Category: faith

And if not, He is still good.

and if not, he is still good.

A few months ago I was reading Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I’ve heard this story dozens of times, and it always makes me think of flannel boards from old Sunday School days (anyone else remember those?).

The story is set in Babylon, and essentially King Nebuchadnezzar made a decree that whenever you hear music, everyone in the kingdom should bow down and worship a golden image that he had built. The consequences for not worshiping was death by being thrown into a fiery furnace. (Eek! So extreme!) This decree was broadcasted so that everyone in the kingdom was aware of the law and the severe punishment for not following it.

If you’re familiar with the story, you know that three Israelites, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refuse to bow down and worship the idol. Nebuchadnezzar is furious at their refusal and again threatens them with death.

My favorite part is their response:

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Daniel 3:17-18

Their reply before being thrown into the fire was so brave, so trusting. Essentially they said: Our God will deliver us. But if not, yet still will we worship Him.

We know how the story ends — God does save them and redeems them, but at the time they didn’t know that. Their trust in who God was and faith in His character was so unwavering that they were willing to be put to death, whether He saved them or not.

But if not….

I keep a journal where I write my prayers in. It’s a simple list of things that I am hoping for myself and my friends and family. Some items have been on my list for years. Prayers like…

  • Babies for those trying to get pregnant
  • Marriage for friends who are single
  • Restoration for marriages that are broken
  • Healthy children for friends who are pregnant
  • Jobs for friends who are trying to find work
  • Healing for friends who are sick

It has been neat to see how God has answered a lot of these prayers over the years. After years of praying for a baby, my older sister is now pregnant. After years of praying for my single sisters, my younger sister is now engaged and my sister in-law is in a wonderful relationship. After a year of praying for my friends’ husband to find work, just this week he was offered a great job. God is so good, and I rejoice with them on these good gifts!

But many of these prayers have not been answered. Babies have died. Friends have had miscarriages. People are still sick. Marriages have not been restored. Friends continue to hope month after month, year after year, for a child.

And I have to ask myself: If these prayers are never answered — if we are never able to have children, if we are never healed, if we are never restored, if we continue to struggle — is God still good? Yet still will we worship Him? Is he still worthy of worship if the prayers and desires of our hearts are never satisfied?

That “but if not” reply is scary.

It reminds of the story of when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord (Genesis 22:2). Let me repeat that plot: The Lord asked Abraham to kill his only son — the promised one who was to make a great nation of Israel — as a sacrifice to the Lord. Ummm, that is an insane request! AND HE WAS DOING IT!!! Abraham knew the character and goodness of the Lord so intimately and trusted Him so fully, that he was going to do whatever He asked, even if it meant killing his son. We know the end of that story too — God provided a ram to be offered as a sacrifice instead and Isaac was sparred. But still! Abraham didn’t know the redeeming ending when he went up to that mountain to make that sacrifice!

I read stories like this and realize there is a level of trust that I don’t have yet. I don’t know the Lord intimately enough to say yes to anything. I am not that obedient. I know that the Lord is good from so many kept promises and examples, but my faith waivers and crumbles so quickly. It is so weak. My heart responds like the man who asks Jesus to heal his son. When Jesus asked if he believed he could heal him, the father replies “I believe — but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

My friend Allison lost her baby last April and has wrested with this “but if not” statement too (read more of her thoughts in this post). She collaborated with our friend Becca to design a print to remind us all of the goodness of God, even in the midst of unanswered prayers and desires:

and if not, he is still good.

Click here to order on Society6. All proceeds from this print will be donated to Sibley Heart Center in honor of Owen.

I ordered it and hung it in my entryway hallway:

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Sorry, the picture quality isn’t great. I’m ready for sunny evenings after work — come quickly spring!

So every time I walk by this hallway (which is a lot) I can be reminded of the goodness of God. And ask for more faith to believe this statement to be true.

That if the things on my prayer list and the desires of my heart are never answered — if bodies are not healed, wombs remain empty, relationships are never restored — HE IS STILL GOOD.

Going to Haiti

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Back in April I went on a missions trip to Haiti.

Some trips are ordained from the Lord, and this was one of them. It came at a perfect time. My best friend’s six-week old baby died a week before the trip, and the funeral was three days before I left. I was grieving and in shock and wondering whether I should even still go on the trip.

But of course I couldn’t do anything here, so off to Haiti I went.

I told my family “no news is good news” and was off the grid for seven days. After weeks of being glued to my phone waiting for updates on Owen, it was strangely refreshing to not have any connection with anyone. It gave me time to process what the heck just happened in the last six weeks and be fully present in the work our team was doing in Haiti.

No part of the trip was restful — we got up early, painted buildings in the hot sun, and were emotionally drained by the amount of poverty we saw — but the trip was restful for my soul. I wrestled with God at the brokenness of the world. I still am, really. This whole world is so broken, every single square inch of it is sick and sad and not what it was intended to be. But during this trip, he began showing me the ways he’s piecing it back together and bringing restoration. Goodness in the midst of evil. Joy in the midst of poverty. Hope in the midst of loss.

I have never longed for heaven as much as I did during that trip.

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Read more on why I decided to go to Haiti and my experiences there. Read my post on Owen and more from my friend Allison’s blog.

On Contentment

I took an unintentional week off of blogging, due to a terrible, no good, really bad week. We have been dealing with a few health issues, broken computers, broken air conditioning [the upstairs thermostat read 90-degrees one night], and overall crummy circumstances.

In the middle of the week, as I was running late for work and bathing Leia because she happen to roll in poop that morning (oh yeah, that happened too), I started to think about Paul and his little secrets.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. – Philippians 4:12

Uhhhh… HOW Paul?!? How in the world do you remain content when you are in want? When you are hungry? My body is naturally always unhappy when I am hungry because it needs sustenance. How can your circumstances really not effect your content-ness?

He answers it in the next verse:

I can do all things through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13

Ah. Well there is the most over-used and inappropriately misinterpreted verse in the Bible.

Sometimes when I’ve heard a verse so many times, it loses its power. I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Yeah, yeah. He can help me. I pray a “get me out of this mess” prayer and ask for that supernatural strength to change my circumstances.

But last week, I stopped and thought about what it would look like to practice contentment when your circumstances don’t change and are still very much annoying.

Through him who gives me strength. 

The one who gives us strength is the Holy Spirit, and there are two major things that the Holy Spirit does:

1. Points you to the cross.
2. Enables you to love others.

When Jesus summarized the law into two statements — love God and love others — it wasn’t just a way to justify, it is the only way to set us free. The more I focus on the cross and what it represents, the less important my cares seem. It reminded me of the lines of this old hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

And the more I look around at the needs of others, the more petty my problems seem.

As some of you may remember, my best friend’s baby died earlier this year. He would have been six months this past Saturday, and oh how I wish I could see what he looks like at six months! To honor his life, his beautiful parents encouraged people to participate in doing random acts of kindness on the 23rd of each month. My “bad week” seemed so insignificant in light of Owen’s life and death, and it was pure joy to find ways to spread love and kindness in his honor. I was moved to tears seeing all of the ways people celebrated his life.

Love God, and love others. That’s the secret of contentment.

Letter to Myself

Letter to Myself - Five things I want to focus on during this season in my life.

Dear Self,

I thought about writing a letter to your younger self, but she has already lived those days so what’s the point of going back? Life is too short for regrets and today is too important to worry about the future, so let’s focus on this present day. These beautiful, golden days that you wake up to every single morning.

Here are five things I want you to focus on during this season of your life:

1. Enjoy this free time. I am not even going to pretend like your life is busy because it’s not. You have a lot of free time. Continue to fill up your free time with J. He is really funny and makes you happy. Go on trips together and get to know your city. It’s a pretty place. Try new things and learn as much as you can. Don’t bother spending time doing things you don’t enjoy — you don’t have that much time. Figure out what makes you come alive and spend your time celebrating that.

2. Invest in girlfriends. You have some pretty awesome friends. Keep them, and keep making them a priority. Text them when they pop into your mind and have them over when your house is really messy. I have a feeling these relationships are going to be pretty important in the years to come. Don’t be afraid to make new friends, either. Kindred spirits are just a hello away.

3. Make church a priority. Do you remember how long it took you to find this church? And do you remember all of the mediocre ones you went to before? This one is a gem, and you are so lucky. Continue to attend and sing and soak in the wisdom. Smile at the people in the hallway, because attending a new church is scary. And say yes when you are asked to help in the nursery. Those kids may be your babysitters one day.

4. Improve your inner beauty. Stop looking at yourself in the mirror so much. Continue to make healthy choices, because it makes you feel good, but don’t be consumed with it. Attraction is 90% personality and 10% looks, so focus on making your personality beautiful. Be kind and wise and helpful. Speak up against injustices and fight for what you believe in. Listen more than you speak, and when you feel like giving others advice, give them a hug instead.

5. Don’t worry about the future. Do you remember years ago when you were worried about college and grades? God provided and you went to a great school. Do you remember crying ugly tears, worried you would remain single forever? God provided and you get to do life with a great guy. Do you remember when you were worried about moving to DC? God provided and you met some great friends and started a wonderful career. Do you remember when you were worried about money after paying for a wedding and replacing both cars in the first two months of marriage? God provided and you were able to save enough to buy a house in the next two years. Whatever you are worried about, just stop. God is going to provide.

The days are long but the years are short, and being content with today is hard. One day you are going to be so nostalgic for this time in your life, so try your very best to savor every single moment of it while you are in it.

I’m not sure how to end a letter to yourself, so we will just leave it at that.

– Ginna

PS – Photo above from Death to the Stock Photo

Help for a Haitian Orphanage

On our last day before we left, we visited an orphanage near where we were staying in Titanyen. The orphanage is run by a couple, Yvon and his wife, who care for 46 children ranging from 1 to 15 years old in their very small home.

Haiti is a dangerous country, especially for children, as kidnapping, child sacrifice and trafficking are very common. Over 350,000 orphans were created after the earthquake, and Yvon and his wife saw a need to care for these abandoned children. They started bringing a few of them into their home at a time, and over the last few years it has grown to a large orphanage of 46 children living in very small quarters.

The folks at Global Outreach work closely with this orphanage, and it was a true privilege to meet Yvon and see how he loves these children dearly. While we were there, the children sang us two songs, recited scripture, and showed us around their small, humble home. They were so darling.

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We brought the kids some Easter candy. :)

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Pictured above is their kitchen, and below is where they wash their clothes. I didn’t get a good picture of their bedrooms because they were so dark. There are two small rooms packed with bunk beds, one for girls and one for guys. The older kids get to sleep in the beds, while the little ones sleep on cots on the floor. 

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Funding for the orphanage comes from churches and non-profits, but many sources have decreased and they are suffering to stay afloat. There are no public schools in Haiti, so if you go to school you have to pay tuition, buy uniforms, books, supplies, etc., and the few that were in school had to be removed to help pay for food, etc. They have a deficit of $4,418.

My team members and I started a t-shirt campaign for the next two weeks to get this orphanage out of debt and hopefully get kids back in school: https://www.booster.com/haiti-orphanage-fundraiser.

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I know, another t-shirt campaign and another request for money! But as someone who met these children and know the hearts of the ministry we worked with, I have complete confidence that all of the donations will be used for good and none of it will not return void.

All of the profits from these t-shirts will go directly to help this orphanage. The more t-shirts are sold, the greater percentage of profits go to the children. For example, if 50 are sold, $11 or every t-shirt cost will go to Global Outreach, whereas if 500 are sold, $14 of every t-shirt will be donated. If you feel led, there is an option to give above and beyond the t-shirt cost.

Please consider buying a t-shirt, sharing the campaign with your friends or followers, and praying for these kids. Thank you so much for your support!

Global Outreach’s Work in Haiti, and How We Helped

Before I went to Haiti I knew very little about the ministry we were going to help and the work we were going to do. Well now, as someone who has spent a week with this organization, I seriously cannot say enough good things about Global Outreach, the people that run their mission, and the work that they are doing in Haiti. It is absolutely incredible, and I’m so honored to be a teeny, tiny part of the beautiful story God is weaving in that area.

Dinnertime quickly became the favorite time of day. The food was fantastic, of course, but also because of the great conversation. Each evening the full time missionaries would eat with us and share their story of how God moved in their lives, brought them to Haiti, the work they are doing here and their vision for growing the ministry. Hearing their stories was like listening to characters in the Bible — there were so many amazing tales of protection and visions and incredible ways God is moving in this country. There are two older couples with kids back in the states, one family of six, one family of four, one older single lady, and one younger single girl.

IMG_9637 copyHere is one of our beautiful cooks. They made the best food!

Every time I was overwhelmed by the poverty or hurt in Haiti, I was immediately encouraged to see a way in which Global Outreach are meeting those needs. Here is a very quick overview of their programs, how we helped, and a few photos. :)

Burn Clinic
My initial question when I heard there was a burn clinic was — why is there a clinic just for burns? That was until I realized that everyone cooks their food over an open fire, so there are a lot more accidents and burns. They care for other ailments, but the majority of their help is for burn wounds. The clinic opens every morning at 7:30, and the ladies got a chance to help assist wherever was needed. One of the major ways we helped was by loading our suitcases with donations. There is a huge issue with importing anything into the country and it can take months for things to go through customs, so they rely heavily on short term trips to bring as many donations as possible.

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Feeding Program
About 60 elderly people (or their kids/grandkids if they can’t make it) come to the gates of Global Outreach every Monday to get a weekly supply of food. We passed out beans, rice, oils and spices while we were there.

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If you don’t have water, you don’t have life. And many Haitians (a lot of them children), will walk miles to bring water back to their families. Global Outreach has drilled over 300 wells in the area, and we drove by a few in the community. On our last day a few of the men in our group helped repair one while we were there.

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Schools
Global Outreach partners with a school in Titanyen by providing supplies and assisting the teachers. We brought a ton of school supplies with us, and a few of the guys built three desks which will seat 12 kids. We visited the school, but the kids weren’t in school since it was Easter week and they were out on break. Although a few kids were there helping their mom/aunt. :)

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Church partnerships
They are very involved in the local churches in the area and help by preaching and offering support when necessary. Teaching and training the Haitians to lead is important for the missionaries. A few of the churches in the area are in the middle of building a large building, and we were able to tour the structure. It’s going to be beautiful!

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Orphanage partnerships
They also partner with a few orphanages in the area. Those kids deserve their own post, so more to come on that. :)

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Conference center, camps and facilities
The land and facilities that Global Outreach has is pretty impressive and used year-round for Haitian school teachers, pastors, health care workers, project directors and kids. There are enough accommodations to feed and sleep hundreds at a time. They host camps each summer for Haitian kids, and it is one of the few places in the area with running water and electricity, so it’s like a vacation! They also provide housing for other organizations and groups. There are so many non-profits and NGOs in the area, so missionaries, relief organizations, adopting parents and many others are welcome to stay on their property. Samaritan’s Purse used their land for three years doing disaster relief after the earthquake. Our group painted the outside of three homes at the edge of the property to be used by future missionaries and intern groups.

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We also got to hear about their vision for expanding and bringing kids across the country for soccer programs and ministry growth. They have some seriously awesome plans for helping people and creating a haven in the midst of such a painful country. I loved every minute working alongside with them, and am so thankful for the generosity and influence I see them having in the country.

The State of Haiti

Well, I’ve been back two weeks now, so it’s probably about time I write about this trip. There are so many things I want to write I don’t know where to begin. So I’ll just start typing away. This will likely be a few posts for me to brain-dump all I saw and all that we did. Here goes…. :)

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I went to Haiti with a group of twelve from my church — six lads, six ladies. I actually didn’t know anyone from the trip prior to going, which was a little bit intimidating and also liberating, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to travel with. We stayed and served with Global Outreach, a ministry in Titanyen, just north of Port au Prince. I’ll share more about the ministry and what we did later. Today I want to share a little bit about the state of Haiti.

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The word that comes to mind when I think of Haiti is broken.

We spent a good amount of time in a 15-passenger van — traveling from the airport, visiting orphanages, on our way to church, or just seeing the communities around where we were staying. Most of those rides I spent looking out the window taking it all in. The first ride from the airport to our compound was hard. I was shocked and overwhelmed at what I saw. I have been in third world countries before and seen poor parts of the world, but never in that much quantity. It was so overwhelmingly broken.

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I learned a lot about the nation while I was there:

  • 85% of adults are unemployed, and people will do anything for money or food. Walking from the airport to the van was an adventure — there were crowds of people outside the airport. We were advised to keep our bags close and not make eye contact, since many people will try to grab it and help carry it for money (or steal it, I guess).
  • 75% of the whole country is under the age of 25; there are so many children. It is estimated that there were around 380,000 orphans in 2009, and after the earthquake the number doubled to over 750,000. The leader of our group is adopting a little girl from Haiti (whom we met!) and he shared with me that adoption in Haiti has become a lucrative business since the earthquake. What used to be a relatively short and inexpensive process now takes twice as long and almost three-times as expensive. (If you want to read a GREAT blog series, check out Jen Hatmaker’s posts on adoption ethics: Parts 1, 2 and 3.)
  • I was surprised at how expensive everything was, since normally third-world countries have a low cost of living. But there is so little infrastructure and so much corruption that importing things is costly and everything they sell or own is precious.
  • The roads are terrible, which wasn’t surprising to me after being in remote parts of the world before, but it was still something to note. What should take you an hour to drive in the states would be an all-day trip in Haiti.
  • According to World Bank last year, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere one of the top 10 poorest countries in the world.
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A lot of times people would come up to our van and try to “wash” it for some cash (their rags are usually dry). Normally we would drive off because there were so many, but this guy had a Durham Bulls tshirt on so we had to oblige. It was so random and awesome to see a little piece of home in that place!

A bit of history…

Haiti was a French colony with slaves imported from West Africa in the 1600-1700s. It was the richest colony and had dense, rich soil that would produce agriculture and goods to send back to France. Like most colonies, the slaves grew discontent and tired of being oppressed, so in 1790s they fought against the French and won their independence.

The interesting part that I had never heard before, was a myth that the leader of the Haitian revolution made a pact with the devil to earn their freedom. They made a vow that they would serve and worship Satan for 200 years if he helped them fight and defeat the French. There was a sacrifice of a pig and a blood oath, and through that ceremony the Haitians won their independence. (I know, say whaaat? I had never heard this.)

Voodoo worship, or “black magic” is prevalent in Haiti, and one of the missionaries shared how the land has essentially been cursed since that vow. What used to be rich, fruitful land is now rocky and dry. Almost all of the mountains have been deforested, since their own fuel is charcoal, and this causes a lot of erosion problems and almost all natural resources have been depleted. The missionaries truly believe if the Haitians repented and turned to the Lord, that they would miraculously find a natural resource and their land would be healed.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14

A member of our group asked what I was thinking:

Why Satan? Why would they want to worship such an evil power? 

His answer sent chills down my back:

We forget that Satan is still the second most powerful person in the world. He is able to provide people what they want, but it comes at a cost. That’s one thing we as Americans don’t grasp, because the devil is hidden in “good things” that become god things, and the path of destruction is slow. But in Haiti, the power of evil is much more overt, and they worship the devil because of generational tradition and fear. They are more afraid of Satan’s power than they are believing in Jesus’ saving power. 

That response has haunted me.

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There were a few times in the trip the darkness and poverty and hopelessness of the country overwhelmed me.

Where in the world do you begin to help these people? The needs are too great and too many. I found myself paralyzed thinking of how to help. It’s so much easier to ignore. There is NO way I can make any dent into the problems of this country, so why even try? 

But God has not forgotten these people. He is working and moving and loving and doing a great work in this country. And his main means of bringing restoration in this nation is through the body of Christ.

More on that in my next post.