I did not drop off the face of the earth. Well, maybe I did a little bit.
I was simply so busy with life - my son finishing high school and going on to the local community college to study auto mechanics; the relief mission trip to Haiti in March 2010, from which I returned brokenhearted for the destitute and Americans' blindness to their desperate need. I presented in churches and other organizations, raising several thousand dollars for the relief efforts and orphanage where I had stayed, and I got over a dozen children sponsored with monthly support so that they could go to school and get one hot meal per day, often their only meal.
A year ago in June - July, I spent a month in Panama on another mission trip, this one with Alexandra. We lived among the Kuna Indians on San Blas Islands, then in the Darien Jungle. Now, a year after that trip, Alexandra has also finished homeschooled high school, and after much prayer, feels that she is called into full-time missions. In the fall, she'll be leaving home and going to an internship program with the mission organization with which I traveled to Haiti twice.
In fact, all our family went to Haiti last January. I organized a trip for the youth of our church. Sadly, in the middle of the media's cholera scare, nearly half the team dropped out. We didn't see a single case of cholera where we were, and these teens missed a life-changing experience. My family and I went, however, even though I was diagnosed with breast cancer - stage 2 - just days before the trip. The trip was a blessing and got my mind off the adventure of 2011 that I did not sign up for.
Cancer treatments - a mastectomy, then surgery to get a mediport installed, then chemo treatments - have kept me busy. And all through this, I continued to homeschool my two girls and faithfully journal through the cancer. I will continue with the cancer treatments for another half year, but my strength is returning, and my hair is starting to grow back. The side effects I had from the chemotherapy were quite hard to take, especially the bizarre sharp pains in my brain and the burning skin rashes, and I'm glad that's behind me. We continue to pray that this aggressive cancer that I had will not return. I bailed out of the chemo treatments halfway through and continue only with the Herceptin, which I get through IV every three weeks.
I'm well enough to sign up to return to Haiti this coming fall. My daughter Alexandra will be there as part of her internship, so I will meet up with her then.
To those who have encouraged me to keep writing, I thank you. I will try.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I did not drop off the face of the earth. Well, maybe I did a little bit.
Friday, March 12, 2010
At a team meeting at work, my boss anounced that I'm going to Haiti. Sometimes it's odd for me to realize that not everyone wants to go. I feel so compelled to go that it's hard to imagine that others have no such desire, or are even afraid. I don't feel like a hero; I feel blessed to have been selected!
Shortly after the announcement at the meeting, I sent out the following email to the entire department, many of whom are in different workgroups:
- - -
Some of you have already heard – but many haven’t – that I will be going on a relief trip to Haiti with a team of volunteers from all over the US. I will be gone March 16 – 24.
I feel extraordinarily privileged to have been accepted to be part of this team. We are heading to an orphanage in Léogâne, a coastal city 18 miles west of Port-au-Prince, which was the epicenter of the recent earthquake. In Léogâne, 80–90% of the buildings were damaged, and nearly every concrete structure was destroyed - including the orphanage where I will be based (see below).
This trip isn’t going to be a typical vacation (dictionary definition: a period of time devoted to rest and relaxation). Instead, I think this will be the most difficult trip I’ve ever been on. Our team has to bring all our food and shelter (tents) with us – kind of like camping, except that our days will be filled with clearing rubble, working in a refugee camp, assisting in a medical clinic, and whatever else needs to be done in a place that still has no basic amenities – in other words, no electricity or running water. And I hear that the surroundings aren’t exactly scenic.
I really could use your help. Each relief team member has to bring items that we’ll be leaving behind for the needy. I’ve been assigned to collect and bring with me two suitcases full of batteries. (Remember, there’s no electricity.) I’ll be packing all my personal belongings in my carry-on, and I need to fill each of my two suitcases with 50 lb. of AA, AAA, C, and D batteries. I’ve set up a box in my office for the batteries and would really appreciate your donations!
The link below shows typical conditions of Haitian orphanages. This isn’t the orphanage where we’ll be based, but the conditions are similar - except that the building is no longer standing:
Naturally, I’ll be bringing my cameras, and I’m hoping to borrow a pocket video camera. I would love to have the opportunity to share my experiences with you after my return.
- - -
The reponse for batteries was overwhelming! By the end of the day, I had 100 lb. of batteries! A company that a coworker knew donated the full amount. I was stunned.
"Why are you surprised?" asked my husband. "Didn't God call you on this trip? Don't you think He knows what He's doing?"
I was humbled. And the batteries kept coming in. Last weekend, I drove 50 lb. of batteries to Ohio for the other team member who has to bring batteries because she hadn't been as successful in her battery drive. And the batteries, like God's blessing, just keep coming.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
I heard the geese today, calling to each other in the sky as if encouraging one another, a sound that always lifts my spirits.
Spring is in the air. The first snowdrop is blooming. The snow is melting. The sun is shining.
Somewhere in Haiti, children sweat in the sun, waiting for food.
My workgroup celebrated bonus day with lunch out.
Haitians search for their next meal, not sure whether they’ll get one at all that day. Even before the earthquake, eating only one small meal per day was normal.
My body is here in the spring, the warmth, the promise of new life and a new season; my mind is in Haiti, a place of despair, hopelessness, and brutal heat, a place where I will be in a few short days.
“Prepare yourselves,” said the trip leader a few days ago. “Civilization as you know it ends when you arrive in Haiti.”
A catastrophe of biblical proportions. A place where every email you ever sent or received marked “urgent” seems like a joke.
Feeding 800 orphans.
Sleeping under armed guards.
Haiti. In six days.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Plans, plans, so many plans! I will topple them all. What happens is what I want. There will come a time and I will put everything in its place.”
This was God’s message to me last Sunday, spoken through an old woman visiting our church.
I’m an analytical person, thinking, analyzing, evaluating. These words hit me hard. I do make many plans in my head, often traveling to distant lands, photographing, speaking at churches, writing articles or books in my thoughts. In my plans, my children are grown, I no longer homeschool, I don’t have to work any more, and I’m free to travel – and some Christian organization wants me to do so and pays my way so that I document their missions in photos and words. Sort of “work for food.” I’m off traveling in my thoughts frequently since I feel that I’m in home stretch of teaching and home stretch of my working life. Just three and a half more years of homeschooling, and a few more until I can retire – or perhaps resign?
Granted, my health has had its ups and downs, and sometimes I question whether I’ll be able to travel at all in the future. But the family joke is that when Mom is done homeschooling, she’ll send everyone a postcard from Africa.
But will I? According to this prophecy, perhaps not. Or could it be referring to something else? Maybe I’ll travel, but elsewhere? Or do something I haven’t even thought of yet?
So my analytical mind is churning out possibilities.
We were invited to dinner to a Ukrainian family’s home this week. The working mother so wants to go to Haiti with me and was disappointed to learn that the team is formed and there’s no chance of her coming. The Ukrainian churches don’t run many mission trips. They don’t have the connections to foreign lands (other than Ukraine) or the organizational experience. And there’s a language barrier for many of the new immigrants. I organized our church’s first ever mission trip last spring. (We went to Mexico.) With my experience in missions and travel, and my skills of organization, is organizing missions for this community what God had in mind? Only time will tell. But most likely, it's something I haven't even thought of yet...
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Ten days ago, I got the call: I will be going to Haiti next month as part of a relief team! After the phone conversation, I fluttered through the house, giddy with excitement.
“I wish I could come with you,” lamented my daughter Alexandra. “Maybe you could book the same flight for me and I could just tag along and not be officially part of the mission team…”
The minimum age for this trip is 18, which disqualifies all my children. Jacob will turn 18 in April; the trip is in March. But he’s not the one interested in going; it’s my 16-year-old middle daughter who inherited the same love of going to the hard places. And from what I’ve been reading, Haiti may be the hardest of all places I’ve been to.
Before I travel to a foreign country, I read about it. So I logged on to the local library’s website and typed in “Haiti” for a keyword. That’s how I found Angels of a Lower Flight: One Woman’s Mission to Save a Country… One Child at a Time.
I finally forced myself to put it down at 1:30 AM. Between the horrific conditions described in the book and the heart-tugging poverty shown in this YouTube video, I’m wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.
But I still can’t wait to go. I just wish that Alexandra could come with me.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
“Do you have any assignments to turn in, like your vocabulary or American Government?” I asked Jacob. Every evening I devote a couple of hours to correcting the day’s assignments and creating the next day's schedule.
“No, I don’t have anything to turn in. I got carried away reading.”
“I got to a really interesting part. I must have read a hundred pages today.”
This was not like my son, who reads only what he has to and how long he has to. Jacob does not read for pleasure.
Sixteen-year-old Alexandra was as surprised as I was. “What are you reading?” she asked.
If he’s that captivated by this part of his Exploring Social Injustice through Literature curriculum, I made a good choice.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Disaster relief work. Not exactly everyone's cup of tea, but every time I hear of a tsunami, hurricane, or earthquake, my heart beats faster. I ache to go there, to reach out, to help somehow. I don't know how I'd help - I'm not a doctor - but I believe that through hugs and love, physical labor and prayer, through acts of kindness, and with my photographs and written words, I'd make a difference somehow.
I so want to go to Haiti!
I've wanted to go to Haiti ever since I read Mountains Beyond Mountains. I want to go to Haiti all the more because of the earthquake.
And I might get my chance!
Global Expeditions is running a mission trip to Haiti. I signed up immediately. But will I get chosen to go, to help to set up and serve in a refugee camp, rebuild an orphanage, and facilitate medical care for orphans? I can't think of a better way to spend my time. My only regret is that Alexandra can't come with me because she's not 18 yet, a requirement for this trip. She so wants to come with me. I think that there's a lot of me in Alexandra, and, like me, she enjoys going to the hard places. She was disappointed that we had to stay in a hotel during our mission trip to Honduras two years ago instead of in tents as originally planned. Turns out that the field where we were to set up these tents was flooded with over a foot of water after a deluge halfway through our trip. That certainly would have made for an exciting trip...
I'm sure that a trip to Haiti would be even more exciting. I'm praying that I get to find out.
Monday, February 1, 2010
“I’d like to volunteer at the Mission,” said Alexandra about a week after we came home from our Dallas mission trip.
Since working with homeless and inner city kids in Dallas during our Global Expeditions trip, both my daughters came home changed. They returned on fire from meeting other godly teens and young adults, people passionate to serve the Lord. And they were blessed by working with a church that not only reaches out to drug dealers, addicts, prostitutes, gang members, and prisoners, but also fills its church pews with ex-dealers, ex-addicts, former prostitutes and gang members, and ex-cons. What a place!
After getting a taste of what it’s like to serve in Dallas, Alexandra wanted to serve here at home. It was her initiative to volunteer at The Mission, a soup kitchen, but I made the call (she's still a bit timid) – and left my name and number on an answering machine. Twice. But my calls were not returned.
As I was putting away groceries around 5 o’clock Saturday evening, the phone rang. It was Candy from The Mission apologizing for not getting back to me. Could I serve there tonight? She’d had a cancellation and although she knew we hadn’t volunteered there before, could I fill in...? I told her that four of us would be glad to serve – my two daughters and I, and a special girl from our church youth group, the only girl from the youth group who had gone on the Mexico mission trip with us last spring. (Three guys had gone, but only one girl.) Helen and I had been corresponding via email since that time. Ours is a special relationship. She’s really my daughters’ friend; I consider myself her mentor and have a warm place in my heart for her.
“Now I know why our neighbors couldn’t come to dinner tonight,” observed Alexandra as we rushed to get ready to go to The Mission. We had tried to invite a widow neighbor to dinner tonight, but she turned us down, stating health reasons. So we invited a divorcee for dinner because, after all, we were baking a whole chicken. But she’s a nurse and had to work 3 to 11 PM. Had either of them come, we wouldn’t have been available to go to The Mission.
How can setting out 78 salads, setting tables, dishing out food, and carrying it out to the long tables of homeless men be an exciting way to spend the evening? Because it’s work done for the Lord. Captain, the chef at the soup kitchen, was an interesting guy with a sense of humor. As I suspected when I met him, he’s been on the streets himself. We heard his testimony as he showed us the room upstairs that houses 40 men in 20 bunk beds. He’d been one of those men until about six years ago. Oh, he’d had a 26-year career at General Motors, then worked as a painter and roofer, but drugs and alcohol ate up his pay and ruined his life. It was through the sermons given right there at The Mission night after night that eventually touched his heart. He had a powerful experience of coming to the Lord in the middle of the night right there at The Mission, where he now serves with all his heart.
I felt blessed to serve at The Mission, and delighted to share that experience with Helen and my daughters. I hope to have many more such evenings there and to introduce other girls from the youth group to the joys of serving.
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. - James 2:26
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)