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Table of Grace Blog
Wednesday, March 25 2015

It’s good to be home.  To sleep in my own bed, next to my husband, and away from those nasty creepy crawling things that kept the covers over my head each night!  To be greeted way too early in the morning by little faces that missed me in place of feeling my way in the dark because the electricity had gone out again. But as much as I’m grateful for home, I’m grateful for my time spent in Haiti.  This is my fifth trip since 2011 and each return brings me both encouragement and sadness.  I’m encouraged by the progress I see as the country slowly rebuilds itself after the devastation of the earthquake, the resolution of the Haitian people as they make lives for themselves and their families, and the warm smiles that always welcome me at the gates of the orphanage in Gonaives.  Still though, I can’t help but feel sorrow with those who suffer at the hands of corruption, neglect, and disease in ways that seem so distant from my life here at home.   This trip was no different.  

On Thursday, March 19th, a team of 7 women took off for Gonaives, Haiti.  Our primary purpose was to assess the progress and needs of the orphanage.  As most of you know, TOG is new to the sponsorship program.  Along with doing some initial footwork that we hope will lead to a more efficient administration of the program, much of our time was spent updating photos and gathering information on all the children. 

The kids look well.  Thanks to such generous donors, we were able to collect well over our goal of $500 for medicine.  We purchased all the meds in Haiti except a few we that we knew we could not get there.  We were able to give a very large, much needed stock of antibiotics, Tylenol, medicated ointments, bandages, and deworming medicine to the orphanage we support.  With the excess, we also were able to help out a small orphanage in the city and a local school.

As God continues to remind me, He is able to give above and beyond my expectations.  We knew before we left that we had more than what we could responsibly spend on medicine for the orphanage without contributing to waste due to expiration and storage capabilities.  We began praying even before we left that God might show us a specific medical burden that we could ease, whether great or small.  One of the team members was raised in Haiti and her parents continue to serve in the city of Gonaives.  Their contribution to the success of our trip cannot be overstated.   It was through her father that we learned of a pastor in the area who had gone through his bible institute.  The pastor and his wife have lost 3 children to disease and now their 18-month old baby has been diagnosed with cancer.  Surgery and continual clinical visits have taken their toll on the family and they now owe $1600 in medical debts.  We began to pray about this need and I prayed that we might be able to meet them before we left.  After church on Sunday, it was brought to my attention that the mother and baby were there.  As we believe God is at work in all things, we were introduced to this sweet lady and her baby.   Table of Grace gave $800 to pay off half of their medical debt.  We would like to work toward raising additional funds to pay off the remaining debt. 

Over the past month, the TOG staff has been praying for wisdom in running the Care program in a manner that is both efficient and accountable.  We have prayed specifically for direction in food delivery to this particular orphanage.  That direction became clear as we visited a food delivery service centered not far from the orphanage in Gonaives.  After meeting the staff, and experiencing a few ‘it’s a small world’ moments, we are moving forward in using this organization to deliver food to the orphanage every other week.

Some of you may remember collecting money for Wilbert and his twins.  His wife died unexpectedly right after giving birth 3 years ago.  TOG partnered with Pathway Church, Hazelwood Baptist Church,  and Lot127 to help raise funds for him and secure a down payment for land.  We were able to visit his property and see the progress he has made on his one room house!  He is so excited! 

We were also able to reconnect with a few other existing ministries and people working in Haiti, praying with them and over their ministries.  I am always encouraged by the witness of the faithful and the Love they represent.

With each trip to Haiti, I am humbled and encouraged by all that God wants to teach me.  I find myself too easily feeling overwhelmed by the many needs I see around me.  Sometimes, or more honestly most times, I feel small and insignificant when I compare what I think I can do to the outstanding work that others have given their lives to.   I struggle to know my purpose and the impact that I leave.  This trip reminded me, in the little things, that it was never my work to begin with.  God uses all who are willing, both the landowner with stature and a boy with some bread and a few fish, to bring beauty and life to this world.  It is not our goal to change Haiti.  Our goal is to be faithful.  If I am faithful in showing the love of Jesus to the few people that God has brought before me, I have succeeded in my purpose.  Jesus doesn’t ask us to save the world.  He asks us to do what we can, to love, to serve, to trust.  He doesn’t promise it will be easy or free of trouble.  He does promise, however, that when we pass through the water He will be with us; and when we walk through the fires, we will not be burned; and that it is He, the one who has called us, that is faithful.  He doesn’t call everyone to Haiti or to Africa or to do what the world may deem “great things.”  But I do believe He asks all of us to use our freedom to serve one another in love.  I’m learning that He can use me wherever I am if only I am willing.  I came across this quote recently,  “great people do not do great things.  God does great things through surrendered people.”  From the perspective of a not-so-great person, I find that comforting.

Special thanks to Lindy Scott for taking so many beautiful pictures! 

Posted by: Kristin vonEhrenkrook AT 08:04 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 19 2015

A team of TOG representatives left for Haiti this morning.  As I write, Kristin, Lydia, Brittney, and 3 other volunteers are somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico heading toward the always welcoming Port-Au-Prince International Airport.  From there, they will take the 2.5h drive to Gonaives for a 3 day tropical getaway in the sun!  Okay, so lounging on the beach is NOT on their itinerary, but coming from the craziness of March in Indiana, 85 degrees and sun doesn't't sound too bad right now.  You can follow their trip @ https://www.facebook.com/TableofGrace.  While there, they will use the money donated (over $1000 - incredible!) to distribute medicine and other immediate needs to the orphanage while scouting how we can best provide for the kids in the future with our ongoing monthly support.  I hope you will join in my excitement and prayers as God navigates us through a few unknowns toward an extraordinary outcome.

Assuming I survive the weekend, being severely outnumbered by a young, relentless tribe set out to conquer and control the house, I'll try to give a full update here next week.  Thanks again for your interest and support of Table of Grace!

Todd 

Posted by: Todd AT 11:33 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, January 20 2015

First the update - We've been feverishly working through the transition of the orphan sponsorship program to under our care and I believe are beginning to find some clarity.  If you've been a little frustrated by a lack of communication on our part, I apologize.  Thank you to all who have made the transition with us and for those who have joined us in the midst of it.  We continue to match available available orphans with new sponsors as they are available.  The orphanage is growing as are the needs.  We intend to grow with it.  I'd like to ask for your patience for a couple more weeks as we check and double check our lists to ensure the complete accuracy we'll need to move this program forward.  As always, please don't hesitate to contact one of us with your concerns, complaints, or questions.

And now the urgent need - Some of you may have heard that a few of the children have become very sick over the last couple of weeks. Five kids have been in and out of the hospital and are in need of medicine.  The youngest of the five is in very poor condition.  Please take a minute of your time and pray for these kids.  Pray for healing in the bodies of the sick and for the protection of those who are healthy.  In my home with just five kids (can't believe I just said 'just'), late evening runs to the immediate care facility to get antibiotics or other 'emergency' care is almost habit.  Sometimes its hard to imagine life without convenience.  With 44 kids, scarce medical care, and hospitals that deny medicine without payment, the orphanage staff has the near impossible task of caring for those who need it most.  But out of convenience, we can help.  In this case, how we respond can have an immediate impact.  Please consider giving toward the purchase of medicine and care for these kids.  They need our help now.  We will be sending money down as it comes in as the need is urgent.

I'll be following up with another update in a few days, but until then, thank you for your faithfulness to God's call and choosing to join us at the table.

Todd.

Posted by: Todd AT 10:26 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, February 12 2014

Psalm 15:1  "Lord, who may be a guest in your home?  Who may live on your holy hill?" 

David struggled with it.  I struggle with it.  Chances are you probably have struggled with it as well.  How do imperfect people (insert carefully selected, facebook worthy photos of you and me here) even begin to approach the Divine?  Holding to our Table metaphor (if you haven't noticed, I'm quite fond of it), how do we find a seat at the table with the King?  From the Tower of Babel to the hard-backed pews that fill the church down the road, humans have been banging there heads against the wall for millennia trying to reach God.  David's answer is as humbling as the question he leads with.  Who can approach God?  Only the blameless.   I find it interesting that David seems to take comfort in this.  No cries of unworthiness are written in between the lines.  No desperate pleas of forgiveness follow.  In fact, is that a bit of confidence I hear in his voice?  Where does that come from?   I don't believe that a sense of comfort is the natural reaction.  When the ancients thought they were confronted by the divine they fell on their face in fear.  Our instincts tell us to do the same.  Our unworthiness screams within our heads.  So we try harder, work more diligently, and earnestly devote ourselves to holiness.  All to make ourselves worthy of the one who has called us.  We're ambitious, focused, and fired up.  With 'Be Holy, for I am Holy!'  as our motivational cry, we cheer each other on as we press toward the mark.  That is, of course, until we fail.  At which point we wipe the mud off our face and pick ourselves up to start the cycle all over again, fighting the urge to give up entirely.  Somewhere along the line, frustration replaces hope.  Spiritually debilitating frustration.   Blameless?  Me?  David, how can you be so confident?

 I wonder if our problem doesn't stem from a skewed view of righteousness defined by our perspective rather than God's.  To us, righteousness is behavior based.  It's about purity, separation from the world, and the resistance of all those nasty habits we call sin.   So when we read Peter's description of Lot as being a righteous man, we're justifiably puzzled.  Honestly, how many sermons have you heard on living by the example of Lot?  (I'm guessing none)  Or behaving like the Corinthian church, which Paul called Holy?  Could it be that God's sees righteousness a little differently than us?  The righteousness that God looks for comes by faith.  When we correct our perspective, we'll  realize that holiness is not something that is achieved, but rather something we are invited into.  God is up to something and has incomprehensibly chosen to include us in it.  Continuing Jesus' illustration of the true vine recorded in John's gospel, Paul argues in Romans that 'if the root is holy, so are the branches.'   This holds true not because of the attractiveness of the branch, but rather the strength of the root.  The blameless one was blameless for us  and the faithful one was faithful for us.    This is the hope that we share.   Because of Christ, we are more than guests at the table.

Posted by: Todd AT 09:35 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, February 12 2014

Where have the last two months gone!  Its hard to believe  we're already a month and a half into the new year (though this winter can't end soon enough!)  Before we look into 2014 though, let me take a few sentences to wrap up TOG's inaugural year.   Let me begin by thanking every one of you who participated financially in 2013.  When we began to file the papers for incorporation, though we were hopeful, we had no idea what to expect.  But in just a few months of operation, your donations went over and above my expectations (not that I was doubting or anything!)  In November and December, TOG saw the completion of  25 custom bunk beds outfitted with 50 new mattresses and covers for an orphanage in Gonaives, Haiti.  The new beds are a huge improvement in the living space for the orphans and workers.   I'll post some pictures of the completed project shortly.

As excited as we are about how God used us in 2013, we believe He has  much more of his work to share with us.  Stay tuned and stay connected.  Continue to pray for TOG and the lives we'll cross in 2014. I hope to be able to lay out some details soon.

Posted by: TOG AT 09:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, November 12 2013

I stumbled over a blog the other day and it went sort of like this…

 

I am feeling very blessed this week.  I am very blessed.

I have great family.  I have great friends.  I am a part of one of the most amazing churches on the planet.

My kids are healthy.  My marriage is healthy.

I have a lot to be grateful for.  

And so do you.  Care to share one of the many blessings in your life?  Leave a comment, I can’t wait  to read them.

 

I am certain that many of us feel this way now or have felt this way before.  The comment section following the blog attests to it.  I think if we're honest, it's not terribly difficult to reflect on the many snapshots of our lives and find more than a few things to feel sincerely thankful for.   This is good.  We should be grateful for the good things in our lives.  Reading the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5 though, gives me a little different perspective into what it means to be blessed.   Compare the post above to the passage below from The Message.

 

"You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

"You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

"You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are-no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

"You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

"You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ’carefull,’ you find yourselves cared for.

"You’re blessed when you get your inside world-your mind and heart-put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

"You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

"Not only that-count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.

 

Over and over again Jesus says, 'I am what you need.'  When we come the crossroads of what we desire most and what we need most, and we find Jesus, it's then that we know what it means to be blessed.   When Jesus came, he leveled the playing field.  He spoke against the self important and the self righteous.  Both the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the saint and the sinner ... they all needed Christ the same and they all looked the same to Him.  When Jesus looks into the eyes of the destitute, he sees the same thing he sees when he looks into the eyes of the elite.  Need.  God doesn't measure me on a scale.  He offers the same satisfaction for my needs as he does to those who are seemingly greater than me.  I am not lower class, second class, or head of the class in His eyes.  I am simply His.

 

Father, give me Your eyes.  Let me see those around me as You see them and as You see me.  People needing You.

Posted by: AT 08:26 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, November 03 2013

It's that time of night that if you're a parent of young children, and you're honest enough to admit it,  you've been looking forward  to since mid afternoon.  The house is finally quiet.  All the kids are tucked away in their beds and the seemingly incessant 'mommy, mommy, mommys' or 'daddy, daddy, daddys' have ended.  The stories have been read.  The prayers have been led.  All the special requests have been granted.  Ahhh, rest.   Reflecting on this day, a day remembered in churches around the nation as 'Orphan Sunday' no less, I find it hard to believe that it's been more than two years since our family of 5 became a family of 7 and we tucked Jayce and Nyah into bed for the first time.  I say hard to believe  because the memory of those first nights are still fresh.   They seemed to last forever.  You can read the books, take the required courses,  and seek advice from seasoned veterans, but nothing fully prepares you for the adjustment that follows adoption.  Although I've experienced some of the difficulties faced by adoptive parents, I can only imagine how difficult it was on the little ones we brought home.  Before we even laid eyes on them, their little lives had been scarred by abandonment and rejection.  And now, here they were, in a strange place with strange people, having been carried way once again by unfamiliar arms, to an unfamiliar world filled with unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells.  We learned quickly that those seemingly innate responses we took for granted with our first three children, such as trust, security, and a sense of belonging, were learned.   How do you trust a stranger?  How do you feel safe in a place so foreign?  How do you belong when you've never truly belonged before?  You don't.  At least in the beginning.  In the dark, you cry out for familiarity.  In the light, you hold onto everyone and everything you see.  You eat every meal as if it were your last and hold onto every truck or doll as if it were the only one.  You bask in the attention you're receiving while doing all you can to earn the love of your new hosts.

 

If we identify ourselves with Christ, we've been adopted as children of God.  As such, we too were once orphans.  Once abandoned and rejected by this world, we now sit at The King's table with full rights to an inheritance far greater than this world could ever imagine.   If only I would grasp what I claim to be true.  Like an adopted child adjusting to my new home, I often find myself acting out testing the boundaries of my Father's love, fiercely clutching to every possession as if it’s the only thing that matters, and desperately trying to earn a love that I've convinced myself that I don't deserve.   If only we could get past that adjustment period.  If we could just trust the One who is True.  If we could rest safe in the arms of the one who holds the universe in His hands.  If we could accept our place at the table of God's abounding grace.   If only we would stop living as orphans we could echo Paul, as confident children of God,

 

 "When we trust in him, we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don’t let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!  My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth.  I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit-not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength -  that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in.   And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love,  you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!  Live full lives, full in the fullness of God."

 

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed  us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.  For  he chose us in Christ  before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished   in his sight  in love. He did this by predestining  us to adoption as his  sons  through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure  of his will –  to the praise of the glory of his grace  that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.  In him   we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight.  -- Eph 1:3-8

Posted by: Todd AT 11:14 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, October 22 2013

Well, here we are.  The team is assembled.  The papers are filed.  The inaugural project is active.  Nine months ago this was just a thought.  Well, not really.  It was almost a thought.  Maybe a margin for a thought.  Sort of like a hazy room where you suspect thoughts may exist, you just can't quite make them out well enough to describe them.  We knew we wanted to do something, but apparitions of whats and whos and hows clouded any real action on our part.   But now, today in fact, Kristin struggled through her goodbyes to the dozens of smiling faces she has fallen in love with over the last few years.   Since 2010, Kristin and I have been blessed to visit Haiti on several mission trips and personal visits.  Each trip has given us new perspectives on God, His work, and His people.  This trip, however, was a little different.  While past trips focused on the work that could be accomplished in those short four or five days on site,  this one aimed to prepare for work that will hopefully continue long after Kristin boards the plane and comes home.  I'd love to say that the trepidation we felt nine months ago when we took those first steps toward making willingness into reality is gone.  But of course I would not be writing this if it was.  The fear, uncertainty, and general lack of confidence in our ability to succeed in something as important to us as this has not changed.  Not even a little bit.  As challenges become apparent, our natural reaction is to retreat.

 

Thankfully, God's grace overcomes our failures.  Back at the start, when real ideas began to take ground, in one of those moments of apprehension, God corrected my perspective through the story recorded in Matthew 14 we familiarly call The Feeding of the Five Thousand.  You know the scene very well.  Jesus' popularity was nearing its peak as thousands followed him on foot.   As if he was almost surprised by the crowds gathering  to him, Jesus looked out at the people with compassion and began to minister to them.  As the day stretched into evening, the disciples, realizing the impossibility of caring for the multitude as dinner approached, encouraged Jesus to send the people away.  Jesus, in a moment that must have left the disciples looking at each other with scrunched lips and pursed eyebrows, looked gently at them and said, 'No. You feed them.'  'We don't have enough' was their logical response.  'Give it to me then', He replied.  So they did and you know the rest of the story.  The reminder is not subtle.  God is doing things that he never intended for us to do on our own.  Yet he invites us to work with him.  That's grace.  He takes what awkwardly little we have,  and somehow, miraculously, brings about extraordinary things. 

 

That's what sitting at the table of God's grace is about.  We get to participate with God.  If I were to try to do things for God, I would certainly fail.  But that's not what He's asking us to do.  He has invited us to share in his work.  A work that can not fail because it is His.  The truth is obvious to us.  We have nothing significant to offer.  No extravagant gifts.  No impressive talents.  Just what amounts to a few loaves of bread and a paltry catch.  Just open hands really. 

 

For those of you who have already pulled up a chair next to us, thank you.  Your willingness to partner with us is convincing evidence of the grace I speak of.   God is at work in Haiti and here in our neighborhoods.  It's exciting to know that we've all been invited to dig in.  

Posted by: Todd AT 12:08 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, October 05 2013

I am so excited to announce that we have raised enough money to purchase ALL 50 mattresses!!  This leaves us with a goal of $6,250 left to raise in order to purchase new beds and hire workers to make the beds.  

Please join us in being a part of this project!  Help us reach our goal!!

 

Posted by: kristin AT 07:20 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, October 02 2013

We are very excited to introduce our new ministry!  Todd and I have had a strong desire to serve, help, and love those who are often fogotten and overlooked.  It has been our prayer over the last few years that God would show us how.  We believe starting this not for profit organization is the first step in allowing God to use us.  We still have many questions and little answers.  However, we believe that once again, God has asked us to step out in faith and see that He is able to do exceeding abudantly above all that we ask or think.

I am leaving for Haiti in 2 weeks.  Our first project is collecting funds for new beds, mattresses, and sheets for an orphanage in Gonaives.  Our goal is to hire a Haitian crew to build the beds.  This allows us to help the orphanage and help Haitian men who need work as well.  Below is a list of how you can help!  

$5-pillow

$10-sheets

$50-mattress (we need 50)

$250-bunk bed (we need 25)

Any amount big or small makes a difference.  Your investment in this ministry and in this project makes such a difference in a life.  I would love nothing more than to take each of you with me on a trip so you can see for yourself how you can make a difference.  Please consider how you might help.  

Most of all, please pray for TOG Ministries.  We want to be used of God to show love to others and to point them to Him.  

"Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us."  

 

 

 

Posted by: Kristin AT 08:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email