Freedom in Family

The dictionary says that the definition of family is “a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.” In my heart, the definition of family is far from that of which resides between the front and back cover of the American Oxford Dictionary. So many words come to mind when I consider family and its meaning: unconditional love, safe place, growth, tenderness, discipline, discipleship, laughter, sacrifice, trust, respect, genuineness, transparency, attachment, adventure, service, understanding…the list goes on for so long. Living in Neply, Haiti has stretched the meaning of family for me and my family. Family goes beyond four physical walls and invades your heart, imprinting the very soul of your being. Without warning. The true meaning of family permeates you.

I would like to share a story about two young people in Neply. Josseline is our neighbor. She lives in a home two houses down from our family. She is ten years old. She is radiantly beautiful. She is full of joy. She enjoys laughter. She loves sugarcane. She plays with her friends, including our children. She even goes to school. In so many ways, Josseline is a typical, ten year old girl living in a small village in Haiti.

Noha (pronounced Noo-ye) is a young man that lives just around the corner from our house. He is a broad shouldered, fourteen year old boy with a story written in the depths of his eyes. He loves to play soccer. He, too, loves to laugh. He is respectful. His smile is inviting. He carries wisdom far beyond his fourteen years. His boyhood is swiftly turning to manhood.

Noha is Josseline’s older brother. They do not live in the same household nor do they live with their parents. They are restaveks. A restavek is a child sold into slavery in order for the remaining family members to get money for food and survival. These two beautiful children are slaves. Slaves. They each work for a place to stay, food to eat, time to play, and the opportunity to attend school. Some days, as I walk past Josseline’s house, she nods her head, to say “No, please don’t talk to me. Keep walking.” It is these times, I know she is working and she is being watched. She will receive punishment if I talk to her. My heart breaks. Other times, she runs to our house to play and have fun. It is those times that I treasure. In so many ways, Josseline and Noha have nothing that resembles family and no one that is family any where close by.

I want so badly for Josseline and Noha to experience family in a new, safe sense. Jesus said that He is going to heaven to prepare many rooms for us. Our Heavenly Father is preparing a household for us. But here on earth, where times are hard and the light of family grows dim, we are here to impact families with the love of Christ. We are here to create a sense of family based on trust. We are here to accept people where they are and grow with them. We are here to display Christ’s love in a way that draws people nearer to Him…into His family.  We are here to love, encourage, serve, disciple, laugh, respect, and understand.  We are here to be a safe place, a place of tenderness and trust, a place of discipline and understanding, and a place of growth and attachment.  We are here to display Christ’s definition of family.

I get it. I understand the necessity of family.  I believe in so many ways, though, I take for granted how powerful family really is.  I haven’t had to long for a family the way that Josseline and Noha do. I haven’t had to wonder if the love my family gives me is contingent upon the works that I perform.  Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I find comfort and freedom in this verse. I can’t do anything to lose my love from my Heavenly Father. He is my Father, my family, for eternity.

My prayer is that the sense of family that our family displays can impact the hearts and thoughts of the families living with Josseline and Noha.  We have so many opportunities to develop relationships with these people and show them the love of Christ, no matter their life choices.  Over time, I pray that Josseline and Noha will not only experience freedom in their earthly families, but also the freedom in knowing Christ as their Heavenly Father.  Our Father is the King of righteousness and Lord of lords. My commitment is to share what I know about Christ and family with this nation, beginning with my neighbors. In Micah 6:8, God tells us what He requires of us…”to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. There is a fine line to walk while ministering to the families with restaveks, and I want to do what God has asked of me in Micah 6:8.  I also pray that my life will speak by my actions according to 1 Thessalonians 2:8: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”

Please pray for the restaveks around the world.  Pray for Josseline and Noha by name.  And pray for their “owners”…that a true conviction for family will come over them, and they too can experience the freedom of knowing Christ and experiencing family here on earth…and for eternity.

Settling into LIFE in Neply, Haiti…

 

 

 

Life in Haiti (our first newsletter from the ground in Haiti 🙂

What an honor and privilege it is to write our first newsletter from Neply, Haiti!  Our family has lived here for just over six weeks and it is already feeling like home.  God has truly blessed us with the most amazing family adventure and God-led journey in the world.  We have so many stories and memories to tell already, and we are excited about sharing these with you all as best we can.

We are now living in our own home with our children…still just five kids in the King family, although many of you have asked if we have found any King family additions since we have been here.  Our home is incredibly beautiful and more than we could have ever imagined being able to live in here in Haiti.  The home is three bedrooms and two baths, with a kitchen and dining area plus a living room.  We are still painting and building shelving spaces to store things, but the house is looking great, and we know that we are very blessed with the opportunity to live here.  Now…all we need is visitors…we hope to see you all very soon!

Our whole family has adjusted very well, but we are so thankful that God has given our kids such an amazing heart for enjoying this journey and the village we live in. All of our kids bring such amazing gifts to this village…Carter is a kind and wise friend and mentor to the children.  Kynlee is a gentle and warm nurturer.  Faith is curious and selective with her trust, while gathering as much knowledge as she can about how Haiti is different than the States. Kyler is a bubbly and joyful friend to all.  Camp is ‘chips’ as they call him…their little village mascot, so small and rotten.

We put together some frequently asked questions to give you a concise view into our everyday lives here.  There are no days that look exactly the same.  Life in Haiti is different in so many ways, but it feels so right and so rewarding to be in the center of God’s will for our lives.

Thank you for loving us and supporting us better than we could ever imagine.  We are so thankful for the love and encouragement that we receive from you all.  Words cannot describe our gratitude for your prayers and financial support for our family while we follow God’s amazing will for our lives.  Thanks for being such an important part of our journey.  We love you all!

What does the role of Director of Operations look like at myLIFEspeaks?

Although we have focused much on our family, building relationships with people in the village, and moving into our house, we already have a taste of what our positions look like with myLIFEspeaks.  We are already overseeing the daily operations of the campus and ministering to people in the village regarding parenting and being purposeful with family.  There are many talented staff here, and we can see that God has great plans in store for the vision of myLIFEspeaks.  Chris and Tracy are both in and out of the campus and in the village throughout the day working to meet the needs of our Haitian staff, the campus, and the people in the village as well.  This has already been an incredibly rewarding experience for us.

Have you started home schooling the kids?

Yes, we started homeschooling the week of October 15th.  We are really enjoying getting into a routine.  Please pray that we will learn how to use our schooling time wisely in order to leave time for us to minister to people and build relationships in the village.  We are so blessed to have been able to purchase curriculum for all of the school-aged children (thank you!), and look forward to learning with them this year.

Do you feel safe?

YES!  We feel very safe! Obviously, it is protocol that we would have security with us most all of the time.  We have several amazing day and night security staff that work to keep our family safe.  We feel safe to walk around the village freely during the day as we please. We know that if we ever need anything, our staff is close by to help us. Our security guys are incredible with our children and have become a part of our family!

How is your family dealing with the death of one of the myLIFEspeaks house children, Jay?

On September 30, 2012, Jay went to be with Jesus. These past few weeks have been very difficult for our family, our staff, and especially the house parents and children at myLIFEspeaks.  But, God is sovereign and He reigns forever.  Jay was a beautiful young man that taught us all so much in his short time here.  We hope we never forget his courage, his smile, his singing, or his heart.  We have always prayed that God would use the death of our sweet baby Ty to one day help us minister to other hurting parents.  We did not know we would be given this opportunity within a month of moving to Haiti.  Please continue to pray that our LIVES will speak to the house family and this village regarding this situation, and that God will use us for His glory alone.

How can we support you?

As we continue down this amazing path, we cherish your prayers.  We could never do this work with our own strength.  Our Lord guides us each and every day.  Please pray that our lives will be centered by His will.  We continue to need your financial support as well.  We have been totally amazed by the generosity of our friends and supporters both while we were in the U.S. and during our time in Haiti.  The gifts and donations that you provide allow our family to perform the Lord’s work in Haiti.  Without your giving, we would not be here. Ongoing financial support is crucial to our mission work here and our ability to make ends meet for our family and ministry.  Please see the enclosed donation information card on ways that you can help.

 

Until next time, America…


So many amazing things led up to September 4, 2012.  So many people encouraging us, supporting us, leading us, and sharing their homes with us really ministered to our family in a mighty way before leaving the states.  I never want to forget the way that God was right with us every step while we were preparing to move this past month.  We left Midlothian around August 15, and did not return until August 28.  We were homeless in a way because we were blessed with amazing tenants wanting to move into our house, so we rushed to get out of the house….thankfully, many friends and family were willing to put up with us for a few days here and there!

I feel like a post in pictures is about all that I can offer right now.  Our minds and hearts are full of so many feelings, observations, convictions, blessings, and so much more.  It was hard to say goodbye to SO many people that we love. But it was not as hard as disobeying God.  He made it perfectly clear to us that He had paved the way for us…yes, to live so very far away, and yes, for us to take our children to live in a third world country.  Weird?  Yes…but so incredibly rewarding.  Not always easy, but beautiful!  I am excited to write a post about our first two weeks here in Neply, Haiti.  I can hardly believe that it has been almost two weeks already.  But, first, some pictures of our last few weeks in the states.

    

  

Exciting news….we are moving!!!

   We come to you with excited hearts as God has led the way to a wonderful opportunity for adventure and ministry.  Over the past couple of months, God has opened so many doors to clearly guide our path straight to the amazing village of Neply, Haiti. 

   As we have spent more time in Neply, we have fallen more in love with the people in the village and the vision of myLIFEspeaks.  We already have incredible people doing amazing ground-work to implement God’s plan for the village.  As part of the original plan for myLIFEspeaks, our family was considering fulfilling the role of House Parents to the orphans that join the myLIFEspeaks family.  What a blessing it has been, though, to watch an incredible Haitian couple (Mado and Estonia) step into this role.  We are so excited to support them and empower them to use their lives to speak up for His purpose right there at the myLIFEspeaks house, where we have 5 beautiful children living as a family with a mom and dad that love and care for them deeply.

   In June, Chris, Tracy, and Kyler visited Neply again.  Our hearts truly began to feel like God was asking us to call Neply, Haiti our home.  We met with the co-founders about myLIFEspeaks and what the next step was for our family’s ministry position and God began to open the doors to make our hearts’ desires a reality.  

   It is an honor and blessing to announce that we are now the On-Site Directors of myLIFEspeaks-Haiti.  This new position, however, will require a physical move to Neply.

….WE ARE MOVING TO HAITI! 

   God’s timing is so perfect and His will is so intricately designed for His glory in our lives.  All of a sudden, doors are closing and others are opening so quickly that we have a total peace about packing our precious family and moving to the village that captured our hearts.  Our date of departure is September 4th, which is approaching so quickly.  Praise the Lord for his provision in our lives.  

   As part of our preparation for this big move, we ask you to partner with us as we go:
– PRAY FOR US!  Moving a family of seven to another country, learning a new language, and living in a new culture will not always be easy.  God is sovereign and has asked us to GO and make disciples, minister to the lost, love the lonely, care for the sick, and help feed the hungry.  Please pray that we will love with the love of Christ and constantly desire to further His kingdom.
– COMMUNICATE WITH US!  We have such a wonderful group of friends and family with whom we want/need to keep in touch.  Your notes of encouragement and updates on your lives will brighten our days so much when we are far away.  
– VISIT US!  The village of Neply needs you! You will never forget or regret using your time to live for something bigger than yourself.  AND, we would love to see you! 
– PARTNER WITH US FINANCIALLY!  Our family must raise over $60,000 as our financial commitment per year in Neply.  We still need to raise about $18,000 more to make it through the next year.  You can make a one-time or monthly, tax deductible donation to:

    FBC Midlothian
    Online: www.fbcmidlothian.org

      Or

   My Life Speaks
   PO Box 683042
   Franklin, TN 37068
   Online: www.mylifespeaks.com
100% of the funds donated to the King-Haiti fund goes directly to our work and LIFE in Haiti.

   As we prepare for our departure in one month, there are many things that we need to gather before we go.  So many of you have asked what you can do to help.  In an effort to organize the majority of our needs in one location, we have created an “Amazon Wish List” that people can use to “shop” for various items.  The list includes household items, educational items, hygiene items, battery operated fans, etc.  We hope to take a supply of American, healthy food with us until our children transition to eating mostly Haitian food.  American food is difficult to find and is very expensive in Haiti.  So, our wish is to buy these items here and pack them in our suitcases.  The items on the “Amazon Wish List” can be shipped directly to our address.

   We are extremely thankful for your willingness to partner with us in so many different ways.  It is such a blessing to experience the body of Christ embracing us as we embrace the journey that God has placed before us.

   We are extremely grateful for the relationships that we have established with all of you.  Likewise, we are giddy with excitement and anticipation for what lies ahead for our family.  We love you and we thank God every time we remember you.  (Phillipians 3


In His Love,
The Kings
1 Thess. 2:8


Email: chris@mylifespeaks.com , tracy@mylifespeaks.com
Blog: www.thehaitibunch.com
Website: www.mylifespeaks.com
Amazon wish list: 

A Coach’s Call Sheet

There are many of you that watch football of some sort. It may be that you are a huge fan of the NFL and Sunday after church you can be found “resting” in front of the t.v. watching the best players in the world. Others spent good money getting that college education and believe their university should represent well on the gridiron and Saturdays are your thing. The purest, especially in Texas, know what Friday nights are all about. There is nothing better than a great high school game where the entire communities are involved!!

Whatever level you like, there are many similarities. One specifically that I want to discuss is the coach’s call sheet. The call sheet is the piece of paper or papers that contains the game plan. Some coaches have a play ready for every situation imaginable on the call sheet. Some have lots of special notes and reminders to look at during the heat of battle. All coaches, no matter the game, basically used the same procedure to get their “call sheet” ready for the game. There are hours of film study, meetings, scouting, and sleepless nights getting the call sheet perfect for the game. Now that I’ve had time to look back and reflect, I amazed at how many times when we got in the actual game, the opponent did something different than expected or some situation arose and the call sheet became irrelevant. I can remember thinking after some games about all the hours and worries we had put into the call sheet and rarely even looked at it during the game because the circumstances took a turn for the unexpected. The game and situation changed and took a different path and we had to adjust away from what we had spent so much time, energy, and worry to prepare.

How much time, worry, energy, and possibly money do you spend trying to get your “call sheet of life” ready for the game of life. More importantly, how often do you find that all of it was a waste and that your “call sheet of life” is really useless?

This morning our family experienced tremendous joy! 8 months ago Tracy and I began the adoption process of our foster daughter Faith. She has been in our home ever since she was born 6 years ago. Obviously she has been “ours” forever in our hearts, but not legally on paper. Tracy and I spent lots of time and energy developing the “call sheet” and game plan on just how this would go given our new turn in life. We thought we knew just how it would all fit together. Needless to say, we got “off the call sheet” on numerous occasions. It was so frustrating at times. So often we wondered why to process was moving slowly and why the waiting was so hard. It wasn’t until last Friday that we found out that it was happening this week! A total shock and moment of excitement!! After time spent talking, worrying and trying to fit it into our “call sheet”, the Lord took control and called a touchdown play that we didn’t expect.

What I’ve learned……….no matter how hard we work to create OUR “call sheet”, God knows better.  He always has the perfect call at the perfect time.  Just like all those games that were won by getting “off the call sheet”, there are so many times in life that get off our call sheet and on His.  We worry, talk, spend, meet, discuss, and wonder so that life fits us perfectly when we should be totally relying on the game plan of God.  Today’s King Family win came on a play perfectly executed, at the perfect time, by the perfect coach!

Who’s controlling your “call sheet”?

Banana Trees, Cows, and $100 bills

WOW!! That was one fast June!!  As I contemplated writing a blog post, it felt as though I had just updated last week and then I noticed it was about a month ago.  It has been a really crazy month for the Kings.

Tracy, Kyler, and I left out on June 1 and headed to the place that has stolen our hearts……Neply, Haiti.  The trip amazed once again in many ways.  It was Kyler’s first trip to Haiti, and as you can imagine, she quickly captured the attention of the entire village.  It didn’t take her long to teach our beloved Stephen how to say, “I love Kyler.”  He now knows 3 English words!!   While in Haiti, we experienced our first Haitian wedding. Ralph and Katie shocked our hearts with a beautiful wedding on a spectacular beach.  Tracy and I felt honored to be there on such a special day.  Kyler just had fun running and playing in the ocean!  We once again left Haiti and landed in Miami with bigger pieces of our hearts behind.  We love that place and those people.  Read a little bit about why we do what we do here. Be prepared! You will need some tissue!

After a long flight home from Miami via a stop in Houston to wait on weather (thanks Steph for the late night pick up), we ended up at our house long enough to do laundry and repack.  If you know us or have ever talked to us, you know how big Pine Cove is to our family. Every year we go tired and weary from the previous year needing a restart and some freshness.  As we drove the 2 hours through the pine trees of East Texas, mixed in with the 1,000 times somebody asked “How much longer”, were my thoughts of, “I hope we have a good time, it can’t be as good as last year”. In the typical Pine Cove way, they answered the bell!  What a blessing and pleasure it was to spend those 6 days with incredible families, incredible staff, and AMAZING speakers (Ray and Robyn…you ROCK).  We left with a new look at life and an inspiration to FIGHT for our family.  Check it out this post by Tracy on our littlest man fighting. Needless to say, Pine Cove was better than ever!!

On June 24, Tracy and I celebrated 12 years of marital bliss!!  The amazing journey that is marriage continues to bring us closer to each other and our glorious Savior.  As we look back on all that has happened over that past 12 years, we praise God for so many blessings in so many ways.  I personally can’t imagine that I could have survived without Tracy by my side.  She is one amazing woman that loves me unconditionally.  Praise Jesus for that!!!!   To celebrate, we hired out Grammy to watch the kids and headed to Little Rock for a little get-away.  While in Little Rock, we were blessed to see some some wonderful friends and their unbelievable talents on display.  Catching up with them proved to be the highlight of the trip.

Now to the title of the post.  A couple of weeks ago, I left our car unlocked and someone that really, really needed money came and stole a $100 bill out of Tracy’s wallet that she was going to use for our groceries for the week.  Yep, they snatched it right out of our own driveway!!!  Now, I know, I know, I should have locked the car.  I take full responsibility.  But should I have to lock the car?  In our village in Haiti, there are numerous banana trees and one in particular that is across the road from our house.  This caught my attention moments after I arrived in Neply for the first time.  It didn’t really know why, but now I’m beginning to understand. You see, there are many, many very hungry people that walk around the village.  They may or may not get a meal that day or that week.  As I saw these people, some old, some young, and some in between, walk past the banana tree without even a thought of taking a banana to quench their excruciating need for food, I became curious.  So, I went to Peno, one of our workers and now a good friend, who has grown up in the village, and inquired. I asked Peno why the hungry people did not take a banana off the tree.  His answer was very simple, yet very powerful in today’s world,

“If you did not plant the banana tree, it is not yours, ” said Peno with a simple shrug of the shoulders.

At the time I just shrugged my shoulders and nodded and thought simple thoughts to myself.  It seemed innocent and simple at the time.  As we traveled to the wedding I mentioned above, I glanced out the window and saw a cow standing to the side of the road.  It was tied to a random rock without an owner in sight.  It too, could be good nutrition to a starving family. Intrigued again and interestingly enough sitting next to Peno, I asked him again, “How do you know who’s cow that is and will somebody take it?”  I bet you can guess Peno’s response…………

“If you didn’t leave the cow there, it is not yours,” he says with his thick Haitian-Creole accent.

I shrugged my shoulders again and ventured off on some other random thought.  It was not until the $100 bill was stolen from our driveway that God sent me back to those 2 conversations and gave me a greater appreciation of the village of Neply.  The sense of community and togetherness impressed me the first time I went to Haiti.  The respect for each other and each other’s property shines bright as a reminder of how society should be.  It also reminded me of the greedy, self-centered society that we live in.  I’m thankful for a forgiving, loving God that took the wrath for my greed and self-centeredness.

I should be able to leave my car unlocked and money in it all the time……….if you didn’t put it there, it is not yours.

Do You Read?

I can remember that day when I was a sophomore in high school and Mrs. Musgrove called me into the hallway.  She was my English teacher and somehow had a hunch that I didn’t read the classic novel she assigned. It could have possibly been my quiz grade that gave it away. I guess the “Cliff Notes” didn’t help much that time. There was another person out there with me, who shall remain nameless, as my partner in crime.  Love ya DW!!  She looked me dead in the eye and asked,

“Chris, do you even like to read?”

I looked her back dead in the eyes and revealed information that didn’t seem to be front page news,

“No ma’am.”

I also remember one of my best friends coming back from his first semester of college at Southwestern University and revealing to me his theory on being smart.  He was and still is one of the smartest guys I’ve ever known.  CB simply said,

“I am around smart people all the time.  I know how to get smarter.  If you want to be smarter…….read.”

At that point, I pretty much committed to be dumb the rest of my life.  The price to pay according to CB’s theory, was just too much for me take on.  Back then, and up until about 6 months ago, reading was just not my cup of tea.  I gave it a try a few times, but found myself daydreaming 2 pages into it or falling asleep after 2 paragraphs. If the book had a movie, whip out the popcorn, and count me in.  But, anything over 10 pages was going to sit on the shelf and collect some dust.  I even tried reading some cool sports books and biographies about coaches I admired….no dice.  Then I was reading a blog from a guy that I really admire (his posts are only a couple of paragraphs each) and saw this. It completely changed my theory and motivation for reading.  I have now become an avid reader and have seen some big benefits.  Here are a few:

1. My relationship with Jesus has grown dramatically. Reading has shown me so much about being a committed follower and continues to stretch my faith.

2. My relationship with my wife has grown dramatically.  One of the first books I read was on marriage.  I learned so much about God’s design for marriage and how Satan will attack it in every way possible.  As I read that and shared bit and pieces with Tracy, I immediately began to see improvements in our marriage.  As I keep reading, I can see Tracy admiring me and my leadership more and more.  Not that I don’t have a LONG way to go, but I do see improvement.

3.  Reading has opened numerous opportunities for conversation with other people. Tracy and I have been able to minister to many people in many different situations with the conversation starter being something about a recent book that I had read.  I don’t know if it has made me smarter, but it has made me more diverse in my ability to relate to people.

Thanks Kevin for your wisdom and insight!

Here are a couple of my reads that have had impact.

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