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Today was an incredible and emotional day. We began the day by splitting into three groups and praying over different people in the village of Williamson. It was a blessing to get to know these people, where they came from, and where they are at in life. Most of the families needed prayer for their health, finances, and spirituality. One of the ladies we came in contact with in particular was the infamous “Witchcraft” lady. She came up to us in the middle of the road (which was incredible and shocking) and began asking us to pray for her. She wanted prayer for her family, herself, and an occupation. This was remarkable for us to witness. The majority of the families knew Jesus, and claimed they were Christians. However, we were asked to pray for a specific young man who’s girlfriend (who we talked to) is a Christian. He is pulling her the other way and making it difficult for her to follow Christ. There are so many stories we can tell from our experience in the village, but we will leave that for the team to explain in detail, considering there were three groups (and we were both in the same group).

Once we were back at the orphanage, one group went ahead to head back to Kaliko with a sick team member (who is much better now ☺). The second group was left at OEDWA to wait for the other bus to take them. However, we waited…and waited…and waited. Apparently the bus driver didn’t get the memo to come back to transport us! The bus finally came about an hour later, and we quickly went back to Kaliko to eat. We were anxious to come back to OEDWA and spend the last few hours with our precious children. Once we were all back, many of the children prepared and dressed for the soccer game. It was a fun time for all of us, and the neighboring orphanages got to share a special afternoon together. Before the game, TJ spoke to both orphanages as a group about the importance of sharing, caring for one another, and loving each other as Christ loves us.

After a hot soccer game, we went back to the dreaded last moments together. This past week has been incredible for every team member on this trip. We have all laughed together, worked together, cried together, and loved as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our amazing Savior has a plan for each one of us, and we were so blessed to be able to go on this trip. Even though it was our last day with the children, we can rest in the fact that The Lord has the children in His hands and will take care of them better than any one of us could. It was so difficult to say goodbye to them, and we would be lying if we said there weren’t many tears. However, we like to think of it as a “see you later” rather than a goodbye.

Thank you for reading this blog throughout the week, Thank you for praying for us each day and night as we went through this incredible, exhausting, and rewarding journey. Please continue to pray for us tomorrow as we travel home. Pray for us as we cope with leaving these children behind. They have given us so much more than we have given to them, and we were so blessed to spend this time with them.

We will leave Kaliko around 9 in the morning, and travel to the Haitian museum. Following that, we will head to the airport and begin the journey back to America! Our flight leaves Port Au Prince at 3:50, and we have a layover in Miami. We should return to Nashville about 10:15 tomorrow night. Thank you for your prayers and support during this time! We appreciate it and hope you continue to hear the awesome stories about events that have occurred this week. To God be the glory!

Alex and Breanne

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Haiti Happy- Day 6

Happy Birthday!!

Today was yet another amazing and fun day. This morning, about half of our team traveled to Mission of Hope for church. What an honor to see so many different people from different cultures worship together as a body of Christ. It didn’t matter what language you spoke or where you are from; it was an incredible experience to say the least! We sang “Oh Happy Day!” and “I’ll Fly Away” along with several others in Creole. Although the majority was in Creole, we were still able to worship our God whole-heartedly.

Those who have been to church at Mission of Hope before stayed back to help Mo decorate for the birthday party. We all finished decorating when we returned and the children came running off the bus in no time. They began their afternoon by filling their plates completely full and quickly ate. And they sure did eat a lot. (Every single child has gained weight TWO trips in a row. Praise God for that!!!) When they were done, they were allowed to open their bags full of surprises from their sponsor families. Watching this was an amazing experience seeing how ecstatic they were. They were all truly thankful for each and every thing in their bags. It didn’t matter if it was deodorant or a new swimsuit, they were so appreciative. It was such a humbling experience. After opening their presents, they didn’t waste any time and quickly jumped into the pool. It looked like a wave pool with all the jumping, splashing, and playing. They played hard all afternoon and enjoyed every minute of it. Each and every one of us had such a fun afternoon. It was by far the best afternoon of the trip so far.

Tonight, before dinner, I (Alex Potts), along with Alexandra Richardson and Ashley Faulkner had the privilege of being baptized in the beautiful Sea of Haiti. It was absolutely incredible experiencing this. Having 47 other brothers and sisters in Christ surround you for support and to show their love was so encouraging. In saying all this, today was a big day! A lot happened, and we were so grateful for every second of it.

We are, however, beginning to dread saying goodbye to these precious children. It seems like just yesterday we were coming off of the plane into the Port Au Prince airport. Tomorrow is our last day at OEDWA, our last day in the village, and ultimately our last day in Haiti. Pray that we look past these “last” things and just continue to enjoy our day. Pray that we make a lasting impression on the children, the village people, Pastor, and everyone we come in contact with. Pray for the three girls that got baptized today. Pray that we walk in sync with Christ and that we show light and His love to every person around us. We have absolutely loved the past six days here in Williamson, and are so blessed to have this opportunity to share the love of Christ to everyone we come in contact with.

-Alex and Breanne

Haiti Happy- Day 4

Today was an adventurous day. Today consisted of VBS, playing and loving on children, painting, pouring concrete, pier jumping, hiking and exploring the Haitian market. We started off the day at Mercy and Sharing teaching the children about how Peter denied Jesus three times. We spoke about how God still loved Peter even though he denied Him; nothing we could ever do could make Jesus stop loving us. We taught the lesson like we did yesterday. We had Melissa speaking, Bikenson translating and a drama team acted out the scene. After, we played a game and did crafts. Part of the team rode back to the village and the others, like yesterday, hiked down from Mercy and Sharing. When we all got back to the orphanage, we left to go to lunch.

After lunch, we got back in a bucket line to finish the concrete for the kitchen. We finally got all of the concrete laid and it looks so great. After the concrete was finished, we began painting the bathroom privacy wall. Let’s just talk about this for a minute. The paint was literally water. It took about 15 minutes to FINALLY get the paint stirred up. After that, it still took about 20 coats (not exaggerating) to finish. However, we got it and it now matches the rest of the buildings! Throughout the afternoon, TJ and Bikenson took groups of 5-10 people to the market to see the Haitian culture and what market day is really like. It was a very smelly, busy, exciting and good experience. It is really neat to see first hand how the Haitians live day to day. The majority of our team finished out our hot and busy day with some fun pier jumping in this beautiful ocean.

As this week is quickly coming to an end, please pray that we finish strong. Pray that the birthday party goes well tomorrow and everyone has a great time. Pray that even though we are having fun, we still show the love of God to everyone around us, not just the children. We need to use this fun opportunity to grow God’s kingdom and make disciples of Christ. These precious children mean so much to us, and we want to lead them to be a light in this dark world.

-Alex and Breanne

Day 2

Today was an exhausting, hot and incredible day. We arrived at the orphanage this morning ready to love, work and play with the children. Some of our team quickly began working to hang colorful Christmas lights around the pavilion. TJ’s favorite thing to do this morning was making fun of the “single ladies” on the trip and forcing them to pick a picnic table up with him on it so he was able to hang more lights around the roof; little did he know, he had a lot of strong girls picking him up. He was taken aback when they all picked the picnic table up—he nearly hit his head on the roof. Kristen was able to care for a few of the children that were not feeling well. We prayed over children and asked our great God for healing.
After lunch, we returned to the orphanage; around 12 of our team members went to Mercy and Sharing about 15 minutes away to meet the children and staff. There, they were able to find more details about VBS and just used that time to acquaint with that orphanage. The majority of our children went to Mercy and Sharing to meet the orphans. They were excited to get on the bus and go somewhere new for a fun afternoon. The rest of the team stayed behind at the orphanage to move more sand and rocks to continue to lay the foundation of the kitchen.

It’s so, so incredible seeing firsthand what God has done for this orphanage in Haiti; it is almost unbelievable seeing what God has allowed Fellowship to accomplish. The team is so thankful for the work that has been put into this orphanage and we are carrying on the tradition. It was so, so hot today, but we worked together as brothers and sisters in Christ to shovel up concrete, pass the buckets, and lay it down. In the famous words of TJ, “my sweat is sweating.” Although it was a lot of sweating, we finally got a good bit of concrete laid today! We spent the afternoon working, laughing, sweating and playing with the children.

As Christians, we know how powerful prayer is. Please pray for strength to finish the tasks that we are assigned to do. Pray for those precious children. Pray that they will see our love that we have for them that is given through our Savior. Pray that we will follow God’s will in every situation and that we will maintain unity throughout the week. Pray that we do not underestimate the power of love that God has given us to share with these children.

Alex and Breanne

Day 3

I am sitting in a little cove off of the main patio writing this blog and listening to conversations about our day. “Her laugh makes me so happy.” “I love how the children come up to you with their arms up asking you to hold them.” “It’s so crazy how a child you have never met just grabs your hand and walks with you.” “I’m going to hear car horns in my sleep because the Haitians honk so much.” These are all accurate quotes from the day. After breakfast, we loaded up not go to the orphanage, but to go to Mercy and Sharing to have VBS. Children from our orphanage, the village and Mercy and Sharing all showed up to learn about Jesus. It was so incredible. Melissa spoke about how Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. As she spoke, Bikenson translated in Creole; a drama team also acted out the story. After the lesson, we broke off into groups to do a craft with the children. It was hard communicating, considering there were not enough translators, but as always, our God pulled through and it was a successful time. After the craft, we all went back into the church to play a game all together. It was amazing seeing the passion and love that the children have for Jesus. It was a successful first morning at VBS.

After VBS ended, we had a group load up on the buses with some of our children to head down the rocky, windy road back to the orphanage. The rest of the team walked down the mountain. When we all arrived at the orphanage, we loaded up on the buses. We had a small problem—one of the buses wouldn’t start. We had to make two separate trips from the orphanage to Kaliko. It was unexpected, but everyone cooperated and though lunch was late for some, we all got to eat and rest before heading back to continue the kitchen at the orphanage.

We had another bucket line today. Surprising, right? We were able to move so much rock and sand from one end of the orphanage to the other. After passing roughly 100 buckets, we started to lay more concrete for the kitchen. It was a very effective afternoon in construction. We still have a way to go, but it is definitely coming together. The children were precious, as always today. So many of them were helping while we continued construction with the biggest smile on their face. It is such a blessing that they are willing to help us. We never have to ask; they are always there with a smile on their face ready to work.

Tomorrow, we are headed back to Mercy and Sharing to share the gospel with the precious Haitians. Please pray for our time at VBS. Pray that the children and adults will know the magnitude of God’s love for them. Pray for our team to have safe travels from the orphanage, to Kaliko and to Mercy and Sharing. The bus that quit working is now working again, so pray that it continues to run. Pray for unity, strength, rest and for us to continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus as He sets tasks before us.

-Alex and Breanne

#HaitiHappy- Day 1

Where to begin? Today marked our first full day in Haiti, and it indeed was full. Yesterday was an exhausting day full of traveling and new experiences for many. This morning, all I heard was, “I slept so well last night.” “I never woke up once!” Our team definitely needed the rest we received last night to begin the day. During breakfast, conversation buzzed about how each and every one of us were excited to see the precious children that have stolen our heart. We got on the bus to embark on our bumpy, windy, tilty and HOT drive to the orphanage so dear to our hearts. As we arrived at the orphanage, the children quickly ran to give us hugs that never get old. Clay Pierce passed out animal crackers, which was like watching bees swarming a hive; they could not get enough. “More, more, more” echoed throughout the air and the bag quickly ran out. Some of our team went to touch up the paint on the pavilion, while the others got in a line to move rocks of all sizes to get ready to lay the concrete for the kitchen. We loved, played, sang and talked to the children throughout the morning. We left for lunch, talking about how God worked that morning and how we needed to reenergize for the busy afternoon of construction ahead.

This is my first time in Haiti, and on the first day I realized why we joke about schedules and time while we were here. We got back from lunch and we were ready to start on construction. We played with the children for what seemed like a long time. We waited, and waited, and waited for Boss NoNo to show up to give us the okay for construction. Of course, we didn’t mind spending the afternoon with the children in our arms sleeping, laughing or talking, but we needed to get started on the foundation of the kitchen. Boss NoNo arrived and the beloved bucket line returned. We all lined up to pass buckets filled with the sand required to make the concrete. We passed the buckets for roughly 45 minutes. We took a “shade break” to play with the children because we were quickly becoming tired passing concrete in the hot sun. Time quickly passed, and it was time to go to dinner. We said good-bye to the precious children and told them that we would see them tomorrow. We got on the bus and drove the familiar drive back to the orphanage. After dinner, we worshipped and broke down the busy, exhausting, incredible and emotional day.

I asked some of the team members their favorite memory of today. Here they are:

“I gave Jobenson the letter Lacy had for him. His smile was so big and he would not leave my side after making that connection.”

“Meeting the children for the first time and automatically feeling at home.”

“Being reunited with Stephanie and seeing the smile on her face and hearing that sweet laugh.”

“Seeing how happy the children are and how much they have grown since the previous trip.”

“I sang “Bless The Lord” with a child and I will absolutely never forget that experience.”

“Seeing my little girl run up to me when I step off the bus. She remembers me every trip and it melts my heart.”

“This is my first trip, and none of the children really know me. A child came up to me, hugged me and told me that she loved me. That really showed me God’s love.”

“Santonio said ‘Pastor Randy’ with his arms reaching up and melted in my arms as I picked him up.”

“Gladina was sick this morning. She was running a fever and not feeling well at all. I prayed over her and waited for Kristen to bring her some Ibuprofen. When Kristen came (not knowing I had prayed over Gladina), Kristen asked Gladina if she could pray over her. Kristen then proceeded to pray almost word for word what I had just prayed for Gladina.”

Please pray for our team; pray for our strength to complete the tasks set before us tomorrow. Pray that we will show God’s steadfast love to those wonderful children. Pray that we will show Christ’s love through every action and that we will be willing to do whatever He calls us to do.

-Alex and Breanne

Haiti Day 6, A Big Day

The best way I can describe our last full day in Haiti is to say that it was big. We experienced the spectrum of human emotions as we learned of death, encountered spiritual darkness, led people to Christ, witnessed a marriage proposal, said goodbyes to new family, watched multiple baptisms, and, as with every day this trip, felt the presence of God in very real ways. Such a big day. We got to breakfast this morning and TJ told us that he had learned of the death of his uncle back home in Arkansas, a man who was like a second father to him. Facing death is hard under any circumstances, but it felt especially hard today as we considered the fact that TJ was far from his family and still responsible for the well being of the 29 other people on this trip. And though the initial tone of the early morning was solemn, we were quickly reminded that death has no sting in our lives because we serve the one who defeated death, the one who saw the death of TJ’s uncle coming and the one who knew it was going to be used in an unexpected way in advance. We went right out to the village when we arrived at the orphanage and TJ led three of the four groups up the mountain to cut across to a major road on the far side of Williamson. We didn’t expect to meet anyone along our path, but as we crossed in front of a house in the process of construction, someone called out and we stopped. Six men were working there so we approached them and TJ began to talk to the man who first called out to us. We quickly learned that the man was a voodoo priest in the village, and TJ was able to ask him tough questions about what he believed and why. The man kept saying that he couldn’t follow Christ today but maybe he could tomorrow. My mind went to the parable of the young rich man who wanted to get his affairs in order before following Christ, but thankfully TJ’s went to a different story, a story that was still fresh and heavy on his heart. He shared that his uncle and his father were out in the fields at home yesterday and that his uncle was probably thinking about tomorrow when he took his final breath. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, and he asked why this man would want to wait until tomorrow to start following the Lord of light and King of kings. He let us pray for him and his five companions, one of whom claimed to be a Christian and who Jenny encouraged to be bold in sharing his faith, and I truly believe the Lord will do a mighty work in their lives. The Lord put us on that path, prompted that voodoo priest to call out to us, and used the death of TJ’s uncle to help share the gospel, and I refuse to believe that was all in vain. Nothing done in the name of the Lord is without purpose, and that is something we have been reminded of all week long. It was a big conversation, a big moment. As the groups split and continued along different paths, we gained more brothers and sisters in Christ and experienced God using little details to achieve the works he planned for us in advance. Forty people have trusted Jesus Christ with their lives this week, and all of the Bibles that came here with us have been placed in the hands of excited and thankful recipients of God’s word. There has been an evening revival taking place at Pastor’s throughout the week, and we were told that 300 people came last night, many with their Bib Las in hand. That’s so big.

Then when we returned from the village this morning we got to sing our favorite song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” with our favorite children. After which, Cody Nelson stood up and began talking about how thankful he was for the children at Pastor’s and then seamlessly transitioned into how thankful he was that he has now gotten to experience Haiti twice with his girlfriend, Dawn Tomlinson. Then he said that you know you’ve found the one when you can lead someone to Christ together, and with the help of some of the children closest to them, Cody got down on one knee and said, “Ou pral marye avec m’?” To which Dawn joyfully and tearfully responded, “Wi!” That was big for the two of them, and big for all of us who got to see the initiation of a marriage that will no doubt be honoring to the God Cody and Dawn serve.

After a lunch full of congratulations and ring admiration, we returned to the orphanage for the hardest party of any trip to Haiti, the goodbyes. The children who have accepted Christ as their savior are already family, but all of them become even more like family after six days of endless love and laughter and unexpected lessons. Despite the language barrier and age and cultural differences, I almost feel like I have a deeper relationship with some of these children than I do with some people at home. And I think that comes from the fact that my relationships with the children here are so incredibly simple and Christ-centered, and they are exactly what the Lord intends relationships to be. That’s a big challenge for the rest of my life; form relationships with others in a way that honors my savior who formed a relationship with me. TJ has been obsessed with the idiom “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” this week, and as silly as it may seem, I think that phrase kind of fits the relationships between our team members and the children of Oedwa. The proof of the relationship is in the interaction. It’s in the Crenglish (Creole and English) conversations that happened all week; it’s in the handwritten notes that have been exchanged; it’s in the hugs and holding hands; it’s in the flat soccer balls deflated from constant mini soccer games; it’s in the pictures of sponsors hung on the walls and names of people painted on the concrete; it’s in the tears that were shed and the smiles that were shared as we said goodbye this afternoon. You want proof of the lasting relationships that we say were formed in only six days time? Look at the interactions, whether by scrolling through the hundreds of pictures we will want to show you or listening to the hundreds of stories we will want to tell you. There’s your beautiful, humbling proof. It’s big.

We thought our day couldn’t get any more emotional, and then we walked down to the ocean and got to witness the baptisms of four of our team members. Kara, Sam, Dawn, and Hannah had all already surrendered their lives to Christ, but had never experienced baptism as a means to follow Christ’s example to believers. It was incredible to celebrate obedience in such a beautiful place after an incredible week during which God laid it on these four daughters’ hearts to be baptized as his son was baptized. That was big.

This was a big day and this was a big trip. Tonight after we worshipped together in our team devotional, TJ opened the floor for team members to simply share about what they saw the Lord doing this week. Story after story after story after story of God’s provision and providence, faithfulness and goodness, purpose and planning, knowledge and power, love and peace, greatness and gloriousness. It was humbling and incredible to hear. As one team member said tonight, God is alive. He is alive. The God who people across the earth read about in Bibles in thousands of languages, the God who knows every one of his creations by name, the God who makes the waves crash on the beach and lets the sun set with glorious color, the God who conquered death and evil and darkness forever and ever is alive. That phrase holds so much weight and so much power, and it became incredibly real to us this week. Pray that we never again take that truth for granted.

Tomorrow we will travel to Mission of Hope for church before we leave this beautiful country for the time being. I am leaving it up the members of this team to describe to you what they experience, but I will tell you this: worshipping in English and Creole with a thousand other brothers in sisters in Christ, all of us from different backgrounds with different stories, is the closest thing I can guess worshipping in heaven will be like one day, as it says in Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Mesi Jezi, thank you Jesus. We have experienced incredible unity in Christ this week, we will see it tomorrow in church, and our prayer is that we will continue to see it when we return home and for the rest of our days, for “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). That’s big.

Pray for safety as our team travels home and peace as we process this week over the days to come.

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.

Over the past three days, we have gained more than 20 new brothers and sisters in Christ in Williamson and have given out around 400 Bibles. But as TJ said tonight, it’s not about the numbers; it’s about God’s glory and the power in the name of Jesus Christ.

This trip has been incredibly unique in that we are not only getting to see God leave a mark on the orphanage, but we’re also getting to see him leave a mark throughout the village. There are Bibles in corners of Williamson that have never seen the light of Christ. I just imagine standing on top of one of the beautiful mountains that rise up behind Williamson and looking down at the irregularly placed rows of houses to see hundreds of beams of glorious light reaching from heaven to earth, with their glow beginning to reach the darkness that is steadily fleeing this place. How amazing is our God who has done all this and who brought all of us together at this time for his purposes.

A lot of conversations about where the orphanage started and where it is today have taken place over the past two days, and that alone is yet another testament to God’s faithfulness in watching over this place. Yesterday all of the children were measured, photographed, and weighed, and every single one of them has gained weight in the past three months. The Lord has taken them from malnourishment to three meals a day. Today all of the children were given letters from their sponsors and team members who have grown to love them over the past few days. The Lord has taken them from the ranks of orphans to the ranks of His children, and to places as family in the lives of all of those who love them so dearly. How good is our God. And oh how His goodness showed up throughout the village today. One group was invited into a schoolroom where the teacher/pastor passionately sang to them and lifted his hands high in prayer for them as his students quietly mumbled prayers across the room.

Another group had a woman following them all day, wanting them to hurry up and get to her house to pray for her and give her a Bible. Her house was their last stop, and when they got there they prayed over her and then started talking to a girl who had been with her during the day. This girl wanted to accept Christ as her savior, and they were able to pray with her and give her a Bible of her own as well.

Yet another group was talking with a young man who talked for a long time with them and wanted to be saved. He spoke about having a nightmare where he was unable to get out of a grave where he had been put even though he was still alive. Someone was able to share that Christ was in a grave too, but he overcame that grave. Then Hannah shared that when she has nightmares she will sit and pray to the Lord and that it is promised that demons will flee from his name of Jesus. His face lit up, and he was all in about a relationship with this powerful God.

Someone else spoke with two women who had actually been praying for a Bible. One of them knew English and was able to read the letter at the front of the Bible herself. Then Dawn and Pypo went off from the group to go to one extra house, and Pypo was able to help her lead someone in that house to Christ as well. It’s amazing to see God use Pastor’s children with us in this ministry outside the orphanage walls. What an incredible picture of the united body of Christ.

It was powerful to see team members listening to urges from God that He placed on their hearts all throughout the day, whether that be pulling a Bible verse out of their back pocket to share with a family, stopping at the beginning of a street that everyone else passed by, leaving a Bible at a door where no one was home, asking to pray for someone else at a house who wasn’t involved in the initial conversation, or turning back to speak to a man who had watched us pass by from a distance, a man who later proclaimed with amazement and joy, “I have a Bible of my very own!” And then tonight TJ called Mark, a man who serves at Kaliko, into our team devotional to be prayed over because the Lord put the staff here on TJ’s heart too. We prayed for Mark and his son Givenson who is in the hospital dealing with typhoid or malaria. I ask that right now you stop and pray for him too. You are a part of God’s work here too. Everyone who has prayed, given financially, written in Bibles, supported team members in their decision to come to Haiti – God has ordained you to be a part of this ministry.   It’s dizzying to think about the beautifully complex way God has weaved together this moment with these people under these circumstances at this time. It’s something that leaves me speechless with just a smile on my face and a shiver in my body. Our God is mighty and faithful, and I can’t get the words Kara and Brianne sang tonight out of my head: The ground began to shake, the stone was rolled away, His perfect love could not be overcome. Now death, where is your sting? Our resurrected king has rendered you defeated! Forever He is glorified, forever He is lifted high, forever He is risen, He is alive, He is alive. God is alive in Williamson tonight. Pray that He will continue His good work tomorrow, and that He will bless our eyes to see it.

Tonight I don’t want you to read about our daily schedule. I don’t want the hugeness of what God is doing here to be missed or overlooked because I’m getting in the way by trying to describe what we did hour to hour throughout the day. I encourage you to ask your friends and family that when they return home – start a continuous dialogue about God’s work in Haiti and what they experienced as individuals with unique experiences. For now, let me tell you about what the Lord did in our day, not what we did in our routine. The Lord gifted Randy and Phillip with carpentry skills so that they could continue work on the roof for the pavilion. They finished the main supports and began hammering the support rafters in place in preparation for the next steps tomorrow. It was so encouraging to be able to see their work rising up and taking shape at Pastor’s whether we were sharing the gospel up the mountain or down the hill towards the market. Our resident dentist Joe was able to use his God-given gifts to good effect today too, pulling around 30 teeth to relieve the pain of some of our children and villagers who lined up and waited even through lunch to see him. His hands were at work for the Lord in a very practical way as he, Jenny, and an interpreter named Dominique examined mouths plagued by abscesses and rotted teeth, all while smiling and sharing the gospel through the gifts of Creole Bibles. Most of our team went back out in the village again, and the Lord was just as much at work today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow:

“I started making small talk with a woman on her porch and asked about the peanut shells I saw on her porch. She had been shelling them and I just mentioned that I loved peanuts. We got to spend some time talking with her and when I reached for my backpack to pull a Bible out, Julie stopped me and said she had one ready. I handed it to our translator Didi and when he opened it and began to read the letter inside, I realized my brother wrote it and that it said exactly what I believe the Lord need this lady and me to hear. Out of 700 Bibles, that was the one Julie handed me. As we left, the lady put her hands in mine and gave me a small bag of peanuts.”

“Everyone was so eager to get a Bible, to get something that could be theirs. They wanted to be able to own that Bible and it reminded me of just how little they have and precious the word of God is.”

“One conversation that stuck out to me was with a lady who was standing in front of us with her child, talking about how her husband beat her so much that she became barren after she had her first child. Kierstie was able to talk to her about God’s unfailing love and how He wants us to never settle for the things of this world, like conditional human love, when He promises so much more.”

“After everything that I’ve seen, I don’t what the kids at Pastor’s would be doing right now if it weren’t for the Lord’s faithfulness in bringing TJ, Fellowship, and this place together.”

“As we were talking with people, Fiyah and Clifton began to take the lead on translating our English into Creole and even asked if they could pray for families instead of us. Even when Fiyah wasn’t speaking he was repeating what Peterson translated as a way to practice. One time he even prayed in English while someone else translated to Creole for me. That was awesome.”

“I met Emmanuelson today and thought, ‘I want to be his friend.’ As the day progressed he played soccer with me, was involved in a matching game I played with other kids, was a leader for our group when we walked around the village, and was holding my hand by mid-afternoon. The precious boy stole my heart and had me in tears.”

“At one point Cody was speaking to a group of around 25 or 30 people about the gospel and when he asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior, 3 people came forward and kneeled to pray and be prayed for, adding to the ranks of God’s faithful in Williamson.”

“Yesterday Clayton talked about being asked, ‘What is your dream for tomorrow?’ I got to talk to Fiyah today and I asked him what his biggest dream was and he said that he wanted to be an engineer. And a pastor. And told him why not do both? Ministry can be in everything.”

“After everything this afternoon it hit me how precious the word of God is. I have probably six Bibles in my room and these people were crowding around us and praising God in the streets for bringing them a Bible of their own. It made me realize how often we take the Bible for granted.”

The Lord is working here. He’s showing himself and his character to everyone, Haitian and American, in very personal ways. For me, this has been through his creation. He sat me down in front of another one of his perfect sunsets, with his golden sunlight shining on water I can only describe as glass-like in color and flawlessness, and streaking through one massive gray-blue cloud that seemed to perfectly mirror the mountains behind me that I cherish so dearly. I see God in his creation. And I saw team members all around me – lying on the pier, resting under a tree, sitting at the water’s edge, swimming in the pool – talking and writing in journals about where they are seeing the Lord. Ask them about how and where they see the Lord. Randy spoke tonight from Luke 9 and following and talked about how this trip, what the Lord is doing here, is “unusual and rare and sweet.” What a precious reminder of the power and extraordinary character of the God that brought us all here at this moment in time. The Lord and his work and his timing and his purposes are anything but ordinary. It’s really indescribable to see Him at work, and I think there’s a beauty and strange peace to be found in the fact that we serve a God who is so vast and so powerful that our limited understanding can’t comprehend his limitless abilities. Pray that He will continue to open his people’s eyes and hearts to anything and everything that is from Him, whether we understand it or not.

Right now I’m sitting under the dining pavilion with a lingering taste of pasta and sour guava fruit in my mouth listening to bits of conversation drifting across the room over the sound of tubadu (Haitian music-the internet can spell check that). “Am I burned?” “Look at this tan line.” “Where did your group walk in the village today?” “What was your favorite part of today?” “Yeah, she fell right asleep in my lap and I couldn’t move. “What kind of sauce is that?” It was our first full day here, and it was indeed full. This morning after breakfast we went straight to the orphanage and instead of forming bucket lines and concrete mixing stations like we have on so many trips before, we spent 20 minutes carrying lumber to the new pavilion area and spent the rest of the morning playing with kids, with the exception of our skilled carpenters Randy and Phillip who began work on the pavilion’s roof. Thus, the morning was full of introductions, full of mixed Creole and English conversations, full of laughter, and full of fun. There’s something incredibly relaxing and restful in chasing a smiling seven year old around in circles until both of you are out breath and don’t think you can run anymore. Until you do five minutes later. Looking across the orphanage I saw the beginnings of dozens of lasting, impactful relationships and it simply made me smile and hug those kids I’m closest to a little tighter.   By mid-morning the orphanage was full of new faces as the mobile clinic from Mission of Hope arrived on property. The church filled with children as MOH staff and volunteers and a visiting pediatric surgeon, whom we met last night at Kaliko, began check-ups and diagnostics. Thanks be to God that there were only minor ailments and injuries that necessitated attention, though our resident team dentist Joe Leonard got to exercise his expertise and pulled two hurting teeth from brave and numb-mouth children. Then we all packed up, headed back to Kaliko for a quick lunch, and loaded up our back packs with three Bibles apiece (which take up more space and are heavier than you might assume) to go back to the village for our first real taste of what was planned months ago with the announcement that our main supplies for this trip were Creole Bibles. Walkie-talkies in hand, we split up into four groups that headed in four different directions and returned with four different sets of experiences, 29 different individual experiences. God is at work in Williamson and we were lucky enough to see that firsthand today:

“I was shocked by how receptive they were. In America most people just shut their doors when unexpected visitors knock. We talked to one older lady whose husband died six years ago and as she was telling us about it and we were talking she got really emotional and that showed how real what God’s doing is. And my initial take on Haitian men was that they are always very serious, but we shared with one man who had the biggest smile and was very expressive the whole time. When I looked back he was looking through the Bible we left and it was cool to see the importance of that gift. “

“Everything was wonderful. Cody led a man to Christ and that was incredible. His name was Jackson, which I thought was neat considering where we’re from, and as Cody talked he basically said ‘I want what y’all have.’ So Cody kept sharing and led him through a prayer and we marked Matthew 1 as a good place for him to start, and he said he would come to church on Sunday. It was also nice to be able to talk to men about being a father and about their Heavenly Father and how important it is for them to share Christ with their sons and daughters.”

“There was a girl who was about 20 years old who asked us to pray specifically for her condition as an anemic – that she would be able to get medicine. Well this morning when Jenny packed her nurse’s bag she put in some vitamins with iron in them for no apparent reason thinking they wouldn’t be useful. They were exactly what that girl needed.”

“A younger guy was trying to talk to me while we were with another family and our interpreter was busy so I couldn’t understand him. He followed us after we left their house and we were able to understand that he wanted us to pray for him. After he walked off some ladies across the way said it was important that we got to pray for that particular guy and that that moment was very special.”

Those are only a few of the many things that the Lord did today, and I encourage you to ask your family members and your friends that are on this trip to describe to you what they saw the Lord doing. You can talk to all 30 of us and get 30 different answers; praise God for that. When all the groups returned with now lighter backpacks we headed back to Kaliko for yet another glorious sunset of God’s perfectly mixed hues of grays and blues and golds.

I’ve now shifted to the main lobby area post-devotional where team members are spread out playing cards, talking about their days, and reflecting on everything they saw and smelt and felt and heard today. A boy named Nelson asked Clayton Martin today, “What is your dream for tomorrow?” Clayton didn’t know the answer, I don’t know the answer, and most of this team probably doesn’t know the answer. I challenge you to ask yourself the same question. You may not know the answer either, but thankfully the Lord does. And He will turn what we think are our dreams upside down to give us even bigger dreams that are directly from him. TJ spoke about this tonight, as well as about boasting in the Lord alone and living out 1 Corinthians 10:31 – whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all for the glory of God. We pray that this is our motto here, this is our motto at home, and this is your motto wherever you are. We pray that this is every believer’s desire and motivator; that in whatever we are doing – hammering a roof together, holding a tired child, measuring out liquid ibuprofen, making tiny solar-powered race cars, pulling a tooth, kicking a soccer ball, eating a plate of pasta, writing a journal, taking a picture, walking to class, going to work, sharing the gospel, waking up, sitting down, breathing in and out – we are doing it for the glory of the maker of this earth, the giver of life, the savior of this world, Jesus Christ. This is our prayer for tonight and tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. I ask that you pray it with us, for us, for yourself, for all believers, and for this world.

Clare

ronaldlong

Christian. Husband. Father. Youth Minister.

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