Thursday, August 16, 2012

Home For Haiti: Nov 2012

We are Haiti Bound.  

Not unlike our mission work in Ghana in 2011, this seed, too, was planted through a series of letters from one of our Compassion children.  This time, it is my ten year old daughter’s Compassion child, Medgina, whose letters stirred our hearts to rise to action.  

Jillian began sponsoring Medgina in 2010.  At first, it seemed they simply had their age in common.  Medgina is a mere 24 days younger than Jillian. It wasn’t until this past year that we discovered that Jillian and Medgina had much more in common than we were aware of.  It was a hint of what was to come...  although we couldn’t see what He would do, we could certainly feel it coming.

As a young child, Jillian was very sick.  She weighed barely 12 pounds at a year of age, and spent most of her first year in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals.  The answers eluded us until she was 14 months old.  Once we understood the problems, we thought it would be smooth sailing ahead... but as she grew, it became more and more apparent that there were other underlying issues.  

By the time she started Kindergarten, some would have labeled her as “non-functional”.  She could not cope in a classroom setting and had no social skills.  She could not dress herself or handle much in the way of personal hygiene.  She would resist eye contact, would rarely smile, and was partially mute.  Add to that extreme sensory issues and the inability to transition from one activity/plan to another, and life seemed like one colossal minefield.   

She wasn’t the only one who was overwhelmed.  The moment I opened my eyes each morning, the minefield came to mind, and I would cry out to God before even lifting my head off the pillow. 

Months later, my suspicions were confirmed.  My daughter was on the autism spectrum.  

Unlike the brain of neuro-typical children, Jillian’s brain was extremely and constantly overwhelmed by the world around her, sending her into a dizzying sensory overload.  It was akin to an allergy to stress – and everything stressed her out.  Her brain would shut-down to self-preserve, to cope.  It was exhausting, intense, and heartbreaking – for all of us, including her.  Our child was trapped inside this bubble where everything seemed to cause her anguish.

On top of this, testing revealed learning disabilities and central auditory processing disorder. 

You know that story about planning a trip to Italy and instead, landing in Holland?  That was us.  And although we’ve adapted well to “Holland”, and Jillian has made tremendous progress, it’s still us.

Meanwhile, roughly two thousand miles away, in a south west corner of Haiti, Medgina also faces similar challenges.  A brain trauma/injury at the age of 3 robbed her of her ability to memorize or remember things.  She has repeated Grade 2 several times, and is yet unable to reach past Grade 2 due to her learning disabilities.  

She may also be facing other symptoms and effects of the brain trauma that were not detailed in the letters written to us by her family.  They mention her challenges in practically every letter.  It obviously is something that impacts them deeply. 

I get it.  I do.  

How beautiful of God to join our families together in this depth of understanding and compassion...  Compassion literally means “to suffer with” – it is not simply the act of our hearts going out to others, or the ability to put ourselves in their situation and do onto others, or even helping someone...  it’s coming alongside of someone and entering their place of suffering, to carry the weight with them, to feel the cost. 

We are there, in the suffering, we understand, yet we don’t fully understand. 

Unlike Jillian, whose access to specialist and therapy has helped give her a new life, access to specialists is limited for Medgina.  Compassion has assisted Megina by taking her to see various doctors, but no specialist has yet been able to help with this situation. 

Jillian has sleep issues that compound her condition, but unlike Medgina, she has a warm, clean bed to sleep in each night, and a solid, safe house to shelter her.  Medgina had neither.    

As a mom, my brain is stretched to the limit on a daily basis, and I don’t have these added challenges.  I can’t begin to imagine brain stretched to the limit on a daily basis, with the added challenge of a brain injury/trauma and learning disabilities, and then sleeping on the ground in a crumbling house? 

I don’t know about you, but after a few days of camping on the cold hard ground while away from home, I’m more than ready for my soft, warm bed and a good night’s sleep.

Except Medgina isn’t camping.  This is her daily reality, and beyond lack of proper sleep, she can’t seem to shake this recurring nightmare. 

When Jillian and I learned of her situation with the lack of a proper bed, we sent a family gift in the amount of $175, hoping it would cover the cost of a bed.  We knew we couldn’t heal her brain, but we could help her sleep so that her brain could benefit from proper rest.  We know what it’s like when Jillian doesn’t sleep well.

That did not solve the issue of a crumbling house, though. 

Until God said “Build one, then go.” 

I have a confession to make...  I said “Yes” to Him immediately, wholeheartedly, but not without a heavy heart, a knowing of the cost.  

Few know the life-price we paid for our work in Ghana last year, and for my work in Cameroon.  It is a price that cannot be spoken of on this blog, save to say that those who pursue Christ intensely are intensely pursued by the enemy.  The enemy only comes to steal, kill and destroy, and so, yes, there has been a high personal price for our pursuit of justice, and I know the weight and cost of the cross in the face of what God was asking of me.

Still, I knew His hand, and followed His trail of seeds.  He had already begun to provide, before we even knew what His plan was. He would continue.

I will go, even in this season of thirst.  

Even in this season of brokenness.  

I will go even though I have little to offer.  

I trust the Shepherd.  He will provide.  He will continue to provide, not only for the people we will serve, but for us as we serve Him.  Doesn’t Scripture say that one who waters others will himself be watered?

So, after months of prayer and preparations, the travel is booked, the plans under way. 

The simple goal is to raise $825 to help Medgina’s family repair their family home.  

In addition to raising these funds, we will be raising an additional $550 (each) for Jillian, Tia and I to travel to Haiti in November of 2012 to do mission work in Les Cayes, the city closest to the town where Medgina lives.  This covers the cost of airfare, accommodations and in-country travel expenses.  

Any funds raised above and beyond these needs will be poured into  mission work in Les Cayes.  We want to invest beyond Medgina’s family, to the community that surrounds her by serving and giving of ourselves, and by sharing the blessings received.  

We will serve by simply following God’s voice and serving where He leads, how He leads, leaving all the details and plans into His care.  He knows the needs before we do, and will direct us to them so that we can pour ourselves out for Him.  It’s all that we have to offer... 

I’ll be honest – time in mission work has taught me that there is little I can bring in terms of an offering for these people...  nothing but love in action and the hope that it will be enough through Him.  I am just as broken as they are, maybe more so...  God is bringing us together for each other, and for Him, and no matter what, my answer is “Yes” to His call.  

I have struggled for months to put this into words, and in the end, it’s Tia’s words that said it best, that spoke my heart.  Please, would you take a moment to read them here?  

This will be Jillian’s first time on the away-from-home mission field, and given her heart for the poor, her intuitive and experienced understanding of brokenness, I know that it will fuel the flame in her heart for future mission work.  Please pray as her heart continues to break for the things that break His, for all of us as we lead her gently into this calling.  Pray as we lead her through this with the added challenges that she faces.

The house repairs may or may not be done by the time we arrive in Haiti, depending on how long it takes to raise the funds.  We will either see the finished results when we meet Medgina, or we will see the need first hand, in person.   It will be in God’s hands, and in Compassion’s care.  We trust both completely and explicitly. 

A few days ago, our tickets booked and our words painstakingly finding their way onto this page, Jillian and I received a letter from Medgina that caught our breath...   Before we had booked the trip, before putting this into words, she had been praying for this very thing... Before her prayers reached us, they had reached God... except it was "too late" ;)  God had already answered them, knowing her heart's cries before she formed the words.  

"She'd be very happy if you could spend a day with her in Haiti, seeing you face-to-face... she'd do so many things with you such as swimming in the sea and playing..."

God knows the desires of these children's hearts, and can not resist answering their prayers before their prayers reach our ears, much as He did with Ato Sam's prayers for us to serve the children of Ghana.  

We will be face to face with Medgina in less than 90 days, sharing with her the story of how God answered her prayers before she spoke them, and showing her that Jesus is Compassion, and Compassion is Love.

I hope that you will join me in praying for our mission trip to Haiti, and that we can count on your support. 

How can you help?

Pray as our hearts prepare to be broken more deeply.

Spread the word – use this link: in your blog posts, Facebook messages, and tweets. 

Pray against spiritual attacks from the enemy.  Please, do not underestimate the protective power of prayers, and the difference it makes.

Sow seeds into our mission fund.  We can not do this without your support.  Donations can be made through Paypal directly to Interlink Ministries (link in sidebar, upper right).  Tax receipts for U.S. citizens will be issued.

Pray for the funds to be stretched and multiplied.

Pray as we fly with United once more...  Remember the saga from our Ghana mission trip?  It continues...  (read here)

Follow our journey in November of 2012. 

Encourage us as we prepare, as we serve in Haiti, and again once we’ve returned home, adjusting to how He has re-shaped our hearts.