Getting Settled

Welcome to my new blogsite!  It was supposed to be totally finished and handed over to me in February.  However, the young lady who designed it ran into some personal problems and wasn’t able to work on it for several weeks in a row. Even now there are things still not completed, but the basic working shell is functional.

The page tabs above, for example, do not have the code worked into them so they work properly, and in the meantime I’ve sought out another designer who hopefully can help flesh out what’s missing and get the site up to snuff.

It went against my grain to go ahead and move in, but I decided to use the new site with its apparent flaws. So please be forgiving, as you try to explore any  “extras”–they WILL eventually get fixed.  All the old posts and basic information as to what the site is about is here. I’ll be glad to give you a grand tour of the place sometime when everything’s finally in place. . .

I got back from Haiti on Saturday with our church mission group, and I’m still trying to process everything I experienced there.  The capitol of Port-au-Prince is a bustling, crowded city, with encouraging signs of growth everywhere.  Yet the neighborhood of Cite Soleil, one of Haiti Outreach Ministries’ campuses where we worked several days,  is still ranked as the most impoverished slum in the Western hemisphere. The poorest in our country are rich people compared to the little that these people have! Yet in light of the earthquake’s horrific devastation, even in that very dark place, you can see the abundance of God’s grace, from the churches that have strengthened their arms of inreach into the community, to the many organizations who have jumped in to assist the neediest of needy. God truly has taken the bad and used it for His good and the furtherance of His gospel! As I sift through the take-aways of my Haiti experience, I will write more about it in the future.

I am so thankful for the many good things God has given me. . . I know I have been changed forever by this trip and have been convicted and challenged in many areas.  I am stirred now, more than ever, to tell others about Jesus and His saving grace. I want to live life differently, so others may know more of Him. . .and the incredible hope and joy that He gives. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Everything else in life we fret over, that we occupy ourselves with, pales in comparison to the Bright Lord of the Universe. He is worthy of our very best. . . and all we can offer Him. Oh, that this may be a permanent change, Lord, and that I don’t waste this precious lesson You’ve entrusted to me. . . .

Our Father, we thank You that Your gospel is not a dry, archaic story that merely happened long ago but is a living, powerful, life-altering Truth. It changes ALL OF US, from the inside out! And that you gift us with glimpses of Your amazing transformations, how You establish hope where there is no hope. . . because You are the Great God of Love Who cares! Thank You, thank You! May we stake our lives on faith in the Son of God Who loved us and gave Himself completely for us. . .

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

 

 

Finding Common Ground in Kenya: Guest Blog by Betsy Vaughan

On February 12, 2012, our team departed for mission trip to Kenya.  This was my 6th time visiting/teaching the people among the tribes of Kenya.

We taught in each church for two days.  On the first day our pastor’s wife (JoAnne) and I taught on the stories of the Woman at the Well, the Woman with  the issue of blood, the Shunnamite Woman, and the Good Samaritan. The next day four of us went in to the desert to evangelize.  The first community we came to was very poor and all were very undernourished.  You can usually tell they are not getting enough food by the color of their hair, which will be brownish-red instead of black.  The ladies were all believers and were very happy to greet us.

We invited them to ask questions.   Someone asked, “What would you do if your 16-year-old daughter came home pregnant?”  What a profound opportunity I had!   So I shared with them the story of my own daughter who became pregnant at the age of 16.  She remained in our home where we loved her unconditionally, continued to take her to church, and supported her.   Our church family accepted her and loved her through this trying time.  Our first grandson is almost 30 now!  The ladies in Kenya were so glad that I do not believe in abortion but very sad to know that abortion is legal in America.

The third day JoAnne and I taught the same lessons at another church.  The ladies asked us to teach on marriage upon our return next year.  They want to be better wives, even though many of them have to share their husbands with other wives.   Many of them also have been abused and mutilated.  It is sad, but very true.  It is so amazing to see the joy they have in the Lord under those circumstances!  They love the Lord and their desire is to please Jesus and learn more about Him.  Most of them cannot read, but the ones who do share the Word with others.  The Bible (in the Maasai language) is a very valuable possession and is treated accordingly.  It brings tears to my eyes when I think about these beautiful women and how they love our Lord and Savior and treasure His Word.

Their final question was “Do men in America abuse their wives and abandon their children?”  I thought wow, if you only knew!  Then God urged me to share what happened to me as a child.  God wanted me to share about how my daddy had abused and beaten my mother and abandoned us.  Usually when I am talking about this, I am somewhat angry.  However, the Spirit came over me and caused me to cry.  Suddenly all were crying.  I thought I might be kicked out of Kenya!  As it turned out, the tribal pastor’s wife, Alice, had experienced the same thing.  It was very emotional for her and all the women who loved her.  This is how God works when we allow Him to work in our lives.   Alice needed to hear that this had happened to someone else.  Someone on the other side of the world knows what it is like not to have a daddy.  We comforted each other and loved on each other.

Another way that God used me was to encourage two young ladies on our team who had never been out of America or on a mission trip.  At different times, God seemed to bring Scripture to mind that fit the particular circumstances.  How thankful I was that God allowed me this wonderful opportunity.

Yes, I would have to say this was a very special trip. It is so amazing how God can use each one of us, no matter our background.  The important thing for us to remember is to always be available for God’s purposes

Betsy Vaughan has been married to husband Joe for 50 years and were members of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham, NC, for 32 years.  Since moving to Clayton, NC in 1999, they have been members of Hocutt Baptist Church.  They have two children, 5 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren that they simply adore.  Betsy has been privileged to go on joint mission to Kenya 6 times with her church and Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh.

Haiti In My Heart

photo credit: Haiti Outreach Ministries

This post is about a country which I’ve never seen . . . but have carried in my heart for some time.

My home church, Ridgecrest Church, has been taking short-term mission trips to Haiti since 1999, once or twice a year.  Many times I wanted to go but could not, due to family issues or work issues. I have longed to see and touch and experience this country for myself.

But hallelujah, this time I’m going! Along with 26 other adults and teens (many of them seasoned veterans), we will be flying from Miami, Florida, into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on April 7th and will be gone seven days during Easter week. We are going to assist Haiti Outreach Ministries, our partner organization in Haiti headed by Pastor Leon Dorleans, his wife Jacky, and daughter Nadege, to do whatever construction projects or other tasks they assign to us. (That’s Jacky’s and Nadege’s picture up there to the left.)

Haiti, as you can imagine, still carries devastating scars from the massive 2010 earthquake. Many of its buildings are toppled. High unemployment and a scarcity of food are great problems, especially in Port-au-Prince, its largest city with  1.25 million people squeezed into a 15-square-mile radius. Many Haitians still live in tent cities, constructed of whatever materials they could salvage to sleep under. It is in the tent cities where a cholera outbreak post-earthquake further decimated the population. Haiti’s fledging government, struggling under the newly-elected President Michel Martelly, is trying to stay afloat and strengthen the country’s fragile, almost nonexistent infrastructure.

I went looking online for a news update on Haiti and found what seems to be hopeful signs. A recent article by Laurent Dubois and Deborah Jenson (The New York Times, January 8, 2012) relates how Haiti can be re-born through its rich heritage of rural farming. “It is easy to forget that, for most of the 19th century, Haiti was a site of agricultural innovation, productivity and economic success,” the reporters stated. They went on to detail how this could happen:

Municipal governments should construct properly equipped marketplaces for the women who sell rural produce. The Haitian state should develop trade policies aimed at protecting the agricultural sector, and take the lead in fixing roads and ports, confronting deforestation and improving systems of water management. Foreign organizations working in the country can help simply by making it a policy to buy food and other goods from local producers.

The return on the investment in the rural economy would be self-reliance, the alleviation of dangerous overcrowding in cities and, most important, a path toward ending Haiti’s now chronic problems of malnutrition and food insecurity. As Haitians look to rebuild in 2012, the best blueprints will come from their own proud and vibrant history.

We pray for Haiti’s new economy.  May the people boldly return to their agrarian roots, rehabbing deforested wasteland into verdant farmland and self-sufficiently feeding themselves.  May their new government truly serve the people, instituting needed social structures to make its citizens’ lives better. May Haiti’s children grow up to be adults instilled with hope and pride in their future.

We believers continue to pray for great spiritual revival upon Haiti, too. May the ministries like those of Pastor Leon’s continue to reach and touch lives, leading souls to know the Bread of Life, the Living Water of Jesus Christ.

Would you join  me in prayer? Heavenly Father, we acknowledge You as Sovereign God. We pray that You create inroads for the revitalization of Haiti, Father. May You put into place everything needed for Haiti’s citizens to again flourish and grow their own food, to be a self-sustaining nation. May you continue a mighty spiritual revival, that many souls come to know You as Savior and Lord.  May You bless the contributions of those who go to be Your hands and feet. May whatever is left behind in Haiti lead to Your bigger Kingdom goals, Father. We ask all these things through Jesus’ name and though His authority only, Amen.

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

P.S. The school featured  in the YouTube video below is one of the ongoing projects of the Haiti Outreach Ministries that we will visit, Repatriote School. Blessings!