How Did We Get Off the Island?!?
Joel and I got the opportunity to go to Puerto Rico and when we were buying tickets to head down there, the return tickets were around $600-800 a piece and you couldn’t book them for earlier than three weeks out! So what did Joel and I do?
We just bought one way tickets with no logical hope for getting off the island! I love that my husband is crazy and trusts God when he feels his leading. We were able to be a part of distributing filters, medication, and batteries all over the island then it came time to leave. What to do?!?
With an island trying to leave through San Juan, Joel and I tried a tiny airport on the other side of the island. There was no one there but two people behind the jet blue counter with street clothes on. No tickets for two weeks and around $300 a piece. We stand there, I feel like leaving because I think the lady behind the counter wants us to pay this and try standby the next day even though there was only one flight out. Joel asks her to check again.
Her face drops as the screen changes. She whispers to her co-worker that comes over. There are now four seats open on the flight tomorrow for $100 a piece. She tells us how a mother and daughter have been waiting in the airport for three days trying to leave the island. She says two of these tickets are your and the other two are theirs. She books and we walk out stunned that we not only have tickets for a noon flight the next day but that we got them so cheap. Praise God! Just like our Lord.
Someone gifted us with entrance tickets! I haven’t been to Disney World since I was six years old and it was a perfect day there with Joel. Back to Charlotte burbs we headed.
Painting Prints for Sale for Small Business Saturday!
With Joel and family’s support, I made prints of some of the paintings I’ve painted over the years. For small business Saturday I am sharing them with you here! The big ones are for $15 and the smaller ones for $10 plus $2 for shipping (write me for international order rates).
Just send what you would like to order and your address to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy holidays and Best wishes to you and your families wherever you are! We can accept payments through paypal on our happy giving link. You can find all of these painting’s background stories on this website link here!
Joel and I have plans to travel this month but everything should be stateside. Maybe we’re coming to a city near you!
Love and Blessings,
Heather and Joel
P.S. If you are looking for Christmas gifts and you want something for the outdoors, we also have some beautiful friends in the Orlando area that sell reflective wind spinners that are colorful and last forever. They ship them right to you and you can check them out at their website here!
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.