One day early last week Abby asked Chris and I if what our lives are like now is anything like what we thought they would be ten years ago. You know the question, “Where do you see yourself ten years from now?” Because we come from such a goal oriented society that thinks it can really control those things. My response to her question was just out right laughter. Is this where I thought I would be ten years ago. Um, no. Back then my “life picture” looked something like me being married with a few kids and being a soccer mom. Still living close to my family.
Ten years ago I had just graduated from Bible school and was trying to get over a horrible summer work experience and gain some sort of foot hold on life. I think if someone would have said, “Hey, guess what you’re going to be doing ten years from now?” I would have did the same thing I did the other day – laughed out loud – at them when they filled in the blanks. Little did I know the plans that God had for me.
I should preface this with a little story about me in Bible school. It sheds a little light on my whole perception of me being involved in missions work, at that time in my life. I think I was either in my first or second year, I really don’t remember. It was our Missions Fest week at Prairie. For anyone that knows Prairie, you know that it has a reputation of being a missions boosting school. Me? I was there because I wanted to be doing camp ministry. We were winding down in the week and I think it was the last chapel session. Whoever was speaking that day, someone from some missions organization, took the opportunity to do a missions “alter call”. They were very into it. To the point where they just kept persisting and persisting until almost all 500+ of us in the chapel were at the front on our knees promising God we would go to the far corners of the earth. Me? I was weeping in my seat because I felt like I didn’t fit. I wasn’t being called into missions at all. That wasn’t where my heart was. I was bawling because as I looked around I saw small handfuls of people like me still sitting in their seats resisting the pressure to go up front because everyone else was.
Obviously the moment left an impression on me. So, did I ever see myself here so many years ago. NO. Not one single little bit. The funny thing is, is that after I graduated and moved back to Armstrong and tried to get myself sorted out and on my feet, in some way, God started moving. I got sick which led to me not working for a few weeks and then to me working at my home church. Through that job in the youth department (which ironically I got because I had a youth ministry degree) changed me so much. God worked on me through the people around me. Through that job/ministry my first exposure to missions of any kind happened. I had always run away from opportunities. I see now that I was full of fear of the unknown. People ask me now if I had travelled a lot before I moved to Haiti. Nope. In fact, the first time I ever left squishy North America, it was to come to Haiti on that first missions trip that I helped LEAD. Talk about trial by fire!
I look back on the years since then and I can see God’s hand in so many little things and ways. I see now how even though my butt was glued to that pew so many years ago in chapel, He was starting to work at me and prepare me for what we’re living in now. I see it in funny ways, like how me, the girl who’s parents still live in the same house that they did when I was born, always felt this thing deep down inside me that said I would live overseas which was so odd considering how many times I thought about traveling and got scared. I think about how my Dad thought it was really important that he teach me “boy” type things, like how to use basic tools and how to drive big vehicles and how now men will stop in their tracks when they see me, a white woman, driving down the road in our big 6 wheeled, 14 foot box Daihatsu like it’s a Honda Civic. Thanks for thinking those things were important Dad!
I know the title of this post doesn’t make much sense yet, but it’s the way I’m feeling right now as I think about the fact that in 8 hours not only will we be starting a new year, but also a new decade. Is this where I thought I would be ten years ago. Haa haaa ha haaa haaa ha haaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. I just didn’t want you to feel left out.
I feel hesitant right now because this time last year marked what feels like the day that our lives started to get thrown into chaos. The day where Chris and I looked at each other and said, “Well, aside from trucks breaking down we’ve had three good years.” It was the day I watched my husband run out of a burning building because the generator room had gone up in flames. From that point on it just felt like one thing after another with the van being lit on fire as the icing on the cake, and dealing with everything around that since.
Do I feel hesitant? Yes. I feel hesitant because I don’t want to put too much stock in the possibility that maybe today marks the end of a hard year and the start of one that might be better. I don’t know if I have the energy to deal with the disappointment if I’m wrong. Do I know that God has good plans for us. Absolutely. I just kind of feel like a cat licking my wounds right now though.
I do want to say that there is hope in me. When I can put the difficulties of the last year in a box and set it aside I’m blown away by the ways that God has just been working in amazing ways this year. I know I’ve said this recently, but in what has been the hardest year for us and the mission since we started in 2001 we have seen more growth than I think we thought was possible.
This time last year we set the goal of installing 120 filters every month. That was a stretch for us. But you know what? In recent months we’ve seen over 200 installed, and in September we saw the missions 10,000th filter go into a Haitian home. That really resonated with me.
As we went into 2009 Chris and I talked about how we would like to see the mission grow and change and reach more people. To do that we knew we needed a second production site opened up in the next couple of years, but to do that we needed the right people in charge. We talked about putting out a call for another couple our age to come train with us and work towards moving to a new site.
One thing my husband will tell you about me is that I’m the one that is the cautious one when it comes to new things. I’m the one that’s always putting on the brakes, worrying about the details, and wanting to go slow. He’s a thinker so usually by the time he brings something up he’s already hashed it through over and over. When we started talking about the second site and looking for people I was the one that was all, “Hold up, lets take this slow and do it right.” Chris was the one that kept saying, “Leslie, if we want to do this by 2011 we need people soon!” He’s the long term dreamer, I’m the one that can take that, work backwards and help fill in the details.
Once we decided to move forward we put the posting together and left it. We got nothing. Not even questions from people, which was kind of crazy because we regularly get staff applications. But for about two months there was NOTHING. Then one random Sunday afternoon I think it was we got a set of applications and as I started reading through them I just kept saying, “Chris, you NEED to read these!” We literally were sitting at two computers saying things like, “Oh, have you read question 5 yet?!” We were totally excited because every single thing we were looking for in the people we wanted to see come to work with us was there, even the things we hadn’t included in the posting.And you know what? We never did receive any other applications for the role.
Peter and Sara and their boys, Noah and Abe are less than two weeks away from arriving in Haiti. As we all look back over the process of them finding out about the mission and applying and interviewing we can so clearly see the hand of God moving. There are too many things that have just continued to affirm to all of us that not only are they supposed to be here, but that the mission is in a place where God wants to grow it and reach farther. That’s exciting!
In a bad economy we have seen our donations stay consistent and for the first year in the history of the mission we didn’t go into December wondering if we would have enough to cover all of the expenses coming up. We are being contacted by new donors who are seeking us out, not the other way around. We can see that the mission has earned a reputation of being responsible with what we are given and making a big impact with it. That’s exciting and very humbling.
Yes, this year has been very difficult for us. And yes, I’m feeling hesitant about stepping into 2010. I mean, it can either get worse, or it can get better, right? I know that we still have struggles to move through. Our case is no where near from over. Our van is still not back from being repaired. Our adoption is still not done. But we’re here. And we’ve made it this far. And I can see how God has used this year to chip off a lot of rough edges in us. I see that he’s working in our lives and doing things that I know never would have happened if it weren’t for living this life.
One of the funny things that comes to mind when I step back and look at our life is that I think, “We’re those missionaries!” You know, the ones that have a crazy life that leaves most people standing there not quite sure what to say when you say something casually like, “I looked down in the yard and saw my daughter sitting on the guards shotgun, which was in his lap and just thought, “Huh, Olivia is sitting on a shotgun,” and then went back to answering emails.” And now my mother is probably freaking out. It’s okay mom, she only did it once!
What I’m trying to say though, is that no, we never thought life would be like this. I’m just a normal girl from a community that has seen four generations of my family living there. We have streets named after our family because of where the old dairy farm used to be. When I go out to get groceries or vote people look at me and say, “You’re Ralph and Jean’s granddaughter, aren’t you?” I never thought my life would involve living in another country, especially not one as colorful as Haiti. I never thought that one day seven years ago when I looked Chris in the eyes and had “that moment” where that still small voice said, “This is him” that it would in fact be him and that we would be waking up to each other every day. I never thought he would be the father of my children, and that our first child would be the fire ball of energy that is Olivia.
As I rocked and watched Olivia sleep in my arms this afternoon I thanked God for the journey that he started us on when we got the phone call that a little girl had been brought into Heartline and that she was just what we had said we had wanted. God knew that we needed her in our lives and I feel so privileged that he picked us to walk through life with her. I think back to how so very small she was the day we brought her home and look at her now and am blown away. She is so fun, so involved in life, so smart, so many things.
Yes, I’m hesitant, but that is surrounded by a deep knowledge that God has chosen this path for us. That even though neither of us in our wildest dreams would have imagined that God wanted us to be the interesting people at the cocktail party, here we are and we are trying to slug through it as best we can. Maybe this year will be another hard one for us. I don’t know. I’m hoping not because frankly I’m pretty wiped out and would love to go back to things being boring, but then again, what kinds of stories would we have to tell our grandkids?
As the calendar flips tonight and we move into a new decade I hope it finds you feeling hopeful of the things coming. God writes good stories, we often just don’t realize it until we can go back and re-read them. We will be the first to tell you that life has been hard this year, but also quick to add on there that there is no where we would rather be right now.
Happy New Year!