The Post I’ve Been Waiting For
If you’ve been following along with my recent Honey, We’re Home posts you know that we’ve started construction at the new mission site. It’s very exciting! But, there is a back story that you need to know, and it’s one that we can finally share.
About 4 and a half years ago we were going through some hard times here. I won’t go into details, but let me just say, it was brutal. And it felt like it was never going to end. When you live cross-culturally there are so many things to learn and go through, and we were in the thick of it. We were hurting and feeling trapped in many ways. It was community related, it was adoption related, it was earthquake related, it was organization related. So many things.
Many times people asked us why we were still here, because looking from the outside all the signs were pointing to what seemed like God telling us it was time to throw in the towel. But, we knew differently. Recently, because of what I’m going to share today, I’ve been thinking back on those days, and when I do some of the memories that come are filled with tears. Times where I’m taken back to bawling in my kitchen and pouring my heart and soul out to God and asking why we were going through this and if it was in fact time to leave while I listened to Chris pace in our room while spending hours on the phone trying to work through stuff with people that walked very closely to us at the time.
In every instance where I got to that emptying of everything in me, after the sobbing subsided and I would slide down the cupboards to sit on the floor in exhaustion, a peace always washed over me and that still small voice would press on my heart, “It’s not time yet, that’s why. I’m not done with you yet. You’re walking in obedience. Let me carry you.” And I would take a deep breath and dry my face and keep going. We kept going.
One day, on a national holiday when everyone was off work, Chris took Olivia for a hike up in the hills in a community where one of our workers lives to visit his family. He came home talking about how beautiful and peaceful it was. A couple of weeks later Chris came to me and told me he wanted to talk to me about something.
As he started to share he was a bit nervous. Then he said, “I know this is going to sound really strange coming from me, because I’m usually the one that’s quick to dismiss this stuff, but I had a dream and I can’t shake it and I feel like it’s something I need to talk to you about. What I saw in the dream was that we lived in that community, and it was peaceful. There were other missionaries there and everyone got along and was accepted into the community. I think we need to look at moving the mission.”
If there was a time to hear an audible record scratch, that would have been it. He was right, he usually was the one to quickly dismiss this kind of thing. It felt overwhelming. It felt like chickening out when I had very firmly felt God telling me to keep walking forward. If we just left this community, then what? It felt ridiculous because we’d just finished the building project for our new house the year before. It felt crazy and scary and strange. I cried and we talked for hours. And I prayed. And we talked more. Typically I’m the one that comes up with these things, not Chris. Typically I’m the one doing the sales pitch and having the answers for why it might be a crazy idea, but a good one. This time I was the one that needed the convincing.
And, it came. It came through much prayer where God affirmed all the things that Chris was saying. Our work is not community specific because it serves a greater population, and we don’t have to do it any specific place. We could move across the country if we wanted and still run Clean Water for Haiti. Our current community has very specific issues that we’d had to deal with, but were not specific to just us, and other communities don’t necessarily deal with these things. We could start fresh and take all the things we’d learned from the years and apply them from the start. And it became this thing that didn’t seem impossible anymore. Huge, yes. Impossible, no.
For many months the only person on our staff that knew about what we were thinking was Fritzner, our employee that Chris had visited that day. We knew we needed time to flush it out and we didn’t want anyone panicking if we were headed in the wrong direction. Chris had him introduce him to community leaders in the area and then we started looking at land. From the very start we made clear outlines of what we knew would be needed in a good home for the mission. The community would need to want us there. They would need to understand and accept our philosophy of development and that we wouldn’t be going into the area to specifically improve the area, but rather have a peaceful place to base the mission from so we could serve the people of Haiti in general. The community would need to support the mission to help maintain security etc. When we did find land, the title would need to be clear. Haitian property purchases can be a nightmare, and we were willing to stop at any time if things weren’t going to be done the right way.
We held onto the process very loosely, praying along the way for God’s clear direction. The area we were looking in was called Chaden (sha-den). We found a piece of land. It wasn’t amazing. But, it was workable. In fact, half of it was a hillside. Chris started negotiations with the family, but things didn’t settle for me. I knew we could work with it, but I kept feeling like there would be so much wasted space, and my bigger concern was that it was so far from the main highway that it would be a big financial burden for our current employees to get to work. It would literally cost them about 1/3 of their daily salary to get from the highway to the land each day. We kept moving, willing to stop at any time. And then we did. In order for the papers to go through with a clear title a family member in the US would need to go to the embassy there and sign a notarized document stating they were in favor of the sale. It wasn’t happening and we stepped back and went on our summer vacation.
When we came back later in the summer there had been no progress on the papers, and we walked away all together. Days later we got a visit from a friend who was originally from that area, and we asked him to let his father know we were interested in land in the area but were coming up dry. A few days later his father called to say there were people wanting to sell, but it was on the other side of the highway from where we’d been looking, in Camp Marie. We went. We looked. As we looked other people from the community came out to let us know they had land too. The prices were all through the roof, until one day when one of the people talked with Chris privately and told him he wanted to sell his portion of his family land to take care of some major financial needs.
The price was very doable. The land was all flat. It was almost an acre, which would give us room for everything we needed to build and then some. It was almost a perfect rectangle, so easy to work with. It was within walking distance from the main highway, meaning our employees wouldn’t have high transportation costs.
Again, we held onto the process loosely. We walked the land. It was so overgrown that it was impossible to get a vision for it. We couldn’t even see from corner to corner. We started the process. The papers went through with all the needed signing and registering and what not. Not hiccups. No missing family members. No major issues. It felt too easy. That was almost two years after we had started this whole conversation. We signed the final documents in December 2012.
When we started work in January of 2013, the very first thing we did that first day was pile our staff into the van and head out to the land to introduce them to the future home of Clean Water for Haiti. It was a quiet visit. Everyone, after all the things the mission had gone through, was wary. How would the community welcome us? It’s hard to go into a new place. The place was overgrown and all of us had a hard time getting a vision for what this place could be. We kept praying for our staff and for the funds to start working on things, because we literally had barely enough money to keep the filter program running. We just knew this was the direction that we needed to go in, even if there was no clear path.
That first year of owning the land saw a fence go up, and a well dug. Along with that we were able to build the generator and pump house. We already had a generator that was purchased a couple of years earlier as a back up for our current generator that was lasting much longer than we expected. We installed it in Camp Marie so we had a power source to pump water and run tools when it was time to do any work.
Sometime during that spring I was driving Olivia to school one day and I had my phone plugged into the stereo in the car. I was listening to David Crowder’s version of Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing. As I listened to it, playing the song over and over again I felt this deep sense of hope. That first day I kept hitting repeat, and I listened, and I cried. I couldn’t explain why, it was just something washing over me. I couldn’t shake it. They lyrics kept running through my head and I would listen to it whenever I could. When I did I started getting a very vivid picture of the new land and us being there and a sense of peace and joy. This was a big deal for me, a turning point really. Up until this point I was all in with the land, but it felt like something that Chris needed, and I was having a hard time still getting the full vision for it. But then it came. And it came so clearly.
I thought about the line, “Here I raise my Ebeneezer, hither by thy grace I’ve come.” What was an Ebeneezer, and why did that stand out? I did some reading up on it and found the story of Samuel, when he laid a large rock at the place where God had provided victory over enemy armies that had previously defeated the Israelites, and restored their lands. Samuel laid the stone as a marker of God’s faithfulness and provision. As I listened to the song again in the car the tears came because I understood that God had put that vision on my heart because he wanted me to see his faithfulness and provision for us and the mission after so many years of hard stuff. I tucked it away, and my excitement grew about what we were being asked to do out in Camp Marie.
Sometime that year we had the current mission property professionally appraised for sale and started letting people know the mission wanted to sell. We had some interest but nothing concrete. We knew that the process for getting property sold and what not can take a long time. We didn’t have funding to build, and we knew that our best case scenario would be finding a buyer that would want to pay half up front and pay the balance on occupancy. But, that never happens here. We ended up meeting with a realtor, and he had some interest over the year, but nothing that really became anything.
As we went into 2014 Chris and I were talking about where we thought things were headed for the year. We were only days into the new year. He was feeling discouraged. We had been just maintaining things with the filter program. We hadn’t been able to do much with the property. There was no sign of an increase in funds anywhere in sight. We talked about needing to be okay with the idea that it might be several years before we could ever start building on the new land, and we once again committed to being patient and waiting on God’s timing.
But, there was something different in my heart. It was my turn for the crazy. I told him that I understood how he felt because it all seemed impossible, but I very deeply felt that 2014 would be the year. It made no sense but I actually said, “I think we’re going to be breaking ground by the end of the year. I know right now we have no idea how that will even be possible, I just feel that so deeply and can’t explain it.”
Early in the year we were able to get the driveway in. That whole process is a story in and of itself. We had bought up thousands of used interlocking paving stones, and were going to try to figure out how to build a driveway with them but had no idea what we were doing. We thought it would take months. And then one day I got a random, but not random, email from a guy I knew from back home. We weren’t close when I was living there, we just knew each other from church. He would write occasionally to ask about paying us a visit but it never amounted to anything. Until this time. He asked if there was a chance that it would work out and if he would be helpful. I mentioned that I knew he had a background in construction and that he might be able to help oversee this driveway project, even if he had no idea how to lay these things. His response? “Actually, my background in in masonry and I’ve laid thousands of these things!” He was here within a weeks time. The driveway was done in two weeks.
And then we kept doing other things. We went on vacation in the summer and came back. Chris talked with the realtor after we got back and he said that he thought it was time to drop our price. We talked about it and that sense of something big came back and I just said that I didn’t feel like God wanted us to go for less than what we knew the land was worth because I believed he wanted to fully provide for everything the mission needed. By our calculations, for the appraised price of the just the residence side of the property we could develop the entire new mission site. The land has a government ease way running through it so we could sell the residence side and the work yard side separately. The neighbor had already committed to buying the work yard side with all it’s solar system, generator, batteries etc. Whenever we were ready, he would buy.
A week after getting back from our vacation last summer we got a phone call one night from a guy in the US telling us he was interested in buying the property. Chris talked to him, but we didn’t think it was really going to amount to anything.
The interesting thing though, was that when Chris mentioned that while we would love to sell and be able to move the process along, we were reliant on being able to build and have something to move into. He shared that our ideal situation was that we could find a buyer that would be willing to pay half up front, and take delayed occupancy of a year. When he shared this, the man said that it would actually be really great for him and his current situation because he couldn’t take occupancy immediately. We wondered…
We sent him pictures. Two weeks later he called back and asked when he could come visit. We were kind of shocked. He couldn’t come until early October. Chris was going to be away, but we just went with it. He came, I showed him the property. In the course of the conversation he asked about the back part. I told him the neighbor had wanted it but we hadn’t talked in a while, and could check to see if he was still interested. He was very encouraging and told us that if we had a buyer for the whole thing we should sell it and he would be happy for us.
Conversations went on and then an offer was made. We spent several weeks going back and forth with counter offers. Chris’ dad who had just retired from 40 years of real estate sales and who was in the same state, offered to take care of negotiations on behalf of the organization. This took a huge load off because we had no idea what we were doing. We got to a point where we were so close, but someone just needed to pull the trigger and make a final offer. Then it happened. And when it did we were blown away.
When we had gone into the whole process months before Chris had told me what price point he would be happy accepting, knowing the challenges of selling here in Haiti. We knew what price we had agreed on for the land and equipment in the work yard. We had installed an extra set of solar panels that we were planning on taking with us. When the offer was made to purchase the work yard as well, we gave two options of either taking the new panels at an additional cost for what they were valued at, or that we would take them with us. The choice was made to offer with them included.
There were times throughout the negotiations where Chris wanted to just accept and I felt like we needed to stick to it because I felt like God didn’t want us to settle out of fear. We had to trust that if this didn’t work out, something better would come along at the right time.
People, let me tell you how God provides.
When we landed on an offer that we could accept that included the residence side of the property, the work yard side and the extra solar equipment the price we settled on was our best case scenario – plus $100.
The deal we landed on provided our best case scenario. Period.
Half up front with delayed occupancy and more than we had expected.
“Now to him who is able to do immesurably more than all we ask or imagine…” Eph. 3:20
Friends, God provides.
That all happened back in November. For the past two months we’ve been working on paperwork, and dealing with people traveling and all the things. We have worried that something would happen and things would fall through. Maybe someone would change their mind. Until we had the first payment in hand we had a hard time trusting the process. We didn’t feel it was prudent to even talk about it much outside of those that were connected to the organization or our circle of support. People behind the scenes have been walking beside us and praying with us for months.
Yesterday the first payment was deposited into Clean Water for Haiti’s account.
This is happening.
This is real.
We are really moving.
In fact, the contract says we’ll be moving by January 2016!
That’s less than a year away.
We haven’t even dug the foundation hole for the house yet.
People, it’s going to get all kinds of crazy here.
And you get to come along for the ride!
Aren’t you SO excited?!?! I’m excited to finally be able to share the whole behind the scenes story with you. I’ve literally been holding onto this for months. It’s been so hard to not let the cat out of the bag.
There is so much loaded into this move. It’s very much the next phase for our organizations growth. Aside from all of the amazing things that we’ve already seen, we’re so excited about what this move will mean for Clean Water for Haiti and our ability to help more families get access to clean water. In one simple statement, it’s going to allow us to literally DOUBLE our capacity each month. We’ll be able to build up to 400 filters per month – that’s over 4000 people in a month, and 48,000 in a year that will be able to have access to clean water because of what we do. And, in case there was any question, people die here from not having clean water. This work, this thing we do everyday, it’s saving lives.
Several times as I’ve been writing this I’ve had tears flowing down my face. The reality that we get to be in the front row watching all of this unfold is always before me and it’s so very humbling. How did we get so lucky? Yes, it’s been SO hard over the years. It’s been painful and gut wrenching on many occasions. We’ve felt lost at times. We’ve wondered why. But, here I sit and I see it before me and I can honestly say that every single thing, every part of the hard stuff, has been worth it to experience the privilege of watching God show up. I don’t believe in chance, especially in situations where things are so specifically matched. I believe in a God who allows us to experience hard things so he can show us how he cares for us, how he equips us, how he enables us to go through things and do things that we never thought possible. And I believe in a God that provides us with joy and hope even when everything seems bleak.
I shared the story about about Come Thou Fount, but there’s a bit more to tell.
As we’ve been working on the property for the past two years, something started to become obvious to both Chris and I. It was the realization that every time we were out at the new property we felt at peace. It didn’t matter what was going on around us on in our lives, when we go there it’s peace. One of our big concerns was how the community would accept us. We’ve had two years to establish relationships and we love the community. It’s so different from anything we’ve experienced before, and from what many experience in other areas here. We worried how our staff would be welcomed. They love working out there and are treated really well by the community, which says so much. As the construction crew has been working for the past two months we’ve noticed a beautiful sense of unity and enthusiasm, as well as pride in their work that has exceeded what we had even hoped for, best case scenario.
I believe our new land is our Ebeneezer. It’s going to be a very visible reminder to us over the years of God’s faithfulness, and his provision. A reminder that he doesn’t want us to settle for less, but wants to give more than we could imagine. A reminder that he walks beside us through the hard times, and takes us into the peaceful places. A reminder that being obedient to his calling even when it seems crazy and no one understands, provides opportunity for him to really go to work.
Thank you for journeying with us. I’m so looking forward to sharing more as the weeks and months go by. And – we’re moving! My mind is going crazy with all the planning and stuff that will be done in the coming months.
With so much joy,