Category Archives: Haitian Reflections

Freedom of Speech

So, I started writing the next installment of the One Year in the Promise House series, this time about J and K, and this just came out instead.

J and K came to live at Children of the Promise (COTP) years before I did, when they were still babies, and have been some of the few constants in an ever changing landscape over the last five years.  Before coming to be the nurse at COTP, I had very little experience with kids with special needs, but I quickly grew to love these two boys and their friends.  I learned a lot from them, about God, about myself, about humility, about unconditional love.  And in no small part because of them, I found my voice.  Perhaps related to being a middle child, I definitely had a go-with-the-flow attitude, and would rather be at peace with those I loved and others around me than share my opinion.  To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I had an opinion about many things.  I was already starting to delve into this part of myself before coming to Haiti, but there’s something about being with someone who actually doesn’t have a voice that puts your own vocal discovery on fast forward.  How could I keep quiet when these children I cared so deeply about needed to be heard?  How could I let them stagnate without getting the therapy they needed?  How could I let the rain drip on them through holes in the roof while they tried to sleep night after night?

The verse God has pressed into my heart since the beginning of this journey is Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”  We are free.  Free to have an opinion.  Free to have a voice.  At least in some parts of the world, we have freedom of speech.  But how do we use our freedom?  To shout our opinions from the rooftops, our own needs and desires from the mountaintops?  To shame and slander those who disagree with us or whose needs and desires compete with ours?  Or do we use our freedom to give a voice to the voiceless?  To advocate fiercely for the oppressed, the forgotten, the downtrodden?  To serve one another in love?  To serve one another humbly in love?  An important distinction, that is.  I’m quite certain the passage does not say “do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, speak up for others so you look like a good person.”  My boys, J, K have taught me much about truly selfless love.  Not to say I’m always that great at it, but that it is worth striving for, that I will never stop trying to serve them humbly in love.

God has given me a voice, I know this now.  And I know that He has called me to use that voice to speak up for children in Haiti with special needs, to make sure that those considered weaker and less honorable are treated with special honor (1 Corinthians 12:23), to serve J and K and their friends humbly in love.  And now that I know this, I will not waste my freedom, I will not choose another path.

I choose to believe that many of you are already using your freedom to serve others humbly in love.  Please tell us how you’ve been called to use your freedom, who you are giving a voice to, who you are serving humbly in love.  Not to pat yourself on the back, but to set a spark or fan the flame in someone else, to encourage one another, and to give praise to the One who called us to be free.

I also believe that some of you have yet to discover your voice, or have yet to discern how best to use it.  Pray (or meditate or think); who does your heart break for?  Who is oppressed, forgotten, or downtrodden and you simply can’t stand to see things continue as they are?  What are you going to do about it?  How will you use your freedom?


Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Haitian Reflections, Life in Haiti, Prayer, Sheila


Nou sonje ou, Nikensly

Nou sonje ou, Nikensly

What an honor to have known and even cared for Nikensly Pierre.   I met Nik when I moved to Haiti in 2011 as COTP’s nurse.  Most recently, Wilson and I were his house parents in the Promise House.  It seems impossible to reduce everything that was so special about Nikensly to a blog post, but I also want everyone to see just how amazing our little boy was.

Nik was quite possibly the coolest kid I knew.  He was cool in an I-know-who-I-am-and-don’t-need-to-apologize-for-it, I-do-what-I-want-to-do kind of way and he had this air of confidence and strength that you might miss if you were distracted by his laid-back, chill demeanor.  Nikensly loved everyone and everyone loved Nikensly.  His smile and laugh were so genuine and it was easy to get caught up in his good moods.  Almost the only time he wasn’t in a good mood was when he got really hungry, which he always seemed to realize quite suddenly, and then quite loudly made sure everyone else realized it too.  He was our built-in alarm clock for mealtimes and he never shirked that responsibility.  He could really keep a beat, too, with his favorite drum being his belly, followed by a friend’s hand, and then the floor.  He could pat-a-cake along for hours to whatever songs I could think of.  I let him determine the tempo with his claps, and he always had a sly, gotcha giggle when he’d make me hold out one note for a really long time.  When I first met Nik, he was a two-year-old roly-poly little guy with so little muscle tone and control that we had no idea what his capabilities might be.   This year, as a seven-year-old, Nikensly could sit independently, he could hold his own water bottle to drink, he could get all around the house by laying on his belly and pulling himself with his arms or laying on his back and pushing himself with his feet.  With the right motivation, he could surprise and impress all of us.  And when he was done, he was done, as evidenced by his water bottle being flung across the room or the slow as molasses descent from sitting to lying that required more abdominal strength than I could ever hope to have.  Sometimes he would disappear very quietly, exploring different things and different rooms, but it never took long for him to give away his location.  First, he loved to slam doors.  If there were no doors slamming to indicate where he was, he would eventually start his jolly babbling, which was often echoed by a chorus of grownups babbling along.

But there is no more babbling, no more sly giggling and no more endless games of pat-a-cake.  On November 18, 2016 Nikensly passed away in his sleep.  That day, like all the days before, was prepared in advance before Nikensly was even born.  We have mourned the sudden loss of our sweet boy and will continue to do so, but though we mourn, we do not despair.  Nikensly’s life is worthy of celebration but his new life with the one who knows him inside and out is perhaps even greater cause for celebration.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.  Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.  Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. (Psalm 84)

Blessed is Nikensly, who is ever praising the Lord Almighty.

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Posted by on December 13, 2016 in Haitian Reflections, Sheila, The Kiddos



Last week I had the honor of speaking in chapel at my alma mater, Valley Christian.  This is what I shared at the middle school.


I’m lying in a big field of grass.  I love looking at the blue sky and all the funny shapes in the puffy clouds.  I love the feeling of the soft grass underneath me and I feel a little breeze tickling my nose.  It’s still pretty early in the day and the coolness of the grass feels good when I know the sun will make me very hot in a little while.  I can hear some kids talking and laughing on the other side of the field.  Maybe they’re on their way to school.  Or maybe it’s Saturday.  I wish those kids would come a little closer so I could hear what they’re laughing about and maybe I would think it’s funny too.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been here, but the sun is warming up and I’m starting to feel a little pebble in the grass under my left shoulder.  Once you notice something like that, it’s hard to get your mind off it, you know?  Every minute I lie here, I think it just digs deeper into my skin, like that pebble knows how hot it will be in a little while and it’s looking for a nice shady spot to spend the day.  Find another spot, pebble!  I just need something else to take my mind off of it, and then it won’t bother me so much.  Think about the soft grass, think about the pretty clouds, don’t think about the pebble.  Don’t think about the pebble.  Well, there’s something different, a little tickle on my leg.  Tickles feel better than poky pebbles, so I’ll think about that.  The tiny little tickle is moving around my leg and hey, I think I feel a few more now.  All kind of tickly and moving this way and that on my leg and, oh, now there’s one on my tummy and a few on my arm, too.  Uh oh.  I’ve felt this before.  You know what I think this is?  Ants!  This could turn out one of three ways for me.  I’m really hoping for the first way, which is the ants get bored and find somewhere else to march around.  The second way is they call in the rest of the ants and pretty soon the tickles are just itchy and irritating because there are too many of them.  But the third way, I really, really hope it’s not the third way.  Because the third way is they are not regular ants.  The third way is fire ants.  They never bite right away, they kind of wait until they’re all ready in position and then they all bite together.  I don’t know how such an itty bitty little insect can give me such big, terrible pain.  I gotta get my mind off these ants.  Okay, think about the pebble.  Think about the pebble.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking.  Sit up!  Roll off that pebble and brush those ants away!  Don’t just lie there in the grass!  Right?  And you know what, I wish with all my heart that I could.  I tell my hand over and over to brush off those ants, to reach for that pebble, I will it with all my might, but it just doesn’t work.  Every so often, I can get my hand to move, but it never goes where I want it to.  It never does anything useful for me.  And I wish with all my heart that I could call out to those kids over there.  Even if I can’t get myself out of this, they could at least move me away from the ants and the pebble.  Oh man, if they would stay with me for a while!  But that’s probably asking too much.

Anyway, let me start over, from the beginning.  I never knew my mother.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I spent 8 months inside her tummy.  I think I was supposed to stay longer, but I didn’t really have much choice in all that.  I could tell then how much she loved me.  I could feel her love warming me and nourishing me.  I could hear her voice, and though I couldn’t make out the words, I knew she was talking to me.  I was so happy.  We were so happy.

But after I was born, I never saw her.  I’m pretty sure of that, since I never heard someone with her same beautiful voice.  Nobody ever told me what happened to my mother who loved me.  Maybe they didn’t think I would understand.  And actually, I’m not sure I want to know.  After seeing the reactions of some other people who met me, maybe she stopped loving me after she saw me and wanted to have a new and better family instead.  But I also hear about many mothers who die when they have babies, and that would mean I killed her, right?  I don’t want it to be either of those things, so most of the time I try not to think about my mother at all.

I live with my dad.  I love him.  He’s the only dad I have.  And I think he tries to be a good dad,  but when I look in his eyes, he’s usually not looking back at me.  His eyes are tired and kind of empty.  Sometimes, his eyes are frustrated or even angry.  I’m pretty sure that’s my fault.  I think he probably agrees with me that it’s my fault mother’s not here anymore.  But sometimes, sometimes when he looks at me, I see love.  My insides are full of butterflies when I see love in his eyes.  I want to give him a huge hug.  If he would just lift me into his lap, I could lean into my dad and hear his heart beating and try to match my breathing to his and that might even be better than a hug.  I try to let him know that I see his love and that I love him too, to make the love stay in his eyes.  I want to do whatever I can to make him happy, to make him proud of me.  I want more than anything to make my dad proud.  It’s hard to think of how I could do that.

The thing is I’m different than the other kids.  I hear them say “handicapped” a lot and it never sounds like a good thing.  My right arm and leg can move around a little, but never where I tell them to.  My left arm and leg are stuck in a sort of bent position.  It feels sore and crampy most of the time.  Sometimes when they wash me up really good, they start to stretch out my arms and legs.  That feels sooo good!  It seems like everyone else can take care of themselves, but I need someone to feed me, to dress me, to clean me up after I make a mess in my shorts.  My voice never seems to make it out of my mouth, so I can’t tell anyone when I need something.  I just have to wait for them to notice.  Sometimes that takes a while so I tried out some different ways to get their attention.  I tried kind of wiggling my body and I figured out how to make a loud noise like yelling.   I guess other people don’t like when I do those things, because when I get too loud or wiggly, dad makes me drink something that really burns my throat when I swallow.   Then I feel kinda funny and tired for a while, but I’m not loud or wiggly.

All the neighbors go to school, but nobody ever took me there.  It’s not far away, so I can hear them reciting their lessons.  Sometimes I wonder what kind of things I could learn in school.  I’ll probably never find out, though.  There are some other kids who don’t go to school.  They are helping their moms and dads by working in the garden or selling things in the market.  If I can’t go to school, I wish I could help my dad.  Maybe that would make him happy.  He goes to work sometimes.  I know it’s hard to find work to do every day.  He tried to take me with him one day when I was littler.  I think he was making cement blocks that day.  I’m not sure what I did wrong but if dad wanted to work there again, he couldn’t bring me along anymore.  Of course, he still has to work.  How else will we eat and pay for our room in this house?  So when he hears about some work he can do, I stay home.  As he’s leaving in the morning, I can see many things in his eyes.  I see relief, and sadness, and guilt.  Sometimes I can tell he’s trying not to look at me when he leaves.  Probably because he doesn’t like feeling sad and guilty.  I guess I’m pretty good at noticing other people’s feelings.  I just wish someone else could know mine.  I wish someone knew how much I love hearing the church music that drifts down to my house on Sunday mornings, how I wish I could clap and dance when I hear the music or even go to church and hear the music up close.  I wish someone knew how much it hurts when I’m lying in one place all day, how my bones feel like they’ll push right through my skin and my skin starts feeling numb and bruisey.  I wish someone knew how smart I am, how I understand what everyone is saying, the good things and the mean things and the in between things.  I wish someone knew how much I miss my mother, how sorry I am because it’s my fault she’s not here.  I wish someone knew how much I love my dad, and how I want more than anything to feel him loving me back.

That reminds me, where is my dad?  It must’ve been a few hours since he brought me here to this field.  I’m used to being in our room alone, but I don’t get outside very often, especially not by myself.  My dad should be back by now, shouldn’t he?  Maybe if I get loud and wiggly, someone will notice me here.  Maybe they’ll know where my dad went.  Right?  And then he’ll come back, right?  He’ll come to find me? We’ll go back home together?  Dad?


Advent season has just begun, which marks a time of waiting expectantly for the birth of Jesus.  The miracle of Christmas is that Jesus came to save us, right?  “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death” Hebrews 2:14.  But there’s another aspect of Christmas that’s really, really special.  When you listened to the boy’s story, you settled into his skin in the grassy field and got a glimpse of what his life, his mind, his heart are really like.  His joys and pleasures, his pain and loneliness, his hope and longing, his guilt and fear.   You could almost feel that pebble in your shoulder and the ants on your leg.  You started to feel the panic he felt not knowing if his dad would come back for him.  You began to understand or empathize with him and that understanding fills you with compassion for him.  But God isn’t just imagining what our lives are like.  He doesn’t just think about the joys, sorrows, and temptations that we experience.  No, “The word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14).  He willingly took on human form.  He put on bones and skin and started right from the beginning, listening to Mary’s loving voice from her womb.  If we pick up where we left off in Hebrews 2, we read this: “16-18 It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.”  Another translation says “he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God.”  Jesus’ role as high priest makes him the mediator between us and God, but we don’t have a mediator that doesn’t really understand what we’re going through.  We have a mediator who is compassionate and merciful because he chose to put on human flesh and understands exactly what we’re going through.

So what is the pebble in your shoulder?  What is bothering you or hurting you?  What are your hopes and dreams?  What do you feel guilty about and what do you fear?  What is it you think nobody else really understands?  Isn’t it wonderful that God the Father sees all these parts of you, but God the Son, our high priest and mediator, actually feels them?


I don’t want to leave you all hanging in suspense, because the story I told you is actually a true story.  That little boy never saw his dad again.  The field where he was lying is across the street from Children of the Promise, where I work with my husband in Haiti.  The guy who checks people in at the gate saw him later that day and we admitted him into our care.  Many times our social workers have looked for his dad.  They’ve found his neighbors and heard bits and pieces about their life through them.  And now he lives with us in the Promise House.  A special house at Children of the Promise for kids who need extra help and care, who don’t have biological families to care for them anymore, and have a harder time finding families to adopt them than some of the more “typical” kids.  Even when our efforts to communicate with our kids and understand their needs fall short, they have a merciful and faithful high priest who fully understands them.  You and I, we have a merciful and faithful high priest who understands us when we feel like nobody else does.



Since CPR certification is not required in the Haitian boondocks (weird, I know), my basic life support for healthcare providers certification was due for renewal before I could start a nursing job here in the states. I was so completely unprepared for what I would face during those 3.5 hours.

The test was easy, just as I had anticipated…compressions and breaths haven’t really changed since I last learned them. But the whole class was one of the most difficult things I’ve experienced post-Haiti. Most people taking the class will not experience those learning situations in their real life. Those that do will likely be in a healthcare facility or, at the very least, have emergency personnel on site within 8 minutes. Five if you live in Orange County.

Or never if you live in Haiti. Our instructor taught us the skills we needed to know amidst statements like these:

“You’ve probably never walked into a room where someone was already unresponsive”

“You’ve probably never been in a full code. Even less likely for an infant”

And I fought back tears, sometimes unsuccessfully, as his statements triggered memories like these:

Being woken up by a nanny while it’s still dark out to find sweet Theo already cold on his cot.

Compressing little Annabel’s heart with my thumbs knowing the whole time that the hospital was simply too far away.

Sleeping in the hospital crib, curled around Devensley who clutched his toy maraca, as his flesh-eating infection improved but who would die a few days later anyway.

Waiting anxiously for each e-mail response from a consulting pediatrician as we watched the life drain from Micah’s tiny body.

Measuring Roseline’s head as it kept growing, taking her life only a week before her scheduled hydrocephalus surgery.

Pleading with countless doctors to help Midelson by transfusing my blood without the week-long delay getting fully tested in Port Au Prince, for his life to end hours before he was to receive the blood.

I spent the entirety of that class remembering these faces, these stories, overcome with emotion I could barely contain. Sorrow. Guilt. Terror. I am overwhelmed.


Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Haitian Reflections, Sheila


Manno mwen

Manno mwen,

I’ve tried to write this letter so many times but I could never find the right words to tell you everything I want to say.  You are leaving for the United States tomorrow where you will live with your mom and your brothers.  You’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time.  Many times we have looked at the books your mom sent with pictures of your family and your house.  You especially love the pictures of your brothers eating pancakes, riding bikes, and jumping into the “pool” which I think is actually a lake, but you don’t yet know what a lake is.  You are also looking forward to going to the playground with them.  I bet by now you’ve done all those things together.

I met you two years ago (almost exactly) when I moved to Haiti.  I fell in love with you almost instantly.  You were pretty sick when I first arrived so we spent a lot of time sitting under the mango tree, in the pharmacy, or in my house.  You just wanted to cuddle all the time, which was perfect because I love to cuddle!  You would hardly eat anything except bowls and bowls of goldfish crackers.  You were my church buddy and would always sit so quietly during the services even though Haitian church is really long.  You loved getting dressed in your “bel” clothes and packing a bag of goldfish to eat as a snack.  I was worried that when you got better you wouldn’t need me anymore, but God had tied our hearts together and even though you had energy to run and play with your friends, you always came back to me.

When you were little, your skin was very dry.  I always thanked God for making you that way because every morning I got to take you into the pharmacy to lotion you up.  Fifi often tried to help by putting on your morning lotion, but I never told her that on those days you just got lotion twice.  You learned how to spell your name during that time because we wrote your name on the bottle of lotion and you had to spell out the letters before we started.  When you got really good at your letters, we wrote the names of all your friends on the bottle and you would spell out those too.  You also learned your body parts because we announced them together as each part got its lotion.  Once you knew them really well in Kreyol, we switched to English and you learned that too.

We took lots of trips to the doctor together and I enjoyed every one.  You would talk nonstop in the car, naming every plant, animal, and vehicle you saw.  We would practice words in Kreyol and then in English.  Sometimes I would have you say things just because they sounded silly.  It was so cute when you would see a woman walking on the side of the road and say, “Look, a lady!”  Wherever we went, everyone loved you.  You charmed them with your smile and impressed them with how smart you were.  I bet you’re still really smart.

I sometimes wonder what you will grow up to be.  I don’t know which one came first, but there are two reasons that all the nannies here called you Dr. Manno.  When Wilson’s brother Emilio got in a moto accident, he came to the pharmacy for me to help him.  Pretty soon you came and poked your head in like you always seemed to do.  You weren’t scared when you saw blood so you got a little closer.  Your eyes got so big as you nodded when I asked if you wanted to help.  We put gloves on you that were way too big and just flopped around on your hands.  You were the gauze holder and would hand a piece to me whenever I needed it.  When we were all done, you told Emilio that he was very good for not crying and made me give him a sucker.  Every day for a couple weeks Emilio would have to come and get his bandages changed and you always came running in if you knew he was there so you could help hold the gauze.  Every time you made me give him a sucker and every time he thanked Dr. Manno before he left.

You were also my helper passing out medicine to the kids.  I can’t even begin to count how many times you did this with me.  I let you pick which order to do the rooms and you always remembered who needed medicine and who didn’t.  The nannies would say hello to Dr. Manno and if they didn’t notice you right away or forgot to say that, you would whisper to me that they forgot.  That was my cue to make some sort of announcement like “here is Dr. Manno with the medicine”.    I think Joshua was your favorite.  He had cerebral palsy and lived in the Jiraf room with some other kids who couldn’t sit up or walk by themselves.  You were never scared because he was different than you.  When we first started I would always tell him “Joshua, here is your friend Manno”.  Pretty soon you would announce as soon as you saw him “Joshua, here is your friend Manno”.  Then you would make me put you up into his crib where you would make him smile and laugh.  Several times, you would make me close the crib as you lay down next to Joshua  or lay your head on his tummy and told me you were sleeping in the Jiraf room and I could finish giving medicine by myself.  Of course, it never lasted more than a few minutes so you would give him a kiss and say goodnight as you climbed back down.  Pretty soon, a lot of the other big kids would come into the Jiraf room while we were there and they would start asking to go up into the cribs to give kisses and say goodnight too.  You were always a leader like that.  The other kids liked you and wanted to do what you were doing.  Most of the time, you were leading them to do good things J

It’s fun to remember things we did together and I can think of hundreds more but I’m pretty sure I’m just writing about that because the other stuff is too hard to think about right now.  Whenever you read this letter, there are two things I want you to know.

The first is this: God chose the absolute perfect family for you.  Your mom, Daniel, Andrew, and you are all just right for each other.  God picked Ruthanne to be your mom even before you were born.  He knew Daniel and Andrew would be your brothers, too, and that you’d all be the best of friends.  I got to spend some time with your mom when she came here to bring you home and I can see that God makes the best decisions.  You know that you’re going to Chicago, and I don’t think you have any idea what that actually means, but I know you’re going to love it there and I know that your life will be a masterpiece.

The second is this: before you went home to live with the family that God picked just for you, there was someone in Haiti who deeply and completely loved every single part of you.  I can’t even tell you how much I love you because every time I think I couldn’t possibly love you any more, I do.  I love everything about you from your little round ears to your big round tummy.  I love your hugs.  I love how you always deny wetting the bed during our sleepovers even when you do.  I love when you whisper everything you’re thinking until the last moment before you fall asleep.  I love how excited you are to see me and how you call me “Sheila mwen (my Sheila)”.  I love how you always say please and thank you.  I love that you still want me to hold you, even though you’re getting bigger, and even when my arms are tired.  I love all the yummy noises you make when you are eating.  I love when you fall asleep in my lap.  I love how smart you are.  I love that you’re a good friend.  I love watching you run with your one paddle-arm.  I love when you are acting silly and when you dance.  I love when you sing along to all the hymns with the nannies.  I love that you try to make me feel better when I am sad.  You are brave, kind, funny, smart, confident, curious, caring, sweet, and I love you so much that my heart hurts just to think about not seeing you every day.  I don’t know if you’ll remember me when you’re 6 or 10 or 20 or 50, but I could never ever forget you, Manno.  Every sad or difficult day was made about 10 times brighter just because you were in it.  You are so special to me and even though I think you feel the same way, I’d love you just the same if you didn’t.  I pray that God keeps holding you in his strong and gentle hands and that one day, whether here or in Heaven, I get to see your smile again.

Mwen renmen ou pou tout tan,

Sheila (DenOuden) Chery

Sheila Manno and Wilson


Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Haitian Reflections, Sheila, The Kiddos


Leaves on a Tin Roof

Our new house is relatively old and hasn’t been tended to in recent years.  So, even though Wilson had done a lot of work to get it ready for us, we knew there were a few little flaws we’d have to deal with once we moved in to the house.  The roof is made of corrugated tin (I’m guessing here, but it is metal) and we’d been warned that when it rained, it would be very loud.  True!  But I don’t mind a little noise now and then.  There were, however, two small leaks that we noticed during the first big rainfall.  One was in the bathroom, which is mostly made for being wet anyway, so that was no big deal.  The other was at the head of the bed, but it was positioned directly above a window, and it just happens to be the window with the broken screen, so the water ran down the wall, dripping from the screen into the windowsill, and back outside.  As far as leaks go, we were fortunate!

We’d been meaning to for a while, but a few days ago Wilson’s brother, Peter, set out to clean off our roof. It was covered in an accumulation of fallen leaves which apparently can lead to the eventual deterioration of the metal.  To prevent any more leaks, cleaning off the abundance of leaves was a necessity.  This little project erased the ambience of ‘little cottage in the woods during fall’ but I understood why it needed to happen.

That very night, shortly after we got into bed, the thunder started clapping and the rain was nearly torrential.  Moments after it began to fall, a big puddle began to form about torso-level on my side of the bed.  We quickly moved the bed to the other side of the room, only to realize that now the foot of the bed was taking on water from another new leak.  We found a sweet spot for the bed and checked out the rest of the house.  The bathroom had sprung a few new leaks as well, which were redirected into the shower by wedging a cookie sheet into the rafters at just the right angle.  These tasks were accomplished with a fair amount of shouting, not because we were angry but because that kind of rain on a tin roof?  Well, you get the idea.

So why do I bother to tell you this story?  So we got a little water in the house, big deal.  But even as it was happening, God put this word picture into my head.  All these new leaks weren’t new at all.  They were merely being temporarily patched by the matted leaves above them.  Ironically, those same leaves were the cause of the leaks in the first place.  Be cautious, God warned me, because satan works this way in your lives.  As he is slowly and insidiously breaking down your spirit, he is also covering up the symptoms, keeping his work secret until he believes it is beyond repair.  The first thing that came to mind is good works.  He keeps us busy with tasks and ministries that look like the fruit of a true Christian heart.  The things we do grab our attention, stealing from our time spent with God, stealing from our understanding of grace through faith and not by works.  We soon cannot see the distinction between being a humanitarian and following hard after Christ.  If satan can keep us from seeing the leaves as a problem, we will never pause to sweep them away and notice the leaks underneath.

Now that my role here in Haiti is less defined, I do not have the day to day tasks to keep me busy that I had before.  And I have been finding that days without structured tasks, without a long to-do list and a real sense of accomplishment, leave me feeling aimless and lost.  I brainstorm ways to be effective here, ways to help the Haitian people, ways to be useful, and it’s not that those things are inherently bad, but God just keeps whispering,

“Come to me,

I’m all you need.

Come to me,

I’m your everything” (Jenn Johnson, Bethel Loft Sessions)

What are the leaves on your tin roof?


Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Haitian Reflections, Sheila


A New Normal: Part One

Even when you’re living in Haiti, you sometimes just have to take a timeout and look at your life.  Your Christian life.  Carla and I have been chatting a lot lately about our standards of living and whether we’re using too much or giving enough.  A common debate among expats is what comforts of life are necessary for missional longevity and what is excess that should be redirected.  We see waste in various forms but know that when it really comes down to it, we have to examine ourselves first and make changes within our own lives.  I don’t know where my line is that would drive me out of third world living and back to the comforts of home(?), but we want to get as close to that line as we can.  I have a feeling that the closer we get, the further God will move it.  Living in a tent one day?  Just maybe 😉

Today is Day One of our self-appointed challenge: Make one small change each week that will become the “new normal.”  It doesn’t have to be anything drastic, but it has to stick.  I thought I’d share this journey with you each week and if you want to join with us in these adjustments, we’d love to hear how you’re own life is changing.  If you have ideas for us, we’d appreciate it as well because, let’s be honest, we’re going to run out of ideas!

Tithe Ten Percent.  This is something I always did back in the states when I got an allowance or a paycheck but for some reason, I stopped doing this when I began raising support and instead got a monthly stipend for groceries, etc.  We see so many people come through our gates who really just need financial help.  A baby who needs heart surgery, a mom who can’t scrounge up enough money for rent or even formula, an old man who needs his cataracts removed.  I hate saying no to these legitimate needs.  We do have a community aid budget at COTP but it’s just not big enough for the things that we see.  So starting today (or when our awesome finance girls give me my stipend envelope) I am setting aside 10% into our own little community aid fund.  I am so excited to see how God will multiply what we are giving back to Him to bless our neighbors in Haiti!

Do you have any great tithing stories of how you were able to meet someone else’s needs?  Or have you tithed in faith and God reached down to meet your needs?  Have you never tithed before or gotten out of the habit but you’re going to start again?

MoneyThis is my 10% tithe. 650 Haitian gourdes is equivalent to 130 Haitian dollars and is a little more than US $15.

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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Haitian Reflections, Sheila