2 Haiti 4 Him

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

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!!!!):

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A New Chapter Begins!

Have you ever thought of your life as if it were a story?  There are key elements that make up a story, like characters, setting, plot, climax, etc.  Stories are also divided up into chapters, each chapter building upon the next, giving more insight and depth to the situation, to the characters, to the writer's overall plan.

Donald Miller, one of my favorite Christian authors, wrote a book called A Million Miles in A Thousand Years.  In his book he compared his life to a story. One day, movie producers showed up at his house and told him they wanted to make his life story into a movie.  The only problem was that his life wasn't quite interesting enough… they would have to (as it seems they do in ALL "based on a true story" movies) fabricate a bit of his story to make people want to watch it…

When he stopped to think about it, he realized something:  why don't we live stories that people want to watch or to read about?  When you think about the Bible, it is FULL of real-life stories of people who lived lives worth reading about (whether good or bad, unfortunately, but still "read-worthy"!)

In his book, Donald shares about the journey of struggle that he went through during that time- it was filled with doubt, insecurity, questioning, exploring… and in the end, Donald says this:

"We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn't mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose.  It's a good calling, then, to speak a better story.  How brightly a better story shines.  How easily the world looks to it in wonder.  How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them."

I am reminded when I read these words, how important our stories truly are!  There is A LOT of bad stuff happening around us, A LOT of bad stories being told.  But God has given each and every one of us a story…  and "how brightly a better story shines"!  If we wake up realizing that each day is a paragraph or a page and each week is a chapter or a section of a greater story and we seek God, the Writer of our story, and ask HIM how He wants us to live- and let Him write our story- oh what a beautiful story it will be!

Ever since I read that book I keep coming back to this idea.

My life as a story- written by God.

Some days, I feel like I put the pen to the page and try to write for Him… oh how that must frustrate my Creator!  Other days, I can more easily rest in letting Him call the shots… and THOSE days- they are so much better.  Not easier, not more comfortable, not free from struggle or labor- but still better.  They are better because I am living as He calls me and commands me to live.  I am living through the power of His Spirit, accomplishing things that I could never do on my own, and even in the difficulties that often come with those days, I can rest my head on the pillow at night knowing that those problems, those struggles, just made me stronger, accomplished more of His plan, glorified Him more through me.

The first 75 days here in Haiti were spent adjusting to culture and climate, beginning a new school year with kids and transitioning into a new home.  We started learning the language, meeting the staff and students here at the seminary, getting to know our neighbors better (FYI- they are wonderful!), and even began leading worship each week in chapel…

But day 75 marked a NEW chapter in our story in Haiti…

This past Tuesday we held a symposium in the chapel, for all of the students here at Emmaus.  This symposium was designed to be more of a Q & A, a time for us to share with the students about our passion for youth ministry, a little bit of our experience, but most importantly for us to hear from them about youth in Haiti.  We asked what the church is currently doing for youth and the problems they face.  We inquired about the struggles that youth have here and the needs they are faced with.  We listened as they told us how difficult it is for them to reach youth and the need they have to be trained and resourced, to have people who are passionate about youth and have a desire to disciple and mentor them.

What we found is that many of the same problems that our churches face here in discipling youth are the same problems that we faced back in the States.  And, surprisingly, the same struggles that so many of the youth have here in Haiti, stem from the same issues that kids have in the U.S.

We began the time that we had together with a little object lesson… (can you even have a youth event WITHOUT an object lesson!?!?)

We asked for two volunteers to come forward and compete against one another- to see who could fit all of the sand and the rocks in the jar the fastest… with ALL of them fitting in the jar.

They worked hard, mixing the sand and rocks together, trying to maneuver them into the jars, but after a few minutes of failed attempts, they were unsuccessful in getting them ALL in!

Phil then proceeded to show them "the trick" to getting them all to fit…. start with the rocks, then let the sand flow in and around them.  In a matter of 30 seconds or less, Phil had all of it in place- neatly fitting perfectly in the jar.

And now the lesson:  in Matthew, Jesus tells a story of the wise and foolish builders.  The wise man builds his house upon the rock, the foolish man upon the sand.  Phil started with the rocks (the foundation of Christ) and everything else flowed around and through the rocks.  And it worked.  When we begin with "the sand"- the "stuff" that we fill our lives with, place our confidence in, the often times even "good things"- we are foolish, because our foundation is not firm unless it is built on Christ.  There is not even enough room in our lives for God when we fill it with everything else.

I LOVE this object lesson.  
What a great picture of the necessity for us to have Christ as the cornerstone of our lives!  

We began with this illustration so that we could lead into the purpose for youth ministry.  It has been proven that the developmental years (around the age of 11-14 typically) are the time when youth begin to form their ideas and understanding of the world around them.  It is around this time that they become passionate about finding purpose, meaning, understanding about life, who they are, and why they are here.  It is during this time that it is SO important that teens have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and to have their foundation in Christ, their understanding of the world through His eyes, and find their purpose in HIM through His Word and His Spirit. 

As we talked through with the students, and heard their hearts, we were affirmed, ONCE AGAIN, of God's call on our lives here.  He has been equipping us, training us, building us up so that we can share with these students and pastors what He has done through us.  The tools and experience that I have received over the last 16 years (and Phil the last 14 years) are priceless!  The blessing of working with youth and the things that we have learned along the road are going to be SO helpful here.

Before we walked into that symposium we knew that 50 students would be seated in the chapel.  We hoped that after meeting with them, that at least a handful of students (5-10 maybe…) would feel called to, and take advantage of, the training we were offering.  We told them that this was not a course they would be graded on, nor would they receive credits for participation.  This would be offered during their free time, as optional training for anyone who might want it.  No obligation.  
Just an offer to help…

After Phil prayed and dismissed, we offered a sign-up for all who might want the training.
And you know what?

32 people signed up!  

Praise God!!!

GOD has been writing this story.  He has been building the events, the experiences… He has been developing and working out His plan as the Author…  yes there have been times that we have tried to do things our way and failed, but God doesn't leave us or forsake us.  He teaches us through our mistakes, brushes us off and put us back into the pages of His story.  If we allow Him to shape our lives, our stories mean so much more than we might ever imagine.

I pray that I will NEVER forget that.  That on days when I want to take my story into my own hands, when things seem difficult or even when life gets too comfortable, I will remember how much more meaningful and purposeful and God-glorifying my life will be if I let Him lead.

I want to close with a bit more of Donald Miller's book, because he can sum up what I want to say so much more eloquently!  He says this:

"… there is a knowing I feel that guides me toward better stories, toward being a better character.  I believe there is a writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us, interacting with us, even, and whispering a better story into our consciousness."

What might the Author be whispering into YOUR story?

Friday, November 1, 2013

It's November?!?!? Seriously NOT possible!

SO I cannot believe it is the first day of November?

How is that even possible?

Where did the time go?

We have been here in Haiti for a little over two months now, and yet it feels like these months have gone faster than any I have ever experienced!

AND YET--  SO much has happened over the last few weeks I don't know how we fit it all in… I can't explain it, and I'm not even going to TRY to understand it!

Today I merely want to catch you up… I'm sorry that my posts have been limited.  Thankful that Haylie was able to fill in the gaps in my absence!  Our internet has been limited and a bit frustrating over the past month… but we are up and running- and, LORD WILLING, we will continue to have good connection for a while!

I have spent the last week trying to catch up on emails and FB messages and the blog has been CALLING me!

The last few weeks have been adventurous, as everything seems to be here!  I'm going to highlight just a few of those adventures…

SO here goes!

Adventure #1-  Getting a bank account here in Haiti!

The irony of this whole experience was quite humorous.  But let me start from the beginning...

In order to get our Permis de Sejour (visas) we need to open up a bank account here in Haiti.  BUT… upon walking in the first bank, we discovered that in order to have an account there, we needed a Permis.  Even after explaining that in order for us to get a Permis we NEEDED a bank account, we were still told that they couldn't help us. So we headed to another bank...

The next bank we visited…  same thing.  And so, feeling once again defeated, we walked to yet another bank!

And the next bank… you guessed it!  No luck!

Finally, at our fourth stop, we were told that if we had a letter from our field director, stating that we lived in Haiti, as well as US Passports, we were a-go!

WOOHOO!  An hour and a half later we were sitting in the bank filling out the necessary paperwork…

The crazy thing about that whole experience… on the sound system playing throughout the bank was familiar music, in English… it was CHRISTMAS music!  I had to laugh!  If you know me well, you know that I LOVE Christmas music.  After having worked in retail for over 10 years, I grew accustomed to listening to it from November 1st-January 1st- and loved EVERY second of it!

Being away during the holiday season (which is quickly approaching!) is probably the hardest thing for me to think about right now...

How AWESOME was it to be in a bank in Haiti listening to Christmas music- in the middle of October!?!?!  God cracks me up sometimes!

Adventure #1 can be summed up in this way-  YES we spent 4 hours trying to get a bank account, YES it was a hassle going from bank to bank to bank… to bank, YES it felt a bit frustrating knowing how much time was being spent doing nothing, BUT, with all of that being said- YES we had a wonderful time with Steve and Melissa and Brett as we walked around Cap Haitian, sat down to some cold Cokes and took in the sites, YES God blessed us with a little bit of Holiday cheer- He knows me too well!, and YES we walked out of that 4th bank with account slips in hand, one step closer to getting our Permis!  Praise God!!!

Adventure #2-  Bible Study in Kompech

Last Friday, Haylie and I went with Cammie and her family and a few friends into the village of Kompech.  If you have read Stacey's blog, you may remember hearing stories of Kompech.  This little village, off the beaten path, is "hard ground".  The village is known to be a dark place where voodoo is prevalent, and after continued attempts, is still a hard place where many are still closed to wanting to accept the Gospel as truth in their lives.

Cammie comes to this village every Friday, and makes her self available for evangelism and discipleship to these people… some weeks, there are people who are ready and willing to listen… and other weeks, no one comes out to hear.  But Cammie is faithful.  I have been wanting to go and see this village… and Haylie too.  We finally had the opportunity to join her...

You can't drive to Kompech, so we go the mile or so on-foot… despite the thorns, mud, and lack of roads, the walk is really beautiful!  As we crossed over the little stream and through the mucky water, and as the bugs bit up my legs and thorns ripped my skirt, it reminded me that reaching lost people is NOT easy…  but well worth the effort for God's Kingdom!

I LOVE this picture of Haylie with Biga and Azi!

Upon arriving in the village, a man (whom Cammie had never seen before and who must have been visiting people there that day) invited us to come and have a seat.  As you can see, we attracted quite an audience!  "Blancs" are not seen very often here in Haiti, especially in remote villages… kids always gather around and giggle at the sight… (and for some reason I still always feel the need to check my nose or between my teeth to make sure "I'm good!")

Within a few minutes, Cammie had the man talking about what he believed and they began to discuss the Gospel.  SO wishing I was able to communicate better (PLEASE continue to lift up our language learning!)… I could understand the majority of what was being said back and forth, but still feel too limited to add to the conversation.  But praise God that He never leaves us without a job we can be doing.  As they continued to talk, I sat quietly praying in my heart with eyes open, asking for God to speak to this man's heart through Cammie's words and through His Word…

In just those few minutes, the man was confronted with a Gospel, the TRUE Good News, that he had never heard before! He asked for Cammie to return to his home in another town so that she could share this truth with his family, friends and neighbors!  They set a time and a place (Sunday at 3pm) and we left there knowing that God had begun a work!!!  Praise God for His faithfulness to go before us and use us if we are only willing!

During all of this, Haylie caught the attention of the MANY children and while we sat with the man, she captivated the kids!

And who knew a camera could be so intriguing?!

That following Sunday, Cammie arrived at the man's home and he had done exactly what he promised.  He invited his family, friends and neighbors and Cammie shared the Gospel again…  and she is returning every other Sunday to continue.  Isn't God amazing!?!?!  Please continue to pray for the people of Kompech and L'Acul (this man's hometown)!

Adventure #3-  Our first water taxi experience and trip to Dahloo Beach!

About once a month we take a much needed trip somewhere to just relax and spend time with our families…

Considering there is VERY limited options of things to do in Haiti- the beach seems to always be a good choice (and really only one of two options)! When you are missing the fall weather that you don't have, you might-as-well take in the beautiful weather that you DO have! :)

This past weekend, we took a first time trip for us and the Ayars to Dahloo Beach… and it was BEAUTIFUL and adventurous!!!

After an hour and 15 minute drive through Cap Haitian and around the mountains, we arrived at the boat taxis.  

Off in the distance you can see where Royal Carribbean cruise ships dock in Labadee! 

(Doesn't Ethan look SO OLD!?!?!- Ethan prefers that I call him "mature"! He is almost as tall as me now and seems to be growing more each day!)

What a nice looking bunch!

Isn't it GORGEOUS!?!?!  And the best part- we had the entire beach- TO OURSELVES!!!

After a super fun day of relaxing, hiking, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and cliff jumping, we took our boat taxi once again…  we were tired after a long day, but feeling refreshed from a great day!

(Haylie is growing like a weed too… and she looks so much older with Sofie in her lap, doesn't she!)

And finally…  one last adventure (not exactly an adventure, but a REALLY fun time!)

Adventure #4-  Pumpkin Party at the Heckman House!

Halloween is often times a touchy holiday for Christians- and understandably.  There are many dark things that can surround this holiday- like witches and ghosts and zombies and the sort.  

But we truly believe that EVERY day belongs to God- and we try to make Halloween a special day for our family to have some fun dressing up, eating candy and spending time together!  This year, we (Haylie mainly!) put together a super fun party for the kids here at EBS!  And what a blast it was!  

Here are just a few of the festivities and decorations:


Ethan and Haylie all dressed up!  (Haylie is a puppy dog, and in case you couldn't tell- Ethan is the infamous Tony Stark!… that facial hair really works on him! hehe!  Thankful its only face paint right now!)

Once the house was all set and we were all dressed in costume…

The trick-or-treating begins!

We made sure the kids went around...

To EACH door at our house for candy!

Here's all of them together in costume!

The craft table was a huge success!

And Pin-the-Face-on-the Pumpkin was really fun too!

The Pumpkin Hunt went great- ALL 55 hidden pumpkins were found!

After eating LOADS of candy and snacks, playing games, and doing crafts, everyone sat down to a classic...

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

What a FUN evening we had last night together!  And what amazing adventures we have had, and NO DOUBT, will continue to have!  And I'm SO glad that we can share these special memories with YOU :)

Thanks for your continued prayers and for your love for us!  

FYI- This week we begin our first Youth Ministry work here through a symposium for the students… please pray with us about how God wants to use us in this area here in Haiti! Excited to see where He takes us...

Much love to you all!