Memories and Milestones

Posted: June 20, 2017 in Family Life
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Memory is a funny thing.  Some of the things we hope to remember often elude us, while other more difficult or painful memories seem to continually resurface.  But then there is the practice of purposeful remembering.  Scripture continually points us to this practice, which was instituted by God for the people of God.  And the point of purposeful remembering throughout Scripture is for the people of God to focus on what God has done and continues to do.  His grace, mercy and provision continually abounds to His people.  So we are called to purposefully remember His forgiveness, faithfulness, promises and deliverance in spite of our (mankind’s) continual pattern of rebellion.

It was on this day, June 19, three years ago, that we are purposefully remembering.  It is colea day we have marked to remember as one of the many days where God showed His faithfulness to our family and to our son, Cole, specifically.  It was this day where after the initial diagnosis of Perthes disease, where I watched my son get rolled down a hallway to the operating suite at Children’s Hospital of Birmingham.

And while some of the initial feelings have either faded or been replaced the memories still remain… purposefully.  It would be easy to take these memories and put them in a storage container labeled “The Past” and just move on.  After all, Cole’s future looks promising and his daily functioning is beyond what we could have even processed sitting in that hospital waiting room three years ago.

So why remember?  Because God calls us to.

coleOur story, and more specifically Cole’s story, is wrapped up in a greater narrative that God is telling.  It’s a story of the amazing design of a Creator, the sin and brokenness (including Perthes disease) of a people and the beauty of redemption that comes through the hero of this story – Jesus Christ.  And the good news doesn’t even end with the hero… it ends with that same Creator God, making “all things new.”  What’s broken will be restored once and for all.

That’s why we remember.  Because when we do, we are telling THAT story through OUR story.  Cole’s story is one of a faithful God who has amazing plans and purposes for His children, even if they are plans we wouldn’t have chosen.  And they are good plans, even though some of the stories don’t seem to have happily ever after endings.

It’s been a whirlwind of a three-plus year journey for Cole.  But it’s been one most certainly marked by God’s faithfulness.  We’ve done a major surgery, a spica cast, a wheelchair, a walker, a cast removal, physical therapy, a second surgery, another wheelchair, another walker, many trips to the radiologist for x-rays, multiple consults and follow-up appointments in Alabama… just to name a few memories and milestones on the medical side.  Then of course there’s been milestones in life… birthdays to celebrate, the ability to play and compete on sports team and to run and simply enjoying being a kid.

 

All that to say… we purposefully remember.  We celebrate the memories and the milestones of a good God with a good plan for Cole.  The journey’s not over.  There’s more follow-up visits to come as we journey through the remainder of the disease and healing process.  But we’ll remember along the way.  And it’s with gratitude that we remember all of you that have walked this road with us through encouragement, prayers and your support.  We are thankful.  God is good.

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Mission Haiti : Recap

Posted: January 17, 2017 in Mission Life
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Hope Renewed

Posted: January 9, 2017 in Family Life
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Hope is really an amazing factor in life.  In fact, I couldn’t imagine life without hope.  Praise God, it is through a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ that we can truly understand and have hope.

It’s been awhile since we updated you on Cole’s journey with his Perthes Disease.  And I guess to a degree that is good thing, since there hasn’t been much to report since his surgery this past June.  He was back on his feet pretty quickly and seemingly back to life as “normal” which has been pretty amazing and we never want to take “normal” for granted.  Especially considering where we were a few years ago when we started this journey.

And while we can honestly say there has been a foundation of hope all through this journey… it has understandably been dim at times.  But praise God when our hope is renewed.

Cole traveled up to Birmingham for his 6-month post-surgery check up with Dr. Killian over the Christmas break.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be there with him this time as I was with a team of college students from our church serving in Haiti.  It was hard being away, but I was so excited to get a good report even while in Haiti.

Dr. Killian looked at the x-rays and progress the disease is making and more importantly, Cole’s recovery.  Everything is looking good and on track but we still have some more time ahead of us on this journey.  His hip is healing nicely as the bone continues to grow back and solidify.  He does still present a leg length discrepancy, although it is smaller than last time.  Dr. Killian wasn’t too worried about this and we won’t make any decisions until after some growth spurts and an evaluation when he is around 13 years old.

So after some looks at his flexibility, walking and running… Cole was… off and running.  And that is how he has spent this fall anyways.  He was cleared to play flag football earlier this fall and he had a great time out there learning the sport and competing.  Right now we are in the middle of soccer season.  So needless to say, his leg is getting quite the workout – all the time.  And he was excited to hear that he won’t need another check-up for 18 months!

But that just affirms and renews our hope. Our God is such a faithful God.  We resonate with the words of the Psalmist, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).  And we also echo Psalm 147:11 as we have learned that “the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  

Thanks, as always, for following us and praying for us in this journey of hope!

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Mission Haiti : Day 8

Posted: January 4, 2017 in Mission Life
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Well, today was our final day in Haiti.  Like most mornings, it started early, but this one was different.  Our bags were packed and we were leaving behind the rooms that had become home for just a little while.  We stood waiting for the bus to arrive, but deep down hoping that maybe it wouldn’t.  It’s one of those weird emotions where you know you are excited to go home – to see friends and family and share with them all of the experiences – but you simultaneously feel like you are leaving friends and family.

It’s always pretty amazing to me how the Holy Spirit empowers believers to form relationships that are so much deeper when there is a unity in the Gospel.  So in a matter of just about a week, we each feel in love with the children and those that we worked alongside.  And even though we don’t say “goodbye” – we believe in “see you later” – it’s still hard to say.  But we trust in God’s good plan for our friends at Cambry and that we truly will be able to see them again.

So we said our “see you laters” and loaded the bus for Port au Prince.  We were again amazed and the beauty of the country as we made the journey back to the city.  We tried to sleep, but found it a bit difficult on the bus, but the ride was an adventure.  And we made it in only 4 hours which was a bit surprising.  We gave extra time with it being a political day… they were waiting for election results.

We were able to move through the PAP airport process fairly easily.  We were a bit surprised to know that our team had been divided into two flights, so some had a bit more waiting than others.  But we tried some of the lunch in the airport and soon after we were headed back to the US.

Coming back home is always a strange process.  Being back home is great, don’t get me wrong, but it is always weird hearing your native language, freezing in the air conditioning and moving at a much faster pace.  But the process was pretty smooth for most of us, especially considering the outage that happened the day before.

It was at that point some on the team heading different directions – back home while the good many of us waited for our return flight to Tally.  We arrived late, but were greeted by smiling faces and were happy to find that all the team had made it back and all the luggage as well.

It will take a good few days to decompress and really process through all we learned and experienced.  But we look forward to doing that individually and also as a team.  We miss each other already and we most certainly miss Haiti too.  And we can’t wait to share more on here what we learned and experienced and also will plan a luncheon that we will host at Wildwood to share our experience with our faith family and supporters.  And again, thank you for being one of them.  Thank you for supporting us and standing with us in prayer.  And while we know our Haiti mission is over… we all know that the mission never ends!

Mission Haiti : Day 7

Posted: January 2, 2017 in Mission Life
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Reality is setting in.  Today was our last day serving at ESMI Cambry.  But we started our day determined to make the most of it.  Our days start early with breakfast, a brief team time devo and then individual TAWG (time alone with God).  Then we the started the journey down the hill back to “the wall”.

It really has been amazing how much of the wall we’ve been able to rebuild or repair.  And at first, we struggled a bit with this as our project, but when Pastor Louis stopped by today, we realized how important this wall is for the kids’ safety and security.  Which makes sense when you have hundreds of orphans running around a very large complex.  And sometimes it is also difficult to see when the work can be routine and a bit mundane, but we have grown to realize that we are just a small part of the recovery process and that the work we are doing is actually multiplied by every orphan that will be protected, cared for and nurtured here.  So, we are laying more than bricks.  And it has been our prayer that God would continue to have His hand on this place, this ministry and most certainly the children housed here.

And speaking of the children, today was no exception to the ministry we have had with them – and honestly – received from them.  We can’t go anywhere without one (or more) attached to an arm, back or hip.  And we have been able to put into practice what we’ve looked at in our team time in the Word – that Jesus’ came to show and give a physical love.  He healed the sick, touched the lame, gave sight to the blind – it was a ministry to the least of these.  Our ministry here, while we certainly recognize we are not Jesus, has been done in Jesus name – striving to follow His model.  We know that we will have a very difficult time saying goodbye tomorrow.

After we finished our work for the day, we ran down to the soccer field for a pick-up game.  The kids are unbelievable – running on a field barefooted of mainly rocks and handling the ball like they’re playing for the Olympic team.  Other tossed the frisbee, sat and talked with kids, had kids fall asleep on them, spun kids dizzy, flew their homemade kites and more fun till we were exhausted.  In the midst of the fun, Pastor Louis stopped by to check in on us and to thank our team for coming and for the work we were able to do.  He also gave us more insight into just how damaging the storm was in this area and for the people.  He told us more about ESMI and their ministry.  And he gave us a better glimpse into his heart and passion for his people and for Haiti to know Christ.  They are striving to change more than lives… by the power of the Spirit, they want to see this island changed.  We are committed to partnering as best we can – most certainly through prayer – to that end.

Tonight, they laid out quite a spread for dinner and treated us poolside (which incidentally was our shower tonight… you learn to be creative and flexible around here when the water goes out).  But ESMI has been amazing hosts and we have been so blessed by their hospitality.  It has been awesome for us to watch their staff team at work – from the guest house cooks and hosts, to the drivers, translators, house moms and dads and construction workers that we have worked alongside.  God has truly put together an awesome team that is serving here.

We finished our day with team time – debriefing what this mission has meant to us and where we have seen God at work.  Our time here has most certainly had an impact on us and we pray we have had an impact here.  Missions is a unique combination of seeing God work through you, but usually more noticeable is His work in you.  We have experienced that this week.  And only heaven will one day reveal the impact our time on this mission here in Haiti has had.  But we know we will leave changed.  And we know we will also leave a piece of our heart behind here at Cambry.

Thank you so much for allowing us to come and serve by your financial support and most importantly your prayer support.  While we aren’t quite ready to leave, we know the mission of God has no geographical limits, so we will leave ready to give the Gospel away wherever He takes us!

Mission Haiti : Day 6

Posted: January 1, 2017 in Mission Life
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There is something really quite amazing about experiencing and participating in worship in another culture.  Our day started early – we were prepared for a 6 am service that we would be up and ready to arrive by 7 am (not quite sure why) but then after a bit of waiting, we were told that we would not be going to that first service, as they had done an all night worship service for New Year’s Eve (8p-6a).  And apparently this is a pretty common practice, but everyone on the team was blown away by that idea.

So they let us know that now we were going to church here in Cambry – right outside the orphanage at 9:30 am.  But no one was too disappointed and hopped back in bed for a nap before church!

We walked down to church and as we passed the kids dorms had many join us.  We learned church starts more like 9:30ish (meaning 10 am) but after a bit, it was a packed house.  People worship in their best down here – full suits and fancy dresses and we were prepared to try to blend in.  All that clothing in no AC, but we were thankful when God would send a cool breeze in.  Especially considering most of us had kids squeezed in all around us, on our laps and under our feet beneath the pews!

Worship was loud and lively, punctuated by Scripture reading and prayer.  I was called on to preach, but wasn’t sure I would be able to while fighting some congestion and a cough.  But God’s Spirit sustained me and I was honored to preach the Word in English, while it was being translated into Creole.  After my sermon, Pastor Louis shared a challenge with the congregation in relation to New Year’s and then invited me up to help serve communion.  After the service we walked up to the pool to celebrate the sacrament of baptism.  I was asked on the spot to participate in this service as well.  What an honor to baptize 12 young adults who had given their lives to Christ!  It was such a worshipful morning that stretched into early afternoon!

After a quick bite for lunch, we learned we weren’t going to 4:30 pm worship, but they had planned a little excursion for us.  We loaded up into the back of the trucks and were taken to a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole.  The water was a bit chilly, but so refreshing.  It was a perfect break from the work, and a great Sabbath rest and recharging.  The landscape was amazing and the time together we had a team was really cool.  We also got to see even more of the surrounding communities on our drive there and back.

It was a full day, but a good day.  But it’s also a bit bittersweet as we realize our time here is coming to a close.  We are committed to loving well and not just a serving love, but a physical love.  There is rarely a moment where we don’t have at least one kid on each arm and possibly one on the back as well.  We want to continue to be faithful to love the least of these in practical, tangible ways just like Jesus did.

Thank you for continuing to pray for us – not only do we covet these prayers, but we need them and feel them.  Everyone on the team is healthy and doing well.

Mission Haiti : Day 5

Posted: December 31, 2016 in Mission Life
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We woke up to some good news… FSU won.  Go Noles!  This made for some exciting conversation at the breakfast table, but then before you knew it, we had to head down for work.  Most of the mornings as we head down the hill, we are greeted by smiling faces and outstretched arms in a race to see who can grab the first hand or jump on the first back.  This truly is the highlight of our days.  We can honestly say that we are forming some solid bonds with the children here and they are beginning to trust us more and more and they are most certainly capturing our hearts.

We are also usually greeted by some of the older kids and local workers hard at work mixing concrete and starting on the wall.  It has been a joy to work alongside of them.  Some we have contracted to help with the work (because of their masonry skills) and it’s great to provide for some of these local workers, while the older kids (who are on their school break) have just jumped right in to work alongside us.  And today we mixed, formed bucket lines and poured plenty of concrete to form the vertical wall supports.  Slowly, but surely (and today was slowly when we ran out of water) the wall is getting completed.

After lunch, we made one last push on the wall before the workers stopped a little early since it is Saturday.  Then we had the opportunity to head over to Sauvignon Ministry Center.  So we loaded into the trucks Haiti style (in the back) and got to drive through Cayes.  Driving is a crazy experience here and it’s shocking there aren’t more accidents.  Between narrow, hurricane-damaged roads, a multitude of scooters, motorcycles and walkers and the dump trucks and busses… we learned why they pray before they start their journey.  We got an awesome look at more of Cayes scenery and more of the downtown area.  But right outside downtown we could see where the hurricane took it’s toll.  There are still damaged houses and trees down everywhere.

We got to the ministry center and saw the damage to the church there.  The entire roof will need to be replaced.  Thankfully, the roofs and support structure on all the dorms has been completed.  And another team already built a new building that will serve as the cafeteria.  The back wall was demolished and still needs repair.  The orphans that were living there were all evacuated here to Cambry and are still living here until everything is fixed.  We got to meet some of the house parents and staff and heard the story of one man who experienced the water rushing in, climbing to the height of the windows, so he had to swim to the church and climb on to the roof.  It was amazing he survived to tell the story.  We gathered to pray for this location, the children, the staff and the recovery efforts before we had to head back for dinner.

Our team time continues to be a powerful time of opening God’s Word and reflecting on the day.  Tonight, we looked at the awe of God and asked some diagnostic questions of our heart(s).  We then looked at Psalm 145 to recalibrate our hearts and help us recapture the awe of God.

Thank you for praying for us on this journey.  If you would, please pray for one of our team members, Josh, who is a bit under the weather today and had to stay behind to rest.  And keep praying that the relationships we form, the spiritual conversations we have and even the work we do will continue to bear fruit.

Tomorrow, our day starts pretty early for church.  We found out the first service we attend starts at 6a and then there is a later one.  The later one started worship tonight at 8p and will worship throughout the night until 6a for New Year’s Worship and will take a break for breakfast and reconvene.  So, it is doubtful many of us will stay up to experience the New Year here in Haiti.  But we can say we went on mission in 2016 and returned a year later!