Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Haiti: "Only God Knows the Plan and the Heart"

Sometimes we look at people with so many preconceived ideas.  We think we know their hearts, their goals, their ambitions, and their purpose in life.  But, oh how wrong we can be -- especially when God is in the mix!

Such is true for this couple, Steph and Roni.  They have totally different backgrounds, there are several years separating their ages, they had a "long distance" dating relationship, and many people said, "Oh, they'll never make it.  They aren't made for each other. They have so many differences that the odds are stacked against them."

One thing people often forget to factor in is "God."  When love for God is central in a person's life, the other "stuff" becomes little in comparison to what really matters.

As a mother, I've watched with awe as this couple, Steph and Roni, have grown, blossomed, and become living examples of what love means.  I've seen them sacrifice for others.  I've seen them serve others in ways that I personally have never served.  I've seen their faith in God grow and blossom.  I've seen their love for each other blow me away!  They have a respect for each other that I didn't know could exist in a marriage!

This young couple, against all odds, got married, and their love for each other continues to grow along with their love and dedication to God.

They took on a responsibility that many seasoned Christians would never dream of doing.....they put together a mission team of thirteen people of mixed backgrounds and diverse experiences with mission work and led one of the most powerful mission trips to Haiti ever.  Why?  Because they didn't think about negatives; they concentrated on one thing -- serving in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

One couple, plus a love for God equals immeasurable acts of love and service.
I love this young couple so much!  They are a daily inspiration to me and countless others.  And, they are a living example of what happens to lives when God is at the heart and soul of a person.

Steph and Roni, thank you for stepping out in faith and putting together "Team Squirt"!  We laughed, we served, we cried, and we loved together....all because you had the courage to step out in faith and say, "Let's do it.  Let's go, team!"

I can't wait to see what all happens as God continues to grow in the hearts of this couple.  Two ordinary young kids (as some would say) against all odds accomplished many wonderful things in the name of God our Father. 

May we each learn to be open to the calling of God.  May we step out in faith.  And, may we know the joy of serving!  When in doubt, just look at this picture of Steph and Roni.  They are living examples of what happens when God is first!

Thank you for being my inspiration!  Thank you for showing how serving God is a joy, not a task.  And, thank you for encouraging me to be part of the best team I could ever have joined, "Team Squirt"!

Love forever,

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Haiti: The Unmentioned Members of "Team Squirt"

It hurts so much to say good-bye!

There was a buzz going on for months about our Haiti mission trip!  Exciting plans were being made to help countless people in Haiti.  Every detail possible was thought of, including how much bug repellant to bring, what kind of soap to use, and how many changes of clothes to bring.  Lodging, plane tickets, vaccines, and countless other details were taken care of in preparation for this mission trip.

One thing that wasn't discussed in preparation for the trip, though, was the tremendous sacrifices being made by the wives and children of those who were going on this mission trip.  They stepped aside and gave their full support knowing how difficult this time of separation would be.  They didn't even know if they'd be able to receive a daily text message, let alone a phone call.  And, yet they selflessly said, "Go.  I want you to go and serve those in need."   

For years I was "the preacher's wife"-- the one who got to stay at home.  Maybe that's why I'm especially aware of the pain that those who "don't get to go" feel.  It's such a mixed bag of emotions -- wanting the one you love to serve God in the mission field, yet knowing that you cannot be right there alongside the one you love because of responsibilities at home that must be carried on.  Truthfully, being left behind stinks! 

As I watched Natalie and Eden say their good-byes to Jimmy, my heart ached.  I saw tears streaming down their faces, and I wanted to say, "This isn't fair.  This isn't how it's supposed to be!"  And, yet I knew that this couple, like every other couple that was part of "Team Squirt",  had made extreme sacrifices so that those in need could be served.  Those who were left behind, in my opinon, are our unsung heroes. 

Without those who stayed behind, we would not have had the amazing team that went to Haiti this March!  Without selfless giving, selfless loving, and selfless dedication to God and mankind, all of the wonderful things that were accomplished with the orphans, the homeless, the sick, and those in prison never would have happened.

To those who stayed behind......guess what?  YOU are just as much a part of "Team Squirt" as the ones who set foot in Haiti.  You sacrificed your hearts, and that's the only thing that God wants from any of us!

Love and thanks forever and ever to ALL the team members -- to those who went to Haiti and those who stayed behind!   

Friday, April 6, 2012

Haiti: What Do Sandals Have to do with a Mission Trip?

"Now these are what I call sandals!"

What in the world do sandals have to do with this Haiti mission trip?  Brace yourself, because you're going to learn a lot about the spirit of "Team Squirt" through these sandals.

Two days before leaving for Haiti, I received a call from my daughter, Steph.  "What size sandal does Jimmy wear?"  (Jimmy is her brother who also went on the trip.)  "Uh, I think size 12.  Why?"

"Well, Roni (Steph's husband who also went on the trip) and I were talking last night, and we're buying Jimmy some new sandals." 

"Why? Jimmy has sandals.  You know that."

"Mom, Jimmy is wearing the same pair of beat up Walmart sandals that he's been wearing for the past ten years.  The soles are worn through, and you know that Jimmy will never buy anything for himself.  He gives to everybody else, but never spends a dime on himself!  Roni and I researched and we know just the pair we're going to get him!  Honest, mom, these sandals are so comfortable, and they come with a guarantee.  They really will last Jimmy for the next ten years!"

Fast forward to the airport.  We thirteen team members arrived on different planes and met in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to board our final plane to Cap Haitien.  There was a secret about to unfold and only a few of us were in on the surprise!

Picture this:  Steph and Roni ran up to greet Jimmy in the airport (who was wearing his flippy-floppy worn out sandals)  almost tripping over their own feet while shoving  the box into Jimmy's hands.

"What are you guys doing? How about a hug or something like that?" (They hadn't seen each other since Christmas.)

"Open it, Jimmy!  It's for you!  Hurry up!  Open it!"  (Honestly, this reminded me of Christmas back when the kids were little!)

Standing off to the side watching from a mother's vantage point, you have no idea how much my heart was racing with excitement and overflowing with a sentimental joy.  Not often do I ever hear of adult brothers and sisters doing things like this for each other.  Roni and Steph took some of their hard-earned money that they had been saving and got Jimmy a "supreme pair of sandals" smothered in love.  They wanted the very best for Jimmy, and that's what he got!  They sacrificed big time to see that their brother had decent sandals to trod the soil of Haiti while visiting the orphans, the homeless, and the sick.

In my opinion, the spirit of "Team Squirt" began long before we reached Haitian soil.  This spirit of sacrificially giving, of loving one another, and of sincerely caring for each other began months prior to this trip. I could recount story after story of the 13 team members making tremendous sacrifices to make sure everyone had enough money, supplies, and food to go on the trip.  What a team!!! 

"Just a pair of sandals", you say.  Not hardly!  These sandals represent the sole mission of "Team Squirt" -- to be the very hands, feet and heart of Jesus! 

Stay tuned for more of the "inside" stories of our trip to Haiti.  I promise that you won't be disappointed!

PS  Guess where Jimmy's old sandals went?  In the very first trash recepticle he found in the airport!  And, the new sandals?  A perfect fit, and I'm glad we all liked them because those will be attached to Jimmy for the next 15 years!