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!
"He lets me rest in quiet meadows; He leads me beside still waters..." Psalm 23:2
Two months ago the Lord gave me a dream of this exact verse. To understand the context of why I so desperately needed this we have to look back on the situation we were (and still are facing).
Haiti has been experiencing political unrest and outbursts of protesting/country lockdowns (peyi lok) since July of 2018. Starting in August of this year the country has been consistently locked down and blocked up most days, with a few "calm" days sprinkled in between protesting to allow everyone to get supplies (well sort of).
We had just begun our own nonprofit organization and were in the middle of transitioning everything- including donors and funds so we were in Haiti with next to no money. On top of that during the calm days there was a trending lawlessness. Thugs still blocking the road but not in protest, really just to get money as the unpaid police force already has their hands full.
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want...."
Two and a half months ago before things had really flipped upside down for us, I was laying in bed arguing with God and letting Him have IT. I was already tired of the continuing struggle in Haiti. I was already tired of the constant battle that is fundraising. I was already tired of facing my fears daily and wrestling the what if's of our lives. We knew (and still know) the calling we have to be exactly where we are, doing what we are doing... but I am human and I still have flesh and a heart and fears, worries, anxieties.
So there I am begging God to give me peace for my weary soul. I was sitting up in my bed and I heard it. I heard running water. Instantly my fears and struggles began to be louder than the water and I found myself near a stream with God as my Shepherd. I yelled to Him to turn up the water, like you would turn up a radio. My Shepherd did just that and He reminded me He leads me beside still waters. And there I sat at the most beautiful natural spring enveloped in greenery and Love Himself. And none of the struggles of this world, of my life compared to that P E A C E.
I woke up from that night and the most wonderful dreams- I rose with peace, well-rested. And I wish I could end this blog post right there... but God knew what was coming in my life. He knew the storms we were about to walk through and the real life fear (the kind thats not just in your mind but when the what if's become reality).
Just a couple days after soaking in those Still Waters I found myself crying in my shower trying to cling tight to what Jesus had said to me but it was already slipping from my reality. An hour previous to those shower moments Alex was robbed at gunpoint. They stole his phone, his moto (our only transportation), and most importantly our peace. We were thankful he was unharmed as there are plenty of stories coming from Haiti right now where this is not the case, but we were left so broken. As he filed the police reports the next day we learned NINE other motos were stolen not too far from us and countless people robbed of money and personal belongings in our own area. Alex was sad for himself but disheartened at the desperation of those around him in the police station. Motos are a source of income, the only source of income for these men and some people were robbed of their wages they earned that week which means their family would not eat.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures...."
Our hearts were devastated and struggling to stay positive. We lost sleep and the what if's just got worse. We were dreading telling of what happened to us. Honestly, when you love something so much it is hard to share of its flaws and hardships. Ironically a month before this happened we were talking about a friend who was robbed in a different part of Haiti and we had actually said we did not think we could stay if that happened to us. I look at this moment and see how God protected Alex AND strengthened our faith in Him while confirming the plans He has for us.
"He leads me beside still waters...."
It was not sunshine and roses trying to push through the trauma of what happened. It was very hard to actively cling to a God who allowed it. But all through the struggle we just put one foot in front of the other. We found reasons to be thankful no matter how small they were- being locked in the house was a challenge all on its own. We watched as our entire missionary community began exiting one by one.
We felt alone and discouraged a lot but would spend entire days worshipping the Lord and His faithfulness. The situation going on around us does not determine the Goodness of God. A hard truth to grasp but a very necessary one.
And again, I wish I could say we replenished our vehicle fund right away and everything turned around and is good but that is not the truth. The truth is Haiti continues in this state of unrest and chaos. My friend Pauline has lived through many different eras and administrations of Haiti (horrible dictators, corrupt presidents, hurricanes, the 2010 earthquake, cholera outbreak, and more) but let me know this is the worst it has ever been in her fifty four years of living. The inflation, the suffering, the corruption, and the hopelessness of the general people as they try to ride this out. Our zone specifically was completely blocked up by gangsters while other areas were calm. We had a horrible day and night of gunfire right outside our house as the police tried to take back the intersection we live near. The gangsters were retreating into our neighborhood on motos and firing rounds and terrorizing our neighbors. We were trying to be as silent as possible while listening to the neighbor's radio call out the positions of the police officers during this fight and call for fellow thugs to come with gasoline and set the police on fire. The radio station was against the police and giving up their locations to the gangsters. It was a war zone. The gunfire was loud and unreal. As I am writing this, its unreal that we lived this. But again, God is faithful beyond our circumstances.
"He restores my soul...."
After this specific instance- the gangsters won the battle against the police and the partying and celebrating was almost worse than the sound of constant gunfire. The darkness was heavy. The following day I sat in one spot on the couch and realized after almost three months of this crazy that it was time we had a break. We were able to secure me a ride to the airport the following day and a very kind friend generously offered to fly us to their home in Florida. Alex had to stay behind until we could get a new guard to our house and trained in all things Bradshaw Household. I have been resting in Florida for several weeks now and preparing a fundraising campaign while following God's lead. Alex was able to join me after a couple weeks- a small miracle story all in its own! I will save that for another blog.
"He guides me along the right paths for His name's sake...."
And so we continue our journey in Haiti. This blog is definitely a harder one to write for me. I know exactly what you're thinking about how insane we must be to continue living this way. I know what you're thinking because I have thought it myself. When we are feeling overwhelmed and unsure about the future of Haiti we pray and we listen. EVERY SINGLE TIME we have prayed and asked God to be clear He has been. He will have all the glory and He will guide us because He knows best.
"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me...."
He is with me. In almost every prayer I have prayed or song I have sang over the last several months I am reminded of my Emmanuel- GOD WITH US. And I will continue battling my flesh against fear. He is with me and He comforts me.
I do not what the future of Haiti looks like when the country is in a Humanitarian Crisis. I do not know the future of my loved ones there just trying to feed their little loves, and I do not know that this will pass anytime soon... but I do know that God's Goodness is not defined by this circumstance. I do know that He is with me and them in the valley. I know that He loves everyone we minister to more than we ever could.
"Your rod and your staff, they comfort me...."
And so I allow myself to be comforted in this period of rest.
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows...."
In faith we will move forward with all that God has planned for Abide In Love. In faith we will fundraise for our needs and the needs of the ministry. In faith we will declare war on poverty and the effects of it on families. We will fight what they are fighting. We will move forward because we trust in the Lord and our hope is in Him alone.
"Surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Kristen & Alex Bradshaw