The Lenhart Family

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jesus is Enough… Especially at Christmas

Normally at this time of year, I am rummaging through after Christmas sales looking for drastically marked down Christmas decorations… and with most Christmas clearance down to at least 75% off, my Christmas decorations collection typically grows in leap and bounds the week after Christmas. But this year is different… as we prepare to move to Haiti sometime in 2010, we are examining what possessions will make the move with us. We have a price estimate of $1.50 per pound so sadly I’m not sure any my Christmas collections will be making the cut. Except for clothing, everyday practical items, and some sentimental items, we will sale or give everything else away.

Knowing that we will spending the majority of our Christmases in the Caribbean from now on… I wonder how hard it will be to feel in “the Christmas spirit”? The familiar Christmas decorations, tree, and lights might all be long gone. The weather wont be cold and any dreams of a white Christmas will be dashed. On top of that, sharing Christmas with all of our extended family will not be likely.

But knowing all that… I have reexamined what Christmas is all about. While decorations, family, and things like that may symbolize or remind us of Christmases past, all these things are not what Christmas is all about. When all the stuff (lights, trees, gifts, food, family, friends) may be gone, it all comes down to Jesus. Jesus is enough! If we have learned anything from this journey we are on, it’s the undeniable truth that Jesus is always enough. In fact, it may be refreshing be free of distractions that divert our focus from the true meaning of Christmas… Emmanuel (God with us). And if God himself is with us, what else could we possibly need?

PS this picture is of a small nativity set I brought the first year Jake and I were married. I bought it at “dollar general” when even a dollar was hard to come by. Somehow it has held up through the years (even through the toddler years when playing with baby Jesus was quite popular). And if any “Christmasy” things make the cut, this will be it!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Most rewarding part of youth ministry by far...

One quick post before going to bed... probably the last one of the year.

But just wanted to say how super proud I am of the people in this picture. Some of our former students (many of them home from college for Christmas) came over and hung out tonight. We played intense games of catch phrase and spoons but more importantly catch up on what God has been doing in each other's life.

We have been in youth ministry for over a decade... and MOST rewarding part by far is seeing our former students live out their faith after leaving our ministry!

I feel like a proud momma but indulge me while I brag on these young adults whose faith exceeds my own at times...One of these amazing people just got home from spending the week serving and pouring herself out in mission work in Haiti. Another one shared about how he has been selling coffee in his community to raise money for malaria medications and to cover cost so he can spend the upcoming summer serving in India (where he is being called to full time missions). Another is just wrapped a clothing drive she organized and is getting ready to load up her car with clothing she has been collecting for precious people she loves in Africa. Another is considering spending 9 weeks of intense discipleship this summer with the organization Kaleo in Panama City Beach. One just back from serving several months in Peru. One has spent the last year serving our country overseas in the army. Another is working a "grown up girl job" now after recently completing an internship with TOMS shoes (which provides shoes for children in poverty). Some have been at bible college and quite a few others have been living out their faith in state colleges (which is a huge mission field in itself).... all this to say that I think God is raising up a generation of world changers and I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to be a small part of that.

One of my favorite worship songs called "Hosanna" talks about seeing "a generation rising up to take their place with selfless faith"... when I look at this picture and hear about what some of things these amazing young adults are doing... I see a beautiful picture of a generation changing the world with selfless faith!

Nights like tonight is what I will miss most as we move onto a different kind of calling in mission work but I wouldn't trade it for the world! It has been one of my greatest joys to serve in youth ministry for the last 11 years and it will continue to be as we go out together to "set the world on fire"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

blessed by the body...

Over the last few weeks, I can not count the way that the body of Christ has made my family’s life so blessed!! So I just had to blog about it…

Right now, our family is in the fund raising portion of our efforts to become full time missionaries to Haiti. We were warned by other CSI missionaries that this phase would be the “most challenging part” and they were exactly right! It is extremely awkward and humbling to ask people you know for support. It is challenging to try to share our heart and passion in some promotional materials that we are trying to create about the work we will be doing in Haiti. Given our present economy and my own personal corks when it comes things like financial planning/ security… relying on God ALONE to provide for our families livelihood through His people is a very scary place to be! But God is teaching us soooo much in this season about His faithfulness and the way He has intended his church body to function.

We have been AMAZED by the response of some of our sweet brothers and sisters in Christ and the way they have volunteered and eagerly came alongside to help this dream of ours become a reality. For example, an elder in our church who is a graphic designer has designed some amazing brochures that really communicate our heart for Haiti and the work God has prepared for us to do there. Another man from our church family is a web designer. He has volunteered to help us maintain our website ( We contacted a very talented photographer about taking some family and team portraits and because she shared our heart for missions and the Lord, she not only scheduled an appointment for us right away but insisted waving her normal portrait fees. Another old friend who is a video/media pastor used his talent to put together a short video for us that also beautifully shared our heart for Haiti. And I could go but basically God has been blessing our socks off in the way His children have volunteered their gifts and time to help us on this journey we are currently on. There are many different parts of the body of Christ and when those parts come together with a common goal (to further God’s kingdom), it is a beautiful thing!

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, our house was broken into. It could have been WAY worse but some things were stolen that would have made Christmas morning kind of a downer for our kids. But upon hearing what happened, some of precious church family offered to replace some of the items that were stolen. Some students in our ministry even sacrificed and pulled together their own resources to bless our family in a special way! And we were once again blown away by the generosity and love of the body of Christ!

In our Sunday school study of “Crazy Love”, Francis Chan challenged us a few weeks ago by these thoughts…

“Is there any logic in believing that God started His Church as a Spirit-filled, loving body with the intention that it would evolve into entertaining, hour-long services? Was he hoping that one day people would be attracted to the Church not because they care for one another, not because they are devoted to Him, not because the supernatural occurs in their midst, but because of good music and entertainment? Try to imagine what conclusions you would come to if you had no prior church experience. The things in church services might make sense to the American church-attendee, but they don't make sense biblically. Picture yourself on an island with only a Bible. You've never been to a church-you've never even heard of one. The only ideas you have about church are what you've read in your Bible. Then you enter a building labeled "church" for the first time. What would you expect to experience as you entered that building? Now compare that to what you actually experience when you attend church. But what if the church looked like this?

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

It describes what the world is waiting for. I used to look at this passage as something that was wonderful but could never happen in the twenty-first century. There are just too many cultural obstacles for the Holy Spirit to overcome. He is powerful enough to raise the dead, but not powerful enough to form a sharing and loving body in our individualistic society. I doubted God's ability to stir a body of believers to love tirelessly and give without restraint. I reasoned that this type of fellowship was probably not intended for our time. Besides, we don't have time to love like this.

This last year our church has done a lot of studying of the New Testament church and it has been challenging to say the least. The church, as a whole, has a long way to go but there are breath taking glimpses of us “loving tirelessly and giving without restraint.” In the world we live in, it is easy to become jaded and judgmental of hypocritical Christians but from where I am standing … the body of Christ is a BEAUTIFUL thing!

PS Please don't be the appendix!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Last week, we had team pictures taken in Wichita. Jackie Cooper was the photographer. If you live within driving distance to Wichita, I would HIGHLY recommend her. She is amazingly talented and super fun to work with. This picture is one of my favorites and we are thinking about making a poster size to take with us on speaking engagements to promote our website. Hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

"There is no place like home... Toto I don't think home is Kansas anymore!"

One's home is like a delicious piece of pie you order in a restaurant on a country road one cozy evening - the best piece of pie you have ever eaten in your life - and can never find again. After you leave home, you may find yourself feeling homesick, even if you have a new home that has nicer wallpaper and a more efficient dishwasher than the home in which you grew up. ~Lemony Snicket

After making the commitment to becoming full time missionaries to Haiti, we starting looking at our “stuff” and really scrutinizing the “things” in our life in terms of what we feel like will be necessary to make our home feel like “home” in Haiti and what we can leave behind. Not once in this process of answering the call to become missionaries has it hurt or been difficult to think about leaving “things” behind, it has been the people and relationships that the cost of discipleship can require us to say good-bye to that is most painful.

Last week was very “cleansing” for the Lenharts. We spent the week cleaning and organizing every closet, cabinet, and crevice in our house. So throughout the week, we began making piles of what we wanted to donate, trash, and sell in a massive garage sale next spring. I love the sense of accomplishment and peace that comes with feeling organized. But everyone in my family does not share my enthusiasm for organization, especially my daughter Ashlyn. Our first born Drew is a list-making, organization seeking freak like me. Yet our daughter Ashlyn prefers chaos and creativity to schedules and order like her Dad. So when it came time to work on Ashlyn’s room, world war III was on the verge of breaking out. She tends to be a pack rat of sorts… saving every little paper and trinket she has ever owned stuffing them in random drawers and corners. Her closet doors are usually wide open because the contents of the closet can not be contained with mere doors. And she is perfectly content with living in chaos because chaos is “normal” to the creative genius that she is. So asking her to bring some kind organization to her madness was a HUGE and almost impossible task. Add the drama and emotional roller coasters that tend to accompany most 6th grade girls and we had a recipe for disaster and a full blown melt down on our hands. After some heated words and some threats on her part of not joining us in our move to Haiti… we got to the heart of issue. It wasn’t just that I was asking her (or forcing her) to be a little more organized but the thought moving and leaving “home” was becoming more real to her.

Earlier that week, as Jake and I discussed what our plans for the holidays were going to be, we talked about this concept of “home”. For the first 30 years of our life, “home” was Kansas to us. Now after living in Oklahoma the last three years, we feel torn. Where is “home”? Are we going “home” for the holidays? Is “home” where we lived, live, or where we are going to live?

So after taking a step back and time out from our cleaning catastrophe, Ashlyn and I were able to have a heart about what and where “home” really is. We talked about how it’s natural for our hearts to desire a place to call “home”. And discussed how “home” isn’t necessarily a place but an idea or a group of people. And talked about how as Christians, as long as we live on earth, part of us will always be “homesick” and longing for heaven and God’s kingdom. And we wrestled with the idea that we won’t really feel at “home” anywhere in this world.

Hebrews 11:13-16 talks about how people of great faith even struggled with this idea of “home” and it says “all these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”

Elisabeth Elliot has said "If we were given all we wanted here, we would settle for this world rather than the next." I think if we were too comfortable or too settled here on earth we would not long for our heavenly home as we ought. I think in order to keep a heavenly perspective in this life as strangers and exiles on earth… what we love, live for, long for, and the place we will feel completely at “home” is not something we can experience here on earth. But “coming home” something we will truly only experience on the other side of heaven. And if heaven is our home, we will at times feel like refugees and foreigners. But looking at Hebrews 11 and the people commended for their faith, leads me to believe that if this is not “home” then we are in good company.

Jake and I have been studying Abraham and the call God placed on his life to leave his country and his people. In Genesis 23, Abraham has lost his beloved wife Sarah. Having no “home" or land to call his own, Abraham struggled with where to bury his beloved wife. Abraham, and many other saints in the Old Testament, like Jacob and King David, referred to themselves as “sojourners.” The word sojourner is defined as “to live somewhere temporarily, as on a visit; stay for a while.” Right now as I type, I should be packing for our trip to Kansas for Thanksgiving. But I’m not because I hate packing for a trip and living out of suitcases isn’t that much fun either. But it’s a necessary evil for traveling… so is this idea of living as sojourners on earth. It’s not ideal or comfortable in any way but if heaven is our home then we are just living here temporarily. Philippians 3:20 confirms this by telling us that “our citizenship is in heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there.” 1 Peter 2:11 urges us “live as aliens and strangers in this world.”

So are you going “home” for the holidays? In the words of one of my favorite song writers, “We are not home yet, keep on looking ahead, let your heart not forget, we are not home yet!”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Once upon a Wednesday

In Haiti, nature (daylight and livestock noises) dictates when you go to bed at night and when you wake up in the morning. So Wednesday morning, I woke up near dawn. This was the view in our room, outside the window, in the CSI missionary house we stayed in.

On that particular morning, as I looked out on that breath taking view, I read Matthew 25 in my quiet time. Here are just some of the verses started off my day with…

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Wednesday turned out to be one of the hottest day’s temperature wise of the entire week, reaching over 100degrees. So when I saw the last patient of the day through the triage area of the medical clinic where Ashlyn and I was working, I was relieved to find a spot in the shade to sit and catch some reprieve the scorching Haiti heat. As soon as I made my way to spot in the shade outside the mobile medical clinic, I noticed a friend waving me over. This friend was a little boy who had lingered around the clinic site all week… not being seen as a patient, not attending the school next door, but just hanging out all week watching what we were doing and soaking up any love and attention he could from the medical team visiting.

As he motioned me over, I knew exactly what his intentions were. He wanted to play “slaps” (a game in which one person lays their hand palms down upon the other persons hands and the object is to quickly flip your hand over and slap the other person’s hands before they can move them away)

I had played “slaps” with this little boy all week but on that particular day… I was exhausted, drenched with sweat, and just wanted a quiet moment to myself in the shade before we started loading up all medical supplies back into the truck.

But as soon as I had resolved to ignore my friend’s insistent motioning over, I was reminded of the verses in Matthew 25 I had read earlier that day. I heard the still quiet voice of the Holy Spirit nudging my hardened heart and whispering “that little boy wants to play slaps with you… will you play with him? JESUS wants to play slaps with you… will you play with Him?”

Needless to say, I decided to forgo my spot in the shade for an encounter with Jesus himself and I am soooo glad I did. After playing slaps with my friend until the top of my hands were bright red and burning, my friend and I retreated to the spot in the shade together.

As he was sitting on the steps, holding my red hand, he started softly singing to me in the sweetest voice…“God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me”. Looking at my friend, wearing the same dirty clothes he had worn all week, with mismatched shoes, handicapped, missing one arm and covered in scabies… I thought to myself “he is singing in English, he probably doesn’t even know the words or what he is even saying.” But after a couple rounds in English, my heat skipped a beat when my sweet friend then started singing it Creole and I could barely hold the tears in as we sang the song together.

That “ah-ha” moment challenged me to the core. How many times have I missed the opportunity of a face to face, hands on encounter Jesus because deliberately chose to ignore someone around me? How many times do I get so caught up in uncomfortable circumstances that I lose sight of the goodness of God?


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Highlight video from team in Haiti last week AMAZING ... big tears rolling down my checks AMAZING! want to go back right now sooo much it hurts AMAZING! thanks for sharing Kyle:)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

my amazing daughter... Haitian children's favorite "blanc" on the block

Last week, my family (minus our youngest son Jimso) had the opportunity to spend some time in Haiti exploring a possible future with a mission organization called Christian Service International (CSI). My husband and I have spent lots of time doing short term mission work in Haiti and my son, Drew, had previously accompanied us on one of our trips. But this was the maiden voyage, so to speak, for my 11 year old daughter Ashlyn.

Prior to leaving, several friends commented on our decision to go to Haiti with our kids and the week of school they would have to miss as a result of the trip. To which I can confidently say that all they saw and experienced last week was something most adults will never experience and something that no classroom could EVER teach. Teaching my kids that most of the world does NOT live like we do as Americans and the invaluable lesson of service to fellow mankind was PRICELESS!

Because serving the country of Haiti is something we are very passionate about and therefore something that gets discussed around the dinner table at our house quite often…. Ashlyn had heard all about Haiti, seen more pictures than you can imagine, and knew many of the heart breaking statistics surrounding the precious people of Haiti. Yet one of the most exciting aspects of this last week was to see Haiti through her eyes.

As a mom, words can’t describe how proud I was to see my daughter stretch herself as she came face to face with overwhelming poverty and suffering. Throughout the week, she helped a team of doctors and nurses at a mobile medical clinic. Ashlyn’s assignment included helping me work in the triage area of the clinic and her smiling face was what greeted the more than 125 patients we saw each day. Sometimes Christians limit ourselves by focusing on what we think we lack or what we feel we can not do instead of embracing what is we can do for the kingdom. She didn’t know how to take blood pressures, compile a list of chief complaints, or diagnosis patients but she did know how to extravagantly love on the people who came through the clinic, especially the children.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I will let these pictures tell the story of how two worlds came together under the banner of Christ’s love… how a privileged Caucasian American girl and Haitian children who knew nothing of her world could come together and just simply do what kids do best… PLAY. The differences between the two worlds were drastic from an adult perspective. Here are children whose way of live included waiting all day to see a doctor in a make shift outdoor clinic and a girl who never has to wait more than a couple of hours in a comfortable waiting room to see a doctor. Children whose world and culture say that the basic necessities of life like an education, health care, and food/shelter are a privilege or luxury not a right playing with a girl who has been given every chance to thrive. Haitian children live in the reality that their place of birth determines their right to life. While my daughter has had it ingrained in her mind from birth that with a lot of hard work she can achieve whatever she wants in life. But the differences of language, culture, and quality of life issues didn’t keep them from forming a bond with each other so much so that every morning as our truck pulled up to the mobile medical site, children would come running up smiling, waving, and yelling, “Ash! Ash! Ash!”

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Two years ago today, we brought Jimso home from Haiti!!! And it was one of the best and most important days of my life!!

We have some dear friends currently navigating their way through Haitian adoption. And we are currently navigating our way through some pretty rough waters as we prepare to move to Haiti. But being reminded of God's impeccable record for being faithful to fulfill that which He has called us and promised us is the most reassuring place to be. This morning I was reading some thoughts I had wrote on the day we brought Jimso home and was brought to tears just thinking about God's faithfulness to move mountains throughout our adoption journey. Just thought I would share those thoughts with you.....

“It Is Done~ Welcome Jimso Taylor Lenhart ”

I woke up this morning before it was light out and as I lay in bed trying to decide if I should get up or go back to sleep, all I could think was “I can’t believe this day is finally really here.” I have prayed for this day for 2 ½ years. I have dreamed about what it will be like to bring Jimso home since the moment God placed this burden and calling on my heart. As a mom, I have cried many tears on his behalf and felt my heart literally ache for a child who grew not under my heart but in it. This journey to bring Jimso home has not been easy but I would not change one moment of it. God has spoken so much truth over my life during this process. I know that each tear that fell and each obstacle that we had to overcome was wrapped with divine purposes.

One day years from now, we will be able to tell Jimso about this adoption process. I pray that through the hard times and seeing all that we had to overcome, he will grasp the depth of our love for him. As one day he seeks to understand why he was abandoned by his biological mother, I pray that he will choose to focus not on the hurt and sting of that abandonment but instead focus on how much he was wanted, how many people prayed for him and loved him before they even met him.

If this journey had been smooth, I would not be so incredibly grateful and full of praise. Nor would I be able to attest to the power of faith, hope and love. If I have learned anything on this journey, it’s that He who promised is faithful!!!

Last week I made a list of things that God had to “work out” in order for this day to come to pass. Just some of those mountains included:

1. According to Haitian law, adoptive parents must be 35 or older (which we are not)

2. Also according to Haitian law, both biological parents must be decreased, even in cases of abandonment (Jimso biological mother is living)

3. GVCM is not an adoption agency; though they establish and run the orphanage, there have been no adoptions to date therefore we had no one with the legal knowledge to navigate us through this confusing process. Many couples who attempt independent adoptions (with no agency) are unsuccessful. That compounded with the language barrier we faced as we tried to get information was overwhelming.

4. The financial burden of an international adoption is very costly and beyond the salary of a family in full time ministry.

Yet God knew all this when he called us to the God sized task of this adoption. He alone could move the mountains in our way and that is exactly what he did!!

A famous missionary named J. Hudson Taylor (Jimso’s middle name) once said, “I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done!” Throughout this journey, it has been impossible and difficult but today it is done!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

wilderness season = open season

One of my kids’ favorite movies is one called “Open Season”. The movie tagline is “the odds are about to get even.” The two main characters find themselves smack dab in the wilderness, just days before “open season.” So they unite with the cute lovable wilderness animals that have grown weary of always being the ones hunted. In desperation, they decide to band together on opening day of hunting season and turn the tables on their predators. There are times in life when it seems like someone has declared “open season” and we feel like walking targets at the shooting range. Well today “the odds are about to get even…”

The last several weeks have been one of the most intense times of temptation I have ever experienced. Circumstances beyond our control seem to have thrusted our family into a “wilderness” season in our life unexpectedly (from our foster daughters being unexpectedly moved out of our home to physical illness). But thankfully we have been able to find encouragement in God’s word over and over again.

Our team that is preparing to be going to Haiti in 2010 has been studying the “red letter” words of the New Testament. Through that, I have been focusing on the temptation of Jesus found in Luke 4:1-13. Our enemy is not creative in that he still uses the same tactics today when it comes to tempting God’s children. Here are some of the observations I have noticed through this study of God’s word and our present wilderness season:

Jesus was tempted immediately following his baptism and just prior to entering full time ministry/ mission work. I know for us personally it seems like we face intense periods of temptations just prior to doing something “big” for God’s kingdom. Season of intense temptation are not indicators of our spiritual well being. The closer we seem to get to being in Haiti full time, the more opposition we seem to face. Last week when we booked our airline tickets, we joked about wondering what kind of curveballs life would throw at us this time. But the more battles we face in this arena, the more confirmation we receive that we are exactly where God wants us to be.

Jesus faced temptation immediately following a 40 day fast in the desert. Satan is shrewd. He tempts us when we are alone and beyond tired, hungry, and weary. Our enemy knows our personal weaknesses and is calculated about the timing of tempting us. He knows that, just like the Israelites were, God’s children are most vulnerable during the “wilderness” seasons of life.

The passages in Luke also demonstrate our enemy’s tenacity. He doesn’t give up easily but is extremely persistent in his efforts to tempt us and get us to abandon God’s plan for our lives.

Scripture was the most powerful weapon Jesus had when he was battling temptation. I am so guilty of not knowing God’s word well enough when it comes to battling temptation. I will vaguely know the promises of God but it’s easy to forget where they are found in the midst of a battle. This present season of life has driven me to immerse myself in God’s word. I have found that scripture is the most powerful tool in our fight against temptation. Don’t fight back with your words, fight back with God’s (and turn the odds in your favor)!!

"We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--- yet without sin.... Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those being tempted." ~ Hebrews 4:14-15

My world is closing in
On the inside
But I’m not showing it
When all I am is crying out
I hold it in and fake a smile
Still I’m broken
I’m broken
Only one can understand
And only one can hold the hand
Of the broken
Of the broken

When no one else knows how I feel
Your love for me is proven real
When no one else cares where I’ve been
You run to me with outstretched hands
And You hold me in your arms

I need no explanation of why me
I just need confirmation
Only You could understand the
emptiness inside my head
I am falling
I am falling
I’m falling down upon my knees
To find the one who gives me peace
I am flying
Lord I am flying

When no one else knows how I feel
Your love for me is proven real
When no one else cares where I’ve been
You run to me with outstretched hands
And You hold me in Your arms

I have come to you in search of faith
Cause I can’t see beyond this place
Oh You are God and I am man
So I’ll leave it in Your hands

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The journey begins...

We have had many of you ask us what is next in our Haitian adventure and how you can come alongside us and support us in our endeavors to become full time missionaries to Haiti. This blog was created to keep our friends and family up to date on our progress. It's function is also to serve as an avenue to share about all the amazingly cool things God is doing within our families life.

Right now we are seriously considering partnering with an established mission organization that has been working in Haiti for over 40 years and has an impeccable reputation for their work there. We have completed the interview process and have passed a psychological evaluation with them. The next step in our endeavors with them is for our entire family to go to Haiti with them on what is called an “exploratory trip”. On this trip, we will learn more about the work they are already doing in Haiti (medical clinics, orphan care, church growth) and spend some time examining how we could enhance what the other missionaries (several families) are doing there. This week with them will be a crucial part in cementing our relationship with them.

Because zeal without practical wisdom can lead to heartache and the squandering of Kingdom resources…. another aspect of our preparation is missionary TRAINING. We have purchased Rosetta Stone and have begun French language studies in hopes that we will then easily convert that knowledge into Creole once we are in Haiti full time. Another aspect of training that we plan to invest in is the SPLICE training offered at the Missionary Training Institute. SPLICE training is a “three week pre-departure program that is designed to help the entire missionary family develop the practical skills and attitudes that will successfully take us through the challenging and rewarding process of being interwoven with another culture.”

First and foremost we need your spiritual support… we need extra encouragement and covet your prayers as our families begin this new chapter in our lives. Please be specifically praying for discernment in knowing what organization to commit to and that God would use these months of preparation to deepen discipleship and prepare us spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

We also ask you to prayerfully consider if the Lord may be leading you to financially support us. Cost of airfare for our family exploratory trip will cost an estimated $3500. The SPLICE training for both families will be an approximately an additional $7,200. We know that He who called us is faithful and we trust Him to provide for all of our needs. If you might be able to partner with us with the financial aspect, tax deductible gifts can be mailed to Cherokee Hills Christian Church 6601 MacArthur Oklahoma city, OK 73132 with “Lenharts” in the memo line.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end… Haiti here we come”

As a family in youth ministry for over a decade, the hardest part of our calling has hands down been the times when God has revealed to us it was time to move on and close a chapter with one church family to start another somewhere else. This last Sunday was bittersweet with for us as we shared with our church family the calling God has placed on our hearts to be in Haiti full time. Bitter because words can not express how much we love and adore the students we are serving alongside and can not count the ways this church family has made our lives so blessed. Sweet because we know that God has awesome things planned for our family, our future mission work in Haiti, and the body at Cherokee Hills Christian Church.

In case you were still celebrating the 4th of July and are currently out of the loop… On Sunday, Kurt (our pastor) announced that our family and the Lechtenberg family have felt a calling to become full time missionaries in Haiti and are currently in the process of making plans to do so. We are completely confident in our calling to Haiti yet still unsure as to which organization we would like to serve alongside. We are seriously praying about and considering two organizations in Haiti who do similar work there (lead short term mission trips, orphan care, church planting/support, and medical mission work). Regardless of what organization we end up serving with, we think the preparation (missionary training, budgeting/ fund raising efforts, language study) will take at least 6 months and could possibly take up to 2 years.

Jake and I instantly fell in love with the country of Haiti and the Haitian people on our first trip there in 2005. We joke that “Haiti had us at hello…” but it’s so true. We didn’t know if we would EVER recover from all the things God revealed to us during that trip. Our comfortable life was turned upside down by everything we saw and experienced there. Thankfully, we never did “get over” it… God changed our entire life goals from that point on. We have said that our retirement plan would include serving in Haiti but always saw serving in Haiti as something we would do when we “outgrew youth ministry” or when our kids were grown or at least off to college. Over the last several months, as God has revealed to us his calling over our lives, we have realized that we can not ask God to respect our “timetable” and conditions when it comes to serving Him. We also realized that our numerous short term mission trips there are at times as effective as trying to put a band-aid on knife wound, it may help for a while but if we want to be a part of lasting healing impact on Haiti, we need to be there full time. As God began laying this on our hearts, we tried to reason with him (ever hear the saying “wanna make God laugh, tell him your plan”). In that process, Jake asked God to do three things (if He was really calling us to full time mission work)…

1. Families, not individuals, are called into ministry/ mission work so Jake asked God to create a desire within my heart and our children’s heart for Haiti~ Like I said earlier, Haiti had me at hello, and even though I am the biggest girly girl and scaredy cat you will ever met, I could not be more on board with this. Drew (our 14 year old son) has always been excited about our plans to be there one day when he was grown but previously was NOT interested in going there full time himself. As Jake began praying through this element, almost overnight Drew approached us about living there full time. He came to us in tears on several different occasions just heartbroken and home sick for the people he met in Haiti last November and desiring to be there NOW. Ashlyn (our 11 year old daughter), although worried about staying connected with her circle of friends here (especially Gentry), is also on board and excited. Jimso (our 7 year old adopted son from Haiti) is as well…. Kurt joked on Sunday about having a sneaking suspicious that Jimso will somehow fit right in.

2. The mission field in a third world country can be a difficult and lonely place, so we asked that God would not send us out alone but would provide another American couple or family to join us on the field~ Again as we prayed through this, we waited on the Lord. One night in particular, Jake and I left a Monday night prayer service at church feeling completely burdened and broken over this calling God was placing on our hearts. We went to Starbucks after prayer to sort through and process some of what we were experiencing. I asked Jake if we could call Mark and Belinda and ask them to join us at Starbucks so they could be praying for us too. He said “no, let’s wait” and then not 5 minutes later… who should “happen” to walk into the very Starbucks we were at?? But Mark and Belinda. As we shared with them where we were feeling lead (nothing about the other couple part), they shared with us that God had placing the exact same call onto their lives. Again God provided what we were asking for in prayer with out us even having to approach people! As God is weaving this team He will be sending out together, I am amazed!! With the background Belinda and I have in nursing, Mark’s background in business/agriculture/ animal husbandry, and Jake’s construction/ ministry background… God is sending us out equipped to meet some of the most crucial needs of the Haitian population!

3. As we have read about serving in full time mission work, we have learned that over 70% of American missionaries are unable to fulfill their commitment and end up coming home prematurely. We also learned that having Godly wise counsel and organizational support PRIOR TO AND DURING can greatly increase the effectiveness of missionaries. So we asked God to send us that from the very beginning~
Remember that night at Starbucks? Kenny and Linda McDonald “happened” to be with Mark and Belinda and “happen” to share the same heart for mission work and Haiti in particular as we do. The McDonalds were a part of the team that went to Haiti with us last February and they were impacted by what they experienced there. Since that meeting at Starbucks, the McDonalds have been an essential part of our team and the planning process. They have been faithfully interceding for our families in prayer and have been giving us a lot of WISE counsel since that night several months ago. We feel so blessed that the McDonalds will continue to be a part of our team, only based stateside, through out this journey. As we have shared the news with our church leadership, they have been tremendously supportive and just an answer to prayer as we try to navigate our way through this. Leaving church on Sunday after sharing with our church family (the people we do life with) our future plans, I have never been more in love with the body of Christ or felt more supported within the protection and refuge of that body.

This decision has not been an easy one and hasn’t been one that we have made lightly or emotionally…. With that being said, we have never been more sure or more confident of God’s leading or calling in our entire lives. As time goes, we will share more about how God called us into this, the many ways He has reconfirmed this over and over, our prayer needs, and how you can help us. But I want to close with this bible verse and an entry from my prayer journal back in April….

Philippians 1:5-7 (New International Version)
"because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me.

“Lord my head is spinning right now with the things you have been pressing on our hearts and the new things you are stirring within us. Over and over you are confirming this calling to Haiti in a million random and unrelated ways. Now that we are indeed confident in the calling, there is a sense of deep peace mixed with chaos and fear. There are a million reasons why logically this is ridiculous and just plain crazy. I could come with an endless list of “cons” against moving my family there and there is more than enough evidence to justify not going BUT making this decision all comes down to this…. YOU HAVE CALLED US AND CREATED US TO DO THIS WORK! And all the fears and “cons” could never outweigh the calling and our desire to be obedient to you. THERE IS NO PLACE I WOULD RATHER BE THAN AT THE CENTER OF YOUR WILL FOR MY LIFE. At times I am overwhelmed with fear when I refuse to take captive every anxious thought. Yet I am secure knowing that the God who calls me is faithful. You have entrusted these three amazing and precious children to me and as a mom I want to protect them with every fiber of my being. But as much I love them and treasure their little hearts, my love for them is just a drop in the bucket compared to your love for them. And even more than wanting to protect them, I want to instill in these children a love for you and their fellow man. I can think of no better way to teach them this than to devote our entire lives work to serving others. Taking my family and packing up to live in a third world country is CRAZYINESS in the eyes of this world. But being disobedient to you and ignoring the needs that exist outside my comfortable life is even crazier to me. And even if that mean walking away from everything and everyone I love in this life, I will. I believe with all my heart that you have placed me in the position I am in (as a citizen of one the wealthiest nations, as an American educated nurse) for a reason and “for such a time as this”. I want to use all the resources you have given me to love on the “least of these” and to pour out my life as a drink offering to you. Jake and I prayed a dangerous prayer when we prayed that you would “break our heart for what breaks yours” and we do not want to waste our lives chasing after temporary things that do not matter in the end. Take my life and make it matter! The greatest tragedy in my eyes would be coming to the end of my life and realizing that I didn’t make a mark and living only for myself I did not impact your kingdom in the way I could have. I have been singing/praying these lyrics over and over “I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, what if I had given EVERYTHING, instead of going through the motions?” Lord today I am letting go of everything and surrendering completely to you and your calling over my life”

Friday, June 26, 2009

the gospel according to Michael Jackson

I am slightly annoyed by the way our society rushes to push "sainthood status" on famous people upon their untimely deaths... but the recent coverage of Jackson's death has given me a trip down memory lane as I have been reminded of some brilliant lyrics the legend Michale Jackson introduced us to. So here is my version of the gospel according to Michael Jackson for what it is worth.

GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JACKSON- PART ONE:"MAN IN THE MIRROR" (my personal fav) was a number-one hit for singer Michael Jackson when released as a single in the spring of 1988. It is one of Jackson's most critically acclaimed songs and it was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards. The message of it's lyrics speak for itself....

Gotta make a change
For once in my life
It's gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right

As I turned up the collar on
A favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin' my mind
I see the kids in the street

A summer's disregard
A broken bottle top
And a one man's soul
They follow each other
On the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change,

I've been a victim of
A selfish kinda love
It's time that I realize
There are some with no home
Not a nickel to loan
Could it be really pretending that they're not alone

A willow deeply scarred
Somebody's broken heart
And a washed out dream
(Washed out dream)
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer

Although Jackson might have been just adding a spin to Gandhi's "Be the change you want to see in the world", theses lyrics have an undeniable biblical theme coming from James 2:22-24 that says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

the giant in YOUR backyard... foster care

“Let me introduce you to the giant standing in YOUR backyard…”

The last few days, the fatherless of our society has really been on my heart. On Thursday night, a friend and I attended a dinner/ informational meeting sponsored by DHS and the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. The “Change a Child's Forever” campaign hosted a community meeting to discuss how faith congregations can become involved in foster care ministries. As a foster parent and a disciple of Jesus, I was challenged by what I heard and learned to do more. Let me introduce you to the giant (named OKDHS) in YOUR own backyard….

•114,492 children were reported as alleged victims of abuse and neglect in the state of Oklahoma last year alone

• 11,714 of those children were confirmed to be victims of child abuse and neglect last year

• In 2008, there were over 11,000 children in foster care in the state of Oklahoma and over 40% of those children were under the age of 4.

• In Oklahoma county, there are 1,685 children in DHS custody and ONLY 300 foster care homes (“the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” Matthew 9:37)

• 60% of confirmed victims of abuse are 6 years old and younger (in OK)

• 64% are white, 17.6% black, and 16.8% Indian (in OK)

• The perpetrator of abuse is usually mom (45%) or dad (30%)- 75% of all cases (in OK)

• The type of abuse in Oklahoma can be broken down as follows: Neglect=84%, Physical Abuse= 12%, Sexual Abuse= 4%

• Top 6 reasons for neglect are as follows: substance abuse= 19.17%, threat of harm= 18.9%, failure to protect= 17.7%, exposure to domestic violence = 9.52%, inadequate or dangerous shelter= 9.52%, and lack of supervision= 7.53%

• This means that the typical child in the Oklahoma foster care system is a white 6 year old boy neglected due to parental substance abuse such as meth

As a foster mom, I leave almost every family court date and almost every encounter on my foster baby’s behalf juts completely frustrated and overwhelmed at the brokenness of our system and the ways it seems that these children are falling through the cracks. I kinda feel like David facing Goliath but without even one stone to throw. My heart hurts when I face statistics like those listed above that support the reality that MANY children are part of an epidemic that could be classified as a giant in our own backyard. So where is HOPE in statistics like these?

Throughout scripture, God’s tender heart towards the fatherless and orphaned is a recurring theme. He commands us as believers to care for and defend the poor and fatherless among us (Psalm 82:3, Psalm 10:17-18, Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 5:28, Zechariah 7:9-11, James 1:27). When I first moved to the great state of Oklahoma, I was taken back by the way there seems to be a church on VERY corner. But the way our state is flooded with believers actively involved in local church is where I believe our hope in defeating this giant sized problem can be found!!

Becoming a foster parent is not for everyone… but I believe we all can do something to love on the fatherless among us. Today on father’s day, think about what you can do to serve the giant in your own backyard….

Top 10 Things You Can
Do For A Foster Child:

10. Pray for the children in foster care and their families.

9. Collect birthday gifts for the foster children in your community.

8. Have a baby shower to collect baby essentials.

7. Collect luggage for foster children in transition (most children are forced to use trash bags when they move into new placements, what message does this send about their value and worth?)

6. Create toddler toy boxes.

5. Mentor a foster child.

4. Be an alternate caregiver for a foster family.

3. Contact your local OKDHS foster care specialist about specific needs in your community.

2. Host foster children’s visits with their birth families, support groups for foster parents, free child care nights out, or other events that support foster parents at your facility.

1. Become a foster parent or forever family for a child!!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Transition from WHERE there is no doctor... WHY there is no doctor??!!

"Let us be the ones who say we do not accept that a child dies every three seconds simply because he does not have the drugs you and I have. Let us be the ones to say we are not satisfied that your place of birth determines your right to life. Let us be outraged, let us be loud, let us be bold!" ~actor Brad Pitt

"You can not comfort the afflicted without afflicting the comfortable." ~Princess Diana

On my very first medical mission trip to Haiti and fresh out of nursing school, I was introduced to this handy dandy book called "Where There Is No Doctor". Over the last several years, I have gotten a lot of invaluable information from that book that has helped us as we have navigate our way through numerous medical missions trips since that first trip back in 2005. Many consider "Where There Is No Doctor" their health bible when doing medical mission work. I carry it with me on every trip I take, and refer to it often. The information provided in this book is simple, straight forward, and easy to read. The finest academic medical preparation can not prepare an American health care workers for medical mission work in developing countries... we rely too much on our equipment, advanced technology, and almost indisposeable and readily available resources that when we are overwhelmed and struggle, to say the least, when we are throw into an environment without the comforts of our health care system. So books and resources like "Where There Is No Doctor" have attempted to bridge that gap and help ease the transition from modern medicine to the primitive medicine that exists in third world countries like Haiti. But as awesome and helpful as this book has proven to be... lately I have been thinking short term medical mission trips are as helpful as trying to put a band-aid on a sliced open pulmonary artery. And I am feeling that instead of relying on "Where There Is No Doctor" we should start asking "Why There Is No Doctor"??!

Our church and the teams we have sent have sponsored three medical clinics in Haiti in the last six months. We have seen over 300 patients in our make shift clinics (many who had never been to a doctor and who willing to wait all day to be seen). We treated a variety of ailments from bladder infections to malaria to severe malnourishment to tuberculosis.

The purpose for our most recent trip was an emergency tuberculosis clinic. We tested over 100 people in one community and had about 17 positive tests. In the course of trying to find follow up care for those who tested positive, we traveled one day to a hospital about 2 hours away from the orphanage where we worked. The road to the hospital is ROUGH terrain.... but worth every bump along the way because I have been forver changed by what I saw that day.

Anyone who has watched any amount of late night TV has surely seen the commercials for organizations like Christian Child Fund depicting what life is like for starving children with swollen bellies promoting child sponsorship programs... and although through our travels to Haiti, I have seen some children who could be classified as severely malnourished, NOTHING could have prepared my heart for what I would see in that pediatric unit in that hospital! We saw children who were completely emaciated and literally wasting away. I watched a father painfully feed his almost unconscious lethargic son a protein fortified formula with tears in his eyes and I have have never prayed so earnestly for healing in my life.

As a nurse, as I watched auxiliary nurses move from patient to patient with no hand washing or gloves, it almost killed me to see the lack of infection control that existed in that ward. I think our beloved Florence Nightingale would be turning in her grave at some of the practices there. As a mom, my heart broke in a million pieces, as I saw the looks on worried parents faces at the children's bedside. But as American, I felt a kind of indescribable shame, as I watched children dying of COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE AND TREATABLE CONDITIONS.

Coming home and trying to process what we saw and experienced has left me with more questions than answers. Like why are some American actors more active is fighting the diseases and injustices of extreme poverty than some American Christians are? And what is my piece of this puzzle and where is my responsibility in it? But most of all why is there no doctor? And how can we right the wrongs of health care in developing countries?

"When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed." ~ Mother Teresa

"It's the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish" ~ Mother Teresa

Haiti Flag Day... National Pride in the Midst of Extreme Poverty

Here is another snapshot of our last trip to Haiti....

During our last trip to Haiti, we got to experience our first flag day there. May 18th is a national holiday in which Haitian people celebrate their nation and their flag which is indisputably a symbol of great pride. If a picture is worth a thousands words.. I'll let these pictures speak volumes about the pride that exists within Haitian hearts and keep this blog post short and sweet.

The children at the orphanage and school in Fedja celebrated by making flags and participating in a parade in Mirebalais. Before the parade, Jake preached a sermon about freedom in Christ and the significance of being free from bondage of sin.

I am reading some books on Haitian history and community development there... and have learned so much about the people who have stolen my heart. Haitian was founded in 1804 by former slaves after an extraordinary revolution against their French oppressors. Haiti once stood as a beacon of hope and inspiration for colonized people but is notorious in today's society for the desperate poverty of its people and the violent instability of its state. I have seen a survivor mentality exist among some of the sweet brothers and sisters I have meet there as they daily make gut wrenching decisions that I will never be faced with. One sweet woman shared her heart as her children were given the opportunity to go school and have their uniforms, books, and tuition paid for... yet she was torn because she was unsure about her families livelihood as going to school meant having less help working in the families farming fields. Their land is eroding, their bodies are exhausted and malnourished,they disease stricken from many preventable and treatable conditions that have been long eradicated from developed nations, and YET THEY HAVE A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF HOPE AND PRIDE IN THEIR NATION!

As someone who has spent time serving the precious people of Haiti, I am blown away and humbles by their pride in their fragmented country and their indomitable spirit is contagious!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Girl effect... THIS IS MY GIRL!!

Do not read any more until you have finished watching the video below....

I saw this "girl effect" video at the medical mission conference I went to this weekend. When the video asked you to imagine a girl in a poverty, I immediately thought of this precious girl named O'Chelley. If I had a suitcase large enough, I definitely would have brought her home with me a long time ago.

Let me introduce you... she's pretty much amazing!! She lives at the orphanage we work with in Haiti. She is shy at first but once you get to know her, you will soon discover that she has one of the most sweet, gentle, and precious spirits ever. She is one of the older girls at the orphanage and is definitely the mother hen of the group. She ALWAYS has a little posse of girls following her around wherever she goes... not just because she is a natural born leader but also because she is so attentive to their needs. In the morning, she starts her day early with helping the younger girls dress,making sure all they get their teeth brushed, and their hair done(and everyday there is a HUGE line for her hair styling services). At meal times, she can be found feeding one or even two babies on her lap. The only time she is not focused on caring and loving her "baby chicks" is the 3 or 4 hours a day she attends school. I have seen her on several occasions with a lap full of children reading them "Amelia Bedelia" or a torn up "Beginners Bible". In the evenings before bed, she leads ALL of the girls in the most beautiful and precious song time. While GVCM employs nannies to care for the children, O'Chelley works equally as hard (if not harder) at the daunting task of caring for all 57 children. Although she is an orphan herself and has never been given the gift of a nurturing mothering role model, at the tender age of 9, she is the "momma" to more children than you could imagine. Like I said, she is pretty much amazing!

Driving back from Kansas City,my friend Belinda and I were talking about our some of the kids who stole our hearts in Haiti... and she has this brilliant idea of sending our little O'Chelley to nursing school one day.

A few days ago, I blogged about my first Haitian wedding and the heart break I felt watching the bride require assistance signing her marriage license because she was unable to read and write. And honestly I felt numb and overwhelmed... some issues in life are too big for one person to tackle. I can not teach millions of illiterate women in Haiti to read! But I can profoundly impact one girl's life who can profoundly impact another girl's life and so on and so on.

Knowing what I know about developing nations and having seen the devastation of extreme poverty with my own eyes, it easy to become overwhelmed at the magnitude of injustices. But there is so much hope for nations like Haiti because of girls like O' Chelley!!

Who is you girl? Who will you invest in? Don't have one.... it's no big deal, JUST HUMANITY!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Big Fat Haitian Wedding?!

Here's another snapshot from our time in Haiti a few weeks ago....

Being a sentimental romantic sap, I love me a good wedding!!! So I was thrilled to learn the day after we arrived in Haiti, there was a wedding at the church and we were invited!! In fact, we were even asked to be the wedding photographers lol. Looking back, I am laughing at myself because when we were first invited to the wedding, Belinda and I's first reaction was "but what will we wear?" (because our luggage hadn't arrived and yet and we were pretty ripe on day 2 without clean clothes). Even though I didn't understand a word of the ceremony, I could not hold back the tears from flowing but not for the reasons one might think.

The price tag of an average American wedding is $22,000. Americans spend an alarming $72,000,000,000 annually on weddings (that's a lot of zero's). We have created a lucrative industry out of something God intended to be beautiful and sacred. The urban slang dictionary describes one aspect of this industry, known as Bridezilla, as "a new breed of soon-to-wed women who abuse the idea that weddings are their 'day.'They terrorize their bridal party and family members, make greedy demands and break all rules of etiquette, to insure that they are the single most important person on the planet from the time they are engaged to the time they are married."

Yet on that Saturday afternoon, I saw the polar opposite of an American bridezilla. Instead of a couple caught up in planning and preparations of a wedding, I saw a couple caught up in the planning and preparation of a Christ centered marriage. Everything from the decorations (which consisted only of colorful chains of links of construction paper)to the one vase of silk flowers screamed simplicity and beauty. Most of the ceremony was similar to an American wedding but just much more simple and casual. The bride and groom sit facing each other while the best man and maid of honor sit by their sides. The most beautiful sight of all was the bride and groom, best man and maid of honor, literally kneeling on the church floor in heartfelt prayer together!

After the groom and kissed the bride(and the audience erupted in laughter,) it was time to sign the marriage certificate. As the photographer lol, I wanted to capture this in a picture. But as I watched the bride struggle to hold a pen much less write her name, the picture of illiteracy in Haiti was burned on my heart as I watched the Pastor sign the bride's name for her because she could not. My heart physically ached for the bride because of what may have been the best day of her life, she was reminded of the reality that she could not read or write. I then watched the mother of bride require assistance signing her name as well and the portrait of cultural and generational illiteracy was etched onto my heart.

As an avid reader and writer, if I woke up tomorrow morning and somehow lost my ability my read and write, that would be near torture for me. Yet 55% of Haitian (more than half) can not read or write. According to UNICEF, more than half of the nation's children fail to reach the fifth grade, and only one in five young people reach secondary school. As a bachelors degree prepared nurse (who has been considering going back to school to work on my master's in nursing), I am humbled when I think about how easy my education was to access (THANKS DAD!). And as I try to wrap my mind around how different my life and the beautiful bride's life must be, I can't help but to wonder why I have been so blessed?

As my heart broke over the bride's lack of education and beautifully humble heart... I thought of quote I heard years ago.... "How many Rosa Parks or Marie Curies have we lost to poverty? How many Maya Angelous or Sandra Day O'Connors never had a chance to learn? How many Mother Teresas have lost hope due to neglect and abuse?"

Spending time in a third world country is always a dose of reality and gut check for me. It makes me wonder why I have been given the resources I have been given and what God wants to me to do about the injustices I see in the world. It also has made us examine ridiculous ways we have spent our money in the past. And yet the more time I spend in Haiti, the more I think WE can learn from THEM (instead of the reverse) and their humble nuptials are just the tip of the iceberg.

PS the morning after the big fat Haitian wedding happened to fall on a Sunday and our sweet bride and groom where spotted on the front row of church... when most couples would be on their honeymoon, they were building a marriage foundation on the rock!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Feet don't fail me now...

Instead of trying to condense our entire trip to Haiti in one blog... this time I am going to try to to give you snapshots of our experiences there :-)

When we went to Haiti in last November, my friend Belinda instantly fell in love with two little neighborhood boys named Ebby and Tiken. Ebby and Tiken's mother passed away several years ago and they have never known their father. When we visited in November, we found them severely malnourished and being cared for by their maternal grandmother who could barely even care for herself. Grandma worked all day at the market leaving the boys (ages 3 and 6)by themselves all day long. Belinda and her daughter Shelby felt an instant connection to the boys and after talking to her husband when they returned in December, they began pursuing adopting the boys with their grandmother's blessing.

But unfortunately their grandma moved sometime between our last visit and us going back last week. We knew they moved but we had no idea where or how to find them. Belinda had resigned herself to the fact that finding the boys and being reunited with them last week would be difficult, if not impossible.... but when we landed in Haiti we started praying that somehow God would lead us to them and she could see them if even just for a brief moment.

The first morning we were there, I asked the other neighborhood boys if they knew where Ebby and Tiken were at. One of the older boys (Watson) kept pointing in the distance and saying something but the language barrier that existed left us as clueless as to their whereabouts as ever. We eventually found a translator who told us that Watson knew where they moved but we couldn't get there by walking so we loaded up in the truck with Watson in tow, hoping and praying that somehow this kid would be able to lead us to the boys.

A few short miles away, we found a cluster of hut homes. Belinda barely waited for the truck to stop before literally jumping out and sprinting across a valley to where the hut home was. The home was empty but never underestimate a determined mom... a few seconds later, we see the boys in the distance walking back, bare naked, from bathing in the creek. And once again Belinda took off running to them. As soon as the boys realized that the "blanc" running towards them was Belinda, they too began sprinting to be reunited. The pictures above are the three of them shortly after being reunited :-)

It was a beautiful scene and I feel blessed that through my tears I was able to witness this unfolding!! It reminded me how powerful and determined a mother's heart can be. International adoption are a constant up and down roller ride of emotions that can not be described to someone who has not experienced it themselves. There are so many hurdles that an adoptive mom must cross but with the determination of a marathon runner, an adoptive mom is an unstoppable force that can not be contained!

But seeing Belinda's unwavering determination as she has faced many hurdles in this adoption already (ones that go WAY beyond them just moving), I am reminded of how RELENTLESS God was in pursuing and chasing me. He chased me when I was chasing the things of this world to find the love I so desperately needed! Belinda loves those boys so much that she will do whatever it takes for them to legally become her own children and to improve their quality of life by giving them a loving and nurturing home. God- who loves you and I so much that pursued you until you became one of his children- desires to have an intimate and life-giving relationship with you and I. And eventually, we will be at the point in our journey when we are running towards Him instead of away from Him...the more I know of His great love for me, the more I am compelled to run to Him frequently and zealously!

Please continue to pray for Belinda, Ebby, and Tiken as they continue on this journey!