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A Generation Changing…..

When God called Tony and me to move to Haiti as missionaries with But God Ministries, He spoke to Tony’s heart saying, “I want to use you to change a generation.” Of course, we had no idea what that meant or how that would happen, but we trusted that eventually He would show us how, when, where, etc. ….and He has!!

It didn’t take long before we started realizing that the schools we began forming a relationship with were the key to “changing a generation!” Of course, it wasn’t easy, but as we began to work closely with the principals of the schools and dream big along with them, we started embracing a vision that God had in mind all along!

These pictures are from our first year working with the two schools known as Mixte Maranatha (Salomon’s school) and Mixte MEBEA (Johel’s school). The walls of Maranatha were sticks and tin. The interior walls were the rickety chalk boards that faced the makeshift desks, creating separate classes. At MEBEA, all but two classes met inside the one big room of the church and two classes were created outside on the back wall of the church, and those two classrooms were made of sticks and tin and the same rickety chalkboards. Very few children could afford uniforms or books. Most couldn’t afford tuition, so the school, in turn, couldn’t afford improvements. They couldn’t even hardly pay their teachers… but the directors, Salomon and Johel, wanted the children of this village who could not afford an education otherwise to be able to attend school. These two schools had a reputation of being the “poor schools,” but they did the best they could with what they had. But God had something bigger in mind…..

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God began providing resources for us to use by moving people to give towards our education programs in our village. We started by first helping Salomon pay for books for his students and raising his teachers’ salaries. We began helping Johel’s school by sending all of the new children who had recently moved into the houses BGM built on “the hill” behind Hope Center, and paying a tuition for them. We also gave them uniforms bought from a uniform company in the US and we bought books for his school too. We thanked God for His provision, and we began to pray that God would give us wisdom and provision to grow these schools to something better.

Meanwhile, God had begun to move us to help boost the economy by creating businesses here. One of those businesses was a sewing business. We met Henry, our main tailor, through the birth of his twin boys and our English classes. When it was time to start the sewing business, he began to work with our seamstress Ruth, and they now have a booming business of sewing uniforms and other needs throughout the village. The children began to feel like they were going to a real school because they had new uniforms. They knew they looked good, so they felt good, and they learned more. The schools were one step closer to being REAL schools!

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In order to maintain the ability to help children go to school and make improvements, we realized we MUST create a constant income for the schools. There was already a sponsorship program going on up in Thoman, so we asked how that worked, came up with a plan for sponsorship in Galette Chambon and launched it! The response was tremendous!! We were able to begin making plans for increasing enrollment significantly, giving teachers a fair wage, making more capital improvements, etc. But our dream didn’t stop there! It was God’s idea, and our desire, to begin a feeding program in the schools so that children would no longer struggle to learn with empty bellies. We wanted to grow the sponsorship program to a point when every child at the school would get a hot meal every day, including holidays and during the summer! People prayed with us, and they sponsored children, and we waited and prayed for God to bless….  AND HE DID!! We started the feeding program in both schools, and children became healthier and learned better!

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Just look at how much some of our children have changed from the beginning of the sponsorship program to today. They are healthy, happy, and educated!!!

Next, God provided the resources to make building improvements! We started by building new classrooms at Maranatha School. God led Great Bridge Baptist Church to raise funds to build four new classrooms on the property! Many teams came and built new desks for the classrooms at Maranatha as well as MEBEA school, and other teams came and painted the new classrooms and the inside and outside of Johel’s church, so that the MEBEA school would be clean and bright for the students to learn! Things were looking brighter!!!

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Around the same time that all of these capital improvements started happening, we began focusing on how we could improve the actual education quality in our schools. We prayed for more sponsors so that we could raise the teachers’ salaries and hire much needed support staff in the schools. Because the two elementary schools we sponsor only went to the 6th grade, we realized that we needed to make a way for our sponsor kids to continue on in school, so we started a But God Ministries Secondary School. Now when students graduate from elementary school, they automatically move on into the BGM High School! Each year we have added a new grade to the high school, and this year we are adding the 11th grade! We almost have a complete school system where kids can start out in kindergarten and go all the way to Philo which is a 13th grade that prepares young people for college!

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We now employ over 75 people in our schools from administration to teachers to support staff, cooks, and janitors. In the few years that have passed since the program started, we have been able to raise teacher salaries to be competitive with all others schools in Haiti. We have provided teacher training in classroom management, discipline, teaching strategies, and incorporating positive reinforcement and incentives in the classroom. These seminars have been led by teachers from the US on visiting teams, the University of Alabama Education Department, and professors from the University of Haiti Education Department.

When we look back to where we began, it is hard to believe what all has taken place in just six years! From sticks and tin to nice classrooms, desks, uniforms, books, employees, etc. Two years in a row, one of our high schoolers has made the highest score on the national exam over the entire region! We have had two high schoolers make perfect scores on sections of the national exam. Our schools are being recognized and applauded by the Ministry of Education! God is INDEED changing a generation! We have actually been watching a miracle take place.

This year, we are looking forward to BIG changes. But God Ministries has been working with all three schools to form our own SCHOOL SYSTEM. We have asked the high school principal, Moliere, to be our school superintendent; we will have qualified principals at all three schools, secretaries, assistant principals, and all very qualified teachers! We will serve hot meals at all three schools, and all three schools will have students sitting in brand new classrooms. God is so good!! And all of this is being done because God has led people all over the world to sponsor kids in our program.

The funds generated through the BGM Sponsorship program pay tuition for sponsored students, pay for their books, uniform, exams, and initial school supplies. After that, sponsorship funds pay for the individual sponsor child plus two more children in the school to eat a hot meal prepared every day at the school – all year long. Sponsor funds also provide salaries for over 75 employees. That means 75 families in our village now have a steady income to provide for their own children! We are literally watching the miracle of the loaves and fishes taking place here in our village, and it’s all because people have been faithful to sponsor.

In order to continue making these and many other future improvements, we need to find 30 more sponsors for the program. In the coming days, we will be adding more and more children to the website to allow more people to sponsor kids in our schools. We want every sponsor and potential sponsor to know that ALL funds received through this program go 100% back to the schools. There are ZERO “administrative costs” being funded. BGM pours every single penny received back to the schools. And we are committed to keeping it this way. Sponsors have opportunities to write to their children, send gifts to their children, even visit their children if they come to serve at Hope Center in Galette Chambon. There is no other sponsorship program in the world like this.

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We desperately need at least 30 more sponsors to make our proposed 2018-2019 budget. We have cut and trimmed all we can, but we can’t make the needed changes without increasing our budget. Will you please consider becoming one of those 30 sponsors that will help us move this system to the next level? Will you please pray and ask God how He can use you? If you don’t necessarily feel led to sponsor a child, but you do want to help the education needs of But God Ministries, you can simply go to our website and give directly to the general education fund at BGM. Make sure you add an additional comment that it is for “Education in Galette Chambon” We invite you to be a part of what God is doing in Galette Chambon, Haiti, to CHANGE A GENERATION!!! Thank you so much for your support!!

~Mickie West, But God Ministries Child Sponsorship Program Administrator

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Every Day is a Day to be Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

I apologize to all of my blog followers because It’s been a while since I have written on my blog. Our internet has been a bit sketchy, and time has been even more sketchy, but I decided today that I would try really hard to get a post out and be better about posting in the future. I post to Facebook all the time because it is easy to do with the internet on my phone, but we discovered that we can use a little Digicel thumb drive to get Internet on the laptop, and today I am trying it out. Hopefully it will work!

As the great Eucalyptus tree reaches towards the heavens, I want to lift my eyes towards my Father in heaven and rejoice in His love daily so that I too may give off a sweet aroma of his love and strength as I grow in Him and through Him.

As the great Eucalyptus tree reaches towards the heavens, I want to lift my eyes towards my Father in heaven and rejoice in His love daily so that I too may give off a sweet aroma of his love and strength as I grow in Him and through Him.

Today, God reminded me through Philippians 4:4 that in order to live a healthy life, we must learn to rejoice in all things so that we may be full of joy (“Always be full of joy in the Lord, I say it again – rejoice.” Philippians 4:4 NLT). It always amazes me how God sends just the right Word for things I am dealing with at particular times in my life. I don’t really think it’s worry that I deal with. God taught me to release worry to Him a long time ago. I think the biggest hindrance to joy I find that I deal with is gratitude. People who are ungrateful are miserable because nothing makes them happy. I don’t ever want to let daily frustrations wear down my gratitude to a point that I am ungrateful because it is at those times one can forget to be thankful. So first of all, I am thankful that He reminds me to have joy and rejoice in Him daily so that I don’t get bogged down in self pity or focus on the negative. When we focus on negative, it infects every part of our lives. Rick Warren calls it “stewing without doing.” He pointed out in my devotional today that we need to choose to think on the positive and on God’s Word.  So today I choose to be grateful and rejoice in ALL things and focus on His Word that tells me to be full of Joy in the Lord.

Thanksgiving in Haiti 2014: We are grateful to God for children who love Him with all their heart, and we are thankful to Him for bringing them to us safely for this amazing Thanksgiving week 2014!

Thanksgiving in Haiti 2014: We are grateful to God for children who love Him with all their heart, and we are thankful to Him for bringing them to us safely for this amazing Thanksgiving week 2014!

This week has been a very special week for Tony and me, and we are very thankful. It’s not an average week at Hope Center because there hasn’t been a team here, and we have had the blessing of having our children here with us. We have had an opportunity to refresh our minds, recharge our batteries, and enjoy many beautiful sights in Haiti that we normally don’t have the time to visit. It has been an absolute pleasure to enjoy the beauty of this country with our children. All week long we have been reminded of all the many blessings we have to be thankful for.

We did have a small glitch in our plans when the kids arrived at the Birmingham airport at 4 am to find out that Jonathan’s ticket had somehow been canceled. Tony and I worked feverishly to restore his flight, but we were not able to get anything that would get him here on Friday with Jacob and Katelyn. He ended up having to spend the night in the Miami airport and catch the first flight out to arrive early Saturday morning. It was frustrating at first, but we decided that since there was nothing else we could do about it, we would choose to rejoice anyway. Jacob and Katelyn were able to spend some quality brother-sister time, and Jonathan was able to catch up with some friends of ours from Birmingham and even get a few goodies for the orphanage kids while waiting for his flight. We were just thankful we were able to get him a flight at all on such short notice.

With all three kids finally under one roof on Saturday, Thanksgiving week started with an evening of celebration for Tony’s birthday. Jonathan, Katelyn, & Jacob gave him gifts that he has been in much need of, a new water bottle and a new Bible. Both of his have been falling apart. We had a great time on our first night together in Haiti. We have so much to be thankful for!

Tony with the kiddos after celebrating his birthday. They gave him a new Bible, water bottle, and a box of Reese's cookie mix! Yum!!!

Tony with the kiddos after celebrating his birthday. They gave him a new Bible, water bottle, and a box of Reese’s cookie mix! Yum!!!

I took a picture of our refrigerator because it’s an unusual sight. Most of the time it’s pretty empty, but with the kids coming, Tony & I filled it up with snacks for the week to make it more homey. There’s just something about opening the refrigerator and finding snacks that makes it feel like home, and there’s just something about seeing one of our youngun’s stand there with the door open looking for what might satisfy that craving they’re having that just feels right. Refrigerator searches, naps on the couch, movies in the dark, and late night card games are some of the many little pleasures we enjoy when the kids are home for a visit. We take it all in, and we are so grateful for these precious ones and their safe travel to Haiti to spend Thanksgiving holidays with us.

 

Saturday afternoon, we went on a walk through the village to tell everyone hello and let them visit with the kids. People have been asking about them for months now, so we knew they would be very happy to see Jonathan, Katelyn, & Jacob. We had a great time visiting with everyone. I love how everyone greets us with a hug and a kiss and calls our children by name when they see them. This village is home to us now, and I think everyone looks forward to our kids visits as much as we do. I think the one person the most excited to see us was “Manu.” He ran straight to Jacob and jumped in his arms. He absolutely loves Jacob.

Emmanuel was so happy to see Jacob again. Jacob is his favorite buddy and he knows Jacob loves him.

Emmanuel was so happy to see Jacob again. Jacob is his favorite buddy and he knows Jacob loves him.

As we went from house to house visiting with people in the village, we came across one house that had a new baby in the family. Jonathan quickly scooped him up and was loving on him when two more mamas came out with babies! Three new babies all in one family!! What fun we had cuddling with those precious babies. Their mamas enjoyed watching us love on them too. Our Haitian neighbors know we love new babies, and we are so thankful they enjoy sharing their sweet babies with us.

We went on a walk through the village and came across a family that had three new babies all under 2 months old. Jonathan scooped up one of them for some sweet baby lovin'

We went on a walk through the village and came across a family that had three new babies all under 2 months old. Jonathan scooped up one of them for some sweet baby lovin’

Tony, Jonathan, and Katelyn all loving on the new babies we found while on our walk through the village.

Tony, Jonathan, and Katelyn all loving on the new babies we found while on our walk through the village.

Sunday was an extra special day because we were celebrating Jonathan & Katelyn’s first anniversary. Pastor Mickenson led the congregation in song as they all sang “Happy Anniversary” to them. Jonathan & Katelyn just glowed with gratitude in the love and acceptance of our fellowship of believers. Of course, Jocelyn rotated between their laps and Jacob’s lap all through the service, and we all enjoyed a blessing of song as Jonathan & Katelyn sang praises together during praise and worship time.

After church, our family went down to the orphanage to see the children. Jessi & Warren Flynt (from Birmingham) had sent some goodies to give to the children, so it was lots of fun to pull surprises out of a bag and play with the kids. Visiting the orphanage is often times the highlight of our day, and being able to visit with our own children made it even more fun. We played on the playground and in the courtyard until it was almost dark. I watched all of the smiling faces and thanked God for the huge family we now have.

As the week went on, the fun seemed to get better and better. Monday was the day we made plans to go on a trip up to the National Pine Forest with Kathy and Terry Warren (our new missionaries at Hope Center, Thoman). I think this trip was probably the highlight of our week. There’s no way to describe it to someone and do it justice. It’s a long, bumpy ride, but the sights and blessings are immeasurable.

Tuesday brought with it another adventure. We went from the mountain tops of Haiti to the beautiful sun-kissed seaside of Haiti. We spent one night at Club Indigo Beach Resort with the fam and the McCall’s for a much needed rest. We were excited to have an opportunity to go to the beach, but first things first, we had to stop to buy some new tires for the truck. As you can imagine, driving on these bumpy, rocky roads beats the tires to death, so in no time, they are worn down to nubs and simply must be replace. After one tire was chewed down to nothing on the drive down the mountain from the Pine Forest, we decided it was time to get them replaced before going to the beach. We were thankful to find a tire place that had NEW tires. Once that was done, we packed ourselves back into the the truck (girls with Vladimir inside and boys outside) and off to the beach we went. The trip on the way was an adventure in itself. We stopped along the road and bought a bunch of bread from a vendor so we could make PB&J sandwiches for lunch. The guys in the back decided to help themselves to a snack while enroute. We didn’t take many pictures while at the beach simply because we took a REAL break, but we did get a beautiful sunset and a picture of a boat out on the water. Rest assured, we did have some real quality down time together as a family. We are grateful…

After spending one night, we left the McCall’s at Indigo to spend a couple more nights, and we headed back to Hope Center in the truck.  Rested and ready to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, we went through all of the preparation plans in our minds. As soon as we pulled in the gate, everyone got busy getting ready. Tony, Jonathan, Jacob, and Vladimir got busy with Woodnorder and Johnny preparing the pit for cooking the goat. (Junior had given a goat to Tony to cook for his birthday) Katelyn and I immediately got busy cutting carrots, potatoes, and other fresh veggies given to us by Miguelson’s family in the Pine Forest, and Bicly and Makil began the gruesome process of preparing the turkeys.  We went to bed late and got up early to start back to the process of cooking. The goat, prepared and wrapped up in banana leaves, cooked all night in the pit. When Jonathan and Tony lifted it out of the pit, we could smell the luscious aroma yards away. We put the turkeys in the oven at 6:30, and started mixing casseroles at 7. Katelyn was busy making desserts in our house while I worked on other dishes in the team kitchen. It was truly a team effort, and everyone was having a blast doing their part. The anticipation of having a huge feast together as a Hope Center family electrified the air, and smiles were on every face. Our friends from Hope Center, Thoman, Terry & Kathy Warren and Mathurin & Genese Merystal, arrived around 10 and we all visited in between timers going off and tables being prepared. By 12:30 all of the food was ready and we began sitting out plates and such to start serving lunch. We gathered together hand-in-hand and gave thanks to God for our Hope Center family and for the provision of food for this feast. We all ate in phases. Adults ate around 1, the orphanage kids and crew ate around 1:30, more friends showed up around 2, and we still had people coming to eat at 5. It was a full day of family, friends, and much, much thankfulness.

 

We had invited an army of people and yet we never worried once over how we would be able to afford to feed them all. We trusted God to provide and He did. Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, the FBC Jackson team brought two suitcases full of food items to use in preparation for the meal. They also gave us money to purchase the turkeys! On our trip to the Pine Forest, God provided even more food as Miguelson’s father blessed us with several HUGE cabbages, a sack full of giant carrots, and another sack full of potatoes. All of it was used to prepare this enormous spread of food to celebrate our thankfulness to a Father who loves us and provides for our needs.

Friday was a lazy day for all of us. We slept late, hung out at the house and around Hope Center all day, and continued clean up after our huge day of feasting. We put decorations on the Christmas tree and hung lights around the room in anticipation of the season for celebrating Christ’s birth. We savored every last minute we had left together knowing that the next day our family week would be over and we would be headed back to the airport bright and early Saturday morning.

 

As I have recounted events over this past week, I can’t think of one single moment that we can’t be thankful for. I’m sure there were some stressful or hard moments mixed in there somewhere, but I honestly cannot recall a single one. I guess that’s because God continues to teach me how to have an attitude of gratitude and find ways to be thankful even when times are hard. We are thankful for our children, thankful for our friends, thankful for our staff, thankful for our family back home that loves us and prays for us daily, thankful for others who support us both financially and prayerfully, and we are thankful that God has made us part of a community of people that has accepted us and loves us because they know that we love them. We are all learning to depend completely on God to give us strength and gratitude for both the good and the bad, and we are grateful to Him for our call to service in His name.  We….are….grateful.

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Good News and Challenges

One exciting thing about being a Christ follower is that He is always shocking our socks off with the way He works through His people to bless others. A few weeks back, we put out a post asking people to give to sponsor 200 children in school, and guess what! We have 200 children sponsored for school tuition for the upcoming school year! Hallelujah!! It’s a pretty cool thing when we begin to pray, God prompts the hearts of His people, His people follow through, and BAM! It’s done! This is so exciting! I live in a world of miracles, and I am pretty pumped about this place. Ha! soloman's kids

So that was the good news….Now for the challenge…..

Now that we are able to cover the tuition for 200 children in our village, their needs are not completely filled. In Haiti, children must wear closed toed shoes, carry their books (that they must purchase) in a back pack, and wear a uniform. The parents in our village don’t have the funds to buy these things. Just last week, we kicked off a tennis shoe and back pack drive hosted by Crossgates Baptist Church in Brandon, MS. If you live near Brandon and you have new or gently used tennis shoes and/or back packs, please, please drop them off at Crossgates Baptist Church. There is a big trash can in the lobby that has a sign on it. Put them in there. Thanks!! 

Now suppose you don’t live near Brandon or you don’t have tennis shoes or back packs to give. You can still help if God prompts you to help! There are several ways. 

1. You can go to http://www.butgodministries.com and click “Donate” and choose “scholarship” on the drop down menu and give. All funds that continue to be given to our scholarship fund will go to help pay for uniforms and books for the children. 

2. T-shirts!! If you know of someone who owns a screen print shop that would we willing to donate 250 t-shirts to one of our two sponsored schools, please, please send me an email or reply to this post. (tnmwest@gmail.com) Of course, you need to check with the business first to make sure they are on board. Ha! The principals of each school have agreed to allow their children to wear an alternative uniform that is a t-shirt in their school colors. If we have enough for each child in the school to get one, no one will be without a uniform and feel different from everyone else because they can’t afford it. We are working to have uniforms made for all of the children, but in the meantime, if they can wear a t-shirt, that would be great! Call someone you know that owns a screen print company and ask. It’s an opportunity to give a huge blessing to school children in Haiti that wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise. 

3. If you sew, or know someone who does, and you would like to help us make uniforms for school children in Haiti, please let me know. We are working on getting the sizes of the children who need uniforms, and we are also working on getting the fabric and patterns. This has turned out to be a bigger task than we imagined, but God will provide what we need when we need it, so no worries. When we acquire the patterns and material, we will get the information out and let people get to sewing! I just need a list of willing tailors!! 🙂  Email me at tnmwest@gmail.com.

johel's kidsPhilippians 4:19 says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” It is this very promise that we share with the Haitian families daily who are our neighbors and friends at Hope Center in Galette Chambon. We know that God knows their needs and He is already moving His people to give in order to supply those needs. If one person refuses to obey, He simply moves someone else to receive the blessing of giving. Regardless, He moves and people give. We have complete faith and trust in Him to do it. 

People ask me all the time, “What do you all need down there?” Well, the answer to that question varies, but SPECIFICALLY, right now we need funds for books, tennis shoes, back packs, school t-shirts, and uniforms. GENERALLY, we need people to pray and be willing to ACT upon the movement of God upon their heart. Remember: God WILL move people to help His children. The question is, is He moving you? If He is, then you will not regret acting on it.  

Proverbs 11:25 says, “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” We have learned that there is no greater blessing of joy than to give of ourselves to help others in need. There are many, many needs in this world, and I pray you will seek God to know how He can use you to meet those needs. When you say, “Yes,” the blessings begin to flow. 

Thank you for your prayers; thank you for your obedience; thank you for your love for our little village of Galette Chambon. Lives are being changed here, and a generation is learning what it means to trust in the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.  

God bless you all! We are so very thankful for you!!

~Tony & Mickie West

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Scholarships for Children of Galette Chambon

Praise The Lord!! Because of the faithfulness of many people, 126 children in the village of Galette Chambon, Haiti, will be able to go to school this coming school year. In case you didn’t know it, THIS IS HUGE!! We currently have about 200 on our list who need help, but to know that in just a little over a week, this many people have contributed to the scholarship fund is AMAZING!!! These parents and children will be so relieved to know that God has answered their prayers and provided a way for their children to be able to go to school. Hallelujah!

If God is leading you to be a part of this, please go to the But God Ministries website, click Donate, and choose “Scholarships” in the drop down menu. Contribute whatever you can…however God leads. $25 pays for a year’s tuition and $100 covers ALL costs for the entire year for one child for school. To us in the US, that sounds like a bargain, but to a Haitian parent who has little or no financial resources, it’s impossible without supernatural provision. God has heard the prayers of these people, and He is calling us who have much to help those who have little. Pray about what God would have you do, then click on the following link:
But God Ministries

God bless you!!
We are so excited about what God is doing!!

Tony & Mickie West

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Comfort from the Father

Sacrifice…

You know, I have heard it said many, many times that Jesus Christ knows our struggles and He can understand and identify with things we are going through, for God’s Word says in Hebrews 4:15  “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” His Word says that there is no difficulty or trial or temptation that we can go through in this life that He was not faced with in similar fashion. He also knows that we, unlike Him, are fallen creatures. He was without sin because He is God – He “knew” no sin! He was the “I Am” that spoke to Moses through the burning bush, and He is the “I Am” that He claimed to be when he spoke to the Jews and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” in John 8:58. The Word says, in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” And in Philippians 2:5-8, the Word states, “Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it something to be held  as equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Wow. Today God has been speaking so much to me about this very thing….sacrifice. I know God is speaking to me about this because I spent most of the night last night speaking to HIM about it! You see, Tony and I both have been becoming very weary under the burden of the calling He has given us. This is not to say we have second guessed the call and the decision we made to surrender everything we knew as normal to become full time missionaries in Haiti. It just means that there have been times when we have found ourselves simply very tired and crying out to God for relief. Last night, as I cried out to Him for strength to continue on, He began speaking to me as my Father often does, saying, “My daughter, I love you, and I know how you feel.”

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This cross reminds me of the sacrifice our savior gave to leave His Heavenly home to provide a way of reconciliation to me. Thank you Jesus!

It’s been a remarkable, yet at the same time, difficult six months for our family. We have experienced what it means to sacrifice in many ways. However, at the same time I have to ask myself, have we really? It certainly and often feels like we have! When we think back on what our hopes and dreams were years ago when we signed papers on a piece of land and began looking at house plans with dreams of building our own home there, our vision for the future did not include giving up everything and being divided between the US and Haiti. We did see our dream come true, and we lived in the house we built for twelve years, watching our children grow up and enjoying many, many fun times with them and their friends. Actually, when we look back, we realize that we have been blessed in so many ways. God has given us two amazing and talented boys who have been a constant source of joy. He has allowed us to travel all over the world whether through sports events, family vacations, or mission trips. He has given us gifts and prepared us for this time in our lives in such a way that we recognize that we are perfectly designed for such a time as this. In our weariness, it so easy to focus on the sacrifice and sometimes feel exasperated. However, just about the time we both feel exhausted under the weight of our current circumstances, Jesus reminds us of His sacrifice.

Think about it. Jesus left the glory of Heaven to become not just a part of humanity, but a sacrifice for the sins of those He came to serve. He gave up everything for us, and we questioned Him, rejected Him, and ultimately sent Him to His death. It was all part of a plan that He knew had to take place, and He willingly gave Himself. In one of His most human moments throughout the time He spent here, he cried out to God, when Matthew 26:39 describes that “He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’”  Because of His love for us, He willingly went along with the plan. He knew that in order for us to be reconciled to God, He had to give Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Was this easy for Him? NO! Was it necessary? Yes.

So when I compare our sacrifice to His, I come to realize that ours is small, yet He doesn’t see it as such because He comforts us when we cry out to Him! He says, “I know how you feel,” and He does!! He left His home and His father. He went to a place where life was very different and difficult. He experienced what it felt like to give up everything and serve with no real home to call His own or income other than what God provided through those He chose to use to bless and provide for Him. He sacrificed it all only to be unappreciated and taken for granted by those for whom he gave it all. He knows how it feels to be separated from His home and the comfort and glory of Heaven to go to a place of anger and filth and despair. Yet He looked around at the people He came to serve, and He felt nothing but Love. THAT is the key!

We turn to Him and we ask Him to let us focus on His love for us so that we can in turn love on those we now serve THROUGH Him. Just as Jesus had precious moments with those who truly loved Him and followed Him, we too have many, many precious moments with others who He uses to bless us – from precious Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ, to serving brothers and sisters on mission teams, to attentive brothers and sisters here in the US, God uses so many others to bless us in unimaginable ways. We turn our focus to Christ and His sacrifice, then we lift our eyes in praise to our loving Father who truly does know how we feel, and we are comforted and refreshed.

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God has given us many precious moments like this one to be thankful for!

I am so thankful for a Father who loves us unconditionally and has a plan beyond our ability to comprehend. It is a good plan, and we trust Him. We are experiencing His grace and provision unlike anything we could ever have imagined. We are blessed to be used by Him daily, and we serve Him with GLADNESS!! Most of all, I am thankful that He loves us enough to comfort us. He is Good ALL THE TIME. 

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Our Crossgates Family praying for us before we moved to Haiti. Oh how we cherish the prayers of those who are led to pray!!

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Spring Break at Hope Center

I have been working on this post for two weeks now. It has been extremely difficult to write it just because I am writing about our time together as a family in Haiti over spring break and I just didn’t want it to end! I think I will start with a recap…. It has been a difficult year and yet it has been a glorious year as well. To think, this time last year we had just returned from Spring Break in Haiti with a team from Petal, and we were making plans to move to Haiti to serve full time. Now, a year later, we have sold a house, two vehicles, all of our furniture and most of our belongings, moved to Haiti; opened the medical clinic full time; opened the dental clinic (Tony learned to pull teeth); finished the orphanage; began making our house a home by painting walls and building cabinets;  raised money for scholarships for over 200 children in our village; built over 20  houses and moved 18 families out of a tent city and into those houses; hosted many, many teams that have come from the states to serve in VBS, construction, medical and dental clinics, evangelism, and discipleship; taken mobile clinics to remote parts of Haiti; hired a Haitian pastor and countless other Haitians who for the first time have steady income for their families; seen over 150 people come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior; and now we are about to begin having services in our new church. Of course, this is not a complete list either! If I listed out everything, it would take forever to list and forever for you to read, so I have mainly hit the high points. In the midst of all of this, our family was faced with a difficult decision to sacrifice time together as a family in order to give our youngest son an opportunity to finish school in the states. It changed the dynamic of our experience dramatically, but God has assured us over and over again that we made the right choice and that He has the whole plan under control. This decision, however, has required more faith and trust in God than even our first decision to sell everything and move! We have had to trust that God would provide us a place to live while here in the states; trust that He would provide support that would cover the increased cost of living in two different countries for a period of time; trust that He would sustain us while being separated by so many miles and missing out on precious moments that we would prefer to enjoy together as a family. But God does sustain us, and He has provided in ways beyond our imagination, and for that we are so thankful. It is so hard…but it could be a lot worse, and we are thankful for what we have and how God has blessed in so many ways along the way. Now to Spring Break… Before we all arrived in Haiti as a family, the Lord made a way for us to be able to do some things together in the states as well. The week before spring break, we were invited to Briarwood Presbyterian church in Birmingham, AL, for a missions conference. God blessed us beyond our wildest dreams by introducing us to so many new friends and giving us many opportunities to visit with other missionaries and share the story of our mission to Haiti to countless people in Birmingham. We are so thankful for the new friendships we made during our time there!

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During the conference, Tony and I sat on a map where Haiti is located and the children prayed for us and our mission. Such a powerful moment!

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This is our first host family, the Shirley’s. Such a precious family!! We were so blessed to get to know them! I wish I had gotten a picture of the Warren family too! We stayed with them the second part of the week. Both were so gracious and a JOY to stay with!

At the end of the week, Tony went to Brandon to get Jacob and take him down to Dallas for a soccer showcase, and Jonathan and Katelyn came to Birmingham to finish the week with me and catch our flight to Haiti for Spring Break. I am so thankful that Tony could take Jacob down to Dallas and watch him play soccer. It is hard for me not being in Haiti, but I know it is also very hard for Tony not being able to see Jacob play sports. It is a sacrifice we have both committed to, but it is not easy by any means. We are thankful for chances to be able to to do these things that we used to take for granted before our call. At the end of the weekend, Tony and Jacob caught a flight from Dallas, and Jonathan, Katelyn, and I caught a flight from Birmingham, and we all met in Miami for our flights to Haiti together. When we arrived in Haiti, the team from Grace Chapel in Madison was already there. As always, God had already planned to have the perfect group at Hope Center for such a time as this. The team was a group of young people all around Jacob’s age that worked on construction and VBS with children on the Hill. Jacob had planned to go to Leoganne and join up with a group from Crossgates that was serving at an orphanage there, but after getting to Hope Center and getting to know this group of teens, he decided to just stay home and serve with them instead. I was actually glad it worked out this way because our family was together all week instead of separated once again. We enjoyed working with the team on a few things, but we also enjoyed just being “home” together as a family during this time as well.

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Meal time with our team from Grace Chapel

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All the young folks on the team playing cards together

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Hanging out on the water tower. Fun times together!

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Playing with the kids from the village by the soccer field

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Jacob riding Bicly’s donkey

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Family picture in front of Hope Center

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Neighbors from the hill came to help pick beans for dinner

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Me and sweet Bicly

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Each mealtime, our cooks, Vierge and Therese, wanted to have their picture made with the food. They are so proud of their jobs!

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Children having fun at VBS

We gave out lots of hugs and Easter suckers to the kids, and we enjoyed just walking around in the village and visiting with friends that we enjoy catching up with when we return to Haiti. We got to celebrate with the families on the Hill as they experienced electricity at their houses for the first time. We got to see great progress in the construction of the church at Hope Center which has made us look forward even more to worshipping with our Haitian brothers and sisters this summer. There was one really cool moment in clinic during the week that I wanted to mention. On Thursday, Tony sent for me to come down to the clinic to meet someone. Sitting there in the chair next to Tony was this precious elderly man. Tony introduced me to him and explained that this is the man who walks 8 hours every two weeks to come have his blood sugar levels checked and refill his prescription. He lives up in the mountain area. After kissing my hand, he immediately started trying to tell me something. Vladimir interpreted and I learned that this is the man who is responsible for initiating God’s vision for Hope Center and calling us to Haiti in the first place. He said, “I am the one who went to the mayor and explained that we need to partner with someone in the US to build a clinic here.” He is such a precious man!!

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Sweet elderly man who walks 8 hours to the clinic every two weeks

Another precious moment was when Tony showed up in the house in the middle of the morning with this sweet baby in his arms. She is 3 months old but she looks like she is 3 weeks old! Her mother brought her into the clinic a few weeks prior and Tony was not sure if the baby would survive. She was severely malnourished and very sick. Tony prayed for the baby with the mother and asked God to give him the wisdom to prescribe the right treatment and for God to give health to this baby. God has answered his prayer! The baby is healthy and growing! Hallelujah!

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Three month old baby that we have been praying for. God is answering our prayers and healing her body. Hallelujah!

At the end of our week together, we all went up to Thoman to go to Mathurin’s church. Jonathan and Katelyn sang and Bicly joined us for church and dinner. On the way back down the mountain, we all stopped to take in the beauty of God’s creation and take pictures. It was a PERFECT week, and we are so very thankful for the time we had to spend together!

Tony & Mickie on the way home from church in Thoman

Tony & Mickie on the way home from church in Thoman

Family time!!

Family time!!

 

Jonathan & Katelyn at church in Thoman

Jonathan & Katelyn at church in Thoman

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Jacob in Thoman

We thank you all so much for your continued prayer support as we seek to find a balance between serving in Haiti and supporting our boys as well. God is teaching us so much about our faith and perseverance at this time. As I studied the book of Hebrews this morning, God reminded me that the picture of our life doesn’t always look the way we thought it would look, but that doesn’t make it an imperfect picture. God’s plan IS perfect, and if we just trust Him and remain faithful to Him, He WILL bless us and reveal to us the perfection of His plan eventually. So many of the heroes of the Bible endured great hardship. They trusted God and He brought about so many mighty things for many years to come through the perseverance of His faithful servants. I want to be a faithful servant in both the work He has called us to as well as the role He has given us as parents. In both He is creating a legacy of faith that will endure long after we are gone. That is His perfect plan, and we are honored and committed to that work. HE is faithful to complete that good work through us, and no matter how hard it is sometimes, we will never give up on His great plan for our lives.

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What It’s All About

Today I sit anxiously awaiting the return of one of the teams that has been at Hope Center this week. It’s a team from Jackson, and not only do they have the remainder of the clay orders, but they have PICTURES from this week’s mission events!!! I can’t wait to see them and share them with all of you!! I have many stories to tell, but I want to put pictures with the ones I share. Stay tuned…..I

In the meantime, there is one story I cannot withhold from you because it completely melted my heart. This week has been a very tiring week for Tony, both physically and emotionally. It was his first week back (seems like an eternity to me), and he set foot back on Haitian soil with a team from Hattiesburg, Ms, there to run a medical clinic and dental clinic in tandem. This is exciting because we have seen soooo many people who desperately needed dental attention. On top of that, Tony has looked forward to learning many things from the dental team so that he can continue to meet the dental needs of the people of our village. We have a very nice dental clinic with tons of supplies and such, but he had no idea what we had and how to use it. He looked forward to being schooled this week…..and that is exactly what happened. Well, that and much, much more of course. Tony is so excited to know how to pull teeth now, and he can do it without causing pain to his patients, so that is really exciting. Thank you, Lord, for once again for Your provision!!

In addition to getting to learn in the dental clinic, we had a rather extensive medical team at Hope Center that included several doctors, including a dermatologist. Isn’t it amazing to know that God is providing not just general medical care to the people of this village, but specialty care….and FREE! These are people who get up early in the morning, many before daylight, and walk for hours in the dark with only the light of kerosene in a vegetable can to try to see a doctor. They will wait not just for hours, but some will wait all day long to see a doctor about a need that they have been having to ignore for months because they could not afford to get medical attention anywhere else. There are many unusual skin conditions in Haiti that need medical attention, so having a dermatologist there to see about these specific needs is such a blessing!! And here’s the biggest blessing….in just four days, this medical team saw over 500 patients and the dental team treated about 150 patients. Now THAT is exciting!!

Needless to say, for Tony, who is not only helping with the medical teams now, but he has also taken on many more administrative tasks now that I am not there, is very tired today. There have been meetings upon meetings upon meetings all week long with groups and individuals as we take care of other needs in the village besides medical care. There have been meetings about the orphanage, meetings about the school, meetings about a church BGM is helping to build, and meetings about general activities going on around Hope Center. It’s a lot to take in and a huge load to carry. I have prayed and prayed for my precious husband as he has flexed his administrative muscles this week. He is so compassionate, yet very detail oriented, and that is what makes him so good at what he does, but it can also be very tiring. Well, our God is a loving, compassionate God, and He knows that Tony needs a fresh touch from Him on a daily basis. God uses so many people and situations to do just that….every day. I am so thankful that my husband is in the hands of such a loving and personal God. This leads me to the story I want to share with you….

Yesterday, Tony and Vladimir went into the village for yet another meeting at one of the schools there. It was a difficult meeting, but God led the meeting and God provided the needed words to communicate what Tony needed to communicate. Hallelujah! After the meeting, Tony and Vladimir were walking along the dusty pathways through the village on their way back to Hope Center, and they were having a conversation about why we do what we do. He began to share with Vladimir about the scripture in Matthew 25, verses 31-40 where it says,

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

After sharing this passage with Vladimir, Tony said, “When we take care of the sick; when we give people water; when we give them clothes to wear and food to eat; when we love on the lonely and give hugs to the hurting, we don’t do it for our own glory or to gain points with God or anyone else. When we do these things, we are sharing the real love of JESUS. We do these things because the love of Jesus is INSIDE of us, and in our love and reverence to Him, His Love pours out of us to others. THAT is why we do what we do.”

Just as Tony was saying this, an elderly woman came running across an open field towards where Tony and Vladimir were walking. She was waving her arms in the air and yelling something they couldn’t understand. They stopped and awaited her approach because they knew she was coming to them. When she reached them, she began to hug on Tony, kiss his cheeks, and tears were streaming down her face. He understood some of what she was saying as she cried out, “Mesi Jesi, mesi Jesi!” (Thank you Jesus) Vladimir began to interpret to Tony what she said after this. She was saying, “I came to you in the clinic, and I was sick and you prayed with me and gave me medicine, and now I am well. I was so thirsty and you gave me a drink of water. I was hungry and you gave me some crackers to eat while I waited. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jesus for sending this man to our village.” Oh my goodness, I can hardly type right now for the tears filling my eyes. The screen goes blurry and my fingers shake. God sent this precious woman to assure Tony that what he was explaining to Vladimir was right on point. God assured Tony and Vladimir both through this woman that His Word is ALIVE, and His Word is being acted out every single day at Hope Center, and He DOES bless it. As if this wasn’t enough to knock their sandals off, they continued on their journey back to Hope Center and a middle aged farmer approached them as they were nearing the soccer field. He went to Tony and shook his hand in the usual Haitian fashion. Theirs is not a casual shake of one hand to another. They take your hand in theirs, then touch your arm or hand with their other hand as if to say, “I want to bless you with BOTH hands.” As the man shook Tony’s hand, he asked about Jacob. Tony explained that Jacob is not in Haiti right now, but he is coming back in a few weeks. The man proceeded to tell Tony and Vladimir that he misses seeing Jacob in the village. He said that Jacob would always stop and talk to him and practice his Creole with him and teach him English words so they could communicate better with one another. Then the man said, “One day I was hungry and Jacob went to his house and got some food for me. I was also thirsty and he also brought me something to drink. God used Jacob to bless me, and I appreciate it very much. I really do miss that boy.” Tony and Vladimir were both just amazed at what they were hearing. It wasn’t that they were surprised that Jacob ministered to this man and we never even knew it; it was that once again God sent someone to confirm His Word to them….”Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” God was once again confirming His blessings upon our work there and assuring Tony that He has used and will continue to us ALL of us in His plan.

Tony and Vladimir continued on their journey to Hope Center with a renewed and refreshed spirit. God sent these people along the pathway to bless them in return for their blessings to His people. His blessings are fresh and new every single day. We praise Him for being ACTIVE in our lives and taking care of every single detail. We praise Him with all that we have, all that we are, and all that we do. Oh how He loves us!!

Stay tuned for pictures of the week!!!

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God uses us each uniquely

Once again I am amazed by how God has designed each one of us uniquely and how He begins from before we are even born to lay out a plan that includes opportunities and experiences that will guide us to the path that He desires for us. Today yet another exciting thing happened in our journey to Haiti. Remember in the first post I told the story of how the Haitian soccer coach called my cell phone and assured us that Jacob would have many opportunities to continue his training in soccer while we are in Haiti? Then in the last post, I mentioned that I hoped that Jacob would be able to meet Coach Peterson while we are visiting in a few weeks. Well…..

Today I was working in my classroom while Jacob took the ACT downstairs. I had called and left a message with Coach Peterson earlier in the morning because I wanted to make sure he was even going to be in Haiti while we are there. He called me back within 30 minutes. I explained to him that we have two days that are open between going to the FBCJ development site and the Samaritan’s Purse compound. He said that he could either meet us in Port au Prince at that time and meet Jacob, or we could go to where he lives in Cap Haitien and stay with him there for those two days and Jacob would be able to train with his players while we are there. If he met us in Port au Prince, we would have to get a hotel room and he would only get to meet Jacob, but Jacob couldn’t meet the team. He said that if we can get ourselves up to Cap Haitien, he can get us back to Port au Prince to meet Samaritan’s Purse at the airport. Of course, there are still quite a few details to work out, but the point I want to make is that God has uniquely designed each of us with our own talents, gifts, interests, etc. He also provides ways for us to be used in those areas. God has obviously given Jacob a unique athletic ability that He plans to use one day for His glory. Just as God is molding and growing Jonathan into a physician and has now provided a unique opportunity to allow Jonathan to be used in Haiti in the mobile clinics, he is providing opportunities for Jacob in the areas in which he is gifted as well.

This is so exciting to me…..to know that as we step out in faith as a family, we are not only being blessed as a whole, but individually as well. God is good. Here is what I wish you would pray for…Pray that God will open doors and provide a way for us to get from Port au Prince on the 26th to Cap Haitien and that our travels to and from will be under His divine protection. Amen!  and thank you!

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