The Best and Worst 10 Year Anniversary EverApril 14th, 2022
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January 12, 2022 is a date we looked forward to for years. It was the 10 year anniversary of the ministry God called our family to. That date was supposed to be a celebration of epic proportions for everyone involved in the ministry of myLIFEspeaks. Our ministry center was to be filled with people and we were supposed to showcase all of the amazing things God has done in our little corner of Haiti. But it was none of that...
Isaiah 55:8-13 (NIV) has reminded us that, even on our best days, we can’t comprehend the workings of the LORD. He has purposes that our minds don’t always go directly to. He is always doing something that brings Him glory and the 10 year anniversary of ministry in Haiti for myLIFEspeaks was supposed to be 100% about Him and not any of us.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
Tradition says the 10 year anniversary is the “aluminum” anniversary. At myLIFEspeaks, our 10 year anniversary was more “diesel fuel and burning tires” than aluminum. The chaos of Haiti kept us from being able to celebrate like we wanted to, but that doesn’t mean God didn’t show up and show off! It just means our plans weren’t the most important thing. As Isaiah 55:12 predicted, the mountains and hills around our village burst into song during the anniversary party. Hymns were sung, testimonies were given, prayers were offered, and most importantly everything revolved around the Good News of the Gospel. The stories of physical healings were dwarfed by the proclamations of God’s spiritual healings for those who had experienced his grace and mercy. The 10 year anniversary of myLIFEspeaks was exactly what needed to happen in our community and it was 100% led by our Haitian leadership because our American staff were not able to be in the country at that time.
In November 2021, we were forced to leave Haiti due to gang violence and insecurity. We left after much counsel and prayer. We are called to Haiti so leaving never seemed like an option for our family or the other Americans who work alongside us. We were fully committed to sticking it out alongside our Haitian family. The decision to leave was only made when our Haitian leadership came to us and explained that having Americans on the ground brought more unwanted attention and targeted attacks to our local community. Our Haitian directors, who we have worked so hard to empower as the on-the-ground leaders of myLIFEspeaks, came to us and risked it all by asking us to leave. They trusted us when we said we wanted to hear what they needed to say and we had to listen...even if it wasn’t what we wanted to hear. This was a true moment of trust on both parts and the ministry of myLIFEspeaks is better now because we listened and left.
The last 10 years of ministry have been filled with exhilarating mountaintop experiences and devastating lows. We have seen children who were once abandoned and/or orphaned find safe and loving Haitian homes through our family-based care work. Children are growing up in families that love them and are experiencing the safety and security they deserve. Children with special needs are growing up in the same home with their typically-developing siblings. Every child deserves a family and we have done all we can to make sure each child has that.
God, however, had even more in store for our ministry.
Instead of only focusing on children who were abandoned and/or orphaned, God showed us the importance of empowering parents to love and care for their biological children while they are still in their homes. As we dove deeper into the reasons why children were winding up in institutions in Haiti in staggering numbers, we realized most of the children who were growing up in an institution had living parents or family members within a few miles of their location. That’s when God opened our eyes to the need for stronger families in Haiti.
As we got to know more families in our local community, we realized the Haitian families we lived beside were no different than ourselves. They had children they loved and truly wanted the best for them. The main difference between us and them was one thing...extreme poverty. Poverty should never be the reason a child is given away by their biological family. As we learned more about the “poverty orphans” filling Haiti’s 750+ known orphanages, we knew we only had one choice, “to Fight for Families” like lives depended on it, because they do.
The mountaintop experiences have been numerous and have changed the way we view the world. The lows though, have both scarred us and solidified our calling. Seeing children discarded, beaten, abused, and abandoned is heartbreaking. Watching a mother walk away from her child because he looks different shouldn’t happen. Burying a child because proper medical care wasn’t available only reminds us of the devastating effects of sin. These lows however don’t define us. Instead, they push us further with more focus on the future.
While we once fought to make sure children with special needs were accepted in their own homes, in the village, and in the community, we now see individuals with special needs being a part of the local community. We see them walking or riding in their wheelchairs in the village receiving high-fives from their peers. Where rocks were once thrown, a smile and a hello are now offered.
Today, we work with hundreds of families in our local community. The services we offer have grown from a focus on children in our care to an entire community. We offer a fully-inclusive educational initiative with general and special education happening in the same building and often in the same classrooms. Education is also happening outside the walls of our school as well with children standing up for their peers, helping their parents learn to read, and with offerings to the local community. Today, over 60 elderly members of the village come to the ministry center each week to read, write, color, and learn more about the Good News only Jesus can offer.
We also have a clinic and therapy center that offer services to anyone. Since many facilities in Haiti will not allow individuals with special needs to be seen, we make sure everyone is accepted, cared for, and treated. Since VouDou in Haiti is so prevalent and because it teaches that anyone who is deformed, disabled, or simply different is cursed by an evil spirit, we offer love and acceptance to all with open arms. This is the way we imagine Jesus instructs us to live.
The 10 year anniversary of myLIFEspeaks was perfect. It brought glory to God alone and was run by our Haitian leadership. While our desires were to be there and our eyes were filled with tears, our hearts were filled with contentment that God was doing more than we could have ever imagined. He was truly achieving the purpose for which He sent us to Haiti (Isaiah 55:11). To God alone be the glory.
Thank you TTF and family for walking alongside us on this journey.