Monday, October 31, 2016
Sunday's are always overwhelming days. We made our way to morning worship and the property was more than bursting at the seams. It was the largest crowd I've ever seen at our property. I spoke from an outline my associate pastor Don Hadfield preached two weeks ago at home called "Broken, but not forever". It's the second best thing to actually having him here on the ground with me! It was a moving moment as we reflected together with the people on the impact of Hurricane Matthew and the destruction left in it's wake. We shared the promise we have that soon all will be replaced and recovered. In two days I'm going to step into a pressured shower with hot water, I'm going to slip between soft clean sheets, I'm going to breathe deeply of clean, crisp air. All things these dear people are deprived of, and most for their lifetimes. Scripture says to not be weary in well doing but we do get weary physically in the course of the days here. You might say then maybe then we are doing too much. But when your here, it never feels that way. This afternoon we did the school meeting to have our kids write their 'Thank you' notes and take their photographs. There were at least 50 kids in the mix we had to sort out who came 'hoping desperately' to get sponsored for school. One child made up his own 'Thank you' from a piece of paper he found and tried to turn it in hoping to get on the list. Another mom somehow got two of the 'Thank you' cards and filled them out trying to get her two young children into school. Robinson saw her and called her out with her two kids, she circled around to Beth with her kids in tow, and the little boy was having all he could do to refrain from crying, tears setting in his eyes. We have 108 kids in school now thanks to the outpouring of support from our community in the United States, but it's a killer here turning these poor families away. Everywhere I look in Haiti my eyes fall upon something broken, something unfinished, something rotting, something in pain. My heart groans within me, but a greater hope than the groaning still floods my being, this light that seeks to dispel the darkness, and that is what brings us back here. This trip unlike many before was filled with affirming moments of light advancing upon darkness. On the return trip from church we did set a new record for the Toyota, we have a unique rack on the back that we use to transport extra people, team members love riding back there for the open air perspective and immersive experience it provides. We had 17 Americans and Haitians on the rack and 10 in the cab, 27 humans on a Toyota Land Rover. The joy of the experiences here far outweighs any of the travail. I remain proud of this team, we have grown together over the last week, and we have one day to cover the last of our endeavors for this trip. It's been a packed day and we start early tomorrow with a quick mountain trek, so we will sign off for tonight. Blessing again from St. Marc.
Posted by Pastor at 1:03 AM
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Today was clinic day. Dr. Dan, Krystle and Abigail were on the road early to get a good start on treating 3 patients today. Kimberline, Solomon and Christianne our Mission house mother all got some kind of dentistry fix today. This is a blessing beyond belief, at one point in the treatment this morning Dan said he was taken back to realize he was practicing with 60 year old methodology. I can let him get into the finer points of that sometime, but for now it substantiates how rudimentary Haiti remains as a culture in some of the key points of human care. Kelly and I hit the church property with focus and determination, and by 2:00 had the patch repair done on the big tent which had been ripped earlier this year and we took down the tied up remains of our old children's tent, dug out poles and with some Haitian and American ingenuity managed to raise the new children's tent. It looks awesome. The rest of the crew spent the day with the orphans playing games and getting in quality time with our kids. This week was examination week, so they were all pretty busy studying and prepping for their tests. Many schools were off yesterday as it was a new holiday celebrating the 1 year anniversary of Creole being made the National language of the country last year instead of French. It rained in the night and instead of washing the humidity, it amplified it as often happens here. I'm not complaining in any way, but it was a scorcher today. Rob and I ran out quick to the grocery store for Hot Dogs and Buns, as well as butter for a meal tomorrow, it took us just under an hour and a half. Its hard to believe we are only left with two days on the ground here. This trip has been a little different for me, I'm still receiving feedback on my social media class from early in the week. I'm grateful we seem to keep making breakthroughs with the Haitian culture. It has been a great and rewarding trip. My enthusiasm remains high, but tonight my body is whipped. We hit church early in the morning, we have a school kids meeting tomorrow afternoon, plus several other loose ends to stitch up before we head back home. I know we are in an election year in our country, all things political stack our mail boxes and have put a noose around the news. But remember this tonight, God is still alive and well, and as long at He tarries and supplies blood to time, He is in control. We are witness to some amazing miracles this week, one thing Haiti has taught me is no government is safe from corruption. But God will never be corrupted, or bankrupt, He will not be stopped from what He is doing via any man or woman. Haiti is a checkpoint to me, I test my level of surrender here. Unfortunately I often come up short, but thankfully God has my back. On that note, I need to call it quits for tonight, time for some rest. Grateful in St. Marc. Blessings to all!
Posted by Pastor at 11:29 PM
I fight callouses. Heart callouses. I don't know how many times I have been to Haiti now. I've seen a lot. At this point in my life I have ripped open hundreds of thousands of water wells to repair and restore multitudes of families with substantial water supplies and pressure. There is little now I haven't seen. Or so we tend to think. As my son and I stood next to each other for about an hour taking in the long night service which starts at 9:00 pm Friday night and goes until 8:00 am Saturday morning, he said to me its amazing how much callouses grow in your heart in one year, and how quickly these trips tear them away. I pray they do keep ripped away in my life. We are ridden, even beaten by our time strapped schedules. I carved out 9 days for Haiti and then set my schedule in motion. We had a timeline for each day... I knew better... but you know us Americans. Unfortunately Haiti cares not for my scheduling plight, ignores my tidy calendar, throws away my timeline, and frowns at neatness of any shape or form. You wonder that you could ever grow accustomed to such a thing, that you could actually accept it as routine. But take it from one who knows, it's true. And then there's the really unexpected turns. Like today a man named Arcene walked into the house and climbed the stairs. As I saw his face emerging I remember a request he had from the night before. I grabbed our translator and said lets go talk out on the front porch, apparently Arcene wanted to express 'thanks'. Arcene stopped me and the translator and said 'no, I want the whole family.' I thought it a bit strange, but then lots of strange things happen to me in Haiti. Once we were gathered on the porch, Arcene stated he wanted to say 'thank you', something God had been telling him for a while. Then he began tracing through the years of our ministry and how each of us had played central roles in saving his life, his family and giving him such great hope. He went on to describe how he sees us as a true family and wants to have his family become that way. We stood there and wept as we realized how all the seemingly unnoticed and unmarked moments of ministry had swept him and his family from darkness to radiant light. It was hard to take, even as I tap along on my keyboard there's a tenderness in my heart from the tearing away of the callouses. When we tapped the resource talent that is Arcene, he was not in church. One of the first children we took into the orphanage was a niece of his named Liline who was in terrible circumstances. Little did we know the journey we had embarked on with this family. He noted moments of impact with each of us from specific times and years, he meant to leave no details out. He ended by telling us our greatest work for his country still lies ahead. I had so many things to do today, and suddenly nothing else mattered. These trips have always been about the power of relationship. I have always criticized short-term missions trips in my youth, with little regret I acknowledge now how wrong I was. God still uses the power of people with people to impact and change lives. Arcene told us today if we would never have come, if he had never met us, he would not be the changed man he is today. What do you do with that? It's time to start planning our next trip. Blessings from St. Marc tonight!
Posted by Pastor at 1:16 AM
Friday, October 28, 2016
We finally made it to the ocean today. I can report that for the most part, St. Marc was spared the cruelty of the full force of Hurricane Matthew. However, many ocean front property's were not. And they are the homes of the poor. We visited two where re-construction is either finished or close, we visited several other properties were devastation is too light of a word to begin to describe what happened. Its a wonder so many were spared. The ocean rose over 15'. We took many camera shots I wish I could share tonight. All that is left of one house is a couple sections of floor, a six room house that was home to six is totally gone. All traces of it are swallowed up in the deep, the ocean laid claim and in receding to it's normal level left its own foot print behind. Rocks from its bottom and loads of seashells have erased most hints of civilization. As if it really couldn't get any worse I look sideways only to discover the totally empty yard next door was a 5 room house for 6 people. It's one thing to look at pictures of this kind of devastation, it's another all together to stand in their presence and feel the loss, to see the stricken looks in their eyes, to hear them say the ocean has claim all they ever had. Because the south has suffered the larger hit, these folks will not get any aid, finality hung in the air like a thick fog. Many of these are older folks who have spent a lifetime building for the next generation and it's gone. Just simply gone. We have about $2000 US to share with them. Were getting help from our masons starting tomorrow to get a handle on what we can do. The house for the blind man is already done and he is moved back in. He was so happy as he sat perched on his bed and expressed his gratefulness. Another young couple with a baby and another on the way has their house almost back together. I'm grateful for those folks who have made this rebuilding possible, we will continue to aid in any ways we can. We went from the ocean front to Desdunes this afternoon, complete with bus delays and an over heating Toyota. But we pulled off a children's service for 250 kids. It went amazing. Tomorrow is tent repair day and children's service at our church locally, that will be 500 kids strong! The trip is going incredibly well, this team has talent and maturity that also aids in smooth operating on the ground. Thanks again tonight for all your support. Greetings from St. Marc.
Posted by Pastor at 12:22 AM
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Today was little Klarissa's birthday. This is Robinson and Naromie's 2nd oldest child and today she turned 4 today. The 7 ladies of our trip took off early to go to school with her and see her class mates. We do our best to intersect with all the venues of these kids lives to better understand the circumstances of their lives. The class work these kids do is actually quite stunning. The morning class of 4 year olds (they start school at 3 if the family can afford it) started with a litany of recitations, I didn't get to be there, but Beth told me it was incredible. Rob and our staff are being very diligent with our kids to get them a great education and build life skill sets that will give them good opportunities for the future. Our two oldest boys spent their week vacation with a male seamstress outside and just around the corner from the orphanage learning to sew. Nothing like vocational classes. We went and visited a sewing academy today and are now working on a plan for our two oldest girls Dina and Liline to be able to attend and graduate from the three year plan of the school director. The little school on the mountainside was amazing! A young couple stopped by this morning and the husband shared how 3 months ago he had bought a used motorcycle for $500 US, a month ago it was stolen, and from church no less! I'm thinking natural disasters should be enough for these dear people to deal with and then this... and at church no less. Most would blame God for their loss, quit church and be miserable. It is miserable, I could sense his loss and how they now don't have an income, but they didn't complain or ask me to fix the problem. He told me they just had to trust God. Haiti does strip away options. It's very black and white here. I felt bad that the young man didn't have a very versatile skill set, and told Rob it was good he was diversifying the kids. Robinson had to attend a funeral this afternoon and that caused an awkward gait to our afternoon plan, but the women's service went well and then we showed the movie "War Room". What a hit that was. It ran late so I sent the team back early while we wrapped up at the church. Tonight I sit here in the empty living room reflecting on the day and the sights and sounds. Paul said to be content with what you have, but I confess I wish I had more to give to these beloved, struggling souls. Then I was reminded of the apostles who declared "silver and gold have I none" and then in the power of Christ's name healed lame legs and caused the afflicted to rise and walk. I watched Krystle hop off the back of the Toyota this afternoon and a little boy caught her eye, she quickly covered the space between then and gave him a big warm hug. I remembered in that moment that money has never put it's arms around anyone and drew them in a warm embrace. A smile emerged on his small face, and some disbelief as well. Can a hug change a world, I'm not sure about that, but a hug can change a life, and that life can change the world. "Such as we have, we give", as the fishes were multiplied by the Master to feed the thousands, so we reckon our accounts before God to give all of what we can, and let Him do the multiplying... it always seems to be just enough. Time to end and get some rest. The rooster will begin in just two more hours, I need some rest before he sounds the alarm and wakes up the rest of the neighborhood! Blessings from St. Marc tonight!
Posted by Pastor at 1:42 AM
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Six years ago when we arrived in Haiti they had just suffered the devastation of a massive earthquake that took out almost a quarter of a millions lives in a few split seconds. We had victims staying at the church property. We fed them for months, the number at one point grew to around 60. One young man came and really has never left. While we now have a place for him to stay off church property, for years his bed was one of our plywood church benches or the concrete floor at the back of the property. Our dear Armstrong has been a faithful boy, running sound and learning all kinds of things church related. He is a quiet and reserved soul, and every time I get to the property, he is there. He leaves to sleep, and then he's back. In April when the girls visited they felt prompted that now was the time to reach out and do something special for our young faithful champion. He has nothing, and unlike all those who now have a place and moved away our young Armstrong remains for the most part alone, no family to care for or to watch him. Through a God set of circumstances we got him shoes, clothes, dress clothes and undergarments. It equaled a small suitcase of provisions for him. Last night we had him over and fed him, it's difficult to get him away from the church property. We stood in a little side room and I affirmed his faithfulness and our deep love of him and what he is doing with his life. He was standing right between Beth and myself. I reached down and went quickly through his suitcase of supplies. As I stood up his arms went wide and swept around Beth and myself. He bowed his head and for a moment I thought he meant to pray, but then suddenly a great sob escaped him, huge tears of gratefulness washed down his cheeks, and you literally felt the burden and stress of the years wash away. I must confess something, in all my 52 years of life I have never experienced gratefulness from another human being like I did in that moment. A dam burst, and the flood gates opened, the freedom we witnessed was extraordinary. You would have thought he had just won some kind of golden ticket. This is a young man who has not asked me for a thing across the years. Not food, not money, not clothes, nothing for himself. In that moment I was afforded the opportunity of a lifetime, I was a partaker in the grace of gratefulness. I have never felt the vacuum that Armstrong has lived through, I'm not sure I could survive the force of that kind of draw on my life. It was perhaps one of my most beautiful moments in Haiti, one I will cherish for the rest of my life. In a country so ravaged by natural disasters, it's amazing to watch how people recover by not complaining but simply keeping faith and moving forward. It's all Armstrong could do, but he has done it well, and stands in my mind as a very tall and incredible young man. Blessings from St. Marc.
Posted by Pastor at 2:54 PM
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Dan declares to me first thing this morning that we need to go negotiate a very important purchase. He wants to buy the rooster next door. I'll let you be the judge of why. When Robinson comes up I tell him Dan's idea. Rob politely replies 'you can, but there will be another one to take it's place tomorrow morning, they are everywhere'. Can you buy all the rooster's in the country? In that little humorous story it also revealed the plight of a nation. You fix one problem today and it surfaces somewhere else tomorrow. It seems the solution to every problem here itself is problematic. One thing that fixes something inadvertently breaks something else. Or so it would seem at times. One must not get discouraged or disheartened by the setbacks. I ordered ten tent straps to replace broken ones, I took a stab in the dark, Rob told me a few were broke, when I finished the 'Social Media' class I got my first chance to canvas the scope of the damage to the tent, it needs all new tie downs. So now I'm reworking my plan, I'm not sure how it will turn out, but we don't work alone. As I sit here typing a mom who we have helped across the years came in for a visit. Beth has been teaching a women's class on praying for their husbands. This dear woman's husband has been out of country for 14 years, is not a Christian, and she has suffered unbearably raising her children on her own in a country that is savage on widows and orphans without the added duress of a failed relationship. She was praying for him based on the teachings and she reports tonight he has just given his heart to God. She is now praying he will come home to where he belongs with her. 14 years. The only thing not problematic here is leading these beautiful people into relationship with God and seeing the restoration He affords their lives. What He does is never problematic. Even us being here can be a problem. Cultures collide at moments, and the fallout is painful. Don't get me wrong as many do and Media seems to relish, the Haitians don't hate Americans, not even close, but the way we do things and the way they do things is at moments a gulf too great to even comprehend. I pointed this out to the people gathered tonight for the Social Media class. I attempted to show them how to be cross cultural, but isn't that phrase itself problematic. Cross cultural? Can I be truly ambivalent on matters of conscience and be okay with myself? How does one do that. How do you balance and reconcile the accounts. Before the class was over the struggle pushed to the surface. Social connectivity comes with a price, for as universes different and vast try to come together it's a lot of square pegs in round holes. Time will be the judge of the digital highway, when the screens fade and the batteries die, what will be left? I told the people that's why I'm here, face to face, no digitizer. I want to see into their eyes, to behold their desperation, to feel their pain. To understand their culture. . . why they laugh, why they cry, why they struggle to smile, to feel to my bones their pain. Let the roosters's crow, let the problems of the problems come, no need to panic or run or hide, just stay the course and do our part, the rest is up to God. Blessings from St. Marc.
Posted by Pastor at 10:03 PM
Monday, October 24, 2016
These trips have so many angles of reality, it’s hard to keep track. Today the alarm sounded at 2:00 am. We hustled around and did the final pack, drove to the airport and off loaded 44 pieces of luggage. We hit our first snag as the bag tickets printed, an alarm sounded behind the counter and the printer malfunctioned. It took an hour to resolve. The counter clerk kept his cool, albeit it was tentative for a while, and then upgraded our tickets to Group 1 boarding for free so we could make sure all day packs would be on the topside of the plane and not have a lost bag like last trip. Being up at 2:00 am paid off! Needless to say you live in a time warp your first day and it’s hard to keep track. At one point as we entered a plane the Captain asked my son Kelly to tell him who he was in 30 seconds. Kelly looked like a deer in the headlights for the first 10 seconds, then the Captains phone rang and the conversation was interrupted. I went to my seat thinking about that request though, “tell me who you are in 30 seconds”. Can we be summed up in 30 seconds? I tried to put together a neat and nifty reply. In ministry I have performed many funerals across the years, and have never felt a life was done justice in 30-45 minutes. There is a certain grandeur in each and every life, hidden clefts, sloping landscapes, pinnacles and breathtaking peaks, valleys too deep to measure, winters and springs, summer and falls, nothing at all that fits in 30 seconds. We are a culture of the summarized, the abbreviated, the condensed, the abridged. Plunging into Haiti is like a slow motion vortex. Already I feel the drag of the gravity of time as I strain to get there. Meeting deadlines that soon won’t matter I’ll join a culture that is forced to stay hostage to the present. Their dollar is plunging, the rate is currently somewhere around 26 Haitian dollars to 1 US dollar. With poverty as their warden, they live trapped and at the mercy of this task master for their next meal. How filtered is my life? How watered down and diluted can I get? Haiti grounds me, as I help these beloved people, they help reset my life parameters. No 30 second profiles for me. Look at the people around you more closely, try to set aside the demands of time and money for a moment and reflect on the beauty and majesty of the created lives next to you. Pay attention to the details. Don’t abbreviate, don’t condense, the good and the bad all write an incredible story, form a unique landscape, and have individual design and intrigue if you would pause to see it. When I get to Haiti, it used to be a sea of black faces to me, they all looked the same. But I have spent years now studying these people, seeking connection beyond just money, and it’s paying off. It’s no longer just faces in a dusty, dry, and dirty land, it’s people, souls, deep and beautiful, they tell stories, they live difficult but majestic lives, and one day soon, this struggle will be behind us all. But let’s not miss the moments, let’s not refuse to be present because we are too busy. The plane descends, to the tarmac of a far off country we go! Blessings from St. Marc.
Posted by Pastor at 10:23 PM
Sunday, October 23, 2016
We seldom consider names anymore. We pick our baby names with great care, establish parental value, and then our children slip into mainstream life, and meaning is lost. How many of us can quickly state what our name means? Some perhaps even have a name they despise. Some names pass the test of time, seeming timeless, they don’t wear out, they don’t suffer the plight of antiquity, they stay current, desired, and even cherished by every culture. Take for instance the name Matthew. This is a name that time has carried well. I know several Matthew’s myself, and they all seem to be of good repute… except one… one named Hurricane Matthew. This Matthew has taken an awful swipe at a nation already distressed, left its hand print all over the face of this seemingly forsaken Island. In just a few hours we will land to absorb firsthand the recoil from this daunting storm. We will attempt to hold the afflicted and console the hungry, the lost, the faint hearted. But we also go to be among a resilient people. A people who in the midst of struggle, refuse to break. The vehicle of time turned us down this winding path and loaded us into this surreal moment. This time was chosen months ago, and we did not plan on landing in the midst of further devastation for Haiti, but we are not in charge. We flex with the force of the one who sends us, we bend to the will of Him who writes the path of such a force of nature. We perhaps have more questions than answers in these circumstances, but have walked this journey long enough to know grace abounds where turmoil has struck with savagery. We go to bring grace, hope, and help to the hurting, the fallen, the broken. To sow love, to show Christ, and help bind up the wounds of the sorrowing. I don’t know who named this monster Matthew, if it was meant to be a powerful name, they got it right. It’s power crippled millions, ruined cities, destroyed crops, washed away livestock, and polluted water sources in ways too big to comprehend. And yet in its wake it cannot destroy the will of a people to survive. So as we descend into depravity tomorrow, we go with the confidence that we are at the right place at the right time. We go with helping hands extended because of the support of so many here at home. A special note of thanks to all who make this endeavor possible, who cast prayers and financial aid to the thousands we now aid via schooling, orphanage, church, water distribution, food, clothing, housing, but mostly and more simply love. Thank you for sending us, thank you for helping us serve. May God bless you all tonight.
Posted by Pastor at 9:37 PM