Monday, April 4.... We left the church at 1:30am and headed for Pittsburgh. Thank you Jeff for pulling our luggage trailer! Our first flight from Pittsburgh to Miami was a pretty bumpy ride (and everyone knows how much I like flying anyway!), but the team did really well and our flight from Miami to Cap arrived safely and on time at 2:15 in the afternoon. We were a little anxious since this was our first time in the Cap airport dealing with their customs agents. But, Fito did really well translating for us and getting the "tax" on our ministry items cut in half. The OMS cattle truck was waiting for us and after loading up we took our 15 minute ride to the compound (which turned out to be way bumpier than our first airplane ride!...and dustier!). We unloaded and took our duffles to our homes and spent time unpacking, settling in...and showering to cool down! The weather was just what I was waiting for...sweltering!
Since Haiti decided to NOT turn their clocks ahead this year, we're an hour behind you all in the states...and we gained an hour for "catch-up" sleep! That would have been a real blessing for me, but the time on my phone never changed and the alarm went off an hour earlier than it needed to...and I got up, showered and dressed for the day before Melissa pointed out it was 5:00am, not 6:00am.
Tuesday, April 5th...several of us got an earlier start on the day than we needed to with the time change challenge. And the day started hot! It had to reach 95 today! After breakfast we walked to the hospital and connected with Dr. Rodney. He spent an hour and a half taking us on a tour of the hospital and sharing some of his vision with. As usual, he was such a blessing! Please pray for him and for his efforts to bring relief - spiritual and physical - to his people.
After leaving the hospital we went to the OMS office and heard about sponsoring children at Pastor Etienne's church through the Starfish Program. So far, LPCC already has 7 children sponsored from people who have gone on previous trips, with several interested on this trip as well. Our target is to finally reach 20 sponsored children out of 60 at the school. At that point, not only do the sponsored kids get blessed with educational and nutritional help, but every other non-starfish child in the school will be provided nutritional help. What a worthy goal to shoot for!
After lunch, we pulled out all our duffles and started seperating all our ministry items. Praise God and thank you to everyone who helped collect all the medical supplies and children's supplies. It took the better part of the afternoon to seperate everything and we carried four duffle bags of medical supplies to the hospital!
Pastor Etienne came to meet with me and we discussed several projects we'd like to do at the church this week. Please pray for those projects, as they will be a challenge to complete.
Wednesday, April 6th...One of the most exciting things about visiting the hospital yesterday was seeing the maternity clinic complete! They are now treating moms and babies are being born! What a blessing from God! I can remember when an abandoned building and a vision was all there was. And I can recall Dr. Rodney's exact words at the time..."I don't have any money, but I have faith." Now, here we are, standing on the other side of his faith. God is so good!
We had a downpour last night! It was loud enough, that it woke everyone up. But, it's been so dry here that every Haitian welcomed the rain. I was afraid it was going to interupt our plans for the day. But, this morning we dodged the raindrops and started our day with a tour of the 4VEH Radio Station. What an amazing testimony to God's work starting in small ways...OMS originally started in Haiti with a small radio station broadcasting the gospel In 1950....and here they still are, 66 years later, not only still broadcasting the gospel, but sending it out all around the globe.
After the radio station we took a tour of the Cowman international missionary school. Another testimony of God's continued work...here's a school that was originally started to meet the educational needs of 8 missionary children, and now, has grown to include 135 American and Haitian students. Not only does it provide a quality Christian based education, but it provides it to the next generation of potential Haitian leaders! By September Cowman will have two additional classrooms. Please pray that God would provide them more teachers.
After leaving Cowman, we headed for our church. We arrived just in time to see all the school kids eating a lunch of rice, chicken and beans...all provided by starfish. And they get a meal like that every Wednesday. What a blessing it is to be able to witness first-hand what your support of one child can do! Please pray that we can support more of these kids so they can all get a meal like this everyday, instead of just on Wednesdays!
We ate our sandwiches with the kids while they ate their lunch. Then they were dismissed for the day. We broke into three groups and went out into the neighborhood to evangelize. As usual, we were very well received in the neighborhood. Even those who admit to not knowing Jesus Christ willingly invited us into their homes to discuss it. What an opportunity we have! Even with Haitian believers, their attitude of trust and dependance on God's power through prayer is so much different than in the American church. Today, we had a Haitian woman follow our group into a home just so she could ask us to pray for her. And what was her request?...."That God would help her to not fail Him"
Lord, forgive me for my silly little prayers! Please strengthen this Haitian sister...and myself...so we would never fail You!
Thursday, April 7th...today, most of the group spent the morning at Cowman International school. We filled in for a teachers helper in the 3 year old class; a helper in the 1st grade class; a helper in the 5th grade class; the teacher in the 6-9 grade classes; several reading helpers; and two admin workers in the library. What a great opportunity to serve the missionaries on the ground! Four of us stayed at the compound repairing several AC units.
Because Melissa and I served as missionaries for four years, we know what it means when teams come and spend time serving! There were times when the work was so hard and the ministry so draining that even the simplest demonstration of love in service gave us the encouragement and strength to continue! Your team served the missionaries well!
After lunch, our friend Rueben came and took us to the IDADEE orphanage about 30 minutes away. It's also where the Joshua House ministry is located. The ministry itself keeps growing and growing every time we go back to visit. Since our last visit in September, they have finish the school buildings they were working on and have begun construction on a hospital...which should be done by September. Everything they have done in the last 5 years has been done to benefit the people living in the community of Belen, which surrounds the Joshua House compound. Purified water, outside toilets, sanitation lessons, schooling for the kids, a hospital, an orphanage...and by next year a trade school to teach and equip Haitians with a skill.
After a brief tour of various ministries going on there, we got to visit with the kids at the orphanage! They are so beautiful...and so full of joy! The house moms were working with them....boys with boys and girls with girls...to get them ready for a church service they were going to have outside. Naturally the arrival of the "blancs" changed all that! The little girls came running out with little bubushcas on their heads to greet us and the boys came out of the shower buck naked! Their excitement is so "raw" and so genuine, that only a heart of cold stone wouldn't melt! God is surely watching over these little ones by providing Rueben for them. You know, in the 8 or 10 times that we've been with Rueben at the orphanage, he has always picked up a child or played with a child or spoken and smiled at a child...every single time. That speaks volumes about his heart to me!
Please pray for Rueben and the other 4 leaders of IDADEE orphanage. What God has accomplished through them in such a short period of time is nothing short of a miracle!
Friday, April 8th...hey, did I say that I got to drive in the crazy Haitian traffic the other day? I've wanted to do that ever since I've been coming to Haiti! Now I guess I'll be going to Port-O-Prince to take my test and get a license!
Today was the hottest day yet since we've been here. High humidity and a piercing sun! (Sorry to rub it in as you endure the cold!) Well, we started out today by venturing out onto the street outside the compound and taking a walk about 3/4 mile up the road to the EBAC orphanage/school. It's quite an experience because....well, let's just say because Haitian drivers and Haitian roads and Haitian traffic patterns are really different! But, we took it slow and careful and we all arrived safely. EBAC has around 130 kids and is run by two women, Alice and Kathy. Alice and Kathy came to Haiti on a mission trip when they were in their 20's, realized God's call on their lives, and never left. That was 40 years ago! They have amazing testimonies to God's faithfulness. Each person on our team had the opportunity to connect one-on-one with a student and help them with their homework for the day.
You know, it's easy to look at Alice and Kathy, who have spent their entire lives serving God and serving the children of Haiti, and wonder if it was worth it. After all, living conditions are still the same...joblessness is still the same...the number of orphanes has increased every year...it doesn't seem as though any difference has been made.
But, let me tell you a story...5 years ago Melissa and I stood on the top of a mountain in Haiti with an orphane that graduated from EBAC and listened to a dream. And it wasn't just his dream...it was the dream of his and 4 other orphanes that graduated from EBAC. The dream was to buy that mountain and create a ministry that would bring total spiritual and physical relief to an entire community of Haitian people. Miraculously, God brought a major professional sports team from Pittsburgh into their lives and they heard the dream as well and decided to fully fund their dream. Today, Rueben and his 4 friends...all orphanes from EBAC...are the leaders of IDADEE orphanage and Joshua House ministries that I told you about yesterday! And, the first doctor scheduled to be hired in September at the new hospital is an orphane that graduated from EBAC and went on to study medicine. Just think of how many lives are going to be effected through their ministries of an orphanage, school, hospital, water purification, sanitation, and technical school.
Would you say that the sacrifice that Kathy and Alice made was worth it? Would you be willing to sacrifice so much to see God do so much? Listen, there's no sacrifice that you make for God - like Kathy and Alice - that God will not honor and work mightily through. After our walk back to the compound we had lunch and left for our church for another afternoon of evangelism.
A Great Day!
Saturday, April 9th...the plan for today was joining Dr. Rodney for a mountain medical clinic. We drove about 1 1/2 hours to reach a village in the mountains that has no access to medicine, hospital or even to hear the plain gospel. This village was a different one than we did last year. When we arrived the people were already waiting for us. Our team worked in the pharmacy, doing triage, praying with patients, bible stories and games with the kids, evangelism, and doing reader eyeglasses. It was one of the longest, hardest days we've done, because it was pretty much non-stop ministry until we were done!
One highlight from the day was meeting a former witch doctor who had given her life to Christ 1 1/2 year ago. She ask specifically for prayer for her family because they had started persecuting her and shunning her because of her faith. We gave her a Bible and promised we would continue to pray.
Another...there were several older people that received eyeglasses today that hadn't been able to see well for years. The joy in their faces the moment they could see is something beyond understanding unless you personally witness it!
Another...a young girl brought her deaf 13 year old brother in for treatment and he had never learned any sign language. His life was truly total silence. We had the opportunity to sit down with him and teach him some very fundamental concepts and signs. He learned very quickly and was so excited! In fact, when we started teaching him the signs, a large group of the villagers gathered around and were watching and clapping for him when he repeated the signs on his own. Please pray for this young boy...he came to the mountain clinic because he has been urinating blood for a month and a half. He was given some medication and is supposed to come to the OMS hospital on Monday.
This is the kind of day it was...in every ministry. Stories of God moving in our interaction with the people! As draining as the ministry and the heat was today, we are so thankful for being there.
We finished up and left in the late afternoon and Dr. Rodney decided to make a stop on the way back to the center. We went to a Haitian beach called "the black beach," because the sand is all black (...sorry, but I'd rather have white sand!) But thank you Dr. Rodney for showing us something we may never have seen!
Sunday, April 10th...What a great day of worship! It's always such a privilege when we meet together with our Haitian brothers and sisters on the Lord's Day. We left at 8:30 this morning for church and when we arrived, as usual, we were escorted up front by the pulpit. Since our last visit in September, they've added a keyboard and a drum set to their worship (Notice I didn't say someone that "knew how" to play the keyboard or drums!). And with the new sound system we brought them, they managed to rock the house with a joyful noise!...as well as the street!
Even though the service was in Creole, there was no mistaking the presence of the Spirit. One Spirit...One Lord...One body. The church of Jesus Christ is so much greater than our one little building, in our one little corner of the globe, where we're totally absorbed with our own little existence...and we all saw that this morning! Being part of this service was like having a glimpse into the worship of God at the end of time when people from every nation and tongue, together, will praise Him with one voice! Boy, we need to "get over" ourselves and expand our vision of the church and embrace our individual responsibility to it!
Church finished about 12 noon and we had prearranged to have a fellowship dinner for the congregation. We had the pastors wife purchase the food and several ladies in the church prepared it. It was awesome! We ended up feeding around 80 people including children! We served them rice, cashew and bean sauce, fish, tuna macaroni, fried plantains, salad and fried chicken. The team spread out and ate with the people. After our meal we divided the congregation into 4 groups and our team had specific questions for each group. The whole purpose of the dinner and the day was to build and deepen relationships between our congregations. We came away understanding so much more about the congregation...their thoughts about poverty and needs, their abilities and gifts, and the depth of their love for Christ. We were all, humbled.
Monday, April 11th...if it wasn't for having to write the day and the date on these updates, I have to tell you, I wouldn't know them! I love it when days start to blend together and you sort of lose your sense of time! For me, it's very freeing when the schedule is sacrificed on the alter of serving!
Today was the kind of day where, at the end of it, you look back and see the finger of God orchestrating scores of events that all lead in one direction to accomplish specific outcomes...and all you can do is stand amazed and thankful that God chose to use you. There's no way I can write all the God details of the day...I'm sure the team members will share them when we get back. I'll just give you a couple of the specific outcomes that God accomplished.
The team took over teaching the 4 classrooms at the school in our church today...we taught English, songs in English, sign language and a Bible lesson. Each person teaching picked out their own "lesson" and it wasn't until they had all taught one class that they realized they were all teaching the same thing..."Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little one to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong." All the same thing, at the same time...teaching the English words, teaching them to sing it, teaching them to sign it and teaching them the truth of it. That was surly God sending and reinforcing a message of love to the children!
One little girl in the school, who was a starfish child and needed supported badly, was brought to us because she didn't have a uniform (which you must have to attend school in Haiti). One lady on our team had been wanting to support a child, but wasn't quite sure who to pick. She happened to be standing there during our conversation and as it turned out the little girl had the same name as her....she's now supported.
While visiting this little girls house to tell her grandmother about the support, there was a woman there (along with a dozen or more other relatives!) with a small baby. Melissa started interacting with her over the baby and noticed that the baby was wearing a necklace...a voodoo necklace. Right away she asked about it. The mom said it was to keep her baby from getting sicker. Melissa started witnessing to her about the power of God and love of God. The mom finally came to the place of allowing us to cut the necklace off the baby, and then giving it to us! At that point (and this all happened within a 10 minute time frame!) the mom said that she wanted to have Jesus in her heart, so we all sat down and prayed with her. She was so genuine. Before we left the house, I remembered I still had an evangelism radio in my backpack (Melissa had me put it there two days earlier) that is only tuned in to the Christian radio station and I gave that to her. We left praising God! But, after we got outside there was even more reason to praise Him...we found out that she was the wife of a witch doctor! Please...please pray for this woman. Her life is about to become extremely difficult. The church here is going to follow up with her, but she desperately needs our prayers.
While walking back to the church, someone said that they had never seen the flags that a witch doctor puts out over their house to identify themselves. So, I said that we'd walk by the witch doctor's house that was near the church so they could see. So, we walked by Claude Henry's house (the witch doctor I tried to visit, for the second time, in September but he wasn't home) And I pointed out the flags. We then walked down an alley that went behind his house that was a shortcut back to the church...but we ran into a puddle that was as wide as the road and too deep to step in. So we turned around and had to go back the same way. When we got close to Claude Henry's house again Melissa said, "there's Claude sitting over there." I walked over to where he was and said hello. I told him I missed seeing him in Setemeber and he said "come see me Wednesday and even if I'm busy I'll stop and talk with you." Then he said, "thank you for praying for me (I told him I was going to the last time I spoke with him). Then he said something we all need to hear... "I'm surprised that you would be friendly to me because I don't believe the same thing you do." Are we being friendly to those who "don't believe" the same as us, so that we can have a Gospel opportunity with them??..or many Gospel opportunities with them? Please...please pray for me and for Claude Henry as we meet on Wednesday. May God's words come from my lips and may they penetrate his heart.
Those are just a few things from this God-day...and as you hear about how they are all "connected" by God you'll be amazed.
Tuesday, April 12th....the team went into a brand new village to evangelize this morning. The village was where one of our interpreters, Pastor Ceville, has his church and ministers. Many people were prayed for and heard the Gospel and at least one person prayed to receive Christ. Many Christians in the village even prayed for the team!
While the team was evangelizing, Melissa and I went on an excursion to visit a school that was pointed out to us yesterday. It was a deaf school! What we saw was unbelievable! When we got there we were introduced to the principle, and the administrator And they answered so many questions for us. The school has been in existence in Cap for 30 years and there are 195 students and 55 staff and teachers. Some of the students stay at the school all week, others commute daily and they are fed two times every day. We discussed the possibility of LPCC doing some ministry there when we return in October and they were excited at the possibility of perhaps doing a mobile medical clinic there for the kids. They also asked that we keep our eyes open for any deaf children we might run across in our ministry in mountain villages.
After some good discussion, we went on a tour of the school. The administrator took us to each and every classroom and introduced us to the children. One of the coolest things for us to find out was that they use American Sign Language in Haiti! All week long we weren't able to converse in Creole and needed an interpreter, but here we were talking to 195 Haitian school children using our sign language! Only God can do things like that! The kids were so excited - all 195 of them! - that two "blancs" (whites) knew how to talk with them. Another thing that impressed us was that every child we saw was joyful! There was even a program that helped the deaf students after they graduate to learn things like wood working and sewing, and a program for special needs students. The tour took us about 2 hours to complete!
Our prayer is that we can work with this school in October and build a lasting relationship with them.
After lunch together at the compound we took a trip to the Emmaus Seminary and heard how God is using those trained as pastors to go into the unreached mountain areas of Haiti to plant churches and spread the Gospel. What an honor for us to be in prayer for this ministry in Haiti!
Wednesday, April 13th...sadly, this was our last day of ministry in Haiti. We spent it at the school in our church, teaching the kids again and evangelizing the neighborhood. We each had our own "God-encounter" today as we connected with the people we've been ministering to and serving all week. Four of us picked a starfish child to support; gifts were delivered to already supported starfish kids; two children received a school uniform; 6 children received new school shoes; and a solid plan for a men's conference, women's conference, single moms conference and classroom construction were made for September 26-October 6. This was a wonderful ending to a blessed - and challenging - trip. What a great mission experience God's given us!
In the afternoon, Melissa and I, along with Fito and Pastor Etienne's daughter went to visit the witchdoctors house, Claude Henry. We sat and talked for about an hour! What a tremendous change in him since we first visited with him a year ago! God has been hearing our prayers and dealing with his heart! He admitted to us that he's been thinking about everything we talked about a year ago, and he knows that surrendering and serving God is what he needs to be doing. He just can't get beyond the fear of what he would do for a living if he did that! When we were finished, I asked if I could pray for him and he not only said yes, but asked if we'd pray for his children. Wow, that's so different than the arrogant, evil seeking, satan-servant that we first dealt with! Please family, pray for Claude and his wife and his 5 children. Pray that God would continue to deal with them and reveal His light to them.
Our evening time was spent saying goodbye to all our translators and preparing our bags to return home. We'll be leaving Haiti at 2:00pm tomorrow and should be back at LPCC by 12:00midnight. We covet your prayers for safty in travel and look forward to sharing our hearts with you!
Thursday, April 14th...Our day of travel started at 11:00am today and ended two flights and a 3 hour car ride later at 2:00am at the church. It was a bittersweet day. We so hated to leave those we have come to love this week in Haiti, but were so anxious to be reunited with our families we missed so much and to share all the ways that we encountered God.
The first part of Melissa's and my prayer is for the team...is that God would continue to use our experience to sustain the change that he worked in our hearts. We should never be the same because of what He did!
Then, when the team shares their experiences, that God would give all our families and freinds an understanding of how profound the trip has been...even though they haven't seen, felt or touched Haiti. God has begun a good work and He has changed us...that change needs to be nurtured, fed and encouraged.
Third, that the people of Haiti, whose lives we touched, would not only remeber this team, but that they would also be forever changed because of it and that God would bring others into their lives to walk with them.
And finally, that the fire that God ignited in the teams heart would continue to burn and cause a desire to "do something." We may not be able to meet every need that we see around us, but we should "do something!" That may be to return to Haiti to continue building the relationships we started...that may be to pray fervantly for them...that may be to support a starfish child...that may be to support a missionary...that may be to get involved in God's work in our church and our community...that may be to lead our families differently. Let God speak to your heart and point you in a direction...but, DO SOMETHING!
We are honored and privlidged to have been a part of this team and we LOVE YOU! Bondye beni ou.