Sunday, December 15, 2013

A new chapter in the story...

Yet He has not left Himself without testimony; He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your heart with joy.
                                         Acts 14:17

     I feel the need to wrap this blog up. Much like the year wraps to a close, it's just time for a new season to unfold in the life of the Goehmann's.
        We have been so blessed! SO BLESSED! I am overwhelmed by the joy in my heart for what God lead us to, what God brought us through, and where God is taking us next. We could not have done anything we did without the support of so many loved ones and perfect strangers. We were loved more than we gave, we were ministered to, more than we ministered. We carry Haiti in our hearts, even when she isn't under the soles of our Keens. We were welcomed and cared for in Haiti and then we were welcomed back and cared for in America.
          I am absolutely convinced of the joy in the struggle. Some of your struggles are immense, some appear small, but feel like the weight of the world. Some struggles are small in reality, mattering only to you and to God. But that's just it. They matter. The struggle brings me that much closer to Him, to seeing his face and feeling His arms. In the struggle, St. Luke cared for us, my parents cared for my children, my women's bible study listened to me, my friends hugged me, my sisters comforted me. In the struggle I was brought closer to understanding that we all need Jesus, but we also need our church families. God gave people to us, to care, to help us know it matters, to not be alone.
          I am meant to be a missionary where ever I may go. For this time, I am called to be a missionary in America. My simple task to share the struggle and share the joy. It is the common denominator. In Haiti I heard the story of a woman named Sissy, elderly, in a one room pre-fab house, rejoicing in God's love for her when there was little else to rejoice over; I heard the story of a mom, working to feed her children, trying to save up enough funds so that maybe, just maybe next year would be the year they could go to school; I held a little girl, crying because she felt she didn't matter to anyone, no one noticed she was hungry, alone, and scared; I laughed with women rejoicing over a soon to be born baby. To share these precious stories...God testifies to me in each story, that He is still there. He can heal all wounds. He rejoices in each joy.
          So now I share in the struggle and the joy here, where God has called me back. I tuck Haiti in my heart. I pray for her, I pray for my friends, and the church. I look around me and see a sea of people who need to know that He is there in their struggles and sings with them in their joy. That there is a family who is there to help, to cry and to laugh with. That the church wasn't made out of brick and glass, but out of people loving one another and sharing their stories together.

I'd love to hear your story. I know He's there in it. Let's find Him together.

Friday, November 15, 2013

headaches, MRIs, and God's will

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.                                                               Psalm 143:8

    An MRI. I know it sounds like no big deal. It's not painful. It's not invasive for the most part. But this is the test that threw me over the edge. I actually begged my doctor to just let this one go. Not necessary, I said. Just let it me be.
     The truth was I was scared to death of that dumb machine. I had been poked and prodded. I downloaded my story to 27 doctors and nurses over the course of 2 days. But this thing, this MRI. I just couldn't do it. I was done to begin with, tired and drained. The fear was too much. The idea of a tube and no way out literally did my soul in. I waited for them to confiscate me for the dreaded test. They gave me some supposedly amazing sedative, but I tell you a sedative has nothing on a spiritual struggle. Fear choked me in that silly machine. I closed my eyes and said bible verses to myself, realized my memorization skills had a lot to be desired, and spontaneously switched to hymns.
       There it began to pour out. The hymn that ran on repeat in my head
                Lord, take my life and let it be....consecrated unto thee
                Take my moments and my days
                Let them sing your ceaseless praise
       And all I could think is - I thought I knew what you wanted, Lord. I thought I knew.
       45 minutes later, pulled out of the dreaded tube, I got back to my room and to my beautiful smiling husband. I fell into a headache stupor and let the spiritual struggle sit back deep in my heart.

      5 days later, at home (I love my home!), I shared with Dave my heart. I hate feeling like I have no idea where God wants me to be. I dread contemplating it each day. I want so desperately to know what God wants with my life. When we were preparing and planning and then serving in Haiti, I felt so close to God's will. I felt like I was standing in the center of exactly what God wanted for me without doubt, for the first time in my life. Then, I felt like that was all falling apart. I knew in my head to trust in the Lord, that He had a plan, good would come through it all. But my heart was breaking and worst of all, I felt an absence of God's presence. To go from knowing without a doubt what God wanted for me to complete chaos, it was devastating. It's a struggle. I'm sure some of you have been there.
      So, I rely on what I know, what I am told in the Word. On the promises of God before me. Good will come from this. He does have a plan. My job is to seek Him, and nothing brings you to your knees quite like upheaval. I lift up my soul to him, crying out-
               "Show me the way, Lord. Show me the way." And He will. He always does.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Ashes and beauty

What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?                                                                 
                                                                                                  Romans 8:31

     As I lay on my white tiled bathroom floor, staring at the bottom of my toilet, one word replayed over and over again in my mind....
     "Failure. Failure. Failure." Interrupted only momentarily with a pronoun, "You're a failure."
     I couldn't keep my children safe from illness, I couldn't help the Haitian people while lying in my bed, I couldn't serve anyone when I myself needed to be served.
      I felt miserable, but what made it unbearable was the knowledge that my children felt even more miserable. 103+ temps, digestive issues that I'll leave to your imagination, lethargia. House visits from a wonderful Haitian doctor. Prescriptions. The children bounced back. Everyone was doing ok. Maybe I wasn't a complete failure. We could pull it all together. We've got this. God's is for us!
     Then Jyeva got worse. She was allergic to the antibiotics they had available. We searched and searched. The doctor told us it was time to think about getting her to the United States. The reality quickly came crashing to us. It was very difficult to keep the children well in Haiti. Our work was going well, exceptional. Our children were not faring so well. 
     And so we made the difficult decision to come home, get everyone well. Re-assess. Plan B. 
     Then, Jyeva got worse. High fever, still untold digestive issues, too quiet for her usually chipper self. As we traveled down the mountain to Port au Prince at 4am on Friday. I looked out the window at those beautiful mountains, Caribbean Sea peeking out from the bay below, and felt like my dreams were dissolving with the early morning mist. Then I quickly jumped into Mom-mode and focused all my energy on getting my little girl to good health. I prayed, "God, I'm gonna need help here. Send me the people I need in my path today. Fight Jyeva's battle for her. Give us strength." 
     And as God always does
           He heard my prayer before I even uttered it. He answered my plea in ways that would be revealed to me in the coming hours.
    I saw dreams dissolving in mist, God saw the incense of my prayers rising before Him.  
      I hate to fail. 2 years ago, on Easter Sunday, during the sermon my husband had everyone write down on a slip of paper their deepest fear. On my slip I wrote these words, "Failing at everything." He had us burn those slips of paper, God consuming them with His love and sufficiency. So, that's the picture I treasure in my heart when I'm struggling. God is more than capable of consuming my failure and turning it into ashes, molded into something beautiful. He is more than capable of taking Satan's arrows and flinging them back.
      Here in this Fort Lauderdale hospital, I don't know what Plan B is, but He does. He also knows Plan C,D,E, and F. He't not limited by my failures, or my successes. There is a million unanswered questions in my heart. But He has the answers. 
       The answer I heard this morning in the reaches of my heart, through His Spirit and through the lips of His Body....
       You are not a failure, my child. You are loved. You are treasured. You can only see in part. I see in Full. If I am for you, nothing can be against you. Be ready... because I have plans child. I have plans.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Privilege of Lekol

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
                                                                          Luke 12:48b

    I love to watch all the Haitian school children walking along the road in their clean uniforms, backpacks on their back, ready to take on a new year of learning. The opening of school here is October 1st. We have been getting ready for it by helping Sydney (Pastor Marky's wife, and training as one of the Lutheran Church Haiti's first deaconesses) with the scholarship program. There are over 200 children in this program currently, thanks to many donors in the US and a few faithful souls that organize and advocate for more donors. 
    School in Haiti is for those who can afford it, and that number is much scarcer than you or I can reconcile in our middle class minds. I homeschool my children by choice. It is important that I recognize this choice, in itself, as a privilege and Praise the Lord for His goodness. 
     My friend posted an article on Facebook recently about the ability to choose to opt out of immunizations. Another privilege that can easily be taken for granted. 
     Electricity...can I get a shout out from the missionary wives? It is a joyful moment everyday (or every few days sometimes) when the electricity turns on. How many light switches have I flicked in my life without even considering it. Even my cold shower at night, it comes from a faucet that runs inside my house, when most of my neighbors have buckets and if they are so blessed, filters. Privilege.
     As I sat this week homeschooling my own four beautiful children, I was taken back by the privilege of education. Most of us reading this have been given so much privilege  In fact all of us able to read, able to access a computer, even not our own, with the internet, have been given a gift. We could believe we are simply born to the right people, in the right place, at the right time, all stars aligning for our future. But clearly there is more than this. If I could deny it before, I will never deny it again. Who I am, the specific time and place on this earth that God has chosen for me...they are no accident, no mistake. God has a plan for every precious moment of it, for every dark and light place I find myself in. It is all His.
    I used to find joy in the above verse because it spoke forgiveness in my life. And it most certainly still does! I have been forgiven much and therefore may forgiveness ooze from my pores by God's grace. But isn't it wonderful that God can take a single Bible verse and speak wisdom and grace over many facets of our lives? I have received much, may what I give be even a fraction of what has been given me. You have the very Spirit of the Living God living in you- What great things He has planned! 


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Make it yours, Lord...

This will be your opportunity to witness.
                                             Luke 21:13

     Looking up the word "opportunity" in the scriptures in not for the faint of heart. Most of the time when it is used it refers to sin or people trying to betray Jesus. Or like in the verse above it reflects the opportunity we have in persecution. Yuck. I don't want to talk about persecution. It's more than a little scary. I don't even want to think about it most of the time. But it is a reality for so many. How many people give up that fear in return for beautiful opportunity from God?
     This week in ESL class I learned a lot about opportunity. Sometimes God quietly speaks to your spirit and sometimes He sends flashing red lights. I like when he does both. :)
      The ESL class was not something I was prepared for when we came to Haiti, nor was I overly excited about it. I like to teach, but I sincerely doubted English was what God called me to teach in my months in Haiti. My motto, however, is "the Haitians know what the Haitians need."So, when asked to do ESL, I smiled and said, "Sure, I did that one time. I think I can handle that." According to the many teens in my class, English skills greatly increase their chance for employment, so they are eager students.
       But we are talking about opportunity.
       I prepare my lesson with different ideas from online and what I know from teaching otherwise. I pray and ask God to make it work. That's literally my prayer,
                                                                      "Make it work, Lord. Just make it work."
       How little are my expectations of God!
       This Monday we talked about emotions, feelings. I have over 60 students and trying to get them all involved is a challenge, but it was a fun lesson going over some emotions and then asking individuals to act them out- I feel happy. I feel jealous. I feel curious. I feel angry. I feel sad. I feel loved. Some are easier to understand than others.
        I asked if anyone had any questions. One student wanted me to explain the difference between like and love, an interesting question because in Creole renmen is the verb for both like and love. This led to fun discussion of friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends, getting married.
        And then....opportunity. One students asked me the difference between to love and to believe. I talked about your mind and your heart, truth and lies. I wrote on the board - "I believe in God because he forgives me. I believe in God because he gave me the Bible. I believe in God because he loves me."
The last half hour of the class was taken up by students sharing their spontaneous sentences...."I believe in God because he hears my prayers. I believe in God because he sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. I believe in God because he created everything." It was a beautiful testimony and my heart left class so full.
       I came home, sat down and asked God,
                                    "Lord, don't just make it work. Make it yours."
       And what God does is always beyond anything we could ask or imagine.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.                Amos 9:14


     I met with a team of individuals to begin phase one of the community garden project. Community gardening is not a unique idea, but land in Haiti is difficult to come by, or pricey at best. Someone from the church here is generously willing to let us use some clear land to begin our modest garden for the Lutheran village that was built behind the guesthouse. This is one of 3 Lutheran villages built by LCMS churches through the Building Homes and Hope in Haiti campaign. These homes are beautiful and a blessing to those who dwell in them. They are well cared for and many of the people who live in them have flowers blooming and trees planted. They are clearly not just houses, they are homes. Nathan proudly showed me his papaya and mango trees (one each) and a small chicken coop he built on the side of his house. These houses were built to relieve the burden of at least a few, who had no home after the earthquake.
     Now we move on. Past relief, to restoration. Many of us reading this, and many of those working tirelessly in Haiti plead to the Lord to restore her and restore her people. To bring them out of poverty and onto a time of thriving, not just surviving. 
    So, a garden seemed a good way to begin. A garden was not only the place where God first met with man, but He also rose and restored man from a garden tomb, bright and early one Easter morning. Food is a basic need that many fight for in Haiti. People from the villages will be able to work together to cultivate the land, plant the produce, and reap the harvest. This harvest can fill their plates and bellies, or they can bring something to market to provide for another need. 
   The plan is to work in phases...
      Phase One - Sign up interested individuals from the village, we have 10 of 20 right now.
      Phase Two - begin to cultivate the land, build a small fence, and plant our first crops - tomatoes, eggplant, and spinach. According to Roosevelt (our resident expert) they will grow quickly, in about 3 months, so that individuals can reap the bounty. Then we can choose to add longer term crops and replant the initial ones again. We will be here long enough to begin the process and see it through, but it is sustainable to continue without our direction.
      Phase Three - Pastor Marky had the idea that we can take this same project to Bodwen. Bodwen has another of the Lutheran villages, but it is an area of serious poverty. Pastor Marky would like to begin a community store there, but the garden would be a good way to begin a community participation project. Currently they have a feeding program for 100 of the poorest children. You can see pictures below. It is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever witnessed in my life. Children desperate to eat, many with torn clothing, some with disabilities. Some of them hide food in their bag to bring it to their parents. The work of the feeding program is much needed and why we want to add something concrete and sustainable for this community.
      I love the community garden project because it reminds me of home. Gardens and the land are close to the heart of so many of those we love back home. Gardens and farming to those I love are about relationship. It's about caring for the land that God has entrusted us with, to produce what he has provided. It's working together to plant, care for, and harvest. I'm looking forward to being part of this process in a tiny way, with the people here in Haiti.
       We do need to purchase some tools for the garden, and some seedlings to begin. If you'd like to help contribute to this project you can do so via St. Luke Lutheran Church (Wauseon, Ohio) Haiti Fund @ 1588 SR 108, Wauseon, OH 43567...or the Lutheran Church Charities Goehmanns in Haiti Fund below. You can specify the community garden project. Otherwise, please pray that our relationships, as well as our garden will be fruitful and pleasing to the Lord.

Click here to donate to the Goehmann in Haiti fund

The following are pictures from the feeding program at Beourin...

Harvesting... (thoughts from Dave)

The means of grace worked through and for me to bring a harvest so soon.  The first Sunday, before I was even here a week, I was able to distribute the Lord's Supper.  I gave the blood/wine specifically.  I scrambled to remember what words I could say in Creole.  "Jezi, pou ou"  was all that I could muster since I didn't know the word for blood or shed or drink.  In English I said the simple words translated, "Jesus, for you." Everyone stood in two enormous lines that stretched the entire length of the church building.  Some even stood out the door.   I gave them the very blood of Christ shed for them to strengthen and preserve them in the true faith for life everlasting that day.

I communed also. I needed it, as I would prepare for the next Sunday of preaching and more.  So the preparation was made and the sermon delivered.  God always provides the words to speak even when your roasting in the heat and can hardly think, since every day is a shock.  Then, in the worship service to my surprise a young girl came forward.  Pastor Marky prayed for her and then it happened.  She was brought to the baptismal font.  I knew what would happen next as Pastor Marky lifted up her chin to look her in the face and tell her God loved her and she was his child.
It was not my doing as if she came up after such a great sermon.  Many seeds were planted in her heart before.  But I did have the privilege of giving God's word and telling her God loved her in the sermon on that special baptism day.  The means of grace were there.  God was there.  The harvest was reaped.  What more could I ask for?         

Thursday, September 5, 2013

He is great, and mighty, and awesome...

Because the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you yourselves were sojourners in the land of Egypt.                                   Deuteronomy 10:17-19

Jonah asks me every day, "When's lunch? When's dinner? When are we going to eat?" I love answering him now with "Le Magdala ap di." or loosely "When Magdala says!" We are blessed with a wonderful cook, Magdala. She is beautiful and a gift to me. I also love that in Haiti we get to share all of our food. Dave jokes that I never liked leftovers to begin with, but isn't it better to share? I love having something to offer, so often I feel like it comes up short.

Today was our first day at the orphanage of Pastor Joseph. Our friend Jackie emailed and said simply, "Talk to Pastor Joseph. They could use a lot of help." We met Pastor Joseph yesterday and immediately felt the weight of his burden. He embodies James 1:27. When the earthquake hit thousands of children were made orphans in Haiti, adding to the already large number. Pastor Joseph and his wife saw with eyes the Lord has given them and opened their arms wide to children in need of refuge, a home.

These children are desperately in need, but they are very much loved. Pastor Joseph and Omuri (his lovely wife) have 6 children of their own. A topic of conversation that we bonded over, because even in Haiti it's not that common to have many children. People look at us all the time and say, "Kat!", which means "4!" Yep, 4. Their one month old baby Phoebe is about as precious as it gets!

What can we offer Pastor Joseph? I don't know. God will show us in time. So for now, we offer what we know. I asked Pastor Joseph, "Can we come play, once a week maybe? Maybe we can do more, but playing sounds like a good way to start." If I can only share a milligram of his burden, I will gladly take it. If anyone reading would like to help in even a small way, please let me know. Sometimes the children eat 3 meals a day, sometimes 2, but sometimes just once. Their electricity was cut off. This should not be. God showed me this verse today because he knows that I need to know in the deep reaches of my heart that God executes justice for the fatherless. He is not partial. He loves those precious children and is preparing hearts to help.

Manu, our faithful friend and manager of the guesthouse where we stay (and language coach extraordinaire!) asked me the other night while showing me the fruit trees,
          "How long will you be in Haiti?"    
           I answered him, "It's about 8 months."
          "Ah," He said, "you will know my Haiti, like I know my Haiti."
This was so dear to me. I have been shown great love in a very short time in Haiti. It is my turn to be the sojourner, to be the alien in a strange land. But I am not alone. None of us are. We are all simply sojourning our way through this life to the next, finding our way to the place God has prepared for us in advance. May we be the hands and feet that go and touch a world that hurts, with a Love that heals.

On the fun side of things...
Peterson taught Jonah how to eat fresh fish on the Caribbean Sea. We all enjoyed the salty, refreshing water. Zeke is particularly fond of plantain.

Dave brushes up on some survival skills lighting the stove to cook. Again, thank goodness for Magdala.

We might start just calling Jyeva "fi" since the Haitians are always asking to make sure she's a girl. I told her that maybe her wisest idea was not the haircut. However, Jyeva was also excited to find out that Haitians love Converse. It instantly bonded her to them.