Haiti Blog

Brent & Letitia Jefkins

Life After Haiti – And a Little Bit About Risk…

The last time we wrote on this blog was back in May when we were saying goodbye to Haiti. A lot has happened since then. We took a couple of months off in the summer and then did a 5 month School of Ministry in Toronto, which included 3 weeks in Iceland where we preached and led worship.

When coming back from Haiti it was very surreal, but not only coming back to Barrie, but finding out how much everyone else’s lives had changed. People had moved, got married, had kids, bought houses and in a lot of ways we were coming back to less than what we started with. Our things had been in boxes for years, we had no jobs, our friends were scattered all over. It was weird. Not to mention that we had been through a lot in Haiti emotionally, physically and spiritually.

We decided to go to school and be older than almost all of the students and married, in Toronto (I really didn’t want to be in Toronto). This was a risk but we really felt led by God to do this (it wasn’t cheap either, especially for returning missionaries who hadn’t had real jobs in 3 years). The truth is that this school has changed us. I would argue that it changed me and matured me even more than working in Haiti did.

I wanted to write about the joy of living in risk.

We have not lived a normal life in the last few years.

We started a normal life. Went to college. Got married. Got an apartment.

Then we decided that a life at it’s fullness is a life of obedience and risk. We quit our jobs, moved to Haiti and loved it. We came back, chose not to go back into life’s dragging stream of work and money right away and rested and enjoyed simply being together and with friends.

Then school was just another step in high risk – high reward. God has directed our journey and it has been so much better than anything else. We are so thankful for each experience God has given us. We have matured so much, grown so much, seen so much, given so much.

And we are going to continue doing it!

Our next step is that we are moving back to Barrie on Friday. We are going to be helping plant a church with an amazing couple and Catch the Fire. Letitia is going back to finish her degree. And we are going to be looking for jobs (praying to find these quickly). It is scary because though it is old – going back to Barrie – it feels unknown and weird.

This is our plan for this season. We are excited about the unknown of our future. We are excited that we don’t have to plan our entire life out. We just need to listen to God and be obedient when He calls. This can feel risky. But God never fails and I choose to trust in Him rather than myself, any comfortable plans, or anyone else for that matter.

One thing I definitely learnt during school and in Haiti is that living in fear will snuff out your dreams. Go big and be risky or live small.

– Brent

Oh… and here are a few pics of our time in Iceland. Leading worship, preaching, sight seeing.

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Thoughts on Life, Change and a Good Friend.

Sometimes I wish I could freeze moments of my life so that everything stays the same. When the perfect people are in the perfect place, and you dread the day it has to change.

Today it changed for me.

Now, if you froze your life so that it would stay perfect…there would be no change. And despite how the majority of us feel about change- especially while it’s happening- in the end we know that change is good.

Beautiful, even!

Something you thought was perfect can become more perfect in time. And you just continue to add to your life more people and moments you can cherish.

It’s tricky being human…because inside we can feel eternity. We know that one relationship, even a “temporary” one, feels longer than the time frame our life sets it in. But we live in a world that has endings.

How do our hearts compute? We know that something is more enduring, but we see it end.

You hear people say “endings aren’t ending but new beginnings”. Ya, I believe it…but they are still also endings…and endings hurt. I think you have to properly grieve an end before you can graciously accept a new beginning.

But as I’m seeing a lot of “endings” and “beginnings,” and change is just apart of the life we have chosen, I’m beginning to see them differently.

You see, today my good friend (a.k.a. coworker, teammate, ex-roomie, and partner in crime- err, I mean tutoring) Kristen, got on a bus and is about to “begin another chapter of her life”.

For us here Kristen isn’t done and gone. She’s still here in inside jokes, in hearts and in changed lives. Her impact…and may I even say legacy…doesn’t end when she leaves. It continues!

And for her Haiti isn’t over and done with. Haiti is in her blood- and let’s be realistic, it’s probably in her lungs too 😉 . She’s going to carry a piece of all of us in her heart everywhere she goes. Haiti has shaped who she is and is going to be.

This doesn’t look like an end at all to me. Or a beginning.

It looks like the continuation of something beautiful. Not a book with chapters, but a painting that is in process. With every new experience, every relationship, every encounter with Jesus, the painting becomes more and more beautiful and you can begin to see the whole picture.

I imagine when we’re close to the end (the real end-or the real temporary-end) we’ll see the painting almost complete and see how beautiful it really is. And all the pain we endure in moments of change make sense.

I know this isn’t an original idea, but reminding myself about it is comforting in the face of the unpleasant.

If we froze our lives in a good moment, and didn’t accept change…the painting would never be finished. It would never be as beautiful as it was meant to be.

Kristen and the 8th grade boys that never stopped making us laugh!

Kristen and the 8th grade boys that never stopped making us laugh!

~~~~

Jesus, help us to trust you, even when we don’t know why, or what’s next. Help us to let go of our need to figure it all out and just let you lead us. Because deep down we know that the painting you are creating with our lives is more beautiful than anything we could come up with ourselves.

-Letitia

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A Conclusion to the Challenge

Well, 3 weeks passed quickly!

I didn’t write an update on my challenge after Day 3 because I didn’t have any more share-worthy revelations. 😦

I did want to conclude this for anyone who was wondering how it went. Not as easy as I thought it would be, that’s for sure! It’s interesting when you have certain habits you don’t even think about. From eating habits to the way you talk to certain people, we can do things and not even be aware we are doing them.

I think awareness is the key! Which is what I will take away from these last few weeks; it has made me aware of my actions!

It was the perfect time to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection yesterday with our friends here. As I finished up the challenge I gave myself, I am mostly thankful for grace and forgiveness! All of which are made possible because of what Jesus did for us! I am grateful, beyond words, for the fact that even if I do mess up, God’s grace is big enough to cover me! 

Let’s live in the freedom God offers us through his grace! (It’s not a freedom to sin because we know we’ll receive forgiveness, but a freedom that says, “If you do sin, I have already paid the price, so you don’t need to live in guilt anymore because of it.”

Seriously…I’m beyond words grateful!

-Letitia

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A Challenge to Fight-Starters- Day 3

Yesterday was my third day trying not to start a fight with Brent.

To be clear before we begin, I didn’t start anything.

Tensions were rising…and I was getting frustrated, but staying true to my word, I backed off. I told Brent to leave me alone for a bit. And when the air settled, it was very obvious to see what had caused the tensions in the first place were some minor miscommunications.

Had I, like usual, carried on about what was so frustrating, I would have been creating a fight over something I made up. I interpreted Brent’s actions based on how I saw them, not based on what actually happened.

I can’t tell you how enlightening it was to step back…wait…and see clearly what had happened!

Victory on Day 3!

-Letitia

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Un-Creating a Habit: A Challenge to Fight-Starters

There are people who like a good fight.

If you aren’t one of those people you might think that’s weird or unlikely, and that’s probably because confrontation seems like the worst thing in the world to you. ‘Why would anyone enjoy confrontation?’

If you are one of those people, you probably deny it. Or try really hard to convince yourself that you don’t like fighting but sometimes ‘it’s just necessary’. Chances are deep down you probably get a little satisfaction from a good fight.

I am, by the way, referring to a verbal fight not a physical fight…just in case we needed clarity on that. (Although I’m sure there are also people who like a good fist fight…but I cannot speak for them!)

I will say that when I read verse like this in the book of Proverbs (as I did yesterday):

“He who covers over an offense promotes love,
but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Prov. 17:9

“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam;
so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” Prov. 17:14

I unfortunately, and reluctantly identify with the person who starts fights.

Why do I start fights?

It’s not because I just simply enjoy them, but based out of my humanness and insecurities I need to fight the “injustice” that has been done to me. But there is a small part, deep down inside, that needs to win the fight…so it becomes a game…and games can be fun!

Too vulnerable perhaps? I did just admit I like to start fights, which isn’t something that is socially acceptable, in Christian circles or otherwise.

I did debate whether or not people wanted to hear about what I struggle with, especially when it can make me look bad. But I decided that if there is another “fight-starter” out there who can benefit from my attempt at dealing with this very unpleasant characteristic, then why not go for it.

So here is the challenge I gave to myself:

I will not (err…try not to) start a single fight [with Brent] for 3 weeks.

A little detail for you:

  • Brent: the majority of unplanned, emotionally-charged fights I start are with Brent.
  • 3 weeks: the amount of time they say it takes to start a habit.
  • Even if the thing I want to fight about is actually important I still won’t start a fight. I personally need to practice “promoting love” and showing grace more than getting justice for myself.
  • I can still bring up issues that are important, but only in a not emotionally-charged state.

As for accountability:

  • Brent is my first line of defense…he will obviously know if I am starting a fight with him, and he’s agreed to tell me in the moment. (A brave man he is!)
  • A friend who lives in close proximity to us, who also attends our small group. She will be able to, without much hassle, ask me how things are going regularly.
  • And I also announced it at our small group last night. They are a wonderful group of people who are excited to see me grow and be challenged, so they will ask me at the end of each week how it went!
  • Finally I plan to track my progress here…probably not every day, but often enough…so you too can join in the journey. And maybe if you are a self-identified “fight-starter”, this will help you too!

Today, Monday, is my first official day! Providentially, the last day will be March 31st, also Easter Sunday; a good time to celebrate Jesus gaining victory over sin and death.

Day 1

I’m feeling optimistic about this whole challenge. But I don’t want to blow this off too quickly like a simple, little challenge. I know Jesus placed this on my heart.

I heard in a sermon recently that when God convicts us about something and we don’t act immediately to change said behaviour (and we do this often), we can become hard-hearted- in a way, immune to conviction. I then shared that with our small group. So when I read the verses above in Proverbs yesterday, and felt a little tug on my heart I knew I had to confront it right away!

Today I’m feeling good about it, but I anticipate this actually being a challenge…which is why I called it a challenge in the first place. And that makes me a little nervous.

-Letitia

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Disciplined. The Adjective.

Being discipled….

Also known as, self-discipline and closely related to self-control.

I don’t run or do any other form of exercise.

I don’t play an instrument.

I don’t have a routine for reading my Bible or praying.

I’m currently in the process of figuring out how to be more disciplined. As far as I can figure, you need to be disciplined in order to become disciplined. You need to have that deep inner motivation and the inner resolve to push through undesirable feelings in order to get to the thing you want…like to be a runner for example. But what if I want to be disciplined, but currently lack that inner resolve. Dilemma.

I found this quote: “the undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites and passions” – Stephen R. Covey

I’m not going to go as far as saying I’m a slave to these things, because Biblically speaking I know I have the power to overcome them. But his point is very clear. Specifically, moods and passions can be very powerful things.

Early in the morning, I am very passionate about my pillow. My bed can feel uncomfortable all night, but the second my alarm goes off it gets extra soft and inviting!

So, maybe it’s not so much that I lack inner motivation and resolve, just that there are certain things that can easily overtake my desire to do the thing I want to do. I often list off things I would like to do. Perhaps you may remember I even mentioned on here that once I sew my curtains I would take a picture of our “new” apartment for everyone. That was in April…It’s September…I still haven’t sewed any curtains. (Guilty face)

Thanks to this awesome, and quite large, concordance and Hebrew/Greek to English dictionary I got Brent for our anniversary, I looked up the word ‘disciplined’, the adjective, in Greek. The word, enkrates, is a compound word made up of two parts: en = with, and kratos = power or strength.

Leading a disciplined life means living a life with strength and power. How cool!

The verse when Paul talks about beating his body to make it his slave came to my mind while I was pondering Biblical self-discipline (1 Corinthians 9:27). Now I knew he wasn’t literally beating his body, so once again I looked up the word used for ‘beat’ in this verse in the concordance/dictionary, and besides ‘beat up’ it also means to ‘wear out or weaken’.

Conclusions:

a) I love the concordance/dictionary!

b) It still doesn’t tell me how to become disciplined, only the great importance of it.

b) No where does it say becoming disciplined will be easy. I will have to sacrifice pleasures, overcome moods and passions that may be holding me back, and until I have these good (disciplined) routines in my life it may wear me out. But I know it’ll be worth it. Not getting things done that I want to get done has been driving me crazy lately, all because I lack the discipline.

I’m going to turn this ship around! I have to!

So I will keep you updated on my journey to self-discipline. As it says on a website I found, make your goals known!

So there you have it.

-Letitia

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It’s The Small Things in Life…

Brent and I had some errands to do today: pick up mail, go to the bank, pick up groceries for us and for the team we have in right now.

First we went to the airport to get our mail (which was actually a box with my anniversary gift in it that Brent ordered online – YAY!) As of like, last week, the customs people at the airport added a new fee for picking up packages. Totally annoying and also ambiguous as no one really knows what the fee is since it changes depending on the person. Anyways, Brent walked in…and out. No fee for us! I’m not sure if they changed it back, or Brent in all his stealth managed to slip right past them, but either way we left the airport feeling blessed!

Then onto the bank, where it seemed there were so many people they closed the doors to let people in one at a time. So we went on to get groceries with the plan to go back to the bank after to see if we could get in. When we got back to the bank, we saw our director’s car parked out front- bank doors still closed- so we called him. He tells us, he’s at the back door, getting his friend to help him out. He came and got us, and that friend also helped us. Here’s what’s great about that. The bank closed early and would also be closed tomorrow because…it’s Cap-Haitian’s birthday (who knew they closed banks for these things?) But we needed the money sooner than later.

Again we walked away from the bank feeling blessed.

I was thinking about this the other day, how in Haiti the smallest things that happen make us praise God- often out loud- because you can’t control as much here as you can in North America. You just know the bank will be open in Canada because they post a sign a month in advance if it isn’t going to be.

Or unless there is a crazy storm, or a random incident, you know there will be electricity to run your AC (or fan, in our case). A couple weeks ago, our inverter ran out of charge on a hot night…and I prayed…and when city power came on (which one cannot count on), I actually said out loud, half asleep, “Thank you Jesus!!”

The end of my ponderings about all this brought me to the conclusion:

I hope I never lose the awareness of God’s hand and his blessings in my life. Especially when we move back to Canada one day, where we can easily take blessings for granted. We can see them as rights, instead of gifts!

May we all be grateful and thank God constantly for what He has given us…even the small things!

Letitia

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A Lesson on Friendships

God seems to teach me things in themes. I learn a lesson, or get a revelation about something, and then there are a whole bunch of things that come up after to reinforce it. It’s so funny to me.

I’ve started a Beth Moore study about the Fruit of the Spirit with some other female missionaries here, and while we were studying “Joy” it talked about your friends and how they can be, and should be, a source of joy in your life.

Fast-forward to our discussion about this week’s study on joy, and I fess up to everyone about how I view a lot my friendships. (Something I had been aware of for a while, but not sure how to fix.)

I saw the majority of people I met, and potential friends, as temporary.

Gasp! I know! It was especially relevant to these girls, because we are all in such a temporary state (little did I know how true this was); all have contracts for no more than 2 years to be in Haiti.

I’ve moved around a lot in my life. Over my 24 years I’ve lived in 6 different cities/towns, 3 different countries and at least 14 different houses. I’ve made peace with my transient lifestyle- for the most part- which is, at this point in my life, more my doing than anyone else’s. So I’ve gotten used to making friends and leaving them. And sometimes, when you know you are only going to be around someone for a year, a positive way to look at it is: God has placed this person in my life (only) for a season. Pretty positive, right? At least it’s better than not connecting with them at all in order to avoid the discomfort of the good-bye.

Positive, yes; but temporary. As I’ve discovered recently, not all new friends (particularly those I may only know face-to-face for 8 months-2 years) have to be temporary. I can keep in contact with them!!! What a novel idea, er, not really. Seems obvious, but there was a block in my heart that didn’t want to allow me to think of these friends as more than seasonal, because I knew it would hurt when that season ended.

And it did. As I was processing through all this…letting it all sink in and settle, our small group of young missionaries seemed to dissipate in a matter of a month. One couple had been planning on leaving in the near future, but that came even more suddenly when, to their joy (and ours too), they got pregnant and she decided on a Friday to head back to the US the next Tuesday for access to better health care (he’ll be here a little longer still). Then maybe 2 weeks later, another friend who had a contract ending close to the time ours would, said she would be leaving this September. And maybe a week after that, another friend had to pack up and leave in less than a week due to complication with his organization.

The mission field is not the place to bank on long-term (face-to-face) friendships, but it is the place to build long-lasting ones.

We have been blessed to know these friends, and we understand each other’s experiences without having to explain them. It is a unique and beautiful friendship that can be built here! I’m happy to have learned to not just let them go because we don’t live in the same place.

(As for our small group, there are a few of us left, so it hasn’t completely ‘disbanded’! )

When it came to making friends in Canada, it was a little easier, but I had always been subconsciously cautious. It took me making ‘conscious’ efforts to ask friends to hangout to get deeper with my friends. I was improving before I left, as evidenced in my deep sadness leaving my friends behind to move to Haiti for a while. Now, I’m looking forward to seeing how my new insight will transcend cultural lines, when we move back, to even further my desire for deep friendships.

-Letitia

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