A few years ago, Craig and I sat in a mission’s service and listened as a couple shared about their ministry. We were both moved by their lives and their calling. We talked later that day and week and dreamt about what it might look like to get involved somehow in the missionaries lives who are already on the frontline and invest into them. We wondered what it would look like to use our gifts and training to invest into other missionaries so that they would be more productive while they were on the field. We had no idea what that would look like, but we were open to the idea and thought it would be neat if some day we were able to take our family on summer mission trips – since my degree was in education and language arts, and the kids and I would have my summers off and Craig’s background in ministry and business.
A couple years ago, Craig and I had an opportunity to travel to Anse a Galets, Haiti (a little town on the island of La Ganove) together with a medical missions team. We weren’t sure exactly what we were going to be able to contribute since we were NOT medically trained, but we realized that God had a plan all along and used that trip to change and prepare our hearts for the future. While we were there, we had the opportunity to visit the local orphanage. This orphanage is run by Madame Solliette, a local Haitian. She is the inspirational leader behind the orphanage on La Gonave. She is not a “professional” social worker. She simply saw a huge need that no one was willing to fill and did her best to respond personally. Eventually her response became the overwhelming focus of her life.
While we were there, we fell in love with the country and when we came home, our hearts ached for the people and we wondered if we would ever have the opportunity to go back. Well, the next year, Craig went back with another medical team. I chose to stay home because our kids were at the ages where having both parents gone for 10 days was not as easy as it had been the last year. Craig was able to connect with a few people while he was there that year and he started dreaming with them about a Children’s Village for the children who currently live in the orphanage. When we visited Haiti in 2010, there were 45 kids at the orphanage. When Craig went back in 2011, there were 60 and now there are 75. Every day Mme Solliette has to turn children away because she doesn’t have the room or resources to care for more children.
When Craig got home in May 2011, he sent an email to Matt Smith, Okipe Coordinator living in Haiti. Craig just opened his heart and told Matt that we’d love to help out in any way that was needed. Matt responded and asked what Craig’s strengths were and where he thought he might be able to help. After Matt responded, Craig had a really difficult time sitting down and answering that email. Whether it was the intimidation of voicing your strengths, or just the lack of sitting down and writing the email – or simply God’s timing – Craig didn’t respond for 6-8 months. When he finally did, we thought Matt might ask us to put together a team and lead our own “non-medical” team. Instead, Matt responded at the beginning of this year and said that their biggest need for 2012 is to have someone come and “get an accurate handle on the orphanages budget/running cost/books… someone to come to Anse a Galets for a month or three…to see how the orphanage, and her school, runs… what the needs/expenses are… and how to WALK OUT the training of her and/or a local bookkeeper for the orphanage’s accounting needs. Any amount of time less than this here on the ground and the help/training just won’t stick… I guarantee you!” –Matt Smith
When Matt responded with that, we thought well, we could probably find someone to do that – Craig didn’t feel “qualified” we went on and on why this probably wasn’t for us. Then – we started getting excited. Started hearing God – started seeing doors open and confirmations were clear. Craig is trained. God doesn’t call the “perfected,” He works in our weakness and His power and authority is seen in our dependence on Him. Then we started thinking about how we had dreamt about serving for one to three months. Then, I remembered a journal entry I had written a few months before we got this email. I shared it with Craig. It was from October 17, 2011. It said,
“This past week my heart has been very unsettled. I’ve tried looking at new houses, I’ve been keeping busy at work, I looked at jobs through CMA overseas, I’ve thought about foster care, bringing teen moms in, adopting/hosting a foreign exchange student, and the list goes on and on. What I think I’ve discovered this week is that God is unsettling my heart here because He has something for our family – somewhere else – overseas. Even writing that makes me nervous, but excited. Craig and I have always considered short term work overseas, but I have no idea what that looks like. It’s hard to think about leaving everything – family, Craig’s job, our friends, comfort culturally. Then I find myself trying to work out all the details myself instead of just being still and waiting and trusting on God. Yesterday’s teaching was from Luke 5 – Jesus calling the first disciples. Jesus chose to work through Peter and what he did – fish. Craig and I have always felt we made friends easily and relationship and community come naturally. So why wouldn’t God use our ability to reach out to others? He could reach others through us. Someone at small group last night said our relationships are usually started by a mutual friend. I want to be a mutual friend between the lost and God. Problem is – I think Craig is very content right where we are. So, I’m waiting. Waiting for God to stir and unsettle his heart. Waiting for the right time to talk, waiting for certain doors to close and other doors to be open. I’m excited. I have no idea what the future holds or how God is going to work everything out, but I know He will – He always does! He wants so much for us, beyond our wildest dreams. God, thank you for giving me a passion - for stirring up my heart. Keep me patient, but help us also to be willing and ready when the time is right.”
So we had a meeting with Craig’s boss and his wife who are amazing, Godly people, and they were excited for us! We are so blessed with Craig’s job. This company is not like any other I’ve ever experienced. They admitted that this calling lined up with the values of the company and that they wanted to support this decision and knew that God could use us for this project. What an amazing company to be a part of! So we felt that that was kind of the last “hurdle” and we had cleared it.
So – our family, kids included, will be heading to La Ganove, Haiti for eight weeks. We are tentatively leaving May 16th and will return July 18th. We are excited, nervous and so ready to see what God is going to do while we are there. I’m excited for this opportunity for our family – for our kids. We have also been asked to join a task force through Okipe. Craig has been asked to lead the Operations Task Force and I have been asked to serve on the Education task force. This will give us the opportunity to stay connected and involved in the lives of the people who we go to serve.
· Craig to be able to prepare to be gone from work for 8 weeks – he is an instrumental part of his job and will need to have a clear plan before we leave of what will be accomplished while he’s gone.
· Craig as he is preparing and already starting the process of what he’ll be undertaking while in Haiti.
· Plans – flights, dates, financing, immunizations, food, house, Ava (our dog), etc.
· Kids adjustment – especially when we come home. Morgan will be starting school a couple weeks after we return. It was a major adjustment for us returning to the states after 10 days of being in Haiti.
· Health – now and while we’re there.
· Renee – that it would be clear in what ways I’m to serve while there. I have the opportunity to teach some English classes while I’m there to the children at the orphanage and Mme Solliette.
Here is the link to Okipe’s blog: www.okipe.org
Also, this video gives a good background of the orphanage and the project that we’ll be helping with. We would love for any of you to come and see in person this amazing ministry while we are there!!