Over the past few months, I have faced a rollercoaster of health issues after discovering a tumor growing deep in my abdomen, close to my spine. The tumor, when discovered, was thought to be a hematoma from a childhood injury, and the doctors said not to worry about it. After taking another image, the doctors said it may not be a hematoma after all; it might be cancerous. After further imaging, the doctor said it may be coming off of a lymph node and lymphoma cancer became a concern, especially with my mom having died of lymphoma six months earlier.
After more studies, they discovered the tumor was not coming from a lymph node, but was instead coming from a nerve root, which meant the odds were the tumor was benign, as most nerve tumors tend to be. They did further imaging and discovered the tumor was moving into my spine, which was concerning. But two weeks later the final images revealed the tumor was no longer moving into the spine, but was isolated in the main mass. Throughout this process people would attempt to comfort and encourage me, and for that I am grateful. However, one of the comments I would hear as people sought to comfort me, was that God wouldn’t take me home and allow my life to end because He desperately needed me here. Nothing, my friends, could be further from the truth.
Let me be clear, God does not need me, and God does not need you. In our culture today, with the COVID-19 scenario, we are learning about essential and non-essential workers, which will help make this point. In the kingdom of God, there is one essential worker and one essential position: God, and He will hold that position forever. Outside God, there are no essential positions available; everyone else is non-essential. Don’t for a moment think the Creator of the universe, the one who spoke and a hundred trillion stars appeared, needs us. God lacks absolutely nothing, and God can build His kingdom with or without us. Harsh, isn’t it? People are trying to be nice when they say God needs me, but He doesn’t…not one bit. He is perfectly content and capable in His omniscient, omnipotent, triune nature.
Actually, this is quite a blessing. If God needed you and me, it would imply God does stuff for us because He needs us for His work. If God needs us, maybe He just shows love because He’s using us when He can’t get something done Himself. But such a belief is absurd! The limitless, infinitely powerful God does not need you or me, but He does want us, and that’s much better.
God loves you and desires to use you in His kingdom work, but not because He needs you, because He loves you and wants you. When Elijah told God he was the only one left who hadn’t bowed the knee to idols, God quickly informed him of thousands of others, unknown to Elijah, who were still following God. There is no one in the kingdom of God who is irreplaceable except God Himself. Don’t ever, ever look at ministry work or service to God as you meeting a need that God wouldn’t be able to otherwise meet. Ministry is not about you doing God a favor and helping Him accomplish His plans as though without you He would be hopeless. Ministry is about God allowing mankind to take part in His master plan and be part of the fulfilling, purpose-giving work of the Kingdom. I am not essential in God’s kingdom, but I am wanted. May my mindset never be that God needs me, but instead that God has given me an opportunity to serve Him and be part of His divine plan, and may all glory go to Him.
What does Frozen 2 and the past year have in common?
Well... If you are super analytical, a lot. But personally, I'm referring to this:
ok, ok. It's a bit dramatic. But in some ways...fitting
So the past year has been…. trying.
My husband and I began directing our first Discipleship Training School Last September. We had carefully planned for it for over a year, teachers, students, staff, all the things. Then, 2 weeks into the school, the political unrest that Haiti has been in since 2018 reared its ugly head and we had to change many many plans. Most of the teachers couldn’t come, we had to re arrange the whole schedule, and we had to stay on campus for weeks on end.
Fast forward to outreach. It wasn’t what we wanted for our students. Most of the outreach was close to home, we never got the chance to leave Haiti.
Then, In March we were optimistic. After an emotional few months, our family came to the US for a much needed break and to get paperwork in order for the future Port of Peace campus. A week after arriving in the US, most of the country went into quarantine. And then Haiti closed its borders. And then our daughter’s passport renewal got help up. And then, and then, and then.
Seriously, it was like that book series “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”
So what does this have to do with that song from Frozen, you ask? I’m almost there, promise.
During this whole time, I’m not going to lie. I was an emotional mess. Stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, sadness… you name it, I had it. But, I’m only human. With human emotions.
But with each unfortunate event, God gave me the strength have all the emotions, stop and talk to Him, then just do the right next thing. Was it easy? No. Did I probably sit in my emotions a bit longer than I should have? Sometimes. Could I have done it on my own? Oh heck no. The only way I was able to find that next right thing was to seek God and find confirmation in what that “right thing was” And guess what? He completely blessed even single event.
Our DTS was amazing. We were able to love, disciple, and become family with our 12 students. Being in such circumstances brought us closer and helped us to be vulnerable with each other, and God moved powerfully in their lives. Some of the students decided during the school to become our first four staff members!
Yeah, we were hoping to build Homes in both Haiti and Jamaica, but we were able to serve and impact our own home town in profound ways during a difficult time, and show those we impacted the love of God in real tangible ways. We were able to visit Port de Paix in the new year and worked on what would be the template for our future ministry in the town, and made connections that will be so important later on.
When we came to the US, we didn’t exactly realize how much the previous months had tired us out, and we were VERY burnt out. But during the past few months we hav had time to pause, reflect, regroup and were able to start having virtual meetings with our staff. Plus our staff were able to use the time to build skills that will helpful when we return to Haiti. ALSO, during our stay we discovered that my sister was expecting her second baby, and we had the opportunity to welcome our little niece into the world yesterday.
So, even though the circumstances were rough over and over again, being faithful to God and asking Him what that Next Right Thing is allowed the blessing of this looooonnngg season of things being changed and different than we expected, He blessed every moment.
So, maybe next time you feel like you a living out a Series of Unfortunate Events book…
Have the emotions, be human. (Its ok!)
Then pause, talk to God
And do the Next Right Thing
During the beginning of quarantine, I was trying to figure out what I should do. My plans had been thrown out of the window like most people. After a short time though, I saw a post about an online SOW seminar (School of Worship) that YWAM Montana was hosting. I felt lead to join the seminar, so I did! So today, I would like to share with you what I've learned from the SOW!
Before I filled out the application, I thought that I was just going to learn more about worship and how I can be a better worshiper. But during the second week, I heard a phrase that impacted me deeply:
''YOU CAN NOT PRAISE SOMEONE THAT YOU DON'T KNOW"
There is a difference between PRAISE and WORSHIP. PRAISE is to say (or sing) good things like: "God you are awesome! God, you are great! You are all powerful, God" and WORSHIP is to submit your life or bow down before God. When you truly know who God is and the works that He does, you can truly praise Him!
During the seminar, the teacher asked us to write a song. After writing it we were asked to take that song and make it even better. The process was difficult for me, because I was frustrated that I had never written a song before. To make matters worse, the teacher said that he was going to pick someone to sing their song for the class!
I was so terrified of singing my song in front of the class that I actually had the thought of skipping that class so that I couldn't be chosen! I've always been afraid of singing in front of others. Instead of skipping though, I chose to pray the night before and I had peace to attend class the next day. I wasn't chosen, but the teacher had another plan for us! Instead of just one person singing their song we all got together in groups and would each contribute a line to a song. We sang our part when we got to it in the song. I was a little confused at first, but as soon as I heard the beauty of everyone's lyrics complementing each other I fell in love with it.
In the past, singing out loud in front of other people would fill me with so much fear. I see now that we do not have to be afraid to use our talents for God's glory. It's a lie of Satan to keep us paralyzed with fear. I'm so happy I had the chance to attend this SOW, because I feel like I am ready now to sing for the Lord and praise him anywhere I go. Also, I'm so happy that I know how to write a song now!
God is awesome!
Lately i’ve been learning a lot about God’s providence and why He has us where he has us. A lot of times I feel like we can see times as “in between”. The time in between jobs, or the time in between school years, but all of it has immense purpose. Recently I’ve been viewing this period where I wait for my return to Haiti as such, and in doing so I’m devaluing God’s use for it. I’ve been working at an outdoor retail store, hanging with friends and family, and raising money, but it can feel mundane. Last night when worshipping in my car with my best friend, we drove to this park, and I got out and felt led to get on my hands and knees in prayer. I didn’t want to as I had just showered and the asphalt wasn’t exactly clean, but I did anyway. While in this position of submission a divine realization washed over me and I remembered conversations I’ve had while at home about God and His Goodness. He was highlighting the fact that I have been doing something to bring God glory even if I tell myself it’s not enough. May we be so aware of God’s purpose that all we can do is bring Him glory whatever that may look like.
While You Wait
There were a few different ideas I had running through my mind for this writing. Though, when I took it to God, I felt like he wanted me to share what you are about to read right now. That God cares more about your heart and focus than your circumstances. Now don’t take what I am writing out of context, I am not saying God does not care about your circumstances because he does and probably more than you can ever know. Though I do now wholeheartedly believe that your heart and focus in the midst of anything that is going on is what God truly cares about.
Back when I did my DTS, I wrote out a prayer to the Lord. It was during worship week that I prayed this prayer. Worship week was a time where my fellow students and I were diving deep into learning what it meant to be a true worshiper of the living King. This was not a week where we learned how to praise through songs and music but started the process of understanding how to live a life of worship. Now, I can say I am receiving the blessing of that prayer being answered. I will let you know that this was not a prayer for something tangible, a miracle, or a provision. This was a prayer for how I wanted God to work in my heart and life. If you have ever prayed something like this I am sure you have seen God stretch your heart in extremely uncomfortable and challenging ways. However, through the process I have seen that our God can turn things like ashes into gold.
“ It is weird to think that you live in me. And that you created me to be a home for your spirit to dwell. This changes my thinking. I am a house for God, so I want to be a light. A light people can see. I want to be a light like a lighthouse. I want to be a hospital house for you. Welcoming all that you have to dwell in and out of me. I want to be one who sees and hears all that you are doing in all the other homes you have and the homes you have set out to live inside in the future. I want eyes like yours to see others the way you see them. Overall God, I want you to reign over me. Become the one and only leader of this house.God take every part of me into your control and do with me as you please. God make the house you have built in me to bring unending glory into your kingdom.”
The above paragraph is the prayer I prayed. And I can honestly say that putting this out into the public is not super easy for me. In fact if I did not feel God so strongly leading me to do it, I 100% would not. But I am learning to have a heart of obedience.
How God has started to answer this prayer has not been a warm and fuzzy experience. I would more describe it as being smashed open and then being put back together with a higher quality glue. HAHA! Now here is where we are getting into the heart and focus of it all.
I returned home from my DTS in February of this year, with the plan set to return as a YWAM staff member after a short 2 months at home. It has now been double that time and I am still back at home. One would say my plans have been completely turned upside down…. Well that is what I initially thought, until now. As I look back at the past few months I see just how greatly God has worked on my heart one month, one week, and one day at a time. And on top of all that, he has blessed me by opening new doors in my life that I did not expect at all. And I mean like huge, crazy, amazing blessings that I do not at all deserve. Say what!?!?! God is crazy! I am so blessed to be his daughter. Anyhow, back to my heart wrecking and focus changing. The hard part of the past few months was the things God brought conviction to in my life. He showed me some areas in my life that needed some deep heart checking. Two of those being how I often fuss and worry about the future and how I have lost track of my heart of prayer and seeking. Tying into those convictions, I felt God so often ask me “Where is your focus?”.
I have learned that it is so easy to look at what is going on around you and forget where you should really be looking. Circumstances can seem huge and take all of your focus. It can become easy to look at them, take COVID for example, and see what is annoying, not going right, or frustrating about them. But God taught me one thing that I want to never lose. And that is to stop, and instead of looking at what is going on, look at God. Genuinely asking him how he is already moving, what he is trying to teach me, and if there is any heart checking I need to do. This is not an easy thing, but I have learned it is a must. God is training my eyes and heart to look at the picture differently. Letting the foreground of the world blur and become mute, allowing me to start looking upward toward the eternal kingdom.
Lord thank you for convictions, grace, and forgiveness. Thank You that you faithfully answer prayers. Father God thank you that I get to be a lighthouse for your spirit to dwell in. That is an insanely crazy gift! Lord continue to teach, convict, and grow me. I am the house but you Father are the Keeper.
Qualifications and certifications are a popular thing in the Western world. The more letters before or after your name generally shows competency in your field, an increase in your salary, or more respect from others. (Though if you are like me, you have to google what the letters mean in most cases!) This line of thinking has filtered itself into the Church today and so I wanted to take a minute to discuss it in a missional context. Let’s start with the question: what kind of qualifications does it take to become a missionary?
The answer to that question is simple. There’s only one thing required to become a missionary.
I’ll get to seminary degrees and ordination in a little bit, but for now, consider the Apostle Paul’s words to the Church in Ephesus:
Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV
(I realize that the wording of the King James Bible could indicate that the work of the ministry is to be performed by the groups of people listed in verse 11. To that I say we have the awesome privilege and ability to search elsewhere in Scripture to interpret Scripture! We see in places like 1 Corinthians 12, specifically verse 7 in this case, that the Spirit is given to every person to profit, not just those set apart. Or in 1 Corinthians 14:26, that we all have something used to edify the church.)
Look even to Jesus, who chose fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and other untrained people to be His closest disciples and Apostles. He even had the audacity to send them out in pairs without Him! Jesus seems to know something that we have forgotten. Namely, that head knowledge does not equal a changed heart and that a changed heart is better than head knowledge.
I know there will be people out there that will say that missionaries are only church-planters and that to plant a church you need a seminary degree. But let me be clear about this. A degree in theology or divinity is not the same as a saving knowledge and personal relationship with Jesus. It is not and will never be a substitute. An unsaved person with a Doctor of Theology with 20 years experience pastoring churches is worse, far worse, than a saved 15-year-old high schooler totally dependent on the Holy Spirit. Not because of who they are, but because of who is the power behind them.
Yes, post-secondary education in Christian beliefs can enhance a person’s faith, ability to articulate those beliefs and help safeguard someone from false beliefs. When education becomes a part of the work of God in a person’s life it becomes a beautiful thing. We need to guard against education replacing the work of God in a person’s life though. If we don’t, titles and degrees become barriers to service rather than bolstering that service.
I've been a missionary for almost 7 years, and one thing that I have noticed while on the mission field is that there seems to be a disconnect between missionaries and those back home. One would think that in the age of social media and instant conversations, that connecting with international and local missionaries would be easier than ever! But sadly this is not the typical case. Sure, you may see a missionary friend's instagram photo and double tap to show a little love, or you may see the map or flags or flyers in the church foyer with names of missionaries and wonder if they are still working in their local ministries or countries. It seems though, that the personal connection just isn't there. And we get it! We live a very different lifestyle than you do! You have a lot of things on your plate! And learning how to connect with a missionary can seem like a bit of a daunting task. So, I want to make it easy for you. Here are some practical ways you can engage with your missionaries, no matter where they are. (Note: These are just a few of many ideas, I have included links articles at the bottom of this post that may give you more inspiration. Also, prayerfully seek God before diving into this or other lists!)
Connect with us
Missions can be a lonely work-field at times, but there is really no excuse to not be able to contact a missionary these days! You have Facebook, Whatsapp, iMessage, Messenger, Marco Polo, and that is only a fraction of the messaging services out there! But the question may be, what do we talk about? How can I make that personal connection? Well, every missionary is different. Some like to have big long conversations about how they are, what projects they are doing, and others are content with a simple "Hey! I'm thinking about you!" The main idea behind contacting a missionary is for them to know that God has a team assembled to encourage them and that they are not alone in what He has called them to do! There have been times where I have been contacted by someone wanting to chat and get a life update, and it was an unbelievingly encouraging experience!
Pray for us
It is one thing to stick a picture of a missionary on your fridge and pray for them during meals times, and quite another to intercede for specific needs. Please! Ask your missionary what specific things they need prayers for! Often! I am so blessed to have a friend who checks up on me and asks for my prayer needs. It makes me feel like God has someone else fighting a spiritual battle alongside me. Prayer is an excellent way to get to know your missionary and what their needs are. They honestly would not be able to do what they do without your prayerful support.
Advocate for us
You have contacted us, you have asked what our prayer need are. Now what? Does the relationship stop there? It doesn't have to! Another thing you can do to engage with your missionary is to advocate for them! Do you notice that they are going through a rough time in their ministry? Ask others to join you in prayer for that situation. Is your missionary's car on its last few miles? Maybe host a fundraiser to help them offset the cost of buying a new one. The possibilities are endless in this area!
Support us financially
Depending on the missionary, they may receive a salary from a missions organization. Others, (Like in our case here at YWAM Port of Peace) may rely on generous supporters and partners to be able to live and thrive on the missions field. It can be very stressful for a missionary on the field to worry about paying their bills, and sometimes it can keep them from being able to fully engage in their ministry, or even cause some burnout. Maybe pray about supporting them on a monthly basis? Or even sending them a one time gift?
If you are able to, and if it is safe to do so, you should really consider visiting your missionary! I can guarantee that going on a missions trip will be a life changing experience. Being able to tangibly see and experience the work your missionary does and give you a whole new perspective on what they do. And you never know, you might even find yourself being called to missions!
Bonus- Love languages
This one could probably be inserted into any of the other ideas above, but I think it a cool enough idea to stand on its own. If you are just wanting to love on your missionary in a way that encourages them the most, you can try to figure out what their love language is! (If you don't know what love languages are, I definitely recommend looking it up!) My love language is receiving gifts, and there have been a few times where friends, family or supporters have sent thoughtful care packages or letters or simple candy bar that have filled up my love tank to the max! I remember once, a fellow missionary friend that handed me a chocolate bar in passing saying "I was just at the store and I was thinking of you!" This occurred probably 4 years ago, but I remember so vividly because it made such a huge impact on my day.
I heard God saying “Louis your wonderful work will begin with YWAM Port Of Peace.”
A long time ago God sent a lady from the Dominican Republic to give me a message. She shared a passage of scripture with me from Isaiah.
“Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.” Isaiah 55:5
I will be honest and admit, after she shared this with me, I did not understand exactly what God was trying to tell me. Though the lady said to me “Trust God and He will go forward with you!”. I kept this in the back of my mind and continued to put my trust in the Lord.
Fast forward to my DTS this past fall. DTS with YWAM Port De Paix was great! I learned lots and my faith grew immensely. I spent a lot of time seeking God, asking Him what would be next. What the lady told me came to mind and I prayed about it. Then I heard the Lord deep within my heart say “Louis I need you to go to Port De Paix with YWAM. Teach my children and youth there and sing my praise”.
After this I prayed, sought out wise counsel, asked questions… and in return found a multitude of answers and confirmations.
Wow God is faithful. I am excited to now officially say that I have been accepted as a staff member with YWAM Port De Paix! God still moving forward with me even though I didn’t realize that Isaiah 55:5 would drive me there. I am beyond excited to get to Port De Paix soon and see all that God does!
At first, the direction did not come right away, God taught me patience and trust through the waiting. I remember feeling like I needed to pray about applying for staff with YWAM Port-De-Paix after DTS. So I set off to do so. Though, as I prayed the first few times I did not hear a certain yes or no, or any other direction. So, I of course kept praying and asked God that if he wanted me to apply for staff that he would give me confirmation.
During my quiet time, one day at DTS God gave me a clear vision. I saw a picture of myself leading worship in a YWAM base. Initially, I felt surprised, though I know it was God telling me to apply for staff. I spent time thanking the Lord for what he had shared with me. Then set off to fill out my application.
Upon sending it in, I was shortly after being accepted for staff. I got to see our Father do so much while I was at YWAM for Discipleship Training School. I cannot wait to see what he does while I am there on staff.