Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Joy in the midst of hardship

This is a copy of a blog post I wrote for Watermark during our trip to Haiti in February.  I've been meaning to post it here for a long time and am just now getting around to it.  Here is a link to all of the blog posts from our trip.  


It is a question I have asked myself many times after my son Owen was born with spina bifida. Spina bifida is a birth defect that has impacted Owen’s physical abilities in several ways. The most significant is that he can’t stand on his own and uses a wheelchair fulltime. My wife and I have wrestled long and hard with God on the answer to that question. Over his 11 years, Owen has also wrestled with that question. And while we don’t have a full answer to that question, God has shown us again and again that He can be trusted in everything, even hard circumstances like being in a wheelchair.

But this week, we were not the ones asking “Why?”

It was the children we had come to serve in an orphanage in Titanyen, Haiti. During a time of free play, a group of children gathered around Owen and asked why he was in a wheelchair. With the help of a translator and some transition questions from me, Owen explained a little about spina bifida and what life is like in a wheelchair. He shared that it is hard for him sometimes when other kids are playing sports that he can’t play. He also shared that he can still have joy today because he knows that someday he will be in heaven with Jesus and be able to walk. Owen then explained that he knows he is going to heaven because he believes that Jesus died for his sins on the cross and has accepted Him as his Savior.

Owen’s wheelchair is normally something that makes him different from other kids. But today, God used Owen’s wheelchair to build a bridge to a bunch of kids that have experienced significant hardships.

This same story played out twice on the streets of Titanyen yesterday. Each time a crowd of people got to hear from an eleven year-old boy about how he has joy in the midst of hardship because of his relationship with Jesus – and that this same joy is available to them through Christ. I wasn’t the one asking “Why?” today, but I was not oblivious to the not-so-soft whispering from God reminding me that Owen is God’s masterpiece and He has created him anew in Christ Jesus, so that Owen can do the good things He planned for him long ago (paraphrased from Ephesians 2:10).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Haiti Trip - Feb 2013

Poverty, orphans, trash, and sickness.  Joy, beauty, purpose, and yes, hope.  All of these words describe what Henry and I (Eric) saw in Haiti.  When people ask how our trip was, it is hard to give a simple answer.  
To say it was good, seems to gloss over the fact that there are a lot of big problems in Haiti that seem insurmountable.  To say that it was hard, ignores the awesome things God is doing through Mission of Hope and the great people we met.  So I decided to write this blog entry to give a more complete, less simple answer.

On Valentines Day, Henry (our 4th grade son) and I and 43 other parents/kids from our church left to go to Titanyen, Haiti for a 5 day mission trip to serve a local ministry called Mission of Hope (MOH).  Mission of Hope is an amazing organization and one thing became abundantly clear this week, God is at work through these wonderful people.  (www.mohhaiti.org)    Take a look at the pictures below to see some of what MOH is up to in Haiti.

As part of the preparation for this trip, we were asked to read a book called “The Hole in our Gospel”.  I finished this book on the flight home and it is an awesome book.  The author's main point is that the gospel preached in most American churches skips over a critical piece of the job Jesus gave us to do as followers of Christ.  Caring for the poor.  I have struggled with why God doesn't do more to solve poverty and hunger.  But what if God's plan is to use us?

Here are some startling facts. 
  • If you make more than $25,000 a year, you are wealthier than 90% of the world’s population. 
  • If you make more than $50,000 a year, you are wealthier than 99% of the world’s population.
  • American Christians make up about 5% of the global Christian Church, however we control about half of the global Christian wealth. 
It’s not just about money, but what if God has given us this money so that we can help him eradicate world poverty?  It would take just a little over 1% of the income of the American Church to lift the poorest 1 BILLION people out of extreme poverty. 

God is really working on me right now through our trip to Haiti, this book, and some other things.  I feel strongly moved to action but I need to find an avenue for this energy.  I know part of the answer is getting financially involved in helping the poor through organizations like MOH.   But I want to be open to the idea that God may have a bigger plan for how he wants to use us.    We'll have to wait and see!

Here are some highlights from our trip:

This is the food distribution center that supports a network that feeds 54,000 Haitians a day!

MOH now has three schools that they run in Haiti that serve around 3000 students.  Their goal is to have 10,000 students by 2015!  The first day, our group served at the Bercy campus doing whatever needed to be done.  Among other things, Henry and I helped spread a bunch of gravel around a playground for the school.

This is a picture of a young man I shared the gospel with named Etson.  We had these really cool tracts that had the gospel in English and in Creole, so we were able to share the gospel with people even if we couldn't speak their language.

Many of the local kids would ask to take pictures with my camera.  At one point, I got a little nervous because a boy I had loaned my camera to took off running.  Fearing the worst, I called out to him, but he communicated with his hands that he would be back.  I decided to trust him.  I was rewarded with this fine picture of a goat!

One of the most humbling things we saw was the city of Leveque.  There is a large community of people here still living in the temporary shelters that were built after the earthquake in 2010.  These are very small and only meant to last 6 months.  MOH has been and is continuing to build real houses for these people.  You can see these brightly painted houses down the hill in the background of this picture.  They are also in the process of building a church near these houses and are working with the people there to establish local leadership of this new community.

On our last day there, we cleaned up trash at the school on the main MOH campus.  When the morning session of school was over, all the kids came out and wanted to play with us. This was one of my favorite memories from our trip.

This was taken at a beautiful beach resort we visited on our last day.  It seems weird to go to a beach resort as part of a mission trip, but it's an intentional part of the trip.  The MOH staff wants us know that even in the midst of a lot of devastation Haiti is still beautiful and with God's help it can be beautiful again.  

One thing I learned as I was writing this is that if I feel a little weird about going to a nice beach on the last day of my mission trip, shouldn't I also feel weird about the fact that my home is a resort compared to what we just saw in Haiti?  Yes.  I think I should.  I am more and more convinced that God didn't provide me with what I have today so I can be comfortable.  But let me clarify.  Guilt isn't the desired result.  It's action.  Action to feed the poor.  Action to serve the orphan.  Action to rid the world of injustice.  And you know what we get out of helping the poor?  Joy.  True Joy.

Psalm 41:1a Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas! (2011)

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Welcome to our first video-enhanced Christmas letter with the help of our blog.  (No, they're not 3D videos, maybe next year...)  If this is your first time to our blog, feel free to browse through past posts for a more detailed look at our 2011 or you can just take a gander at the two videos we made to sum up the year.

Our first video sums up our journey to bring our little girl, Sarah, home from Ethiopia.  We just got home with Sarah in early December.  As things kept getting delayed this year, we kept having to push out our "plans".  I just hope we bring her home by her 1st birthday.  Well, maybe by Thanksgiving?  OK, not Thanksgiving, but can we PLEASE bring her home by Christmas?  Yes.  Yes, you can.

We are SOOOO thankful to have Sarah home for Christmas this year!  While we waited for Sarah, life didn’t stop here in Dallas.  Henry and Owen are now in 3rd and 2nd grade respectively while Meghan is enjoying her last year of pre-school.  Henry has dropped soccer for the moment and is focused on his love of basketball.  Owen is still on his swim team and is experimenting with sled hockey.  Meghan loves her ballet/tap class.  In order to showcase our children’s amazing musical abilities, we put together a brief “music video”.   I know you may be thinking “Hmmm, home video of piano and ballet recitals that look like they were filmed during an earthquake.  I’ll watch that after I get done watching this youtube of a hamster that gets stuck in his exercise wheel.”  But don’t let your fear of home videos scare you away.  Check this out.
I’ll give you the straight scoop on Laura and I.  This has been a tough year.  We never expected the process to adopt to be this emotionally draining.  Good friends warned us that it would be difficult.  But who listens to those people anyway?

If you’ve ever read any Christian book, article, or blog post about adoption you’ve seen all of the parts of the Bible that talk about how much God loves orphans.  In fact our decision to adopt was largely based on the fact that God loves us, we love God, God loves orphans, so we should love orphans.  Makes perfect sense, right?!?

So here’s the question Laura and I struggled with this year “God – If you love orphans so much, why is it so hard to adopt one?”  But when I said “hard”, it was probably more like “HAAAAARRRRDDDDDUH.”  My perspective on this question started to change when I read this blog post by Jen Hatmaker.  I began to realize that we aren’t fighting against God on this.  We’re fighting along side of Him and He has been fighting this battle for a lot longer than we have. God isn’t surprised that the life of an orphan is not fair and that the processes that are designed to protect orphans also end up hurting them by keeping them from being with families that want to love them.  Nothing about an orphan’s life is fair, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t in control or doesn’t care.

God loves us enough to allow us to choose and unfortunately for all of us, we don’t make good choices and we end up with orphans, genocide, rape, war, and other things we don’t like.  God isn’t crazy about them either.  I heard Gary Haugen, CEO of the International Justice Mission, say something along the lines of “We are God’s plan for solving injustice in this world.  There is no Plan B.”  I’m not crazy about this idea because it puts too much pressure on me, but I think he is right.

The point of all this is:  This has been a very tough year but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Not only because the end result is Sarah being in our family, but also because God used this to expose us to a world outside of our little bubble.  That world is broken and messy but guess what?  God is out there fighting and we want to be there with Him because in the middle of pain and heartache we found true joy.

I’ll close with some lyrics from “Don’t Waste Your Life” (the rap song we used in our music video…)
Your money, your singleness, marriage, talent and time
They were loaned to you to show the world that Christ is Divine
That's why it's Christ in my rhymes
That's why it's Christ all the time

Merry Christmas everyone and we’re praying that everyone has a great 2012 that completely rocks your world like our 2011 did!

the Lakeys

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gotcha Day

We've tried emailing pictures and that didn't work very well, so we're trying the blog. We'll send out more detailed updates later. For now, pictures..

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's time...

This is Eric... I remember during the pregnancies of our other children that after we hit the 37 week mark, I would always secretly hope that Laura would wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me “It’s time.” She of course would say it in a really calm voice and no matter how much I had rehearsed it in my head, I would jump out of bed like a madman and start running around the house trying to find suitcases that were already packed and ready by the foot of our bed. As you all know, we are in month 30 of our adoption process or “paper pregnancy” and are currently waiting on approval from US immigration office. A US immigration team from Nairobi, Rome, and the US has been in Ethiopia since Monday processing cases like ours. Based on the timing of events related to our adoption I did not expect to hear anything this week so I have not been checking my email in the middle of the night or even first thing in the morning. But this morning I woke at 5 which was an hour before my alarm was going to go off. After laying wide awake for a few minutes I felt as if God was telling me “I woke you up for a reason. Go check your email.” So I did. After checking it, I nudged Laura while she slept and in a very calm voice said “We got an email.” At which point Laura jumped out of bed like a madwoman and ran around the room. The excitement quickly mixed with fear because the email could contain bad news as easily as it could contain good news. The letter itself was in a zipfile that I couldn’t open on my phone, so we went downstairs together to find out whether or not we were days/weeks away from bringing our daughter home or months away… I then couldn’t open the zipfile on my Mac and the tension mounted while I rebooted into Windows. After what seemed like hours of waiting and Laura repeating “LORD, no matter what happens we know You are with us.”, we got to read the following words… “The visa petition you have filed has been approved.” We haven’t gotten any good news related to the adoption since early August so we of course had to keep reading to make sure there wasn’t a “but” anywhere in there. And there wasn’t!!! Then there was more jumping, laughing, crying, etc. :-) We are now waiting for a final decision from the US Embassy and a date for when we can go bring sweet Sarah home. We could hear from the Embassy as early as Monday and travel within the next few weeks. God was good before we got this email and He is still good now, but we are so thankful to Him that we’ve made this big step towards bringing Sarah home.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

More Pictures of Sarah....

We are really ready to hold her rather than just look at pictures of her. We are very weary from the wait. We continue to hope that we will be able to go and get her this fall. Our new dossier is en route to Ethiopia as of late last week and should be there any day. We are praying that it will be reviewed with favor and that there will be no complications. In the meantime, we enjoy the pictures but they are bittersweet to look at as she continues to grow up. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Popcorn Anyone?

Here are Henry and Owen dressed in their scouting uniforms. This is Owen's first year as a cub scout. He is a wolf and has several friends in his den full of other 2nd graders. This is Henry's 2nd year and he is a bear. They are both very excited about cub scouts. The very first thing that cub scouts do during the school year is sell popcorn to raise money to support the pack (and pay their dues so their parents don't have to!). If you are interested in knowing more about popcorn and how you can support Henry and Owen, send me an email and I'll give you the scoop.

So far the entire family has spent two 108 degree afternoons knocking down doors in Lake Highlands and selling to our neighbors. Of course, the cub scouts make it into a huge competition with all sorts of prizes to win. Meghan, Mommy and Daddy are currently thinking that we deserve a portion of any prizes earned because we have to stand out there in the heat while they charm their buyers.

Enjoy the pictures.