No Haste and No Delay

We welcomed our second daughter, Selah, into the world right on her due date, which occurs only 5% of the time according to a quick Google search. Selah is truly is a gift to our family. She is so sweet and peaceful and brings such joy into our lives. Eden is adjusting as a big sister and has had some really sweet moments with Selah, which really warms our hearts as parents. It is hard to believe that our 2+ month paternity/annual leave is coming to end in just a couple weeks! We are very much looking forward to joining our community back in Haiti. Haiti is home and despite the continued political instability that has invaded our own neighborhood, we are planning on going back as scheduled unless we sense the Lord leading us otherwise.

There is one thing that could potentially hold up our current travel plans – Selah’s passport. We applied for her passport just over 6 weeks ago and paid the expedited passport fee, which is supposed to have a 4-6 week turnaround time. We submitted the passport application prior to receiving Selah’s social security card,p=p which may have caused another delay, since we had to send it in by mail at a later date and it just arrived on March 30. I’m not sure if that resets the 4-6 week clock to March 30 – I hope not! It was supposed to arrive earlier, but USPS seems to be slower than usual, possibly due to COVID.

In any case, not having the passport in hand makes our travel in less than 2 weeks less than certain. It’s possible to get a passport expedited even more by making an appointment at a Passport Agency or Center, but slots are extremely limited and currently the online scheduling portal says, “No appointments are available due to limited capacity. Please contact us for help”. When I tried calling the number listed, I was told that our only option at this point is to try to check for cancellations at the nearby Passport Agencies and hope to secure an appointment. Or hopefully it just arrives in the mail before we need to travel.

Like many things in life, this is out of our hands. But thankfully, it’s still in God’s. This morning, I read the following quote in the Desire of Ages, which brought me peace regarding the timing of Selah’s passport:

“But like the stars in the vast circuit of their appointed path, God’s purposes know no haste and no delay” – The Desire of Ages 32.1

God’s timing is always perfect. We have experienced this multiple times in our lives and this is yet another time when we need to surrender to His timing once again. Whatever happens, we can rest in the fact that He is in control and He is taking care of us, making sure that whatever is for our eternal good, He will accomplish in His time. We are looking forward to seeing how he leads us in the next couple weeks!

Selah’s passport photos

By His Spirit

“Should I fly back early?”

Starting January 26, the CDC required a negative COVID test for all international travelers entering the US. Michelle and Eden were staying with Michelle’s parents since Michelle was nearing full term. I had returned to Haiti with plans to fly back out on January 31. Our hospital had a leadership prayer retreat scheduled January 30 and I had helped plan the retreat, so I really wanted to be there. But the new testing requirements brought a number of unknown variables into the equation:

  • Where would I get tested? The one place that I knew of that offered COVID testing for travelers declared that they were running out of reagents and wouldn’t be able to test travelers. Even if I was able to get tested through the government (they weren’t testing travelers either), results often took more than 3 days to come back, which would not be accepted by the airlines. Would it be possible for us to be tested at our own hospital? We were not able to purchase any from our main lab supplier because they had sold out and were on backorder. Thankfully, Scott was able to secure a small number of rapid tests that would arrive before my scheduled departure, but then we discovered that we were not a government-approved testing site, so the airlines would not accept our test results.
  • What if I test positive for COVID? I could be an asymptomatic carrier. People here don’t routinely get tested for COVID, even if they have classic symptoms, so I may have been exposed. I found out that someone I had been in contact with recently tested positive, but thankfully our encounter had not met criteria for exposure. 
  • What if I get sick? I get upper respiratory infections (URI’s) easily and a number of people around me were sick and a lot of Haitians come to see the doctor during this “cold” season for URI’s. 
  • What if Michelle goes into labor early? Some of our friends had recently gone into labor early, which made this possibility even more real to us. 

With all these questions swirling around in our minds, I bought tickets to fly out on January 25, the day before the CDC order was supposed to go into effect. 

The main reason I wanted to stay was the prayer retreat. The theme of our retreat was “Praying God’s Promises for HAH”. The purpose of the retreat was to ask the Lord for His vision for HAH and our theme verse was Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” And in preparation for the retreat, Irma led us in 10 days of prayer by sending out a Bible promise to claim for our hospital each day. I was really looking forward to seeing the great and mighty things God had in store for HAH. 

The main reason I wanted to return early was obvious: to ensure that I did not miss the birth of our second daughter. If I was stuck in Haiti, it would make postpartum life a lot more difficult for Michelle and her parents. One of the verses that I spent time in during this time was Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule. Since the ramifications of the decision would affect Michelle more than me, I wanted her to be the primary decision-maker and I resolved to be supportive of whichever choice she was more comfortable with. 

We considered our situation from a variety of different angles. One way I looked at the choice was: which consequence would I regret more? Missing the retreat or missing the birth of our second child? When I looked at it that way, the answer was clear. But is that the way God wanted us to approach this? “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) There certainly was a lot of fear and anxiety underlying our thought process, but ultimately, we wanted to follow the Lord’s leading by His Spirit. After laboring in prayer and going back and forth on the issue multiple times, Michelle gave me her answer: she was at peace with me coming on my original scheduled flight. “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies…But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31)

The Lord was gracious to us. I’m writing this in the company of my lovely wife. Despite increasing insecurity and protests in the area, I was able to get a COVID test at a government-approved lab downtown and I tested negative. I didn’t run into any issues at the airport or on my journey back.

The retreat was a blessed experience with our hospital leadership. We spent time in nature on the beautiful Adventist university campus up the street. We reflected on Jeremiah 33:3, an incredibly encouraging promise God gave to His people during a particularly challenging time in Israel’s history. We were inspired to seek God’s vision as leaders at HAH, rather than relying on our vision, which is often clouded by discouragement and human limitations. We spent more than an hour that morning waiting on the Lord, individually or in small groups, asking Him for His plans for our hospital. We came back together and shared how God had inspired us during our time of reflection and we each shared Bible promises that we wanted to claim for HAH this year. After a simple meal back on the HAH campus, we prayed together as a group and closed the Sabbath hours singing praises to Him in the HAH chapel. It was a time of sweet fellowship in the Lord and a time to hone in on our mission “to continue the healing ministry of Jesus Christ by providing quality care to all classes of people”.  We are looking forward to seeing where God leads us as we continue to claim His promises in prayer. Some of us have started reading “Steps to Personal Revival” by Helmut Haubeil together and we are confident that as we continually and repeatedly ask for His Holy Spirit, God will keep His Promise to fill us with streams of Living Water that will overflow to our staff, our patients, and our community!

HAH Leadership Prayer Retreat

I will leave you with a few of the promises we are claiming for HAH this year:

  • “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13)
  • “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands (Isaiah 49:15-16)
  • “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Selah

Selah… It’s a term used in the book of Psalms that means to praise or to pause and reflect upon what has been said. Now that a year has passed, it’s a time to pause, a time to praise.  

When we moved to Haiti, we knew we were entering a troubled country. The reality is that we don’t go out much because of the increase in gang violence, kidnappings and protests. We often hear the nightly “fireworks” that has become background noise to our bedtime routines. The terrible stories that trickle into the hospital are heartbreaking and the struggle of the local people are real. However, despite what goes on outside our hospital gates, we feel relatively safe within our compound and live our day to day lives without too much worry. Some days are hopeful and some painfully slow as a stay at home mom stuck on a compound. Some days we are burdened with heavy hearts while other days we are overjoyed with relief. 

In summary of the last 13 months since we moved to Haiti—we’ve transitioned to life in a low-income country, faced the reality of racial profiling when COVID19 hit this country, took an unexpected 3.5 month furlough after evacuating Haiti, returned to Haiti in July to find that COVID19 did not affect the Haitians too adversely, transitioned back to compound life now with a growing fetus, and continued to establish our missionary work with the hospital and the community. We found ways to stay sane from our isolated life by taking a couple beach days, a weekend getaway and a visit back to California during Thanksgiving. It was nice to be with family for part of the holiday but we were also looking forward to spending time with our HAH missionary family before heading back to the states for the arrival of baby #2. 

The week was busy with holiday plans—our dear friends Jo and Jonrey’s wedding at the mountain house, Christmas lunch, Eden’s birthday party as well as hospital events during the week. The week was going well. Our friends had a beautiful, intimate wedding and we attended a couple hospital events. Then Christmas morning we heard the news… Irma and her dad never made it home last night. Our stomachs dropped as the thoughts raced through our heads. Was it an accident? A shooting? A kidnapping? Are we mistaken? Let it not be true… The kidnapping was confirmed. The next four days we bound our hearts in prayer and clung to the promises in Psalms. “Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness” Psalm 143:1. “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” Psalms‬ ‭27:14‬. We were hopeful but at times disheartened and discouraged. Our holiday plans became an excuse to keep our minds occupied. Then, finally, we heard the sweet, sweet news. They were released… the overwhelming joy and relief brought tears to our eyes. We embraced and prayed our praises to God. “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever “Psalms‬ ‭118:29‬. Never has the Psalms come to life for us as it did in these moments of desperation and despair for our dear friend and her father. We are so grateful for God’s promises, His deliverance for Irma and Pastor Henry, His salvation and victory. 

This time of uncertainty brought our expat missionary community together in a special way. I’m so grateful for the people here who have become our family and greatest support in this missionary life. We were all grateful and cherished the time we got to visit Irma and her family the day after her release and are amazed by their faith. Despite the recent events and hardships, they are declaring praises to the Lord. Amazing, inspiring and beautiful. 

Reunited with our dear Irma.

“You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Selah

Psalms‬ ‭32:7‬

God will take care of you…

It’s Monday night, March 23. The routine is the same, but our hearts ache. Nurse Eden, brush her teeth, read her bedtime story, pray and sing her lullaby. We start singing the verse, “No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you” and tears stream from his eyes. We don’t know when Jeff will be able to sing to Eden again. It could be weeks, it could be months. To lighten the mood, Eden thinks Daddy is laughing and starts to chuckle. We end the song in tears and laughter. 

Rewind. 

Jeff has started working but things have been slow paced as he eases himself into the workings of the hospital. We begin adjusting to our routines and settle into our new space. Eden begins to walk more confidently outside with the rocks, leaves, flowers, dogs and chickens. Despite the poverty and crime all around us, life is peaceful within the hospital gates. We feel safe in our little compound with eight missionaries living in a fenced off area. It’s breezy and the sun shines.

On Sabbath afternoon, we take our usual walk around the neighborhood and up into the hills. We receive the familiar stares and “Chinwa” (Chinese) comments that I have come to understand, but this time was different. As we keep walking, some utter “Kowonaviris” and others cover their nose and mouth. I begin to sense the reality of our situation if COVID-19 enters Haiti. How will the people respond? There is a possible case of COVID-19 in the north and we discover the man being tested is getting harassed by the Haitian people…

Our missionary community prays that God would spare Haiti from the virus, but on the night of March 19 we receive the news. Two cases of COVID-19 have been confirm in Haiti, and country is on lockdown. Airports, ports, schools, churches and factories have been shut down. A countrywide curfew has been mandated. It seems that we won’t be going anywhere any time soon. What does this mean for the hospital? What does this mean for our family and fellow missionaries? Jeff gets to work immediately coordinating with the other administrators, planning for a screening process, and implementing what he can with the other volunteers and hospital workers. His once slow-paced days are now in full force. However, things seem to move frustratingly slow while the weight of responsibility bears down on his shoulders.

Every day we receive decision-altering news. We are staying in Haiti through this crisis to support the hospital. We will be safe. Will we be safe? Some predict a humanitarian crisis so electricity, food and safe water may not be available. What will that mean for Eden? Maybe it’s not safe. Asians and Whites are not welcome by the community. Foreigners are bringing COVID-19. The hospital will be in danger. They are threatening to burn down the hospital. Maybe we need to leave. We can’t leave. We are at a loss. After the airports closed, we hear about repatriation flights that will evacuate foreigners to the U.S for only a few days. Jeff needs to stay and work for the hospital, but perhaps Eden and I should leave. But how can we separate our family and for how long? Weeks? Months? Eden will be running and Daddy will miss it. Eden will be talking and Daddy will miss it. We keep praying for wisdom, and the answer is unclear. The morning of Monday, March 23 comes and we need to make a decision and get a flight booked for the next day. I don’t want to leave, but what about Eden? We are leaving.

That night we have a nice dinner with the other missionaries and the Haitian administrator’s family. After dinner we discuss our plans. Four missionaries, including Jeff, will be staying to help the hospital. Soon after, we receive news that the hospital leadership is very concerned about the community’s reaction to foreigners being at the hospital. Some community members are threatening the hospital and things could escalate fast. The Haitian administrators make it clear – we must all leave. It’s for our safety, and for the safety of the hospital. The gravity of the news sinks in, coming from leaders who are well connected with the pulse of the community. It’s not what we want to hear, but we all know, God has answered our prayer. It’s time to go. God’s timing has been revealed. By Wednesday, March 25, all the missionaries leave Haiti Adventist Hospital (HAH) with heavy hearts.

Jeff, Eden and I are back in Loma Linda for an indefinite time. We are so grateful that our family is able to stay together, but our hearts go out to HAH. The devastation of COVID-19 in high-income countries has been unprecedented, however, a crisis like this in the poorest country in the western hemisphere could be catastrophic. Jeff and the other missionaries are doing what they can to help remotely, but those on the front lines at HAH are the ones meeting this challenge face to face. We ask for your prayers.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways, acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5

Waiting at Port-au-Prince airport for 9 hours.
Boarding the charter flight from PAP to MIA

Grateful

We just arrived home in Haiti a couple hours ago. We are jet-lagged, but in good health after traveling from Thailand with an extended layover in LA to pick up our baggage from our previous home in Loma Linda, which still feels like home too. The last 3 weeks, we have been in Chiang Mai at a mission training course provided by the SDA church, which was an incredible experience! I loved every moment of it! On the last day of class, we were asked to share the things we were grateful for and for some reason, I became teary-eyed as people were sharing. I didn’t even share what I was grateful for, but being in a room full of people dedicated to missions, pouring out their gratitude to God moved me. During the course, I learned a lot about transitions, culture, and missions. Many interactions I’ve had with other cultures in the past started to make more sense. Our instructors and fellow classmates, some of whom have been missionaries for many years, shared from their rich experiences, which was encouraging and inspiring. And spending time with these people for 3 weeks was a tremendous blessing in itself. Eden went to day care for the first time, so that both Michelle and I could attend class and she loved it! Her teachers and classmates took such good care of her. Our classes and Eden’s day care were all located on the 3rd floor of the hotel we stayed at and on our last day in Thailand, I wandered onto the 3rd floor and saw what it looked like normally when it wasn’t set up for Mission Institute. Our discussion tables were put away. The library of books on the tables in the back of the room was gone. Eden’s day care room was bare. All the people were gone. I felt a sense of loss seeing this. The feeling reminded me of how I felt as a kid leaving Yosemite after spending a few days there with my family and friends, reveling in God’s beautiful nature with the people I loved the most. I guess I got attached…more than I realized. But it’s time to say goodbye, to the place at least. I will cherish the memories and the lessons learned. And I’m hoping this is just the beginning of the relationships we’ve made with the other missionary families. It’s time to live out what we’ve learned. On the way back to Haiti, I thought about many blessings God has poured on us:
– One of the couples we connected with at Mission Institute, Russell and Jenene, babysat Eden for a few nights so that Michelle and I could go on date nights
– We had an extra seat on all our flights back so Eden had more room to move around. On the long flight from Hong Kong to LAX, we had a bassinet, which helped a lot with Eden’s naps and playtime.
– My sister Jennifer picked us up from LAX late at night and drove us all the way to Loma Linda and then drove home, even though she had work the next morning
– We were able to see a few of our friends in Loma Linda during our brief stay, including Eden’s BFF, Ellie
– Michelle’s brother, Elliot, helped us unload and check in our luggage at LAX, which would have been extremely difficult without him, especially because we were on a time crunch and I had to return the rental car
– We made it to Port-au-Prince safely with all 6 check-ins, 3 carry ons, 3 personal items, a stroller, car seat, and car seat base, all of which seem to be in good condition
– Eden was not upset for most of the flights, which isn’t always the case, so we were very grateful
– Eden was having some GI issues right before we started traveling, but it completely resolved by the time we started traveling back
– Michelle wasn’t feeling well once we got to Loma Linda, but once we were in the air again, she felt much better
– I’ve had a sore throat on and off the last couple days, but it seems to have resolved without progressing, which is unusual for me
– We made it from the airport to our home on the hospital compound without incident aside from heavy traffic
– We are here with renewed passion and are excited to join God and His people in His work
– We are part of a worldwide movement dedicated to sharing the gospel to the whole world
I’m sure I could go on for a while, but that’s what’s coming to mind at the moment. I’m going to join my family in taking a nap now…

-Jeff

Differences

Written during a brief pitstop in Loma Linda.

We have spent 6 weeks in Haiti and now we are back in Loma Linda for a few days before we head to Thailand for Mission Institute Training. Spending the last couple days back in the States has been such a sweet treat. Everything is noticeably bigger, faster, organized, clean, quiet, and so luxuriously comfortable. Just 24 hours of the American life makes Haiti feel like a distant dream. The chaos of the streets, buzzing tap taps, motorcycles and cars utilizing every inch of the road, the chickens, goats, cats and dogs looking for their next meal, black water and garbage collecting and flowing in the streets, the smells, the suffering… How are these worlds so different? How is it so easy to forget about the unfortunate places of this earth when you enter into a hedge of comfort? This hedge is cozy and warm.

Aboard the ambulance airport transport with empty suitcases.
PAP airport
Quick visit with family.
En route to Chiang Mai

Arrival

Two weeks ago our family moved to Haiti. After 9.5 years of Jeff finishing med school, residency and waiting for placement, the anticipated move finally happened. We sorted through all our belongings, shipped our container, packed up our luggage and made very good use of our Amazon prime account. The journey went surprisingly well with our 11 month old, Eden. She tends to be very vocal and high-pitched on airplanes but this time she slept through. Thank you, Jesus, THANK YOU.

God is merciful..

We arrive at PAP airport and count our 9 pieces of check-in bags, carry-on bags, and diaper bag plus stroller. Everything made it! We exit the bustling airport with some hired help and wheel everything out to the humid warmth of Haiti – it’s not as humid as I remembered. We are happy to see the familiar face of Mr. Michel, the hospital’s driver, greet us at the parking lot with the Haiti Adventist Hospital (HAH) ambulance ready to transport us to our new home on the hospital compound. Mr. Michel skillfully drives through the Port-au-Prince traffic, dodging/plowing through potholes and garbage, and weaving through traffic on both sides of the road while I sit in the back holding Eden tight in her carrier, bracing myself for the next bump. She doesn’t seem to mind too much and eventually falls asleep. 

Temporarily staying in the unit on the right, moving into the unit on the left next week.
A warm welcome 🙂

We push our way through the hospital gates (literally) and Mr. Michel drops us off at the volunteer housing units. The greenery within the hospital walls brings relief to our eyes and we are warmly welcomed by the volunteer family at HAH. Since then, we been living in a temporary space until our duplex unit is available. 

December in Haiti – keep forgetting in this tropical weather that Christmas is right around corner.
Enjoying simple comfort food – ramen

Our days are simple but busy. Wake up, play with Eden/prepare breakfast, Eden naps while we read our devotions and try to study Creole, Eden wakes up, go to the market to buy a bundle of bananas, 4 large mangos and 3 ginormous avocados all for 300 goud ($3!), eat lunch, play with Eden, Eden naps while we have 2 hours of Creole language training with a private tutor, Eden wakes up during or after Creole lessons, prepare and eat dinner, play with Eden, Eden goes night night, study Creole and do other miscellaneous things. We are so grateful to have this designated time in Haiti to focus on the language and settling in before Jeff starts working full time+ at the hospital. Eden has been adjusting well, eating happily, and moving constantly. She loves the mangoes. 

One of Dr. Scott Nelson’s “leisure” Sabbath hikes – huffing and puffing up the steep slopes.
Exhausted from the hike
The hospital driveway and newly constructed planter island
Afternoon stroll at the neighboring Adventist University campus
Happiest outside
The edge of the University campus

We really miss our family and friends back in the States. All the support and prayers we’ve been receiving has been overwhelming and so special. We feel so blessed and loved. 

LAX airport – Last look at our family before we go through security. ❤

The Call

7.24.19

Michelle and I received a phone call from the General Conference today informing us that our call to Hôpital Adventiste d’Haïti (HAH) has reached the GC level. We have been waiting for this call for some time. After our initial plans to serve as Deferred Missionary Appointees in Africa fell through last year, we did not know where God was leading us. But we had His Word:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there  you may be also.

John 14:1-3

In Christ Object Lessons, it says, “Not more surely is the place prepared for us in the heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God.” COL 326.4. We knew that God had a place for us. Through a series of events starting last August with a text message from Dr. Scott Nelson, an inspiring orthopedic surgeon who currently lives at HAH, we are now preparing to move to Haiti. As we prepare to go, we will certainly treasure these remaining months with our friends and family here in the states. At the same time, we are very excited to see how God will lead us as we take the next steps of our journey. Please pray for us as we prepare to go to the place God has prepared for us.

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