Simply put, today was a great day. All of our days here have been full of joy and laughter, but today that joy just seemed a little freer and that laughter a little louder. And they were flowing from every direction. Our team has watched the pavilion roof taking shape over the past four days, and yesterday and today more than one person stopped to stare at the surprising beauty of wood and metal coming together in a seemingly perfect octagon. I don’t know what it is, but there is just something striking about that pavilion. It might be the way the new metal catches your eye when it reflects the Haitian sunlight as it’s lifted into place, it might be the fact that it provides such a cool and shaded resting place to pile water bottles and hold heavy children, it might be the sheer uniqueness of it’s shape in a village of square and rectangular buildings, or it might be because it’s just another visual reminder of the goodness of the Lord and his faithfulness in growing Oedwa. It truly is stunning, and our prayer is that it will be used to faithfully carry out the Lord’s work in the days to come.

People couldn’t stop for too long to stare at that pavilion, however, because Thong Pham’s remote control drone was busily zipping in and out of the air, up and down and all around the orphanage. Randy and he have been taking aerial pictures of the land all week and that has been attracting the attention of all the kids, but today Thong captivated them to an even greater extent. I was standing between a large rock and the pole of a solar powered light trying my best to keep the soccer ball out of that makeshift goal when I heard a wave of incredibly loud squeals followed closely by the hum of Thong’s soaring drone. He had attached a plastic cup to its base with bright green tape and was trying to figure out how to make the lifesaver candy he had placed in the cup pour out over the giggling children. He moved the drone back and forth in an attempt to tilt the cup, and after a few minutes of testing maneuvers there were lifesavers dropping into excited hands from about 20 feet up. It was such a random, spontaneous moment, but it created some of the loudest laughter and biggest smiles from kids and team members alike that I’ve seen all week. Well, at least until bright orange and white soccer uniforms and brand new cleats were pulled out of dusty duffel bags and handed over to some of Williamson’s brightest rising soccer stars. Fiya and Lulu and Emmanuelson and Jobenson and a dozen others donned those uniforms with the Oedwa logo with pride, and we marched across the street, about fifteen feet, into the orphanage next door to play a soccer game against their blue and black uniformed team. School benches became bleachers, people lined the dusty, uneven field, and cheers erupted when the two teams took the field. Our boys scored first and I only hope one of the many amateur photographers got a picture of their acrobatic celebration worthy of a place on SportsCenter’s top ten. It was awesome. The boys in blue tied it up with an early second half goal and after a competitive overtime we went to penalty kicks where it came down to the last shot, which was rocketed home to land Oedwa the victory. Again we saw ridiculously magnificent smiles and yells of the joyous triumph that will be familiar to anyone who ever had a victory in childhood sports and felt like they just conquered the world. In all my times here, that soccer game was definitely one of my favorite experiences. That game, the drone dropping candy, the construction of the pavilion roof, all the singing and little conversations that happened today and brought so much joy – those things alone are enough to make a day great. But we spent just as much time in the village continuing to share the gospel and deliver Bibles, and that just added to the joy of this day. As with the previous three days, there were countless stories of people coming to know the Lord, notes in Bibles saying exactly what was needed at particular homes, powerful prayers being lifted up, and exciting expressions of gratitude and praise pouring out of individuals our team talked with, among so many other experiences. There was one moment in the village today that demands a detailed account just because of the sheer evidence of God working through this experience:

“Our group got split up and as we were talking to people at separate homes, TJ went ahead and wandered further up the mountain. TJ told us through the walkie talkie to come and meet up with him because he heard singing coming from a structure up the mountain and wanted us to check it out. We finally got to the top and realized that a church service was going on in basically a wall-less structure made up of columns with a tarp roof. The people had marked out the church area with large white stones and filled it with small white ones, and all of them had removed their shoes – that place of worship was special and holy to them. There were about 35 people listening to a pastor passionately preach. We gathered the Bibles we had in our backpacks and TJ told him what we were doing and he invited us to stay and listen until the end of his sermon. We got to listen to end of the sermon while Peterson quietly translated, and I remember him saying ‘Seek the Lord first.’ After the pastor finished, he asked TJ to introduce the team and prayed for us – one of the most powerful prayers I have ever heard. They all received Bibles (we had just enough thanks to the Lord’s providence in prompting Fiya to put a Bible in his otherwise empty backpack), and afterwards they began singing ‘I Surrender All.’ Here they are with barely anything, and they’re surrendering it all. Prayers continued to be lifted up, and eventually the entire church began praying aloud and all I could do was cry and thank the Lord for leading our path to these brothers and sisters in Christ. The view was beautiful, the people were passionate about the word of God, and God was present.”

That is the reason we are here. We are here to spread the gospel to those who do not know the name of Jesus Christ and to encourage fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Beyond that, only the Lord really knows what each of us as individuals are doing here. Thong shared his story tonight, and how a little boy from Vietnam ended up speaking to this Tennessean in Haiti just blows my mind. How all of our stories have been woven over the years and why they are intersecting now is something on most of our minds tonight. Why are we here, what is God doing, what is His plan? I don’t really know those answers for me personally right now, but I do know this: God is doing something. He’s doing everything; everything He always knew would happen at this moment in his plan to reach his glorious purposes is happening right now, and we are simply getting to join Him in what He’s already doing. It has been incredible to see, and I cannot wait to see what’s He has in store for us tomorrow. And what He has in store for us when we return home on Sunday, because he’s working in Jackson too. He’s working everywhere. And that gives me so much hope and so much peace in a world where those can be hard to come by.   But as a man reminded me in the village today, nothing is hard to come by, nothing is impossible, if you have God on your side. Please pray that our team will rest well tonight in preparation for an exciting but difficult day tomorrow as we continue to see God move but are also faced with saying goodbyes to the people we’ve grown to call family.