The Family

The Family
Justice, Logan, Jacy Klaire, Joy, Josie Kate, Luke, Megan, Judah, Kerry, Jaxon

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Tale of Four Junes

In June of 2009 we left for Haiti to live as full time missionaries. We believed that we would raise our kids there and serve the Haitian needs for years to come. In June of 2012 we returned to the U.S. to visit but discovered some issues that caused us to see God's plan was for us to move back to the U.S. to care for our family.

I was not happy about God changing plans on me like that. I had given up everything to follow Him to Haiti and wasn't prepared to be back in the U.S. Me and God had many conversations over the next year, many of which involved me whining and complaining in a state of depression because God had not done things the way I wanted them done.

In June of 2013, our family moved to Albany, GA for me to resume work as an optometrist- something I told God I did not have a desire to do again. I was a missionary after all- why would I have to return to working a "secular" job?

After being here just a few months, I was asked by our church to fill in as interim preacher. Then, once again in the month of June, 2016 I was ordained and called to be the Lead Pastor for Byne Memorial Baptist Church of Albany, GA- www.byne.org

I still do optometry- it turns out I was wrong- that is my mission field- and I lead an amazing group of church leaders in an attempt to make God known in southwest Georgia.

We are still involved in Haiti. I am taking a team down in September to preach at a weekend celebration in St. Marc and to kick off our school sponsorship for the year. We are hoping to sponsor 75 kids in the Montrouis area to go to school this year. We love those kiddos.

God is always good. God knows what is best. God's plan for each of us is a beautiful plan full of surprises. I am glad God is not predictable. I am glad He doesn't leave us to our own devices and wisdom. I am glad that He loves me too much to abandon His sovereignty even when I try to convince Him to in my times of confusion and limited vision. I can't wait to see what He has in store for the Junes to come!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Puppy Love

Josie Kate and Justice with Lucky Dog
Bella was a typical Haitian mutt. Those dogs are bred for one thing, to bark. When someone entered your yard they were to bark and serve as an alarm in a land without ADT or Brinks home security.

Bella was hit by a car...twice. She walked with a limp. She was scared of her own shadow, and she was just plain ugly. But in spite of all of that this little dog came into Josie Kate's life at a time when she needed a friend.

We were overwhelmed after the earthquake. The kids were doing great in getting adjusted to living in a third world country during a catastrophe but it was extremely stressful on everyone. Josie Kate found a friend and confidant in Bella. She developed a special bond with the yard mutt and was seldom seen without it. She was 4 years old and carried the dog around like a baby doll that was almost her size. She held the dog's head in a tight squeeze while Bella's body dangled loosely as the duo skipped around the yard. Without resistance or wimper Bella submitted to Josie Kate's whims and became the little missionary kid's source of comfort in a trying time. Josie Kate would dress her up in doll clothes, push her around in a baby stroller, or simply lay on the ground under the table and cuddle the furry member of  our family.

Two and half years later when we had to leave Haiti to return to the U.S. we all had our heart aches about leaving. For Josie Kate it was having to leave her Bella behind. During the stressful and anxious time of having to try to assimilate into another culture once again in a new city, new school, and no family or friends around, Josie Kate longed for her comforter and best friend. Many nights she fell asleep on a pillow wet with tears over missing her Bella.

For a long time Josie Kate wouldn't even talk about getting another dog one day. She didn't want another dog. She wanted her Bella. On every return trip I made to Haiti I had to take Bella a treat and bring Josie Kate back pictures. About a year after being back to the U.S. Josie Kate's love for dogs overpowered her diminished missing of Bella and she began an all out campaign for a new dog.

We lived in a town house in Florida and now a condo in Georgia. They are not the best living arrangements for a yard dog. Joy always said that she couldn't handle another mouth to feed or someone else to clean up after- furry or otherwise. But Josie Kate is persistent and has a special way of looking at her mama. After a couple of years of resistance, we finally started thinking about getting a new dog for Josie Kate. She immediately knew that she wanted to get a rescue dog. She can quote almost all the breeds listed in the 2015 AKC registry. The girl knows her dogs. She found a litter of puppies that had been born in a humane society locally that were of the breed group she was hoping for. With lingering resistance, Joy and I surrendered and Josie Kate finally got to adopt a new dog.

Of course the dog is for the whole family, but the other kids know that Josie Kate is the dog obsessed member of our pack. She is also the one tasked with caring for the dog. A week ago we brought home Lucky Dog. He's a shepherd mix and is doing a good job of making Joy and I question our decision. He is all puppy and is keenly adept at mess making of many sorts. So far he has demonstrated an above average ability to eat, sleep, poop, and destroy anything that is left in his reach. But of all his various talents, his greatest ability is to bring a smile to Josie Kate's face. She fell asleep on the floor cuddling him his first night at home...then I took her to bed and the dog barked and yelped ALL night long. Yay us!

We learned a life lesson when God brought adoption into our lives that helps Joy and I in this situation. There are times when a decision may make your life a bit more complicated or your days a touch more stressful, but often times those things are the very things that make your life fuller. We are not looking for simple easy lives but lives that are full and abundant and bursting at the seams with excitement and adventure as we attempt to be everything God created us to be. It's not usually easy and it's never dull or boring but we wouldn't change it for the world.

Welcome to the crazy family Lucky Dog.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I HATE that My Kids Are Adopted

As parents we want to keep our kids from experiencing pain and heart ache.  We do all we can to shelter them from the world for as long as we can.  Sometimes, there are things we can't protect them from.

We were having a family discussion about the prayer requests that our kids share in school.  I asked the probing question to our 9, 10, and 13 year old why would they bother asking the class to pray for something.  I asked if they really believed that God was listening to them and really answered prayer.  It was a loaded question of course but I wanted them to think about it.

They all three at first gave the canned answer of yes.  Then I asked them to give me an example of God actually changing circumstances or doing something that was impossible as an answer to prayer.  You could see their minds racing with conflict.  They couldn't believe that their preacher daddy was really asking them if God was real and really answered prayers.  They were struggling to come up with proof to prove to their dad that God was really listening. 

Judah, our 10 year old was adamant.  He was struggling with coming up with a proof example of answered prayer, but he was sure in his belief that God answers prayers.

Jacy Klaire, our 13 year old, chimed in with confident faith in both who God is and His answering of prayers.  She started naming off specific answers to prayers in our family.  She said she had prayed for God to give her a friend and now she has several close friends.  She prayed for a youth group that she could be a part of and God answered her prayer.  As a family we prayed that God would make it clear how we could minister to people here once we left the mission field and now I am preaching.  She was convinced and there was not swaying her.

Josie Kate, our 9 year old, was not as positive.  She definitely wanted to believe that God answered prayers and she loved our prayer times but she was struggling with a definite answer to prayer on which to anchor her belief.  I began to share about a family that had received a huge answer to prayer. 

I shared how the mom had prayed for God to open the door for them to be able to adopt a little baby girl that was in foster care.  I shared how the agency didn't think it would be possible for them to adopt her but the mommy kept praying for God to do the impossible.  Tears began to fill Josie's eyes as she realized that I was telling her story.  She couldn't help but come over and bury her head into my leg as I talked about a real God answering real prayers.  It was a sweet time.  But then my heart got broken.

Joy came over and took Josie into her arms.  Josie just cried.  She said that some kids in school had been asking her about her "real parents".  Josie said her response to them was that she didn't care about that.  I could see such deep pain in my little girl's eyes.  It was a pain that parents can't stand to see. 

The pain was not from the kids' questions really.  The pain was just from the depth of her coming to understand her adoption.  We explained that WE are her "real parents".   We were honest and transparent about the fact that her birth parents could not care for her and loved her enough to let us adopt her.  We talked about how God had designed her to be my girl and He designed me to be her dad.  The same with Joy and the rest of the family.  She was not born into our family but she was designed as a member of our family.

For the first time since we adopted those four little rascals I HATED that they were adopted.  I hated that they were going to have to deal with that truth and the related issues.  I was tucking Josie Kate in and she just kept hugging me and thanking God that he made me her daddy as she cried.  She said she could just cry tears of joy all night long.

It wasn't just tears of joy that Joy and I cried as we went to bed.  It was deep pain.  The only consolation was knowing for certain that the original question I asked about God being real and answering prayers is clearly answered in the affirmative.  God is real.  God does answer prayers.  Please pray for the adopted families you know in your life.  They need it.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why Can't Haitians Grow Enough Rice to Feed Themselves?

Why Can't Haitians Grow Enough Rice to Feed Themselves? I get asked that type of question a lot.  I am going to defer the question to the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton.  In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2010 Bill said:
“Since 1981, the United States has followed a policy, until the last year or so when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food, so, thank goodness, they can leap directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. . . I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did. Nobody else.”
The deal was that Haiti could not charge a tariff for imported U.S. rice that got the nickname "diri Miami" or Miami rice.  On top of that, the Haitian government could not use U.S. aid money to subsidize Haitian farmers for their rice in order for their price to be competitive with the imported U.S. rice.  In a matter of 4 years the Haitian grown rice market was essentially demolished.  In the deal we were going to help them develop a mango export market so they could join the international trade community.  It hasn't happened.  This was not a new approach.  We did the same thing to the Haitian and Dominican sugar cane crops. We took a team over to the DR to work in the sugar cane fields providing medical care to the Haitians living in the middle of 1,000,000 acres of sugar cane that can't be cut and sold because of subsidy deals with the U.S. and Canada.

Did you know that Hillary and Bill got a trip to Haiti as a wedding present from a friend.  They spent some time in the little country while Baby Doc was the dictator.  Maybe that's why Bill is so distraught over the repercussions of his policies in Haiti.  It's not a political party issue though.  It is standard U.S. domestic policy for the last 40 years.

Anyone that has been to Haiti with us on trips have seen the trucks loaded to the gills with rice coming in from the U.S.  In a funny side note, the rice is vitamin fortified but I have never met a single Haitian that cooked the rice without washing it twice even though the bags say NOT to wash it or you remove all of the vitamins.

American rice buying and selling has become a major part of the Haitian economy.  We try to send money to buy rice there instead of filling the boxes here to send down.  At least the money is going into the economy, unlike the aid money from the earthquake relief.  Did you know that out of the $360 million the U.S. allocated for Haiti after the earthquake that $120 million was reimbursed to the U.S. for military support we sent down?  $151 million went to U.S. based aid organizations.  A piece of the rest maybe somehow actually helped the people that we know.  There was a soccer stadium built and a bunch of hotels for the tourist industry that is supposedly going to start booming.

I say all of that to say that we as Christians can't rely on the government, foreign or domestic, to do the job of the church.  The church's job is to love people and help the oppressed.

Isaiah says the purpose of religion and commitment to God is this:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Are we doing that as the church?  Are we doing all we can to break the bonds of wickedness or do we get too caught up in complaining about government not doing things our way?

Do we share our bread with the hungry or do we complain that we already pay too much in taxes so we don't have to share with the needy because that's welfare's job.

When's the last time that you or I got personally involved in helping a person being set free from oppression or bondage?

If Isaiah says that's the job of religion, what are we doing?  Somebody else's problem?  Send $10 to the Red Cross by
text so I can forget about it?

We share in the responsibility of the oppression.  We also share in the opportunity of the liberation.  We can work together to be the hands and feet of Christ loosening bonds and giving bread to the hungry.  We just have to allow God to use us.  We have to slow down enough to know He is trying to use us.

Don't blame the Haitians for their lack of rice or the homeless man downtown for his homelessness.  Instead consider your opportunity to pour yourself out for someone else.  Don't fall for the fool's trap of being distracted by an argument or apathy.

I just don't think "It was against my party's policy position, Jesus, so I really shouldn't be held accountable" is going to fly when we stand before our God.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

One Nation Under God

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."


Originally composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and then formally adopted by Congress as the pledge in 1942, we all grew up reciting it in school.  It was about third grade before we realized it didn't say 'invisible'.  It seems that somewhere along the way we have lost the allegiance portion.

There seems to be factions in our culture bent on defying "indivisible".  There seems to be a tide towards division and separation:
Rich vs. Poor
White vs. Black
North vs. South
Gay vs. Straight
Elite vs. Common
Washington vs. States
Politicians vs. Americans
Christian vs. Non-Christian
Socialists vs. Conservatives
Immigrants vs. Natural citizens
These groups have always been a part of our society.  Diversity is truly one of the attributes that makes America so great.  The difference is, for the last 300 years we have been the best in the world at putting our differences aside and rallying together for the good of the nation.  We have not allowed our differences to defy our allegiance.  We have had our struggles to overcome in these areas but part of our identity has always been to strive for the good of the nation.

When national leaders, media, rebel rousers, and academia are spewing and perpetuating anti-America rhetoric bent on exacerbating tensions between all groups, it leads to an overall loss of national moral.  In a time of ISIS, Iran, North Korea, Putin, and cartels is it good for us to lose our sense of nationalism? Many in our nation seem to think so.  I vehemently disagree.

I think it's time to start back saying the pledge and teaching what it means or there will be liberty and justice for none.  In the words of  John Dickinson in his revolutionary war song The Liberty Song first published in the Boston Gazette in July 1768:
“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!”


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

From Witch Doctor to Wake Up Call

He wanted to be a witch doctor.  In his remote village of Haiti, the witch doctors were the ones with the influence and power.  They were the ones that seemed to have the answers about the spiritual realm.  As a young boy, he would dress up and play like he was the witch doctor for all of his friends.

Then at age 10 he started having seizures.  Before his 12th birthday, while visiting an aunt, he had a seizure and fell into the cooking fire.  Most of his body was covered in 3rd degree burns.  By the time he was taken to the distant hospital 3 days later, he was severely infected and not expected to live.  In a last ditch effort to save him, the doctor amputated both arms.  He survived.

This is Kesmy's story.  We met him in Haiti but really just got to know him well over the last couple of weeks as he stayed with us in our home.  He is in his second year of getting his masters degree in theology from Wheaton in Chicago.  He is my hero.

I am sorry for complaining about my first world problems.  I am sorry for worrying about things that don't matter.  I am sorry for allowing insignificant issues to get to me.  I am sorry for being distracted from my purpose.  I am sorry.

God is so good to take the time to bring into our lives what we need to reawaken us.  We often get lulled to sleep by the steady beat of the world around us.  The tick of the time clock.  The chime of the church bell.  The hum of humanity around us.  Kesmy was my wake up call this week.

Thank you Kesmy.  Thank you God.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Culture War

Is there a culture war going on in our society?
My answer is an overwhelming YES.

What are the battle fronts?
Among them are:
1- Marriage and the definition of it.
2- When does life begin?
3- Is there absolute truth?
4- Should Judeo-Christian based morality have a prominent place in our society?
5- Does our country want to ascribe to progressive/liberal ideals or conservative ideals?

In my mind, the question is not whether there is a culture battle raging, the question is whether or not I want to actively engage in the battle or  allow the fight to play out and sail along disengaged. Does it really matter?  Should Christians and the church be involved in culture wars and the direction the society and our generation progresses?

I would argue that since morality is at the heart of the battle, and the church in our nation has been a compass for morality since our nation was founded, then yes the church finds herself in the midst of the battle.  Is fighting the culture war our major objective?  No.  Our major objective is pure and un-defiled religion as defined by James as caring for those in need and fulfilling the Great Commission of going into the world making disciples of Jesus Christ.  Can we fulfill our primary objective and still be effective in engaging in the culture battle going on around us?

I believe that to best fulfill our primary duties as the church, we should be involved in espousing biblical morality.  Our message of love and hope are going to be best heard and received in an environment of morality.  If we truly believe that it is best for people to live moral lives according to our convictions of the Bible, we are doing the society as a whole an injustice by turning a blind eye to the immorality and rebellion against the things of God.

There has always been a culture battle going on.  In past generations however the church was seen as the moral foundation upon which people either followed or opposed.  Now, in our day, the church's message in America has been diluted and redefined to better suit the times.  Therefore there is no definitive authority of morality by which we can stand.  In order to be "relevant" the church has become neutered and powerless.  Caving on the redefining of certain sins.  Changing stances on moral issues.  Being weak in order to be seen as receptive.  These tactics have only served to weaken the stance that there is truly a moral absolute by which God judges human activity.  Vacillating on these issues only makes it seem like it is up to us to decide what is right and wrong.  The church as a whole in America has helped to create a situation similar to Judges 21:25 -"everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

The Bible clearly condemns this societal position.  We do not get to chose what is right and what is wrong.  We get to decide if we want to do what is right or not but moral Biblical standards set the bar.

There is a large and growing contingency in America that does not believe that this is the right path.  Many feel that the Bible is not a moral standard and should not be used to dictate to others what is acceptable.  Others take the Bible and interpret it in such a way as to support their stance even though it is contrary to the overarching interpretation and stance of the scriptures.  THAT is why there is a battle.  If there was no opposing side, there would be no battle.

The progressive forces in the culture war have done a masterful job of using media, public opinion, governmental authority, and the education system (elementary through university) to position themselves as the trendy, modern, accepting side in the battle while all others are narrow minded, bigoted, and ignorant.  Therefore, in areas of our society where people are only marginally engaged in the pursuit of bettering the world around them, they are easily drawn in to the side of the battle that seems trendy.

In my own personal battle, I chose to stand for the principles that I believe will help our society be a better place for my children and grand children to live.  I chose to stand opposed to forces that tend to erode morality and the institutions of marriage, family, and the church.  I vow to support organizations and institutions that espouse decency and traditional values of goodness and hard work.  I don't chose a political party.  I don't chose to be known by a label, but I will fight for the unborn and those unable to fight for themselves.  I will live with being called names as I paddle upstream against the current of popularity and political correctness.  I will not hate.  I will not begrudge.  I will not  condemn.  But that does not mean I will not stand firm.  I want to be known for what I stand for more than what I oppose.  I want to be remembered for the difference I made in the lives of all types of people instead of just being remembered for being different.  In the process, I will use all platforms that God affords me to be engaged in the culture battle that we currently find ourselves.  I will also encourage others to engage.  Not for the sake of the fight.  But because knowing what you believe to the point that you will fight for it is a liberating position and what I believe marks a fully committed follower of Jesus.  I will be satisfied with the epitaph: "Everyone knew what he believed- especially he himself".  Know what you believe then stand for it.