A Trail of Tears in Puerto Rico


I have been on the island of Puerto Rico for two and half weeks.  It is now almost 50 days after hurricane Maria.  I am with a team of people distributing water filters from the resulting collaboration of two organizations: Happy Sonship and Impact Nations.  During my time here I have witnessed the tears of men and women on several different occasions. Let me tell you about a few of them here.

The first incident of overwhelming expression was at a house our team could not fathom people living there but indeed the owners of this destroyed home were staying just next door.  When we first saw this house it was obvious the roof had been removed because the sunlight shown clearly into the rooms that could be seen through the windows.  You could also clearly see the clothes still hung in the closet from the street.


The multi-generational family had gathered and was sitting on the roofless front porch together.  The matriarch of the family sat centered amongst them and I watched the scene unfold as I was seated in the back of our rented van.  It was someone else’s turn this stop to explain in Spanish how the filter worked and leave it as a gift to the family and if they didn’t mind, to pray for them.

My team did what we had done so often and in addition got a tour of the remains of the home.  After everything was completed one of our staff felt led to donate some additional funds as a gift to this family.  The matriarch was seated again at this time with her family around her and our work was done and our van slowly began to pull away in to the narrow street and as we did, the seated woman lost her composure and broke down into sobs covering her face as her grandchildren all leapt up with arms of comfort around her as she freely cried.

This was my first encounter with tears here.

The second was my own.  We were in an area where the water had flooded a valley and entire homes with all their content had been destroyed.  No one could be residing here and indeed they weren’t but we found them with family a little further up the road.  A young woman painted the insides of a vacant immaculate home leaving us curious.  We stopped.

Two families were within, the family purchasing the home who did not have theirs destroyed and their siblings family and their kids who did have their home destroyed but were helping their siblings prepare to move into their new house.

I had a conversation standing directly across from a woman who looks very similar to me in age and composure.  She was looking the direction of her old home downhill on the road and she said with a look of remaining disbelief, “I lost everything, my clothes, my bed, my kitchen, my pictures, my car,… everything.”  I found a lump in my throat as I beheld her face reliving the reality of her current situation.

We proceeded to give both family’s filters and I was the one who felt led to give a little something extra to both these family’s thanks to the happy sonship’s generosity.  I explained to the sister who was painting that she was our first sign of hope we had seen.  Someone preparing a home, making things new, moving forward.  And to the other who had lost everything, I couldn’t make it through my sentence.  That a little money could never replace what she had lost but that my heartfelt for what she was going through.  At least that’s what I meant to say.  My tears were contagious and we quickly transitioned into praying for the family before making our departure.

That was the second of four.

The last two experiences of tears I will share with you here were both from men.  My husband and I were invited to share a bit of our story of how we met and being missionaries to a gathering of young students at a private Christian school on the island.  Their entire building had been destroyed and a church had let them take over their entire facility to ensure the education year was not lost.

My husband and I were taking turns back and forth sharing our sides of our story leading up to when we would meet each other in Mexico.  As my husband relived the experience of taking the risk of pursuing me and what God had told him during that time and how faithful God had been in this area of his life he could not contain it anymore and to the sighs of every teenage girl in the audience his tears fell as his words were hindered.  A second attempt was made to continue.  No success.  More audience sighs and a united silence as my husband stood before these people basking in the goodness of God and not contain his emotions.  We cried with him.  And the storytelling continued.


Lastly, we visited a man who had lost nothing during hurricane Maria.  He and his wife are in their seventies and have been pastoring faithfully in a little community for over thirty years.  In this remote corner of the island in this large busy world, this man plays guitar and sings before the lord.  He writes his own songs and they often have to do with Jesus.  He was sharing some of these songs for us and playing them on his guitar.

His second song was about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane willingly choosing to suffer upon the cross for our sakes when the notes coming off of the guitar strings continued to float into the air but the words could not make it out of his mouth.  “Pardon me, pardon me,” his voice cracked out in Spanish while he closed his eyes trying to contain the emotion within.  His precious song resumed again and there we were with him, his heart laid bare before us.


There have been many more tears I have witnessed since being here on this island but here I have shared with you just four.  May all of us find the courage to live with our hearts laid bare and care enough about those around us to find others where their words get choked up and share with them in the silence that follows.

We are not all so different from one another.  Let us live with the awareness to still care.  To love others sometimes involves pain, but do not be afraid to open up again rather than shut down to avoid it.  We sometimes try to offer people answers and fix their problems but sometimes there aren’t answers or solutions to be offered and our presence is all we have to give; to sit with them in their pain or loss and offer our love.

Before Joel and I left to come to Puerto Rico on this trip I wrote that our hearts would be broken.  When our hearts get broken, it simply makes room for them to grow bigger.  Do not fear heartbreak.  Do not live life numb.  Don’t give up hope for tomorrow. God is worthy of our trust in today.

Thank you so much for the prayers and financial support that has made our trip to Puerto Rico possible.  We have felt the power of the Holy Spirit, felt the overwhelming compassion of the Father towards this island, and felt the nearness of Jesus to the people who are suffering here.  We continue to look to Him for our direction and leading.  Thank you and God Bless.

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Bringing Access to Clean Water in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

 

Joel and I headed down to Puerto Rico as a last minute trip to join an incredible team of people bringing thousands of water filters to remote parts of the island that were damaged the most.  5,000 filters are being distributed across the island with the help of local and church leadership right now.  Filters were both Sawyer and Uzima.

More plans are being made to bring teams of farm and home reconstruction to return in January.  Funds and people are needed.  Check out more at happysonship.com  and impactnations.com

 

We’re going to Puerto Rico!

Hey everyone!

Update

These past two weeks Joel and I have put together and sent around 25 packages to different families in Puerto Rico that need access to food.  The first of them started arriving safely into the hands of their recipients yesterday.  We have a few yet to send off due to the people we want to send them to have had any access to the internet yet at this point to even know we need their address!  All that to say thank you for your donations, support and help as we extend a helping hand to Puerto Rico.

I think the hardest part in getting involved is hearing details about their lives and what’s really happened.  Beyond homes being ruined, ways of living and livelihoods on the island have been destroyed.  How can a wedding photographer take pictures when all the weddings for the rest of the year have been canceled and all the beautiful places they took pictures are gone?  How can a pastor continue to be a pastor when the building they met in is gone and families don’t have enough to get by themselves?

Shopping for the food packages you helped support to send to Puerto Rico!

Our Upcoming Trip

After considering it the first week after the hurricane happened, a trip to Puerto Rico wasn’t in the right timing for us.  But Joel and I have the heart, energy, and time to give freely.  Both of us have a history of being of service in times of need and crises and are trustworthy to steward relief.

Joel has family we just made contact with as of yesterday for the first time.  There are places for us to possibly stay and LOTS OF WORK TO BE DONE.  Whether Joel and I find ourselves cooking meals, waiting in lines for others, clearing homes, rubbish, debris, helping the elderly and infirm, filtering water, or giving humor and hope,  we are willing to go.  The people of Puerto Rico are worthy of love and help. Now is the time to go.

What’s The Plan?

Joel and I are flying out Thursday in hopes of teaming up with a long time friend of Joel’s that leads a ministry and is heading down at the same time.  They are planning to work primarily in a town called Quebradillas.  This is a town located next to the town Joel’s family from and where he lived for 15 years.

Our game plan is flexible according to the needs we meet along the way.  That’s the best description I can give you.  I know our hearts will be broken and the need will be limitless.

Joel speaking with a good friend in San Juan when we visited Puerto Rico in January

What do we need?

We need you in prayer, compassion, and support.  Thank you so much already to the handful of people that have already helped get food into the hands of those who are hungry.  With political banter surrounding this tragedy concerning Puerto Rico, I don’t feel the need to explain or justify how these people got into this situation or why it will be so hard for so long, but Jesus never asked us to ask why or put conditions on our service or giving.

If you want to come to Puerto Rico with us in Spirit and tangibility you can through prayer and partnership.  I will put a link below for any donations you want to add to this trip.  We may be bringing supplies or food down with us as well before we go.  Thank you in advance for believing in us, caring about the people of Puerto Rico and taking the time to read this in a busy internet world.  Love you and God Bless.

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The Lie that Fuels the Pride of the Church

I remember when I was in the prayer and fasting peak of my life.  I prayed with authority, knew more bible verses than I ever had, probably had the least amount of joy in my life and that’s when God cut me with his words.

I will share a little background with you to help understand what he said to me.  I know a man who has been a drug addict since he was 14 years old.  He engaged in promiscuous sex,  began dealing drugs, was in and out of courtrooms and almost killed himself through driving while super strung out on drugs…three times.  He was my age.

God said to me in that little prayer room where I was giving up my life serving the poor, “I love him as much as I love you.”  You might think this would have been a comfort, but I tell you, it was an offense.  I had been taught by leaders in the church that God held a special place for people like me, the good ones.  That he loved the saint more than the sinner.  I didn’t notice the arrogance towards others that crept in under this teaching.  I believed I truly was better than those other people.  That is what I believed.  And that is the lie that God wanted to root out of me.

There is sometimes a stench that comes in religious environments and its the stench of pride.  When people move in the power of God or feel his presence or know his word or obey his commands, sometimes there is a smelly lie that accompanies this that we have earned his favor.  That we deserve it.  We are no longer like those unreligious secular commoners, we are the fingers of God and deserve the better than them.  Surely we are better.


I can feel the slithering feeling of these garments of pride even now as I imagine it.  Even now as I remember it.  This is the stench the world hates.  And let me tell you, it is also the stench Jesus hates.

Jesus did not separate himself.  He did not pride himself on his spotlessness.  He did not cast judgment, nor condemnation.  The thing he openly rebuked is what I have written about above and it was alive and well in the reigning religious order of the time.  There will be offense in heaven and it won’t be at God as a terrorist, it will be at God as a merciful king.

Teaching parables, “I will pay the wages I want,” he says as he pays someone who barely worked at all the same amount as the one who worked the hardest, causing offense at all of their efforts.  “Let me give everything I have to my careless son,” he says to the offense of the dutiful, obedient, older brother.  “Cast the first stone,” he invites to the guilty condemners of a whore, leaving them with nothing left to throw.

God is offensive.  His love is offensive.  His generosity is offensive.  His mercy is offensive.  Get ready to be offended by God, not by his judgment but by his mercy.  No one has earned his love.  No one deserves his favor.  No one has maintained their own innocence.  No one in Christ is treated as they deserve, they are only ever treated as Christ deserves and nothing less.

God the father didn’t wait for your life to change before you were worth dying for.  No, it was the other way around.  He wanted to correct me that his love truly is free to all right now in full, not just to those who climb the religious ladder.

God doesn’t love in part, love is who he is and we are his dream.  All of us.  We get to treat all people with dignity whether or not they have forgotten it.  We aren’t invited by God to love every kind of person because he asks us to, we are invited to love every kind of person because they are worthy of it because his shed blood says so.

God wanted me to see that nothing I had of him was ever earned of my religious efforts, therefore none of him could ever be taken away from me.  All of my religious-performance-self was offended.  God loves the man I mentioned in the beginning of this piece as much as he loves me still to this day.    Maybe one day we all will believe this and then the world will truly recognize followers of Christ by their love.

Judgement Free Living??

I heard a quote from somebody on you  tube last summer that I’ve never heard said before.  They said, “I never judge anybody.”  Whether or not this was true, the audacity of a person to live with the conviction of never judging anybody was still admirable.  It was like a thought that was too impossible to believe but upon hearing it was like a new air I wanted to keep breathing.

This may sound like an overly simple topic for Jesus himself said, “Do not judge.”  Pretty straight forward.  But for a human person other than Jesus himself to casually dialogue as if that reality was possible was entirely heavenly.

The world would play us on a string to have us do just the opposite.  Compare, condemn, divide, get defensive, get offended, react, live in opposition and controversy.  It is “cool” to be opinionated and not close minded.  The idea of not judging is cool but is often in reality partial as it stands in harsh condemnation of very judgmental religious institutions, therefore nullifying their non-judging stance.

But to really, I mean really, have the perspective in life that you have never walked in anyone else’s shoes, you have never lived their life, felt what they’ve felt, and been forced to make the decisions they have, never, for anyone, other than yourself.  Yet all of us undoubtable stand in judgment of some “other,” some “wrong” individuals in our perspective.

Here’s what this does: it only hurts ourselves.  When we stand in judgment of someone, of some hatred of act or word, whether based on politics, crime, color, or creed, we are smothering our own nature that was created in God’s image to love.  It suffocates our joy.

When we make snap judgments at news headlines and video clips we diminished our capacity for understanding and compassion.  He deny our role in helping where there is possible hurting need.  We remove ourselves from another’s humanity.

And what that does is deny the Christ that is living in every person.  Whether you agree with someone or not, whether you would have theoretically made differently choices than they have, they are still a living, breathing creation of God.  His life is breathing through them and he is experiencing life through what they experience, the good and the bad.  Nothing nullifies the value Christ’s death and resurrection has given all of humanity.  ALL OF HUMANITY.  Especially our enemies, especially those different from us.

Do not hurt yourself, do not deny your true nature as an origin of love, by judging another, by condemning them, by withholding your grace.  Do not suffocate the breathe of love that lives within you.  If you try and not judge, I will not try to judge either.  God bless.

Not 1% Less

So I want to share with you a journey I have had in the lasts few years.  It began in a bad place.  It really didn’t have to be that bad but there was one move I made that I will not make again.

People make mistakes.  Maybe you never have.  Maybe you have never made the wrong decision or never said something hurtful to anyone or said anything negative behind someone’s back.  Maybe.

It all began when I made a series of mistakes.  I concluded something and it was the wrong conclusion, which led to the wrong behaviors.  I can’t change that and I’m okay with that now.  But that’s not my point in this article, what I did that I will never do again, is turn my back on myself.


I have become very familiar with these thoughts inside our heads that will replay mistakes, or wrong words, or wrong conclusions.  At first I believed them because I thought they were true.  For example, I was wrong, therefore I should like myself less.  This equation is not true in heaven.

I was wrong!  And it really affected people.  And I still have permission to love myself today!  I thought I was worth being thought less of.  In a way, I was punishing myself because I thought that’s what I deserved.  I questioned myself and doubted my partnership with God.  BUT did you know there are no mistakes in heaven?!?!

Did you know that maybe I was setup to experience this whole in my character so that God could build a new thing there??  Learning requires humility to not know something to begin with.  All of these things are okay and never have to involve the self-destruction of shame, guilt, condemnation, or exclusion.

Did you know God still loves you and values you?  He never thinks less of you based on this learning journey you are on??  Did you know he speaks of your value, your worth, and your ability to always brush yourself of and dive right back into life.  SO….

In conclusion, you may be having other thoughts.  Even small incremental thoughts that get you to like yourself just a little bit less, maybe even one percent.  I don’t believe these thoughts anymore.  None of them.  For any conversation, presentation, appearance or decision.  Not one percent less.  They are not from heaven, and God will rebuild in your life, wherever you tear yourself down.  I will not partner against his work any longer.

You and I walk with a breastplate of Christ’s righteousness on that doesn’t let any accusing arrows through.  Not one.  There is no hole in his righteousness, no gap, no interruption, or weakness.  His righteousness is a perfect FREE GIFT that I have experienced more now than ever before.  Do not make room for any thoughts about yourself that get you to like yourself even one percent less.  They are not from Him.

An Encouraging Word

The word of encouragement written below came across my lap and  says some of the same things I was told a few weeks ago about things coming my way so it related to me and wanted to share it in case it brightens anyone else’s expectations!  Have a great weekend!

The contents below in their entirety can be found in their original location at Charlie Shamp’s Website by clicking here.

A Year of New Beginnings:
I heard the Lord say, “You have seen it. You have heard it before. You have spoken it. You have even imagined it in your mind; my plan for outpouring in the earth, but what I’m about to do for my people has no historical reference points. That’s right it’s new, fresh, original, tailor made for this time! It has never been seen before or manufactured in the past; no I reserved the best for last. Some have said, ‘we will set a specific place and hour to produce a move of the Father,’ but what is about to come will catch and spread like wild fire. What is to come will not be confined to a specific place, that’s right it will cross countries, jump oceans, leap over denominational walls. I will visit in a new and fresh way, my spirit will drop and distill like a shower of rain. My lightnings will strike to restore, revive and renew. Every form of dryness will come to an end as I saturate you. The reign of terror, turmoil, and tragedy will have to come to an end for the glory of heaven that I will send. I will open the windows of heaven and showers of blessings will overtake your homes. This is a year of open opportunities, open doors, open heavens! Don’t look to the past to predict what is about to come, those days are gone for good. What happened then could never produce what I have in my mind in the now. I will stretch out my mighty hand and open your eyes to see that I am putting an end to your lack, rejection, dissatisfaction, disappointment, and demonic harassments. Your failure, sickness and shame be washed way by the power of my son’s name. Every generational curse disturbing you will be scattered and destroyed. The days of pain, sorrow, weeping, stagnation, devastation, and struggling will come to an end. This year will be a time of supernatural shock and awe as I passionately pour out my spirit and divinely fill your cup to overflow with blessings that can’t be numbered, named, contained!”
-Prophet Charlie Shamp

love has won