We’re more similar than different – Haiti, ministry life, and encouragement

Sue Matzke teaches us how a little Haiti can change a lot of life…
About first or second grade we had to fill in a worksheet that asked “When I grow up, I want to be a ____________.”
I answered missionary.

Besides the Holy Spirit, I’m not certain what prompted me to write that. 

Enter my high school science teacher,Mr. Britten, who was once a long-term missionary in Swaziland, Africa. A scheduling glitch gave my section of Chemistry an extra twenty minutes with Mr Britten three days a week, which he dubbed “family time.” He spoke candidly about most everything we needed to hear and he often told us tales about his mission work. I soaked in every single word. It is not surprising that my high school produced numerous short and long term missionaries, but one of them was not me. I became a parochial school teacher and librarian before marrying a pastor and homeschooling our son. 

And then, one day I became one.


In December of 2016, I went with Ministry in Mission to Haiti. Mr. Britten always emphasized the relationships he built in mission work, and he was right.

I had been asked to facilitate some Bible studies through a translator with the Haitian women. I was nervous!  I used Heidi’s Think on These Bible Study and focused on the lovely chapter. There was so much laughter. We all shared different things that our husbands find lovely. And of course, what God thinks of as lovely. The women I worked with in Jacmel had many questions for me and seemed very surprised that my husband and son were in the church’s choir but not me! The women love to share songs. We gathered in a circle, held hands, and they sang Creole Advent hymns to me. It’s one of my favorite memories.

The second half of my trip was spent in the eastern portion of Haiti where Hurricane Matthew had done the most damage. One thing we did was to spend two days traveling to very remote churches to follow up on grants that had been given to rebuild roofs on pastor’s homes. Upon our arrival, I was always introduced as “Madame Pasteur” – pastor’s wife. When I was introduced this way, the Haitian pastors’s wives would always get a big smile on their faces and give me the most giant hug. The translators would then go off and do official business, leaving us two pastors’ wives alone. The language barrier kept us from speaking many words to each other, so more often than not, we’d just hold hands and smile. The Haitian pastor’s wife would sometimes walk around with her husband, holding my hand for dear life. I’ve been there too. Sharing a hand with one another may be just the encouragement that woman needs for their ministry. We would say goodbye with that same giant hug. 
I simply cannot wait to return to Haiti in January and hug those beautiful women again!
It’s a sisterhood. We women need one another. Church life, ministry, and family life look strikingly similar, no matter our nationality, ethnicity, poverty or wealth, family structure or size, ministry situation, job, gifts or abilities.
We’d love for you to come with us to encourage and receive encouragement from our sisters in Haiti. For more information on the I Love My Shepherd trip to Haiti January 18-25, see this info sheet and registration forms at Ministry in Mission .

Friendship and lemonade parties

This afternoon I sat in my back yard with my feet in a baby pool. It was awesome and it was long overdue.

Most people who know us, know that we love adventure and travel. We love food and culture, whether it’s found across an ocean, or in a small town in Wisconsin. We love it most of all for the people, for the faces across the country, and across the globe that we know and love, and that we have yet to meet and already love.

Our kids are adventurous creatures too. Most of the time when we say the word new, they say, “Let’s try it.” (Most of the time…)

So, we run around. A lot. We drive around. A lot.

But somewhere, deep down, I believe that summer should be quieter than the rest of the year; gentler, less scheduled, less full.

I often have to work to subscribe to the very things I hold dear. Rest is at the top of that list. Time for friendship is another.

So, after a solid couple of months of travel, I’m going to make time for those two things in particular – rest and friendship – and I want to invite you to join me.

There are few things that say summer and lazy days like lemonade. There is very little in life more inviting than something homemade with love.

I’m issuing a challenge for myself and for each of you. Invite a friend over. Be lazy about the conversation. Be generous with the refreshing beverages. Put your feet in a baby pool. Swelter in the heat on the front porch or play cards around the kitchen table. Whatever you do:

Invite one friend over. Invite one friend into your life deeper.

Don’t make a plan. Don’t design a project to organize yourself around (oh my goodness, but do I love a project!). Just rest, relax, and refresh together.

Here are my three favorite recipes for lemonade, one may or may not be margaritas. 😉  Consider yourself challenged. Invite one friend over. Serve them a beverage, one of these, or of the variety that comes bottled and ready from the grocery store. No judgment.

One friend. That’s your goal:

Friendship and lemonade.

Recipes for Fun 

Fresh lavender lemonade –

I still use my favorite homemade lemonade recipe I learned in 4H when I was 8 years old, and simply add lavender from my herb garden:

Dissolve 1 cup sugar in 8 cups water over low heat on the stovetop. To make it lavender-y, add 5-10 sprigs of lavender. Cool, strain out the lavender pieces, and add 1 cup of lemon juice. Ta-da!

Cherry limeade –

Drive to Sonic.

No, I’m just joking. But wow. They know how to do it!

I turn to the Pioneer Woman for this recipe:

Pioneer Woman’s Cherry Limeade Recipe

And…Homemade Margaritas –

A few years ago, after a February trip to Mexico, I spent an entire summer trying to perfect the homemade margarita. It feels like the quintessence of adulting hospitality on a hot summer night. Our friends suffered through many pale attempts, until I found my favorite combination and I haven’t deviated since. They are best served in a pitcher, watching the Ohio sun set, over expanses of knee-high corn:

Combine 1 cup Triple Sec, 1 cup tequila, 2/3-3/4 cup lime juice, and a splash of lemon juice. Serve over ice. Add salt to the rim, if that’s your thing.

Friendship and lemonade – Let’s make this happen.



Tending Friendship: Judgement and Hot Dogs

“Thank you for not judging me for eating a second hot dog.”

We recently met up with a friend at Coors Field for a fun night of baseball. Behind me sat two women, also enjoying the fine May weather and a win for the home team. I spent most of the night passing out snacks, because that’s what I do, as a mom. And it was stadium food after all – yum, just yum.

These women behind us knew that baseball and stadium snacks went hand-in-hand. But this one phrase caught my attention above others. It was sweet and it was tender, an expression of genuine gratitude between two young women, living in a world full of judgement and condemnation.

“Thank you for not judging me…”

Her friend was struck by the phrase too.

“I like hot dogs,” was her simple response, with a shrug of the shoulders.

It was the words left unspoken which spoke grace to her friend.

Why would I judge you? Who cares if you want two hot dogs? Even if I thought hot dogs were disgusting, it’s your life and you can eat hot dogs if you want- loads of them. Because I love you. I don’t love you because you only eat one hot dog. I think I love you more because you ate two.

This is tending friendship with non-judgement.

So often we haphazardly apply judgement because someone’s choice is different than our own-

“I wouldn’t do that.”

“I wouldn’t eat that.”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

Of course you wouldn’t. That’s fine. I don’t eat fresh tomatoes. I don’t drive the speed limit. I don’t always make my kids pick up after themselves.

You probably do. That’s awesome, because you’re not me and I’m not you.

Friendship is where lives meet and we say “Me too!”

That same friendship is tended when we continue to meet and say, “I’m so glad we’re different!”

Our best peeps are the people who understand who we are, but also help us to be better versions of ourselves with the help of their unique insights and ideas.

This cannot happen in the midst of judgement.

We get enough of that. We scroll through Facebook or Instagram and see all the opinions people have and the ways they live differently than we do. We go to work and hear how we should do things differently. We look at our kids and pray they turn out ok, even when we make all of our finest mistakes on them.

Judgement is all around us and judgement just is. It exists. But it doesn’t have to seep in to friendship.

Friendship is a safe place. It’s a place to be honored and cared for, and to honor and care alongside. Friend is in fact one of the highest honors we can bestow on someone because it shows us that we are chosen and loved.

God chose us through His Son, Jesus Christ; despite our weirdness and despite our sins. Creating us was an act of love from our Father, but the Son chose us as friends on that cross.

Christ freed us from judgement and tells us that it is finished. If our own judgement is completely righteous in Christ, than why would our friendships be any different.

So today, grab a good friend. Sit around and laugh about what you have in common and what you see differently. Eat two hot dogs. Drink something festive, and tend to that friendship with grace – judgement free.

Tending friendship with my peeps. 😍