Saturday, July 18, 2020

God's people triumph because of HIS love

37) Yet even in the midst of all these things, we triumph over them all, for God has made us to be more than conquerors and his demonstrated love is our glorious victory over everything!  38) So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God's love. I'm convinced that his love will triumph over death, life's troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love.  39) There is no power above us or beneath us--no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God's passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!                                                             Romans 8:37-39 The Passion Translation

Claim this verse... "Yet even in the midst of all these things, we triumph over them all, for God has made us to be more than conquerors and his demonstrated love is our glorious victory over everything!" 

Could you say you have felt the past months the world is 'upside down'? New troubles, surging unrest, unknown future circumstances. Not to worry! Through his love, God has made us MORE THAN conquerors. For this, God gave his son, the Anointed One! Claim the victory! 

All that we had to haul with us to Florida, to return to Haiti, in a 'mid-sized sedan' rental car... Conquered! Victory!

Can you believe....IT FIT!!

We learned some years ago from Swedish relatives who came to visit in the US, when it is time to go, when it is too hard to say "Goodbye", you just say, "See you soon!" So... for these and other family members and friends, we said, "SEE YOU SOON!"

Next....good friends and gracious hosts, we 'checked out" of the 'Peterson Inn'. Thank you for your hospitality!  Then we are OFF for the drive, our final journey of this time of Sabbatical, destination Ft. Pierce, Florida. We were grateful for yet more sights to see in this beautiful country. Last time we DROVE to Florida our now thirty six year-old daughter was TWO years old. 

As COVID 19 time marches on, we all can begin to see how and where God continues bring victory, to move to affect things for GOOD and for HIS GLORY. During the weeks when Missionary Flights International planes stayed on the ground in Ft PIerce, Florida, there was a 'seize the moment' opportunity to commission two artists to create this mural which can now be seen in the MFI Hangar. 

The mural commemorates the commitment to disaster relief which MFI made during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and a more recent commitment to disaster relief in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. It is magnificent and even more so after hearing the creative and physical details from Kevin, one of the MFI pilots. The scene depicts the vantage point the pilots have as they look out from the cockpit during flight.

With all the cargo we were bringing with us we checked in at MFI Monday afternoon before our flight on Tuesday. The plane is polished, perched, ready to go.

With an early morning take-off, we catch the sunrise. It seemed to beckon us toward the direction of Haiti... 'Come, come, the time is now!' Pilot Ray is ready to roll! Never boarded with a mask before! Always, MFI has been a tremendous blessing to us as missionaries but now more than ever because there are currently no commercial airline flights into Cap Haitien and few into Port au Prince. Today there is no safer way to fly than on this 1940's DC3 cargo plane. 

The terrain of Haiti is an extreme contrast from the plains of NW Iowa, or anywhere in the US for that matter. We went through immigration in Cap Haitien in the north (above), then a twelve minute hop to the Central Plateau (below) where it is easy to spot Mt Pignon, the landmark in this area.

A welcomed sight, the grass airstrip that is less than one mile from our final destination, the Many Hands Campus. If you could zoom in on this picture you can see the campus towards the upper right. And here we are:
"Byen Vini! Mr Craig ~ Se Christi.  Nan Non Tout Staff MH4H La! We Love You Guys!" 
(Welcome Mr Craig and Sister Christi. In the name of all the Many Hand staff! Nou renmen nou!) 

AND MAN! it is hot! Since we left, the apartment where we live has been tiled by some amazing Michiganders! and painted by some equally amazing Iowans! and recently cleaned by the amazingly amazing Haitian ladies, Beatris and Evenie! The task at hand....FIND the fans, pillows, etc and put things back in place. 

So we can say the apartment was clean but... our stuff... covered in dust, even INSIDE the boxes.  😲 The momentary SHOCK of this daunting job that needed to be done was calmed as we were privileged to greet those we call family and friends on this side of the ocean. Every person... EACH ONE... said specifically with enthusiasm, "I have been praying for you and your family each day. 'Bon Retou' (literally Good Return) Welcome back." Two friends in particular used the phrase, "Mwen swaf pou ou", I am thirsty for you. 

That made an impression in a land where thirst is SO extreme. We experienced a thirst the first couple of days that we had not felt the whole time of being stateside. Haiti is a land where people are focused on the necessities. The BASIC necessities. Water first, then shelter, then food, then clothing. 

What a reassurance and a comfort to be greeted in this way. The welcome also included a bowl of hand-picked mangoes, (I ate three for supper) a couple of sizable spiders, and NO rats! One of the first things to put in place, (below) a brand new DEWALT shop stool with casters we have been coveting ever since our son had purchased one for himself. 

(Notice the beautiful tile and paint! We are blessed beyond measure. We are beyond grateful)

While being focused on the necessities, there is an effort to be respectful of others during this virus. While it is not readily 'admitted' by local people that there is Corona Virus here in the central plateau, MH is encouraging the use of masks. The term here, we learned, is 'kachnen'. Which could be translated 'to hide the nose'. Part of the cargo we brought included some safety shields that were donated to MFI. Nurse Lerosane was thankful to receive one as she is seen below cleaning the entry points of Anaika's external fixater which needs attention soon in Port au Prince. 

Life continues with troubles of economic hardship, sickness and fear. If you ask a Haitian how they are doing, in general Haitians don't complain. You will hear responses such as, GREAT!, Good, Not too bad, or a shrug of the shoulders along with "Bondye konnen", which means, GOD KNOWS. 

As we talk to friends and MH staff and hear where people are with life's present and future troubles, we are assisting with the plan for the restart of school which the government says will happen August 17 which will include some 'compulsory procedures'. Because Haitians live in uncertainty on a daily basis, people are generally 'cool' about what is to come. "Bondye konnen", God knows. MH will emphasize, as people of God, we are more than conquerors, we triumph because of HIS love which he brings through his son, our Lord Jesus. 

The day following our arrival, God again gave his sign of reassurance. This time over the entrance to MH Campus. "I will never leave you!" says our Lord who loves us in and through all circumstances. A sign of triumph because of HIS love for us

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life, As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.    Joshua 1:5

"Passing Ordinary Time" by Enuma Okoro, Nigerian-American poet

This ordinary time is gifted in its quiet marked passing.
Christ slips about calling and baptizing, sending and affirming,
pouring his Spirit like water into broken cisterns,
sealing cracks and filtering our senses,
that we may savor the foolish simplicity of his grace.

As we worshiped online this past Sunday with our son Jonathan at Pillar Church in Holland, MI the following song was sung, "In Feast or Fallow" by Sandra McCracken... seems fitting to share here...

When the fields are dry, and the winter is long
Blessed are the meek, the hungry, the poor
When my soul is downcast, and my voice has no song
For mercy, for comfort, I wait on the Lord.

In the harvest feast or the fallow ground
My certain hope is in Jesus found 
My lot, my cup, my portion sure 
Whatever comes, we shall endure. 
Whatever comes, we shall endure. 

When the earth beneath me crumbles and quakes
Not a sparrow falls, nor a hair from my head
Without His hand to guide me, my shield and my strength
In joy or in sorrow, in life or in death

....and this prayer was prayed... also seems fitting to share here...

Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo. Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us. Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image; through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. AMEN

Friday, July 3, 2020

We Have Humbly Received

Reflecting on the experience of the past months of being stateside on Sabbatical since January 2, 2020 stirs many varied thoughts. But the most prevailing has to be, what a HUMBLING experience this has been to come from a life in a third world country and...

navigate life in a first world country, aka the good ole U.S. of A. We have humbly RECEIVED innumerable blessings from family and friends. A few 'biggies' would be, as you might guess, a place to lay our heads at night, a vehicle for our comings and goings, a shower and clean towels, a sink with a mirror, a closet to hang our clothes, and the offer of a meal together at a dining room table, risky as it may be! As has been the case for everyone the past months, interacting with others has not been a simple part of the day. 

The picture to the left is the cover of a journal which is now FULL with the reflections and lessons and questions along with the hard stuff, all of which God has revealed as we have listened, pondered, wondered and sat. There have been doubts and soul searching spawned by conversations that maybe left us feeling as though we were sitting under an interrogation light, thinking, "wow, never saw that coming!'

God ALWAYS provides the reassurance, the comfort, the confidence that HE is IT! HE is all we need, all we need hope for. Through scripture, through the Holy Spirit, through the silence, we HUMBLY RECEIVE all that he provides. 

His PROMISE to never leave us is HUGE.
Below is the storefront of MANY HANDS MARKET, the thrift store in Spencer, IA, as witnessed one spectacular morning during the time of pandemic related business closings. God made a double sign for reassurance. 

We HUMBLY RECEIVE the encouragement of God's presence and teachings from many 'SIGNS' God put in our path.

Inspiration comes from the teachings of other champions of the Christian faith. 

This was something new to ponder and wonder about....BUYING a PARKING LOT...?! Wait...What?!

This is a recent entry in my personal Calligraphy Journal that has allowed an outlet for expression and deep thought through this prayer and other inspired entries.


During the onset of the uncertainty of the pandemic, we were thrilled to receive frequent video of grandson Oliver as he was preparing for his "virtual" Piano Recital. A great way to pass many "Stay at Home" days. 

And then... Oliver practicing like his mother used to do...

"In Person" time with family often included a COVID 19 tailgating picnic.    

Precious times.

AND FINALLY, a visit to Michigan where restrictions were loosened enough that we could at least sit in the yard of granddaughter Lila's house.

Never thought the simple unexpected question, "Do you want to hold her?" could make your heart soar with delight. 

With MANY 'window' visits to new grandson Liam in Cedar Rapids, IA , our BONDING moment arrived, "Would you like to hold him?" (But I don't want to let go!)

The months of May and June found us in Clive, IA where we spent many hours working on helping set up the retail space of the new Many Hands Thrift Market. Watching an empty space...

.... transform day by day until the time to open was near.

With generous donations of many people's "STUFF", the store became full and is now open for business.

The blessing of 'in real life' time spent with grandkids ... Oliver helping GrandDad receive in donations at the Clive thrift market.

AND...Ivy helping Grandma Christi sort and display books on the shelves.

THE TIME HAS NOW COME ... Word is out that the president of Haiti reopened the boarder and air travel can resume. This is the Many Hands campus inviting us to return to humbly serve as we know we are called to do. Times are tough, the economy is weak, there is sickness and fear. 

We hear the main road going into Pignon from the south is hard surface all the way!

Above, another Calligraphy Journal entry. Wounds can go DEEP. We believe that God has called us to share HIS compassion with those living unbelievably challenging lives that we are neighbors to in Haiti. This, below, will be our prayer as we pack and prepare to depart the good ole U.S. of A., driving to Fort Pierce, FL starting out Saturday, July 11th. The scheduled departure of the Missionary Flights International flight is 7:00 AM Tuesday, July 14, landing in Pignon, Haiti before noon that day. We will be bringing with us the required test results of a COVID 19 test and follow that with a 14 day quarantine on Many Hands campus. We would be honored if you would pray this prayer with us daily.

WE GO...because we are HUMBLY called to do THIS DAILY.... Psalm 67:3 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Choose FAITH over fear

Hello! from IOWA. We hope this greeting finds YOU healthy and virus-free. Just as this is an unexpected time for everyone, this is hardly how we envisioned the second half of our sabbatical time to be spent. As MH4H sent us on sabbatical January 2, 2020, we have missed being connected with you all.

While attending a church service in Tennessee the second Sunday of March, the main theme of the sermon sparked a memory of when our kids were young. We had a cassette tape that we played over and over again of a dramatization of the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-20). In the part of the story where the angel approaches the shepherds in the field, the angel called out, "Fear not." The shepherds on this audio cassette reacted, "AAAHHHH!!!" The angel encouraged the shepherds again with a bit more determination, "Fear not." Again, the shepherds responded, "AAAAHHHH!!!" The angel, NOW a bit irritated, replied, "What part of FEAR NOT are you NOT understanding?... Never mind, listen up."

So the sermon three weeks ago addressed the need to not be fearful of the current events that were upon us. That continued message was shared this week during an online service from Michigan as the pastor began by saying we must choose FAITH over fear. AND ... that we should not get TOO accustomed to 'going' to church in our pajamas!

Sprinkled quite liberally throughout scripture, these words are found...."Do not fear", "do not be afraid", "do not give way to fear", "do not be anxious", "cast all your anxiety on him", "don't be alarmed", "do not worry", "do not lose heart or be afraid", "do not be fainthearted", "do not be terrified". (Google "do not fear in the bible" and see where to find these references.)

GO to scripture, READ, FIND these words for yourself. REMIND yourself of ALL these occasions people had reason to be afraid and God gave encouragement and comfort with this assurance. We have this SAME assurance today, all day, tomorrow, all day. Do not fear.

As you see the world in crisis, it is fitting to lament over this very unprecedented time. Lament flips to HOPE because God shows up and is present with you by the power of the Holy Spirit. And oh! how important to keep HOPE during this time. Our patience will be tested. Our FAITH will be tested.

Kinda seems as though some of you may now find yourselves in a similar 'sabbatical' mode. How are you spending your time?

We have reflected, regrouped, reloaded, and now, maybe we will be challenged even more to do these things all over again!

We have been from 'sea to shining sea', seeing the sunrise over the Atlantic (above) and the sunset over the Pacific (below).

We have enjoyed a tremendous amount of the beauty of the United States of America including an up-close and personal moment with this Florida gator. After the fact, we learned if you are ever chased by an alligator, you should run in a zig-zag pattern as they can't see straight ahead. Really good to know! "Fear not!"

We arrived at our 'home away from home' in Tennessee the evening that a monster tornado demolished a chunk of the Nashville area. About an hour from where we were staying was a hard hit location.

We had the privilege of serving as part of the relief effort. We were able to assist a Nashville area restaurant by serving burritos to other relief workers and help organize and distribute piles of donations that had been given for the benefit of people who had lost everything. Fear not, God will care for you in many ways during a time of need!

A plank from a wooden dock floated to shore on East Lake Okoboji after a light windstorm. This goose had always wanted to try his skill at "stand-up paddle boarding".

And then striking a YOGA pose.

The performance came to an end. His audience all left!

After several early mornings of noticing the unusual behavior of this male cardinal, we had to again,  google, "why do cardinals repeatedly fly into a glass window?" This was the explanation...

"This is a problem that is most common in the spring as male birds are establishing and defending territories. The male sees his reflection in the window and thinks it is a rival trying to usurp his territory. He flies at the window to try and make the rival leave. Stopping this behavior can be difficult. Covering the window is one option, however, in most cases, the bird will just find a new window and start again. Another option is to put a mirror out in the yard in a place where the male should find it, and let him fight his phantom rival out there away from your window!"

So, we just make the most of his quirky ways and wake up early each morning to the sound of this cardinal fighting his phantom rival. Maybe HE should 'fear not!'

The beavers are already going stir-crazy from COVID-19 quarantine. The expression, "Busy as a beaver" is used for good reason. OH! if we could all be so industrious, especially NOW!

This is the office door of the 'Beaver Boss'.  :)

Does this have anything to do with "social distancing"?

A new career in food service could be in sight.  Well, maybe not!

Our son, Michael, with his wife, Brittany, pregnant with Liam and holding Essie in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Our granddaughter, Ivy, and our grandson, Oliver, were visiting from Spencer, Iowa. We are in our usual practice of communicating with our family the same way we would as if we were in Haiti, using Facetime, sending photos and messages. We must say that this is a uniquely, awkward time to be 'homeless'. A bit inconvenient right now to be perpetual house guests.  :(  BUT we are grateful for a beautiful place to stay during this time. Fear not! God provides!

Four month old granddaughter, Lila, being held by her dad, Jonathan, in Holland, Michigan. Thankful for the technology of being able to stay in touch, in the usual way.

Choose FAITH over fear. Beware, keep your eyes open and choose FAITH. This leads to peace. Don't make the angel ask you, "What part... of fear not... are you not understanding?" :)

PSALM 91 God Our Protector
1)Whoever goes to the Lord for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty,  2) can say to him, "You are my defender and protector. You are my God; in you I trust." 3) He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers and from all deadly diseases. 4) He will cover you with his wings; you will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you. 5) You need not fear any dangers at night or sudden attacks during the day 6) or the plagues that strike in the dark or the evils that kill in daylight. 7) A thousand may fall dead beside you, ten thousand all around you, but you will not be harmed. 8) You will look and see how the wicked are punished. 9) You have made the Lord your defender, the Most High your protector, 10) and so no disaster will strike you, no violence will come near your home. 11) God will put his angels in charge of you to protect you wherever you go. 12) They will hold you up with their hands to keep you from hurting your feet on the stones. 13) You will trample down lions and snakes, fierce lions and poisonous snakes. 14) God says, "I will save those who love me and will protect those who acknowledge me as Lord. 15) When they call to me, I will answer them; when they are in trouble, I will be with them. I will rescue them and honor them. 16) I will reward them with long life; I will save them."