Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Amazing Love

Sunday school classes are just over and in the gentle warmth of the early morning sun I make my way from our gazebo classroom to the main chapel. Lost in thought I barely notice the loose rocks and boulders twisting beneath my feet. This morning in our class we spent our time studying the love of God and I'm feeling overwhelmed. Some of the Bible verses we looked at were these: 

Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. 

1 John 4: 7-11 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 

1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 
Martin Luther's comment on this was "So that our hearts cannot deceive ourselves and think, the Lord died for Peter and Paul but not for me." 

1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 

Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. 

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. 

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 

And finally, nothing has value without love. 
1 Cor 13:1-3 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September 17 in Pictures

6:44 a.m.
The sun is just barely rising over the capital city as Jason zigzags the Toyota over the narrow, dirt roads. Since today is an uncharacteristically slow day on the MAF flight schedule, I have the privilege of joining my husband and two other pilots for a flight up north to pick up some mission cargo. Since the cargo isn't scheduled to arrive till sometime this afternoon and there are no other flights on the board, it is a perfect opportunity for us to explore a little of Haiti's north coast.

No time like the present to start documenting this special day; my camera firmly in hand, I focus and snap as the sun beautifully illuminates the coconut trees.

Fifteen minutes later we're safely at the airport. Pilots often joke that the most dangerous part of their job is driving to the airport, and in Haiti that is probably more true than most places.

We quickly head through security, fill out a manifest and then step out through the glass doors onto the tarmac.

Feeling a slight breeze on my skin I stop for a moment and close my eyes. I love airplanes, and airports and I take a moment now to simply soak in the ambiance of this place. Looking up I admire the cloudless, blue sky; it's a perfect day for flying!

As Jason, Bernard and Michael, ready the Cessna 207 for takeoff, I spend a little time exploring the old relics in the airport graveyard. How did this fire truck tip exactly?

In the graveyard I also find the remains of two Air Haiti airplanes.

When I question Bernard, always a good source of information, he tells me that in their glory days they were part of a fleet of several aircraft that flew around the clock transporting cargo in the Caribbean.

After Duvalier, a former dictator,  was exiled, several in his government who were major shareholders in Air Haiti forced the company to be shut down. Years later, an Israeli museum made a deal to purchase the planes and as part of the process removed the wings and other components. The deal later fell through, thanks to some other government official, and there they now sit; hundreds of thousands of dollars slowly disintegrating into nothingness.

By 7:40 a.m. we're ready to go. After taxing to the active runway Jason executes a smooth takeoff.



and away.

Over the mountains,

through the valleys,

and past tiny mountain villages, we go.

Crossing over a mountain range I admire the cloud layer beneath us.

Their white billowy shapes, remind me of hundreds of fuzzy sheep.

Nearing Cap Haitian we pass the famous Citadel. The massive stone structure was built by up to 20,000 workers between 1805 and 1820 as part of a system of fortifications designed to keep the newly-independent nation of Haiti safe from French incursions. Comissioned by Henri Christophe, it is the largest fortress in the Americas.

A little later, the Cap Haitian airport is in sight and we make our descent. As we come in for landing, I photograph the Cessna's shadow on the runway.

Since the cargo won't arrive for several more hours, Bernard calls a friend of his who agrees to loan us his driver. Heading through the bustling town, I can't help but notice all the garbage and filth everywhere.

Leaving the city behind we head up into the mountains towards the coast.

We stop at the cruise port, and step into a different world. As we wait on the dock to board a friend's boat, I admire the brightly painted water taxis.

My gaze shifts to the bottom of a cliff where fisherman are organizing  their nets.

A little further up a man in a kayak paddles off.

Up ahead a beautiful cruise ships is anchored and passengers disembark.

We skim over the water until we reach Amiga Island.

Once we've dropped anchor, we take the ten minute walk around the island. Then we snorkel to some giant submerged cannons and pick up sand dollars and sea urchins off the ocean floor.

A few hours later we're back at the cruise port. After grabbing a quick lunch, we take a ride on the zip line and roller coaster. Are we really in Haiti?

Outside the cruise port we are quickly reminded that yes, we are in Haiti, as we watch a motorist tie two mattresses to the back of his bike.

Back at the airport the MAF airplane is exactly where we left her, patiently awaiting our return.

The missionary cargo has meanwhile arrived and is now carefully loaded in.

Flying back I admire the luminous cloud formations.

Flying through the clouds makes me think of heaven. Revelations 21: 18 says this about heaven; the city was pure gold, like clear glass. Although I can't exactly wrap my mind around what that will look like I know it's going to be even more beautiful than these amazing clouds.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The God Who Sees

I survey the expectant faces of the children in my Sunday School class and pray for guidance. Today is the first day of class after the summer break. 

We open in prayer and then I begin my introduction. "What is the first and great commandment?" A few of the students hesitantly raise their hands. "Is it having no other gods?" one asks. "That's what I was going to say!" a second chimes in. I shake my head. "Is it loving your neighbour?" a third pipes up. Shaking my head again I repeat the familiar words of Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. 

"Can we love someone we don't know?" I ask them now. Slowly one by one they shake their heads. "The Bible tells us the same thing," I continue. In Hosea 4:6 it says My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: and Hosea 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. 

Opening my folder I hand them each a blank paper and a pen. "Write down what you know about God," I tell them and moments later quiet prevails as heads bend low in concentration. 

When they are finished they each take turns sharing what they wrote: "God is faithful. God is Creator. God is great. God is powerful. Jesus is God. God is Father, God is love." Although their responses vary, there is one commonality in all their responses: God is kind. 

"God is kind?" I continue, "that makes me think of the words of Jonah. In Jonah 4:2 it says ..for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.. Did you know that Jonah was actually upset at God when he said these words?" Everyone shakes their heads. "This is the reason why he didn't want to preach to the Ninevites, because he knew that God was gracious, merciful and kind and he wanted the Ninevites destroyed, not saved." 

"If Jonah knew God so well, why did he try to run away from God?" One of the boys pipes up. "That's a good question," I reply. "But sometimes we remember certain things about God, and forget others." 

We continue on discussing what we know about God until class time is over.  

As Sunday, turns to Monday, and Monday to Tuesday, I can't seem to shake his question from my mind: If Jonah knew God so well, why did he try to run away from God? Turning on my computer, I look up the verses and find them in Jonah 1: 1-3: Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. 

It actually repeats the words twice, I muse; from the presence of the Lord. Didn't David write in one of the Psalms, "Where can I go from thy presence?" I find the words in Psalm 139:7-8, but other words in that Psalm speak to me as well. 

1 O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. 
2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. 
3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. 
4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. 
5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. 
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. 
7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. 
9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 
10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. 
11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. 
12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. 
13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. 
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. 
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. 
17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! 
18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. 

I find other scriptures as well: 

Jeremiah 23:24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord. 

Hebrews 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. 

Genesis 16: 13a And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: 

As I now ponder those ancient words of God's presence and all seeing eye, I think about my own life. Do I live daily in that knowledge that God is a God who sees everything? Do I take comfort in that fact and rejoice in it?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Into the Mountains

The word Haiti is derived from an indigenous Taino name for mountainous region. From up above it`s easy to see it`s not a misnomer as mountains cover over two thirds of the country.

I've always admired the mountains from above, flying back and forth between different villages, but at the same time I wondered about the people living in the tiny houses dotting the steep slopes, miles from any passable roads. What was their livelihood? How did they survive?  What did they do for water?

This past Saturday we had an opportunity to learn a little more about the mountain people and see their way of life for ourselves when a friend generously offered to take us up and down the steep and sometimes treacherous mountain paths in his ATV (all terrain vehicle).

The sky was beautiful when we left that morning reminding me of  the words of Psalm 19:1; "The heavens declare the glory of God... "

The ATV, with our experienced driver, was able to do what no regular vehicle could; make it's way through the mud, over rocks, up steep inclines, down sharp drop offs and across narrow ledges.

At one point the trail was so bad even we got stuck!

But thankfully, with a a little directing from Jason, and expertise from our friend Pat, we were able to continue on.

As we approached a small village, I marveled at the terrace gardens covering the steep slopes.

Our friend Pat explained that gardening was the mountain people's livelihood.

As we continued on, I soon noticed that many of the mountain slope I saw, regardless of how steep, were covered with gardens.

On the roads we met many people carrying vegetables.

Up and down the steep and winding mountain paths they went,

carrying their heavy loads of vegetables for miles to the main road where it could be sold and packed into large taps taps, before being transported down to the capital.

For those who could afford it, horses and donkeys shared the loads.

On the really steep inclines we would see them resting for a moment, as their burdens were heavy and the journey was long.

Even children, some no older than five, did their part.

The mountains themselves were covered with numerous springs of water. Passing them, we would see people stopping for a drink and washing and organizing their vegetables into neat, salable bunches.

Although their homes were small, the people looked happy and greeted us with friendly smiles and waves.

Some of the homes were quite nice, and since they were made from wood rather than concrete, reminded me of the homes of the early North American settlers. 

Others seemed a little more 'slapped together', but were still functional. 

While others, like the one pictured below, were down right pitiful. How could a tin house like this keep out the elements of rain, wind and cold? I wondered. Especially since the temperatures were much cooler up here than in the rest of the country. 

We climbed higher and higher all the while admiring the changing scenery. 

We passed through more tiny villages, 

admired the craftsmanship of more terrace gardens,

greeted the mountain people we met along the trails,

and traveled past fields of stone hedges,

until we reached a pine tree forest.

In the forest, we stopped to examine a sinkhole in the forest floor.

Then, a little further along, we parked in a clearing and headed toward the Seguin waterfall. The fresh scent of pine needles was intoxicating as we walked through the magical woods.

Colourful moss decorated the bark of the trees along the way.

We could hear the rushing waterfall before we spotted it through the tree cover.

Reaching the banks we pulled off our sandals and waded in. The water felt cool and refreshing.

Studying the flora and fauna I couldn't help but admire Haiti's diversity and feel awe for our Creator who designed every intricate detail. 

As the hours of daylight began to fade we headed down the mountain and were quickly engulfed by clouds. 

What a beautiful day.