“Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst. Your wine vats will brim over” Proverbs 3:7-9 (MSG).
Hello family back home! It’s another gorgeous day here at the guest house. The team has just eaten enough food to feed an International Rugby Team, which was well deserved after an amazing morning up at St. Etienne. But as usually, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s jump back to last night for an epic evening of worship in the mountains of Haiti.
Worship that night was in the mountains at MOHI’s sister campus in St. Etienne. While a bit smaller, the campus sits atop a mountain and the view was GORGEOUS. I didn’t fully appreciate how gorgeous the drive up was (I was focusing on my message), but I did manage to take a few glimpses as we climbed, and the views were just spectacular. Haiti in bloom is something truly spectacular - rugged, green and brown mountains dropping straight to the ocean, showcasing white cliffs of rock and splashed with orange flowers growing in the trees. The weather was much cooler up there, and we had a few minutes to enjoy the view before heading into service. I assumed it was breezy and cooler because we were in the mountains Ooooh, naive out of towner…just wait for the show…
So the church service was the opening night of a revival, and several different churches each participated in the worship. We rocked up to a building with a tin roof, small open windows that showcased the mountain vistas, and a sound system that would have been right at home at a KISS concert. Seriously - the speakers were up so loud that we had to have been north of the decibel level at the Seahawks opening kickoff. My first thought was, “I’ll probably be fine with about 60% of my hearing, right?” But within 5 minutes, any thoughts of long term nerve damage had been replaced by the AWESOME music and the dancing all around us.
The music really was great. It was also, however, REALLY long. I mean we’re talking Tolstoy long. We are talking Genesis to Revelation long. WOW. Once song went for 25 minutes (shout out to Dawn Miller for actually timing it). Now don’t get me wrong, the music was amazing, and I was bouncing to the beat like a back-up dancer for a boy band. It’s just that, after 2 hours (that’s right, I just typed TWO HOURS), we were happy when they switched to the next part of the service.
The length of the worship wasn’t the bigger story, however. It was the weather. HOLY MOLY! So this rainstorm sweeps in, and I mean SWEEPS in. Thunder starts rolling, rain starts hammering the tin roof, and then lightning that you would see in a Star Wars movie suddenly starts shooting across the sky. I had never seen lightning go East to West across the entire horizon before that night, and pretty soon the thunder cloud was DIRECTLY on top of the church (did I mention the metal roof?). They were moving pews to the middle of the church so folks could stay dry.
So this storm continued and continued, and the worship team kept jamming and jamming. And it was only when they stopped playing that we realized how loud this storm was - it was incredible! As I looked around, hearing the rain, watching the storm, and listening to the amazing music (the songs were so fun with great beats), all I could think was “It’s gonna really take something special to beat this preaching opportunity.” I mean, I’m sure everyone remembers their first sermon, but there was NO DOUBT I was gonna remember mine. But just in case, God had one more ace up his sleeve.
The storm was hammering the roof so loudly that suddenly we’d gone from the music overwhelming us to not being able to hear a word the speakers were saying. So Alison walks to the podium, and she talks about Jesus rebuking the storm on the sea. She talks about how he called the storm peace, and suddenly it was. And so, in the midst of a storm for the ages, Alison does something I didn’t expect. She asks us to put our hands toward the walls of the church and in our own tongues yell “Peace! Be Still!” And right after we did it (talking seconds here), the storm slowed to almost nothing. Readers, you will get the first hand accounts yourself, but it was AMAZING. Seriously - we went from gale force winds to a light rain.
Testimony that night came from Carly and Amber (aka “Megan”), and as always it was perfect for the crowd. The theme of the conference was Proverbs 3:8-9, and Carly hit them with an amazing testimony about how generous God is when you obey his commandments and honor him with both your first fruits and with listening to His commands. Amber then stepped up to provide her testimony, which I KNOW hit home with the crowd (both women and men). It was a story of addiction & chainbreaking, obedience & honor, breakthrough & miracles. Her students and her family are incredibly lucky to have someone like this in their lives, as she has such a strong and wonderful spirit.
As mentioned earlier, I had the honor and the privilege of delivering the message that night. It was my first sermon, and the Holy Spirit was with me every step of the way. Thank you Alison for the opportunity. Thank you people of Haiti for listening. And THANK YOU Christ Jesus for standing there and speaking through me.
After altar call (during which time we claimed 4 more salvations), it was prayer time. The group was eager to come up, and we spent quite a bit of time praying for folks (which was amazing considering it had been a 3 1/2 hour service at that point). I do want to mention here how amazing the women I am serving with on this journey really are. Each of them brings something very unique that makes them especially equipped to be here, and watching how they wrap themselves around the people here is magical. On Tuesday I watched Allison sense that a woman’s knee was hurting, go up to her to pray for her, and then ask her to move her knee. Sure enough - she started moving better. I have made a huge leap on this trip, going from knowing God heals to believing God heals.
But one thing to note about prayer in this church - if you are near a speaker, you better hope you hear the Holy Spirit, because you sure won’t hear any of us praying for you! Kristyn was the true trooper, as she was RIGHT BESIDE the speaker as the altar call music kicked off. She was screaming at these folks, and by her own admission she couldn’t even hear herself. But we know that word was received!
It was a long, dark (and WET!) bus ride home, and we didn’t have dinner until 10 PM. Bed was late before an early call, but that didn’t stop Carly the Boomer Sooner from making sure all the troops were healthy. She’d treated Dawn Miller earlier for her knee, and after applying a little TLC to KP, it was time to call it a night.
Day 6 (Wed, July 26): Water and the Holy Spirit
We started today with a great breakfast before hopping onto the bus and heading back to St. Etienne for our third installment of VBS. We were expecting 30 kids (it turned out to be 60), but once again the team crushed it! We broke them into 5 groups (as we had stragglers), and let me go ahead and confirm a few things for you:
All kidding aside, the big news from this is that we had 11 salvations!!!! The medical crew in attendance (Carly, Madison, Kristyn, and Angie) ran a medical clinic during VBS (no crazy stories to report if I remember, but obviously it was a cool experience). On the drive home I learned that we’d also had 2 during the special needs ministry, which raised the total for 82 for the trip. Come on 100!!!!
We arrived back at the guest house to the smell of spaghetti, and the team fell on that like a pack of ravenous wolves. Carb us up, baby!!!! But we needed our strength, as we had a big afternoon.
The day before, one of the local teenagers (also one of our translators) expressed a desire to Alison to be baptized in water. He is a GREAT kid, asking tons of questions about the Bible and wanting to learn as much as he can about ministry. He had asked his local pastor to baptize him in water, but the pastor said that he didn’t have time at the moment. Alison, however, had the afternoon, and she was all about it. And so after lunch, he changed his clothes, Alison kicked off her shoes, and those two headed for the water.
Let me set the scene: you’ve got islands off the coast. You’ve got blue water lapping on the shore (this is the ocean, remember). Mountains are visible in the distance on all sides. And then, in he midst of it all, you’ve got a young man and a powerful woman of God in the water up to their waists. After a few Bible verses, BAM - he was under and back up again, made new! I had never been part of an outdoor water baptism, and so this was something pretty amazing to see.
We then went to the prayer hot seat. And while I won’t talk about what was spoken over those who sat in the seat today, I absolutely have to share the news that, while watching us pray, three locals watching us decided to give their lives to Jesus! One of them was our translator, and the other two were local students. They had been watching us pray, and they spoke to another translator, who asked if we would pray with them. And credit to Carly for stepping out in faith and leading one of the prayers for salvation. Up to 85!!!
After getting ready, it was back up the mountain to St. Etienne (inside joke for the team as you read this once home: “Sam, cast that thing out of Dawn, will you?”), where we had another incredible service (and storm!). Interestingly enough, the environment was different this evening. It was more jovial, more hospitable, and energized with the Holy Spirit. That was great, as we had an evening of amazing women speaking to them, and I am so thankful they were receptive to the good words that were spoken.
Since we had so many kids present who were at VBS, Alison called Allison, Sawyer, and Nicole up first to help the kids say their memory verse and sing their song. This was SUPER cute, and the adults in the crowd seemed to love it.
Given that my testimony involves the tithe, I had the honor of delivering my story a second time. Sawyer then stepped up to deliver her testimony for the first time ever! Her smile and energy are infectious, and the crowd definitely responded to that.
Madison then stepped up and shared her story, and all I can say is WOW. Again, I can’t say enough how blessed I feel to attend church with these amazing overcomers, and I am SO thankful that my two daughters are going to grow up with powerful, God fearing women around them, serving as such great role models of what it means to be the daughter of a king.
The message that evening was delivered by the Prophetess Powerhouse Emily Hill, and she DROPPED it on those folks. She didn’t heed my suggestions of a) dropping the mike or b) saying “here endeth the lesson,” but we love her anyway. :-) Seriously - Emily has such an incredible faith, and she poured it out to those folks on that platform. I know that the local pastor was impressed, as anytime he saw anyone talking or not paying attention, he send the attendants over to shush them!
We had another 7 salvations, raising the total to 92 - almost there! It was then another dark, wet, ride home before at 10:30 PM dinner, and now we’re all calling it a night. Hard to believe it’s our last day tomorrow, but I know it’s going to be flat out. We have earned our keep these last 2 days!
Last award to give out today: best hair braider on the island of Hispaniola - this goes to Jaz, as pretty much everyone on the team (except me, but not from lack of trying) has asked for her help braiding their hair. Jaz has also become our resident Creole expert - this girl is really starting to speak and understand!
Day 7 (Thurs, July 27): Fire on the Mountain
“Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head of the table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!” (Revelation 3:20-21 MSG)
So, look - I know that Paul was THE MAN. He was shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, you name it. The man went through some serious “bagay” in his life. However, Team Haiti does have one up on the world’s most famous apostle, as Paul never made it to Petit Goave twice in the same day.
Y’all, there are days where you feel like you are a missionary. There are other days when you feel you’ve earned your keep. And there are still other days when God says, “Well done, good and faithful servant” and then blesses you with something you could never have imagined. Today fell squarely into the third category.
So we rolled over to Grand Goave early in the morning, as it was a decent drive (call it an hour or so). When we arrived at the turnoff in Petit Goave, however, we learned that the rains from the previous two days had left the road washed out, meaning that our bus (aka the “Victory Van”) was NOT going to make it all the way. We had a truck as well, and so we threw the gear, some speakers (more on that later), and a few missionaries in the back. We then started driving up the mountain, making two trips before everyone made it to the top.
We arrived at the church to find over TWO HUNDRED CHILDREN waiting patiently for Team Haiti’s fourth installment of VBS. Previously we’d run camps of 60, 80ish, and 60, but NOTHING compared to this. We broke them into 5 stations (snack, song, story, games, and craft), and we then spent the next 90 minutes going FLAT OUT at our stations. Jaz and Emily SAVED MY LIFE over there at games, as there was no shade and enough mud to the setting for a song by Florida Georgia Line. I say they saved my life, but apparently my running around for 90 minutes barefoot while playing the highly complicated game of “watch my eyes and try to catch the ball” has put me in jeopardy. Nurse Angie gave me a very reassuring diagnosis: “Well, if you start feeling terrible, just go to your doctor and tell him you ran around barefoot in Haiti.” Oh well - at least my doctor already knows I’m an idiot.
VBS really was great, and we counted 20 salvations! That pushed us over 100 (112 in fact!), and we were all smiles. However, as the church was filled to capacity with kids (we’d actually started with about 125, but the number was now over double that). We didn’t have an actual headcount however (it’s an impossible task, truth be told), and so we just assumed 200 of all our supplies would be sufficient. Ooooooh, naive missionary…how many times must you assume you have everything in hand?
So we start handing out items to the kids - suckers, a notebook, and a bracelet. However, as this continued for what felt like an eternity we noticed our bags were getting lighter. We then brought in reinforcements from the never-ending supply well that are our suitcases, but those started running dry. And when I looked back into the church, it looked like none of the kids had even left! Allison said, “We’ve still got a lot more.” To put that into perspective, it’s kind of like saying “Shakespeare liked to write from time to time.” HOLY MOLY. It was like feeding the five thousand, only the children were multiplying instead of the food. But we did manage to pull it off and rolled out of there at about 1 or so. The nurses were pretty exhausted as well, as they saw over 100 patients while we were there!
We got back to base camp at 2:18, leaving us 42 minutes to eat and change for church (the service started at 3, but that is apparently the time you have to announce if you want people there by 4). Well, we were late departing, and then our bus broke down in Grand Goave. Luckily Jefte had the answer (that guy is the MAN - seriously! He drives, he translates, he plays guitar, he fixes engines - for all I know he’s also soon to start in a magic show on the Vegas Strip - nothing would surprise me at this point), and soon he drove up with another bus. We arrived about 5 or so, and then things went EPIC.
So we get about halfway up the mountain, and Jefte stops the bus. Killing the engine means only one thing - start walking. But, as we had musical equipment for worship, this wasn’t just a hike in church clothes in 238 degree heat. This was also training for when we decide to hike the Andes, as we were carrying serious loads in dress shoes! I had the generator, which Jefte told me was light. He would be correct - if you compared it to Boeing 747. Needless to say, I arrived at the summit so sweaty people probably thought I’d just been baptized in water.
The climb was ABSOLUTELY worth it, however, as the view was amazing. We’d faced a lot of opposition to get to that summit, but the miracle was most certainly on the other side of our obedience and perseverance. There were so many people that we set up the equipment and worshipped outside! Mountains all around, incredible music playing, a hand made pulpit standing under a tree - THIS is the stuff you remember forever.
After some great music (can’t we take a moment to talk about how AWESOME the worship team was for carrying their gear up to the mountaintop to play?), we heard testimony from Kristyn and Allison. As always, there are no accidents, and these two delivered words that someone in that crowd needed to hear. Kristyn talked to them about how God never stops pursuing you, and Allison shared her testimony (for the first time in public), revealing how God tested her in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10 for anyone who wants to read it, and no - I didn’t know that off the top of my head. In fact, talk to those who went on this trip when they return so they can laugh about the fact that I didn’t quote a single verse correctly all week. However, if you’d like a copy of the Taylor translation, it will hit stores next year…). Seriously - these girls were brave up there, and hearing those messages in that setting is I am sure something they will always remember. Plus, Kristyn had on this super cute dress from Old Navy (sorry, girls- couldn’t resist)…
Alison then took the pulpit for a final time, and MAN did she rain down the fire - literally. She spoke about being baptized in fire and in the Holy Spirit, and when it was over, the team actually built a fire tunnel that folks could walk through. We saw 16 salvations (coming in at 128 total) and had an ocean of people walk through the tunnel - it was powerful stuff. And almost as powerful was how almost every person there then hugged us once service was over. Hugging is an art form in Haiti - people just fall into your arms, and you honestly don’t want to let them go. This was super emotional for me, as you could feel the hearts of those people needing strength, restoration, and comfort. One little girl very similar to my oldest daughter’s age had on a Rapunzel dress, and that one will stick with me a long time. You see, Rapunzel is my daughter’s favorite princess, and she wears her dress all the time. I was so affected by the similarities we all share, and how blessed we are to live where we do and have what we have.
We then walked back down the mountain, many of the children from the village holding our hands, talking to us in Creole, and soaking up every minute of the experience. I was actually blessed to have a moment of solitude during that descent, and I stopped to look around me. I saw the mountains - rugged and powerful. I saw the clouds - beautiful and enveloping. And I saw the sunset - majestic and awe inspiring. It was a scene that would have made Elijah proud, and I couldn’t have picked a better final image to take home with me.
It was then back to the house, where we said goodbyes to many of the folks we’ve called friends over the past 8 days. There are some truly INCREDIBLE people here, and hearts on both sides of the Caribbean have been touched. All of the folks we met were so gracious, so humble, so proud of their country, and so eager to connect with us. It was a perfect end, but it’s not goodbye. It’s just “till next time.” As Dr. Seuss says: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
Realistically this will be the end of this blog, as tomorrow will just be final packing, final goodbyes, and then the journey back to PAP for our flights home. To say I have been blessed to be part of this group would be the understatement of the century. To say that this team was an incredible ensemble of stories, skills, and hearts for Christ would fall equally short. I could go on about them for hours, and there are so many stories that were left on the cutting room floor (but remember - God is my “editor,” NOT my “odor”). And so instead of trying to summarize the experience (because a) that is impossible and b) everyone’s experience was different, as I’m sure their journals will confirm), instead I would like to take this moment to just thank every one of them. It’s not exactly the Hot Seat, but these are things I want each of you to know, even if I don't get the chance to tell you in person.
Sawyer - you, my dear, really are a GC (that would be game changer). I hope you embrace your new title of Nat Geo and run with it. You have an infectious smile, and infectious personality, and even more an infectious love for Christ. People will watch you. People will learn from you. And people ABSOLUTELY will want to be like you. You WILL speak to thousands my dear! Just don’t say “crap” next time and you should be fine…
Madison - L’il Buzz, you are the NOW generation. People need role models. Our youth need people they can follow, as there are too many rules and too few examples in this day and age. You are beautiful on the outside and beautiful on the inside. Embrace the awakening inside you, and you are just starting on a journey that will take you beyond your wildest dreams.
Carly - The Boomer Sooner: I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more selfless. Be it your finances, your time, your skills, whatever - you are always giving. You are the epitome of what it means to serve, and I was awed watching you in action. Your actions taught me so much, and your testimony only served to confirm that. Thank you for giving so much of yourself and sowing so much into others. Rest assured you will reap an amazing harvest.
Amber (aka Megan) - Your heart is a blessing so big that I know sometimes it’s hard to control all that emotion. Embrace the gift you have to feel what others feel - even when it hurts. Also, I pray that you can find that balance as you reenter the atmosphere. This time “between two worlds” isn’t supposed to be easy, but it is supposed to make us evaluate and think. You have done an incredible job of evaluating and loving on people all week. The children of Haiti are really, REALLY gonna miss you.
Dawn Miller - The trooper! May you have peace and healing on that knee! As with Carly, your approach to mission work is incredible, be it the suitcase that was never leaving Haitian soil, the time spent thinking about the craft, the willingness to share more of your testimony, or the grit you showed in staying on the mission field despite all that pain. There are some lucky children and grandchildren in Statesboro, and I hope you get the chance to recover as you see them. Just don’t get too settled, as we need you back on that mission field - suitcase ready to leave, of course - very soon.
Nicole - You didn’t get in the hot seat on Wednesday, but I genuinely think I got a word for you. You are more powerful than you can possibly imagine, so don’t be afraid to use that incredible strength. You may think of yourself as a mountain stream or still waters, but I see the Volga in you, flowing deep and wide. It may not churn category 5 rapids, but it is a force of nature that cannot be stopped once moving. All the best as you seek to go 3 deep on each instrument. Hopefully you’ll get some folks auditioning who actually go to your church…
Dawn Moyer - I mean…where to even start. Our fearless leader, coming on this trip in the midst of so much going on back home. Dawn, you know that you and your family have a very special place in our family’s life, but that’s not what this is about. Instead, I just want to pray for healing for you everywhere you need it. Just as you have covered so many people in prayer, I pray that Jesus gives you peace, strength, rest, and resiliency. You are such a mighty woman of God - especially when you pray your shoes off.
Kristyn - the preacher’s wife (did I say that out loud?): so proud of you for sharing your testimony and also for serving another week down here (same goes for L’il Buzz). Your story (not just your testimony) is a powerful one, and given how God is shaping your life, I think you’ll find that you are poised to rock some worlds and break some chains wherever you land. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you. Just make sure you pick carefully on the Tiger/Crimson Tide decision. Just sayin’…
Allison - Girl, you absolutely transformed on this trip. Watching you blossom from a strong Christian to a missionary and then into a mighty woman of God was something to behold, and I feel honored to have a front row seat. Few people have pursued God so aggressively, listened to him, and embraced the power He gives us. You are now a fully fledged prayer warrior - I’ll always ring you when we need reinforcements (maybe start with the foot parasites I might be running from?)! Seriously - your growth on this trip was explosive and exponential. SO proud of you. All the best in C-town this fall.
Emily - The Prophetess: seriously, there are oceans of power, love, and strength in you that I don’t really think anyone can fathom. You have a story and a perspective few can match, and the humility with which you approach it is something we should all aspire to demonstrate. Seriously - I believe you are one of the people God is raising up to speak to the masses, and mountains will move in people’s lives. You can relate to ANYONE, and I simply love being around you. Keep pouring into our children in FH Kids - they don’t know how blessed they are right now, but someday they will.
Alison - So Jenny loved meeting you and serving with you, and I was thrilled to learn that everything she said about you was true and then some. I don’t know if I’ve EVER seen such a fire and passion for Christ, and I feel honored to have been on this journey with you. Thank you for your prayers, your advice, your heart, and especially for the opportunity to fulfill a dream and preach the Word. And of course, thanks for rebuking the largest storm in the Western Hemisphere so that people could actually hear my message. May your ministry continue to grow and the great soul harvest continue. God is on the move. AMEN.
Angie - The Atomic City Missionary: thank you, thank you, thank you. And not just for being a great person. Not just for being an incredible host. THANK YOU for answering God’s call to this incredible place. Thank you for touching lives in the way you’ve adopted the culture, learned the language, and most of all cared for these people. I will be honest and say I can’t do what you can do and have done for these people, and I am SO thankful God has placed angels like you on this earth to be the light in the darkness you have been. All the best with what will certainly be a tough transition. Remember that people love you in both places, and both of them will always be home. Thank you for helping to make this trip possible. It was an answered prayer and a dream come true.
Jazmin - so, I didn’t know you really at all before this trip. I now can’t imagine not knowing you and am so thankful you are at Freedom House. I know Emily has already told you this, but you are a powerhouse waiting to explode. Your are smart, in love with Christ, focused on the right things, have a heart to serve, are easily adaptable, and have an incredible story on top of all that. People simply MUST see the rock that you have become, forged in the fires of adversity and willing to help everyone in every way imaginable. As with Allison, I am SO PROUD of you for stepping out in faith - both to Haiti and the hot seat. Just maybe next time text your boyfriend good night before you pass out.
Lastly, the people of Haiti - the inhabitants of the pearl of the Antilles: thank you for welcoming us. Thank you for smiles, laughs, hugs, and life lessons. Thank you for allowing us to reflect on our priorities and our lives. Thank you for opening up your lives, your homes, and your country to us. We have received so much from you, and we pray that we’ve managed to sow at least something small back in. Thank you for everything. We will see you again.
Okay, that will do it from Grand Goave. I am signing off, elated, exhausted, and at peace. Godspeed Team Haiti back to their respective homes.
Love to all back stateside,