The law of gravity exists whether we decide to believe in it or not. Isaac Newton did not create this law, he just defined it. If we say that we do not believe in this law and try to jump off a tall building, we will find out that the law does not care if we do not believe in it. If we do believe in it, but willingly attempt breaking it we will find out the same thing. God has created physical, spiritual, and moral laws. Whether we choose to believe or obey them is irrelevant to the fact that they exist and will act on us depending on how we choose to interact with them. I am learning the laws that exist in the spiritual realm more clearly than ever before since entering to the spiritual battlefield of Haiti. Authorities and jurisdictions exist because God has created them, defined them, and put consequences in place for breaking them. Even the demons believe - and shudder - says James. Those who fight against them will only find themselves fighting against God.
More than anything the spiritual battle that satan wages against us is a battle for the mind. He is the father of lies and seeks to steal, kill, and destroy mostly through deception and using people deceived by him to do his bidding. Those of us bought with the blood of Christ have been given authority in the spiritual realm to resist the devil and make him flee. We must first submit to God, then we must resist the devil. This is the battleground. It feels like battle and we suffer the effects of war veterans when we have been there, but greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world. Christ is victor.
It has been the most wonderful pleasure to be connected with the children's village in Leogonne that took seven of the kids when the bad orphanage next to our house closed down. It was a wonderful relief to see that four of them have already been reunited with their families and are no longer living in institutional orphan care. It is also good to know that the ones that remain are receiving the best care possible. It is all broken and far from perfect, but God works through our weaknesses and receives all the glory for all the good that happens.
The hurricane dumped tons of rain on us. This made for lots of green things and quick recovery for destroyed crops. This also brought massive breeding grounds for mosquitoes, fruit flies, and all manner of flying insects. Every morning we would go around and sweep up piles of gnats, mosquitoes, and other insects. It was awful. I was able to have a glimpse of how Pharaoh must have felt during the plagues.
Frenchy came by one day and expressed a sincere desire to continue with discipleship. His church was falling apart due to internal corruption and the subsequent fighting as a result. It had become too much for him to bear as Sunday morning worship services turned into yelling matches and power struggles. This was confirmed by another neighbor who is also a member of the same church. It was good to reconnect and start going through the study that I had put together for discipleship on who the church is and how we are supposed to function. It was even better to see him take this and begin putting it into action as he formed a bible study to teach it to others.
The weight of voodoo ceremonies is difficult to put into words. Haitians have a version of the day of the dead known as Fet Gede. There are sacrifices and ceremonies that happen all over Haiti during this time. Many were happening for several days in a row all around our house. It was difficult to think or function. We spent most of our time in prayer as they were going on. The battle is no less real even if it can't be seen with the naked eye.
We have committed to participating with City on a Hill Fellowship in Gressier – the church that is part of Respire Haiti. We have been leading worship because it was an area that was lacking and God has gifted us to fill. It has been wonderful to plug in there and use the talents that God has given our family to once again glorify His name with music.
It is such a strange thing to just live for God daily. To wake up every day and say, “OK God, what does today look like. Whatever you say goes.” It is freeing and terrifying at the same time. It is difficult to describe to other people who ask ,”What do you do?”. However it matches perfectly with the life of the apostles, and the lives of missionaries throughout history. I keep having to remind myself of this when I feel like I'm not measuring up to some self imposed standard that is not biblical. I am understanding that God is not looking for a business plan, but obedience. This is not an excuse for laziness in the area of planning. It is instead a reminder that when we make plans and God says to do something different that we are sold out enough to Him to abandon our plans and follow His.
The Leogonne man that we saw wearing only the bra lost the bra. Now he is known by the locals as simply the Leogonne naked man. He was seen for a while regularly walking in the middle of the national road talking to himself. “Hey kids look down!” we would shout when he would begin to come into view. He has now been joined by the belt man. A man that stands in a median grassy area holding his belt in the air with one hand, his pants up with the other, and making proclamations to the world throughout the day.
The AC in the truck started to lose its cooling effect. PaVle was sure that it just needed to be recharged with freon. I went to buy the freon and happened to see him near the “store” where I was buying it. I asked him where I could buy an adapter hose so that I could connect the freon canister to the charging port. He just went to his truck, pulled one out and gave it to me. He said he would call me when he needed it again. He said that I can find freon anywhere, but the adapters are only found in Port au Prince. I charged the AC and now we are happily freezing again when we drive. To only have to add freon once in 6 months is almost like a completely fixed AC unit in Haiti.
One night as the voodoo services kept me from sleeping I decided to walk on the roof and pray. I walked and prayed for a long time. It is hard to describe the feeling when right at midnight the clouds broke and the moon began to shine. There was a large charcoal fire putting out Kevorkian levels of smoke next to our house. It felt like I was praying in the very pit of hell as I walked through the thick smoke being illuminated by the moonbeams to the noise of voodoo drums and hair raising screams among chants. Within an hour the smoke subsided and the service completed. Time to go back to sleep. Another battle fought.
The political situation here continues basically like it has been for the last year. It is impossible to predict when large groups of people are going to decide that today is the day to block the road, throw rocks, burn stuff down, and tear stuff up. Another election was planned for the day of Amy's 40th birthday and the embassy issued a shelter in place recommendation beginning the night before continuing until the day after. Just long enough to trap us for her entire birthday. The only thing she asked for was to go to a beach near by and eat some lobster. With the shelter in place warning this was no longer an option. I talked to TiMouche and worked out for him to bring some to us.
All of us have been on constant edge and provoked to argument at the drop of a hat. We had been trying to get back to the US for a time of respite, but events like the hurricane and political unrest kept preventing it. Two days before Amy's birthday the two of us started arguing and continued with no resolve until a full week after it was behind us. I have heard other pastors, missionaries, and ministry leaders say this, but I can now confirm it with first hand experience. Ministry is able to continue under just about every hardship except when things are falling apart at home. This makes ministry almost impossible.
I guess that is the way it is supposed to be. The qualifications for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 put a prerequisite of family first. This should always be our first ministry and all other ministry should be a natural fruit of this one. When the first one is falling apart we need to regroup, focus there, and then the natural fruit will again overflow into other areas of ministry.
After 22 years of marriage it doesn't seem like we should have unresolvable arguments to just go on and on. Especially one that went well beyond the length of any we have had in the past. I guess we always have to strive to break the odds and outdo everything we have done before. What a comforting thought. In the midst of frustration and arguing TiMouche showed up a day early with the lobster. The only good part about this was the fact that Amy had to do most of the work to cook them because I didn't know what I was doing and at least she didn't have to do it on her birthday. The good news was that he brought 10 beautiful very alive lobster and gave them to me at the best price I have ever paid. The bad news was that I didn't know what to do with them once I had them. The conversation went something like this:
Amy: “What are you going to do with those?”
Me: “I'm going to boil them.”
Amy: “You really don't know how to do that do you.”
Me:”No. But I can Google it if I can find a good signal.”
Amy:”Whatever. Just let me do it.”
Amy:”Well at least it isn't actually on my birthday.”
In a failed effort to redeem myself I tried to prep the lobsters by washing them in fresh water and cutting off the long tentacles so they would fit in the pot. They were all very much alive and thriving. This is good because they were fresh. It is bad because they were large monster lobster and tried to kill me as I worked with them.
When the water finally came to a boil I put the first one in the pot. He only fit halfway in and I tried to grab onto him as he thrashed around violently splashing boiling water everywhere and slicing up my hands so much that I started bleeding all over the place. I finally got him wrestled into the pot head down and pinned his tail to the top of the pot with the lid. I was now in control, but he was still fighting me for all he was worth and it took every ounce of strength and effort to keep him there.
Finally the struggle subsided and I knew that he was whipped. Slowly and cautiously I removed my bleeding hands from the pot and took a breath. Amy could see the big drops of dark red blood all over the place and cared for my sliced hands out of genuine love and concern. We finally got all of the lobster cooked and enjoyed one of the best meals we have ever eaten in Haiti. We made lobster everything for the next three days. At least it was a good way to shelter in place.
TiMouche continued to make charcoal out of the fallen trees. He also made a dugout canoe. I heard a hollow chopping sound all morning and wondered what he was doing. That afternoon when I saw him he told me that he made a canoe and wanted to show me. It was beautiful and well crafted. The best one I had seen around here. He was really proud of himself as he showed it to me. He explained that he didn't have a net to fish with. However, he knew some other guys that had a net, but they did not have a canoe. His plan was to rent out his canoe to them for a portion of their catch as payment.
As I process through my time here I can see that in some places I have planted seed, some places I have watered, and some places I have harvested. As I pondered which area seems to be the closest to my gifting I landed on fertilizer. A little helps the plants to grow big and strong. Too much and they will burn up. If it is too raw it will stink so it needs to be refined before being applied. I remember always loving to go to the Co-Op store with my grandfather when I was a kid. I don't know why exactly. It was just a country freed store. For some reason I always loved the smell of it. I came to to realized that smell was refined fertilizer. Hopefully I am being refined so that I won't stink so bad as I go about the work God has called me to. I have also realized that like Paul, I am not going to be able to stay in one place for too long.
As Amy and I were coming to the end of our long argument I realized that could either be right or be married. Being right was just my own idea and definition of right. Maybe a little like self righteousness that has no place in the kingdom of God. I was truly beginning to die to self and learning what it was like to crucify the flesh and love my wife sacrificially. After staying up all night praying – truly battling in prayer – I began working in the yard the next morning to help me process through everything. I was weed-eating the whole place that had truly become a jungle after all the rain. It was starting to really look beautiful. More beautiful than ever before because of the constant care, weed-eating, and rain.
I began just rejoicing and praising God while working. As I started singing out loud the weed-eater got bound by some fishing string that it picked up in the yard. The first time this happened I didn't even think about it, but then it happened again. After 3 times of this happening I began to test it. Every time I started to sing out loud I would pick up fishing string that would bind the weed-eater no matter which part of the yard I was in. Once I recognized this as a targeted spiritual attack I just called satan out on it and commanded him to leave me alone. I picked up the weed-eater again, started praying more loudly and boldly, and finished my work without any further interruptions.
So often it seems like the missions here either contribute to the problems or that they are in fact the problem. One fact that keeps popping up and has been confirmed again recently is that more than one mission that I know personally is using short term teams to smuggle the products that they are making out of the country. I just can't wrap my mind around this and I don't see how it not only will not help, but will in fact do major damage to all involved. It all seems so innocent to the short term team members when they are asked to bring back some items with them and ship them to an address they are given. They are here to help and just want to do what they are asked to do. They are probably not even aware that they are breaking the law as they fill out the custom form that asks if they have commercial merchandise with them.
Child sponsorship is another area that is exploited here. One of our neighbors recently stopped going to school because her parents couldn't afford it. We were talking to her after church one Sunday and she explained that they were writing letters to sponsors during the church service. When we asked what the sponsor provided, she said nothing. They just wrote letters back and forth to each other. This just happened to be the same church that Frenchy ended up leaving. Just like food distribution, sponsorship money rarely helps the kids that it is supposed to. Often it only goes to pad the pockets of those exploiting and abusing the kids that it is supposed to be going to. This is not isolated, but instead the rule rather than the exception. This is not only true for Haiti as I am beginning to find out, but takes place all over the world.
I woke up to go to the bathroom about 2 am. I heard something scratching on the window outside and noticed a medium sized rat eating a snail. I went back to bed and put some poison on the window sill next to the snail shell the next morning. A few nights later I heard it about the same hour and went to check. This time it was eating the poison. Satisfied that this would kill it I didn't put out any more. A couple more nights passed and I heard it again. This time I decided I would torch it through the steel window grating. To my surprise thing had some how come into the house and was now inside the window. I couldn't find a good place to torch it without burning up something important.
The closest blunt object was a plunger. This turned out to be completely ineffective. I chased it into the twins room and woke them up abruptly as I started banging around with the plunger. It finally entered the kitchen area and disappeared. Amy woke up and came to help. We eventually found it, flushed it out, and worked together to kill it. It was so symbolic of us tackling the spiritual battle that had plagued our relationship and working together to destroy the enemy. It seemed like everything started getting better after killing the rat.
God worked out so many details with perfect timing for us to go on a vacation as a family. Focus on the Family and the North American Mission Board worked together to get us some online time with a counselor as well as some time with one in the US. A friend found us a free condo in Florida that gave us a place to stay while we got refreshed and went to counseling. The time was amazing. The body of Christ working together to support each other so that we can continue to do what God has called us to do.
We really connected as a family and went through lots of the resources that were provided to us. We laughed, cried, stayed up all night, slept till noon every day, while talking and sharing like never before. The counselor said that our children handled some really hard things with mature attitudes and told us that we have done a good job as parents. This was comforting, but confirmed that all we have been through has been really difficult and has been an incredible strain on all of us.
Amy and I came through and have dealt with things we have never dealt with before. We have both grown and our relationship is sweeter than it ever has been. We are treating each other with more love and respect than ever before in our marriage. All of us went through some of the PTSD exercises and it was amazing how much they helped. I was up praying late one night and it was like a switch was flipped. I felt different than I had in years. It was the first time in as long as I can remember that I was really sad when vacation was over. It was actually difficult to think about coming back to Haiti and all of the hardship that waited for us.
The day after we were back we went to visit one of our neighbors. It was funny to watch for over an hour as two young boys played with a videocassette. They took it apart and began to string it all through the surrounding trees. They would climb into the trees, wrap it around and around, and then proceed to the next tree. Everyone around just went on about their business and said nothing as the young boys made an enormous spider web of videotape just over their heads in the trees. No one seemed to care or even notice. Its what the devil does here. He patiently makes his webs and it seems like no one is fighting or paying attention. Eventually the web surrounds those we know and love and they are caught.
I know now how much God is for me. I know how much he is for my marriage, my family, and His ministry that he has called me to participate in. It is a good feeling knowing that I did not save myself and I cannot keep myself saved. He saved me and holds me in His mighty hand. However, I have the privilege to participate in this or I can try to fight against it. I have learned the joy of active participation. I have learned the feel of victory in the battle and it is so sweet.
Psalm 144:1-8 Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. 2 He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. 3 O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him? 4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow. 5 Part your heavens, O LORD, and come down; touch the mountains, so that they smoke. 6 Send forth lightning and scatter the enemies; shoot your arrows and rout them. 7 Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me and rescue me from the mighty waters, from the hands of foreigners 8 whose mouths are full of lies, whose right hands are deceitful.