Monday, January 30, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Kenya

From Katie: Know people who have stories to tell about how they saw the Lord work through short-term or long-term mission work? Have them send me an email at KatieAxelson[at]gmail[dot]com; I’d love to talk with them.

I am grateful that this week I got to chat with Chris and Lindy Thompson (and Ezra, too) who have been serving the Lord in Kenya for almost four years. You can find more about their ministry at <>< Katie

Katie: As full-time missionaries in Kenya, what kind of work do you do?
We do a variety of projects including:
  • A guest house for missionaries, mission teams, families, individuals, and church group.
  • Empowerment projects such as chicken farms. These are business opportunities for Kenyans where we help start them, raise the capital for the projects, train the Kenyans how to conduct the business, and then walk with them for a few months to a year before turning the businesses over completely. All of the proceeds are theirs.
  • Helping to start a Bible college that brings specific and ongoing funding, grants, guest lecturers, and sorts. Our second class with graduate in June.
  • Working with the church in Kenya by building a network of support for other ministries, NGOs, and organizations based out of Nairobi. We try to advocate for them because we believe in them.
  • Food distribution through a partner in ministry called Feed the Hunger. Every Tuesday we distribute food to about a thousand students in slum schools.
  • The Street Boys Project. We have identified eight to ten young boys who live on the streets because they have been abandoned, orphaned, run away due to abuse, and other horrific circumstances. We build relationships with them, help to bring them off of the streets and away from additions. Besides the guesthouse, this is where we spend most of our time, energy, and resources.
Katie: What is the Lord doing in Kenya?

God has blessed Kenya in a mighty way. To its north are three of the most vocal Muslim countries: Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan. To its south is Tanzania, one of the most classically Muslim countries in how it organizes and conducts itself in government and structure. Between these powerful Muslim influences sits Kenya which is still called a Christian nation.

Kenya posses a significant amount of businesses, hubs, and foundational name offices for groups and organizations because it is stable, there are good roads, good networks, internet, relatively safe places for families, and more developed in terms of technology, business, and economics. Nairobi has a very robust economy but it doesn’t look like it due to the turmoil going on underneath.

God has allowed Kenya to be in this position and the world needs to know that if we don’t back it up and aren’t supportive, encouraging, and prayerful for Kenya, it will get gobbled up by the Muslim influences.
Just in the four years that we’ve been there, we have seen an influx of the Muslim ideology in new mosques being build and it’s starting to influence legislation. More politicians are being supported by Muslim groups or are Muslims. If Kenya doesn’t take seriously the statement that they consider themselves a Christian nation, then like America and a lot of other nations, Kenya will lose its Christian identity. We hope it uses its position for His cause rather than for selfish ambition.
Eighty to eighty-five percent of the population would consider themselves Christians. However less than ten percent of the population are genuine Christians. 

There’s a cliché that says the Christian church in Kenya is a mile wide and an inch deep. Even though it’s a stereotype, it holds some truth. There are Christian churches and ministries all over Kenya but most of them do not go very deep. There is an over-emphasis on evangelism and an under-emphasis on discipleship. It would be a blessing to see them become discipled and grow deeper in their walk, to trade what is fleeting for what is eternal.

Our western culture owes them a deep apology for introducing to them things that are a lie—pursuit of money, wealth, fame, and notoriety. Things like the prosperity gospel that look like the Gospel but aren’t are putting a bacteria in Kenya and it’s rotting the opportunities to share the Truth.

If you have an unhealthy shepherd, you will not have healthy sheep. This is why we believe so strongly in discipleship the Bible college. We have seen seven boys that were addicts living on the street whose lives have been radically changed by the Holy Spirit. They have left that life, are now in formal schooling and doing well, and most of them have given their lives to Christ. The graduating class from the Bible college are lay people, pastors, aspiring ministers who had no means to get an education because they lived in the slums but they have now graduated and are capable, trained pastors who are raising healthy sheep.

Katie: What are some of your favorite parts?
Definitely the relationships both with Kenyans and non-Kenyans. We’ve been able to learn so many other cultures through international contacts. We are blessed with relationships.

Specifically, our gardener whose nickname is Thomas who was uneducated beyond high school. He’s quiet, meek, and unbelievably giving. He gives the thing that he has the most of and that is himself.  God took this man named Thomas and has made him my (Chris's) most trusted person that I work with. I could give him any amount of money and know that he would do exactly what I’ve asked him. That’s hard to find. He has now graduated Bible college, has his own chicken farm business, is an elder of his church, and is probably my number two person. And he started out as a gardener. Thomas understands that being a Christian isn’t a name you were but rather a life you live. He is evidence that discipleship can help. He is the most giving Kenyan that you will ever meet.

The food is great, too: stew, ugali (grits with a little less water and salt, left in the bowl until it can be broken off like bread and dunked in soup), and sukuma (finely-shredded keels).

Katie: What are some challenges you’ve faced?

Being away from family, of course. Seeing so much need, even in other countries, and not really being able to do anything about it. We’ve got such full plates already and doing anything for another country, takes away from someone you’ve already committed to in that they’re getting less of your time, resources, and funds. Balance is always a struggle. Sometimes we feel like walking ATMs.

Where there is poverty, there is also great envy, strife, and  violence. We have to be very careful in the manner in which we conduct ourselves and the locations we go. We have seen and heard of harsh things happening to believers from other parts of the world. Thugs, gangs, and criminals target non-Kenyans due to the misconception of wealth. 

We’re also westerners. We could live there for 30 years and still aren’t Kenyan. There are some legacies, traditions, and histories that we are not able to understand.

Katie: How have you seen the Lord work in ways you weren’t expecting?

Our son Ezra. We tried for six years to have children and were not able to due to inconclusive medical tests and two failed adoptions that nearly bankrupted us emotionally and spiritually. At the eleventh hour God opened Lindy’s womb and blessed us with Ezra.

In the first two years we were in Kenya, we saw over 2,200 professions of faith. Countless people have been disciple and grown in their walks. There have also been business opportunities that have empowered and given different financial opportunities to Kenyans such as the chicken farms.

Katie: How can we best pray for Kenya?
  • To stand strong against Muslim influences.
  • For genuine depth among believers.
  • Kenya is to have an election this year. The last election in 2007-2008 ended in horrible violence where 1,100-1,300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced. It put a black eye on the country yet now they have an opportunity to do it right and make a statement to the rest of Africa that they don’t have to operate this way anymore. The African Big Man Syndrome is a common problem where the mindset of one being the biggest, wealthiest, most influential man in the village is on top and everyone else, the common-men, are beneath him. The Big Man seeks to make himself look better and it has little to do with the community. If they can move beyond that to see that helping everyone does better than just helping myself, it could make a some huge statements to the rest of the African nations who struggle with the same thing.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Just a Minute

I was rummaging through my purse for a donation in exchange for my bowl of grapes and half bagel at my Baptist church's breakfast bar.  They let us (encourage us even) eat during the service.

I looked up and saw a little brown-haired boy on the other side of the table helping himself to the donut holes.

When I called his name, he looked up. He lit up.

Then he hesitated, embarrassed by the sparkle in his eye as he tried to restrain himself from leaping over the table and attaching himself to me.

Instead I invited him to come hug me. (I would have begged, but I knew it wasn't necessary). We both abandoned our breakfasts; I knelt as he rocketed around the table. He wrapped his arms around my neck, and I scooped him into my arms. Neither of us said a word. Neither of us wanted to let go. I was pretty sure I was going to have a seven-year-old-sized growth on my side for the rest of the service.

Life is made up of moments just like this. Compassion's president Wess Stafford wrote a book about how it takes just a minute to change the life of a child.

How often do we turn to children begging for our attention and say, "Just a minute" as we try to finish up whatever project is, in that moment, more important than the child?

What if you tried something different.  Instead of "just a minute"-ing, you took just a minute to invest in a child. It makes a difference in his or her life, and I'd be willing to bet it makes a difference in yours, too.

Just a minute. It matters.

I don't get to spend a lot of time with children. I cherish the minutes I get to be trampled by fifty children trying to hug me simultaneously, be the human jungle gym, or be a galloping horsey.

What a precious gift for both parties involved. (The bruises are definitely worth it).

As adults, we have so much to give children. At the same time, we have so much to learn. It takes just a minute. But it makes a difference that last long beyond a sixty-second hug.

Learning to embrace the little moments with little people,
<>< Katie

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Does Your Twitter Say About You?

A friend asked for my help with his Twitter. He gave me his password, told me he trusts me, and left the country. True story.

I logged in on my phone, did what he asked me to do (and only what he asked me to do), and moved on with my day.

A few hours later, I was scrolling down Twitter and realized this was not my feed. In case there was ever a question, I am not following Sesame Street, REI, and the Minnesota Vikings on Twitter.

Before switching back to  my own Twitter, I took a gander along his home page, curious about what I would find. It seemed really intimate and stalker-ish. I mean, your Twitter feed is personal to you; no one else is following exactly the same people that you are. What did my friend see when he logged on to Twitter? What was he filling his brain with privately?

Nothing I found surprised me. Amused: Yes. Surprised: Nope. Every person and business that caught my eye fit his personality, his hobbies, his passions, and how he presents himself. According to his Twitter feed, he is who he says he is.

I switched back to my own Twitter and wondered about who I have chosen to follow.

Does my feed say that I am who I am?
Does it represent my passions, my hobbies, and my favorite things?
How often does tasteless language appear on my homepage?
What am I putting into my mind?

Of course, this doesn't only apply to Twitter.

What are you feeding yourself?

Through your Twitter, the blogs you read, the tv you watch, the people you spend time with, the books you read, etc.

If you can tell a lot about a person from what he or she posts on Twitter, then what am I showing? Goodness knows I share a lot.

As I shared last week, a sister in Christ when home to heaven unexpectedly. The world has leapt all over the fact that her final Tweet was a prayer of thanksgiving for another year of life.

We Christians can't help but smile at God's sense of humor and omniscience.

The secular world uses it as a warning that if you Tweet-pray, God might kill you.

Sorry. I hope my last Tweet is a prayer, a scripture, or a powerful song lyric. After I'm gone, I'd much rather everyone see my faith than whatever silly thing my roommates said or the cat did.

Take some conscious time today to objectively pay attention to the following things:

1. What are you seeing? Reading? Inhaling?
2 .What are you posting? Saying? Exhaling?

Are they consistent? Are they consistent in who you are and the Jesus you represent?

<>< Katie

PS: If you see something questionable in my life or on my feed, I trust that you'd be kind enough to call me out on it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: South Africa

A Note from Katie: The same missions scholarship that made it possible for me to go to China brought to fruition my friend Laura's dream of going to Africa. I am so grateful for her willingness to share her story. <>< Katie

Adventures in Africa

For four years, it seemed like all I wanted was to go to Africa. I finally got my chance this past summer. I worked at an orphanage near Johannesburg, South Africa called The Love of Christ (TLC). This orphanage primarily cares for newborns to kindergarten age children. Most of the children there were given up by their mothers when they were born or were found abandoned.

The work there was unbelievably difficult but soooo rewarding! I learned everything from feeding to burping, giving meds, and cleaning up potty training accidents. I learned how to teach, to discipline, and how to love in ways that spoke best to each child. I even learned how to say goodbye, with tears running down my face but joy in my heart, when our babies were adopted.

At first it was difficult to figure out how to teach such young children about Jesus. Sometimes we would have simple conversations, starting with questions such as, “Who made the sky?” I would find myself whispering to them as they fell asleep that Jesus loves them, and I do too.

When I think back to my time there, there is one event that always stands out. In part because I was so afraid but also because I saw Jesus in the hearts of the children.

It was a night during my first week of nightshift. We usually clean the rooms, continue the rounds of feeding the newborns, and change nappies. On this particular night, we had only been cleaning for a little bit when we heard screams coming from the main house. The main house is attached to the nursery and is where all the adopted kids and family of TLC’s founder live. We stood there wondering for a moment if the kids were just rough housing but then we heard screams for help and one of the kids ran in and grabbed my nightshift leader.

In the next hour, we found out that a gas heater in one of the boys’ rooms upstairs had exploded, his room was on fire, and he had been badly burned. The teenager ran to the yard and finally ended up jumping into the pool.

We rushed buckets of water upstairs and hurriedly carried the children downstairs into our nursery. It was really difficult because the kids were all in shock. Many had seen their brother’s burnt face as he ran out of the house screaming. There was a 14 year old boy we found curled up in a corner of the kitchen unable to move, another boy was shaking too hard to hold a cup of milk, still another just stared unseeingly into space, and a little girl kept repeating over and over how scared she was.

The boy who had been burnt was quickly driven to the hospital (which is faster than waiting for an ambulance). Once we had all of the main house kids safely in our nursery, we wrapped them in blankets, hugged them tightly, told them they were safe. They were terrified for their brother. Most of the main house kids are kids who never got adopted so the founder’s family adopted them. And to them, family is priceless.

Soon after we got them into the nursery, we gathered around and prayed. I was surprised at how some of the youngest had the most profound prayers. One little boy asked for angelic presence in his brother’s hospital room! They prayed honestly and earnestly. It was a moment when I truly was able to see their hearts. Their trust in God was beautiful.

Praying together really seemed to calm them, although they were still very much afraid.

The rest of that night was rough for us. The night staff was pretty shaken. The sounds of the boy’s screaming were haunting, and I found myself jumping every time someone walked into the room. It wasn’t until I called someone and asked them to pray for me that I was finally able to calm myself down. Still, the light from the rising sun was a welcome sight. Dawn was beautiful and it was as if everything that happened the night before was just a vague dream.

Being able to witness the power of prayer and the faith these kids had was amazing. We were in a third world country, where you can’t count on someone to be there in an instant to help you like you can in America. You put a house fire out yourself because you have no other choice. You drive a burn victim to the hospital because it would take too long for an ambulance to arrive. You comfort your family because they’re all you have. In a moment when there was so much fear and uncertainty, Jesus was there so clearly. And it started with the prayers of the children. 

And, just so you know, by the time I left the orphanage two months later, the boy who had been burned was absolutely, completely, 100 percent healed. You would never know he had been burned. God is so amazing.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What More Do You Want

"What more do you want from God?" Neal asked the congregation. We all came from very different backgrounds united only in the Lord.

"¿Qué más quiere de Dios?" Manolo translated.

I didn't need to wait for the translation before I began making a mental list of things I wanted from God. All selfish things, too. I was in Nicaragua and still had an out-standing balance on my trip. I had applied to five graduate schools and was still hoping for acceptances. I was hoping to head to China in the summer and was waiting for those pieces to fall into place.

"He's already give you Jesus." Neal's words slapped my list-making face. I needed to hear them again.

"Él ya te dio Jesús."

What more can I want from God when He's already give me the best He can: His Son. He's already given me all that I need, and it's called grace. He's engraved my name on the palm of His hand, and I'm asking for money.  He's given me purpose, hope, and a future and there I sat in an uncomfortable Nicaraguan folding chair asking for more.

I felt naked, like my selfish, dirty list had been broadcast by the broken LCD projector. In a way, they were. They were available for One to know.

I like to think God chuckled when He watched me frantically try to erase them, delete them, unthink them.

I gave up on my list that day. I took peace in Abba giving me His Son. What more could I ever need or dare to want?

Days like today it's easy to start making a list again. I want this job interview to go well. I want to see her joy and her smile on this earth once again. I want reassurance that God truly is good and in control.

I want everyone to know the hope we all have in Jesus. Jesús. 耶稣.

I want all of God's children to know how loved they are by their Father. I want them to know forgiveness as intimately as I do. To know they don't need any more than that.

Abba, use me to reach Your people. May my life show Your love today and every day. In the States and across the world. When things go well and when dreams aren't achieved. Lord, let my love for You be contagious. When people see me may they have no choice but to love You more. Draw them into Your loving arms, Lord. May they know that no matter what life brings, Jesus is enough. Our greatest need has been satisfied. Thank You for Jesus. Teach me to remember that He is enough, always more than enough.

This is my prayer. My hope. My desire.

<>< Katie

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

For His Glory No Matter What

I saw the ambulance. I was sitting in the front window of the coffee shop when it whizzed by. I zoned out watching it, noticing it was EMS rather than the local rescue team. Didn't mean much.

From the front window of the coffee shop you can see everything that's happening in town. I could see the ambulance was not headed towards the nursing home. It could have been headed towards campus, but I couldn't tell. Didn't mean much.

It did prompt me to think about how we have not lost a student since I started. Sure, students have had seizures, passed out, dislocated shoulders in class but they've all been fine in a few hours or days. We've lost professors, staff members, and family members. But never a student.

I went back to my work.

Not long after that, I saw the same ambulance return in the direction from which it came, sirens still on. I thought about Tweeting about how it's not a good sign when an ambulance returns from a call with its lights and siren.

Despite the town only having one stoplight, despite my roommate working in campus ministries, despite seeing the ambulance, I learned from Twitter that one of my sisters in Christ had passed away.

The world stopped.

I didn't recognize her name, but I knew her face. I definitely knew her face. I've heard her testimony.

It was her birthday.

The night before she'd Tweeted that she was excited for the next day. I'm sure she had no idea how exciting it would be for her. She got to celebrate her earthly birthday with the Lord.

That morning, she'd Tweeted and thanked the Lord for another year of her life. That night, He took her home.

Sniffles and tears were overwhelming at our weekly worship service last night. My roommate had hugged her the morning she went Home. Others had been in her class. We were all grieving.

And it's ok to cry. It's ok to be sad. Jesus was. When His friend Lazarus died, the Bible says Jesus wept.

Yet still there was an element of joy in the air. We knew (and know) that she is with the Lord.

You see, this sister I never had the pleasure to hug, loved the Lord. A lot.

We know that her death is not in vain. We know that she's in the arms of our Father. We know that she would be overjoyed if everyone (if anyone) came to know the Lord through her death.

We celebrated. We praised the Lord. We know that He is good even when life is bad. His timing is perfect even when ours is a little off.

Yes, it's hard. Yes, we thought He was going to do a lot more with her on this earth. Yes, we know that her testimony will continue to inspire, to encourage, and to draw people to Him. It's all she wanted to do with her life and now in her death.

That's what I want my life and death to be about: the glory of the Lord. Today. Tomorrow. Every day until I'm called home. And even then.

If you don't mind, can you take a few seconds right now and pray for us? Pray for her family. Pray for her friends, roommates, and colleagues. Pray for this campus, this town. Thank God that He took one of His children home rather than a student who didn't know Him. Thank Him for His goodness and journeying with us.

But don't pray for her. It's not necessary. She's ok because she's in the arms of the Father. And if she's not in heaven, then we're all in trouble. But I know she is.

And next time you see an ambulance, do me a favor and pray for the patient, the team, and the team meeting him/her. Pray for the family, the friends. Pray that God be glorified as He as been here.

This verse was very important to her. It is now very important to me.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Romans 1:16

Today's a gift, friends. It's the most important day of your life. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow isn't promised.

You never know when you're going to be called home. It could be in the middle of class on your 21st birthday.

And I'm ok with that.

<>< Katie

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Rwanda

From Katie: In July my friend Hannah began The World Race, that is visiting eleven countries in eleven months.  Currently on month six and finishing up her time in Rwanda, Hannah blogged this post about how God got her attention. It has been reposted here with permission.  To follow Hannah as she finishes up her journey, check out blog. 

"A Little More of Jesus Inside of Me"
by Hannah Dagenhart

As I look out over the valley that we are about to cross once again, something at the bottom catches my eye. A group of children are gathered down at the “bridge” (a few logs held together with barbed wire and mud) to fill up their water jugs from the creek. The water is dirty. No doubt the cows in the adjacent pasture drink from it and tramp mud through it as they pass. Nonetheless, it is used for everything from laundry to cooking and I can pretty accurately assume, for drinking.

Some of the children have spotted us now as we are descending. They have all straightened up from filling their jugs and now they are shouting, jumping and waving: “A mzungu! A mzungu!” Even though they are the most adorable kids, dressed in nothing but dirty and ill-fitting rags, sometimes I’d rather not have the attention all of the time. Anywhere we go people shake our hands, give a thumbs up, shout out greetings, or walk beside us. Sometimes I make the mistake of politely shaking neighbors' hands in order to continue on but later realize I actually know them. We have met these children before. We have walked with them up the valley, sometimes carrying their water jugs for them. We have seen them in church or passed by their homes.

Some village kids at a nearby home.

As we continue down the hill their smiles become more clear and their squeals of excitement more adamant. Before we reach them they abandon their water jugs and run to us, arms open wide, ready for hugs.
We walk hand in hand to the bottom and there they give up their water. Several times before we have helped them make it to the top, so this time they are willing to hand over their burdens. I pick up two jugs, one from each of the kids smiling next to me. While they aren’t extremely heavy for me, they’re certainly not light. Imagine carrying a couple of milk gallons in each hand as you climb the mountain. I smile and take them, in my heart half resenting that I must carry the water when I’m already tired.

Then the Lord hits me with a lesson. Hannah, these kids understand. They know how to give up their burdens to someone stronger. Remember? I told you: “Cast all your cares on Me because I care for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30). How joyful these youngsters are to give up their burdens. They do not feel guilty or try to carry part of the load. They easily and freely cast off their burdens. 

I feel convicted for being selfish and unconcerned. My Jesus would never have thought twice about carrying their loads. He would be delighted to do so with no thought for Himself. Thank you for continuing to teach me, Lord. I am learning, one small step up the mountain at a time.

We reach the top. We pass off the water as we are going a different route but the smiles stay the same. The children have such joy. We meet up with our pastor who is talking to two women as they harvest corn to give to us. I continue to be amazed at the generosity of God’s people overseas. They give not out of abundance but out of sacrifice.

We continue on up the hill and to the left as we go to visit a house that we know well. What started as a visit for evangelism erupted into a discussion of Christianity mixed with a presentation of the Gospel. It ended with many onlookers and seekers gathered and a few women with lives changed. We have come back the following week to encourage these women and their children in their new faith. Our team prayed over them for provision for their children, as well as healing for two of them that are affected by HIV/AIDS. My heart goes out to them since we visited the Genocide Memorial and learned about the extreme hardships and pain since the horrible event nearly 18 years ago. Many people were killed, many women raped (mostly by HIV positive males), and others were tortured and humiliated. This country needs healing so badly.

Still, there is hope. The purpose of our visit that day is to take Bibles to the women, as they had none of their own. We give one each to Delphine and Liberty. The looks on their faces are priceless. They are truly thankful to have received God’s Word in their own language. We pray for them as they thanked us.

Delphine and Liberty excited to receive their new Bibles.

As we pass through more cornfields and plots of banana trees we come to Godanse’s house. This woman has such a love for the Lord! As one of four women at last week’s Bible study, she has a Bible that is tattered and torn. She carefully turned the pages that were still intact as she searched for the passage in Romans, handling the Word with such grace and reverence.

Now, a week later, we arrive at her home with a new copy of the Word. She quickly invites us into her home, which was crumbling, small,and smells of the putrid pig kept right outside. I have never been more honored to be a guest in anyone’s home. As I take the Bible from my backpack she holds her hands to her face in disbelief. I pass it to her as she doubles over with laughter, her eyes dancing with joy

She keeps saying, “Amen! Hallelujah!” as she thanks us repeatedly. This gift means the world to her. There is more excitement and joy than I’ve ever seen – all for the Word of God. Oh God, that we all would love your Word like Godanse. Godanse walks us all the way out to the path, still laughing and smiling as she clutches her Bible. She gives me such a powerful handshake that my hand stings. I will never forget her.

We keep walking, literally to the top of the hill. The radio tower is in sight nearby and the view of the valley is absolutely incredible. Our team is soon met with smiles and greetings from the four widow women that live in this home. One of the women, Kimana, who is usually bubbly and sweet at church, looks rather down. We ask if she was sick, and she clearly is, so we pray over her as we present her with her own copy of God’s Word. Even after being nauseous all day, you can see the thankfulness and happiness in her eyes.

Taryn with Kimana

Our tasks for the day complete, we begin our descent. There are still miles to go before we reach home, but my heart is much more thankful now than when we’d started.  As I walk the hills, I have quite some time to think. 
I begin to ponder about my life and how it compared with that of my Lord and Savior.

My feet sometimes have blisters or scrapes. They are dusty, and I have a tan line from my Chaco sandals. Some days my legs ache when I walk those hills. My presence is always announced as I walk down the street: “A mzungu! A mzungu!” Several people, young and old, run to meet me and enthusiastically extend their hands. When I stand outside of a store for more than a minute or two I am approached by beggars in filthy clothes. As I pass children who only know a few English phrases I am met with, “Give me money!” Anytime we go to visit or attend a service we are expected to share a testimony or song, some nugget of wisdom.

What about Jesus? I turned my thoughts to Him. How He had walked tons of miles through dust and dirt to reach people. He probably had a tan like mine across His dirty feet. His calves probably burned from going over mountains and walking through towns. I bet His clothes gave off a pleasant aroma of man-sweat since He wore them day after day. He had people following Him constantly – needy people – those asking for healing, those seeking teaching, some just looking for an exciting show. I’m sure He shook a lot of hands, had people begging for His attention at every moment.

In many ways I see myself in similar situations to those of our Lord. Yet, most times I react – not like Jesus – but like His disciples…

Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:13-14)

I recently read the story in Matthew of how Jesus fed the five thousand. Do you realize how the story starts? Jesus finds out that John the Baptist has just been beheaded. One of His good friends, a relative, has been executed. He takes a boat and intends to withdraw to a solitary place, but the relentless crowds followed Him there. What does He do?

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

Then, as evening comes, the disciples tell Jesus to send the people away – they have no food. I can only imagine that the disciples were restless and wanted some supper for themselves as well. So, Jesus, already knowing they can’t do it, tells them to feed the crowd. After the disciples admit their inabilities, Jesus takes what is there and offers it to the Lord. The crowd is fed and there’s an abundance left over.

As I’m thinking about my spiritual journey lately, I realize that I’m more like the disciples than Christ. The disciples were supposed to look like Christ, yet they still gave in to their human tendencies. They were grouchy with children and they answered to their stomachs rather than to their spiritual appetites. (I know that the Twelve were godly men who gave up everything to follow Christ. They gave up their lives in the end, but at times, they’re only human. Like me.)

The house of some church members at the top of the hill.

Throughout the past six months I have been meeting with my team each night for “feedback.”  We give each other honest feedback on what we see and offer compliments as well as constructive encouragement. My team has consistently told me that the Lord has blessed me with good discernment. I realize it’s true because I can analyze these feelings and situations to see where I need to change. While I don’t celebrate the fact that I feel like a grouchy disciple some days, I am so thankful that the Spirit lets me know of my shortcomings. He points out the rough areas and breathes conviction on the things that need to change. It’s a refining process. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s embarrassing, but it’s necessary and beneficial.

Most of this month has been a battle of the mind and heart. No matter what my mannerisms on the outside appear to be, I know my heart and so does God. I have seen the importance of getting into the Word, of praying for an attitude change, of putting up a strong fight against self-pity or homesickness. The mind is a powerful thing and how we steward what goes into it will determine what type of disciple we ultimately become.

I want to be more like Christ, I really do. But it remains a conscious choice that I must continue to make every day for the rest of my life.

"A Little More"
*Lyrics by Shawn McDonald*

Just the other day went walking
Down to the corner and I saw a man
Sitting with a cup in his hand
Saying, "Hey won't you give me something
Won't you give me something to eat?"

I took a look into his eyes and
I saw he had a story to tell
But I walked away with my pockets full, full of change
And I said, "I got nothing for you"

It's time to confess that I need a little more
Jesus inside of me, Jesus inside of me

Don't you see, Jesus was homeless
Walking from city to city
Teaching people how to love
Giving them grace and mercy
Giving them grace and mercy

Now, Jesus was a friend to the friendless
Loving on all the outcasts
Teaching them that there was more
More than what they're living for
More than what they're living for

Don't you see, if you do not learn love
Then you will be completely nothing
You could be absolutely amazing
But you would be nothing

Friday, January 13, 2012

May Day

May 28.

According to my daily devotional, that's today's date.  Grace for the Moment: A 365-Day Journaling Devotional by Max Lucado was a graduation gift from my suitemate Amy's parents. So the day after graduation I began reading it. I continued once a day until I went on vacation and the book was too bulky for my carry-on bag.

Instead I decided I would read it daily when I was at home (at my parents' house). Thus, it did not go to China with me, it did not accompany me on my month-long networking trip in October, and it did not come on our Axelson Family Unplugged trip over New Years.

Knowing this, it was very sad to watch the bookmark move closer and closer to the center of the book. Every day was another devotion, another page turned and in that another day in limbo, another morning greeting unemployment, another reminder that my life was not what I expected.

Well, today is not May 28. I have packed as many of my personal belongings as I could fit in the backseat and trunk of my car. Dad and I are driving across the country, back to the town where I moved away from when the calendar really read May.


It's been a lot of days between real May and fake May. No, I'm not going to count them (English major). It's been a lot of tears cried, a lot of harsh prayers, a lot of mopey blog posts.

But today, May 28 to some, January 13 to others, the world starts fresh.

I hit 1,000 on my list of blessings. I am moving out of my parents' house. I am returning to the land I love. This is a new beginning.

I don't know what that means. It may mean that in three months I return to limbo. It may mean that I work at Starbucks for the rest of my life. It may mean that I convince myself to be a student again. I don't know.

But God does.

And I'm willing to trust that. I'm willing to cling to the promise that He has not let abandoned me nor will He ever. I'm willing to hope, willing to dream, and willing to not know what the future holds.

Hope. It's good. Just like God.

Hope. It's necessary. Just like God.

"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." Romans 12:12

<>< Katie

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wacky Wednesday

Author's Note: The following is a collection of ridiculous or profound statements and conversations heard throughout the month of December. <>< Katie

[In bed not wanting to get up on a Sunday morning]
Jennifer: Why can't we just have church here?
Katie: Those are called televangelists.
Amy: Or Katie could preach. My Bible's over there.
Katie: Oh, good. I need that.
Amy: Jennifer can be the pulpit.
Katie: Who's going to serve communion?
Amy: We're Baptist. We don't do that every day.

Mrs L: There's the cookie sheet I've been looking for! The flat one.

Mom: Awe, man! My new vacuum is parts as parts! With screws and everything! I just want to plug and play! I don't have time to put together a vacuum cleaner; I have to vacuum! The humanity!

Katie: What is that noise and how do we make it stop?
Mom: It's me washing the windows.
Katie: Oh. It sounds like Tina's farting ringtone.

Katie: This is your job for next week.
Uncle Jack: Put that vacuum together? That I can do. Is there more than one piece?
Katie: No.
Uncle Jack: Well, then we're pretty much done. What's the next project?
Katie: Fix the dishwasher. That's tomorrow's job. It can't wait until next week.

Uncle Boris: For senior photos I got: "Your head looks like a mushroom" or "your head looks like a plantain."

Amy: How do you only lose one boot?
Jo: I just kicked it off and I don't know. How do you need stitches once a week?
Amy: What?
Jo: I'm not kidding. Every Saturday I needed stitches. It was usually stupid stuff too like getting excited when the grandparents came over and tripping up the cement stairs.

Katie: Look! It's a bracelet I can wear as a belt and it's ok!

Dustin: Katie, what's one word that describes you?
Phil: Jobless.

Jennifer: Your volcanic pretzels look like an anteater nose.

Mom: Now you told Laura that she has big feet and Christina that she weighs more than the dog. You  need to go to bed. Go to your room!
Uncle Jack: Oh, do you need a complement, too? You look very nice up there dusting.

Alex: No more squeaking in the car.

Caroline: (something about) Britney Spears.
Katie: Does she have hair again?
David: I thought she was dead. I thought she D.O.ed. I mead ODed.

Laura: Girl, I have a knife and an onion in my hand. Don't mess with me!]

Jennifer: Katie, if you were on a desert island with email and a book, you'd be just fine.
Katie: Yeah, I'd just Tweet for someone to come rescue me.
Jennifer: You wouldn't have Twitter. Well, I guess you could just email someone.

Jo: How do you poop in your shoe when you lay on your back?
Amy: He's two months old. Who knows!

Mom: Look at those white caps!
Katie: Those aren't white caps; they're mud puddles.

Jennifer: So we put these there.
Katie: But these already have those.
Jennifer: "These already have those?" Katie, I wish you would write down your own quotes.
Katie: Sometimes I do.

Alex: Wal-mart is like a time-warp. You walk in and boom you've been there for an hour.

Katie: We have a tendency to be late to Peder Eide concerts.
Mom: No, you have a tendency to be late.
Katie: No, last time I was two hours early! But I might have been responsible for making the entire concert late.

Uncle: All of the sudden you get a gray eyebrow, and it's like, "I'm here, and I'm looking around! I can drive the car all by myself, thank you. Where's my beer?!"

Amy: By the time I get to church I'm tired.
Katie: Amy doesn't love Jesus!
Amy: No. [Beat] Wait. [Beat] What did you say?

Laura: Do we have any Dixie cups?
Mom: Yes, they're in the slow cooker.

Christina: Laura, I really like those pants. They make your legs look two inches deep.

Uncle Boris: If you give a moose a muffin.
Mom: If you give a pig a pancake.
Katie: If you give a squirrel a shrimp.
Uncle Boris: If you give a cow a cornflake.
Mom: If you give a mouse a cookie.
Uncle Boris: No, it has to start with the same number.

Grandma: The [Christmas] tree was giving me the finger in reverse.

Katie: I have "Live Like Christmas" stuck in my head.
Laura: Good! 'Cuz IT'S CHRISTMAS!

Tabitha: Sorry. My stomach makes weird noises after I eat.
Rebekah: It's called digestion.

Alex: You just stabbed yourself with my fingernail.

Laura: I have to go pick up twenty things in my room because that's how old I am.
Mom: Or you could pick up for twenty minutes.
Laura: No!

Jamie: My goal this weekend is to make it in Katie's quote book.

Mom: Oh, there's a random plate in the fridge.
Katie: Better than a fork in the den.
Friend: Did I just walk into an alternate dimension?
Christina: Welcome to the Axelsons'!

Jamie: Ok, she never needs to wear her hair like that again. She looks like the girl from Star Wars--Glena.

Mom: If I'm going to get anything done today, I have to take off this sweater.
Katie: What?! If you want to be productive, you have to be naked?
Mom: No, no, no. That's now what I said. This sweater--
Laura: She already told me. That sweater you can't roll up the sleeves and the bottom's stretched out so it's BAAHUM PAAAAAH!
Katie: Is that a direct quote?
Mom: How do you spell that?

Chris: What will Andy say is your quirkiest feature?
Elizabeth: I repeat myself. I say the same thing.

"Rudolph is like the Bible--you can't take it out of context."

Uncle Jack: We didn't pray, you know.
Katie: I talked to Jesus already.
Uncle Jack: I find myself doing that a lot--especially with you guys around.

Jennifer: Save money. Buy pants.

Katie: Matthew, I really don't mind if you sing Christmas songs--even if your voice isn't cooperating. But we need Jesus Christmas songs. No Santa Christmas songs today.
Matthew: Well, if you paint Santa as a Christ-figure--
Katie: No.

Laura: Sometimes Miranda bites me.
Mom: Bite her back!
Laura: Zach did once, and she cried!

Katie: Jennifer, do I need my Bible?
Amy [serious]: No. We're only going to church.

Rhonda: Awe, man, I am tired! Claudia, it's going to have to be a fast bath.
Donovan: I am totally Tweeting that!
Rhonda, Claudia: No! We want jobs some day! Don't Tweet about us giving the cat a bath.

Mom: Katie's driving so that means she's ultimately the boss!

Katie: Does anyone know what the temperature is supposed to be today?
Amy: Check your email.
Jennifer: High of 51. So cold!

Mom: I have not successfully made burnt carrots yet!

Lauren: Do you spell your name as one word or two?
Maryrose: One with no capital "r."
Sarah: I don't think God cares.

Katie: What's for dinner?
Mom: I don't know yet. I don't know who's all going to be here. If it's just Dad and me, we're having steak. If everybody's here, we're having bologna.

Laura: If your socks and my socks had a baby, it would look like this scarf!

"God appoints people who disappoint to point to a God who never disappoints." - Ann Voskamp

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Guatemala

From Katie: Today I'm excited to head to Guatemala (one of my favorite countries) with Compassion (one of my favorite ministries) through the eyes of Ashley (one of my favorite bloggers whom I've never actually met in real life). Sit back, relax, and cheer as you see how God worked!

I didn’t think I had the kind of courage it takes to pack my passport and hop on a plane to a foreign country without any friends or family until my friend Brian died. He’d been doing work with a humanitarian aid organization in Afghanistan when he was killed on August 5, 2010. Brian and I had worked as camp counselors together for two years and had become good friends. His death shook my world to the core. I wasn’t sure how to cope, so I prayed. Often.

I was already sponsoring two little girls through Compassion International but had felt for many months that I needed to sponsor another child. In the midst of the grief surrounding my friend’s death, I decided to start searching for another child to add to my Compassion family. It took a few weeks, but I finally found a very handsome little boy in Guatemala. He had a shy smile and sparkling eyes but those were not the first things that caught my eye. That little boy shared both his first and middle names with my friend.

A few months later I found out Compassion was hosting a sponsor tour to Guatemala. I’d never been out of the country before. I couldn’t say much more than¡Qué pasa, calabaza!” in Spanish. And my heart pounded every time I thought about trying to go through customs. But in a moment of insanity or incredible courage (I’ll never know which), I signed up for the trip and paid the deposit.

I shouldn’t have been afraid. I should have known God would take care of me. But me of little faith, I was afraid. Very, very afraid. As the trip inched closer and closer, I started to notice strange “coincidences.” I nearly unraveled in gratitude when I received the schedule for the tour and saw that the day I would meet my little Brian was the one year anniversary of my friend’s death.

I set out on the trip at the end of July, passport and antacids in hand. We started out the trip with an outing to a Compassion church partner. The kids led us to our seats one by one and sang familiar songs in Spanish. They showed us their classrooms and drawings and letters from their sponsors, then we ate dinner together. I’m from the South where hospitality is an art form, but the kids in this project took it to a whole new level. I didn’t feel like a stranger in the country of Guatemala. I felt like family.

The week continued, and I only fell more and more in love with the people I met, with the others on my tour, and with Compassion. We witnessed children carrying the world on their shoulders, setting it all aside as they walked through the doors of the Compassion project and saw their friends. We met young adults with accounting and architecture degrees all because of God’s work in their lives through Compassion and letters of encouragement from their sponsors. I particularly enjoyed walking through the office there in Guatemala City, getting to know the staff, and hearing about the inner workings of Compassion in Guatemala.

On our last day there, we met our sponsored children. I lined up and waited to meet Brian, feeling more nervous than I’d felt on my wedding day. I worried Brian wouldn’t like me or that he’d be upset because I hadn’t written him enough letters. Suddenly my name was called, I was propelled into a large room, and a little boy rocketed himself into my arms. I saw his dark brown hair, falling into his eyes in the same way my friend’s hair had fallen. I choked on tears and a smile.

That little boy loved me. And God loved me enough to take my grief and turn it into something beautiful through something as simple as sponsorship. When I first started my journey as a Compassion sponsor, I kind of guessed how my letters and $38 a month could change the life of a child. But I never dreamed that God would use that same sponsorship to pour compassion and joy into my own painful circumstance. All through a little boy with my friend’s name and haircut.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Returning Home

I didn't do it intentionally. Honest!

Things like Christmas, family vacation, pre-planned blogposts, and a sore arm had gotten in the way. All of the sudden it had been... well, way too long.

It hadn't felt like it had been a long time otherwise I would have taken care of it long before I flopped down on a king size log bed with a purple pen and my Writer's Notebook.

Yup, I was rusty. It hurt. And I silently cursed myself for smacking my forearm on whatever I was clumsy enough to crash into.

But I loved it.

It felt so good to be back, to be doing something I loved. It was a deep breath of rich air. It was calming and refreshing.

I pushed through the pain of the pen's movement across the page. I slowly shook the dust from the dictionary stored in my corner of my brain. I smiled as I saw the influence of other writers and as the piece took a different direction than I anticipated.

It was good. It was home.

Home is watching my fingers bleed purple ink.

Home is the opening chords of a familiar song.

Home is digging into the Word when you've gotten busy, lazy, and unintentional.

Home is freedom and fresh air. Comfort, love, and uncontainable joy.

Home is sleeping between your own sheets after a long vacation. Home is hugs waiting for you at the door and milk in the fridge.

While the physical location of home is changing once again, the emotional feeling of home follows me wherever I go.

For this I am grateful.

I am also grateful for grace. For hobbies, no, for ways of life, that return after having been abandoned.

<>< Katie

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Different Than Planned

Ashley and I have never met in real life. We both call Baptist Country "home." Right now God has us stationed in two different winter wonderlands.

So I'm pretending I'm skiing and sledding in hers today.

But, really, I'm talking about what to do when life doesn't look the way you expected and examining the life of Joseph (he's from Genesis).

Come play with us!

<>< Katie

PS: In the interest of things being different than planned, Wacky Wednesday will be next week.

Now stop stalling and go over to Ashley's.

Why are you still here?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Haiti

We're kicking off our journey around the world in Haiti with Rachel. Rachel is in physician’s assistant school and has had the opportunity to serve the Lord in Haiti on three medical mission trips through the North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM). You can read other stories from her trips and hear more from her heart at

Katie: Tell us a little bit about Haiti.
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake affected approximately two million people around Port-au-Prince, the capital. It is estimated that 220,000 people lost their lives during the earthquake.

Haiti before the earthquake:
  • Over 70 percent of people lived on less than one to two dollars per day
  • In the city, approximately 86 percent lived in slum conditions
  • 80 percent of education was provided in often poor-quality private schools
  • One out of two people in Port-au-Prince had no access to latrines and only one out of three had access to tap water
Haiti after the earthquake:
  • 1.5 million people live in tents; over 100,000 are at critical risk for storms and flooding
  • Over 180,000 homes are damaged or destroyed leaving 1.5 million people homeless
  • Less than 65 percent of primary school age children are actually enrolled because they cannot afford it. Of those enrolled because they cannot afford it, only 63 percent will complete it.
(source: The World Fact Book)

People are living in tents cities like this around Port-au-Prince
Katie: What were you guys doing in Haiti?

We stay in a house at a mission compound rented from Global Outreach (also presently housing Samaritan’s Purse) located in Titanyen, Haiti, about 20 miles north of the Port-au-Prince airport. The teams consist of volunteers doing construction and medical missions. The construction teams build temporary Samaritan’s Purse shelters and permanent cement houses and churches.

Since October 2011 the construction phase of the mission has stopped, but the medical mission seems to be growing. Each week the medical teams see on average about 1,700 to 2,000 patients. There are two medical teams, Alpha and Omega, each led by a Haitian doctor and consisting of Haitian translators, nurses, and pharmacy workers. We serve alongside the Haitian staff to see hundreds of patients each day. Each day the two teams go to a different mobile clinic site around Haiti. We pack everything we need to set up clinic in our van and have clinic in churches, tents, and outside under a tree.

Medical Clinic begins with set up, then introducing yourself to the patients, sharing scripture, a testimony or greeting, morning prayer, then the doctor teaches the patients about a pertinent medical topic (Cholera, hygiene, Malaria, etc.).

The patients first come to triage (where I work) where we assess the patient, taking vital signs, then they see the doctor, and then go to the pharmacy to get their medications or other needed items (clothes, infant formula, shoes, glasses, etc.). The night time activities consist of packing pills in preparation for the next clinic day, as well as devotions with the team.
These are the faces of the ones that, though they have little to none of things, they minister in mighty ways. We come to provide hope, medical care, or build a house, yet we too are forever changed and blessed.
Katie: What were you expecting?
In looking back at my blog, I was not really sure what to expect, I had never been to third world country. However, ever since I was young I knew that God had called me to go and do medical missions in a country in need.

I did not imagine that God would call me to Haiti. After I heard about the opportunity through a missions conference through my church, I knew God was calling me to serve in Haiti. It was neat that my mother had been to Haiti when she was my age, and, before passing, my grandfather gave me a Haitian dollar my mother had given him twenty years. For each of my trips the Lord has provided a way for me to go.

These boys made stick glasses to look like mine!
Katie: What did you find?
What I have found in Haiti is much more than I could have ever imagined. I found purpose and a calling to long term medical missions. It was eye-opening to go to the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

I found a people who are in need of the basic necessities of life, in need in shelter, clothes, food, and medical care. These people less than a four hour flight away yet live in a totally different world than the one I left. They live in the hot year-round Haiti weather, working hard day in and out to survive, to provide food and shelter for their families.

I found a people on spiritual journeys as we are, some so on fire for the Lord, serving Him whole heartedly, yet some not knowing Christ at all, and some turning to Voodoo for healing and fulfillment.

I found a people living a tough life, one of hard work, many miles of walking whether it be to school, to the market, or to work. They are a beautiful people who speak Haitian Creole and French. They are craftsmen, many are mothers, and have many children. The children are so loving; they long to learn, and have opportunity. The people are kind, patient, and very appreciative of you coming to their country.

I found a people whom I have grown to love and care about their health and well-being but most importantly care about their salvation in Christ.

Katie: What can we learn from Christians in Haiti?
We can learn humility. We can learn to be thankful and appreciative of the healthcare we have, the clean water we are able to drink, the accessibility we have to food, and medications. In comparison I do not have to fear each night for my safety, I do not live as many children are living in orphanages, unable to read or write, wearing the same shirt and shorts day after day, walking with no shoes, not knowing what it means to be able to draw, or read a book or the Bible.

We do not have to live in a tent, walking miles each day for food, not knowing if we will eat. We do not have to worry if the ran comes and destroys our tent or take turns to sleep on the ground at night. We have a family; we have free schooling. In Haiti, many cannot afford schooling, many go without proper medical care, many women and infants die during child labor.

What I have learned from the Christians in Haiti is they have a faith so much stronger than I feel I could ever have. They have hope of a better future; they work so hard and are thankful for the opportunities God gives them each day for life, for the ability to serve others, for a job (even if they do not make much). They go each day without complaining. They serve God and worship Him with all their being, hands raised high, and voices loud and harmony with thanksgiving!!

They are inspire me and encourage me in my daily walk with Christ, motivating me to continue my studies in Physician Assistant school, pushing me towards a stronger faith and trust in my Lord. My Haitian sisters and brothers have such a passion, as I do, to tell the Haitian people about Christ, to show them God’s love, and meet their needs physically and spiritually. The Haitian doctors I work with finished medical school in the U.S. and could practice in the U.S. yet they know that their schooling was a gift and choose to stay and serve their people in Haiti.

NCBM have some of the most amazing Haitian workers, Christian men and women serving their Lord and their people with such humble hearts. They are dear friends and I am so thankful to serve with them through NCBM. One worker writes:
"I live in Port-au-Prince I work with NCBM in pharmacy and as a translator (I learned English at school). I appreciate the things NCBM has been doing in Haiti for about two years, helping the homeless and the sick people after the earthquake. It's the first time in my life I have been employed, I pray God to bless all of you, thank you for coming to help my people and me. I have a reason to pray for all of you, I’m so glad to work with NCBM, and for my first time it's a good experience in my life. God bless you."- Michel

Katie: How did you see the Lord work while you were in Haiti?
I saw God working in countless ways. Each trip God has brought particular children and people into my life whom will now be forever friends. I am able to support them in their schooling, uplift them in their faith and walks with Christ, and stand alongside them during the good times and the bad.

The first trip I met a little girl named Venia. Venia's mother brought her with complaints of mouh sores and ear pain. As I examined her and began to get her vital signs, I noticed some injuries: her right arm was extremely scarred, her little hand mangled, and the right side of her face drooped and was swollen.

I soon learned from Dr. Vlad that this little girl had been injured in the earthquake. Her house collapsed on her and the right side of her body had been caught under debris. During the earthquake her mother was safe having been outside at the market. She searched for her daughter and after three days could still not find her.

The mother resolved to pay someone to bulldoze the house to retrieve her daughter's body. However, to everyone's surprise and amazement, they found her alive!

Medical volunteers performed surgery for free to save her right upper extremity and her face. Today she is doing well with minor complaints. Venia has trouble with mouth sores due to the scarring in her mouth but has adapted well at using her right limb. Her personality and cognition are all there. She caught my attention as soon as I met her, standing out from the other children with her sweet demeanor and affectionate smile.

As I treated Venia, she wanted to hold my hand and was curious about each task I performed. Venia sat so patiently, letting Dr. Vlad clean her sores and her ear until the very end when he had to apply a lot of pressure. She burst into tears, however was comforted by a small prayer Beanie Baby I was able to give her.

The bear's name on the tag is Hope. My sister gave it to me to give to a child who might need it. I carried it in my bag each day to the clinics but was not sure if I would find the right child to gift it until Venia.

Venia was hope because at age two she had survived the earthquake for three days. Now, at age three, her mother hopes to send her to school but cannot afford it. (Haitian children begin school at age three).

Dr. Vlad saw the potential in Venia and made sure to get the mother's contact information to see about the possibility of getting financial support for school. Unaware of this need, I approached the doctor about how I could help support Venia. He mentioned her need for schooling.

As the other team members heard about her story, they wanted to help as well. We were able to raise enough to send her to school for three years and hope to continue to raise support for her.

I was so thankful that God sent her to our clinic that day. Since then I have been able to see her again and help her with her continued medical needs as well as her needs for school and clothing. I have developed a close relationship with her family, and they keep a dear photo album I made for Venia of photos of us. I am praying that the schooling she has is able to teach her to adapt to overcoming the disabilities caused from her injuries and that she will grow to know the loving Savior who saved her life and has a purpose for her!

On my second trip I remember a tough day with almost 200 patients, and we had one little boy whom we didn't think was going to make it. The little guy, Somy, was fighting for his life. He had been orphaned and was not being taken care of. We tried so hard to start an IV but he was so dehydrated that the only veins we could find on his head could not hold up.

It was so sad seeing the little boy so helpless, and we were growing hopeless as he laid almost lifeless. I held him cradled in my arms; my mother and I sang, "Jesus Loves Me" over little Somy as I tried to think of what to do. I finally figured out that he would drink my Propel water as I tripped some into his mouth with a syringe.

We really wanted to pay for him to go to the hospital, but the Haitians told us sadly his caretakers would pocket the money and never take him to the hospital. Instead my mother spent the rest of the day at the clinic holding Somy in her arms and giving him drips of Popel until his belly was full. We would later send his caretaker medications and more Propel packets but all we could do was pray for his life.
In the midst of this sad time a blessing came into the church in the form of a screaming woman. At first we didn't know why she was screaming, but we quickly learned she was about to deliver! I was so excited and draped a blanket on a broken table on the ground behind the church to prepare a place for her.
During the painful delivery, the mother and I became very close very fast as I got to support this 19 year old mother as she rested her head on my leg and squeezed my hand. I got to assist the Haitian doctor deliver a baby girl. When we were finished the doctor asked the mother what she wanted to name the baby. She answered, "Rachelle" after me!

Baby Rachel and her namesake

I was looking back at my blog from my first trip and God reminded me of how He was teaching me about humble sacrifice. I blogged this:
"The sacrifices we may have made to come here to Haiti (time, money, etc.) seem pale in comparison to the sacrifices the Haitian people make each day to live, many still praising and serving the Lord. Sacrifice: Haitian doctors have the ability to practice in the States or in their home part of Haiti yet they choose to work with NC Baptist Men serving in some of the poorest areas of Haiti. They even sponsor children for schooling from their own meager salaries. Sacrifice: I observed the children who so graciously shared so much when they have so little. **One such family came to me, all three children with chicken pox, and very high fevers 103-104 F. I immediately gave them Children's Tylenol. After they took their medication, I gave them my one last dumdum sucker. It amazed me that without even being asked each child passed around the sucker to each other. Never complaining but calmly waiting for their turn. We saw this throughout the day. We gave some of our left over PB & J sandwiches to the workers that helped us and a few hungry children. They began to break the sandwiches and divide them among the others."
This theme of sacrifice I would see carry over into my third trip to Haiti. Having had just finished my first intense semester of PA school and just finished finals I had one day to pack and prepare for my next trip to Haiti. I felt rushed in getting ready for this trip, but I knew God had provided for me to go, and I just prayed that God would use me and reveal Himself to me in new ways. God had already been using me even in the U.S. I had been able to speak to my church and to my work about Haiti, and I had been able to keep in touch with the Haitian workers from home, building relationships with them, learning more about their lives and continuing to lift them up in prayer and be support for them.

God opened my eyes and heart to seeing the struggles that the handicapped face in Haiti.

One lady, almost fully blinded by cataracts, guided to me by her son. It was so sad to see: this woman losing her sight due to something that can be fixed in the U.S. Just to think how much this woman is having to endure and go through just to make it each day. Living in Haiti is hard enough but being handicapped is unimaginable to me.

One of our coordinators shared about a woman at her clinic crippled from rheumatic fever; she usually crawls each week to clinic to get needed medications. It’s hard enough to walk miles and miles to clinic in the heat but to crawl and walk on your hands to clinic is astounding to me. This woman also brings her three children, one she papooses to her stomach and the other two follow close behind. This was unfathomable for me to hear, showing true dedication this woman has to life and for her children! Seeing them makes my struggles in life seem so meaningless compared to what she goes through each day.

During this last trip God taught me firsthand to see how the sick and handicapped truly feel and what they experience in Haiti. I had three days where I worked at the clinics, which was such a blessing, but on the third night I got severly sick.

I did not expect to get so sick and miss the last two clinic days. Yet when my control and comfort were taken from me and I was struck down by a violent illness, I had to rely on God to get me through. During that time of pain and suffering, I clinged to the praise song:
“I may be weak but Your Spirit’s strong in me, my flesh may fail, but my God You never will... I may be weak… but Your Spirit’s strong in me… my flesh may fail… but my God You NEVER will… all I am I surrender… give me faith to trust what You say, that Your good and Your love is great, I broken inside I give You my life…" - “Give Me Faith” by Elevation Worship
I am unsure what I actually had or how I got it but through it all God was so faithful and I was able to get better for the plane ride home. Although this was not at all what I had planned, God taught me new things during that time.

During my time of pain I tried to think about the sick patients in Haiti whom are outside, sick and lying on the dirt, no bathroom, no IV, no doctor. I tried to think of the little child whom I may have gotten this illness from and it broke my heart to think that even if we gave that child antibiotics, without IV fluids, he probably will not make it this night.

Earlier in the week I shared a devotion from the Bible verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for thee for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” In this passage Paul is praying to God to remove the “thorn in his flesh” which was causing him constant pain. It was such a deep difficulty that Paul pleading with God to have his suffering taken away.

Although God did not remove the painful burden Paul had, He answered his prayer promising something more: His grace. God not only gave him His grace for this particular difficulty but promised His grace throughout life, in every trial. Though Paul would suffer, he was still able to exalt the name of Christ. When we are helpless God’s strength and power is even more evident and able to shine through. These struggles we face are opportunities to fulfill God’s purpose as a Christian, more than we ever could in a pain-free life.

This week I did not believe that this devotional would manifest so readily in my life, but God’s power was an answer to my prayers this week. I originally presented this devotional thinking only of the Haitian patience and what they endure in their daily struggles and pain, but God taught me first hand I too needed His grace this week. I know God is preparing me through these trips for the mission field. Once I complete school I hope to serve in medical missions more long term.

Giving away clothes and school supplies in the clinic tent
Katie: How can we best pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti?
  • Since NCBM responded to help the people of Haiti following the earthquake, we have see 124,847 patients and had 1,519 salvations! Wow, praise God!! Please pray for this upcoming year that God may do even more amazing works through the missions organizations in Haiti and through our medical missions teams serving at the mobile medical clinics each week.
  • Please pray for Haitian staff that God will provide for their needs, give them encouragement, and strength to continue the tiring work week after week.
  • Please pray for the new government and leadership in Haiti, that they will have God's guidance in deciding how to best establish a better Haiti. To provide schooling, jobs, healthcare, housing, electricity, clean water, safety, etc. To address sanitation and water issues. To care for the growing number of orphans.
  • Pray for the doctors that they will be able to establish more long-term clinics.
  • Pray for my Haitian friends tha they will have opportunities for more schooling and for continued jobs.
  • When I went to Haiti, I experienced the closeness the people face to life and death. Death is an all too common occurrence in Haiti, so please, please pray for those who don't know the Lord. Many die daily from the small infant plagued by malnutrition and fever to the adult who dies suddenly from a heart attack.

Me and the Haitian staff