts of the people and disciple this nation.
Stay tuned for more blogs talking about the importance of community and having a community center.
If you gather nothing else from this blog but compassion for others being important or fighting injustice is crucial or even just realizing that hugs can be a big deal, then I have written well!
As always friends-
Abide in Love- a Love that does JUSTLY.
(**EDIT: Some have inquired about the kidnappings and I want to be clear that Alex nor I feel threatened or unsafe. We monitor many different reports and heed the advice of trusted sources. We have restricted our travel to certain parts of Haiti for now and do not travel at all at night. There are usually a lot of kidnappings happening around Haiti in a regular year but it seems that these can cause fear politically and act as yet another way to keep the people oppressed. It is extremely disheartening knowing our people are constantly having to be diligently aware of their surroundings. We are taking on this same practice- extra caution, extra awareness, and using roads that we know are safer while avoiding areas/roads/entire zones that we have heard from our sources are unsafe at this time. No Americans have been kidnapped or targeted as of now. And it seems these kidnappings started out politically motivated and maybe the many we are hearing about daily could even be rumors used to spread fear. It is hard to say what is true as far as the numbers. But we are definitely being bombarded with more than what is normal. It is also all over the Haitian media right now. The police have stepped up their checkpoints around Port au Prince and are capturing many gangsters. Be praying for the police force to be strengthened and to be blessed. Many of the photos of the men captured are YOUNG men. Some of them just barely adults- this confirms for us the need for youth programs to help young men find something better than the streets to keep them occupied. Thanks for your continued prayers for us and for Haiti- God heal this land.**)
So while we were home in February 2019 (our first evacuation), my mom had gotten me a copy of Mary Oliver's book Dog Songs which is a collection of poetry. I think it took me all of a half hour to read and fall in love with it. If you love dogs you should probably get ahold of this one. But God really spoke to me in one of the poems in particular (Spoiler alert "Luke's Junkyard Song" is the one I am referencing).
A little backstory- Alex and I rescued a puppy from the street we live on. She was about eight weeks of age and full of bugs and possibly diseases. In Haiti she is the equivalent of a rat running into your house so people were screaming and afraid and beating her with a PVC pipe. It is not AT ALL because Haitians are bad people but because a lack of understanding and a true lack of resources to care for sick little dogs like this (who could cause your family rabies or pass on parasites to your kids). We heard the sound of something screaming outside our window and actually thought it was a child at first. We rushed to see what was going on and quickly realized a tiny little puppy was making these big, traumatic noises.
Alex knew he could not just sit by and do nothing but I was hesitant. Not because I don't love dogs (because I so do and it makes it hard on us here) but because there are so many dogs and I cannot save them all and helping seems overly exhausting. Plus once we have saved this puppy- we cannot bring her around our other dogs (you know there are three of them now). But Alex could not ignore it so he went out on the moto to find the screeching puppy who took off down the road. I stayed inside partly because I was not feeling well, and partly because I know this is too much work.
That lasted all of two minutes when I realized this was something my husband was passionate about and I was not being supportive because it all seemed like an impossible situation. Conviction set in and I promptly got up and went outside to find Alex on the puppy hunt.
She was not hard to find- I could hear her screaming a couple houses down following a WHAP. I rushed over there just in time for her to run out under a gate and right into my feet. I scooped up this pitiful little puppy and knew (beyond all understanding) that somehow this was the right decision.
Alex searched for a momma or an owner looking for their lost little dog but with no results. She was so chill we began calling her Poze which is kreyol for relaxed or calm. We spent hours picking off ticks- at least EIGHTY the first day and over NINETY more the second day. Her poop was full of worms and she had open, clearly infected wounds from her various beatings. We drove an hour with her on the moto to the vet and got her examined. He was not sure if she was going to make it but he agreed to work on her for us. After searching here in Haiti for someone to care for her with no luck, I decided to make a post and reach more people. Not too long after the post I received a message from someone in the states who wanted her and was willing to help with all expenses including a flight for me to fly home with her!
To make a super long story much shorter- little girl was very sick. She developed a full body fungal infection from her wounds and it made it impossible to vaccinate her with what she needed to go to the states. Then the manifestations broke out and things escalated quickly causing us to leave the country and this pitiful puppy to stay in the hands of a couple young Haitian men.
They cared for her well! I was so impressed and so was Alex who got a whole extra month with her while I was still in the states. She healed up well and we got her vaccinations taken care of and her health certificate. She was ready to go to the states with Alex except for a few hiccups like flights, the health certificate being in my name when Alex checked in, and finding a place for her to stay the one night Alex was in the states before we left at 4:00 A.M. the next day.
I am happy to say Poze made her way to the states and her fur-ever home after being fostered for a week by the people who covered all the costs for us to be able to save her and get her healthy. Her name is now Allie and she is no longer the pitiful little puppy but more like the Powerful little Puppy! So where does this original book reference come into play? I'm getting there...
In "Luke's Junkyard Song", the last two stanzas Mary Oliver writes:
Though the worms kept biting and pinching
I said no to saving her. I said no to searching for her even when Alex said yes. I was completely justified in rejecting her because we do not have the means or funding to rescue dogs, because she is not a person, because she might infect our other animals. The list could really go on and on. God used this moment to show me many things. I am more likely to say no when I should be saying yes- fear, anxiety, planning are all factors in my need to control.
Saying yes to the puppy was what we needed to do to position ourselves to say yes to a little guy we were asked to take on a week later as an emergency placement. He would end up changing us forever, as do so many people you meet.
What is keeping you from saying yes to what God has for you?
What is keeping you from saying yes to loving people?
What is keeping you from loving yourself enough to say yes and get in your word?!
What is keeping you from saying yes to intentional?
When we said yes to what God was calling us- He was provision. He made a way every time there seemed to not be one. He was in control more than my worries let me think. Who or what is the junkyard puppy in your life? I know a lot of times its myself and my dreams. It's the stories I do not share with you all about what Haiti is doing to us. "A junkyard puppy learns quickly how to dream"... let it flourish like Allie did. Find your yes, find your why, find whatever it is God is calling you to- you never know what He is positioning you for.
It is simple really:
"LISTEN, WHATEVER YOU SEE AND LOVE-
THAT'S WHERE YOU ARE." -Mary Oliver
There you are, living in the moment again. The moment for which you were created.
You never know what God can accomplish through the most unlikely of things; to Poze our little junkyard dog- we thank you for being the vessel God used to teach us He moves in all things.
The biggest lesson I am taking away from this (especially a year later) is I am the junkyard dog sometimes. God could have said no to me and been completely justified. But he didn't. He looked at pitiful ole me and saw worth. He calls me His masterpiece even when I am nothing. He said yes to saving us and sent us His one and only perfect Son to die on the cross so He could say yes despite our sin. If you do not have knowledge of how deep or profound this love runs- let me walk you through how to say yes to Jesus.
Pray and ask forgiveness for all the wrongs in your life.
Tell God you want to follow Him and you accept Jesus into your heart.
Say Amen and know you are God's yes.
Then Abide in His EVERLASTING Love.
Sometimes we are called to love beyond our capacity- to the standard of His measurements. Learning the measurements of God's love are so vast, unconditional, know no bounds, and are poured out beyond understanding makes it hard to attain the equation for this bold kind of L O V E. However, once we are recipient of His love, it is ingrained within us.
He gave us His son Jesus to be the standard we must replicate. He gave us a perfect love that we are called to give freely. The only way to give this love in abundance is to realize you must Love Anyway.
Love Anyway the ones who cannot possibly love you back.
Love Anyway the ones who have nothing to offer.
Love Anyway the ones who are in need.
Love Anyway the ones who are covered in pride.
Love Anyway the ones with which you do not agree.
Love Anyway the ones who have wronged you.
Love Anyway the ones who have no idea you are loving them.
Love Anyway the ones who might disappear from you quicker than you met them.
Love Anyway the ones who might reject you.
Love Anyway the ones who need it (hint- as you look around you'll find this is everyone you meet!)
Starting at the beginning of the year we met a very precious boy in a tough situation. He came into our home with a quickness and left it just the same. He visited on weekends but this too became not enough to keep him from choosing the streets. We lavished a lot of love on our little buddy only to have him take a small piece of our hearts with him when he left. There was an opportunity where he showed back up and I realized- though this boy was not mine, I had much love for him and in return wanted nothing but the best for him. A small glimpse of the Father's love for the return of the prodigal son.
Reflections on 2019 led us to the realization there is a time for Everything Under the Sun. These times have led us even deeper into the revelation of this next blog.
Fast forward to a small baby girl, fighting the monster of malnutrition. This baby was not known to many of you but there was a time when we thought this precious little one was going to be our daughter. Upon finding out about her situation we tried hard not to get too attached because in Haiti these things can change abruptly- so we proceeded with caution. Our first visit- we "cautiously" showed up to meet this joy-bundle and the walls we had built around our hearts crashed down as we saw each other holding the embodiment of hope for us as a family. Upon leaving that first visit we arrived home with tears of joy and the hopes of what could be welled up inside our souls. Simultaneously, we were overcome with the fear of failure and not feeling quite prepared for another let down. We prayed together and knew that God was calling us forward to LOVE without BOUNDS and without FEAR. He quickly reminded us that love is something we must freely give even when there is a chance of loss.
Our hearts continued to fall more and more in love with baby girl everyday until a couple months later when things unexpectedly changed and she was placed back into a situation that was less than ideal.
I began to regret the caution we had willingly abandoned at the tiny, precious feet of this little one- this is me, being vulnerable. Instantly the Lord began to bless me with the realization that although this was hard- it was ok. Although it was painful, it was part of our journey. Although it did not go how we had hoped we loved anyway. It was something God really desired for us- to soften, to embrace, to love anyway.
There it is friends- the way to Abide in Love- love anyway.
Love anyway, the ones who are incapable of loving back. Love anyway the ones who reject you. Love anyway when it is the hardest because that is exactly the Abiding Love- the direct replica of a Father who Loves YOU Anyway.
"There is a time for everything,
And a season for every activity under the heavens"
2019 was a year full of many things for us, many hard things.
Transition, loss, abrupt evacuations, and many unknowns.
God used every single instance of uncertainty to grow and mold us to rely more on Him. He continuously shows us there is a time for everything under the sun.
"... a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot"
Reflecting on 2019 is only the beginning and honestly one of the hardest parts of laying foundations for this next year is to look back on all that we have experienced and know that God is good through it all.
There, I said it. It is still extremely hard to remember God exists outside of circumstance. He exists even when my world seemed to be falling apart, this is the best way He can hold us together. We planted roots and beliefs through 2017 and 2018. There was a time for planting and 2019 was the year where God said it was time to uproot. Dreams were born and some had died but there was a time for that too.
"...a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build"
Last year was a time to destroy lies we believed, tear down walls around our hearts. God used a few instances that were difficult to tear down the Jericho walls we have developed on our hearts: A sweet, sweet boy who became a weekend visitor, a boy (who found himself almost a man) facing tough decisions, a young woman who was on her own for the first time, a mom who loved her boy so much she wanted to give him a chance, a father fighting the monster known as poverty...
God used these stories to show us more of the Father's heart for discipleship in Haiti. To remind us of Himself, the Good Shepherd leaving the ninety-nine for the ONE. So we let the walls be torn down and now we watch as God builds away at our vision ONE person at a time. Through this trusting God process we find Him to provide a time to heal.
"...a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance"
Mourning and weeping were no strangers to us last year- we grieved many losses from the beginning of the year to the end. Friends moved away, movements to adopt fell through, and we even experienced the heaviest grief- loss. We lost a baby last year, unexpectedly my grandpa, and even a friend. So much loss in just the twelve months of 2019.
Also many times, despite the gripping sorrow, found us full of laughter and dancing. Times where regardless of the sadness, you could find us joyful. That could only be the power of God in our hearts working by His abilities not our own. We learned to lean into God in all things ugly and beautiful. Not everything under the sun is easy, but you can almost always find a moment to dance.
"... a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing"
Many people may not understand why or where you are scattering your stones- if the Lord is calling you scatter instead of gather, take the time to un-embrace what the world says. We learned a lot this year about embracing and refraining from embracing. Embrace only what the Lord calls you to- and I can almost guarantee you He is not calling you to embrace the opinions of others or what is popular. Do the hard thing and do it fearlessly because if God calls you to it- no matter if it is time to scatter or gather, He will lead you forward and there will be a time for everything under the sun. Embrace Him.
"... a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away"
Giving up, throwing away- sometimes God calls us into these seasons. Often they are uncomfortable, sometimes they are lonely but God is in those places too. He leads you forward with grace and gentleness. He shows you when it is time and He is with you while you make that toss or exhale and surrender. Then there are the times God calls you to search and to keep. The times where fighting forward makes all the difference, He is in all these moments under the sun. He is in everything and is good, merciful, and just in all things beautiful and difficult.
"... a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak"
There is a time for everything under the sun. No matter where you find yourself in the verses, it is always time for God to use what is going on around you for His glory. In the year two-thousand-and-twenty I hope that you are able to see God is in the details. He is the big picture. The hard days are saturated with mercy and the breezy days are dripping with joy.
"... a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace."
In every season under the sun, God can be found along with His grace abundant grace.
Here we are- in a cold, somewhat snowy, wintery world.
The contrast to my vibrant, tropical, sunshine-y life is hard most days.
There is also peace- my soul needed rest.
2019 was a year to remember but probably one of the toughest years we have faced so far. We experienced much loss and in many forms. We endured the hardship of evacuating and the unknowns of when we could get back to our little island home. We grieved much in 2019- loss in all forms. Death was no stranger to us this last year, taking loved ones from us and leaving behind sorrow.
So here we are, putting one foot in front of the other as we walk this road. It feels a little hard sometimes and just when we begin to feel completely alone or broken down, God brings us hope and confirmation in Him alone.
Reflecting on 2019 and the hardships is easy but it is not the focus. I share these sorrows and trials with you because I want you to realize we are oh so human- fleshy and broken. The strength you might think we walk in is actually not ours but something we are graced with by God alone. We can do none of this by our own strengths or plans but only by God's.
This last year has taught me many lessons and none of them were learned lightly.
"Here is my heart, Lord, I open it vulnerable to glorify you Father."
God has been faithful countless times- over and over again. The things He sometimes uses to remind me of this make me laugh (like socks when my few pairs are all but destroyed from being washed in Haiti). Sometimes His faithfulness is exemplified in late night conversations with a friend, or a Christmas card given after a fun day out bringing joy back to the smile lines on my face. His faithfulness is always displayed when one of you sends an encouraging word or a thoughtful donation. We have such great needs and lack of funding for those needs and boy does God really enjoy showing off as He provides ways that only He can do. His faithfulness also goes beyond our physical needs and wants but in the ways He carries us gently through this life.
The biggest lesson we have learned this year is about L O V E.
The last year has been difficult but the Lord continues to guide, mold, lead, and speak to our journey. He provides for us, He makes a way where there seems to be none. He does all of this (not because we are worthy of it) but because He loves us. He desires for us to grow in His love and for it to spill over to empower the Haitian people. Though there were hardships and loss, we still cling to God's goodness because no matter what God is still GOOD.
We are thankful for the ways God confirms our visions and the scriptures He lays on our hearts to form the foundations of our community center initiative:
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power. together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and how long and how high and how deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:16-21
We are so thankful for the Lord's faithfulness to us and our mission in Haiti. We are thankful to Father God for all of you, too. For those of you who have listened, prayed, donated, encouraged, hugged and blessed us in more ways than we can even count. Together through Abide in Love we will bring glory to God and further the kingdom. Together we will teach everyone we work with to Abide in the Love of the Father.
Stay tuned for how God used this last year of loss to teach us about "Everything Under the Sun", and to teach us to "Love Anyway."
As always dear readers- Abide in Love!
Kristen & Alex Bradshaw