Have you even been in one of those gatherings when the Holy Spirit just filled the room? That is the only way to describe our final class session with the students today. We began with prayer and singing (I just learned today that the class next door sometimes had a difficult time hearing their teacher this week because of the singing coming from our class!) as the students lifted their hands in praise. They were all very excited because this was the day they got to each have 5 minutes to present what they have discovered in the Word over these two weeks. They graciously listened, encouraged, and applauded at the end of each of the 25 presentations today. Many of them dressed up again today and were so proud to stand before the group to share from God’s Word. Each and every presentation was excellent. Most of all, it was exciting to see the passion in their hearts for Jesus and the gospel as they spoke.
The end of class was one of the most touching experiences I have ever had. I shared from my heart for a few minutes about what the class had meant to me, and admonished them to continue in what they have learned --- that my prayer was that this would be more than a course, but would become a lifestyle for them. I urged them to stay in the Word, to continue to seek Jesus, to disciple others, and to bring those people to heaven with them. I shared that we are brothers and sisters in this journey, and that we are now running this race together. I told them that if I did not see them again until heaven, I would look forward to rejoicing with them there for all Jesus did in our lives and others. As we prepared to close this last class, some students spontaneously and passionately stood to tell what this class had meant to them. One of them then said that it was their turn to gather around Simeon and me to pray for us. We joined hands in a circle and sang a song of praise (in Creole) that rang out loudly throughout the building and outside (I saw our door crack open a few times as other people we peeking in to see what was taking place). After this the students all prayed with loud voices, just as in the book of Acts, and then took turns embracing us as we went our ways. My eyes were full of tears as we experienced the reality of Jesus together in these powerful moments.
Grades are all turned in, and we had a final supper tonight with the missionaries, who have so graciously served and blessed us in the Spirit of Christ. What a great fellowship we have had together with them and the other visiting professors. I head home tomorrow, but will forever take the students with me in my heart. I have been greatly affected by this time with them and feel that it will shape the rest of my life. I thank the Lord for this gift. Thank you for praying and being a part of what He has done here, which will matter for eternity. As my fellow professor, Bob Petruccio says, let's continue "to make much to do [or ado] about Jesus."
“The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.” As I studied this, I realized how God has given us this dynamic of His life in the class these two weeks, and this is how I feel this for these students. I am grateful for and amazed with the love of Jesus and how He can overwhelm us with His own heart. I will most definitely carry that with me for these students far past tomorrow into eternity. Thank you for your prayer that has opened the way for Him to make that a reality here these days.
I am amazed with Jesus and His Word. I can, as much or more than ever, relate to what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:3. “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.” This has been the emotions and sense that I experience every day here in Haiti. For the last several days I have just prayed the words following verse 3, that there would be a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” I am still as nervous before class every day, not knowing how God will come through that day, but He is answering this prayer and doing something that is beyond me and I just want to thank Him for that. It is hard to believe but today’s class was even greater than yesterday. It may sound overly positive, but it is not.
I have to confess that the days are full and I am weary in every aspect of humanity. But the days are rich! After class, chapel, and lunch, Simeon and I spent a couple of hours grading papers before I went to the missionary prayer meeting. The other OMS missionaries and guest came over from the other campus for their joint weekly Bible study and prayer time. It was a blessing as my fellow visiting professor, Larry Lain, shared from Ephesians chapter 4. It was powerful truth. It was right from there to dinner, after which I am sitting down to write now before some fellowship time and a then later a video chat with my family! The time here is winding down as we only have two days of classes left before I come home on Saturday. I thought I would take minute here to share about my host family here, the Heckmans. They have been so gracious and made everything like home for Larry and me as we are staying with them. I appreciate their ministry here on the campus as full-time OMS missionaries, with Phil as the director of operations , overseeing grounds and maintenance staff (you should see the beautiful grounds!), and Emily serving through hospitality for visiting teams (a BIG part of what they do here), teaching, and helping lead worship in chapel.
I do find that assignments are a great way to see how the students are grasping the concepts we are talking about in class, and it is a great opportunity to give them feedback and further direction. The good and exciting news is that the students are really understanding this process and are getting into the Word in ways that extremely encouraging. It is amazing to hear some of the observations they are making and to see how they are just being immersed in the Scripture. It will probably take most of the afternoons the remainder of the week after morning class each day to complete all the grading. In the meantime, I still have grading to complete from my classes back home. It is good thing that I am just a “twig” (see Day 8 post)! We had a great day of class as I led the students into a study of 1 Corinthians in an attempt to give a “live” model of the approach we have been talking about in class. The Holy Spirit brought many teachable moments as we saw that Jesus is the answer, that pride is the block in our lives, and that Jesus wants to live in us and demonstrate Himself through us in every situation. We had some lively discussion as we took time to let this apply to our lives in very real and practical ways. I have to share that the greatest impact in class today came as we discussed how Jesus is our answer and complete provision for all of our lives, whether married or single (1 Cor. chapter 7). The Holy Spirit seemed to really speak this truth into all of our hearts in a powerful way in that classroom.
According to their voodoo tradition and the instruction of this spiritual voodoo leader, it was believed that their “payment” was that this child would belong to this man. Sometime after her birth, the parents accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives and had become a part of this church. Yet, they believed that they still owed this spiritual “debt” to the voodoo leader. The pastor asked them to come up front so that the church leaders could gather around them to pray a prayer of “divorce” from the voodoo. He boldly proclaimed that they now belonged to Jesus, that He had canceled this debt, and that He has freed them from this spiritual bondage. It was a powerful moment to look upon this young girl and to know of the different path in life that Jesus has granted to her --- a path that is available to all who will receive Him, in Haiti and everywhere. (For a fuller account of this, feel free to read Stacey Ayars' blog for today). The ride to the church took us through a small village and then some further distance into the country. All along the way I had the opportunity to view the people and dwellings, pray for them, and wave to them as they waved at us while walking to church themselves.
This evening I am preparing for class tomorrow. I will be taking the opportunity to try to model Bible study for the students in class, studying 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. I am praying earnestly that not only would the students learn something about Bible study, but that the truth of the Word would impact our hearts and minds. I pray that we would all, in a new way, see Jesus as the complete provision for our lives. I would appreciate your prayer for this in these next days. We desperately need a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).”
While this may not sound like a restful “beach-like” day, it was for me. I know that may sound “different,” but it helps me to get some of the work completed so that there is not so much of it that is still undone and waiting for me. Also, the biggest blessing of my day was to get to have a video chat with my family via Skype! I cannot tell you the sheer joy of just seeing them (all three of them on the screen at the same time!) and hearing their voices. As I laid down for a brief rest after that chat, I just thanked the Lord over and over for this gift. I feel that I have grown closer to them across the miles and that we have become even more one in the Spirit.
We have had tremendous discussion in class about this process. I am very encouraged about how the students have embraced this. One of the most difficult parts of it, which we discuss often, is that there is the temptation to hurry ahead to interpretation and ask “What does it mean?” My interpreter, Simeon, and I will be grading these papers together on Monday and seeing how the students did with this. I already have the sense that they have done extremely well. We spent nearly all of class today talking about the priority of the Word of God in our lives. Why is it so important? One of the highlights of the discussion, with enthusiastic response from the students, was when we discussed how the Written Word is the revelation of the Living Word, Jesus. I shared about the powerful impact and transformation that takes place in our lives, when we simply allow Him to be revealed through the Word, both to us (in our own study) and through us (in preaching, for example). One of the students, Bernard, raised his hand and shared through the interpreter that he felt that he was experiencing revival in his own life through this class. It was a joy and a divine teaching moment to be able to share with the students that it is Jesus that brings revival through His Word, and that He is not exclusive or selective about this --- He will do this in the heart(s) of anyone that will seek Him in the Word. Benito told me after class that he feels the Holy Spirit at work. This has been my deepest prayer for this class --- that the students will realize that it is all about the Word, and that they would come to depend upon Jesus in the Word with their entire beings. I have prayed that there would indeed be a revival atmosphere in the class, and He is indeed bringing that about. This trip and this class are about students like Bernard and others like him who are open and seeking the Lord. Matt Ayars (seminary president) told me this evening that some of these cannot afford to be here at the school. Would you pray with me for God’s provision for these students?
The Internet is back on in Haiti! Well, at least in some measure in our location . . . at times. I have always known this, but it is amazing to realize anew what it does to one’s perspective to be in a missions setting. We went through the entire day yesterday and most of the previous day with no Internet at all. This would seem to qualify as a tragedy or emergency for me in the United States. I will be honest and say it was not easy. To be sure, it was a tremendous inconvenience as it limited my communication with home and prevented me from getting my work done. Yet, life went on. I got to talk to my family briefly by phone; God was good and moved in great ways; and we all grew in faith and dependency upon Him.
The remainder of the day was spent working in my classroom. Since the Internet was working at the time, I decided I should “make hay while the sun shines.” I was able to catch up on e-mail and make a dent into some of my regular teaching work from home that continues to accumulate. I even got to instant message with my family a little in the process! :) It was an encouragement from the Lord today to learn that Trina was looking at the constellation Orion in the nighttime sky somewhere around the same time I was (maybe within an hour?) last night. It was a small reminder that God is working and in control far above our ways and our thoughts, that He cares for us, and that our lives are in His mighty and gentle hands. After a pleasant evening meal with our gracious host missionaries and the other visiting professors, I sit typing to you this evening with a greater sense of peace than I have had since being here. The Lord is good, Jesus is more than sufficient, and I am so very grateful for your continued prayer, which is making a difference.
With a thankful heart in Christ,
What a full day it was here in Haiti. Classes began as usual at 8:00 after having Haitian spaghetti for breakfast in the campus cafeteria (I vow to include no pictures of my food in these updates!). Class had an ebb and flow to it today. We had an exciting discussion as we reviewed the basic steps of Bible study and talked about the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit in that process. The students, especially those who are pastors, told me on break how encouraged and excited they were about these truths. We became bogged down in the middle of class and ran into the language barrier as I tried to introduce some Bible study tools to the students. I had not accounted for the fact that a vast majority of these first-year students have very little, if any, ability to understand English. This really rendered fruitless much of our attempt to show them the English language Bible study tools that I brought with me. I felt that I lost them in this portion of the class, and I felt led by the Holy Spirit to get back to where we needed to be in the final segment of the today’s class. So, we just opened our Bibles, looked at several passages, and talked about Jesus as our motivation for being the Word, Jesus as the Truth and the importance of Truth in the spiritual battle, and Christ being our message. We talked about being committed to seeking after Him alone in this process of Bible study, and asked the students if they would join us in a commitment to be a seeker. The room increasingly filled with the sound of students saying “Amen” to these truths, and the class concluded with the students spontaneously breaking out into a worship song together.
This was an authentic Haitian experience as we rode the 5 miles back to campus over the rough roads and through the scenes of human need. At one point, I looked up to the sky and realized I was seeing the clearest night sky I have viewed in some time (not since South American in 1993). As I gazed at the constellation Orion, the most vivid and detailed I have ever seen it, it caused me to think of everyone at home and to realize that I am looking at the same night sky that my family is seeing at the same time. We are not so far apart after all. Above all, we are together in spirit, bound in Jesus. Thank you for your care and support, and for also being with me here in spirit.
No internet. That is the story of Haiti: Day 5. We know this because we were actually able to speak to John by cell phone for about 10 minutes tonight! He called out using one of the missionary's phones. It was great to hear his voice. He told us that the internet has been down all day and they're hoping it is restored soon. Their day was full with morning classes and then travel to another OMS campus and fellowship with the missionaries. He also got to speak in the student chapel.
Since we don't have a picture from John's day in Haiti, I thought I would upload a portion of a satellite image from Google Maps to show exactly where John is. I've thought today what missionaries from 50 years ago...even 25-30 years ago...would've thought if they would've had internet and cell phones for communication with their family in the states. One day without internet wouldn't have seemed so bad. Perspective. Sometimes it's good to "zoom out" so you can see more clearly.
We are so thankful for God's work in Haiti and the opportunity to share in it for a few days. Thank you for your prayers....Trina
I am a brand new teacher to all of the students this term. It is a new setting for me, along with being the first time to teach while having it translated into Creole (or was it French? Just shows how little I can tell the difference!). But the Lord gifted us with a brilliant and dynamic translator named Simeon (I will provide a photo of him later in the week). The Lord gave us a dynamic time with the students. It was a blessing to see their faces and the lights go on as we talked about the process of studying the Word of God. We had great questions which all contributed to the discussion. I was greatly encouraged by how they understood the entire concept and process, and was so grateful for the way in which the Holy Spirit worked through and across the language barrier. There genuinely seemed to be a connection of heart and spirit. The highlight of class was the final 30 minutes, when I simply opened to John chapter 5 and talked about the concept of being a seeker after Jesus, and allowing the Holy Spirit to take us deep into the Word so that Jesus could be revealed to us. There was tremendous response to this with the students enthusiastically affirming their desire to have this heart and approach. This will be the approach we will emphasize throughout the course, and I am excited to build upon it tomorrow.
It was a difficult day here with the Internet, but I was so grateful to be able to instant message with my family this evening. It brought tears of joy to my eyes to be able to interact with them. I was also able to enjoy playing a new board game (“King of Tokyo” I think?) with the missionaries. The Lord continues to give us special moments each day, and there is a deep sense of our own growth taking place through this time. Thank you for your continued prayer for me and my family, and for your encouraging comments.
It was a quiet day here on the campus as students began to return to begin classes tomorrow. Many things in Haiti, such as classes here, were on pause in remembrance of the devastating earthquake that took place five years ago today. Therefore, though we were originally scheduled to begin today, it was an extra day of preparation. I was happy to take some time in the afternoon to rest. I rarely sleep well away from home, and this new location is no exception to what seems to be a normal pattern for me.
One of the missionaries told me, "that truth could be preached in every church in Haiti, every week." I thank the Lord for the truth of the Word, for the work of the Holy Spirit, and for the body of Christ through which He works. What a privilege. The remainder of the day was spent resting, in fellowship, and in keeping in communication with my family. Have I mentioned how much I miss them? Matt and I also went out and ran about 2.5 miles. It felt good to get out running in the fresh air, and even better that I kept up with Matt ALMOST the entire way! The little children from the neighborhood who ran alongside of us and the mud on my shoes from that path were a vivid reminder of where I am and the very truth of the message from the service this morning. "Which table do I seek?" Thank you for your ongoing prayer as we prepare for classes this week.
Haiti is simultaneously a beautiful and desperate place. As the airplane descended out of the clouds today, what struck me from my window seat was the lush green carpet laid over mountains and valleys. As we arrived in Cap-Haitien and left the airport, the depth of human need, both physical and spiritual, was as evident as the pictures on TV had seemed to convey.
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