Tag Archives: missions

Big Shoes to Fill…Part 2

I felt it only appropriate to pull out this post from August 2014. Ms. Dot finished her race well, leaving a legacy behind her that we all can aspire to. So happy to have known her, so proud of the grace which flowed through her husband of 61 years yesterday at her funeral, and her daughter who has cared for her these last many months. I hope Ms. Dot knows what a profound effect her life has had on me and countless others. I hope you enjoy once again…

The text I received went something like this, “Hey I’m cleaning out my mom’s shoe closet and I was wondering if you knew of any ladies who might wear a 9 or 9 ½.” What I heard was, “Is there a lady you know who could possibly have a foot this large?” I contemplated for a moment wondering, “Do I tell her I wear that size? Will she think of me as freakishly huge? I’m 5’10” for heaven’s sake a size 6 would look strange on me. But still it’s never fun to whisper in the middle of Macy’s—could I just try a 10 in this boot? These must run small.” But my mind goes back to the text, there might possibly be really cute shoes at stake here. So I swallow my pride and reply, “YES! I wear that size.”

As I drove to her house later that day, I began to contemplate these shoes. You see, these were not just anybody’s shoes. They belonged to a woman who in 1958 boarded a cargo ship (A CARGO SHIP!!!) with her husband, said good-bye to her family, her home, and her life, and devoted the next forty years to loving, reaching, teaching, and mentoring the wonderful people of Africa. She sometimes lived in conditions too painful for us to imagine. She was pressured to put her children in boarding school hundreds of miles away. She lived a selfless life, totally and completely counter-cultural to what women are taught today. She did it all because God asked her to and she was obedient. She chose things like staying in her marriage and not ever considering divorce an option even when things got hard, and all marriages at one time or another get hard. She chose things like sacrificial service instead of promoting herself. Today she is reaping the benefits of her Godly choices.

At 87 years old, her body is reacting naturally to nearly nine decades on this earth, but her mind is intact, her marriage is happy and intact, she has a beautiful home, two children who adore her, love her, and both serve the Lord, and an army of people who seek her out for wisdom, great stories, and genuine love. Her obedience, although hard at times, has brought great blessing into her life. Her selfless love has transformed countless individuals and families not only here in America, but in Africa too through a ripple effect still going on as I write.

As I had these thoughts on the way to my friend’s house, I was getting the privilege of filling these very large shoes both figuratively and literally! To be honest I didn’t have my hopes up really high that I would walk away with any chic or trendy styles. But when I saw the Steve Madden and Sam & Libby labels I knew I had hit the jackpot, so I took four pair of the coolest shoes from this 87-year-old shoe connoisseur.

When I got home I pulled the shoes out and have them sitting in my closet. I have yet to put them on, as I feel a certain gravity about them. Call me dramatic or say I’m over-thinking but when I look at these shoes I can’t help but hope that I too can live selflessly. I pray that I may walk out my days in service to others, that I may see my boys love and serve the Lord deep into an old age. That my marriage will remain blessed and intact because of Godly choices I make, and that I may never hesitate to be obedient even when obedience is hard. This is a prayer I pray for all of us. May we strive to fill the shoes of the giants of faith who have walked before us and may we forever endeavor to fill the shoes of greatness like my 87-yr-old shoe fashionista friend, Dot Webb.

You can get the full story of Dot’s memoirs by going to Amazon.com and typing in, “A Harvest of Joy” authored by her daughter, Tammy Webb-Witholt. You will be glad you got this book and learned from this incredible woman!

Big Shoes to Fill

The text I received went something like this, “Hey I’m cleaning out my mom’s shoe closet and I was wondering if you knew of any ladies who might wear a 9 or 9 ½.” What I heard was, “Is there a lady you know who could possibly have a foot this large?” I contemplated for a moment wondering, “Do I tell her I wear that size? Will she think of me as freakishly huge? I’m 5’10” for heaven’s sake a size 6 would look strange on me. But still it’s never fun to whisper in the middle of Macy’s—could I just try a 10 in this boot? These must run small.” But my mind goes back to the text, there might possibly be really cute shoes at stake here. So I swallow my pride and reply, “YES! I wear that size.”

As I drove to her house later that day, I began to contemplate these shoes. You see, these were not just anybody’s shoes. They belonged to a woman who in 1958 boarded a cargo ship (A CARGO SHIP!!!) with her husband, said good-bye to her family, her home, and her life, and devoted the next forty years to loving, reaching, teaching, and mentoring the wonderful people of Africa. She sometimes lived in conditions too painful for us to imagine. She was pressured to put her children in boarding school hundreds of miles away. She lived a selfless life, totally and completely counter-cultural to what women are taught today. She did it all because God asked her to and she was obedient. She chose things like staying in her marriage and not ever considering divorce an option even when things got hard, and all marriages at one time or another get hard. She chose things like sacrificial service instead of promoting herself. Today she is reaping the benefits of her Godly choices.

At 87 years old, her body is reacting naturally to nearly nine decades on this earth, but her mind is intact, her marriage is happy and intact, she has a beautiful home, two children who adore her, love her, and both serve the Lord, and an army of people who seek her out for wisdom, great stories, and genuine love. Her obedience, although hard at times, has brought great blessing into her life. Her selfless love has transformed countless individuals and families not only here in America, but in Africa too through a ripple effect still going on as I write.

As I had these thoughts on the way to my friend’s house, I was getting the privilege of filling these very large shoes both figuratively and literally! To be honest I didn’t have my hopes up really high that I would walk away with any chic or trendy styles. But when I saw the Steve Madden and Sam & Libby labels I knew I had hit the jackpot, so I took four pair of the coolest shoes from this 87-year-old shoe connoisseur.

When I got home I pulled the shoes out and have them sitting in my closet. I have yet to put them on, as I feel a certain gravity about them. Call me dramatic or say I’m over-thinking but when I look at these shoes I can’t help but hope that I too can live selflessly. I pray that I may walk out my days in service to others, that I may see my boys love and serve the Lord deep into an old age. That my marriage will remain blessed and intact because of Godly choices I make, and that I may never hesitate to be obedient even when obedience is hard. This is a prayer I pray for all of us. May we strive to fill the shoes of the giants of faith who have walked before us and may we forever endeavor to fill the shoes of greatness like my 87-yr-old shoe fashionista friend, Dot Webb.

You can get the full story of Dot’s memoirs by going to Amazon.com and typing in, “A Harvest of Joy” authored by her daughter, Tammy Webb-Witholt. You will be glad you got this book and learned from this incredible woman!

A Tin Bowl & Black Beans

My head was aching, my heart was racing, I was filthy dirty, and my whole body screamed with exhaustion, yet I couldn’t stop. My body was reacting to need but my mind was detached. Being thrown in to the mix of things immediately created a chasm between what my body was doing and what my mind was grasping. It was at the moment my mind finally ended the chase that sticks in my head.

I was sitting on the dirt with the biggest tin bowl I’ve ever seen in front of me. It easily held a 100 pound bag of black beans. As the beans were dumped, my friend and I started scooping as fast as we could. 1, 2, 3, 4 scoops into the brown paper bag, hand off to Tamara, she folded, then handed the bag further down the line to add to the growing pile. There were at least a dozen people all moving around, handing, folding, carrying, scooping, all working with a definite mission in mind. I could see through the legs all around me and caught glimpses of the growing crowd of people who were hungry…no starving. It was 3 weeks after the deadly earthquake in Haiti that killed hundreds of thousands of their fellow countrymen, and now food was hard to come by.

The sea of legs briefly opened and not 10 feet away from me was a woman with charcoal skin looking right at me and the beans. We caught each others eyes and stared for what seemed 10 minutes but was probably more like 5 seconds. Oddly, I wondered if her mouth was watering like mine does when I have a succulent piece of chocolate cake before me.

This moment in time is what I want to bottle up, keep forever, take out and visit occasionally. Because that was when I felt like my life had never had more meaning. I knew God was using me for a purpose to give sustenance to another human being. Now, I know this woman in front of me would have been fed with those same black beans had I been present or not. But God allowed ME the privilege of scooping her beans. Such a menial task, but yet so incredibly vital to this woman and her family.

The sea of legs closed and we continued to scoop 600 pounds of black beans that day. When it came time to actually hand out the food I never saw that woman again. I had to place myself between the children and the adults and hold one group off the other. I found myself pushing and screaming at people because they were close to rioting they were all so desperate for food. I never once felt threatened but instead felt as though I had to save them from themselves and make sure the food got in to each person’s hands. I’ve never been in the middle of something so intense, nor seen a more desperate situation that closely. I also can’t say I wouldn’t have reacted the same way had it been me in the crowd needing food for my children.

I’m home now, back in my nice house, in my comfortable bed, eating all the food I want. But I’ll never forget looking at that woman and realizing the privilege God had afforded me and my friends to be on Haitian soil helping any way we knew how.

Just missing Haiti today…

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PB&J

I just returned from another trip to Haiti. My 10th since 2009. I love that beautiful island and the people who live there. One of our translators asked me on this trip if it was my first time to visit. When I told him no it was my 10th, he put his hand on his heart and in that beautiful french accent said, “You’re Haitian, you are now Haitian.” That was one of the biggest compliments I have ever received. It has nothing to do with PB&J, I just wanted to tell you that because it makes me smile every time I hear those words in my head.

I will probably write a few blogs about this last trip because it was one of the greatest trips I have ever been privileged enough to participate in. My church, CrossRoads (www.crossroadsantioch.org) took a team of 16 people. The team was actually much larger than 16 though because almost our entire church participated in this trip. We were just the 16 who got to lay eyes on everything first hand.

My friend, Dennis who was on the trip witnessed a moment all of us who have traveled to Haiti have witnessed at one time or another, just in different forms. He saw a scene play out in front of him that I can guarantee will never leave his mind. You know when you’re a child and your mom is making you eat and says, “There are starving children who would love to have that food!” When that phrase reaches from the past and slaps you in the face, it’s a moment of awakening. Dennis tried to tell our church about this scene and with tears streaming down his cheeks was finally able to relay the event. It all started with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Our team worked on site at a school/church that was damaged by the earthquake. (I will blog on this location at a later date because it’s a story in itself.) We were way out in the middle of nowhere, so we had to carry lunch for the team with us. What is the easiest thing to make? You guessed it…pb&j. They were made with hands that had been in dirty water, shoveling sand, holding babies, but had been slathered with hand sanitizer. If you’re a germaphobe like me, the thoughts can make you shutter. The sandwiches were handed to us on a napkin with a handful of Pringles and 2 cookies. Several of the team members groaned at the thought of eating this after working so incredibly hard, but it’s what we had so we ate it and got back to work.

In Haiti when a team like us show up to work, word gets around in the village and people slowly gather to watch. By the end of each work day we usually had quite the audience. At lunchtime there were a dozen or so people observing us making concrete to help rebuild this school/church. As Dennis stood and ate his lunch he watched as a little girl from the village was handed a sandwich.

She took one bite, found her father and gave what was left to him.

He took one bite, handed the rest of the sandwich to his wife.

She took one bite, handed the rest of the sandwich to her son.

He took one bite, handed the rest of the sandwich to his sister.

She took one bite, and went and got her friend and gave the last bite to her friend.

Oh my heart…

You may ask why in the world we go to Haiti as much and as often as we do and it’s for that reason. God commands us to go, so we go. Was that one bite of sandwich the only food received by this family the entire day? I don’t know, but if I had to guess I would say probably. After you see something like that you can’t come home and stay the same. You can’t simply turn your head and shake away the memory. I can’t separate that image from my own family. What if those were my two boys and husband who had no food? What are the dreams of this family that are being squashed because they have to concentrate so hard on feeding their children? What is the difference between me and that mom? Why am I the blessed one who has a wealth of food, and she has to fight so hard for food? All questions I walk away from each trip asking myself. The answers continue to elude me.

God has a lot to say about the poor in Psalm 82:3, Psalm 41:1, Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 21:13, and many more places throughout His Book. He doesn’t say it’s wrong to do it this way, or you can’t give too much, or you need to set up a system, or whatever the politically correct way to go about this is for today. He just says to take care of them. We make it much harder than it has to be.

This trip was all about service. Serving the great people of Haiti so they can share the Good News of Jesus easier. We worked and helped empower a local pastor to do his job bigger and better than before. But oddly enough, it’s myself and my fellow team members who walk away from these trips mentally shaken, emotionally and physically depleted, but spiritually empowered to come home and do greater things in our communities, and greater things back in Haiti.

 

 

 

IT

There was something which laid dormant in me for 44 years. I didn’t know it existed and had no idea it was even there. None of the work I had accomplished, the incredible sights I’ve seen, nor the places I’ve visited, had ever awakened it until I stepped on Haitian ground.

I’m sure you have many names for it but the only way I know to describe it, is something deep within me came to life. My ears heard new sounds, my eyes saw new sights, my body experienced an awesome level of tired, and my heart reached a fever pitch of love.

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Our church, CrossRoads Church in Antioch, TN (www.crossroadsantioch.org) has Haiti as our overseas missions focus. I’m not sure anything we’ve done in the young life of our church has received more criticism than our work in Haiti. Just some of the comments we’ve received…”Don’t you know there’s starving people in America?”…or…”Why are you giving all your money to those people when you don’t even have a building?”…one of the funnier ones…”America should come first. Period.”…my personal favorite…”You can’t give them a handout, you gotta make ’em work for what they get!” Of course I can’t think of one person who has criticized our work who has actually ever BEEN to Haiti, but that’s beside the point right? Everyone has their opinion.

These people have no idea what or how God has worked through our church to bring Jesus salvation message, first aid, jobs, churches, a Bible school, food, an orphanage, and clothing to these wonderful people in Haiti AND in America. But criticizing our efforts makes them feel better for doing nothing.

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I have wondered many times how these critics would feel if they could see what we’ve seen…an 80 year old man, naked, trying to bathe himself in a mud puddle, or having to scrape the skin of a grown man who was burned over more than half of his body, or a middle aged woman scavenging for food through the same trash pile as a wild dog, or seeing a woman get beaten by a belt and a baseball bat because she was trying to push through security to get food for her family, or being caught in a mob because they found out we had food, and I could continue to list these moments but you understand. My eyes fill with tears at the memory of these sights from over the last 5 years we’ve been traveling there.

These are real people.

This is really happening.

I woke up this morning to be greeted with the post of my friend YvRose who has a home in Haiti with 28 children in it that she and her husband educate, feed, clothe, and love, all in Jesus name. YvRose lost one of her children last night so I know her heart is broken. But I have to smile at the fact that God knew her life wouldn’t be long on this earth. He made sure this young orphan girl made her way to YvRose so her life would be happy, loved, and celebrated. If she couldn’t be with her biological family, then there’s no better place young Ivella could have been than with The Ismael family. Please pray for them as they grieve and lay their daughter to rest.

I may sound like I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to Haiti, and yes, maybe I do. But I love these people, I love this country, and I see serving my Haitian sisters and brothers as an incredible privilege.

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I pray you find your it before you leave this earth because it is a spectacular moment of awakening that you don’t want to miss. Because honestly, it has changed me far more than I could have changed it.

And oh yeah…I promise all my blog posts won’t be this heavy, just woke up with Haiti on my mind. Leaving to go there again in 11 days….