2 Haiti 4 Him

The Heckman family serving the Lord in Haiti at Emmaus Biblical Seminary

Saturday, December 21, 2013

All Of It

So yesterday was an adventure…. and it was REALLY GOOD!

We planned an end of the semester trip, with our friends on the student life team, Simeon and Lémé… and it was an awesome day!

Just before finals, and after a month of weekly youth ministry training, we decided as a group that we wanted to do something fun together, something that would help us to build deeper relationships. We thought a trip to the beach would be a great way to do that...

and that's exactly what we did!  We went to ChouChou Bay.

Simeon worked hard planning the trip… from making phone calls, to organizing breakfast and lunch, to collecting money, to loading up the truck… and most importantly, to making sure that everyone had a BLAST!  (something Simeon is very good at!)

Phil and I put together an object lesson and a game (we are in youth ministry remember… no event is truly an event without a game and an object lesson!) and we hit the road at 9am for a day full of fun!

With 18 students, 2 EBS staff, and two Heckman kids in the back of the truck, we headed on our way!

This rowdy, excited group, singing the ENTIRE way at the top of their lungs, made quite a scene in every little town and village we drove through! The smiles and laughter from people as we rode by revealed how infectious joy can really be!

After the hour and fifteen minute drive, we arrived, parked, and walked onto the beach, and once again- as I've done every time we have gone to the beach here- I stopped to take it in.  SO beautiful.

This is ChouChou Bay…

Once everyone got settled in, we jumped right into a game… one that not even ONE of them had played before- Tug of War!

It ended up being two perfectly balanced teams tugging for quite some time before one team finally won!  Afterwards we sat and talked about how this game could be used as an object lesson with youth…  they came up with this:  Unity in the Body of Christ, how much more we can accomplish when we work together, the reality of spiritual warfare/battle, fighting against the world's temptations, not having our foundation in sand but on the rock… SUCH GOOD STUFF!  We have been telling them that there are object lessons ALL around us.  They are seeing it!

After some great discussion and some sore hands :), we spent the day just being together…

 All that we have and all that we are is because of Him.

This trip, this adventure, this day was His.

This beautiful beach, the magnificent creation, is His.

These students and staff, our kids, we are His.

God was in every moment yesterday, as He always is…

Driving. Teaching. Laughing. Eating. Singing. Dancing. Playing. Praying. Talking. Walking. Climbing. Swimming. Giving. Living…

all of it.

We are so blessed to be a part of what is happening here in Haiti.  God is raising up pastors who are going to bring change, light, hope, love…  working with these amazing young men and women is a privilege and a great joy!

Monday, December 16, 2013

People in Darkness Have Seen A Great Light!

These are the words of the prophet Isaiah in chapter 9, the "For to us a child is born" chapter.  You probably know those verses well.

We read it every Christmas, typically the first Sunday in Advent, as we light the purple candle symbolizing the prophet's hope.  This Christmas, these words have taken on new meaning…

Maybe its because we are living in Haiti, a place that many people call spiritually "dark"(and rightfully so)…

Maybe its because I feel like I have never seen the sun shine so many consecutive days before… Haiti is VERY sunny lately!…

Maybe its because the FIRST thing I do every morning is plug in my Christmas lights to help it feel like Christmas, when the weather certainly doesn't FEEL like it- AT ALL!

Maybe its because it seems that over and over again God has been showing me things, things concerning the concept of light and how it ties so intimately with Christmas… (and maybe that too is because of where we are!)

Whatever it might be…or all of these combined… I have come to understand even more clearly that light and Christmas have MUCH in common!

The last English chapel I had the opportunity to preach, and I decided to share on this topic because it has been in my mind and on my heart so much lately…

First I asked the question, "What is light?"  Something I never really thought about defining before!  The dictionary says it is "an agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible… or the understanding of a problem or mystery"

Then I asked the question, "What is the purpose of light… or what does light DO for us?"

Everyone threw out some great responses:  it exposes the darkness, helps us find our way, brings life to things like plants, creates beauty, brings color and warmth, brings meaning and understanding.

We then looked at what Scripture says about light and darkness.  After God created the heavens and the earth He created light, and He said it was good!  Light is where it all began.  But when we look at what the Bible says about darkness we see it used as a plague in Exodus, it is a symbol of sadness in Joel, distress and anguish in Isaiah… darkness is compared, all through the Bible, to sin, fear, confusion, loneliness, helplessness, and loss.

Scientists try to study light and explain it, but as followers of Christ we know where light comes from!

God IS light.  He created light.  He exposed the darkness by bringing forth light… Living in darkness is living WITHOUT light.

Without light there is NO life.  Without light we would be lost. Plants cannot live without light, and we cannot physically live without light… and without spiritual light, we have NO hope.

Christmas helps us to see this more clearly than any other event in all of history.  And I love how, as the Light of the World (Jesus Christ) enters time and space in a manger in Bethlehem, God uses LIGHT to lead others to Him!

The shepherds, we are told in Luke 2, see a brilliant light, the glory of the Lord shining around them. And they are told of a Messiah that was born in Bethlehem… and they respond to that light by going to the place He was born and seeing the Christ child.

The wise men are led to Jesus by a wondrous star, a beam of light that would lead them to the place to meet the Savior of the world!

God used light to draw others to see His Light that had come into the world.

The prophecies in Isaiah foretold of a child that would be born and would bring Light into the darkness (chapter 9)… spoke of a Savior who would lead the blind and turn darkness into light (chapter 42).  Zechariah prophesied days before Jesus was born that He would "give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:78)

John said this about John the Baptist (Zechariah's son), "he came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through Him… the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world."

And Jesus Himself, during His ministry on earth, said this about Himself, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."(John 8:12)… and later in verse 46, "I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness."

Can you see now why Christmas is SO intimately tied with LIGHT?!  I have never seen it so much before as I have THIS Christmas…

But we can't simply stop there.  Yes Jesus IS light…. But you know what He says?


Jesus didn't only call Himself the Light of the World,  He calls US that too.  In Matthew 5:14 Jesus says that WE are the light of the world and that we shouldn't hide our light, but shine!  To "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

Jesus brought light to a dark world, redemption to a people lost in darkness, and our job is to testify to that Light!  To point others to the only One who can free them from the darkness that comes from separation from God because of sin.

I have a great story to share that can help illustrate this beautifully…

If you have read Matt and Stacey's blog, or seen the pictures on Facebook, you know that Matt, Phil, Sam and Junior went to prison on Sunday.  Not because they got into trouble!...  But because Matt was asked by a student to join him and some people from his church, and to preach a worship service there yesterday.  Phil looked forward to the opportunity to be a part of it.

When they arrived at the jail, they saw that the prison cells were placed around a center courtyard, where Matt preached and the service was held.

A sound system brought the message to the cells (each cell is a 12' x 20' space shared by 30-40 prisoners each… a place of misery that I can only imagine)… and yet, despite their harsh circumstances, they sang along with the songs!

(In the above picture you can see as someone is delivering "meals" to the 30+ prisoners in this cell)

What is so beautiful about this is that Matt came to share about how difficult Mary and Joseph's circumstances really were, how harsh the events were surrounding the birth of Jesus. And yet… there is Hope.  A Messiah was coming into the world… to bring light to a dark place.

And here's where it gets really cool!

As Matt came to share the Good News of Jesus, Emmanuel, God's Son being born among us, the light of the sun began to enter the courtyard.  Phil said that as the heat from the sun poured in, they began to move closer and closer to the inmates.  The warmth from the sun was literally pushing them toward those in darkness!!!

What a great picture, isn't it!?  

What Christ has done for us, the message of Christmas- that the Light, the Savior, has come into the world- should push us to tell others about Him… to bring hope to those in darkness… to BE a light!

May WE be a light this Christmas!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Start of Something Good!

As you know, we have officially started our youth ministry training here in Haiti, to the students/pastors here at Emmaus. They are so hungry for training and resources and are eating it up!!! It has been such a blessing, just in the 4 weeks since we started we are seeing excitement in their eyes and a yearning for resources and help to reach their youth for Christ!   We are truly seeing that this is the start of something goodreally good!

This group of students, all in their 20's and 30's have become our own youth group and we LOVE our time with them! (we have found that the term "youth" here can span from 11-40- even though they are pastors, they are still a bunch of youth themselves- and we LOVE that because SO ARE WE!) The students have asked us to show to them, work with them, and create in them a "model youth group"!  

They LOVE the games and object lessons we are teaching and can't wait to take them back to their own youth groups.   We have already seen the ways these games and team-building exercises are bringing them together!

Our desire in all of this training is to instill in them the importance of building relationships with their youth and the youth in their communities, mentoring them, equipping parents, building teams,  and MOST importantly- focusing on JESUS being the CENTER of their ministry.

Next semester we plan to get into more intensive training as well as visit our student's youth ministry programs and help to facilitate their programs and come alongside of them to help build sustainable ministries. We are planning a mini-retreat over Christmas break with the desire to begin to form a tight-knit group of students, who are all working toward a common goal of discipling youth, and who can be a support system for one another as they serve!

Your prayers as we plan are SO much appreciated. Our desire is not to bring an "American model" of youth ministry to Haiti- but a Christ centered model. Unfortunately, the American church has done much to hurt the country of Haiti (completely unintentional, but still very much the truth). It is our hearts' desire to see Haiti be revived- to see these pastors begin a reformation of their churches!  It's so easy to get caught up in religion and doctrine and programs. Sometimes ministry can feel overwhelming- in Haiti, in the States, or anywhere that we are serving- but when we begin to feel it,  the Holy Spirit softly reminds us that HE is going to do the work, we just need to be faithful! 

No matter how difficult your ministry may be, how hard the soil is where you are working, how underpaid or understaffed you may feel, never forget that God goes before you and that you need only to lay your concerns and frustrations and situations at His feet and allow Him to direct you and lead you as He sees fit.   Sitting quietly at His feet is not easy in a world that tells us we must go, go, go… but we cannot go without Him!

We ask for your continued prayers as we seek wisdom and direction in the coming year, and we also ask for prayer for the pastors here at Emmaus Biblical Seminary, as well as the  people of Haiti- those who are in Christ and those who are still in darkness.   Ministry is NOT easy… no matter where you are serving.  But the reward of seeing people come to faith in Jesus Christ and grow in their relationship with Him is a blessing beyond words.

Thank you for your continual prayer support and love as we serve alongside of these amazing people! 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Different Thanksgiving...

So today is really strange…

Every year since birth I have celebrated Thanksgiving with my family… whether we were in my parent's dining room, at card tables in my Grammie and Pop Pop's living room, with my mom's family in Ohio, or around Phil's mom's table in the kitchen, we were always together.  Maybe not our entire family, because of work and other obligations, but with our family none the less.

I can't even begin to describe how strange it is, this first Thanksgiving away from my family.  I imagine that my sister experienced this same weird reality years ago when she spent her first Thanksgiving in Bosnia, away from all of us!  It has always been difficult celebrating without her, or with other family members who couldn't come for the festivities…

But this time…

It is ME that isn't there.

My heart is sad to miss the opportunity for turkey, stuffing, cranberry, and apple pie, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, the time spent with family on this special day.  I feel disconnected from everyone's Facebook posts as they share about sitting by a warm fire, last night's Thanksgiving Eve services, finishing up final preparations for family and friends to arrive at their homes…

If I were to dwell on myself for too long, I would end up in bed the rest of the day!

So instead, I am pouring over everyone's posts and thanking God for all of the blessings not only within my own life (OH there are too many to comprehend!) but all of those in YOUR lives as well!

What a wonderful time of year it is… that we can be intentionally thinking on how GREAT God is, how much He has abundantly blessed us, how overwhelmingly thankful we are!

With all of that being said, sometimes I think we can get TOO caught up in being thankful for only the seemingly good things in our lives, without seeing the blessings that are ours in the difficult things.

Being away from our home in the states, and separated from my family, has changed my perspective this Thanksgiving.  Not only this, but in my devotional and Bible study reading God has opened my eyes to a new outlook as we approach even more holidays away from "the norm"…

Many of you are familiar with Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts.  The missionary women here on the OMS Haiti field have started a Bible study using Ann's book (Thanks Elida!!!).  In this book, Ann shares some really powerful truths from Scripture…

In the original Greek, the word that is used to describe giving thanks is "Eucharisteo", and placed within that word are two other words-  "Charis" (meaning grace) and "Chara" (meaning joy).

Ann says this,  "Grace, thanksgiving, joy.  Eucharisteo.  A Greek word… that might make meaning of everything"

She then shares these words...

"On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it.  Then He broke it in pieces…" (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)… Facing the abandonment of God Himself (does it get any worse than this?), Jesus offers thanksgiving for even that which will break Him and crush Him and wound Him…"

Those words cut deep, don't they?

What the church calls "The Eucharist" is the sacrament of Communion.  Ann goes on to say this about the communion experience…

"…in a very tangible, physical act, aren't I enacting my thanksgiving for His pain? In a very real way… I'm celebrating greater gain through greater loss…. The Eucharist invites us to give thanks for dying.  To participate in His death with our own daily dying and give thanks for it…. is there some easier way to the fulfilling life?"  (emphasis added)

To see how intimately connected salvation and thanksgiving are stops me in my tracks…

As I keep reading, Ann continues to digest these truths some more…

"Jesus counts thanksgiving as integral in a faith that saves.  We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks.  Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving?  Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives.  Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace.  Thanksgiving is inherent to a true salvation experience; thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life."

What stands out to me most in those words is this:  "Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives."



In our weekly prayer meetings we have been diving into the Psalms.  The last few weeks we have been studying, very closely, Psalm 42 and 43.  In these Psalms, the author is crying out to God.  His soul is downcast.  He is in despair.  His enemies have surrounded him and knocked him down time and time again.  He is unable to be in the temple to worship.  He is in mourning because of the oppression he is facing. The people around him are asking him, "Where is your God?".  He feels rejected, forgotten, defeated…

and yet…

in verse 4 of chapter 43 the author calls God "his exceeding joy"! His hope is in God, He is his salvation, his rock, his refuge.

These last few days God has been quietly reminding me that MY joy and MY thanksgiving are not contigent upon MY circumstances… and He has been reminding me of that truth in SO many ways!

Jesus was able to give thanks only hours before He KNEW He would be led to the cross.  The Psalmist expressed hope and joy and praise amidst his difficulty.

Saint John of Avila said these words, "One act of thanksgiving, when things go wrong with us, is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations."

How much more do we appreciate the good things in our lives when we experience hardship? How much more can we see God at work when He brings us through dark times and into His light?

I am learning, more and more each day, to be thankful for everything in my life- seemingly Good or Bad.  To be aware of God's desire to use my struggles, my weakness, my difficulties to bring glory to Himself, to bring others into His Kingdom, to shape and mold me into a vessel that He can use.

Paul shares this same idea with the church in Corinth.  In 2 Corinthians 4 he says this,

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay (earthen vessels), to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies… For it is for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase in thanksgiving, to the glory of God."

Paul recognized that through our struggle we can bring God glory.  That through difficulty, grace extends and thanksgiving CAN abound!

So this Thanksgiving, I want to challenge you (and I am challenging myself in the same way) to thank God for the hard times, thank Him for the struggles you are experiencing, thank Him, not just for what is seemingly good right now, but thank Him in


"In everything, give thanks…" 1 Thessalonians 5:18
"giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father…"  Ephesians 5:20

Love and miss you all dearly!  May your Thanksgiving be filled with praise and thanks!


P.S.  Even though we are unable to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families this year, we have been blessed to have our missionary family here in Haiti.  On November 18th, on a Haitian holiday, we celebrated our American Thanksgiving.  What an amazing time of fellowship and thankfulness we shared.  After singing "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and reading beautiful quotes and Scripture passages on thankfulness, we prayed and sat down to a delicious, authentic, Thanksgiving meal.

Feeling beyond blessed for those that God has surrounded us with this season!

Here are a few pictures from our special day (SO thankful that our dear friends Eric and Martie could join us in our celebration- all the way from South Jersey!!!!):