Yesterday marked the “one week until we leave” check point. WOW! How in the heck did those months pass so quickly?! While we’re examining the passage of time, WHERE did the year 2011 even go?!
If you’re wondering what we’ve been up to…here it is!
The year started off to a wonderfully, January was welcomed with a big, fat dance party in the middle of Haiti. With 20 or so of our friends and work partners, we danced the night away thanks to some mini speakers and an i-pod. We had begun our Haitian journey a few weeks prior to the new year, and this month was one to remember. We worked with some local ministries in a beach town of Haiti and did our first ever water project with Ryan at the front end! Capping a well brought 55 children clean water! Woohoo! We also remembered alongside of our Haitian brothers and sisters as they recalled the earthquake that shook their foundation a year prior.
In February Haiti made the news quite a bit. We fell in love with the craziness of the country and saw a lot more of it. We went to Jacmel, the picturesque beach town with an insane tie to voodoo, as well as Port-Au-Prince, the capital city of this nation. We bought mango and papaya from street vendors. We learned a little more Creole. We laughed a lot. Together, we remembered what we wanted our marriage to look and be like. Lucky us, we met some great friends in PAP, two of whom are getting married in March of this year! One night we stepped into a dream world and had a conversation with our amazing friends about starting an organization primarily focused on community and empowering others. Wow-eee.
March found us in a few different places. Three to be exact. We ended our time in Haiti with an awesome debrief. Somehow, our dysfunctional group turned into family. We learned together, grew together and really, these people changed Haiti. We learned the incredible value of believing in people, encouraging them and being excited for them. We went back to Hawaii, our home base for YWAM, and debriefed some more. We took showers with clean and hot water. We ate yummy food. We rested. Went to Mauna Kea and Steph turned 25 all in the same day. We said emotional good-byes to our new friends. Our last goodbyes included a couple who has greatly motivated us and encouraged us. These are the same people with whom we shared our rooms/bathrooms/living spaces for 6 months. We then traveled south to Atlanta, Georgia. Saw our Amanda friends and ate P.F. Chang’s. Mmm! Steph traveled to NY with her mom to visit her awesome family. We were welcomed at home by family and friends, and suddenly we found ourselves stressed every time a person asked “What’s next?” March was a tearful and wonderfully hard month.
In April, we made a decision to take a chance. Our school leader called us and asked us to consider joining him in starting an organization, Justice Water, the first project was to be in Haiti in July. It was one of those things that just…felt right. So, we started making plans to go. We also moved into an amazing guesthouse (thanks, Yearwoods!) in Fairhope that was so, so good for us to be in. Nestled by the bay and beneath the oak trees, we were so thankful to be there. Steph started her on-again-off-again job with Weeschool, teaching 3 year-olds and discovering her heart for educating children. We started a rain tank at our home church, in an attempt to begin to explain what our mission over the summer would be.
May is for lovers. Besides celebrating our 2 year wedding anniversary in wedded bliss, we traveled to New York to see cousins Tara and Douglas tie the knot. What an incredible wedding! The day after our anniversary celebration, Ryan began a job with a relief agency in Tuscaloosa. Working apart, we realized our desire to go back to Haiti, no matter what it would cost us. We celebrated family’s birthdays and worked super hard in May.
In June, we bought our plane tickets to Haiti. We also found out we had a grant from the Anglican Church to do our “guinea pig” test run in Haiti for Justice Water. We began to try and figure out what it would look like to teach locals simple water technologies based on the small amount of knowledge we had from our time in Kona before Haiti (think September-December of last year). We made plans. We said our goodbyes. We anxiously waited for Haiti, and what this trip would reveal to us. We made a last stop trip to Houston to see our good friends, Adam and Amanda get hitched.
Haiti is very, very hot in July. We lived in a house of almost one hundred people, waiting to be taught about water technologies and health care. Saw lots of our friends and made some new ones. Lived on top of a roof in a tent. Ate yummy avocados with our engaged friends. Taught /Worked/ Lived/ Played alongside Dax and Rachel Fears, Dani Harriott and Jenna Menefee (and Rachel and Lawrence English for a week!) as we showed Haitians and Americans how to do rain catchment tanks to better Haiti. Broke into teams and canvased Haiti. 5 tanks in 4 days. Spent a lot of time finishing the tanks up, but the majority of the work was done. Played with children and got to see the sweetest girl in all of Haiti again! Watched as Haitians became empowered and tears filled our eyes as the thought of these towns, communities and lives never being the same again because of the skills they now possessed and what these folks finally believed about themselves.
August is even hotter than July. Sweat seemed to seep out of every, single pore in our bodies. We had to be super careful with water and staying hydrated. Finished a tank dear to our hearts and gave 75 children clean water. Swam in the amazing Caribbean. Wore our chaos OUT! Relaxed. Welcomed more friends to Haiti. Saw some amazing things happen! Watched as Haitians were raised up as leaders. Our faith was grown and challenged. Our hearts were restored and filled. Our goodbyes were good and rushed. We left an impact of 200x. Realized that yes, we were running toward this new goal that wasn’t very new. This “feels so right” goal which started long before we knew it did. Both of us working with Justice Water sounded so good.
Happy Wedding, Anna and Hunter! In September we welcomed Anna Thomason into our family. Yay! We watched as these two exchanged vows in a scene straight from the south. Oaks with spanish moss; the bay; piers with pilings. Spent lots of time outside. Rested. A little. Pedi with mom. Hang out with family. Visited one of the greatest states (CO.) and one of the bestest friends, Cheyenne! September was a nice introduction back into life in the States. Coming back with vision and clarity was also extremely awesome. We decided to leave for our journeys with Justice Water starting in January.
October marked the wedding month for Erin and Michael! This had to be the largest and one of the funnest weddings ever! Erin (like Anna) was a stunning bride. We were so stoked to be with friends in Kentucky for this event. Saw more friends. Worked not he rain tank some more. Steph began working at WeeSchool teaching 2-3 year olds (BABIES!). Ryan started working at Coastal Stone. Went to Atlanta. Sought a little marriage counseling and debriefing as we attempted to decompress from months of travel and seeing devastation. This was such a good month. So hard, but working in the inner parts of the heart is an amazing journey.
In November, we tried to be very intentional with our time. We struggled with committing to Justice Water because we were taking a leap of faith, but have now put our cards all in! The couple we were so close with for 6 months gave birth to a baby boy! We celebrated Thanksgiving like champs with our families…over the stretch of a few days. We spoke at churches, events, even a high school– spreading awareness of clean water and the world’s current crisis. Began having more defined roles in Justice Water and getting excited for going and working with them!
Here we are in December, a pretty stressful month. Work parties, support raising, Christmas cards, Christmas program at WeeSchool (ohmygoshsocute), spending precious moments with families, celebrating the engagement of friends…busy, busy! Finished the rain tank at our church! Ryan celebrated his 25th birthday in Destin with some…you guessed it, P.F. Chang’s. We spent Christmas Eve and Day with family and friends so close to our hearts. We are so thankful we decided to stay and begin our commitment with Justice Water in January. We are going to miss our families and friends so much, but we are ready to see what ELSE the Lord has in store for us. What a great writer of stories…what a great adventurer. He takes us by the hand and has shown us, if we’re willing, where He can take us. Adventurous places-both geographically and in the depths of our hearts. Living is not really living when in fear, I gather, so we’re ready to venture onward…
Yes, this year has been…wildly amazing. We’ve been on a plane more times than we thought we would be. We’ve cried, laughed, danced, sang…we’ve met people from different cultures. We’ve been challenged on almost everything we ever thought. We’ve worked really hard. We have built such solid friendships both near and far. The year 2012 is sure to hold even more exciting times, more new people, and lots of adventures! Here’s to YOUR 2012, as well. We hope it holds amazing times ahead- both in your lives and circumstances, as well as within your heart and mind.