Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ragnar Relay 2010

On August 20-21st, 13 co-workers and myself traveled along the Mississippi River from Winona, MN to Minneapolis, MN in a race called the Ragnar Relay.  We were divided into two vehicles, taking turns running different legs of the race.  The Ragnar took our team about 36 hours from start to finish!  Throughout our travels and adventures, I was blessed with the people that surrounded me.  For me, whenever I've ran in a race, the people around me have influenced my run.  I'm talking about both the runners in the race with me, and also the crowd cheering me on. 
1. On my first leg of the run, I and another girl were 'neck-in-neck' with one another.  As I looked at her as she passed me the first time, I made speculations about who she was.  Tall, skinny, cute hair and running clothes, the latest Ipod.  I thought to myself, "yup, she will beat me.  she is so much more a runner than i am.  she has it made.  my body just doesn't naturally move like that."  After the second time we passed eachother though, I felt a challenge coming on.  I would not let her beat me.  I reminded myself that I had trained just as much for this race.  I was physically and mentally prepared.  Maybe I wasn't super tall or skinny and my hair definitely not cute, but I had determination and motivation.  And I realized that was all I needed to beat her.  And I did.
Many times in life, we let things roll on by us because we give in to those self-defeating thoughts.  We let the world around us determine who we are or what we'll accomplish.  It's not about that.  When we put time and effort into something that is honoring to the Lord, I believe He wants to bless us. 
Just to clarify though, I was very judgemental of this girl.  That was wrong of me.  But what I was reminded throughout this leg of the race, was that ultimately we all are just numbers in a race.  It doesn't really matter what place we come in or how we look at the finish line.  What matters is how we run the race...and WHO we are running it for.  We have each been given different characteristics, talents and challenges and can use them however we choose to.  The question is...will we use them to glorify God?  I guess the choice is our own.
2.  On the next leg of my race, I met Pete.  60 year old Pete was a great guy.  He had ran 40 marathons and was preparing for his next one in October.  Pete caught up to me in the beginning of my race, and never left my side.  He was clearly taller than me and could run at a faster pace, but he chose not too.  As I got to know Pete, I learned that he had been training people to run marathons for 14 years.  This summer was his first summer that he wasn't training anyone any more.  Pete let me in on the secrets behind marathon training.  He also pushed me in that leg of the race.  We were running at night too...pitch black.  Seriously, very dark.  Without Pete at my side, I would have been more scared.  However, I felt like Pete was this angel, sent to guide me and protect me during that part of the race.  He also pushed me to run at a faster pace.  Without Pete I know I would have walked. 
I realized that sometimes we are given people into our lives who will keep us going...they will run the race with us...they will encourage our 'marathons'....they will keep us feeling safe when everything around us feels 'pitch black.'  I'm so thankful for Pete.  I hope that I can be a "Pete" to someone else struggling around me. 
3.  As we each ran in our 'legs' of the race, the vans would stop to encourage the runners throughout their runs.  This was one thing I personally really looked forward to.  Whenever I would come around a curve and see my team waiting there to cheer me on, a big smile came over my heart and face.  I had people who were in this with me!  I had support!  They didn't care how fast I was running.  In fact they didn't even care if I was running.  They were going to support me regardless.  They really helped me to stay motivated and encouraged. 
So often in this race we run (this race we call life here on earth) we try to run it alone.  We find ourselves wondering if we are running on the right path.  We find ourselves turning around or vering off into wrong directions.  Its only when we have people cheering us on, that we can truly stay motivated to keep our heads in the race.  We can stay motivated about running up 'big hills' because we know we have people at the top of the hills ready to cheer us on and keep us going. 
My prayer for each person reading this blog is that you have people in your life who are supporting you and encouraging you during 'difficult runs' in life. 
If you don't, try starting with Jesus.  He has been a great companion for me :)
And if you need more support, let me know! I'd love to run beside you or cheer you on from the sidelines!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Adventures in Haiti

Many of you are aware of my recent travels to Haiti.  I went through an organization called "Mission Haiti" and spent time at an orphanage in Ti-Riviere, Haiti.  I had an opportunity to travel with a fabulous team.  Other than spending time with the kids at the orphanage, we hiked up into the mountains and put on three medical clinics. 

We also had a children's program at each clinic.  Each night when we returned to the orphanage, we helped with youth group.  Youth from all over the village (and beyond!) came to hear testimonies and to worship together. 

My eyes were really opened to more of the spiritual world.  In Haiti voo-doo and witchcraft is popular.  The heaviness of satan and demons were often too close for my liking!  I felt the Spirit of the Lord among us though, keeping us safe.   As we prayed about our adventures in Haiti, Luke 18 was spoken over our group.  Check it out.  Many of my stories I will share line up with teachings found in Luke. 

I'd like to share a couple of instances that really jump out in my mind.
1.  We hiked up steep mountains with many unsteady, unclear paths.  I kept saying over and over in my head "someone SHOULD be hurt right now.  this is crazy!" BUT, no one got hurt.  I knew that prayers from back home were being answered!  Thanks for praying for our safety.  Also, I NEVER felt unsafe.  Ok, maybe once...we took a crazy row-boat ride to a private island.  But even then, I knew I was in the Lord's hands.  Even as we passed many people with machetes, fear never came over me. 
2. We went and prayed over a demon-possessed girl: Rosemonde.  Her grandfather had made a 'deal' with satan that someone from each generation of his family would carry a demon.  The demon fell on this little 13 year old girl.  As a group we had decided we would go pray over her and her family.  Upon arriving to her place, we learned her parents weren't home.  Rosemonde's cousin carried Rosemonde out to us, where we were confronted with a girl that basically looked dead.  We had to hold her body up in the chair.  Her eyes rolled back in her head.  Her mouth hung open.  If I hadn't seen her eyes roll on their own, I would have thought she was dead.  She was unable to speak to us.  Her family was starving her, as they didn't want to 'feed the demon.' 
The Lord had just spoke to me that morning in Proverbs 25:21-22...
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
       if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
       and the LORD will reward you.
We attempted to feed Rosemonde while we were there, but she couldn't move her mouth.  We carried Rosemonde to a mat and then gathered around her to pray and worship.  This was such a powerful experience.  I felt the Spirit surrounding us...fighting battles.  As we prayed, I felt the Spirit moving me to wash Rosemonde's feet and wounds.  I battled with God for a while.  Her feet were filthy.  Her wounds open.  Bugs crawling on her.  I thought, "Seriously God, you want me to touch her?  You want me to wash her feet?  Seriously?  Do I have to? But God, I don't have gloves to wear..." I felt a strong pulling.  Yes Heidi.  Get down and wash her feet.  I love her. 
So, after I finally 'got over myself,' I obeyed.  It was after washing her feet, it seemed as though Rosemonde 'came to' a little more.  We saw her feet and arms move.  She attempted to look around.  Her eyes focused a little more.  It wasn't until later that I found out the Lord was speaking the word "water" to another person in our group.  She told me she was trying to figure out what God meant, when she saw me bend down to wash Rosemonde's feet.  "Ah Ha. water. washing feet."  I'm able to look back at that now and realize the power of the Spirit...speaking to both our hearts in ways we didn't understand at the time.
We never saw a complete healing while we were with Rosemonde, but I definitely knew that the work of the demons had been disrupted, and they weren't liking it.  We placed Rosemonde back in the chair before leaving.  Her head still hung low.  I was sad to go, but knew we needed to.  God was going to continue His work...we had to trust that.  As we walked away, I needed to see her one more time.  I looked back to find Rosemonde pulling her head up, her eyes focused on us as we walked away.  Those eyes still stick with me.  I also continue to remember what it was like to hold her lifeless body.  An experience I know I won't forget. 
(Side note...Rosemonde passed away about a week ago.  Before her passing away, her parents accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  They also dedicated Rosemonde to Jesus.  I only pray I see her in heaven some day.  Please keep praying for her family.)
3.  Mary.  I don't think I will ever forget Mary.  After youth group one night, Cory came up to me and told me that a woman had come to the orphanage for medication.  This was nothing new to me.  Michelle and I, being the nurses in the group, had been asked by many people for medication.  As I approached Mary and the translator, Mary began telling me that she had back pain for a year.  As I sat down next to her, it was noticeable the stiffening pain she was having in her back.  I ran inside to grab some Tylenol for her.  As I explained to her (through the translator) how much Tylenol she would take/how often she could take it, I felt compelled to ask Mary if I could pray with her.  She agreed to it.  As I went to start praying, a thought came to me.  "Does she even call Jesus her Lord and Savior?"  I asked the translator to ask her that question. 
This is the part that I cannot fully explain in words.
As the translator said "Jezu" (Jesus in Creole), Mary screeched and flung her body over me.  She then jumped up and ran around the room, shouting "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" and speaking many words in Creole that I could not understand.  As she ran around and got down on her knees, I continued to sit there praying for her.  I was shown (again) the power that the name of Jesus held/holds!  She eventually came back and sat down by me.  I asked her through the translator what she had just experienced.  Freedom.  Mary had just experienced freedom from her back pain.  She told me that since her back pain had started a year ago, no one had prayed for her.  She also was unable to go to church since her back pain had started.  When she went to walk in the doors of church, she felt a power holding her back from going in. "Hmm," I thought, "Satan can just go take a hike."
4.  The kids at the orphanage.  Of course they captured my heart.  Especially Schneider.  This little 7 year old boy was so sweet.  As I would be walking along, all of a sudden I would feel a little hand in mine.  It was Schneider.  I never knew I could love someone so fast.

These are just a few of the things I saw/experienced in Haiti.
When sharing these stories with friends/family, I've had many different reactions.  A couple of things that I want to emphasize...yes, demons exist.  and yes, healings can happen through the power of the Holy Spirit. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF JESUS!!
The Spirit is at work in Haiti. 
Please pray for Rosemonde's family and for Mary.  Please pray for "Mission Haiti."  Please pray for Pam, the founder of "Mission Haiti." Please pray for Cory and Lynn Grimm, and their family, as they prepare to be full time missionaries in Haiti.  Please pray for Ti-Riviere and the surrounding communities.  And of course, pray for the kids at the orphanage :)