Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"That they may be one..."

 When Al and I were at some meetings in Miami this past spring, I struggled as we met as an organization and talked about the upcoming summer and got excited about all that God was going to do in and through and in spite of us. My heart was heavy, even though I knew God was at work. Why was my heart heavy? We had location specific breakout sessions. That means, everyone who is connected with Haiti (whether they were consulting for teams or would be leading trips) got together to talk about the specific trips and expectations for the summer. We spent time praying over the summer. Praying for each other. Praying for those who weren't there with us. You see, our Haitian Pelican family couldn't be there. There was a huge gaping hole. Something was missing. 30+ people.

Not everyone is in this picture, this is only about 1/2.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks later. Al and I hosted a staff meeting in Haiti filled with worship, fellowship, encouragement, and prayer over the summer with our Haitian staff. (You can read about that HERE.) Something was missing there, too. I looked around the room. A room filled with passion and young men and women preparing to serve for the summer. Praying that God would use them. Our American Pelican family wasn't there. They hadn't arrived yet for the summer, but as the summer gets going, people are coming and going all the time and we are never in the same place at the same time with teams serving here or there and staff crossing paths for only minutes at a time. (I have been able to see more of the stateside staff this year from time to time--you can read about that HERE.)

Jesus prayed for us, as believers, in John 17. In verse 11, He prays this: "And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one." This verse was brought up last Friday. 

On Friday, I was busy preparing. Preparing to host a gathering for a lot of our staff from the States and from Haiti. It used to be the norm that our teams would arrive on Saturday and leave on Friday, but that hasn't been the case this summer, except for last Friday. We are 7 weeks into a 12 week period when we have teams in the country every week. On Friday, it was the one evening when we did not have one single team in the country. We jumped on that opportunity for us to be together--as many as could be here.

Food, fun, fellowship, and worship. Both countries were represented that night. Not everyone from both countries--oh, how I hope that will happen someday!!!--but a majority from the States and many from Haiti. How good it was for us to be together. To laugh, to worship, to joke, to fellowship. Friends, this was amazing! I want our Haitian staff and American staff to feel like they are a part of one unit. A lot like how Christ desires--as we see in His prayer--for the Church to be united.

Friends, keep praying for our staff--both Haitian and American--as we serve together this summer. We are over half way through our incredibly busy season, but there is so much ministry in front of us! We need to be united. We need each other to lift one another up when we get tired or discouraged. Pray that God would continue to use us as we are faithful in serving Him well!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Coming and Going

This is a picture from last year, but it still applies ;)
 With the summer season comes the constant fluctuation of people coming and going. Teams coming in, serving with a local pastor or church, and leaving. Staff from the states coming into the country to serve for 2-8 weeks alongside our teams and leaving. The airport is the hangout spot where many of us get to meet up on the designated airport days. It's usually quick with a "Hey, how have your trips been going? Who are you picking up today? Where are you headed? Oh...my team's here, gotta run!"

Sometimes, though, in the midst of all the comings and goings, there is time for a cup of coffee or a few days to rest and be refreshed. This summer, for some of our stateside staff, our house has become the rest place. We have had (so far) 5 different staff members stay here and even more come to share a meal with us. This is something we enjoy as a family. Hosting people. Making them feel at home. Let them catch up on their laundry. Eat a good meal--something other than the regular rice and beans they get the rest of the time they are here.

Bityah knows all the staff by name and every morning, it's a fun game for her to go through the names of the staff members that could potentially be here. She says, "Mommy, let's go downstairs and see....(insert all staff names here)..."  She is always so excited to see whoever is down there. To show them her toys, have a tea party, or read books. She has become quite the little hostess! (Making Mom and Dad proud with that one!)

I hope everyone who comes to stay at our house, whether that be for a few minutes, hours, or days, feels welcome and can truly have a restful time so they can continue to serve well throughout the summer. I remember all the coming and going I did when Al and I were leading so many trips when we were first married. In fact, as I was doing laundry (for our family and a staff member) this morning, I told a friend, "I remember when we were leading all those trips, we would have two sets of clothes. We would wear one set for one trip, drop it off to be washed and pick up the freshly washed set." We did that all summer that first year. What a blessing it was to know that our laundry could and would get done when we didn't have the time to do it ourselves.

I am so glad to be able to host our staff--give them good food and a place to rest. To some of them, this is almost like a second home in Haiti. Glad that this can be a constant place where they are welcome. Where they can sit and eat brownies and enjoy some good fellowship. Glad my kids get to be a part of this refreshing process and get to know these wonderful men and women serving the Lord well here. I am thankful that I get to be a part of the ministry in this way.

Pray for our staff from the States and from Haiti as they are serving week after week. Pray that they would find time to be refreshed and rejuvenated so they can serve each team, pastor, and community well.  It is a big task that they have in front of them this summer and are relying on God for their strength!

Friday, June 17, 2016

We Value Them!

One of our partnership pastors once said when addressing one of our teams, "I don't know why you are came. But I asked God why you came and He said, 'I sent them to remind you that you are not in this alone.'" We have been taking steps to show our pastors we value them and we are in this with them by building relationships, bringing teams to encourage them in their ministry, and by hosting a pastors conference. We are excited as our relationships with these pastors grow and they begin to build relationships with each other.
We know that when these partners connect together, something beautiful happens. Ideas are shared and dreams are born! Check out this blog about on our Partnership Conferences.  Our vision and hope for our upcoming Partnership Conference this fall is to not only invite the Pastors, but host their wives as well. We want to give them a real time of relaxation and fellowship with training, encouragement, worship, and meetings.

Without our staff, we couldn't host teams like we do. We have been encouraged by their leadership and growth throughout the years and know that they sacrifice much to serve with us. Many of them have families, so when they serve with us for a week or two or three, they leave their kids and wives (or husbands) for that time. I know that that this is a great sacrifice that they are choosing to make as a family.

At our last staff meeting, the focus was being healthy in every aspect of life so we can serve the Lord well. This includes our relationships with our families and friends. This is especially important for husbands and wives. To find out more about what that last meeting was like (I really encourage you to do this) read Prepare to be Poured. My goal is to be able to recognize the value of our staff in August when we hold our end of summer celebration. This year, I want to invite their families to join us for an overnight stay at a local hotel/resort. We will spend time in worship, fellowship, fun, and debriefing the summer.

Many people know the value of our partnership pastors and our staff. These men and women have impacted  so many lives in the US and in Haiti. I have made these two events a priority this year and, hopefully, for many years in the future. For these events specifically, YOU have an opportunity to give. You have an opportunity to get involved in helping us show our partnership pastors how much we appreciate the work they do in their communities. You have an opportunity to invest in our staff and their families.

If you would like to make a donation toward these events, you can do so on the Praying Pelican Missions' secure website. Make sure to add a note to indicate which event you want your donation to go to. If you want more information about the cost of these events or just want more information about them, please feel free to contact me by using the sidebar.

Please prayerfully consider helping us show our Partnership Pastors and our staff valuable they really are to us!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Connecting the Dots

In the Spring of 2013, we were inspired. Praying Pelican Missions strives to connect the local church on a global level and that message was the focus of our President, Matt Pfingsten, during one of his sessions that year. I remember it clearly. He showed a slide of Belize and all the communities we partner with there. Then a slide of the US and Belize with the churches in the states that partner with the communities in Belize and the dots connected. Then, the what if. What if all the churches in the whole world were connected to each other? What ideas would be shared? How would the world be affected if the local churches were connected. The light bulb over Al's head turned on.

What if we connected all of our local partnership churches in Haiti?

The idea was born. We let the idea and plan grow and develop worked for over a year. In early December 2014, we brought 20 of our partnership pastors together at a hotel in the Port-au-Prince area for a 24 hour conference. We focused on true partnership and talked about what the Body of Christ looks like. The pastors had a chance to get to know one another. Many denominations were represented that weekend: Nazarene, Baptist, Catholic, Church of God, etc.  As the weekend went on, the denominational lines dissolved and these men became friends.

I remember, at the end of that conference, the pastors were so excited about what the future holds for them as they partner with churches in the states and with each other.

Almost a year later, we held the second Partnership Conference. This time the theme was Koinonia--Christian fellowship or communion with God and/or other believers. And that weekend, we truly enjoyed this community. Different pastors shared, led worship, addressed community development concerns and brainstormed ideas. Almando gave presentations on the basics of Praying Pelican Missions, what it takes for a team to get here, and addressed the importance of knowing the state of the world and community development projects.
The impact we have started to see from connecting these churches, these dots on the map, is amazing. Pastors are inviting one another to preach in their churches or be the keynote speaker at a conference, the idea came up of having a Partnership Pastors Mission Trip (which we are hoping to see happen this year), and ideas are being implemented in different communities as the pastors share vision and creative solutions to problems with each other. 

This conference has become a highlight for Al and myself. One of the things we look forward to planning and hosting because we see it make a difference. It is such a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ coming together to serve and grow. We see a change. Yes, it is a slow change--and some people are faster to learn than others, but we know that as we continue to lift up our pastors and connect them together, God will use and honor that.

Pray for our partnership pastors this summer as they receive teams from churches in the United States and Canada. Pray for the teams that are serving--that they would know that these partnerships matter. Pray that the partnerships are healthy and that God is glorified in them. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

When it Rains

We arrived back from meetings and family time in the states at the beginning of May. It had been raining. Since Haiti has been in a drought for 4 years, we knew rain was needed, but we were not excited about what we may find in our house. We found water and mold damage.

Like many people here, we built our house in stages. When we got married 4.5 years ago, we had a kitchen/dining room, bedroom, bathroom, and a very small area we called our living room. When Bityah was born, we added a two story, 2 room section beside the original house. When Oved was born, we added an additional upstairs bedroom and beautiful living area--which is my current favorite room because it stays cooler than the rest of the house. 

Left/lower is the original house, right/front is the first addition, right/back is the second addition.
But, there was a problem. Since the original house was one story and the added on sections were two story, there were two separate roofs that came together in the middle. This is a really big problem when it rains. The two sections were not sealed well, so water would run down the wall in the center of our house. With all the rain that has been coming down these past months, this became an even bigger problem that really needed to be fixed.

We decided that this problem needed to be fixed right away, but--with teams coming into the country--this wasn't ideal. A design was made anyways and a foreman was hired to get the masonry work done, so Al could put a new roof on. The construction was going well--even when Almando was in Jacmel leading a trip--until last Thursday when it rained. 

To get to a certain point in the construction, the workers had to remove the roof of our original one story house (side note: the roof on the newer side of the house stayed on). They left the plywood ceiling. That doesn't hold much water. No one anticipated that much rain to fall, but it did. And it fell inside. I was so grateful to Almando's family. They spent hours trying to get that section of the house dry. Filling bucket after bucket and dumping it outside. Still the rain fell. When they left that night, they knew--and I knew--that they would have to come back in the morning to get all the water out.

It rained a lot that night and the forecast called for rain all weekend. My heart sank as I thought about it. All weekend with rain? With no roof? What were we going to do?

In the last year, I have gotten connected with the expat and missionary community in this area on Facebook. We have a group page to share resources and network. Friday morning, as Al was looking at a pile of 2X4s and tin, I asked him if he would like me to put out a message for help. He said yes. Within minutes of posting on the missionary page and our staff page, I received a response that left me in tears. 

9 people showed up that day--some missionaries, some of their contacts, and some of our staff. Because they knew we needed a roof. A project that would have worn Almando out had he attempted to do it without others became a project that would be completed by a community of friends and family that we have surrounding us. The roof took 2 days to complete. And it continues to rain. But, now, we have a roof.  Yes, there is much work still going on in the house to get everything back to normal, but we have a roof.

I don't have words to thank my family, friends, and co-laborers for the Gospel who prayed and/or came to help with this massive project. God has blessed us with a wonderful and growing community to call upon in times of need down here. He brought them into our lives and we are so grateful! Praising God for a roof that doesn't leak today!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Activity Unleashed

It's official as of last Friday. Our summer teams have started flowing in! A rush of activity has just been unleashed! The days heading into that first trip were filled for Almando. I am amazed at the amount of energy and stamina this man has when it comes to making sure the ministry--and his family--is healthy and ready for the busyness of the summer.

We visited Thomonde in early April and it was determined--by the pastor--that one of the many projects that the church needed completed was they needed new benches for their sanctuary. The ones that they had weren't sufficient for the congregation anymore. A normal church service here is 2-3 hours long. Imagine sitting on benches that creak and crack hen you sit down, standing for the entire service, or carrying your own chair from home to make sure you get a seat. Benches are a huge blessing for the pastor and the congregation.

The team that was partnered with this church raised more than enough funds for the benches, but how much could they get done in a week?

Time for the creative juices to flow freely! While, sometimes, it is good and healthy to give all of the money designated for work projects directly to the pastor to take care of all the pre-work for the team, this pastor desired some extra assistance. Al cared enough about the pastor and the relationship he has with the team to help him make the most of the financial and time investment the team was making.

To make sure the mission team is able to accomplish something in the way of construction--which is something this team wanted to do--we had to brainstorm ideas on how to make the best use of their skills and abilities. We didn't know if there was a skilled carpenter on the team, so we had to prepare for untrained willing workers. For Al, that meant getting the benches to a point where the team could finish with sanding and varnishing while they were here.

He built them here, at our house. 10 beautiful benches. He figured out a good design and ran with it. He worked hard. He worked fast. When he was done with his part, he sent them on a 4 hour journey to the church where they waited for the team to come and do the finishing work.

The team enjoyed working on the benches (among other things) this week and the partnership church congregation has been encouraged by the team's presence and their willingness to work with the kids of the community. This relationship has been strengthened for the glory of God.

Old benches on the top, new benches on the bottom. 
Activity around here has been unleashed. As Al leads mission teams and plans and oversees the different aspects of the ministry that God has entrusted to him, these months will be filled with stories like this one. Just one small part of one team during one week that takes creative planning and preparation. Pray that Al is granted wisdom in decision making, rest in the moments when rest is possible, and continued energy throughout these months.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Prepare to be Poured

If you have been on a short term--or long term--mission, you know what it is like. You get geared up, prayed up, raise up support, and go! Someone was waiting for you on the other end. Someone to show you the ropes or get you connected. Someone to lead and guide you as you got your feet wet in the ministry that God had prepared for you. Think about that person. Think about what they did for you. Think about all the things you didn't think of or see that person do while you were serving. They prepared the way for you. Made sure your ministry was ready to go. Made sure you had food and water. Answered your many questions. Where did that person come from? How did they get to a place where they could lead you?

Some of our staff in our Haiti Pelican Staff T-shirts.
When we invite new Pelicans to join our family, we search--not for staff that can just speak good English--but for staff who have the HEART we are looking for and for LEADERS who are desiring to serve God and grow into leaders in their churches, communities, and country. Our vision is to develop leaders who will make a difference in Haiti and in the world.  

Last weekend, 22 of our 30+ Haitian staff gathered together one last time before the busy summer season starts. These young men and women have come to inspire many, including me. Their leadership for each of our short term mission teams is second to none. We invest time and energy into this Pelican Family because we know that without them leading well, the ministry God has prepared for each of our teams would not reach its full potential. God has called each one of them specifically to be part of our family of leaders for a good purpose.

The theme was simple: prepare to be poured. We never actually said those words, but as I prepared for this meeting time, the theme was made clear. I asked 3 of our leaders to share at some point during the meeting a word of encouragement for the rest of the staff. As we went through the day, it was evident that God pointed them to the same thing. From the story of Mary and Martha--don't get so caught up doing, that you forget to sit at the Lord's feet--to not losing your saltiness. From being satisfied in the Lord's presence (Psalm 65) to seeing the example of how Jesus got up early to pray. Example after example reminding us that we NEED to be filled up BEFORE we can be poured out. We need to be prepared to serve well. 

The day was filled with Scripture, prayer, worship and encouragement. Even when we got to going through the schedules and reminders for the summer, the emphasis was on remaining spiritually, emotionally, physically--"every-ally" to quote James, one of our leaders who shared that day--healthy. If we are spiritually empty or emotionally tired or physically sick, we can't lead well. Every team will be expecting (and deserves) the best of us whether they are the first team of the summer or the second to last.

At the end of the day, friends, I was filled. To the brim. God's presence was so evident in that place. The day was Spirit led and beautiful. I needed that day. Now, I pray that our Pelican Family is also filled because our trips start on Friday. I pray they are prepared to be poured throughout the summer. I pray they will plan to be filled, too.

"Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me." 
Philippians 2:24-18