Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Will You Be There"


Hold Me
Like The River Jordan
And I Will Then Say To Thee
You Are My Friend

baby boy 297

Carry Me
Like You Are My Brother
Love Me Like A Mother
Will You Be There?

Hosanna Grace 018 (2)

Tell Me Will You Hold Me
When Wrong, Will You Scold Me
When Lost Will You Find Me?


But They Told Me
A Man Should Be Faithful
And Walk When Not Able
And Fight Till The End
But I'm Only Human


Everyone's Taking Control Of Me
Seems That The World's
Got A Role For Me
I'm So Confused
Will You Show To Me
You'll Be There For Me
And Care Enough To Bear Me


(Hold Me)
(Lay Your Head Lowly)
(Softly Then Boldly)
(Carry Me There)


(Lead Me)
(Love Me And Feed Me)
(Kiss Me And Free Me)
(I Will Feel Blessed)


(Carry Me Boldly)
(Lift Me Up Slowly)
(Carry Me There)


(Save Me)
(Heal Me And Bathe Me)
(Softly You Say To Me)
(I Will Be There)

(Lift Me)
(Lift Me Up Slowly)
(Carry Me Boldly)
(Show Me You Care)

(Hold Me)
(Lay Your Head Lowly)
(Softly Then Boldly)
(Carry Me There)


(Need Me)
(Love Me And Feed Me)
(Kiss Me And Free Me)
(I Will Feel Blessed)


In Our Darkest Hour
In My Deepest Despair
Will You Still Care?
Will You Be There?

Jo's Visit Nov 2012 080

In My Trials


And My Tribulations


Through Our Doubts


And Frustrations

Haiti 2014 1501

In My Violence


In My Turbulence


Through My Fear


And My Confessions


In My Anguish And My Pain


Through My Joy And My Sorrow

Haiti 2014 1932Haiti 2014 1130

In The Promise Of Another Tomorrow


I'll Never Let You Part


For You're Always In My Heart.

( song lyrics by M. J. )


( These three precious angels, Kervin, Lovena, and Yonda have all moved to heaven. Dance for Jesus, little ones!! )

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Angel Baby

Baby Yonda stayed with me for three weeks in June. Her mother died shortly after the baby was born and no wonder because the birth was obviously a traumatic affair. As usual the details are sketchy but we do know the that mom was in labor for a very long time before they ever took her to a hospital and then the Dr, instead of operating, forced baby Yonda into this world and severely damaged her head and brain in the process. Baby Yonda’s head is way too small and full of bumps and ridges. She responds to touch and it seems like she can hear but her eye sight at best is extremely limited by what we can tell. Yonda obviously has cerebral palsy as well, her tiny body is stiff and spastic.


When she came to me she was 9 months old and weighed 6 lbs! Her body felt cool and she was so weak her eyes kept rolling back in her head and she wasn’t able to suck on a bottle. For the first three days I fed her with a syringe, 1 oz of milk every two hours. I couldn’t believe how quickly she gained strength and soon she was drinking from a bottle with a regular nipple and she definitely wanted more than 1 oz at a time!


Veronika and I both got very attached to sweet, little, honey. Often when I looked at her I thought of heaven because she reminded me so much of a little angel.


She seemed so pure and perfect, so innocent. and helpless.  She was totally unmarred and incapable of doing anything wrong.


Since her mom died, Yonda has been cared for by a family friend and it seems like her family genuinely loves her and cares about her but somehow she was not getting the nutrition she needed. In the three weeks I had her she gained 3.5 pounds. But it took a lot of intense, around the clock, care. If someone is not really interested or doesn’t feel like getting up at night Yonda is the one who has to go hungry. Dear child, Jesus loves you so much!


Yonda loved music, it soothed and calmed her. I played classical music and hymns for her day and night.


Baby Yonda returned home to her family and the friend who had been caring for her. Last week she was admitted to a children’s hospital to be treated for an infection but has since been released and seems to be doing ok. She went there with a referral to do a scan of her head and brain but of course the Dr. released her and never even checked her head!! Such is medical care in Haiti so we trust God to lead us and give us wisdom to know how and where to pursue more help for her. In the meantime we will keep checking on her to make sure she is getting the nutrition she needs.  Keep this little angel in your prayers! May your will be done, Jesus!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Fabric Of Life

After living abroad for 4 years I was surprised when I was in the states for three weeks how everywhere I turned seemed like I was surrounded by nostalgia and memories. Not really in Wisconsin because this was my first time doing anything there besides passing through. But when I went to South Dakota a whole host of memories tickled my brain. Memories of spending 4 months living there with David and Ida many years ago. Its where I got my drivers permit and my license and where I had my first and only accident. How I managed to find a tree in the middle of the prairie and smash into it I will never know nor how I walked away with only several cuts and bruises. It was a miracle. Another thing I will never forget about that accident is that my brother in law David never said anything that made me feel badly even when the mechanic said I had just totaled their family van. And that made me feel even worse. But it was something I never forgot and it made me a much safer driver. It was the only accident I ever had in 13 years of driving. I have a lot of other memories of that place too. Just driving through the tiny town of Milbank past the same grocery stores, the same restaurants, the old windmill, the park, the bank…Most of it was still amazingly the same and it gave me a funny ache inside. Later I had memories of chasing trains with a van load of hollering kids and loud music, two old tramp brothers,  going to auctions, eating at Dairy Queen after a long hot afternoon of working in the garden and many many other things that will forever be stamped in my heart.

Traveling with Rachel and her children brought back memories of years gone by when we’d load up the big van with six little children, diapers, formula, wheelchair, feeding pump, meds, food, and camping supplies! Seriously, how crazy could we possibly have been!! But the memories I have of those times, I would never trade. How can one ever forget hearing the horse mounted police making their rounds through the campground in the middle of the night or peeking out of the tent door early in the morning to see a door swing open on a horse trailer leaving a poor lady sitting stranded on her camp commode!! And then falling back on our beds and shaking with quiet laughter until our sides ached! I remember heating cans of soup over smoky fires and roasting marshmallows after dark, setting up the tent while the children explored the forest, and how can one ever forget that feeling of dread when awaking in the dead middle of the night soaked with kid pee and hearing rain on the tent. Later there would be early morning showers before packing up to go find some hot breakfast because invariably someone would forget to put the wood inside and who can make a fire with wet wood? There were campgrounds in the middle of nowhere where we camped and never saw another living soul. Or in one case the living souls were cows who stood mooing into our tent early in the morning while Rachel and I clenched our teeth and lay still and tense for fear of the babies waking. We tried those cool places where they have those little cabins and we even slept in covered wagons way out on the De Smet prairie where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived as a young girl!! We sat out side on the stoop at night and watched the moon hover so large and low it seemed as if one could reach out and touch it! I remember looking at Rachel sometimes and saying, “ I’m sure we have way more fun than other people!”

In Michigan I had memories of trekking up to visit our Amish cousins, spending a week at a time eating their good food, driving their horses in the hay field, going to the chocolate store, going out to the bay and eating at the fish and chips shop. I remember being at my cousin’s wedding surrounded by solemn little children watching while I took care of my little boy’s feeding pump and burping him through his g tube, I decided this would be an educational moment so proceeded to explain to them in dutch step by step what I was doing and why. After a moment of silence a small girl leaned over and breathed into her friend’s ear, “ Who is that lady talking too?” I figured they’ll always remember a crazy lady talking weirdly to herself in the nursery a long time ago!!

Coming down through Ohio I had a rush of memories of my troubled teen years when I spent a month at a counseling center for girls and the turbulent days I spent there trying to come to peace with life.

The weekend I spent in Ohio at my Haiti family reunion was spent doing a lot of reminiscing of days gone by when we were all in Haiti together working together like a family. During good times and hard times we stuck together and most of the time stood strong and created bonds that will last a lifetime.

Then it was back to Lancaster and WOW!! so many memories on literally every street corner. Whether it was the little grey stone house  smack in the middle of Intercourse where we first lived after moving up from a sleepy little town in North Carolina or the mouse infested farmhouse in Ephrata where we’d sit out on the roof at night to get away from those scampering little feet, memories came flooding back faster than I could even process them. I had a lot of memories of foster children we cared for and how we used to spend so much time on the road going to appointments and visits in Philadelphia where we’d spend hours walking through china town sipping on bubble tea and slurping  warm tofu, finding bits of pink meat in gloppy corn mush. We’d wander through the Italian market sampling exotic cheeses, fine wines, and sausages. Then we’d count our money and hover over  big wooden barrels drooling over fat, gourmet olives floating in their salty brine, agonizing over the decision of which kind to try this time.

There were memories of early morning yard saling, free  piles and dumpster diving for fun!! Going to community days, farm fests, museums, parades, pettings zoos… toting loads of eager children. Then there were places I used to work, and people I used to work with. There were restaurants where we first learned to love sushi, curries, and pho. Narrow city streets where Amy and I used to go to visit Sulley and learned how to parallel park quickly and to move when she’d say, “ Get out of this area fast.” I remembered how her mom used to yell at us that we’re messing up her house and how she’d tell Sulley to stop hanging out with those amish girls!!

Driving past the Ephrata business center was hard for me every. single. time. So many things connected to that building, things I never want to forget and things I wish I could forget and never remember again. It is the place where I really and truly met God and my life was forever changed. In that place is where I received years of rich teaching and hours of discipleship that has shaped my life and given me a solid foundation. And it was also in that place that my foundation was rocked to its core. There were bible schools, weddings, baptisms, communion services, missions conferences, benefit suppers, and even girls cookie bakings in the kitchen, good and fun times. Then there are memories of those first niggling fears and thoughts that something wasn’t right. And later of trying to deny and close my eyes to things happening around me that were rocking my world. There is still the bitter feeling of walking out of those big glass doors, hearing them close behind me knowing that a chapter of my life was ending. A chapter was ending and a new one was starting but at that point I could not see it. Perhaps the hardest part about these memories is the fact that I still have unresolved questions about things that happened during those turbulent times, I have a keen sense of loss that has scarred me deeply. I grieve for many relationships lost and broken.

But that is life and it is how the fabric is woven.

All the time I was in the states I kept thinking about memories. They flooded me almost overwhelmingly. I was thinking about memories past and also the memories we are making today. They are the substance with which we weave the fabric of life. Every single day we are weaving our lives by the choices we make and the things we do. I have always been fascinated with memories and how powerful they can be. They are like a thick blanket we weave throughout life and when we are old and feeble we pull up our thick blanket and it is up to us now if our blanket will be warm and comforting or dark and suffocating. It is what will carry us to our graves. Oh, for a life blanket that is full of God, full of light and grace, laughter and love and no regrets.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

There Is No Person

“There is no person, there is no person, there is no person…” Over and over the congregation sang the chorus ending with, “Jesus, you alone are the only one I have.”

I stood in their midst in the heat with sweat rolling down the back of my legs, my foggy brain catching and holding the words swelling around me and I sang it too. “There is no person, there is no person…”

Then the deacon gets up to pray as the congregation still sings softly. And his words penetrate my fog too. He says, (roughly translated ), “ Oh God, Papa, who is up above in the heavens, we come to you to let ourselves go at your feet. We know there is NO person who can help us, deliver us, save us… You alone can help…” and he goes on and on but my mind stays there.

I am surrounded by people, human beings just like me who have endured suffering like I will probably never know. Many of them have known hunger, disease, sickness, death, loneliness, abuse and darkness. I feel shame for the things I consider  “hard” in my life. These people know hard. And they sing like it’s a groan from their hearts, “ There is no person, there is no person…” But they cling to God, Papa who is above in the heavens. He is the only one who truly gives help, strength to keep going.

I ponder the phrase, “ We let ourselves go at your feet.” To let ourselves go is to let go of everything that is precious and safe to us. It is to give up expectations, hopes and fears, dreams and desires, uncertainties and securities, even ideas and beliefs…everything. Everything to simply fall down on our faces in utter abandonment at the feet of God acknowledging that truly there is no person who can help us in the darkest hour of the soul except God, Papa, who is up above  in the heavens.

Having just returned from spending three and a half weeks in the states I realize it is almost impossible for most of us to even imagine what that really and truly means. Seriously, in our American mindset we need an awful lot just to simply live. We don’t think it is asking or expecting too much to have all of our basic needs and even wants fulfilled. But in Luke 9:57-62 we see that Jesus says the cost of following him is to give up our right of even having our basic needs met. He does not say, “ You will never be homeless.” He says, “ Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” He does not say, “ All your emotional needs will be met.” He says, “ Leave the dead to bury their own dead.” He doesn’t even make any promises about family, the closest relational ties we could ever have but he says, “ No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” I believe the message he is really trying to get across is the message that I received on Sunday listening to the song and the prayer and it is what many people in more harsh cultures experience on a daily basis - There is no person but only Jesus himself… to let go of myself and fall before God holding onto nothing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Potential Growth

So I got to ride in a nifty little car with Myron who is dating my niece Karen. I needed a lift  from the cemetery back to the church where we would all gather to eat lunch together so hopping into Myron’s car was a convenient way to get to know who is dating my niece. Halfway through the 20 minute drive, after I had figured out he was a safe and responsible driver, I cleared my throat and Karen shifted in her seat. I launched into my questions and Karen moved again and gave a nervous giggle. Myron answered straight, like a man. And I was favorably impressed. Maybe he’s not an imposter after all, sneaking in trying to snitch my niece!! Because for some reason that was the first first thing I thought when I heard about Karen going out on her first date a number of months ago. Maybe its normal for aunts to go through that feeling when the nieces and nephews grow up and begin to have relationships outside of the safe family circle. Relationships that have the potential to lead to life long commitments and new sprouts on the family tree. In my big, loud, funny, dysfunctional, Yoder family we all got each other’s backs and we want to know as much as possible about the suitors who come along. Are they a good fit? How will they blend in with all our weirdness?
And so our family tree stays green and growing. It spreads its older branches farther towards the sky, the roots go down deeper and new shoots appear to eventually sprout into branches and grow more green and fruitful.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Closing Of A Chapter

In the wee hours of Sunday morning we traveled all packed into Rachel’s big van. I was so exhausted I just pretty much passed out in the front seat. I slept and slept, hard and deep. It felt like my whole body was heavy and my brain was shut off. I was dimly aware at times of some talking, the children stirring in their carseats, and the sun rising in the east. This was not the road trip that Rachel and I had in mind when we spent hours making plans for my furlough. But God had plans too and like he said, it is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting. So that is what we did.

All day Sunday we traveled, talked some, slept, ate and kept driving and driving. In the evening we stopped to sleep about 4 hours from Ida’s house. It felt like heaven to take a long, hot, shower and lay our weary bodies to rest on real beds. I don’t think I even moved one muscle that whole night!

We got up, ate breakfast and got right back into the van…

Then the long journey was almost over and we were getting closer and closer to my sister Ida’s house way out in the boonies of Wisconsin. A quietness settled over all of us as we pondered the difference between this visit and all the many family gatherings before this. This time there would be a big empty spot, an empty recliner, and aching hearts. And I wondered, “What does one say to a sister who has just lost her husband, who is now left to parent 8 children alone?” The answer is, “ Nothing.” There is nothing to say that will lessen the pain of loss and separation. So we just went there and all the family came and together we filled up the house with love and care, food and quiet visiting.

My strong sister Ida and her brave children moved gracefully through the motions of laying their husband and father peacefully to rest. Us others stood by, a close knit force of love and support fumbling feebly to somehow lessen the burden of sorrow and yet each one of us carried our own too so together we stood and just cared.

Kind people brought in food so we didn’t have to try to cook and that is no small undertaking as our family is quite large. But what a tremendous blessing it was to all of us.

Friends came, some from far and many from near to honor a life well lived and poured out in service to God. A respectful gesture of kindness and support to the grieving family. Every person was appreciated, every person made a difference, every person touched a heart just by being there.

At the last viewing I stood beside the open casket and tried to absorb again the reality of an earthly life- finished. So many memories of that brother in law who came into my life when I was a small, shy, blond haired girl. He won me easily – held me on his lap and teased me, brought candy and balloons and toys… And then he took my sister Ida and married her but I don’t remember having hard feelings about it because he already was part of the family. And now years later as I stood and looked inside the casket right by a daddy’s hands was a little love note all covered with childish hearts and I knew that he had won another little girl’s heart. Another shy, blond haired girl who loved her daddy.

The most stunning thought of all to me was looking at David’s face and realizing that the very next time I see that smile it will be in the presence of God!! That is an amazing, amazing thought and I am still processing it. I just wonder so much how it really is when you die. David had just as many thoughts, beliefs and questions about death as we all do and now he found out how it really is but he can’t tell us. It is that mysterious journey that every person alone with Jesus must take. “Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me…” David is the one who is now really alive while we are still stuck back here in this vapor we call life. And it is so easy to lose the way when you’re in a vapor. My heart yearns for all of us left here – we MUST be faithful to God if we want to truly live.

Then it was over:


Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servant. Psalms 116:15

And a new chapter opens…

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


It was 3:30 on a Saturday morning when my alarm rang to alert me that it was time to feed my two little ones again. As I reached into the crib and gently lifted little honey out I also picked up my Ipad that was softly playing hymns for my baby. I figured since I was so exhausted I could check my facebook page to stay awake while baby nursed her bottle. I opened it and immediately wondered why I had 3 or 4 messages from my sister Rachel. The first one sent a sting of alarm through my heart. It read in part, “ David is having health problems. It doesn’t look good…” The next one was something that no one wants to ever see in their news feed, “ David has died. Please come home.” Shock and disbelief coursed through my heart as I perched on the edge of my bed in my small, dimly lit bedroom, trying to keep the bottle in the baby’s mouth while frantically messaging Rachel. Back and forth the messages flew as we discussed what had happened and how we should proceed… All I could think was, I need to go home right now! There is nothing that makes one feel disconnected and alone at a time like that than to know there is an ocean lying between me and my family!

As the minutes crept by I tried to relax a bit but to no avail. My mind was spinning with so many memories and questions. Finally I just got up and started getting things gathered up to pack. As morning dawned I went through all the motions of doing my hair and getting dressed but it felt like I was moving through a hazy fog, my thoughts all running about in no particular order except for one – I must go home, I must go home… I was so incredibly thankful for the way everyone stepped in to help with the babies and to Carlos for spending a couple hours on the phone arranging a flight for me to fly out that evening. By midmorning everything was arranged and by noon I was sitting in the Port au Prince airport.

I was thankful to get there hours before my boarding time. I just sat still in the midst of people milling around me. I sat in a bubble of silence watching as if in a dream, the world happening around me. My flight got delayed and I knew aside from a miracle from God I would never make my connecting flight from Miami to Philadelphia. I just closed my weary eyes and didn’t even care. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen and there was not one thing I could do about it.

As the sun sank low in the west we finally boarded and took off. The colors above the clouds where unbelievably magnificent. I stared in wonder and thought about David and tried to imagine the glories that he was experiencing.

In Miami I tried to hurry as much as possible to get through immigrations, customs, baggage claim, and security but really it was  no point because you can do nothing to hurry tons of people in line in front of you. I stood alone and just prayed for God to delay my outgoing flight. When I walked up to the place to recheck my bag a man in uniform glanced at me and said, “ Go outside, you’ll have to wait till tomorrow morning to get another flight.” I turned away numbly only to hear him calling me back to inform me my flight had been delayed and I could still make it if I hurry!!!! Thank you, Jesus!!!

I wearily climbed aboard my last flight, leaned my head back and immediately dropped into a deep, exhausted slumber. Several times through the three hour flight I was dimly aware that I might be leaning over heavily onto the person beside me but I was too tired to care and I think he was sound asleep too.

And then it was landing time and it was 2:30 am almost 24 hours since I had received the news about David. I actually thought I did not have the strength to walk off my plane, my eyes crossed with sleep and my head pounded with a lack of food headache. I prayed and Jesus gave me what I needed for that moment.

Amy and Sulley were waiting with a quart of cold milk ready for me to drink on the way home! I drank and felt my headache slip away as we glided smoothly through the dark empty city streets, arriving at Rachel’s house in record time. It was so good to be together but no time for lengthy salutations now. Everyone had to be roused out of bed and a ton of suitcases, pillows, blankets, wheelchair, and activity bags loaded into Rachel’s van. The two tots were carried out in their sleepy stupor, gazing shyly at Aunt Mary from Haiti, and buckled into their seats. Soon all was in order and we headed out the driveway at 5:00 am on Sunday morning with more than a 1,000 miles before us!

To be continued…