An Unexpected Goodbye

Dear friends,

It is with extremely heavy hearts that we must announce that we will not be returning to Sonlight Ministries this fall. Recently, the staff became aware of some actions and indiscretions that have been taken by the leadership of this organization. This was brought to light when one of our supporting churches discovered these actions and confronted those involved. In the weeks following, we have not seen the situation handled well. I do not believe the open Internet is the appropriate place to go into the details of this situation, due to the sensitive nature of the circumstances. If anyone wants to know more about the events that led us to this decision, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are more than willing to answer any questions one-on-one. Based on the information we have, we feel we can no long in good conscience continue working for Sonlight Ministries.

This decision was not an easy one to make, and we are incredibly heartbroken to say goodbye. We came here with the intention of a long-term ministry in Haiti, and we are devastated to see it come to this unfortunate end. We spent our year here investing in our students and those in our community, and our hearts are aching for what we are leaving behind. We have shed so many tears, and it is going to be incredibly hard to get on that plane next week and return to the States. Still, just as I believed God called us to Port-de-Paix last year, I also believe in his guidance in bringing us home. Although I do not understand His plans or His ways, I believe He is good, loving, and always faithful, even in the storms.

One of the first blogs I wrote was about an instrument’s job. As instruments of God, we are called to faithfully play the music the Father gives us. Even when it’s hard. Even when it hurts. Even when I don’t understand. The music has changed, but my job has not. While I do not know what is in store for our lives next year, or even next month, I will continue to live my life following the Lord and trusting in Him.

Please continue to pray for us as we transition to a new life back in the States, and most importantly for the friends, students, and wonderful people of Haiti, who will forever be in our hearts.

In Christ,

Hannah and Bryson Orr

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Mwen pa esklav perez anko, Mwen se pitit Bondye

We started off this April with Spring Break at Sonlight. Most teachers count down the days until a break, but I’ve never been a huge fan of them. Even in the states, I would get anxious as we approached a long break. I like to stay busy, and too many unscheduled days drives me crazy! At home, I would always make sure to get my breaks filled with traveling, volunteering, or working odd jobs, but my opportunities are little more limited here in Haiti. A few missionaries used the break to travel to other places in the country, but we were unable to go anywhere, so we were stuck at home. We filled up the week the best we could, and got to spend some great time with a few other missionaries who stayed here for break!

Earlier this week, we planned to go to a beach about two hours away with a few other missionary families in town. Despite practically living on the coast of an island, beaches aren’t exactly super accessible. Even the closest beaches involve going down curvy, up-and-down paths that are unpaved and rough. The smallest amount of rain can make an already sketchy road completely impassable by taxi or truck. Unfortunately, on this particular day muddy roads and a dead truck battery kept us stranded on the side of the road for over 6 hours, and we never did make it to the beach! We might have not gotten to the ocean, but at least we had good company to share the adventure with!

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Yesterday, we attempted to go to the beach again. The freshman class wanted to do a beach trip, and Bryson volunteered to go with them. This time, we went to a much closer beach, and John, who is the director of operations here, agreed to drive us all in his truck. This truck is much more reliable than the average Haitian tap-tap truck! Fortunately, it hadn’t been very rainy, so we made it there without any trouble. We had a great morning of sun, soccer, kickball, and swimming before we noticed the dark storm clouds coming our way. We quickly called John to see if he would pick us up early, but he still had a little more work to do before he could head our way. We packed up quickly and started walking towards home, knowing that the impending rain could make parts of the path impassable by even John’s truck. Of course, we couldn’t out run the rain, and our beach trip ended with us soaked from the rain and mud as we trudged down the road! Just another day in Haiti. Luckily, the freshman class is so happy-go-lucky, they hardly even complained!

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My favorite part of the break was something called Breakout. During the last few days of Spring Break, Southland Christian Church in Kentucky sends a group that puts on a conference in the morning for our Junior High and High School students. They bring in a worship team, t-shirts, speakers, and games! It’s a total blast, but the coolest part is that they do the conference again in the evenings, but they translate everything into creole so people from the community can come. I was so incredibly impressed by how much work the Southland team puts into this conference! It was so much fun to sing the songs I know and love in a new language.

One of the songs they translated was No Longer Slaves, where the chorus goes “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God”, or as it’s translated into creole, “Mwen pa esklav perez anko, Mwen se pitit Bondye”.  As we sang this song, I began to think deeper about its message. I have always been a person who has constantly lived my life in fear. I worry about nearly everything; I worry about losing the people I love, I worry that people don’t like me, I worry about the future, I worry about the past. Since moving here, these worries have seemed to amplify, at times consuming me so deeply that I feel like I’m drowning. And I let this affect my attitude, my work, and my relationships with others.

But as we sang this song, I realized that the lyrics show a clear difference. Though I know I will always struggle with worrying to some extent, I am reminded that as a child of God, I no longer have to be that way. And everyday I remind myself of these words, with the hope that one day I will fully believe them. I no longer have to be a slave to my fears, because I am a child of God. Mwen pa esklav perez anko, Mwen se pitit Bondye!

I am SO excited to see all my precious 4thgraders tomorrow morning! Please continue to pray for us as we finish up these last six weeks of school!

March in the Caribbean

Growing up in the Midwest, I would always get so excited when February ended and March began. To me, it was a sign that winter was over and spring was upon us! I would break out my flip flips and skirts, ready for the warmth that I had been desperately waiting for. Anyone who lives in the Midwest is probably laughing at me now, because as you know, even though the calendars say spring begins in mid-March, in the Midwest March is definitely still winter. Here in Haiti, however, March has come with the same beautiful sunshine that shows itself year-round in this part of the world. Don’t get to jealous though – the temperatures are starting to creep up, and I’m sure in a couple weeks I’ll be sweating through my clothes before 9am again! Still, I’m enjoying every second of this gorgeous weather while it’s still here!

We are one week into our fourth and final quarter of the 2017-2018 school year at Sonlight Academy. We have about two months with only 32 actual school days left! That seems like such a small amount of time when I think of how much we need to accomplish before the end of the year. Our school year at Sonlight is significantly shorter than a typical schedule in the United States – we have about five weeks less than any other district I’ve worked for – yet we use American curriculum, so it’s practically impossible to fit it all in. We’re hoping to get the most important aspects covered before our students move on to the next grade level. In addition, I’m not ready to say goodbye to these fabulous fourth graders I’ve grown to love!

Our lives have continued their ordinary stride over the past few weeks. I’ve started a new series with my Bible study girls about Satan, and we’re learning about how to be prepared to fight the enemy. Bryson and I wrote this series while working with the Philo Road youth group a few years ago, and I’m excited to go through it again with these girls! Ashlie, my friend who leads the study with me, and I have decided we want to stay with this same group of girls for Bible study next year. We feel like we’re really starting to make good connections with these students and hope to foster even deeper relationships in the coming months!

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Over the past couple weeks, we’ve gotten a little braver about attempting to go out around town. We have made a few trips to stores recently, which resulted in finding apples AND ice cream! Last weekend, I went with my friend Catherine, who teaches 2nd grade, to a local pool. We actually went to two pools, because the first one didn’t have water. After some brief confusion at the second pool, and a slightly scary walk down a super dark hallway with a security guard, we had a great time cooling off in the waters in laying out in the gorgeous sun.

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The highlight of this March was definitely my parents visit here a few weeks ago! It was so amazing to have them here and experience Haiti and Sonlight for the first time. My parents love children, and children love them, so they fit in perfectly at the school. They did all kinds of lessons with my class, and my dad even taught science for me the whole week! He may have let the students get a little crazier than I typically allow, but I think that just made them love him even more. My dad even got to spend his birthday with my fabulous fourth graders, and you’ll have to ask him, but I think it was one of his favorite birthdays yet. My mom had a great time too – she keeps telling me she’s going to come back for a month next year!

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As always, thank you so much for your prayers, love, and support. Please continue to keeps us in your prayers, as well as join us in praying for Sonlight as they assess their staffing needs and work to get those filled!

A Beautiful Scene

The past two months have been busy! We’ve had several groups who’ve come in and spent time in our classes, worked on maintenance projects, and experienced the culture here. One of the things I do when groups visit is take them ‘hiking’. I say ‘hiking’ because although we’re really walking a couple of miles in town, it feels like hiking due to the hilly terrain and rough roads! The short version of the hike is up to a hill that overlooks about half the city to the north. It really is pretty!

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I enjoy taking people up here because the walk to it gives people an idea of what Haitian living looks like, as well as the stunningly beautiful country we live in!

In addition to groups, I’ve filled my time with students in and out of the classroom. The first week of February found me baking 12 dozen cookies for the 11th grade class to sell at a fundraiser. At Sonlight Academy the senior class gets to choose and wear a unique uniform, and they raise a little bit of money the year before to offset the cost to themselves by having some kind of fundraising event. The 11th grade students asked me to sponsor their event and help them put all the details together, so of course, I turned the event into a series of assignments in the computer class I teach. They put together their own sales and expense estimates which helped them narrow down and focus their ideas. They designed their own flyers and ticket stubs to sell for the event. Lastly, they wrote proposal letters to pitch their idea to Mme. John, our principal for approval. Check out the picture below for some examples of their work! Some of these students had never touched a keyboard until August. We’ve come a long way! The fundraiser was a soccer game at the school and turned out to be successful!

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7th & 8th grade Bible study continues to go well, even on a week I cancelled, the boys asked to still have it. We started a series of studies focused on the idea of Awakening: going from being spiritually dead, to spiritually alive with Christ. Throughout this we’ll be studying how people in the Bible were changed by God, and what they did with their lives for God as a result. We’ve discussed the Ethiopian Enuch and Ehud so far. Maybe I should keep the “E” theme and go with Elijah next!

Last month, we had a week off for Mardi Gras break. The 9th grade class invited me to go hiking with them to a village in the mountains on that Thursday. We scheduled to meet at 7:00 am and true Haitian style didn’t get started until 9:15. I spent the day with 19 teenagers and 3 aides from the school experiencing the culture, running out of water, getting tired, thinking we were in the wrong place, exploring a cave, and enjoying God’s creation! By the end of the trip we hiked about 10.5 miles across two mountain ridges and were pretty exhausted. Also during the trip, I was asked to buy a house, and the students named me “ti papa” which means little father. The views were awesome, and the weather was perfect (low 80’s, sunny, breezy)!

 

As beautiful as God made the earth though, it too will pass away. The lasting value, the true prize on this hike wasn’t the mountains or deep blue Caribbean. The best part of this trip wasn’t a beautiful scene, it was these beautiful souls:

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These are some of the students God has trusted me with teaching math and more importantly, who He is and what it means to live for Christ.

Last week, Randy and Holly Schilling came to visit us (Hannah’s parents) and it was great! We really enjoyed getting to see them, showing them our lives, and praying together about our life here. They were an encouragement to us, our coworkers, and our students thought they were a hoot! It was sad to see them go, but we’re heading into the tail end of the school year with only a week and a half left in the third quarter! It’s going fast! Looking ahead, I’m working on SAT Math Tutoring for students who will be taking the SAT in May, there’s another soccer game this Friday, and a new group coming to visit Sunday!

Seasonal Depression

When I lived in Illinois, I always had a mild case of “seasonal depression”. Every year, from January through mid March, the freezing temperatures and lack of vitamin D left me with a perpetual desire for hibernation. I was always tired, didn’t want to go out and do things (a big shift from my normal extroverted self), and basically just wanted to sit on my couch under a blanket and eat pizza all day. Every day when my alarm went off, in the pitch-black morning, the first thing I would do was count the hours before I could go back to bed. I even had one of those clocks that mimicked the rising of the sun. I was grumpy, cold, and sleepy all the time. Yet every spring, when my beloved sunshine started sticking around longer and it finally got warm enough to be outside, my moodiness would fade and I would become my usual, social, energetic self again.

Now that we live in the Caribbean, with more hours of daylight and a consistent temperature of 80 degrees, I didn’t think seasonal depression would be an issue this year. Yet the first five weeks after Christmas were by far the roughest part of this year for me. I joked to Bryson once that even though it isn’t cold and dark here, my body still knows it’s wintertime and thus it needs to be sad. I’ve been tired, lonely, and doubting our decision to give up our life to come here, wondering if we’re really making an impact on the people here, or if we could have been doing more for God somewhere else. I’ve always been a planner, and for the first time in my life I don’t have a long-term plan for my future, and that scares me so much I often feel physically ill.

It’s a different kind of seasonal depression, I suppose – we all encounter seasons in our lives where we question our decisions or doubt our faith. And I’m well aware of the enemy who is constantly trying to trip me up. It seems like sometimes people think it’s easier to work in ministry; that supposedly being surrounded by so much Jesus makes it harder for Satan to break in, that because you’re working with a bunch of Christians there won’t be dishonesty or hurt feelings. But I think the ministries with the greatest potential to be active for God are the ones that Satan tries the hardest to knock down.

Many years ago, when my dad was a campus minister, the college group at my church would put on a youth rally every year. The earliest theme I remember was “Don’t Let Satan Win.” Everyday, when I pull myself out of bed and get ready for school, I remind myself of this. While I may not have control over everything in my current situation, I do have control over my attitude. Even though sometimes it is extremely hard, I’m trying my best to choose joy over sadness, faith over fear, and love over hate. So instead of listing all of the struggles and reasons why I’ve been so down the last few weeks, I will tell you of the joys and the reasons I’ve found to smile.

I LOVE my students. I love teaching them, I’m excited to see them everyday, and I can say I genuinely enjoy my time in the classroom. We celebrated Valentine’s Day last week (my all time favorite school holiday!) and I was showered with love, homemade cards and notes, and even candy from my precious students. I’m already sad that I only have three more months with this class!

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This week we didn’t have school – we had a week off for Mardi Gras – and so Bryson and I painted our apartment! I’ve always liked my spaces to be an explosion of color, and thankfully Bryson has accepted living in a sea of purples, greens, and yellows. Seriously guys, my husband is AMAZING! I finally feel like this apartment is our home – complete with a purple door!

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Last weekend we traveled with some friends to St. Louis, a town about an hour away. We traveled by tap tap – basically just a truck with some boards on it. You wave them down if you see one with open space, cram on with everyone else, and then tap the side of the truck when you want off. We ate a local bakery and went to an open air market, where people were selling food, clothes, shoes, and everything you could imagine! I even found super cheap purple high top converse!

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Yesterday, a couple of other missionaries and I went to a newly renovated pool in town. Despite what it looks like on Instagram, we really don’t get to do this very often, so it was a special treat to relax and actually enjoy the sunshine!

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Bryson didn’t come with us to the pool, but instead was invited to go hiking with the 9th grade class. He’s at a point where he’s making really good connections with his students and is excited about getting to invest in them long term – since he’s the only math teacher, he will teach each class multiple years. He got to experience some incredible views – he’ll update more on that excursion soon!

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And probably the greatest joy of all – my parents are coming to visit next weekend! Please pray for them as they prepare for their trip, as the travel to Port-de-Paix is not easy!

Thank you so much for your continued love and support!

After the Storm

After a wonderful trip to visit family, we made it back to our home in Haiti last Friday. Traveling from the Midwest to northern Haiti is not a quick trip, and it took us even longer than usual, thanks to this wonderful little thing called “lake effect snow” that we learned about while visiting my parents in their new home in Michigan. Originally, we had planned to leave my parents house early Thursday morning to head to Chicago for our mid afternoon flight. However, when woke up Wednesday morning, my dad, who had been watching the weather, determined that it was too risky to wait until the morning to head to Chicago – that route would head us straight through icy roads and winter weather due to the lake effect. The roads were already bad, so instead of going straight to Chicago, we ended up leaving a day early to drive around the storm and went south, staying the night in Champaign. That turned out to be rather fortuitous, as we were able to see Bryson’s parents and a couple other friends one more time, and I got another meal of cheese fries from Portillos! Thanks to my dad’s quick thinking, we were able to get to Chicago the next day with plenty of time, and luckily my parents had a safe, though very slow, drive back through the nasty weather to get home after dropping us at the airport.

We arrived in Haiti severely craving some sunshine after two weeks with below freezing temperatures, but we returned to storms in Port-de-Paix. Luckily, there was a break in the rain the allowed our plane to get in last Friday, but the rains started back up again Saturday morning and didn’t let up until early Monday. Over that time period, we received about 11 inches of rain! Houses were leaking, some roads were impassable, and streets were flooded. Though we had planned to start school on Monday, we had to cancel for the day due to the devastation from the storms.

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I’ve always loved the sound of rain. It’s so cozy to be sitting inside by the window, snuggled under a blanket, sipping a hot drink while the rain putters outside. I’ve especially loved it while I was sleeping – any time I would wake up during a storm, I would happily listen to the sounds of the raindrops and they sang me back to sleep. But now, when I wake up and hear rain, I don’t feel quite so peaceful anymore. Instead, I start to worry. How long has it been raining? How long will it keep raining? Are my students safe? Will we have school tomorrow? If we do, will my students be able to get here safely?

In my nice, safe home in America, rain never caused me much concern. It only gave me some mild annoyance when the raindrops would curl my freshly straightened hair or force me to keep a room full of energetic children inside during recess. But here in Haiti, as with many other places in the world, the rain can cause great destruction. Today, during centers, one of my students wrote about how over the weekend she had to sleep in her brother’s room, because her room leaks and lots of water was coming in. During a big storm a couple months ago, one of my students was very late to school. When she arrived, she handed me the note she had received from the office, which stated she was late because due to the damage and floods from the storm two people had died in the road and traffic had been backed up. Can you even imagine that? Being late to school, or work, because people have died from the rain?

I saved that note for a long a time. Sometimes, when I’m looking at my students, it can be easy to forget the world they come from and the lives in which they live. They come to school clean and well dressed – if you look at a picture of my classroom, it looks almost exactly like the ones I’ve taught in in the States. But many of these children face more struggles in one day than I ever will in my entire lifetime. It’s heartbreaking, and I often feel as if I should be doing something more to help them.

But at the same time, we are giving them something – we are giving the hope of a God who loves them and a life so much better than this one. And even though there are many storms throughout life – both figuratively and literally – after the storm, the sun always does shine.

Just as it always does, the sun has now returned to Port-de-Paix. And just as the sun is always behind the clouds, I know the Son will never leave our side. Please continue to pray for us as we work to make a difference in the lives of our students, and for the people of Haiti as they deal with the devastation of this storm. But most importantly, pray for those in our community who are still lost in the rain and are in desperate need of the Son.

Home for the Holidays

“Where are you from?”

We were asked this question by a group of Americans in the Port-au-Prince airport as we waited in line to board our flight back to the US for Christmas break. Hannah and I both hesitated for an awkwardly long moment and she finally answered “Michigan.” Of course, the gentleman continued the casual conversation by asking “How is Michigan?” Another long awkward pause from us we said, “We don’t know! We haven’t been there yet.”

Hannah was born in Canada and grew up in central Illinois. I was born and raised in central Illinois. When we decided to move to Port-de-Paix, we moved in with Hannah’s parents in Iowa, where we had planned to spend most of our time when stateside. However, in early December, Hannah’s parents moved to Michigan. In summary, I have an Illinois Driver’s License, an Iowa License Plate, a Michigan permanent address, and spend the majority of my time in another country! So when someone asks “Where are you from?” I don’t know if they’re asking where I grew up, where I currently live, or where I am currently traveling to! For most people at least two of those questions have the same answer, but for us those three questions have four answers!

One of the difficult things emotionally for us as we made the commitment to move to Haiti to evangelize and educate students there was selling the house we called our home and leaving the area we knew as home. You see this decision for us has never been temporary. We left knowing that the life and home we had built together in the states – the beautiful house, the great careers, family nearby – was something we may not have again. By choosing a ministry life in Haiti, we surrendered the dream and traditional definition of home. So right along with the difficulty of answering the question “Where are you from?” we feel as if we have no place to call home with any permanence and that we are continually living in transition.

As difficult as feeling ungrounded has been, it isn’t all bad. Over the last four months, as we have begun to live this new missional focus for our lives, we have started to grasp a better understanding of the Biblical definition of home. With no single worldly place feeling like home, we are beginning to see what it means to look at heaven as our real and genuine home. This Christmas break has wonderful so far, as it has allowed us to see and catch up with the family we love so dearly, but we know the joy of worshiping our savior with them in eternity will far surpass this earthly home. As our excitement for heaven grows in our hearts instead of just being head knowledge, we are better equipped to share that hopeful future with our students!

We truly are aliens in this world. Not just because we’re used to warmer weather and find ourselves in the snow. Not just because we spend most of our time as a racial minority in a foreign culture. Not just because we find ourselves visitors of our own familiar culture instead of true members anymore. We are aliens because this world is not truly our home. As Christians, it never was, nor should it be. As we enjoy our time this Christmas with our families knowing it will end all too short when we head back to Haiti, we can take heart knowing that we all have a future together.

 

That is, after all, what Jesus came for!

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What’s Your Focus?

I cannot believe it is already December! We have just over one week of school left before we break for the holidays. November went by quickly for us; we continue to stay busy with our classes, bible studies, and church, occasionally sneaking in a trip to the beach or walk around the neighborhood. We had a few days off for Thanksgiving, which I mostly spent planning, sorting sponsor gifts for my students, and decorating my classroom for Christmas. Bryson spent the break sick in bed, so unfortunately he didn’t get much of a rest! He’s mostly back to normal now, but please pray for us to stay healthy as we head into the business of the next few weeks. This past weekend we had the Sonlight Staff Party, which the missionaries put on for all of the local staff at Sonlight, thanking them for the work they contribute to this ministry. We also have the Christmas Program coming up next week, where families are invited and each class performs a Christmas song. I might be biased, but I think the 4th graders are going to be fantastic! We’ve been practicing our song and motions every day and they’ve almost got it down perfectly. I love the Christmas season, and it’s always so much fun to celebrate with my students!

Lately I’ve been thinking about where my focus is. I love teaching. I love leading small groups, finding new ways to engage students, and organizing and managing the classroom. I even love the planning! My passion has always been education, and I could spend hours researching new strategies or talking about the importance of differentiated instruction.

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My goal as an educator has always been to help each of my students meet the standards at hand. But the other day, I came across this verse:

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

This made me stop and really wonder – what is my focus? What is driving me when I walk into the classroom? Is the teaching, or is it The Teacher? If I’m being honest, more often than not it’s the teaching. I can get so focused on the lessons, the assessments, and the standards. Yet just as a house built without the Lord has been built in vain, any teaching done without the Lord is also meaningless. I could be teaching anywhere, but the reason I chose to teach here is because at Sonlight we do so much more than just teaching. We prepare our students with the tools they need to be successful in this life, but we also have the opportunity to show them God’s love, teach them His ways, and give them the hope of a life so much sweeter than this one. In the end, it won’t matter if my students can multiply or spell or distinguish the main idea of article. What matters is whether or not they have lived for Jesus.

Yes, the teaching is important, and I will always striving to be the best teacher I can, but the focus of everything I do should always be our Savior.

So as you go about building up your life, I challenge you to ask yourself the same the question I try to challenge myself with everyday.

What’s your focus?

Dodge the Mangoes

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As Hannah and I were headed over to the school building on Saturday to work in our respective classes, I casually reminded her to “dodge the mangoes” on the way over. We have a mango tree that hangs over part of the path from our apartment and as we approach mango season, we need to duck and weave to avoid getting hit in the face! This, like many things, is part of our normal routine. As I said that phrase aloud on Saturday, I realized how crazy it is that this is part of our normal life now! I never imagined a scenario in my life in which I’d be living 100 feet from the ocean, dodging mango trees on the way to work, while enjoying 85 degrees in November! This place is definitely beautiful. But in all this beauty, the reality of living here has an ugly side.

Every day, in one way or another, we encounter our student’s home lives in our classrooms. I have students who talk about missing breakfast because their family ran out of money casually as it’s a normal occurrence. In my high school typing class, I assigned my students a creative writing assignment last week and every single student’s writing included themes of broken families, abuse, and abject poverty. Mr. John had the maintenance crew and a handful of one-day hires pouring concrete on the roof of a garage on Friday. Outside the school fence there was a crowd of onlookers hoping that Mr. John would hire them to help.IMG_20171103_071802606

While poverty, abuse, broken families, and unemployment are not unique problems to Haiti, the quantity of them and the in your face nature of it can be quickly overwhelming. I can feed someone who’s hungry today but there are 100 more tomorrow. I can encourage my students all day long but as another teacher put it, “Sometimes you just want to sit down and cry with them.” Mr. John can hire 10 people to help with a job but there are literally tens of thousands in our city alone who need one. It’s hard some days to not feel ineffective.

On Sunday I was surprised when one of Sonlight’s high school seniors took the stage and led worship for several songs. I had no idea Melchi (mel-key) could sing! Not only could he sing, he was charismatic, passionate, and fantastic at leading worship! These are the moments when I am reminded of the larger purpose here. While education, food, and employment are all critical things for us to be helping people with, teaching students to have a relationship with Jesus has an impact beyond the short-lasting vapor of this life. And that is effective. I thank God for the opportunity to witness and begin to understand the meaning of Luke 6:20 “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” While my student’s writing assignments reminded me of the ugly side of life here, every student in some way concluded their story with a projection of hope for their main characters at having a better life than the one they came from. I can’t feed a whole country. I can’t rescue every child, I can’t employ every person, but I can teach them the hope they have in Jesus and for today, that is enough.

Let The Nations Sing It Louder

This past Friday was the end of our first quarter at Sonlight Academy, and we are officially over halfway through the first semester! It seems unbelievable that it’s the end of October, with the the temperatures still in the high 80s, but the breeze has picked up recently and the last few days have been gorgeous. And knowing that the cold and snow are just around the corner for our family and friends back home, I will say I’d rather have the heat!

We’ve really settled into our daily life here. School keeps up busy during the workweek, and our weekends are spent planning, grading, visiting friends and going to church. This month, we’ve been in charge of the Junior Worship for 1st-3rd graders during church, and I love getting to work with the younger kids! Every few weeks we have groups of visitors from the States here, and while those weeks are extra busy, it’s so fun to connect with people from all over and engage in afternoon activities with them, whether it’s going to the market, playing kickball with the students, or visiting a children’s home to play game with the kids. Visitors also help out in our classroom; in addition to working on skills with my students, my last visitor laminated over 100 worksheets and centers for me! It was such a blessing!

Last week, we had Tuesday off school in observance of a Haitian holiday. We used the free time for a trip to a near by beach with a few other teachers from the school. It was about a 20 minute taxi (moped) ride to the beach, and we had to wade through the water to find a nice sandy spot without trash, but the ocean was gorgeous and the time to relax was fantastic!

I love the ocean!IMG_4804

 

Wading though the water to get to the actual “beach”IMG_4799

 

Mountains and ocean at the same time!IMG_4800

Part of our weekly routine includes leading Bible studies for Jr. Highers on Tuesday afternoons. I’m doing 7th and 8th grade girls with another teacher. They are a rambunctious bunch, but one of the things they love to do is sing worship music, so ever week I play some songs off my ipod and we sing along. Recently, I introduced them to the song “Your Name”, and the chorus goes like this:

Your name, is a strong and mighty tower

Your name, is a shelter like no other

You name, let the nations sing it louder

‘Cause nothing has the power to save, but Your name

I absolutely love this song. My favorite part is “let the nations sing it louder.” The first time we sang this song at Bible Study, that line gave me chills. In the States, it can be so easy to forget the world around us. That our customs, language, and ideas are the only ones in the world. That our churches are all that matter – because that’s what we’re used to. But being here, I am reminded that Jesus came for not only those in my immediate surroundings, but for the whole world.

We sing a lot here – kid songs during Junior Worship, praise songs at Bible Study, and worship songs in French and Creole at church or during morning devotions before school. Sometimes, I don’t even know what I’m singing, but I love witnessing the world around me worship the name of Jesus. It reminds me that someday, people from every country and every nation will worship the Father together, in beautiful, perfect unison.