A Journey with Purpose

Yesterday was a rough day.  I know that this journey has a purpose. I know that I am here for a reason and I am blessed beyond belief that God chose be to me here today.

I am supervising three amazing young ladies that are interning with us for two months. It has been a joy and privilege to be able to lead them and I pray that this is a growing period for them and that God reveals great things to them as He has to me during my time here.

SONY DSCWe had the opportunity to walk around a community called Williamson yesterday where one of our schools are and talk to some families.  We had a chance to talk with people and hear about their lives and how God might use World Wide Village to educate and develop this area long-term.  SONY DSCThe girls and I were able to pray with them and encourage them and just be a friendly face to see and hold. Last week when we were hanging with the kids in our school one of our interns, Acassi, made a sweet connection with a little 3 year old named Calypso.  As we walked around the neighborhood yesterday she asked our tour guide, our Pastor of Williamson’s 11 yr old daughter, if she knew where Calypso lived so we could get a chance to say hi to him.  We were actually really close to his house so we went there.

As I walk around I realize…my eyes and my heart are used to seeing poverty.  Though I have only been here just under 2 months, there is no escaping it. It is everywhere you go in Haiti and I wouldn’t say I am numb to it at all, but I find myself seeing these places and people through the heart of God and love them so much that I don’t see only the negative anymore. I look for opportunities to minister and help and pay close attention to needs that I see throughout each day.

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Sister (I would guess 5, but when we asked her she didn’t know how old she is), Calypso (3), and baby brother (1)

The sight we saw when we got to Calypso’s house has been replaying like a video on the screen in my head ever since.  Sitting on a cement block on the side of their tiny house all huddled up together were these three kids crying their eyes out.  The situation we found out shortly after we arrived is that their Mother goes to town and walks the streets to sell Popsicle type things to make money. Each day she leaves early in the morning and comes back after it is dark, the daughter told us. Since their are no real neighbors nearby they have zero supervision, food or water during the day or a chance to bathe.  It was the worst thing I have ever seen in my life. They seemed almost sedated by neglect and exhausted from sitting in the heat and crying for hours.

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Our Operations Manager, Peter, that was out there with us yesterday was as distraught as we were and we immediately switched from tears to action. We asked the little girl a few questions and she was able to grab a couple of items of clothing and we took them with us.  Watching this probably 5 yr old girl have to be in charge of her two brothers and was so sad herself was just horrifying.  After walking to a neighbor and letting them know what we were doing, we took them in our arms and carried them with us to our school where Pastor Joussaint and his wife were.  We were able to bathe them, change them into clean clothes and feed them a snack. I literally gave them all of the Haitian money I had on me so that we could get some food to cook for them for the rest of the day as well as the next.

While his wife prepared a meal for them, Pastor Joussaint explained to us what he knew about this family.

SONY DSCThey do not have a present Father at all.  There is an older brother, around 13yrs old, that isn’t around much.  They had given him things to go sell to help out but he would usually spend the money before he even got back to his family and would go missing for days.  Pastor told us that about 2 years ago, the mother was gone all day selling things and came home to her 5 yr old child dead.SONY DSC

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The inside of their “house”

I can’t imagine what these kids have seen and had to experience.  I can’t imagine being left alone in what I couldn’t even possibly call a home, without something to eat or drink all day in the squelching heat.  I can’t imagine wondering if or when my Mom would come home and having to comfort my younger siblings as a 5 yr old. A beautiful 5 yr old that should be playing and laughing.  A little baby that should be learning how to walk and talk from his Mother. A sweet 3 yr old that is almost dead socially from the lack of attention and affection.

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Chanaelle, Chachi, and Acassi with 3 of the cleanest, cutest kids ever

We were able to leave them with food in their bellies, clean clothes on their freshly washed bodies (even though all we had was a dress for the baby boy:-/), and a hint of  a smile.

SONY DSCWe knew that Pastor and his wife were going to care for them last night and today and we need to come up with a more permanent solution so that this doesn’t continue.

The struggles the day brought me were many but each one very real. I struggled to maintain my composure as a leader in front of my 20 yr old interns. I struggled to act strong and in control, risking them thinking I am heartless, so that I can make good decisions and a plan of action. I struggled as they asked me to bring the kids home to the guesthouse with us when I knew I had to say no, but all my heart wanted to do was take these kids away with me.  As we drove the hour an half home after this exhausting day, I cried. My mind couldn’t let go and stop spinning with the images I had seen and the pain that I experienced for these kids.  As the interns slept in the backseat of the car, I attempted to process my thoughts and began writing things that came to my mind.

I came home to a guest house with no Spouse/Partner to digest this day with.  No one to hug me and tell me it is going to be OK and we will figure something out.  I know that God uses these times to fill that void and be there for me, and He did that last night.  Some days are just tougher than others to be here on my own and handle some of these things but I am still grateful for every minute. I am still grateful for every tear I shed in pain for these people because I know God brought me here with a purpose.

My Devotion today said this, “Stay calmly conscious of Me today, no matter what. Remember that I go before you as well as with you into the day. Nothing takes Me by surprise. I will not allow circumstances to overwhelm you, so long as you look to Me. I will help you cope with whatever the moment presents. Collaborating with Me brings blessings that far outweigh all of your troubles. Awareness of my presence contains Joy that can endure all eventualities.” (Psalm23:1-4; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

Praise the Lord.

This Journey of Faith

Have you ever prayed for patience? Well, good luck with that.

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Pictures of and from our Guesthouse
where I live

I currently live in a 3rd World country.  If I am going to move to Haiti, I know how to do it right.  I live in a beautiful home and though we don’t have hot water or Air Conditioning, we have running water, filtered drinking water, electricity, internet, and a whole lot of fans, all in a safe gated community in the capitol city of Port au Prince.  I’m set up for success by an organization that has been here for over ten years and has it down. I am finishing my fourth week here already.

I thought this transition would be fairly simple and in some ways, I am surprised at how easy it has been for me. I mean, I just needed to adjust to the 95 degree weather alongside the 86% Humidity and I’d be fine! I have most of the luxuries that I am used to beyond that and I can focus on my work here and what I am setting out to do.

By week two, this transition I was in started to take interesting turns.  This organization that I am blessed to be a part of has some great things in their future and is going to make a huge difference for the people of Haiti.  I believe God is going to use me is some small part of that process and I can’t wait to watch it all come to fruition. When God has big plans, Satan fights back.  Slowly but surely I have been part of that fight in the last three weeks.  From the electricity being little-to-none most days, to our back-up generators failing in huge unmanageable ways, to our vehicles basically falling apart.  It has been a test.  I have showered with only drops of water to showering in the dark completely. I have gone days with only a couple of hours of electricity which means no fans or escape from the heat and mosquitos, no refrigerator to keep my food cold and safe to eat, while my pantry food is attacked by the ants coming in to escape the rain outside. Somehow, and it can only be God, I have been able to be content and keep my cool.  None of these things are typical for our place and is purely attack after attack.

The morning I woke up to my food destroyed by ants on top of all of the other situations, was the first time I had a small break down. I had maintained my smile and really truly hadn’t been too frustrated at that point. The staff we have here is so amazing and I never wanted to make them feel bad, so I am very careful of my words and actions in response to these issues.  I finally came upstairs frustrated by the ants preventing me from having my morning coffee and oatmeal, and I broke down. It all kind of caught up to me and I was tired of it.  As tears strolled down my face, I opened up my email to my daily devotion in my inbox. It was, of course, titled “Your Faith is Being Tested.” God cracks me up. Seriously, I laugh out loud at least once a week at Him and His tactics. As I read the devotion, lead by the verse “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold.” (1 Peter 1:7a NLT) I couldn’t help but smile and begin to feel better.

My family was updated in a long detailed venting email and they all responded lovingly as always.  My Dad responded with awesome words out of a book that he is reading and it is so great for what I needed to hear that day.

Psalm 121:1-8, “I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from the mountains?  No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.  God’s your Guardian right at your side to protect you-Shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moonstroke. God guards you from every evil, he guards your life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always.” (The Message)

About this Psalm Eugene Peterson says, “At no time is there the faintest suggestion that the life of faith exempts us from difficulties. What it promises is preservation from all the evil in them. On every page of the Bible there is recognition that faith encounters troubles. The sixth petition in the Lord’s Prayer is “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The prayer is answered every day, sometimes many times a day, in the lives of those who walk in the way of faith. (see also 1 Corinthians 10:13) The way to describe the Christian journey is to name and describe God who preserves, accompanies and rules us.”

Peterson goes on to say, “All the water in all the oceans cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside. Nor can all the trouble in the world harm us unless it gets within us. That is the promise of the Psalm…None of the things that happen to you, none of the troubles you encounter, have any power to get between you and God, dilute His grace in you, divert His will from you.”(see Romans 8:28, 31-32).

There was a lot more to be said in that email and from the scriptures detailed in that book and it was such a comfort to me.

God is faithful. During the testing process, during the refining process, with electricity and without. He is faithful.

A few pics from my first couple days here

A few pics from my first couple days here

I am at home in Haiti. Even with the attacks from Satan and the tough days, I feel 100% at home here and have no desire to be anywhere else. That is God and I couldn’t be happier to be the one he is using during these tests.  And I will prove to keep my Faith through them. The water is not getting in this boat!

It Begins: My Haitian Keychain

SONY DSCIf you have been following me through this blog, you know that God removed every “key” from my key-chain almost a year ago, in preparation to move me into a new place, both physically and spiritually. On May 5th I will begin to fill a new key-chain, in Haiti. . It’s been a time of waiting and listening, kicking and screaming, laughing and resting, frustration and contentment. God has been planning things for me that I never thought were possible.

I love to pack. Not packing to move, but packing for a trip. For me, half of the fun of going on a fun trip is in the excitement of planning and looking forward to it while purchasing tiny little bottles of things you don’t really need but are cute and small. In January, I was given the opportunity to join the team at World Wide Village (WWV) in Port au Prince, Haiti beginning in May for a 6 month internship. I have had roughly four months of preparation for this next step in this journey. There has been physical preparation like buying the things (clothing, toothpaste, deodorant, vitamins, luggage, etc) to bring with me for my time there, getting shots, physicals, and getting rid of the beautiful highlights in my hair that I will no longer be able to maintain. There has been spiritual and mental preparation while getting ready to adjust to a whole new life and culture while leaving behind my entire comfort zone of hot water, driving, Mexican food, time with friends/family, my church, my own room, and nail polish. Yes, nail polish is part of my comfort zone.

My comfort zone also includes the luxury of planning. I am a hard worker that will do what it takes to earn what I need/want and I enjoy doing it. I am a leader and a planner that will write out a game plan and structure of what needs to be done and make it happen. But, God wants to be in charge and take control of His plans.

This prep time has required a lot of trust, not that I am always good at it. Trust that God will provide the $10,000 that I had to raise in order to follow this call and go through this open door. What I didn’t realize is that this trust doesn’t only look like praying and allowing God to provide for me during this time. It comes with a lot of different emotions that come along with asking friends, family, churches, and strangers to financially invest in you and your calling. I have had to be 100% dependent on the idea that people think and believe enough in me and what God can do through me in Haiti, that I will do the right things when I get there, and their money will be worth spending on me. If they don’t, I can’t raise the money and this door that I have been waiting for, will rapidly slam in my face. I never thought of that aspect of this process. I know that I am dependent on God and his provisions and I am totally ok with that. But, to basically ask everyone you know for their approval in you and your abilities was a lot for me to handle. I have spent years working on building up my self-worth in God’s kingdom after years of events and people that tore it away from me.
But I can say one thing, when God wants to prove something to you, He will. God wanted me to lean in and trust Him, not only for the actual finances, but to believe that I am worth investing in. And I am. Because I was able to accept that truth from Him, I was able to allow people to bless me both through prayer and finances and God will bless them for it.
The response from everyone has been more than overwhelming and I cannot believe that through them God has provided all of the needed money and now I have an army of prayer warriors while I am over there.
I have been so blessed with the community of people that God has surrounded me with and it has been crucial to prepare me for this time away from those relationships.

I am looking forward to the friendships I will build while I am there with the beautiful Haitian people, as well as Americans that are on our mission’s teams that I will work with. Just as the director at WWV, Randy tells me to do, I am praying audacious prayers of what God will do in and through me in Haiti.

I will board the plane at 6am on Sunday morning , after saying goodbye to these amazing faces and many more, with the lyrics of my favorite All Sons and Daughters song ringing in my head…”Tomorrow’s Freedom is Today’s Surrender”.

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As I Journey On…

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The Beautiful Caribbean Water in Haiti-
photo by me 12/12

In the next two months, this journey is moving me forward. It’s been a rough and bumpy road but I’m ready for the next step. God has proven Himself faithful in guiding me and opening the doors to allow me to obey and follow.

I have been given the opportunity to move to Haiti in April to work in an internship role with World Wide Village. I have never looked forward to anything more in my entire life. Though the preparation is somewhat overwhelming, I am so excited for this next piece of the journey! I will have the privilege of working alongside the missions teams that come, helping with the child sponsorship program, and a whole myriad of jobs that will both challenge me and fill my spirit.

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My WWV Booth at the “Free Them” Human Trafficking event 1/25/13

I had a great experience a little over a week ago hosting a booth at an event in Orange County. It was a Human Trafficking event and they
allowed Non-Profits and churches to host tables with information. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to represent WWV (World Wide Village) and try to get children in our schools in Haiti sponsored. I have the information on child sponsorships at the end of my last blog so please check it out.
They had around 1,000 people in attendance and I think at least half of them stopped by my table. People are so shocked to hear the statistics of the education struggles in Haiti and how little it costs us to make a huge impact there. It was encouraging for me to have the chance to talk to people about it and see their interest. I would love to do more events before I leave and try to help as many of these kids as I can.

When I showed these people the pictures on my Power Point presentation of myself with these kids and told them I am going back for a while, their response was always shock. I’m not sure if I don’t look like the “type” to go and live amongst the Haitians, or they are shocked because I am single and young and am going. Everyone was encouraging and even though I was there promoting our child sponsorship program, I did have a couple people ask me how I pay for my own trip to go and live there for 6 months. I explained that since it is an Internship, I am responsible to pay my own way and that I need around $10,000 between now and April in order to make this a reality. One of the ladies that asked me that was very interested in sponsoring one of our little girls named Sophia.  She mentioned that she had a couple other booths to hit up and she’d be back before I left. I was completely packed up and ready to go by the time she made her way back to me, but I waited. She sat next to me and asked me a few questions about this journey and why I am going.  She explained to me that when she first approached my booth, she thought that she was here to sponsor a child, but after walking around she felt God had a different purpose for her there.  This beautiful, complete stranger, wrote me a check for $500 to help with the cost of my internship. I was so stunned and humbled that in that short amount of time speaking with me, she trusted me, listened to God and her heart, and acted in obedience.

If you ever wonder what God is up to in your life, listen.  He will show you and cancel any fears or doubts. I have a lot more fundraising to do, but by this one act of kindness, His faithfulness has proven to be present and relevant in my situation and I know that He is in control.
*If you like to know how to further support me on this trip, please follow this link with details on how…
http://www.facebook.com/events/121600574685824/

-I know I’ve already posted the words to a Jason Upton song once, but I can’t pass this one up.

Poverty– by Jason Upton

There’s a power in poverty that breaks principalities
and brings the authorities down to their knees.

There’s a brewing frustration and ageless temptation
to fight for control by some manipulation.

But the God of the kingdoms and God of the nations
The God of creation sends His revelation

Through the homeless and penniless Jesus the son
the poor will inherit the kingdom to come

Where will we turn when our world falls apart
and all of the treasures we’ve stored in our barns
Can’t buy the kingdom of God?

Who will we praise when we’ve praised all our lives
men who build kingdoms and men who build fame
but heaven does not know their names

What will we fear when all that remains
Is God on His throne, with a child in His arms,
and love in His eyes
And the sound of His heart cries

Here is the link to this song and the whole cd to buy. Very inspiring worship…
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/faith/id498020647

First Trip to Haiti-Part 2

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This week was an awesome experience spent with some incredible people.  I am amazed at God’s timing and His perfect plan. I have had four months of waiting, planning, and preparing for this “first step” trip.  He has challenged me and given me the faith and patience along the way for it. He has sent people to encourage me and keep me moving forward to drown out those who discouraged and were negative. He has opened doors and given me peace throughout the journey.  I’ve said this before, but this season is the most I have ever felt like I was right smack in the middle of where God wants me to be. I wouldn’t be if He wouldn’t have brought me here. I have done a great job of keeping myself really busy so I can conveniently not hear a call from God that I’m not ready for; that I’m afraid of.  I’ve gotten really good at it.  The last ten years, I’ve heard it but I never allowed it to get too loud, that way I could pretend I missed it.  I am so grateful to God that He didn’t let me keep spinning my wheels. I am so grateful that He was gentle with me as He woke me up.  As He quieted the relationships, jobs, circumstances, and materials around me to get through to my heart. I am so glad He chose me.

Haiti is a hurting country full of beautiful spirits. The smiles on the faces of these people will melt your soul.  They are straight from the heart of God.  Your life changes forever when you are laughing and playing with a child that has no shoes on, clothes barely holding themselves together, a tent to go home to after school, with only one parent left living to take care of them and their four siblings.  I met a gorgeous little girl whose Dad was recently decapitated over a land dispute and her Mom has been so mentally unstable ever since, that she can’t take care of her children anymore.  I met more than one woman who is watching over her own family of five or six and took in two to three more children whose parents have both passed away. When you see the homes and circumstances these families live under, you can barely wrap your mind around them housing all of these kids. Yet, they are happy. They are content. This is the only life that they know. The earthquake itself claimed so many lives, that it is nearly unbearable to think about as you drive past the rubble and partially standing buildings that remain from it, and hear the stories of where and how these people lost a loved one during that horrible day almost three years ago.

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I’ve been to other countries on missions trips and there are always similarities of impoverished countries.  One thing that struck me about Haiti though, is how generous and caring they are. I was told so many stories of helping hands and was able to witness many.  Instances like getting a vehicle completely stuck in an open manhole and fifteen people immediately rushing over to pick the truck up out of it and make sure they’re not hurt. I witnessed things as small as giving a few pieces of a snack to a child and watching them share it with as many others as they could.  These loving people are so generous with everything.

One of the biggest blessings on this trip was getting an opportunity to see a quality organization and how they operate daily on the ground in Haiti.  The organization I went with is called World Wide Village and they been operating in Haiti since 2001.  Though they have worked with many organizations over the years providing shoes and food and such, their main focus and purpose is to give a hand up, not a hand out. They have 85 Haitians as part of their staff on the ground in Haiti and do everything to teach, train, and empower. A few of their focuses that I was able to witness this week are Christian Education, clean water, housing construction, and economic development.

It was a treat to be able to work alongside some their Haitian staff this week.  We spent a lot of time at the elementary schools with our translators.  One of my favorite moments of the week came on one of those days with a gentleman named Patrick.  He was working that day to help bridge the communication gap between our team and the Haitian students. We were walking around the campus waiting for the kids to get out of school when I overheard a conversation between my team member Cheryl and Patrick.  She was inquiring about the contents of the student’s curriculum and she asked him if they teach the kids Religion as part of their studies.  His response left me speechless.  Patrick replied, “No. We teach them about their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”  He recognized the difference, which many of us do not.  Now, I know that that was really what Cheryl was asking, and it was just the wording she chose, but it was awesome to hear.  That is the true gospel right there.  That is what the struggling people of Haiti need to hear about.  Hope in their Savior.

Haitians are a very able, hard working people and need help to get them moving forward.  I see so much promise for these people.  I see God’s hand working and I have Hope. I have Hope past today.

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There is a way, right now that you can help.
In Haiti, 47% of the population is illiterate. An estimated 80% are termed “functionally illiterate”, meaning reading and writing skills are inadequate to cope with daily life. The average female in Haiti has attended only 2 years of formal education by age 25.  Education is a huge start to ending the cycles of poverty and helplessness for these people. If you would like to know about sponsoring one of these beautiful faces through World Wide Village for only $28 a month, please email me at CynthiaAnnFoster@gmail.com and I will forward the information to you.

*All pictures taken by me on my trip

First Trip to Haiti- Part One

Haitian girls

Port Au Prince

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I am officially in Haiti as I write this. It seems to have been the longest road to get here but definitely intentional. I have realized so many times since I have arrived why it took so many months for God to prepare me to come here, but not at all in the ways that I would have thought.

I am well seasoned with missions trips, though it has been a few years since I was on one. I am on a team of eight people this week. There are two couples, David and Sue who are older, and a younger couple named Kyle and Cheryl Schow along with their two teenagers, Bailee and Ben. They are all from Nebraska and awesome. The older couple have been here four times before but the Schows have never done anything like this.  Being here alongside this family and their first experience has been such a blessing for me.

Sunday was our first day here and we didn’t start any real work until Monday so I wasn’t sure what to expect from that day. We went to an English speaking church and then went to a restaurant for lunch. We spent the rest of the day driving through the capitol city of Port Au Prince. The bottom two pictures above is an idea of what it looks like everywhere in this city.  It is interesting watching the Schow family and their response to the poverty. They keep saying how overwhelming it is. What is odd is how NOT overwhelming it is to me. It’s really interesting. I know I have been to foreign countries before and am not ignorant to poverty, but it’s like my heart is numb to it a little. I was talking to Kyle that night who was just seriously rocked by the things he saw that day and he asked me what I thought about it. I told him how surprised I was at my own reaction and I started really thinking about it. At first, I was worried…aren’t I supposed to be really “touched” by this?!? I mean…this is supposed to be my calling!! Where are the tears?? The gasping for breath?? When I started saying my reaction out loud, it made me think of when I used to work with Foster Kids. I always said I didn’t want to be a Social Worker because even though they’re doing it to help the kids, they have to separate themselves emotionally in order to survive doing that job. I never wanted to take the emotion and love I had for those kids away. I felt like God was pointing that out in my mind to make me realize that this has been the last 4 months of preparation. I have been really emotional about it at home but I can’t really be that way here when I think about living here. I wouldn’t survive and be as effective.  My heart is so here and with these people but I’m not paralyzed by it.

I will post again while I’m here but  if you’d like to see my pictures, here is the link to my Facebook page.
http://www.facebook.com/cynthia.ann.foster
If we are not friends on FB and you can’t see them, send me a friend invite:-) I would love to share this journey with you.

 

My Passion

I am very passionate. I am an all or nothing kind of person so when I really believe in something, it shows. Passion is one of my favorite qualities about myself though I think it scares people at times. We have so many mediocre people in this life that are afraid to feel freely and strongly about things in fear of  something/one disappointing them or not reciprocating. I’ve seen people guard themselves in that way with love and politics, to advancing at work. I think that God gave us passion when he gave us compassion. The definition of compassion is: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. I think without the accompaniment part of that definition, it is simply sympathy. I believe we need to have a passion to do what we can to help in order to truly be compassionate. Watching the faces of orphans on a commercial and tearing up is not the same as having compassion. God gave us that fire that we call passion to ignite with sympathy and make a difference. We need a strong desire to take action.

I am taking my first trip in this journey on December 1st to Haiti. During the last couple months of researching, I came across an organization called World Wide Village that is involved with working with orphanages, Christian schools, medical care, as well as rebuilding houses and churches that were destroyed in the earthquake. This first trip is for seven days and my main purpose is to look into the internship program they have there, though I will be on a team working with the community there. This organization offers internships that are a minimum of two months and can go on much longer. Though I am not sure what the long term future that God has for me looks like yet, I feel I need to be proactive and start working towards that goal. God has not only opened this door for me, but has also provided for all of the funds for me to go. I know that God is going to further grow my compassion on this trip and I look forward to it. I want everyone that I come across to see His compassion in my heart and for it to be contagious to grow their own and take action.

This last month was an interesting one in this journey and what God is doing in my heart in preparation. It’s been somewhat of a roller coaster of amazing new friendships and the loss of some, extreme joy and crippling depression, excitement and worry. Sometimes when we know we are right where God wants us to be, we think it’s going to all feel secure and content. What I’ve realized is that God takes the vulnerability that we have in the security of knowing we are in His will, and uses that for molding us and the things around us to what He wants it to look like.  The great thing about that is that even through the pain of the molding process, He is right there to balance it out with His compassion for us.