We have been living in Haiti for 6 months! I can hardly believe it. I am so very grateful for how this transition has been for our family… we have adapted to our new life and responsibilities here, our kids have embraced this calling and are flourishing, and the community here at EBS truly feels like a family.
With all of that being said, I must admit that the last couple of weeks have been a struggle for me, in one particular area.
As most of you know, I like to communicate through spoken word. I thrive on relationships and conversation. To put it bluntly- I LOVE to talk.
I also love to learn. I have enjoyed learning about Haiti and especially learning Creole. I have notebooks filled with new words and phrases, new proverbs and cultural facts about this beautiful country…
but here is where I am struggling.
Despite my willingness to make a fool of myself in some ways (this is definitely a prerequisite for working in youth ministry!), I don't like to look like a fool when I am speaking. I don't like to NOT know what to say. I REALLY don't like not being able to adequately communicate.
And two weeks ago, I felt completely DEFEATED.
Over Christmas break we did not receive tutoring and with the busyness of the holidays, and then with a month of visiting professors and visitors, we had very little time for Creole learning… let me rephrase that… we didn't make time for Creole learning like we should have.
When we started back into the normal schedule and tutoring began again, I could feel my anxiety begin to take over.. and as soon as I began to allow those feelings to fester, the devil began to inch his way into my thoughts and do what he does SO well. I could hear him say...
"You are NEVER going to learn this."
"You sound ridiculous."
"You don't really NEED to learn the language…"
One night it all seemed to come to the surface and I began to feel sick with all kinds of emotions. Guilt for not knowing more, anxiety about speaking to people, anger at myself for not being more disciplined, frustration about feeling everything I was feeling.
And yet, with all of those thoughts swirling around in my mind, I could still clearly see that I needed to STOP letting the devil defeat me. (Its in these moments that I am so very thankful for His Spirit alive in me… speaking truth. reminding me of His presence.)
I knew that I needed to keep moving forward and to ignore his lies. I also knew that I needed some encouragement… some encouragement to press on. To STOP feeling sorry for myself.
A reminder that its NOT about me! (Isn't it interesting how the devil almost always uses self-preservation as a tool… he turns everything around so that we are more concerned about ourselves than about others in the situation we are faced with. He turns the focus onto OUR "needs", convincing us that WE are more important. UGH!)
Amidst all that I was experiencing- God showed up in a powerful way that night. He always knows exactly what we need (and He knew I needed a good kick in the (sorry) rear-end!).
As I sat down to do my devotions, I opened up my favorite devotional book by Dennis Kinlaw, This Day with the Master. And this is what it said:
"Wise is the one who can speak in such a way that identification takes place between the people listening and the one speaking. That is what language is all about. It helps us to know one another; it helps us to understand each other; it means that we value one another. Most of all, it enables us to effectively communicate the message of salvation."
Seriously. THAT is what it said. Could that have been ANY more convicting?!?! or beautiful?!
As I sat and read those words I could see so much more clearly why I HAVE to learn this language. Because God built me for relationship. He designed me to thrive on conversation. He sent me here to share His message of truth with the people of Haiti…
Its no wonder the devil uses THIS to discourage me!
This past Thursday we facilitated the first symposium of the new semester. I have been working through a discipleship training manual with a great friend and I have been loving the content. Its SO good. As we sat with Lèmè in tutoring the Tuesday night before, he encouraged us to teach it in Creole… And as I prepared for the symposium I knew that I NEEDED to do it in Creole.
I could hear the words of that devotional in my head… "it means that we value one another". I want the students to know how much I value them.
Around midnight, the night before the symposium, as I sat at the table going over and over it all in my head, I felt prompted to open up that book again, and read the devotional for that day.
The title: "Pentecostal Language" Acts 2
The devotional spoke of what happened on that Pentecost after Jesus ascended into heaven… the coming of the Holy Spirit.
"It is no accident that all the people present for Pentecost heard the message in their own tongue… The baptism of the Holy Spirit with its cleansing, transforming, enlightening, and educating power produces an identification point with other people..."
And here is where it hit me:
"Suddenly we are able to build bridges to people we never expected or hoped to reach. This is the power of Pentecost. When a formerly ineffective preacher or lay witness comes under the anointing of God, that one speaks a language that every person can understand and with which everyone can identify."
God spoke to me that night and reminded me that YES it is MY responsibility to learn the language to the best of my ability…. but it is HIS Spirit that is going to do the work of identifying HIS message to the hearts of HIS people.
Instead of worrying about getting every word correctly translated or whether or not I was going to communicate the message without messing it up… I went to bed that night trusting that God was going to do the work that only HE can do.
And Thursday's symposium was truly amazing. I did it in Creole, almost entirely in Creole. I could sense His Presence with me the entire time, giving me the words, calming my nerves. I had a sense of peace that certainly passed my understanding! And in the end, to see the look of joy and encouragement and excitement on the faces of the students was humbling and empowering and inspiring.
At the end of the symposium we informed the students that its our desire to help their churches in any way that we can. In fact, we were already scheduled to go to one of the student's churches and help with training their youth team the Sunday after symposium. (Up until this symposium I was really unsure of what direction to go in for that training time… but God made it clear that THIS is what He wanted us to do!)
At the end of our time together on Thursday, we were asked by 4 more pastors to help equip their youth teams to make disciples for Christ.
THAT is the power of Pentecost!
Our desire, God's desire for us, in doing these trainings is to help instill in youth leaders the importance of making disciples (who make disciples) in their youth groups… and equipping them with the tools to do so.
So this past weekend we did our first youth training outside the walls of Emmaus, at Emanie's church in downtown Cap-Haitien. We headed into town on Sunday afternoon, with Junior graciously coming along to help.
We began the training time the same way we did the symposium… in fact, its the same way we have started every teaching time here in Haiti…. with an object lesson! (We ARE youth leaders remember!)
First, we showed them a model of something that we wanted them to make out of folding paper (like origami). They had 5 minutes to complete it, by simply looking at the model in front of them.
At the end of the five minutes, no one came even close!
THEN, we gave them each another piece of paper, but this time the instructions were different. Instead of just looking, they listened to Phil's instructions as he went through them, step-by-step. They watched him as he folded the paper along with them. They followed his lead. We went around and helped them fold it properly. We corrected them kindly when they did it wrong and helped them to do it the right way. We walked through it with them until they all had completed it successfully.
Do you see where we are going with this?
I then asked them how THIS example is similar to disciple making. I shared with them that Jesus gave us this model of discipleship and that the way HE made disciples is how we need to make disciples…
At the end of our time together, we fielded some questions and had some dialogue, and we asked if they would be interested in ongoing discipleship training in this area. They all said YES. We go back on March 16th. Isn't that awesome!?!?!
Below are some pictures of us with some of the youth leaders...
Romual (next to Phil above) is a current student at EBS and a good friend!
(And above is the president of their youth group)
(This is us with most of their youth team… You can see in the picture that some of them are holding their folded-paper creations... LOVE it!)
I am so excited to see where God is going to take this in the coming months.
I am BEYOND thankful that God speaks to us through His Spirit in times of weakness, temptation, brokenness, and selfishness…. to see past ourselves and through to the purpose that He has for us.
The devil wants nothing more than for us to fail. To give up. To throw in the towel. To feel defeated.
And yet God's Spirit is with us, encouraging us to keep going, empowering us to trust in His abilities, convicting us to set aside our own doubts and fears, equipping us to do what He has asked us to do.
What might His Spirit want to do in you today?
How might He be calling you to trust Him… to trust the power of Pentecost at work within you?
"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21