I Don’t Want to Miss the Promised Land

So, you know the story of Israel not being allowed into the promised land because of their disobedience? Well I have been reading all about that in the Old Testament lately and found myself being very judgmental with the Israelites. I just kept thinking “What the heck, Israel? Hasn’t God shown you His strength time and time again? Haven’t you reaped the consequences of disobedience long enough? Don’t you see that God’s ways are the best ways? LISTEN why don’t you!?!” But passing judgment doesn’t help anyone, does it? So I began to ponder with the Holy Spirit about what I could learn.

An entire generation of Israelites ultimately missed the promised land because of the fear of ten men. Twelve spies went in to scout the land and bring back report. All were excited about the land and what it would provide for their nation, but only two had faith in God’s promise to defeat the nations already there. The other ten men let intimidation and fear rule their decision and they spread that throughout the entire nation of Israel. Fear became their god and as a result they were not allowed to enter… ever! They had to wander for forty years until the unbelieving generation was gone and then their children could inherit the land. But God’s desire was for them all to be dwelling in the promise land, not wandering in the desert.

All of this makes me desire an obedient, faithful life before God even more! And not just for my sake, but for my boys! It would be heartbreaking for me to know that my disobedience to God in some way held my kids back from living even more in the “promised land” of their destiny. The children of the “disobedient generation” in Israel had to wander during those forty years as well, when their growing up was meant to be done IN the inheritance God had for them. One of our prayers is that our children would go above and beyond the life that we lead before God. That they would in a sense “stand on our shoulders” to achieve more and to see more of His kingdom on earth than we ever could! We want to lead lives that propel them forward to take hold of all that Christ has created them for and that it would be a generational legacy. Of course each person has their choice to make… we can’t force this dream to happen. BUT as we live in obedience to God instead of fear, we can enter into the destiny or “promised land” intended for us which will make it less of a struggle for our kids to walk in their destiny.

I suppose to put it more simply: God is continuing to deepen the knowledge in my heart that the way I live out my life before Him does not just affect me… it affects my children and my children’s children and my children’s children’s children. I don’t want to miss the promised land. And not just for my sake, but for the sake of generations to come.

~ Kirsten

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The Unseen Heros

Jesse and I were talking about our upcoming trip to the states and all the “updating” we will be doing with churches, supporters, friends and family. We try to come up with highlights from the past year to show how God has been moving and then cast a vision for what the next year of life and ministry will bring. It is always super exciting and encouraging to us when we get to share because it reminds us of all that God has been doing and is planning to do. But one thing the Holy Spirit has been whispering to us is “I was at work long before I ever called you two to live in Gwo Cheval.”

Sometimes within a missionary community there is this thought that “I brought Jesus here.” And it doesn’t necessarily originate with those in the full-time missionary world – it often stems from those who are loving and supporting. I think it is easy to put full-time overseas missionaries on a pedestal and declare them heros. I mean I totally used to! I would think that those called to be a missionary were “super Christians” or something. They were the ones who were truly sold-out passionate for Jesus and they were going to go save those poor lost souls who are so very needy and truly teach them about faith. My views of all that have changed slightly as Jesse and I have lived here in Haiti for 3 1/2 years now.

The community of true believers here in Gwo Cheval are strong and have a ferocious faith. Those of our friends here who truly trust in Jesus and follow Him are an inspiration for us. They are relentless in their prayers for God to move! And now we see that us living here is a result of their prayers for hope and change. We weren’t sent here because of our amazing talents or because we have the truth of the gospel and they don’t. We were sent here because the faithful ones here have been asking for God to move on their behalf to bring change to their community. Jesse and I had willing hearts and said “yes” to God’s call, but those willing hearts and that “yes” did not originate in us without the prayers of our now very dear friends.

Jesus is here in Gwo Cheval and He has been here working for a long time! We came as a result of those crying out to God for Him to move, for Him to bring provision, for him to bring hope. And now we are able to partner with Jesus in providing excellent education, job creation, better farming techniques, strengthening families and eventually health education and care. But we are no super stars. Faithful and obedient? By God’s grace, yes. But the ones I admire are these persistent prayer warriors who have been declaring God’s kingdom here in Gwo Cheval for years and years and years. The change has started with them.

~Kirsten

You Never Know What a Day Will Hold

You never know what a day will bring here in Haiti, or anywhere for that matter. You can plan, have a beautiful schedule all laid out and then in one moment it’s all ruined – an unexpected obstacle rears its ugly head and demands to be faced. 

We were so excited to have some dear friends of ours with us for the last week of December. We got up around 4:30 the morning of their arrival date to head down to Port-au-Prince. We were going to run a few errands before picking them up that afternoon at the airport. We had our plan, our list, our kids… we were set. Around 7am we came to the “river” passing on our journey down the mountain (depending on the time of year it is either a river or a stream) and went through just like usual. Well the water was just a bit deeper than normal and as we were just coming out on the other side our truck shut off. Jesse and I looked at each other – ok, no problem just restart – nothing. We weren’t fully out of the water yet so Jesse jumped to a rock and then got onto our bumper to open the hood to see what was up – water logged. In no time at all we had drawn a small crowd – “oh look the white people are stuck… let’s go stare at them.” Since we were blocking the main route through the river we had about 20 guys pushing and pulling us out of the river followed by a mad grab for money Jesse said he would give the group for helping. It was quite the chaos. Anyway these group of men were able to get us to the side of the road and Jesse got to work disassembling our truck’s insides to get out as much water as he could. Through a local pastor we know, a Haitian mechanic came to help and spent from around 8am until 4pm taking our engine apart, emptying out water and reassembling it all. Now there were many things that happened over that time that caused a lot of stress and frustration, a few of those being 

  – finding someone to pick up our friends from the airport (we had told said friends NOT to respond to anyone even if they said we sent them)

  – entertaining two active kids under the age of three for the whole day and realizing you forgot the laptop charger so movies could only last for so long

  – being pregnant and not having snacks or extra water in the car (we sent several people to get things for us in neighboring villages)

  – not knowing if your engine was completely ruined and thinking about how much that would cost

At first I handled the situation well, but as the hours went on and all the worst case scenarios I had been mentally sorting through started looking like reality, I was a MESS. For about two or three hours I went on and off throwing a fit before God (which I feel like I do all too often) as to why this was happening to us at this time when He knew we had friends to pick up and things to get done. And why couldn’t He just do a simple miracle and fix our stupid truck so that we could continue on with our plan. 

Our almost three year old, Joseph, throws fits… he is quite good at it. And as we see a fit begin to take form after we say “no” to something, Jesse and I like to tell him, “Joseph, you have a choice right now. You can throw a fit or you can take a deep breath and talk to us.” I imagine that’s kind of what God was saying to me in that moment.

In her book Without Rival, Lisa Bevere says this – “We have little to no control over what happens to us or what is said about us, but we are far from helpless when it comes to our actions. We have the power of choice, which gives us total control over our responses.”  

Well I responded poorly… and I knew it. I feel like I can blame my response partly on low blood sugar and pregnancy hormones though, right? But seriously after calming down and accepting the situation for what it was I began to realize that God was going to show up, and really already had. I also knew that He was and would continue to use the situation to refine, stretch and grow me. Knowing that we have the choice to embrace refinement in any given situation, we can learn, grown and become more like Jesus in the process.

Well after the long day we DID make it to a fellow missionary’s house in Port-au-Prince who had so graciously picked up our friends from the airport and welcomed them into their home. Since our truck was still not running right we spent the night in Port and headed home the next day. That day was also quite the adventure of truck issues, entertaining three kids under three year old, two uncomfortable pregnant ladies, forgotten house keys, flat moto tires, slightly under qualified mechanics and peeing in Haitian out houses… BUT this time I chose to talk with my Daddy and embrace the refinement. Though not with our truck, we made it home late that night because we have an amazing fellow missionary friend who drove down 2 1/2 hours to pick us up and turn right back around and drive us home. There were very difficult moments, but talking it out was much more effective than throwing a fit. 

Jesse and I can now look at that two-day adventure and see all the miracles that happened. 

 – Our truck is perfectly fine and running beautifully after another missionary mechanic tightened some bolts and wires

 – Our friends who came to visit still love us and we had a wonderful time together

 – We have an amazing missionary community who will sacrifice time and energy to help us

 – And our patience and ability to go with the flow and problem solve continue to grow
 

In every situation, in every trial, in every circumstance that we don’t have control over, we DO have control over our responses. Lord help us choose to respond like Jesus!
– Kirsten

Re-Counting the Cost

A couple months ago I was feeling very low, but I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt my soul was in such disarray. Yes I was pregnant with two littles under the age of three. Yes I was recovering from first trimester nausea and fatigue. And yes I was way behind on my “to do” list while still trying to help out with ministry. But I felt like it was something else. It felt like part of me was dying.

Luke 14 talks about “counting the cost” before signing up to be a disciple of Jesus. When I was sitting on my bed asking Jesus into my heart at five years old I wasn’t thinking about what I would need to sacrifice in order to follow Him… I just wanted to love God. But as my faith grew and came to challenging places of decision I saw more of what “counting the cost” meant. I would venture to say most (if not all) people have zero clue what God will require of them as they obey the call of Jesus on their lives. For instance I “knew” in saying “yes” to being a full-time missionary, I was sacrificing time with family, a “normal” American lifestyle and feeling clean for most of my life. But I really had no idea what it truly meant. As life has moved on, I see and feel the sacrifice on a much deeper level, and wow does it hurt at times. 

During that “low” time (and even now occasionally) I would imagine what life would be like if I could live next door to my sister and always go on walks together and raise our kids side by side and watch them play and grow and always be able to talk whenever either of us needed to – and my heart would ache and the tears would flow. 

I would imagine being back in our home church in Milwaukee with all our dear friends worshiping together, growing together, being challenged together, laughing together. I would imagine play dates and coffee dates with friends and babysitters who could watch our kids so that Jesse and I could actually have a date – and my heart would ache and tears would flow.

As I was crying all of this out to Jesse (the most patient and understanding husband quite possibly in the WORLD) I began to see that I was in mourning. l was “dying” to these thoughts of how our life could be. As I realized what was truly going on in my heart I began to turn my thoughts from what “could be” to what is. I remembered and saw with clarity what Jesus has made of our life and where He is taking us. Moving to the states and being near family and friends would be wonderful… for a time. But my calling (our calling) is not there. We are to be here in Haiti. If we were anywhere else our hearts would not be satisfied and our relationship with Christ would suffer. I am only fully alive and free when I am all in with Christ. 

And so by God’s grace I will continue to count the cost and I will continue to say “yes” to Him. The “yes” sucks sometimes and is difficult, but the reward of knowing Jesus and watching what He does in and through our lives far outweighs the sacrifice. There is nothing and no one else more worthy.

Dream-Come-True

Our dear, sweet friend Sonithe had her baby a few days ago! There is nothing like the joy that a new life brings! A sweet little babe all wrapped up, being snuggled in his momma’s arms; what a dream-come-true! But that new little life cost Sonithe something to receive and will cost her something to steward over and see succeed in this life.

The change a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy is remarkable… I’m currently experiencing that remarkable change. Things are growing and stretching and shifting and moving in order to make room for that little dream-come-true as it develops inside the womb. There is discomfort for sure, but knowing that this little dream will one day be laying in your arms is all you think about. And then one day.. at least for me… it hits you – this “dream” must be made a reality. It must come out! And then thoughts of how that all has to happen start flooding the mind! There is a cost. There is pain. There is endurance. There is waiting. There is labor. There is delivery. And then there are the sleepless nights and temper tantrums and training sessions and discipline and trying to figure out what the heck you are doing with this little dream that has been entrusted to you. Who knew that making this dream a reality would cost so much or be so much work! But isn’t that how every dream is that God places on our hearts?

When God begins to develop a dream on the inside of us it takes time to grow and develop and become ready for life in the outside world. Whether it be planting a church, starting a business, combating sex trafficking, raising the next generation or writing a book… the dream or vision must grow and develop so that when it is birthed it can breathe on its own. And then it happens. All the work and labor and “bam!” your school is up and running, the album has been recorded, you have your first harvest from your organic garden. Your dream is birthed. What a glorious moment! As you hold that dream-come-true in your arms and look it in the face for the first time, you realize…the true work has just begun. There is administrative business that requires long hours; you have employees who are real people that demand time, energy and relationship; you have a captive audience waiting to hear your next revelation from God; you have a product that needs marketing and customers that you need to keep satisfied…WORK.

But isn’t all the work totally worth it? God puts dreams on our hearts and He knows perfectly well the work that needs to go into it. And there is grace. He remarkably equips us for the dream-come-true of our life. Just like a woman’s body is equipped for pregnancy, labor and delivery, God equips us to see the dreams in our heart become a reality. Because they are not just our dreams… they are His too. 

Keep dreaming with God and know that He can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. In it all His grace abounds!

~Kirsten

Missing “Normal” Sunday Mornings

Have you ever been to a Sunday morning worship service in Haiti? Most visitors or teams who come usually comment on what an amazing cultural experience it is or how it is just a small glimpse of what worship will be like in heaven with all languages glorifying Jesus together or how passionate and full of faith the church members are with their more exuberant worship. And I would agree with all those things, but for me Haitian church services have become… difficult.  Continue reading

In It for the Long Haul

What a mini vacation we had a few weeks ago! We spent three nights at an all-inclusive Caribbean resort here in Haiti – beautiful beach, two awesome pools, activities galore, nightly entertainment, comfortable AC rooms and SO much food and drink. There was no “to do” list to complete, no dishes to do, no garbage on the ground, no broken down buildings, no one asking for anything, no one going without. Welp, back to reality… Continue reading

Home is Where the Heart Is

What do you think of when you hear the word “home?” 
Up until I was married, “home” meant being in Peoria, IL hanging out at my mom’s house with my mom and sister snugly sitting on the couch watching romantic comedies, talking about Jesus and giggling way too much about the most ridiculous of things. 

Now home means something different. Now when I think of home I see my husband’s face and hear the giggles of my two boys. I see the Haitian mountains and hear the yells of Haitian Creole greetings filling the air. My former sense of “home” just doesn’t feel the same anymore. I still absolutely LOVE being at my mom’s house and spending time with her and my sister, but my heart is not settled there. And even though my current sense of home is beautiful, the more I grow in the Lord the more I find my heart does not feel fully settled. My heart is not “home”.

2 Corinthians 5 says “We’ve been given a taste of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetites by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.” (The Message)
Because of the transforming power of the Gospel, I can no longer feel satisfied here on earth. My true home is heaven. My true home is with Jesus. My heart will only be settled when I am entirely consumed by His presence.

Don’t get me wrong, its not like I don’t love that “at home” feeling I get when I spend time with people who know me and love me best, but living between two worlds (Haiti and the U.S.) the feeling doesn’t last too long. When I’m in the states i’m reminded that with each passing year I become more detached from life and culture there. When I’m in Haiti I’m constantly reminded that I am a ‘blan’ (a white) and not a true Haitian. This lifestyle God has called us to makes me even more aware that our home is in heaven. I must live as a stranger here on earth until one day I am united with the One who’s heart IS my home. 

Until that day I will love and serve and do my best to welcome others to their true home… to the Kingdom of God where Jesus is King and our hearts are fully settled and at peace.