The Story Behind the Scenes
A Good Crazy
Each year I do something a little crazy to shake up my spiritual life. One year I didn’t buy clothes for myself, just to relate better to the billions of men and women who have little to no options in life and commerce. Millions run into a flat, uncaring NO when they are in need or want; I rarely experience that. I wanted to. The limitation was self-imposed, but nevertheless, it was helpful to experience NO for a year. I’m more convinced than ever that it’s not good for us to always get what we want. There is value in NO.
Another year, I gave up sugar. This was a real challenge for me. Genetically I’m wired as a craver, and the desire for sugar never went away; not one day. I did allow myself sugar at celebrations: birthdays, when my stepdaughter graduated, a few weddings. Was I grossed out by sugar when I ate it? No - it was bliss. But again, I experienced a self-imposed NO for a year and think it was good for me.
In 2015, I felt God urging me to combine two ancient Christian spiritual disciplines: the examen, begun by Ignatius of Loyola in the 1500s, and the seven sacred pauses, attributed to the rhythms of the Desert Fathers after they fled from persecution and monastics through the ages. Modern-day monastics still employ this method of reconnecting mindfully with God throughout the day.
I had bought a goat-skin journal from a bookbinder named Benson the previous year. He lives in Jubilee, a dump on the salted outskirts of the town Gonaives, north of Port Au Prince. I loved his work, and it was the perfect fit for journaling through the examen and 7SP.
So in December 2014, I was in my office at church preparing my journal for the first quarter of the year. Using watercolor pencils, I painted a little illustration of each pause, and began to match scripture with that particular time of day. Morning was a sunrise with mountains and “a tree planted by streams of living water.” Mid-morning was a map of the world, my mission field; early afternoon was a refreshing stream cascading down the mountains. On I painted, praying for mental pictures as I worked.
"I Have Something For You"
My friend B. knocked on my door and said she had a check for me. I urged her to put it into Women’s Ministries through the church and get a tax write-off, but she declined, saying that God had told her specifically it was to go to me. “When you are teaching and need to fly to Ethiopia or Haiti or Mozambique, if the church is not paying, I want you to still be able to go.” I was so excited! I had just paid a $524 flight bill to go to Haiti. I wanted to visit again with Benson about some ideas pertaining to his journal, and I was going to do some teaching to women there. I was so thankful - I thought her check might cover $500, or maybe even more!
Her check was for $8,000.00! What?!?
When I figured up the money it would take to buy 400 journals from Benson, plus purchase jewelry Jubilee artisans could create to match each pause, the total came to around $7,700. I was ecstatic and B. celebrated with me.
In January I began the discipline of doing the 7SP and the examen each day. I modified it slightly as I went in ways that seemed to suit our modern day a bit better. Consider that neither Ignatius nor the monastics had electricity to extend their day, as we do. I also saw that with my job, the noon pause was impractical; I was usually meeting with a woman on her lunch hour at noon. I pushed that pause to 1:00/1:30PM.
My favorite time was the examen. I loved recalling the day, creating a simple sketch of my schedule and interactions, and then listening for the Holy Spirit’s insight. I relished His forgiveness as I confessed my failings, and leaned on the truth that I am not only forgiven, I am cherished and restored.
January 2015: Kathy and Benson
I went to Haiti in January, fledgling journal in hand, and after an arduous journey, got to Benson and the Mama of the artisans of Jubilee, artist and entrepreneur Kathy Brooks. I met with Kathy first, a small band of women on sacred ground at her outdoor worktable, showing her my samples of beadwork: three leather strands with seven beads strung, corresponding to each pause: yellow for dawn (arise!), earth-tones for mid-morning (work), blue waves for early afternoon (refreshment), brown and purple for the end of the workday, a red drop-shaped bead for the examen, a clear faceted bead for prayer, and a black bead for in the night. She was IN! She asked me what to do; I asked her to listen to the Holy Spirit and ask Him what He wanted her and her artisans to co-create.
Then Benson. We drove from Kathy’s house to Jubilee, a dump-village, with poverty barely dampening the spirited smiles and naked waves of the little children. We came to Benson’s shop, “Les Freres,” The Brothers, and smelled leather. Inside, I showed Benson my journal with my elementary drawings. “Can you bind a small booklet with these drawings into your journals?” “Yes,” he replied. With little English, that word was his pledge.
I told my Haitian friends I would contact them in mid- to late-September, after I had practiced nine months, and refined and modified and reflected and listened.
And so I did. I contacted them both through Facebook, of all things, private-messaging them and rekindling the vision for them. For September and October I worked on illustrations, fonts, word placement, scriptures … and asked them for more: 800 books, not 400; jewelry for hundreds, not a hundred. “No problem.”
I needed a printer to print the small instructional booklet I had prepared. I did not know how to proceed: should I use vellum paper, and cardstock? What about how gritty the drawings were, since I was using paint powders I had purchased when I visited France with my mother and sister-in-law? Would the colors come through or be blown off? Would hairspray keep them on? Did I use the wrong paper? How much will this cost - I didn’t figure this part in!
I went to the company our church contracts: “No, ma’am, can’t help you.” Shoot. “Father, what to do? Where to go?” He brought to mind a family-owned business I had once used to print posters.
Printing Image and the Eidemillers
I walked in and met Sean, told him the entire story, and watched him tear up. “You have no way of knowing this, but just this morning we were on our knees asking God how to use this printing business for His Kingdom and glory. And now you’re here. I’d like to do this for free.”
I felt like God was covering me with kisses and laughed out loud in delight.
A few weeks later, it was done - beautifully. They worked with my colorful, gritty, amateur drawings and patiently explained their process. When I held it in my hands, I could hardly believe it.
Jubilee in November
We loaded 800 (heavy) booklets into suitcases and traveled to Haiti again. There is something incredibly life-giving about riding in the back of a pick-up for four hours in the hot sun, seeing the Haitian countryside, waving to grinning kids, watching the bustle of the markets as we inched through vendors and trade exchanges and goats and hand-woven baskets. We drove from Port Au Prince to Gonaives to Jubilee to Les Freres, to meet Benson again, smiling from ear to ear. He had made a sample for me - it was flawless. And so he and his team began. They worked through the night just so we could take home 90 journals!
We Want Work, Not Aid
Before we left, Benson gave us a speech: “Do not bring us aid. We want work. We want to create, we want to make something we are proud of.” His vision is to employ the people of Jubilee, so the dump will buzz with industry and commerce and fair trade. My prayer that day was for more journals, more goats, more purposeful labor, more people to catch the vision of the examen, so Benson and his team could continue creating and crafting and being paid for their skills. YES to solid, healthy, wholesome work.
Kathy Brooks and 2nd Story Goods artisans did an great job creating two styles for the bracelets, a clay-bead necklace, and keychains. Each keychain has one of four tags with a single word stamped into it: AWARE, ABIDE, PRAY, and PAUSE. The managers met with us and, with beaming faces, said they hope their work will go around the world! May God richly bless them for their patience, diligence, and quality work!
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
We had to do our Examen writing under mosquito nets! Some evenings our electricity went out so we had to very cautiously, very carefully, use candlelight. It was dreamy.