I’m Tanya Robinson and my husband’s name is Mark. We live in Cedar Rapids. Mark works at General Mills and I am a stay-at-home mom. We started coming to church here 11 years ago because we heard of Heartland Vineyard’s connection with Mexico missions. We had a teenage daughter that we wanted to take on a mission trip. We fell in love with everyone on the mission teams; fell in love with the pastors here and absolutely loved worshiping God with the great music here at the Vineyard.
After a few years we began leading the Heartland teams to Puerto Vallarta. It was much easier and relaxing to just go as a team member but it was clear God was calling us to lead. I remember the first time…thankfully we had a gracious bunch of people that didn’t make a fuss over our many mistakes. Each trip was a learning experience and a huge blessing. We have life long friends and one adult daughter that is passionate about mission work because of those times following Jesus out of our comfort zone.
During that time, the flood of 2008 hit Cedar Rapids. Our home was spared but we saw many, many of our friends and neighbors lose their homes and businesses. Mark felt that our family needed to go to a “Serve the City” meeting and figure out how to help. We were asked to help the Red Cross set up a shelter in a nearby school building. I was fine with that idea because I thought it was safe… you know, just serves sandwiches and hand out pillows. But the first person we met was an older man in poor health named Gerald with absolutely no family and a house under water. The Lord’s call could not have been clearer if He had spoken audibly. We had to help Gerald personally. Now it was not comfortable or safe. I didn’t tell Mark this but I just wanted to go home. Mark called Craig & Candy Wood and our Heartland small group, and we went to work. And then we met Gerald’s neighbor who was an older woman, in poor health, with absolutely no family and a house under water. I hate mold and dead fish and yuck. And there was a TON of yuck. Most days, Mark worked at the houses after working at General Mills all day. As a family, we spent the better part of two years working there. But the blessings that came from following Jesus into that yuck are too many to mention here. Jesus gave Mark strength and gave us grace day after day and month after month. The lifelong relationships built and the examples of all things working together for good were beyond our wildest imagination.
Then in 2010 came the earthquake in Haiti. Vineyard Mercy Response put together a team to go build relief housing. Mark came home from church and said he felt God was calling him to go to Haiti with this team. Usually we try to do things together so he was hesitant since this was a construction team of men. I gave him my blessing and said “You should go. It’s okay; I have absolutely no desire to go to Haiti.” God blessed Mark and the guys on that team even more than the people they were helping. As soon as he reached Miami, Mark called me just bubbling with excitement over an orphanage and some kids they had met on a tour of Haiti. Before he finished his conversation, God had transferred that passion to me. I knew we were being called to work in that orphanage and surrounding village. Oh man, I speak Spanish not Haitian Creole. I hate sweat and mosquitoes even more than mold and yuck. But God gives the grace we need. And Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” All of a sudden, I couldn’t wait to go to Haiti. I couldn’t wait to be a part of that. And that is a miracle in itself wherein God put that desire in my heart. Jesus would have found someone else to do this if we had been unwilling, but we would have missed out on so much.
Four months after Mark returned from Haiti, the two of us went back. We spent 10 days with the director of the Imagine Missions orphanage and the kids. We wanted to be sure before we got involved that it was a trustworthy organization and that the money actually went where it needed to go. It was clear to us that God was working mightily in the orphanage director, in the missionaries, and in the children. In October of that same year we went back again with our children and Craig & Candy Wood. And then it just took off. We have watched God pull together over 17 teams from this church and seen Him work miracles with finances, with sick children, and seen His power over voodoo influence. And God transferred the passion for this mission to you as you so generously gave to the Thanksgiving offering that bought a brand new truck for the orphanage. Within 5 days of purchasing that new truck, the old truck that had been used to drive the children back and forth to high school totally died. Over the last four years, over 60,000 pounds of clothing, shoes and supplies have been collected and shipped. God has pulled together an unbelievable army of people from Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Georgia and Canada with a passion to help with all of this.
In March of 2012 we filed papers to adopt three kids from the orphanage. This has been the typical foreign adoption ride you hear about. The last three years have been filled with sorrows and frustrations over the fact that we cannot get visas for these kids to travel home with us to America. But we have seen so much evidence of His goodness. We believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that following Him through this He is already working all things together for our good.
Last year Mark was asked to be president of the board of Imagine Missions. There have been untold struggles from not having enough money for food to broken generators, and staff misunderstandings. Sometimes I know it would be far easier for him to just quit. But again, the blessings are too numerous to count. We get to watch financial miracles daily where there isn’t enough money on paper but there’s always food in the storage depot. Children at the orphanage have come to know Jesus personally and asked to be baptized. We have seen God heal little babies and work miracles in rebellious teenagers. God ALWAYS comes through right on time.
One of the main financial pressures of the orphanage recently has been that there are 36 children ready to graduate from the primary school in the orphanage to the secondary public school in town. The cost for secondary school is $600 per year. That would total $21,600 per year for tuition for these children. And since Imagine Missions struggles just to buy food and necessary supplies for the 105 children on a daily basis, we were fearful that we would not be able to continue the kids’ education into 7th grade. Well, in September Heartland was contacted by a group of people in Charles City, Iowa that have raised enough money and were feeling God’s leading to go to Haiti and build a school. They were looking for a mission to partner with and a place to build. They found Heartland Vineyard’s mission page on the website and we have begun meeting with them. The plan is to break ground for that school in January of 2016, one year from now. For less than $21,600 we can cover yearly salary for teachers, we won’t have to buy diesel to drive the kids into town, and best of all we can use a Bible based curriculum rather than the curriculum at the public school that is laced with voodoo traditions. This is the amazing kind of stuff we have been seeing all the way through this walk with Jesus.
None of this is what we set out to do. We weren’t looking to be missionaries. We had already begun talking about retirement, becoming snow birds and downsizing to a smaller home. This is not our doing and not to our credit. We cannot even boast about it because a lot of the time we were looking for an easier route. But now we can look back and see the shining goodness of God’s plans.
There are times even now when we would still rather do our own thing and sometimes I just want to be lazy. But we have seen His blessing and His sufficient grace over and over again. We know from experience that His grace IS sufficient for whatever he calls us to do and that in fact all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.