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!