Saturday, April 21, 2012

Never Once

God's Faithfulness is the one consistent and constant theme.  His daily distributed grace is sustaining.  Enjoy His Faithfulness today!  If you're His child, you are never-ever alone.
Praise Him!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Rainy Day

Out of the Box: Cornflower.  Project 64.
A Rainy Day.
Photo by Andrea Schmick

Keys

Out of the Box.  Project 64.  Entry - tan.
In Haiti there are keys for every door/gate and there seem to be many.  This is one of our keys.
Photo by Makayla Schmick

What's Next?

With more doors to be opened, we'd like to recap the past few and mention what we're looking towards.  What's next for the Schmicks?  Though we don't have all of the answers, we are planning to return to Haiti.

Photo courtesy Makayla Schmick
Looking Back
In October we came under Christian World Outreach with the goal of learning and building relationships.  We've been able to do that with this allotted year.  It was spot on.  Their idea is that we'd spend about a year in-country for these purposes with an evaluation to follow.  This has provided time to get a better grasp on Haiti, missions in Haiti, our family here, etc.   Although we're learning things we weren't anticipating, we've still learned so much.  Yet, it seems the more we learn the more we realize we don't know.  We're glad to report that God has been with us and very kind.

A special, THANK YOU, to our supporters for your generous love extended to our family in response to God's call on your hearts.  May He bless you with a better understanding of how valuable and enjoyable He really is!

The Lord provided many Broken Bow connections for our family through the recent purchase of Jason's family's second grocery store.  One of those connections was Will and Julie White, Haiti missionaries with M.A.F.  They happened to be going home on furlough about the time that we were coming.  So, the Lord totally had it arranged for us to rent from them for the 9 months they were away.  Our support wasn't quite ready which delayed our arrival date by 2 months making our first stay in Haiti a total of 7 months.

Currently
So here we sit 7 weeks until this first stretch is completed.  The White family is anxious to get home in June after enjoying their time in the States.  This means that we are looking at the next transition.  That 7 months has gone by very quickly!

We haven't been silent about some of the things we've observed in Haiti.  The large amount of foreigners in Haiti is astounding and maybe more appalling is how much foreign aid is recklessly distributed.  It's stirred deep questions.  We're still wrestling with things like what is missions, really, and what is ministry to the poor?  How can we help and not hurt?  Should we even be here?  Is foreign aid ever a good idea and, if so, in what circumstances?  How does the "Kingdom coming on earth" look today... in this situation?  How is the Gospel lived out in these circumstances?  These are questions that may never have a whole-clear-cut answer; making living in the middle of them a bit intense at times.  They have lead us to really dig in and pray, holding out open hands and hearts, "Lord, is this where you want us?  Please direct our steps.  Check our heart motives.  Make us see like you.  Give us wisdom because we lack it."

Although, we don't have answers to many of the questions above we do have a settledness about returning to Haiti.  It does seem like God is asking us to trust Him and return.  So this is our pursuit as He provides.  Some days we're more confident, seeing Him more clearly, than others.  Honestly, we have our share of days where we get discouraged, the tension in the questions seem too heavy or we just flat out have bad attitudes.  Still though, He brings us back to His quiet but sure, "You're not finished yet.  Keep going."  We're thankful that God is with us always!  Always.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  It's about Him and not about us...we seem to learn and relearn that important truth.  Like. it. is. always relevant.

What's Next
We are looking at houses to rent here in Haiti and maybe something will pan-out before we leave.  However, the tricky thing with Haiti is that rent is usually paid in one big lump annual sum and rent in Haiti is never "reasonable".  There are two economies here: the local Haitian economy and the Haitian expat economy with a huge gap in between.  This may be something we figure out closer to our next arrival to Haiti.

Given that this mini-transition/furlough/evaluation time was set from the beginning, we'll be in Nebraska at the beginning of June for approximately 60 to 90 days.  It will serve as a time to regroup, evaluate, spend time with family and friends (our supporters) and prepare the details needed to relaunch.

We plan to keep you posted through the blog and our newsletters as things unfold.  Thanks for praying for us and for cheering us on as He leads.  We are excited to see many of you and catch up on what God has been up to in your lives because He's always up to something good even in hard circumstances.  Always good!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Foreign Aid & Neck Rings


One of the questions that keeps smacking us in the face is, "With so much foreign aid here, whether Christian or not, why aren't things improving?"  Matter of fact we've had Haitians tell us straight up that things seem worse in some ways - not better.  We want to humbly remember this question is a bit black and white and not many things in the world are so easily contrasted.   There are many here who are doing a great work.  Although, we're being exposed to something we had not anticipated learning about.  Foreign Aid.  It's so true, "You don't know what you don't know." And folks, the "don't-know" category seems to grow.  Just when we think we've got something "figured out" it seems to blow ahead of us again - like chasing paper on a windy day.

We've had endless conversations about this topic.  What is foreign aid?  When is it needed?  How should it be given?  Should the universal church participate?  What is the long term fruit of people, communities or even countries that receive it?  Why does foreign aid seem to quickly deplete a community when it's meant to help?  On and on and on the questions fly.  They can haunt us in the night and there hasn't been a day go by that we don't contemplate it to some degree.  For us it has been one of the daily background noises here - just kinda always whistling its tune.  These conversations, at times, have been fun and fascinating to contemplate but most of the time they are incredibly tiring.  Our discovery seems to regularly pull up the damage caused by foreign aid.  It is really sad to witness good, well-meaning intentions that end up being misguided, unhelpful and sometimes even oppressive.  Even worse when organizations exist for the purpose of selfish gain and "exporting poverty" to that end.

Jason rightfully states to me (the analogy queen), "Every analogy breaks down at some point but they're still helpful."  So one night, a while back, we were talking about all of this and he explained that Haiti is like the women that wear neck rings.  Every ring represents an NGO (nongovernmental organization) of some sort.  They slowly add rings one year at a time and the weight of them actually pushes their collar bones down, permanently changing the structure of their body, to make the neck appear longer.  The skin is often scarred from the rings rubbing.  There are actually groups, or so we've read, that wear the rings for the purpose of drawing tourism.  This word-picture keeps coming to mind and we're praying a lot about how not to be another ring on an already stretched neck.

What does helping and loving the poor look like?  Especially as well known pastors draw the Western church's attention to the matter through books like, "Radical", "Don't Waste Your Life", and "Crazy Love."

I realize that we could delve into this subject matter like really, super-duper, a lot but I'm not sure this is the place and time to go there.  We're still struggling to articulate it let alone publicly converse on the matter.  Just know that it is something we see and are wrestling through. If you're looking to learn more on the subject matter, "When Helping Hurts" and "Awaiting a Savior", would be great resources to help you responsibly respond.

A Taste of Heaven

Sometimes the boys just connect.  It's like a piece of Heaven just falls down in our yard.  They get knee deep in the same idea and play their hearts out.  I mean they buy into the same vision and they really own it.  I remember playing like this with my own siblings, cousins and friends.   Permanently etched on your heart-memory, forever.  It's one of the things that makes childhood such an incredible experience.

Our yard magically transforms before our very eyes into the perfect setting for that given scheme.  It's been a battle field a few times.  They were ditch diggers the other day - all day; building a better directed drainage for all of the rain we've been getting.  The trampoline easily becomes a karate or wrestling rink.  The bed of the truck...now this place is the place for meaningful conversations.  It's kinda like Calvin and Hobbes when they're in the wagon or on the sled.  These boys can share heart to heart best in the back of the truck.  No kidding.  Oh and there's the big vine on the fence.  It's the best spot for spies.  How can I forget the top of the generator house.  It's been a house and fort.  I don't think there is a better place to eat fresh coconuts?  It really is incredible.

When these days come I can't help but stick close to the windows or plant myself at the picnic table just to soak it up.  It's better if I'm almost invisible because sometimes the slightest interruption will disrupt the magical connections of friendships and imaginations at work.  It's not every day that all of the components just fit - like the code on a treasure box lock.  Just some days.  And when it happens I try to change my day's plans around their fun.  It's too wonderful to hinder.  It almost demands that I be wowed by it.  It is worshipful.  It is God at work in their little hearts.  Just a quiet, delightful observation is needed with the occasional offer of drinks and snacks.  I think heaven will be something like this.  Can you imagine relationships the way He designed them with His creativity fueling the fun?  It's going to be great.

I popped around the corner and it was happening.  Hans has been growing his little sapling in a jar for quite some time now and Zacharie decided that today was the day for it's roots to spread out.  Ethan shared their excitement and all three became gardeners.  Just like that.

But one tree wasn't enough.  They found a volunteer tree growing right next to the house so all three played tug-a-war, them against it.  They won with a hoot-and-a-hollar,  in a pile on the cement.
With tree and partial root in hand they merrily proceeded to make another hole for it too.

Here it is.  Hans' little tree.  They even gave it a little shade with the upside down flower.
Lord, bless these boys and grow this up to be a tree.
A great big one that reminds them of Your great kindness.

Easter 2012

We had a good Easter.  It was a fun and busy weekend.  We're thankful for the way that God has provided our little neighborhood.  It makes holidays much more enjoyable amongst many other good things.  Here is just a little bit from our weekend.
Makayla & I made some Eastery-cupcakes for our neighbors.  Makayla doesn't really enjoy the kitchen yet unless we're doing something creative like this.  I like creating with her.
I'd never dyed coconut until now.  I always assumed that was for old people. ;) 
What's with the anticipation of waiting dye?  It's fun every year.
The possibilities are so happy.
They got 6 eggs each...with 3 ways to decorate them. 
Here are four fantastic kids.  


Ethan is the only half naked one...all of the time.



Enthusiasm on a Rainy Day

Our kids have always loved the rain

The minute the drops accelerate that look comes over their faces.

The look that invites and bids the other one to just jump in.

I always try to groan out a, "Guys - don't get all wet.  Okay?"  I don't even know why it really matters.
I guess it feels more motherly to caution against what could be "messy" or a potential sprained ankle.

Ethan is an enthusiastic person.

...and Makayla didn't miss the opportunity to snap a few.

I mean really.  Look at the pay off!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

anmbago

Learning Haitian Creole has been a challenging task. I started volunteering at a local grocery store to learn the language more quickly. It's helping a lot. The grocery store story is another blog post, but for now I will say that the owner and manager have been super kind to let me hang out there, learn the language, and even feed me! It's been a really good experience.

Back to the Creole though. Today I learned a new word - anmbago.

It's embargo in English. Some words are easier to remember than others.

The receiving clerk at the grocery store taught me the new word. A bit about him first and then we'll get to the word anmbago. This guy is a great young man. He carries himself with dignity. He has the respect of his fellow-employees, works diligently, is detail focused, and seems to be very honest. He's shown only kindness to me since I started working with him. He has a clean look in his eyes, he's a Pentecostal Christian, seems to have a lot of common sense and is patient in a job that can sometimes try patience. He also teaches Spanish in the evenings.

We were talking today about many different topics. He tries to bring up conversation and force me to answer him in Creole. Today we spoke a bit about foreign aid, NGO's (non-government organizations), and foreigners in Haiti. I asked him and another employee, who was sitting there, a question. I asked what their opinion was on all the people and organizations helping here. It's actually the first time I've asked that question of a Haitian. The response I received was interesting.

They both said they think that everyone should go back to their own country.

They were kind when they said it, but it was a quick answer and it was obvious they had thought and talked about the subject a lot.

The receiving clerk had some pretty strong opinions and ideas too. He said the problem with Haiti is the Haitians. His focus was more about the poverty of relationships than poverty as is commonly defined (lack of food, water, shelter, clothing, etc.) He said that Haitians aren't looking out for each other. Even in the church, he said, people only care about themselves and not their brother in Christ.

His solution: A 15 year embargo. He thinks all non-Haitians should leave Haiti and stay away for 15 years. He thinks that no new people should be admitted into Haiti for the next 15 years. He also thinks that Haitians shouldn't be let out of the country for 15 years. He's confident that this idea would fix Haiti. He thinks that if Haitians had to be responsible for the country, and there were no foreigners or foreign money to fall back on, then they'd figure it out by themselves.

He said that only God and Haitians have the ability to fix the people here. He said that foreigners have been trying for years with limited success.

His argument has limits, I know. It's probably not the perfect solution. Would it work? I'm not sure. Will everyone actually leave? Not a chance. But it's interesting and caught me by surprise. Even if I disagree with him on some of the details I think he may be onto something.

Is foreign aid hurting Haiti? Are the groups and people that came here to help actually causing harm by being here? Should we all go home?

I've been here for 6 months. I know very little about this country. This post isn't meant to convey my opinions about poverty and Haiti and foreign help. I just want to communicate their opinions as something to give thought to. I have opinions that are forming. I realize that I'm a rookie in Haiti and there are people who have given their lives, sometimes lost their lives, to help here. They know way more than me about all of this. In no way do I want to take away from the legitimate work, sacrifice and love that many have poured into this country.

But it's worth thinking about.

Give Me Jesus

"For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." 
1 Corinthians 2:2


"Since mine eyes have looked on Jesus,
I've lost sight of all besdie,
So enchanted my spirit's vision,
Gazing on the crucified." -chambers

Christ is all I have; Christ is all I need.