The Family

The Family
Justice, Logan, Jacy Klaire, Joy, Josie Kate, Luke, Megan, Judah, Kerry, Jaxon

Monday, May 18, 2009

Have you ever been 'Desperate'?

Has there ever been a time in you life when you were "desperate" for something? A time when you would risk anything to get out of your situation? That is the daily life of many Haitians.

Many of you have seen the headlines about the boat that capsized off of the coast of Florida last week. You can read about it here. When you saw the headlines or read the story did it break your heart? We should not lie to ourselves. If it didn't, we have to ask ourselves "why not"? Why did it not phase us?

I read the account from one of the survivors. This particular man's story is not an uncommon one. His brother paid a smuggler $4000USD to get him to the U.S. A place where he hoped he could work a menial job and make a little money to send back to his starving family in Haiti. In exchange for the $4000 - which is a life's saving for most Haitians that average $360 per YEAR income- the man was promised a dangerous trip to his new life. He boarded a boat in Haiti and was taken to the Bahamas. There he spent 5 months living in a holding house for an opening on a boat to Florida. They then left the Bahamas only to run out of gas. They spent 3 days adrift at sea until another small boat reached them to refuel. They were then taken back to the Bahamas to wait for anther opportunity. Finally they left again and almost made it. Then the overfilled boat capsized off of the coast of Florida. Nine of the twenty-six passengers died before the survivors were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. Now our unlucky Haitian friend sits in a detainee cell waiting to be repatriated to his homeland he tried so hard to escape from.

Now that is desperate! Those are the people we want to minister to. To Joy and I, those are the people that we want to give hope to. Not hope through America. Not hope through a handout. Not hope through a missionary. The only hope we can offer is the hope that came to me when I allowed Jesus Christ to change me and give me eternal life. We are not naive enough to believe that the country of Haiti is filled with innocent people as hungry for God's salvation as they are for food. We have been there too many times. We know that most Haitians have heard the name of Jesus. Most Haitians are just like the people we rub shoulders with here everyday. They know they are guilty sinners but they would rather continue in their sin than submit to the Lordship of a Savior. But, we know God loves them! We know God has a plan for their lives. We know God deserves for them to be saved and worship Him forever. We know that it breaks the heart of God for them to go hungry while we engorge ourselves in luxury. We are not going for them. We are going out of a love for Jesus Christ. We are going to please our Lord. We are going because of what He has done for us and because we hear the call of Isaiah 6 asking "who will go for us".

They are a desperate people in need of salvation. We are excited that God is allowing us to be a bearer of good news. We plan to meet physical needs of the poor and hopeless in an attempt to share with them the same hope that set us free.

When you read those headlines did you wonder if those nine people that suffered such a horrible death trying to escape a horrible life were born again? As they floated in the waters did they pray to Agoueh- the voodoo God of the sea- to save them? Did they place their hope in Diejuste- a kind hearted loa of voodoo- to have mercy on them and rescue them? Was their last thought as they perished was that they would wake up in Guinee- the voodoo afterlife back in Africa? That is what should break our hearts. Did anyone share the gospel with them the day before they left? Was there anyone that really cared about THEM? Not about a ministry. Not about themselves. Not about their own safety. Not about their own comfort. Not about their own decreased net worth with the economic trouble. Was there anyone in the personal circle of influence of those nine people that knew the truth of Jesus Christ and shared it with them before they set out on the journey to America? I don't know, but I sure hope that there will be some Haitians that I get to know personally that I can share with so that if they end up floating in shark infested waters off the coast of my beautiful homeland, they can call on the Savior of the world to rescue their souls if not their bodies. That is why we are going!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Brief History

I had to write a biographical sketch of our family and ministry for a newspaper and so I thought I would post it here for the people that are not familiar with our history. Sorry for it being so long.

September 1st, 2007 we moved into our new home. What a wonderful day. Our dream home. A miniature horse farm with the barns and pastures. Joy had her pool for the kids and I had my tractor and 3 car detached garage. We were on the side of the mountain and so grateful to God for His abundant blessings.

We moved in with Logan and Megan both seniors in high school, Luke in the 8th grade, Jacy Klaire in kindergarten, and Josie Kate one year old. We moved in on Josie’s first birthday, one day after her adoption was completed.

Nine months earlier I had been teaching Sunday School when one of our friends came in carrying a baby. Joy quickly took possession of the 3 month old foster child and held her through Sunday school and church. By the end of the service she looked me in the eyes and said “I believe God is calling us to adopt this baby”.

Long story short, I had doubts but was willing to pursue it and trust God for the outcome. Joy never doubted for a minute. She had heard from God. In the face of total opposition she knew in her heart God had called her to be this little baby’s mommy. By the age of 6 months we were getting her for official visits, by nine months she lived in our home, and by one year she was a Reeves: A true testament to God fulfilling His plan if we allow it.

One month after we moved into our new home we received a call that would change our lives. We were asked by Social Services if we could keep a little two year old boy for five days later in the month. We had not felt led to do foster care but we could keep a little guy for a week. Joy felt she wanted to meet the young fellow before he was just dropped off because we were told he had been through some very difficult circumstances and had emotional and psychological issues. So she called the foster mom to ask about meeting for lunch. The foster mom offered to just bring him over later in that same day and leave him all weekend. When he walked in the door, Joy sensed in her spirit he would never leave. She was right. We were in for quite a ride.

It did not take more than a few hours to learn little ‘Judah’ as he would later be named, did indeed have issues. But we knew we served a big God -Jehovah Rapha- the God of healing- and that He could heal this precious child, and He would allow us to be a part of his healing if we would allow Him to use us. God used that experience over the next year to grow us and teach us more than anything in our lives. But as with all things God uses to grow us, it has been well worth it and we would not have it any other way. Although it took over 18 months of court and hearings, Judah Kerry Reeves is now a vital, thriving part of our growing family.

I never would have imagined we would adopt 2 children and I would consider us the most blessed family in the world if God had stopped there. But…He didn’t. I received a phone call from social services in May 2008. It was 8 months after we received Judah. His birth mother had signed her parental rights over to us, but the birth father had appealed the ruling that he was an unfit parent, and so the case was in appeals court. On May 22nd, a Thursday morning, I received a call from social services. Judah’s birth mom had a baby with the same birth father and it was positive for cocaine at birth. The social worker wanted to call to see if we could take him since we had the big brother. I thanked the social worker for calling and for thinking of us, but we were not able to do that. We were “full”. I hung up the phone hoping someone would be able to help them.

About an hour later I felt the convicting spirit of God asking me in my spirit how I knew the answer was no for this little guy. I had initially thought the answer was no for our other two precious, God-given gifts through adoption and later realized I was wrong. How could I say no to this calling without even seeking God with Joy on the issue? So Joy and I spent the night in prayer and we did feel God was leading us to accept this child as a gift to our family. We had seen what issues could arise through the system by the manifestations in Judah. We also knew that it would be healthier for both of the brothers if they could be adopted together instead of apart.

So at 5:00 in the afternoon we picked up a one day old, cocaine addicted bundle of Puerto Rican joy from the hospital. That night we attended our daughter’s high school graduation. God truly has a sense of humor.

Little ‘Jaxon Kooper’ as he was later named, healed slowly from the effects of the drug exposure, but his healing was total and complete. A good and gracious God had once again chosen to show Himself strong on our behalf and answer our prayers. At nine months of age little Jaxon was officially adopted along with his big brother on March 13th, 2009.

So now Logan and Megan are in community college in North Carolina. Luke is finishing the 9th grade and will be going with us in June to Haiti. He will return in the fall to continue high school unless God changes those plans. Jacy Klaire is 7 and will be home schooling in the 2nd grade in Haiti. Josie Kate is 2 ½ and still wears 12 months clothes but growing and hops everywhere she goes. Judah is almost 4 and full speed ahead. And little Jaxon will be a year old in May. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full!

The Ministry and Our Calling:

In 1987 Pastor Gerrard Cesar accepted the call to the ministry in Montrouis Haiti and became the pastor of a small church meeting in a brush arbor (palm branches woven together to form a roof and walls with a dirt floor). With the help of missionaries from Florida that church was able to build a building and establish a school. In the 20 years since that time, Pastor Cesar has partnered with or started 7 more churches and established a school to be supported by each church. With over 1500 in attendance in the churches and 1200 children in the schools, God is really doing a great work in and around St. Marc where the ministry has its headquarters.

In 2005 Joy and I met pastor Cesar and were exposed to his ministry. We were able to go to Haiti and see the work first hand. God allowed us to see that He was truly at work in this ministry. Henry Blackaby teaches in his Experiencing God series that the goal of every Christian should be to find where God is working and “get in on it”. That is exactly what Joy and I felt that God was calling us to do.

We came back to the U.S. and shared our experience with some of our closest friends and they agreed to go with me to explore how God would have us to be involved. It was as clear to them as it had been to us that we could really be used by God to impact hundreds of people if we would allow Him to use us.

We were broken hearted that the 8 schools we were working with did not have funding for a feeding program. The children are privileged to get to go to school but they do not get to eat while there. If the child is not the oldest in the family, it is very likely they do not get fed at home either. Many children as young as 3 or 4 years old are forced to scavenge for whatever food they can find. Many have even resorted to eating ‘dirt cookies’. Haitian women take clay mixed with a pinch of salt and form cookies. The cookies are dried in the sun and then sold to the children for 3 or 4 cents each. The cookies take away the hunger pangs but cause severe gastrointestinal problems for the children. Many children find themselves needing surgery or even dying from the consumption of the toxin and parasite infested clay. In light of these horrible conditions we have been working to develop a feeding program for each school so that the children will be fed a healthy meal every day. It will cost approximately $.40-.50 per child per day to feed them.

We are also trying to develop a way to pay the teachers in the schools a small monthly salary. By paying the teachers, we will be able to raise the quality of the schools to a level that is pleasing to God and brings credibility to the ministry. We are also in the process of purchasing land for each school and building sound concrete structures instead of the brush arbors that many of them are still using.

The ministry has made a trip down every few months since 2005. With false teachings and Voodoo influencing even the evangelical teaching, we felt that holding quarterly 3 day pastor training seminars would help the pastors understand Biblical doctrine.

In the spring of each year we also have a convention that brings all 8 churches together to train pastors, train teachers, disciple youth, minister to children, have an eye and medical clinic, and hold crusade services each night for a week. Hundreds of church members come from the churches and sleep there on the church grounds for the 5 nights of the meetings. We feed 500-700 people twice per day for five days.

On the last crusade trip in April, Joy and I felt that God was calling us to make the move to full time ministry. We have things that we feel God would have us to do that we can not do without being there on a full time basis. I saw patients in the eye clinic going blind with diseases that I could help prevent if we were there to catch the disease earlier and follow it regularly. Young girls are taught that AIDS is spread through sitting on a hot table and not through promiscuity. Pastors believe in voodoo curses and are not always grounded in doctrine and foundational Christian beliefs. We were impressed by God that if we were there full time we could make a difference in the lives of the people. My patients here can see another eye doctor in the same building. But the patients I will see in Montrouis, Haiti will probably never see an eye doctor their entire lives. So after much prayer and seeking our Lord’s direction, we surrendered to full time missions.

We are currently in the process of selling our home and personal belongings. I am getting out of my optometry practices and dissolving my partnerships. It appears that God is going to allow us to pay off all of our debt and be able to move to Haiti debt free. Our living expenses will be provided by support and donations to New Vision Ministries. The board of directors from the ministry and other volunteers will continue normal operations of the ministry on this end and we will begin the work in country.

God has opened a door for us to rent a small apartment on top of an orphanage that is currently being operated by an older couple from Missouri. In addition to opening the eye clinic, we will be working with pastor Cesar by developing outreach programs for the churches, feeding the schools, training the pastors, building churches, and having evangelistic crusades. We will also be helping at the orphanage and the other ministries of House of Bread Ministries in Montrouis, Haiti, West Indies.

We will be taking our 4 small children and leaving our older children here to finish school. We are in need of much prayer. Haiti is a very dark place and the people are steeped in much religion. True adult conversions are difficult but the children are teachable. Through the orphanage and Christian education, we will attempt to train the children up in a way that Christ is the center of their lives.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Blessed with Big Ears!

I never thought I would be happy to have big ears. It turns out that there is at least one situation in which having big ears is a good thing. We took all four little ones to try to get their passports this morning. It turned out to be quite an adventure.

I called the passport office to make sure they could take the kids' pictures there so we could just make one stop. The lady told me it would not be a problem. Once we got there and got all the kids into the little office, it turns out they just ran out of film. I am not sure why it is but apparently you can't have any backup film on hand either. Probably some type of shortage related to swine flu or bio terrorism or something. But at any rate we had to load the kids back up and head out for somewhere to have pictures made.

Joy had done a mother's best by getting the kids all dressed up and looking good. They all matched and had their hair all fixed. So the pouring rain did not help much. The place we were told to go to get it made said "it would be awhile I got something else on the computer." So we went to CVS. It turns out it is the only CVS in the region that does NOT do passport photos. Finally we ended up at Walgreen's ready to get some good looking photos. Kids have to keep them five years so there is no way we could settle with a bad looking picture. So the lady in the photo lab asks the little girl at the register, "do you want to try again at doing the passport photos?" Not a good sign!

The technician took them one by one and got them to let her take their photos. Not too bad overall...the first time around. Joy just had to make her go back and get Josie's one more time because she would not smile the first time. Then the technician, who looked like she should be in eighth grade, went away and started putting everything into a computer and doing really complicated technical stuff. About 45 minutes later, she thinks she is done. Then the manager comes by to proof everything and says that she would have to redo Judah's because his face was not straight. He said, "He has to be looking straight ahead, see how you can't see his left ear..."

Those were the words that started it all. For the next 20 minutes and 50 pictures she stood in front of our ADHD 4 year old taking a picture then saying "oh no I can't see the left ear in that one...not good I can't see the right ear now...oops his hair was in front of his ear..." Poor Judah. He was trying SO hard. He would smile...then ask..."could you see 'em?" The poor kid has little bitty ears that are flat on his head. The girl missed the point that the important thing was for him to be looking straight. She was determined to get a full frontal, double ear photo no matter what!

That's why I am glad I have big ears. When they took my passport photo, not a problem! Two big 'ol radar like ears in perfect focus for the passport agent to approve. So the moral of the story is that's...I guess there really is no moral to the story but I had to go to work and we still do not have passports. If we could have gotten it done today, the passports would be due back no later than June week before we leave. We had to leave before they even got the pictures printed. So we will try to get the pictures tonight and the passports applied for tomorrow. We have been waiting for the boy's birth certificates with their new names, but they have not come in so we are going to try to get the passport with their adoption decrees. That may be an adventure all in itself tomorrow. We were told it would work...but we were also told the camera had film!

Friday, May 1, 2009

718 Miles at 45 mph and one blown out tire...

We got the bus containing all of our personal goods and the materials for the church in St. Marc delivered to West Palm Beach this week. The trip was actually great. Bob Benfield and his kids followed me and we took turns driving the bus. His son Jonathan was a real blessing by driving the bus much of the time. God sent a diesel mechanic on the Saturday before I left to fix the bus so that it would go a little faster. I can't thank Chris Jolly and his son enough for taking the time to come over and not only work on the bus but drive it around for a while to make adjustments and make sure it would work. What a blessing! So although it would only go 45 due to the load, it was sure better than it would have been otherwise! God sent so many people to help us get everything packed and then to help with the trip. Haley and Katie Bridges helped Joy with the kids while I was gone and they had a great time to according to Joy.

Here is a picture of our one glitch. A blown out tire in Rock Hill, SC cost us a couple of hours and a few hundred dollars. Laronzo was a huge help and got us back on the road. The only other time we had trouble was on I-26 between Columbia and I-95. The sand hills were not nice to our over loaded bus-turned-cargo container. We could only muster about 33mph up the hills. But we made it without real incident.

We left at 6 am and made it to Melbourne, FL by 11 pm where we spent the night. Tuesday morning we got up and finished out the trip in about 2 hours. We got to the port around 10 am to drop off the bus and everything we own. It went really well and the people at Monarch shipping were great. The bus could ship as soon as May 12th but as late as May 29th. From then it will be 4-6 weeks to clear everything (hopefully) and then we will have it. Keep praying that it gets through customs and that it is not tampered with in the mean time. We know the Lord is in charge and that he can keep it safe and protected. Ideally, it would clear customs and about the time that we get to Haiti and that way we will have everything we need to get the apartment set up. Here is a brief - incomprehensive- inventory of what we sent on the bus and the estimated cost to get it there.

Contents: Lumber for benches at St. Marc Church ( 50- 2x12x12, 40- 8 foot decking, 80- 12 foot decking)
3 large trash cans filled with supplies for House of Bread
Wire for wiring at St. Marc Church
24 Flourescent lights for St. Marc Church with bulbs
2 outdoor chaise lounges
1 queen bed mattress and frame (no box spring...long story!)
2 twin beds with mattresses and box springs
1 set of bunk beds with mattresses
Boxes of tools
Boxes of clothes
Boxes of linens
A brand new front load high efficiency washing machine
Solar Panels
12- 12 volt batteries for our electrical system - donated by one of our best friends
Inverter for electrical system
Bathroom vanity cabinet- also donated by a close friend- with the lavatories and faucets
A couple of ladders
A wagon for the kids
Titant's personal items
6 High efficiency ceiling fans
Kitchen table and chairs/stools
School supplies
End tables for our bedroom as night stands
Rods and curtains for use as doors
Lots of other misc. stuff I used as "filler" in areas as I packed

The bus cost $15oo from NC Public Schools
The Plywood and labor to cover the windows and build the retaining wall was donated by a friend's church
1 new tire - $430 including roadside installation
Fuel for the trip - $160 ( I thought that was great)
Shipping costs - $3200 ($100 per foot)
Customs costs ????- depends on how they are feeling that day...we will know in a few weeks

So there you have it. It is a weird feeling to know that everything we will soon own is sitting on a lot in south Florida. It is such a blessing though because we thought for a while that we would only be taking our suitcases. We are very happy to have the bus and the opportunity to take more of the things we will need to live and minister. God takes care of His children so perfectly!