Matthew 3:11 11 "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Sanctification. The process where God burns up all the wood, hay, and straw. If there is gold underneath, then that is what is left. If not....well you just get burned up.
The long series of sleepless nights started during a loud thunderstorm. Right before bed (of course) a large bolt of lightning struck near the house. This was a series of large bolts that struck along with a downpour of falling rain. We have multiple power sources that sometimes decide they do not want to work together. Sometimes they break and strain the other systems, and then the whole thing just seems to give up. Oh the spiritual lessons that can be drawn from that analogy.
The inverter that is connected to the battery bank right next to the house started giving an alarm. The alarm is audible and very loud. Even though it went into an alarm state, the power stayed on. At that point the night guards decided to get involved and started flipping switches randomly. That is another subject.
After a long time of vainly trying to resolve the alarm, we decided to just leave it alone because it was still working. I can tell you that audible beeping all night does not make for good rest. When several things like that happen in a continual row it makes you kind of crazy.
After multiple scenarios that worked only slightly better (sometimes worse), the situation was finally resolved when another ministry partner loaned us one of their inverters. I guess about a week had passed at that point. I slept really well that night. Hopefully things will get back on track soon.
Through all this I have realized how great the language barrier is. I can certainly say that this is one of the biggest struggles so far. To have the communication capacity of a 2 year old child trapped inside a 40 year old mind that has studied and gained so much life experience is a major struggle. It is humbling for sure, but that is exactly where God wants me. I have to rely on Him and I just have to pray. Then I watch Him work. I know He'll give me the language skills when the time is right. For now I just have to learn humility.
Some things I can still do well, even without sleep and being a little strung out. Things like fixing glasses and bike pumps. This is the icing on the cake stuff anyway that makes all the hard stuff just kind of fade away. When a kid brings you a pair of broken glasses, and you know it is not possible to just run out to Lens Crafters for a warranty replacement, you have to use McGyver skills. Those skills usually involve fire. Once you fix one pair you begin to gain some respect. Then other stuff starts to come out of the woodwork, like more pairs of broken glasses and bike pumps. Good teaching moments abound.
In the midst of the sleeplessness I succumbed to playing a soccer game for the first time with the kids. They are really good. The Americans stink. They decided to play Haitians vs Americans – I wonder why. Well Anna jumped ship right away and joined the Haitian team, and several of the older boys had mercy on us and joined our team. The “Haitian” team slaughtered us 15 to 0 without even breaking a sweat. When Earnest Shackleton was out on the ice floes watching his ship being crushed by the pack ice, he made his team play soccer for refreshment. In the toughest of times taking a break to play soccer can make all the difference. Except here (and with Shackleton) they call it football.
Last week we went to visit Respire Haiti because they have a cafe. It was the best food that I have eaten since being in Haiti. They have really done some amazing things and it is exciting to talk to Megan and her husband about all that is going on. You can check them out here http://respirehaiti.org/
We had some leftover food and brought it home. It sat on the table for a while before we ate it. Later I opened it and apparently ants had crawled into the fries and made themselves at home. You know you are starting to belong in Haiti when you pick the ants out of the fries and you REALLY don't care. I was just as happy to have the fries with or without the ants. I really didn't care if I accidentally ate some of the ants, but I tried not to.
No matter how bad things get, it seems that God always brings some relief at just the right time. I had walked and prayed a lot on Saturday night asking God for a little bit of relief. That relief came on Sunday afternoon. Several of our kids had surrendered their lives to Christ and were about to be baptized. I was just standing there about to enjoy the moment from a distance when Pastor Lex approached me and told me to come into the water with him. He said he was going to split the group in half and we would baptize two at a time in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. What an incredible privilege to have a small piece in what God is doing here.
The waves at the beach here are usually very small or non-existent, but baptism day they were actually rolling. The surf was breaking around us and tossing us around a bit as we baptized the new creations in Christ. It was such confirmation that the Holy Spirit was in what we were doing. There is a battle here that rages for the lives of these kids like nothing I have ever seen before. God has something amazing in store for them.
Later in the week I got to share chicken killing methods with the kids. They taught me how they do it, and I showed them how our family does it. It was a great moment of sharing and learning. I'm not a big fan of the chicken flopping all over the ground immediately after death, so I got to show them how I use a cardboard cone nailed to a tree. This gives a little more dignity to the dying bird, and it doesn't get covered in crud as it flops violently in the dirt. I'm not sure they were impressed. I guess we'll know when we need to kill chickens again.
One night one of the boys came and knocked on my door sad because another boy had ripped his rain poncho. The poncho was one of those disposable ones that has less strength than a cheap garbage bag, but it was his, and he was sad that another one of the boys had so thoughtlessly ripped it. I went outside to get to the bottom of the story.
There was a bunch of yelling and hand waving, but the other boy admitted to doing it. He tried to defend himself by saying it took no effort, and the poncho was worthless. Even though I agreed I still wanted him to make it right. I came back with a roll of duct tape and explained the idea of restitution. I watched several of the boys work as a team in a vain attempt to fix the paper thin poncho. When they were “finished” they wanted the boy that owned it to try it on. He was still sad and didn't want to.
Well, the boy that broke it said he was too small and the owner was much bigger, so he had to try it on. This went on for a minute or so and then everyone decided another big boy could try it on. He was OK with it so he vainly tried to pull it over his head. After fighting for about 30 seconds he got it stuck and everyone started freaking out because they thought he would suffocate. He didn't seem to care, but they frantically pulled it off tearing more holes. At this point I told the boy that had broken it to just keep working on it the next day until he fixed it. I'm not sure I got my point across, but it sure was funny to watch all the action.
This place seems to be stuck somewhere between ancient BC and 21st century, but some of it seems to work so well. I love seeing the 4 oxen teams pulling big loads of firewood, the dugout fishing canoes with homemade nets, and the big wood fire bread ovens. Contrast this with the ox cart driver, the fisherman, and the bread maker all having i Phones. It is just crazy, but I think there is a lot we can learn.
I have heard many Americans complain of the Haitian work ethic, but I have rarely seen an American that can come close to working a hard full day like the average Haitian can. I think we can learn from each other. America needs Haiti to remind us of our heritage, and Haiti needs America to set the bar high. Together we can make each other better. All to the glory of God.
Last night the battery bank was finally drained and the whole place went dark, so I went to start the generator. While I was refueling I heard a bunch of yelling and screaming from the back where the living quarters are. Anna came running and screaming, “Daddy, Daddy !!! The propane tank is on fire!!” I dropped what I was doing and started to run to the living quarters.
Amy had gathered everyone and ran them to the front gate. She was pretty upset and was wondering when the tank may finally blow. And...this is why I keep a flashlight with me all the time. With only the propane fire to light the night I ran to the closest water hose. Of course it was about 50 feet too short. Then I remembered, “Hey, maybe you should pray!” Then I started praying.
There is a certain sense of resolve that happens when there is a propane fire, there is no such thing as 911, and you are the one responsible for making sure a whole bunch of kids are OK. I wrestled through that and realized that I had to act decisively and trust God with the results. I have been through one main space fire on a Navy ship, thank God for that experience.
The first three buckets I picked up had giant cracks and holes in them. It was like a bad dream with everything going in slow motion. I finally found a bucket without a hole and ran to the nearest water valve. I am not kidding – the valve came off in my hand and no water flowed. God, please don't let the tank blow. God please give me water.
I ran back to the short hose and began to slowly fill the bucket. I was praying and Amy was helping to encourage me by yelling through tears ,”It's gonna blow up! It's gonna blow up!” After 20 years of marriage she knows just the right thing to say to bring calm and encouragement. After an eternity I finally had the bucket about ¼ full and ran to the tank. God had mercy and the flame went out with the first splash. I ran back, refilled, and repeated until I was sure. Later Anna told me that one of the boys had started praying, and when he said Amen and looked up, the fire was out. God is real. God is good. All the time.