Randy Mortensen Speaking at Woodbury Community Church – February 3

Randy-headshotRandy Mortensen, the President of Worldwide Village will be our guest speaker on Sunday, February 3. I recently had a chance to visit Haiti with Randy and Worldwide Village.

Randy will be sharing his amazing story of God’s grace in his life. For years, Randy searched for meaning in life. Outsiders looking in would have thought that Randy had it all — a great job, wonderful family, prestige. But inside, Randy was searching.

You can read more about Randy’s remarkable story here.

This is a Sunday you won’t soon forget. Invite some friends and prepare for God to speak to you through Randy’s story.

The work that Randy and his team are doing in Haiti today is truly extraordinary. If you are a Senior Pastor, I’d highly recommend the vision trips that Worldwide Village offers for free for pastors. You can find out more about the two trips planned for 2013 right here.

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Some Reads for the Weekend

Looking for something good to read this weekend?

Here are a few suggestions.

Randy-headshotFirst, take a few minutes to read this article about my friend, Randy Mortensen, who runs World Wide Village, the organization that I recently traveled to Haiti with. Randy was a corporate executive, whose search for meaning eventually led him to a relationship with Jesus Christ and a new calling in Haiti. This is a great story.

 

The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards - ArrivalsLouie Giglio has had a busy couple of weeks. Just ten days or so ago he was leading 65,000 college students in a four day conference, in Atlanta, called Passion 2013. The Passion conference was a major success, where major strides were made to free people from modern day slavery. President Obama took notice and Giglio was asked to deliver the inaugural prayer. Giglio was dis-invited when his belief that homosexuality is a sin was discovered by a watchdog group that alerted the President’s inaugural committee. You can read a great piece about the entire debacle here. Giglio wrote an incredibly gracious reply to his church here.

i am notI’ve been blessed by Louie’s ministry for several years and found some of his writing to be some of the most encouraging in my Christian life. One of my all time favorite books is I am not but I know I AM. If you are looking for a quick read this weekend you can download it here. The book is a reminder that we are only here for a little while. History is God’s story. We need to live our lives for His glory and His renown. What part are you playing in God’s story?

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Another great Giglio book is Indescribable: Encountering the Beauty of God in the Beauty of the Universe. The book is the result of Louie’s famous sermon in which he encourages us to consider the vastness of outer space and the depth of the soul, and the God who created it all. Giglio’s sermon Indescribable was the inspiration behind the worship song Indescribable that he wrote with Matt Redman. You can download the book here.

You can download the song, as preformed by Chris Tomlin, here.

the-air-i-breatheOne final Giglio book that I highly recommend is The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life. Almost every worship pastor that I have met has used this book with a worship team at some point in time over the past three years. Giglio is passionate about worship. It’s one of the reasons that he founded the Passion Conferences. He writes as a man in love with Jesus, calling us to not miss out on living our lives as an act of worship to the God of the universe. You can download the book here.

IDENTITY_ebook_cover_MCLooking for something fiction? New York Times best-selling author, Ted Dekker has released the first three of four novellas in his new Eyes Wide Open series of books. The final novella will be release this coming Tuesday. You can download book one in the series, Identity, for free by clicking here.

Here is a brief description of the series from Amazon –

Who am I?
My name is Christy Snow. I’m seventeen and I’m about to die.I’m buried in a coffin under tons of concrete. No one knows where I am. My heart sounds like a monster with clobber feet, running straight toward me. I’m lying on my back, soaked with sweat from the hair on my head to the soles of my feet. My hands and feet won’t stop shaking.

Some will say that I m not really here. Some will say I’m delusional. Some will say that I don t even exist. But who are they? I’m the one buried in a grave.

My name is Christy Snow. I’m seventeen. I’m about to die.

So who are you? 

In a return to the kind of storytelling that made BlackShowdown and Three unforgettable, New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker drags that question into the light with this modern day parable about how we see ourselves.

Humming with intensity and blindsided twists, Eyes Wide Open is raw adrenaline from the first page to the last pure escapism packed with inescapable truth. Not all is as it seems. Or is it? Strap yourself in for the ride of your life. Literally.

Books two and three are available for just $2.99 each.
dekker-mirrorsBook two is called Mirrors and can be downloaded here.
dekker-unseenBook three is called Unseen and can be downloaded here.
Happy Reading!
******* ADDITION
SeerBook four came out early! Here is the link to purchase Seer.

Passion 2013 Conference is Live Streaming for Free

registration

The Passion Conference, founded by Louie Giglio, has always been something that I’ve admired from afar. God has used this conference in the lives of millions of young adults to help them cultivate a passion for Jesus Christ.

This year’s conference is happening right now at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The conference began on New Year’s Day and runs through January 4. One of the things that I love about Passion is that they are Live Streaming the event for free. That means anyone can watch the main sessions through this coming Thursday. If you’d like to watch, simply click this link. If there is a live session going, you will be taken there. If not, you can watch previous sessions.

So far, Louie Giglio, Beth Moore and Gary Haugen have spoken. You can watch those sessions by clicking on the speaker’s name in the sentence before this.

That means that you still have time to catch five main sessions with speakers and artists including: John Piper, Judah Smith, Francis Chan, Lecrae, Jesus Culture and others still to come.

The major emphasis of this year’s Passion Conference is putting an end to modern day slavery. We live in a day and age when there are more slaves than at any other point in the history of the world. Gary Haugen said earlier today, “The question isn’t where is God, when this type of injustice strikes. The question is where are God’s people?”

Let’s dream . . . no let’s act . . . and make modern day slavery a thing of the past in this generation!

passion2013schedule1

The Day We’ve Been Looking Forward To For Months

2012 Haiti Trip 072Today has been a good day! For several months I have been looking forward to meeting Stanley and Davinsly, two young boys who are being adopted by two wonderful families in our church. We had that chance this morning.

We began the day with another fantastic breakfast at the World Wide Village home. We said, “good-bye” to Jane, our new friend from the Starkey Foundation, who has been in Haiti working with kids with hearing loss.From there it was off to Haiti’s version of a Home Depot.

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We went to get a sense of what building materials cost in Haiti. It was also an eye-opener to the reality that so much reconstruction is happening here. This would be a good reminder for us later in the day. I was amazed at the amount of Christmas decorations in the Haitian store, because we had been told earlier in the trip that gift giving and celebrating Christmas wan’t a big deal here. We would see lots of Christmas decorations throughout the day.

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From the hardware store it was off to the New Arrival Orphanage to see first-hand what we have heard so much about from Sara Lein. We were greeted by Dukens who shared about the work of the orphanage and school. There are about 40 students enrolled in the school associated with the orphanage, in two grades. Five of those students are orphans who live at the home. The Pearcy, Haroldson and Lein families had filled a suitcase full of gifts for the five boys, and the orphanage.

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When we walked into the classroom, I immediately noticed Stanley. His big smile and bright eyes were staring at us as we walked in. He immediately hid his face behind a book, and then came out behind the book, chucking. Dukens told the class that I was Miss Sara’s pastor. That is when I saw Davinsly on the other side of the room.The boys’ teacher was fantastic. And soon the entire classroom was up performing a rousing song for us.

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Both of the boys participated in the singing. They had big smiles on their faces as they sang and chuckled because the song was kind of fun to sing.We left the classroom and talked with Dukens a bit more. Since we had gifts for the boys, but not all of the students, we asked if the five guys who were orphans could be brought out of the classroom.It was so special to be able to present them with gifts from their families.

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Each of the boys’ faces lit up when they received their packages. There was such pride in their eyes as the looked over each one of the gifts. The families did a great job of putting together gifts that boys would love. From matchbox cars to superhero items, everything in the bag was a hit.

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Davinsly shouted, “Captain America!” as soon as he picked up his new superhero toy. The Pearcy and Haroldson families put together beautiful books for the boys. At first, the boys looked at the cover, and quickly moved on to the toys. Then, I took some itme to go through each page with the boys, and their eyes were riveted to the pages of the book. They LOVED seeing the pictures of themselves in the book. I know this is something that they will treasure as the days go by.

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When it came time for the boys to put their new gifts away, I followed Davinsly. He has a chest in his room where he keeps his precious items. He very carefully put away his bag with great pride. You could tell that he was so excited about these new blessings.

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Stanley placed his gifts on his bed, next to a blanket that I believe was made by our kids in Vacation Bible School.It was amazing to spend time with these guys. I was blown away at the quality of the care and the love that these guys are shown by their caregivers. There are some very good things happening at this school and orphanage. We were able to capture some video that I’ll share with the families when we get back into town.

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Both boys really lit up when I showed them their future siblings in the picture books. I think they understood what I was telling them about having sisters and a brother. They were genuinely excited.It was hard to leave the guys at the orphanage. A big part of me wished I could just bring them home to meet their terrific families. They are so precious and full of joy. I can only imagine how difficult it is to wait for an unknown amount of time to meet your sons and brothers.

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From the orphanage, we went to the school that Randy Mortensen considers to be one of the best in the nation, with the educator who he believes does the best job. The school runs from K-13, with 100% of students passing the entrance exams for the next grade. This educator is running teacher clinics throughout the programs World Wide Village Runs. While not a WWV school, this school has a close working relationship with Randy and the WWV team that is essential for the year’s ahead.

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After the school we had lunch at a hotel that used to be a Holiday Inn and Best Western. It was located in the region of Port au Prince that suffered the most damage during the earthquake. You would have never known this peaceful, beautiful and serene hotel existed behind the concrete barrier in front of it. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we walked in. This hotel served as a home base for foreign aid workers during the crisis. We went from lunch to the old presidential palace, that was destroyed in the earthquake and has since been bulldozed. The palace will be rebuilt sometime soon.

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We ended our day driving through the rebuilding city of Port au Prince. We saw the outside of the tent cities, where 400,000 Haitians still live some 2 years after the quake. I was stunned when I saw so many buildings looking like they could fall down at any moment. The trash and open sewage on the streets were heartbreaking. Our Haitian driver didn’t want to take us into the even worse section of town for fear of safety.We leave this country tomorrow. I will miss the people and look forward to returning some day in the future. God is doing good things here and there is hope in the midst of such continuing heartache. Pray for the people of Haiti and for discernment as our church seeks God wisdom on how to best make a difference. Thank you to all of you who helped Darrin and I get here. It has been a humbling and learning experience.I took over 150 pictures today and all of them are available on my Facebook page. Thank you for taking the time to read our experiences.

The Adventure Continues – Day 3 in Haiti

2012 Haiti Trip 003 We are in our third day in Haiti now and God continues to teach us new things about this wonderful country and the people who call Haiti home.
Last night we had a delicious Haitian meal of goat stew. The stew was absolutely delicious and the meat was incredibly tender. After dinner we had a team conversation where we debriefed our day. We spent a lot of time talking about global poverty and why aid hasn’t been the solution for most third world countries. We watched a fantastic video from PovertyCure about the failure of aid programs over the decades. If you’d like to watch it, I’ve included the video here:

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I woke up in the middle of the night last night with the start of a migraine. Anyone who suffers with migraines knows the importance of getting ahead of your migraine. I didn’t. I had no migraine medication with me and on our way to Luly, the city where we were to meet with schools and local leaders, I had to have the van pull over. My migraine got the best of me. I lost last night’s dinner and today’s breakfast on the side of the road. There was an old Haitian woman who happened to be walking by and she felt compelled to stand next to me during this little ordeal. It was so sweet. She couldn’t speak my language, but her eyes were full of compassion. One of the pastors would describe it as the most poignant moment of the trip for him so far. After this little adventure it was back to the van for our ride to Luly, and a little fishing village where Food for the Hungry is trying to work with local fisherman to help them improve their efficiency. You can see some of the yellow Food for the Hungry boats towards the back of this picture. This village located on the edge of the ocean was full of conch shells. World Wide Village has been asked to consider taking this program over from Food for the Hungry.

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From the fishing village we went to a local clinic that WWV helps run. We met a wonderful nurse whose grandmother ran the clinic for a couple decades many years ago. Her husband serves as the doctor. It was here that we heard about a way that international aid can hinder good in a community. This clinic has trouble drawing patients (they charge $5 per patient, plus medication) because American medical teams come once a month and offer free clinics. These clinics often misdiagnose the problems, or don’t have the medication to treat the problem so folks leave with Tylenol and vitamins. In the meantime U.S. trained Haitian doctors, nurses and pharmacists could be helping Haitians. It’s an interesting problem. I was impressed with the work that is being done here. I was also grateful to be able to receive some much needed Excedrin from the clinic.

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We then went to a school that is operated by WWV in Luly. This school has ample space, great teachers, a beautiful facility. When WWV built the school about $140,000 was poured into the project. I am amazed at what $140,000 can build in Haiti. God is using this Christian school to educate over 200 students. There is room for the school to grow to over 400 students. The children loved seeing our team and it was a beautiful day.Unfortunately, my migraine prevented me from getting to interact with anyone at the school. While our team toured the facility I took a nap in the van. By the time they came back the migraine was gone. Team prayer and some great medicine helped bring relief.

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After the school it was off to lunch. Randy Mortensen, the head of World Wide Village likes people from the U.S.A. to see the beauty of Haiti. So, he took us to the Wahoo Bay Resort in Luly. This beautiful resort was mostly empty today, but it is growing in popularity. A hotel room cost just $35 a few years ago. Now it costs about $140 a night to stay in one of the 24 or so rooms. We had a good lunch and it was here that we heard the earthquake stories of our three interpreters, who we have grown to love.

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I listened as they shared with tears in their eyes about what it was like to live through that devastating quake that took the lives of over 300,000 Haitians. They shared about family members who were lost and told me the story of jumping into the rubble to pull body after body out. One of the most interesting things they said was that in the month after the quake, 90% of Haitians turned to God. There was a national period of prayer and fasting that was called for. Churches were full. God was at work. And then, with tears in his eyes, Patrick told me that the people just forgot about God. He said that within a month spiritual lives went back to normal with apathy and some anger towards God. It reminded me of the days after the 9/11 tragedy in our own country. Churches were full in the days that followed. Our nation was unified. And then . . .Our country unified in the loss of 5,000 or so Americans. I can’t picture what it is like to lost 300,000 and see so many homes, business and lives destroyed.

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After lunch we began our drive back to Port au Prince. We had one more stop to make. It was to the original home that World Wide Village built after the 2010 quake. We met a wonderful family who have maintained and improved upon the WWV house. This house was built for $8400. I love the way that WWV builds a home. Haitians do the work, creating jobs for Haitian people. The homeowner pays for part of the home, taking out a mortgage. In the case of this home the homeowner pays $24 a month. This helps improve self-esteem and gives pride in ownership. There is much more that can be said about this. U.S. teams can work alongside of Haitians in constructing the homes, but it is under the direction and authority of the Haitians.

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From here it was back to home base. This meant another ride through the busy streets of Port au Prince, which is unlike driving I have seen anywhere else in the world. The sheer number of people located in a small space with no real traffic lights is an surreal experience. On our drive today we saw a motorcycle run into a a group of students (no one was injured), a motorcycle trying to get through a flooded street see it’s front wheel get caught in a storm drain that was missing a cover (and almost flipping the bike over and passenger almost thrown off), we saw dog run over, and countless close calls. Every day riding these streets is an experience!

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I’ll leave you with an odd picture. We think that this is dried sea cucumber, something that the people of Luly are exporting to China. The people of Haiti are trying to find any way that they can to break the cycle of poverty. I am excited about what the future holds for these wonderful folks.Tomorrow we will be heading to an orphanage where Darrin Geier and I will meet Stanley and Davinsly, two young boys who are being adopted by families at Woodbury Community Church. We will be bringing them some photographs and gifts from their families. Can’t wait to see them.I will post the rest of today’s pictures on my Facebook page before the night is over. Thank you for your prayers!

Great Day Meeting With Pastors

2012 Haiti Trip 008 It has been a good first day for us in Haiti. After what felt like a very short sleep, we awoke at 6:00 to the sound of dogs barking. After a quick and cold shower I took a walk around the property of the home that we are staying in. The home is leased by World Wide Village and serves as their base of operations here in Haiti. There are banana and mango trees on the property and from the rooftop there is a beautiful view of the mountains.

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We had a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast and then set off for our first day of ministry in the town of Williamson. Williamson is a community of about 60,000 Haitians where World Wide Village has a substantial presence. It is in this community where World Wide Village operates a wonderful school that is currently educating over 260 Haitian children ranging from Kindergarten-Ninth Grade. The school has grown by over 100 children this year.

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Such rapid growth has created a need for more supporters to come alongside the work of World Wide Village in this community. More students required hiring more teachers which translates to more that is needed to make ends meet each month. The students at this school are provided with two meals a day. I heard that some of these students come from backgrounds where the rice that they are fed at home is mixed with rocks to make it more substantial. There just wasn’t enough food for some of these children to receive a healthy meal at home. The feeding program provides kids with healthy meals.

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The students at this school have fantastic instructors. One of the things that I appreciated was that World Wide Village has partnered with a local pastor and church to make the school possible. All of the students receive a Christ-based education. WWV also works to ensure that teachers receive ongoing training.

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The pastor of this particular congregation has a big vision for his community. He wants to see the school continue to grow. He would like to open a high school within the next year. The picture on the left is the group of seven pastors from the States with this dear Haitian brother. He is a godly, capable, and faithful servant of the Lord.

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While touring his school, we also took a look at some of the homes next to the school that WWV has helped build. WWV is also working to help create income for the school through a chicken project which would allow the school to raise and sell chickens. This would also provide food for some of the students.On our tour, we met the dear woman on the left. She is 89 years old and lives with a grandson. When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, she was living in Port au Prince with her daughter. She was on some concrete steps in her home, walking downstairs. Her daughter was under the steps. The steps collapsed, killing her daughter. This woman has such a sweet demeanor about her, despite all that she had been through.

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After our trip to the school, we visited the House of Hope Orphanage. There are over 400 students at this school, with about 45 true orphans. The rest come to the school for an education. These are not orphans that will be adopted from Haiti. The church associated with this orphanage has an emerging relationship with WWV. This school and orphanage is located about two miles away from the school run by WWV.

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We were immediately greeted by eager children who wanted to spend as much time with us as they could. Their smiles and joy were infectious. A couple little boys grabbed Darrin Geier and my hands and didn’t want to let go.

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While at the orphanage we took a bit of time to listen to our Haitian friends share about their hope for their nation. Randy Mortensen, who runs World Wide Village asked them to share their dreams for the nation in ten years.Themes that emerged were the desire for better education, health care, a government that could be trusted, and infrastructure needs.

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From the orphanage we went to meet with another pastor in town. This young leader receives no support from any outside organization. He runs a concrete company to help makes ends meet for himself and the church he runs. He works with two smaller churches in the mountains as well.The church he pastors sustained damage in the earthquake and meets in Unicef and Samaritan’s Purse tents that have been put together. 250 worshipers gather each Sunday.

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We listened as this pastor shared his dreams for his city. In the next ten years the city is expected to explode in population. He dreams of a church of 5,000 worshipers. God has provided the land for him to build a large church. A foundation has been poured, and they will build as God provides.What became so clear as he spoke was that the greatest need for Haitian pastors is training. He would like to bring together 50 or so Haitian pastors for training once every couple of months for two years. Right now there is only one training that he knows of for his region and that comes only one time per year.

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There are lots of ideas that pop into my mind when we talk about what could be done here. In our church alone, God has provided many who could help with this type of training. A couple of other pastors on the trip have also resonated with the idea of training these pastors.The building on the left is the old church building which was damaged in the hurricane.

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It is impossible to drive through this country and not be struck with the awesome need that is here. Even though Haiti is the country that has more missionaries than any other, it seems like the needs are just so great. World Wide Village has chosen to focus their efforts on a couple of communities. In order to get to those communities we drive past so many more. Each community has need. We passed by the largest tent city in Haiti today. We saw some of the tragic results of promises that were made but not kept by Christian organizations. We saw people who had lost hope. But, we also saw the wonderful work being done by a select few that is making a big difference in the lives of the next generation of Haitians. God is at work in this nation. I’m looking forward to learning more tomorrow.I took over 150 pictures today, that I’ll post on my Facebook account later today.

We Made It To Haiti!

012Early this morning, Darrin Geier, Dan Schauer, and I left to travel to the country of Haiti. (Thank you Jim Nygren for driving Darrin and I to the airport at 4 AM!) We joined four other pastors from North Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota to explore a possible partnership between Woodbury Community Church, World Wide Village, and the people of Haiti.
Those of you from Woodbury Community Church know that God has been doing some unique things in our church as it relates to this tiny island nation. It all began when God placed a burning desire on Sara Lein’s heart to do something to make an impact in the nation of Haiti. The island nation, which was already one of the world’s poorest countries, was ravaged by the devastating earthquake in which an estimated 316,000 people lost their lives, countless children became orphans, over 1,000,000 people became homeless, and over 30,000 commercial buildings were destroyed.For the past couple of years Sara and her daughter Breelynn have traveled to Haiti, to work with A New Arrival Orphanage and partner with the school that works with these orphans. They have also worked alongside a number of organizations that exist help bring hope and healing to the people of Haiti. Many of you have seen the beautiful jewelry produced by the women at the Apparent Project, or participated in the Kozefò  5K, which helped benefit some of the educational initiatives that Sara is working with through her school in Haiti.  One of the beautiful things that has come out of Sara’s work is the decision by two families at Woodbury Community Church to adopt sons from A New Arrival Orphanage! You will hear their story in our services on October 28th.You can read about Sara’s work in Haiti here. You can read about the journeys of our two families’ that are adopting from Haiti here and here.This Thursday we will have a chance to meet Stanley and Davensly, the boys that will be a part of our church family sometime in the next year or so! We can’t wait. We will be taking some video of the guys to share with their future families.

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We arrived in Haiti at about 4:30 this afternoon. We were greeted at the airport by our wonderful hosts and taken to the home that we are staying in for the next four nights. After a delicious meal we spent about two hours talking about Haiti, getting to know the other pastors on our team, and sharing why we are here.Tomorrow we will be travelling about an hour north of Port au Prince to visit with a number of pastors. We are going to learn from them. They will share with us about their country, the needs in their nation, the ways in which the Haitian church is trying to address these needs, and practical ways that we can partner with them. One of the things that came through loud and clear tonight was the need for Haitian pastors to be trained. As many as 60% of Haitian pastors only have a 3rd grade education. So, training is a challenge. I’m looking forward to learning from these men tomorrow.I’m hoping to capture some pictures of Haiti’s beauty tomorrow. This is a lush country and beauty abounds everywhere. The people are who immediately capture your heart. They are friendly, smart, have a great sense of humor and I can’t wait to spend more time with them.We are all operating on about 3 hours sleep, so I’m going to sign off for now. I’ll post more tomorrow.