The Family

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Good Plan

Logan- our oldest- got to town yesterday.  After the rigors of getting him here and fighting customs to get our some boxes through- which didn't happen- I had a rare day of rest planned. We were going to spend today with Logan and the kids.  I thought maybe we could load up the car and take a picnic on an abandoned beach about 15 minutes down the road.  What a fun time...

I got a call early to say that Daphne, the sweet 20 year old that was blinded from diabetes, (click here to read about her)  had gotten sicker through the night so I decided to go and get her to take her to the hospital.  As I pulled our of our gate I was met by a guy that told me that a lady that was living in the refugee camp from the earthquake was pregnant but was having trouble with the delivery because of high blood pressure and no medication at the little clinic next door.  She did not have the $60 usd to pay to have the baby at the hospital.  I went and checked on her and decided to take her to the hospital with me too.

Daphne was sick for a couple of days and then her blood sugar was elevated and we could not get it back down.  We gave her an IV of fluids yesterday for dehydration and I had Alexandra, a nurse friend, come and spend the day with her and she was looking better last night.  But when I got to the mission this morning she was non-responsive.  I picked her up and put her in the car with the lady having the baby and headed to the hospital.

Once at the hospital we got Daphne in a little room. I paid the fees for the room and the IV and fluids and a nurse tried for 30 minutes to start an IV.  She finally called another nurse and she seemed to get the IV started and we got Madame Charles settled in the delivery room and paid them the $60 usd to deliver the baby.

I worked my way back through the crowd to Daphne's room and the IV was going good.  Robins was there with me and things seemed okay.  The nurse left the room to go find the doctor and all of a sudden I realized Daphne stopped breathing.  I checked and she had no pulse.  There were no machines hooked to her to beep or flat line or anything it was just like things were in slow motion.  I started mouth to mouth and chest compressions.  As I gave the breaths, the putrid air that had built up in her lungs during the infection was exhaled into my mouth and I nearly vomitted.  I regained my composure and continued the breaths and compressions while Robins called for the doctor or someone to come.  I cried out to God for Him to save her.  Still no pulse.  After several minutes the doctor showed up and stopped me from trying to continue to revive her.  It was too late.  She was gone.  Just like that.  I stood there with the taste of death on my lips.  I have grown accustomed to the smell of death, but this was the first time for me to taste it.  It was worse than I would have imagined.  I have spent all day washing my face and trying to get rid of the smell and taste...I read that you don't smell in your sleep, I will be glad to pillow my head tonight.

I had to call Daphne's mom and the people at the clinic that helped us find her originally and tell them the news.  I would have to put her in the car and take her to Port au Prince to a morgue and meet with the family.  We would be responsible for the funeral and burial. 

I ran by our house to get some cash for the trip and the preparations.  As we were pulling out of our drive way, we met pastor Remy.  He was walking with a man and carrying a baby all dressed up and wrapped in a towel.  I stopped and got out and greeted them.  The baby's mom died last week and the 2 month old was too much for the dad to handle along with the other 7 kids in the family.  He had asked if we could take the baby.  They were coming to drop her off.  I told pastor the situation and sent him on to the house to meet with Joy.  We continued on to PaP.

We met the mother and the representative from the funeral home on a side road in PaP.  The mother came to me screaming and wailing.  She said she wanted to see her baby.  As the morgue workers put her into the body bag I pulled back the sheet and let the mother see her face.  She was hysterical as I just held her and tried to comfort her by reminding her that God's child had died too.  I did not know what else to say.  A large crowd gathered to gawk at the spectacle.  Not a fun time.

After the mom got back in her car and left, we finished up with the morgue representatives and started the planning for the funeral.  They are anticipating riots starting Monday night following re-release of the re-recount of the election results so we want to have the funeral before then.  Hopefully Saturday.

We left the morgue representatives and headed to customs to try to convince them to give us our Christmas gifts for the kids- ours kids and at the mission- and Christmas tree we had shipped in.  I did not agree with the fees the customs agent told me I had to pay but I was too tired to fight about it.  I once swore under my breath that I hated this country.  I regretted saying it because Wesner and Robbins were there.  I tried to take it back by saying it was the government and the injustice that I hate.  But I actually don't know what all it is that I hate.  I learned today that I hate the taste of death.  I hate corruption that oppresses the poor and helpless.  But I am sure there are some things that I hate that God would have me to love and some things that I love that God would have me to hate.  I just have to pray He reveals to me which is which. 

God was good and we were able to get everything out of customs without having to pay TOO much more than it was worth.  Then we headed back to Montrouis.

As we entered Montrouis we went by the refugee camp to check on Madame Charles and her baby.  She had a boy.  It was easy to tell  it was a boy because of the pink blanket and pink flannel gown and pink booties he was wearing.  Baby and mother are fine.  He's beautiful.  Lying in a hut in a temporary refugee camp surrounded by desperate people that were eager to beg me to bring them more fish this week, he was blessed to be alive.  He is blessed because He has a future.  It may not be what we as American's would call a future but Jeremiah says God has a plan for ALL of our lives and that it is a good plan.  I don't see how Daphne growing up in Cite Soleil- hell on earth- then going blind at 19 and dying at 20 is a good plan.  But I trust God is good.  I am glad I got to know her.  I am glad I got to help her for a few short months and that she died in a hospital not in a shack in a slum and being buried in a dump.  I miss her already but she had asked God to forgive her of her sins and be her savior.  She can see again tonight.  She is not sick.  She is not lying in bed crying with pain in her legs.  She is seeing Jesus- and that is a good plan!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

The holidays are a time with family and friends.  It is a time for eating our favorite foods and catching up with news and events that have transpired over the past year in our families and lives of our loved ones. 

On Thanksgiving specifically, many of us try to take a moment to reflect and give thanks to God for the blessings of the past year.  This year we decided to have a big feast with all of our new family and Haitian friends. We will have about 50 people at the mission for lunch. 

We had a ministry give us a free turkey for our family.  What a huge blessing that is.  Turkeys here are hard to come by and very expensive to buy.  So early this morning I put the turkey in the oven and prepared the green beans and corn.  We will also bake a cake.  Very few Haitians have eaten cake and if so it is for a special occassion.  Ovens are very rare and it is hard to cook a cake on a fire with three rocks like they cook their rice and beans. 

We are also having rice and beans, fried plantains, haitian beet salad, potato salad, and fresh fruit.  It is going to be quite a spread.  I am going to explain our American Thanksgiving heritage and give each person a chance to share what they are thankful for.  I have heard many Haitians tell me that the reason we have turkey on Thanksgiving is because the first American's did not have anything to eat so they prayed and turkeys started falling out of the sky everywhere.  Sounds like a good story to me. 

Here are a few things I will be sharing that I am thankful for:

My family that I moved here with 18 months ago- Joy, Jacy, Judah, Josie, and Jaxon

For Luke being able to come and join us here this year

For Justice Kacia and the privilege to adopt her

For all of the kids that we have been able to give a home to- Kobe, Jeanmoi, Adelson, Uvensia, Jean Patrick, Wilna, Naica, and Kimberlie

For Daphne's diabetes getting controlled and doors beginning to open to get her to America for her eye surgery

For others that live and help at the mission like Colleen and her two twins Kristi and Krista, along with Grann- the little widow whose house was washed away in the flood

For our team of guys Dago, Wesner, Paul, Robbins, and Bazaleis and the girls that help us Mirlande, Mireille, Oranie, Joanne, Claredonge, and Dedette

For all our fisherman and the work God is doing in their lives and the changes we are seeing in their village

For all the over 70 kids we got to put in school this year 

For the many many friends that God has sent to visit us here from so many places in the US and Brazil

For the people back home that love us and continue to pray for us and let us know they are supportive of what we are doing down here

For God beginning a new work in my life to change me from being so selfish and unloving to beginning to see people the way He sees them- I have a LONG way to go though...but I am thankful for the journey

For brightness of the future and the great opportunities we know lie ahead and the grace we can trust in to help with the difficulties that come

I could go on and on.  I have so much to be grateful for here.  But we also have our precious older two children Logan and Megan in the US.  It is harder to say Thank you Lord for them being there when I want them with me here.  But we know God does all things well.

It is hard to say thank you Lord for my parents that are getting older and my dad having complications from diabetes and I am not there to help him.  I am not there to just sit and talk to him today on Thanksgiving after we get back from deer hunting like we used to do.  I won't have my mom's mashed potatoes or Joy's mom's banana pudding but we still say Thank you Lord because He does all things well. 

All of us have to make a choice today- we can choose to focus on the things we DON'T have or have lost this past year or we can allow our minds to meditate on our many blessings and be overwhelmed by the "goodness" of God.  I choose the latter.  I pray you will too.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hurricanes, Snow Storms, and Lost Friends

Cold Feet-
What a crazy day.  I spent 16 hours yesterday getting from Montrouis to Indianapolis for a conference where I will be speaking and taking continueing education classes for my optometry license.  It turns out I lost, gave away, or in some other fashion disposed of any warm weather clothes I had in Haiti so I got to Indiana and discovered they are expecting snow and 20 degree nights and I have a Caribbean Joe t-shirt as my warmest clothes.  But in typical provisional manner, a good Christian friend who happens to live in Indiana hooked me up with a bunch of warm clothes so I am good. 

I will be in IN for the weekend with my 20 year old daughter Megan.  I had not seen her since last November so it was great meeting her in the airport here last night.  She flew over from GA to be with me at the conference this weekend.  Then I fly to NC for a few days for some meetings and finish up my CE at a meeting in Asheville next weekend.

Unfriendly Tomas-
Tomas strengthened to a tropical storm again last night and is projected to pass over Haiti as a hurricane tomorrow.  Joy and the kids are there and we live right on the coast.  It looks like Joy is going to close up the doors and windows and leave the house to go and spend a couple of days in the missionary team rooms at The Mission.  It will be cool to be there with the mission kids but also tough with Justice, Jaxon, Josie, Judah, Jacy, Jamoy, Jean Patrick, and the two special needs boys Kevin and Michelet all getting moved over there and set up.  We have been praying for a person to come and live at the mission to take care of Kevin and Michelet there since it is technically the children's home and we can have someone caring for them 24 hours each day even when we are not in town.  So Joy is working on getting them moved permanantly during this transition time.  Pray about that.

The biggest problem with a hurricane in Haiti is not just the wind.  The tents in PAP of course will be affected by the winds but the biggest issue is rain.  They are predicting as much as 15 inches of rain.  If that happens, there will be significant flooding and the risk of landslides.  The deforestation and subsequent silting in of the rivers has made flooding a major problem.  Our fisherman that we work with live near the river and many of them lost their homes in 2008 during Hannah.  At that time the river flooded all the way down past where we currently live and took away many homes and left hundreds with nothing.  The river flooded again a couple of months ago and washed away more homes.  We have several of our fisherman living in tents right now due to that flood.  It is a blessing that just before I left we were able to help Jean Beny rent a house and move out of his tent.  I am glad he will be in a house during this storm tomorrow and not a tent.  He loves Joy and is a precious part of our ministry.

Lost Friends-
Just when we starting thinking the cholera deal was pretty much behind us, we got a call this morning from one of our closest pastors and learned his wife died this morning.  She was working in the garden when the symptoms hit her and she died on the way down the mountain to the hospital.  Pastor Remy and his wife are the ones that came down the mountain with the gift of eggs to thank us for helping them get a horse.  Now he has all 7 of his children to care for alone.  He is trying to get her buried today.  Be praying for them.

The end of last week I got home to find one of our translators we use sitting in our yard crying.  He was holding a baby outfit in his hand.  Degraff's 18 month old baby had respiratory arrest and died and the family did not have the money to bury him.  We were able to help bury the baby but had very little means of consoling a hurting father.

So there is a quick update of what's happening.  We will keep you updated on the storm.  Thanks for your prayers and encouragement.  You can see updates on facebook!/profile.php?id=100001587051166

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who's Afraid of Frog Peepee?

It has been a while since I have had a good chance to sit down and blog and I don't really have one of those chances now but I wanted to update everyone on the cholera outbreak here.

We have had to stop buying fish from any of the guys in our group because of the fear of the people that the fish that live in the ocean go and drink the water that comes out of the rivers and so they can make you sick.  Our fisherman have just paid their money to put their kids all in school and now have no income because people are too afraid to buy fish. We do not have any cases here in Montrouis of contracted disease.  The little mission hospital where we have our eye clinic has had 4 die and have treated hundreds.  It is harder finding IV saline so keep that in your prayers. 

This is Haiti's first significant cholera outbreak in 50 years.  It is caused by a river in the Artibonite valley that became contaminated.  We have seen about 3000 cases reported with almost 300 deaths.  That is a terrible ratio even for a disease of this severity.  The lack of understanding by the people of the cause of the disease and even bigger...fear.  Fear killed many of the victims.  They were afraid to drink more water because they heard water is what made them they died of dehydration.  Tap tap drivers, local transportation, refused to carry passengers that were sick so they left them on the sides of the road to die...because they were afraid.  Many hospitals and workers were afraid to take in patients and work with them at the onset because they did not know the cause of the patients died outside the hospitals.  Fear is a powerful thing and a major part of life here in this little corner of reality.

People have some of the most irrational fears you can imagine.  They are so scared of frogs because if it peepees in your eyes you will go blind...tough one to disprove but they get so upset with me for picking up frogs.  Lucky for me, none have been able to pee in my eyes yet. 

People fear all sorts of things concerning the spirits and voodoo.  They fear many animals because it may be a lougau in disguise.  They fear zombies.  They fear witch doctors.  The fear upsetting the family spirits.  They fear dishonoring someone in power.  They fear the government due to past leaders indiscriminately killing dissenters.  They fear hunger.  They fear food they are not familiar with.  They fear a slight fever. 

But out of all the fears that affect the people here, the one that is the greatest risk for them is the fear that comfortable Americans have of being drawn out of their comfort zone.  The fear of millions of "Christians" that if they really give in to what God wants them to do to reach the world with His love, then He might send them to some crazy place like Haiti.  When the reality is that if we would just surrender fully to God, He is most likely to keep us exactly where He had already placed us, but use us more effectively to fullfill our deepest desires and impact the lives of people from our home town to the far reaches of the world's densest jungles.  But the fear that somehow God is going to demand something radical of us is a fear used by satan to keep us from really amounting to anything eternal.  The fear is so strong that it triggers our defense mechanisms in our minds that cause us to build up walls to reality.  We allow ourselves to be consumed by our surroundings in order to dull the sensation of reality.  The sensation that just possibly we have totally missed it.  Somehow we have convinced ourselves that our selfish, self serving, self helping, loveless, sacrificeless form of religion we inherited from our parents and perfected ourselves is somehow the Christianity described in the Bible. 

That fear is the most dangerous fear in the world.  More orphans, widows, homeless, starving, sick, helpless, and desperate souls die each year because of that fear than because of any fear I encounter here that we like to call "irrational".  You want to talk about irrational?  Is it rational to believe that a God who has ALL power in the universe and LOVES me more than I can comprehend could possibly devise a plan for me that is anything short of spectacularly amazing?  I wish the greatest fear of my friends back home was frog peepee.  Then maybe we could change the world.

Our greatest fear should be of the day we stand before a Holy God.  We will give account for every thought, every action, every dollar, and all of our skills.  I somehow don't think excuses like our kids are too small, our parents are aging now, when I get that raise we will give more, when we pay off some debt, if I could just hear from God, we're just waiting until we know for certain, I just don't feel "called", I just don't think this church is feeding me, I can't align myself with that pastor, that youth group is too culturally relevant, that church is not culturally relevant enough, etc. is going to pass when God asks why we would not obey the hundreds of instances in His word that He commands us to reach the world with His love.  If we all feared that day as much as the Haitians fear zombies we could take care of the millions of orphans in subsahara Africa that become prostitutes because we are not there to give them a home. Or the sick in India that die because they don't have access to antibiotics that cost 75 cents.  As I was typing this a man showed up from PAP crying.  He has interpreted for us before at crusades.  Degraff sat in my yard and cried as he explained that 3 days ago his 18 month old only son died of respiratory arrest and is in the morgue because he can't afford to have him buried.  At the same time Joy was walking and met a man from another village sitting by the road holding a dead baby.  The child died after leaving the hospital and the father had no money to get a tap tap to get back home.  The world is literally dying and we spend our days complaining about the lines in Walmart.


On a lighter note, Luke arrived here in Haiti 3 weeks ago.  He is doing great.  He is a 16 year old missionary and not just a missionary's kid.  He has already begun to have an impact on the people here.  He is working with the fisherman and has gotten involved in the basketball community here.  He is home schooling and doing well.  You can see the first episode of his video documentary by clicking the link below.

We will try to keep folks updated about the cholera as things change.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stuck Between a Rock and a Mango Tree

Roger, Gary, and Lifrans got caught at sea in the stormy weather we have had this week.  They were trying to get their little wooden fishing canoes to the beach where they store them when the waves really kicked up. 

Roger and Gary made it to our house but could not get past the reef to the area down the coast where they were headed.  We managed to pull their canoes ashore and secure them in our yard.  Which Jaxon loved because he thinks he owns them anyway.  He climbs in everytime they come up with fish.  Then I have to pull him out screaming and covered in the tar they use to water proof them to try to cut down on some of the leaking...I can't tell that it helps any.  So we stored Roger and Gary's canoes for a couple of days until the storm passed.  Lifrans was not so lucky.

As he tried to manuever past a point through the shallow reef that he had passed hundreds of times before, a large wave caught him and crashed him into the rocks.  His little wooden canoe shattered into pieces.  All of his lines and jugs and fishing equipment was tossed into the crashing waves.  Lifrans was picked up by another fisherman trying to get his canoe to safety as well.  Everything was lost.  Two days before the fishing season officially begins and he is at ground zero. 

So that is the story I learned of yesterday as everyone gathered for our weekly meeting with our 12 fisherman and 1 scribe in our economic development program.  We wanted 12 fisherman but none of them could write so we had a scribe join the group.  I spent the meeting talking about the things were we doing and the challenges and the great things that were happening.  I thought everyone was really getting into the depth of the business potential and how this was going to change the economic stability of Montrouis and the overall quality of life for their families.  But at the end of my sharing I asked for questions.  Finally Roger asked when I was going to follow through on my promise I had made several weeks ago to start teaching them all how to write their names... They all agreed and wanted me to start this week so they could all learn to write and sign their names and asked if I thought they could be taught to read a few things.  I was humbled beyond words.  How do you say no to a group of friends asking if you could take the time to teach them to write their names?

After the meeting was over the discussion turned back to Lifrans.  Everyone was disappointed to hear about the loss because they all could relate and they knew the implications.  But Lifrans, one of the most likable and hard working guys in the group, already had a plan.  He had found a guy who had a piece of wood for sale and had negotiated a good price of $1300 haitian (or $165 USD) for the wood and talked to Pierre who was not a "boss" canoe builder but had dug out canoes for several of our guys in the group in the past.  Pierre agreed to "dig" the canoe for $1000 haitian ($125 USD)  So nearly $300 was going to be needed just to get the canoe.  Then Lifrans has to find jugs and buy lines and hooks and everything else to get ready to fish.  And due  to bad weather, no one has been able to catch any fish in over 2 weeks.  So that is where I came into the picture.  As Lifrans was telling his tale, eventually all eyes turned to me.  They all wondered what I was going to do to help Lifrans get his fishing business back in the water.  Finally, Lifrans asked if I would at least go with him to look at the wood.

Today we had all of the guys in our group meet me at The Mission to pick out shoes for all of their kids that start school Monday.  These 31 kids are not in our sponsorship program because I know their fathers now have an income.  Instead I am just helping them get everything done on enrolling and buying the books and uniforms.  It was a great time.  After the shoe fitting party, the entire group joins in on our trip to see the wood. 

I had in my mind a little guy sitting in front of his little haitian shack on a big piece of mango log in his front yard ready to argue over a price.  Instead, Pierre, the carver, takes us into one of the few remaining patches of forest left in our zone.  After a brief walk through a familiar area of woods, he stops and points to a large mango tree and says "that's it".  That was not what I wanted to see.  One of the 2% of mango trees left standing in the entire country and now they are asking me to buy it so they can make a canoe.  The alternative is to say no and explain how mango trees are precious to the Haitian ecosystem and that conservation efforts are never going to succeed without making sacrifices...

Now let me tell all of you tree hugger hyper-conservationists reading this...I ain't into that.  I can get on board with saving babies but not baby seals or spotted owls.  I never have been the activist type.  I would actually love watching the guy cut down the tree with a machete and then meticulously carve out a canoe day after day.  It is not about the "karma" or the feelings of the mango tree or making the spirits of nature angry. 

This was different.  I see the huge importance of mangoes to this culture.  You don't dare steal someone's mango.  It's like a capital offense.  Mangoes are called God's gift to poor people.  People plan their lives around the mango seasons.  But they have not seen that cutting down the mango trees is bad.  I have tried to fight the cutting of the trees to make charcoal.  That is the  main reason the trees are cut down and the roots dug up.  It is to make charcoal for cooking.  That is the main issue.  Not cutting down a few trees per year for canoes.  BUT, now that most have been cut down for charcoal, the canoe issue becomes more relevant.

In my gut I want to buy the mango tree... don't let them cut it down... then lend Lifrans the money to buy a fiberglass canoe- through my contacts in the U.S. and ship it down on the next container that comes in.  But there are several problems with that plan.  First, then EVERY guy in our group wants a fiberglass canoe.  Second, the container has weeks before it gets here and the season starts now.  Third, every person in Montrouis will try to sell me their mango tree that they are about to cut down if someone doesn't buy it quickly.  I could see me ending up with a whole forest of mango trees with little brass plaques that show the date they were saved from destruction.  I would be known as the nut case doctor with the mango tree sponsorship program. 

So as I sit here tonight trying to come up with the best plan for tomorrow, I think I will try to find someone who has a wooden canoe for sale and help Lifrans get it.  That at least buys me some time.  Then maybe we do try to start a system of getting canoes shipped down for the fisherman here.  Each mango tree canoe only lasts 5-6 seasons if it is a good one.  Many only last 2-3.  Who knows.  But I am glad that I am here to get to help Lifrans figure it out.  He is my friend.  He is a quiet guy with a firm handshake and I know that tonight he is thinking that tomorrow I will have the answers to help him out of this dilema.  That is where my faith comes in.  I don't have all the answers that these guys think I have.  I don't always know what to do.  But I know my God has a plan and that He is never confused by rocks and mango trees. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hold on There Junior

He can't read or write.  He does not even know how to spell his name by himself.  But then again Junior is one of the twelve men in our fishing program, and only one of them CAN spell his own name- we had to let a non-fisherman join the program because we needed someone in the program that could write.  Junior is in his late 20's and although he has absolutely no front teeth, his smile is contagious.

Junior met me in my yard when I got home from Port-Au-Prince yesterday.  I knew it was not to get paid for the catch of the day because I pay them once a week now for that.  He was there just to see me.  To make sure I had a safe trip home...AND to ask for a favor.  Junior knows I am going to the U.S. for 4 days next week to speak at a meeting in Texas and he wanted me to buy something for him.  He wants me to buy him a portable DVD player to give to his kids for Christmas.  Now last year Junior could not pay for his kids to go to school.  He did not know where his next meal would come from if the fishing was bad.  He lives in a tiny little shack with no electricity and no running water.  He has 2 rooms and a little outside hut for the kitchen.  His net worth in U.S. dollars would probably be about $100 because he owns a wooden dugout canoe that could be sold if necessary.  Now he is asking me to buy a DVD player for him.  But he is not asking me to buy it with my money, he has the money to buy it through the fishing program.

Now I know what you are thinking.  I should councel Junior on how foolish a financial decision it would be to buy a DVD player before he has next years rent saved up for his house- we are setting aside money every week to cover that but he has not reached his full amount.  Or maybe after he has 3 months worth of income saved to help in times when the fish are not there.  Those are legitimate arguments but you have to understand where Junior is coming from.

Three months ago Junior would never have dreamed he could afford a DVD player.  Everyone here wants a portable DVD player.  The people that have one usually had it sent down from a very loving relative in the states to a family member that is still here.  It is known by everyone in the neighborhood as they gather around the little screen to watch 50 cent bootleg copies of old movies.  Now all of a sudden Junior has paid for all of his kids to go to school this year.  The first year he could put them ALL in school in one year.  He has money for them to eat plenty every single day.  For the last 2 months they have not had to miss a single meal.  He has a plan to pay for his rent without having to beg for additional time.  In Junior's mind he is loaded.  People in town have commented on how Junior has actually bought all of his kids shoes for school already.

The fishing program that we have started has given hope to a group of people that had very little hope at all.  Seasonal peasant fisherman.  Illiterate.  Uneducated.  No one in the group has an identification card which is necessary to get a legitimate job or buy land or anything else.  Many of them have never had a birth certificate.  They have just always caught fish to live with the same techniques that have been used for 200 years.  They are from the zone around the river that floods.  They live on the land that no one else wants because it is too dangerous to live there.  They go out fishing and if they aren't successful, they go home and feed their kids the remaining bait.  These are not "men of promise".

But now.  Now they have an income.  They have security.  They have a future.  They have hope.  I have never seen the reality of the transforming power of hope like I have seen in this group of fisherman.  I praise God he chose me to do this job.  Everyone of the fisherman in our group will see all of their kids go to school this year for the first time ever.  Every one of them has a financial plan to pay for their rent on their house.  Some are putting roofs on their houses that have leaked for years.  Some are buying pots for their wives to be able to cook easier.  All of them are beginning to believe that they themselves are a viable part of the community.  There are still a couple that are just still trying to figure out how to get every last dime possible out of me before this ride is over.  I understand that and do not question it.  I believe that if the roles were reversed, my skeptical mind would probably have me in that category too.  But for most of the group, they truly believe that their hard work and determination is paying off.  God is blessing them.  And they are already starting to give back.

There is a school in their zone.  It is ran by a fisherman as the headmaster.  A smart guy that is educated beyond his peers in the industry.  The school needs a lot of work.  Many of the benches are in pieces.  The preschool section was flooded by the river and the silt has not been dug out and cleaned.  The tin roof leaks and is about to fall in.  The teachers are the ones that the other schools would not hire because they do not have degrees.  It is the school that the fisherman try to send one or two of their kids to every other year or so but not something to be proud of.

The school is lacking a maren- a "God Father".  Someone to back the school and support it.  Usually that job is the job of a "blanc".  A white person.  A missionary or a visiting pastor.  Someone the school finds to financially back them.  This school in the fishing zone of Calalun, does not have a maren and it shows.  I talked to our group about being the maren for the school.  Not me- THEM!  We are going to take one haitian dollar (12 cents) and put it into an account for every pound of fish that I buy from them.  The money will be used to put orphaned and fatherless kids from their zone into school.  It will also be for the repairs and improvements.  I want to help them make this school the model for all of Montrouis.  We are going to stucko the building and paint it bright colors.  We are going to build benches and make them the size the kids need.  We are going to feed the kids in school- fish along with rice and beans.  And it will all be done with money that the fisherman earn and put aside to give back.

After I proposed the school plan that I thought was really good of me to model for them how they should give back.  They asked me for a favor.  They have not had any government electricity in their zone for 6 months.  The main transformer went out and the government power company does not replace them.  They want me to price a new transformer when I go to Port Au Prince and then they want to raise the money to buy one.  Any money they can't get from their poverty stricken neighbors, they are going to put in themselves to buy the new transformer to bring electricity back to their neighborhood.

We are still a long ways away from having the fishing ministry able to be sustained.  I can't buy all of their fish they catch.  I have set a weekly limit of how much I will buy from each fisherman but if they all catch that limit I am over may head financially.  But, we are seeing new ministries call every week to order fish for their programs and we are starting to have people from the U.S. want to send money to buy fish to give to our schools and the widows and other people in Montrouis that we support.  We are starting a website soon that will be used to help people get to know the fishermen personally and see the fishing season of Oct-Jan unfold and see how each fisherman does for the season.  I can tell you that I will personally fund the program until my retirement plan is drained if necessary because I have never seen one of my dollars change a life like they are in these guys.  We are helping women sell rice and beans to these guys now that they have money.  We are helping women open little stores to cater to the increased money flowing into the economy of Montrouis. We are working on getting other micro-business owners to tap into the system and start catering to the needs of the fishing industry here.  We see this as a platform for teaching business principles, financial principles, and life lessons to many of the people we have had trouble reaching in our area.

When Junior was leaving last night he hugged me, and although he is not a Christian yet, he told me that he truly believed God picked me up from the U.S. and put me in Montrouis to change his life.  What more could a lowly missionary ask for?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

No Roll-Over Minutes

We had a missionary come to visit us today to talk about the fishing ministry.  They got to meet Judah, Jaxon, Jeanmoi, Jean Patrick, Justice, Kevin, and Michelet.  We also had about 10 of the kids we sponsor in school that had come over to hang out and play.  They asked about the eye clinics, and the mission, and Celebration Children's Home, and the various other things we are doing.  As they were leaving she looked at me and asked how we managed to do all of that.  She has been here for many years and knows the difficulties you face everyday.  I gave her the typical "God's Grace" answer and she left.

After she left I started thinking about that question.  It has been a tough week.  There has been times this week when I wanted to get on one of those little row boats and just head out to sea.  Joy has been gone almost 7 weeks now and does not know exactly when she'll get back.  She has been struggling having to handle everything herself in the U.S. on this trip.  We have had flooded rooms at the mission due to busted pipes.  We had a freezer go out and lost 200 pounds of fish.  I had to tell two of the women at the mission they had to move out due to unresolvable issues.  We found out a group of people we have been working with for a long time has been lying to us about a lot of important issues. Jaxon and Judah have a nasty case of oozing impetigo.  Kevin, our 3 year old with cerebral palsey has something going on and I can't figure out what.  He spends the nights writhing in pain and screaming.  I can't find the source of the pain or if it is some type of seizure.  He is doing that as I type right now.  I just have to hold him and pray.  I just took this picture as I had to stop typing to hold him. 

And I have just been spiritually weak and have lost a lot of mental and emotional battles within. 

But with all of that said, I know God is in control.  I know He can change all the circumstances in an instance. I know He forgives my failures and helps me to learn from them.  I know His grace truly does cover us and give us the desire and power to do His will.  We know everything is harder here.  The spiritual atmosphere is oppressive and small details become huge obstacles.  I know these things and cling to the truths of my faith to get me through.  And we get to see victory after victory as we press on.

As I thought about the question of how we get everything done in these working conditions I believe it is due to grace, unwavering belief in what we are doing, a sense of urgency, a focused passion, and the understanding that there are no roll-over minutes.  There are 24 hours in a day and we try to use every bit of them to advance God's kingdom because there are no roll-over minutes.  You can't save up the time and use it tomorrow.  All of it has to be used TODAY because after today all of those moments to invest in someone will be gone.

Now I know some of you are thinking "but if you over do it you will get burned out.  Slow and steady wins the race".  I believe that FABLE was never meant to be applied to the Christian life or Christian ministry.  Let me tell you how I see it.  The turtle did not "win" the race, the rabbit "lost" it.  The race was the rabbit's to lose.  He had all the skills and God given talents to win the race and be victorious. The rabbit was foolish and got distracted by things that don't matter.  The victory of the turtle had nothing to do with going slow and steady.  If the rabbit had just stayed the course he would have won by a mile.  We give the turtle way too much credit.  I believe the turtle would have experienced life if he had thrown off his shell and ran full speed like the rabbit. His diligence to stay on course would have not only let him win the race but do it with passion.  I don't want to be like the turtle or the rabbit.  I think way to many people already are.  Either they have the skills and God given talents to really be make a difference in the kingdom but they get distracted by things that don't matter.  They get off course and end up chasing after riches, success, comfort, security, acceptance, peacefulness, enjoyment, and the beautiful distractions of American Christianity so they don't run the race at hand. 

Then there are the turtles.  Why won't they throw off the shell?  Because it is a great place to hide.  It is secure and comfortable.  But against the swiftness of the rabbits they don't have a chance.  It would just take one rabbit staying on course and the turtles will never experience victory.  Paul says that we are in a race. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." (I Cor. 9:4) "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1) He says throw off EVERYTHING that slows you down.  Not just sin.  EVERYTHING that slows you down and RUN.  Run, run, run, with a passion after whatever it is that God has placed in your heart to do to advance the Kingdom and wreck hell.  I pray everyday over my kids that they will be Hell wrecking world changers.  It's not easy and it's not safe, but it is all that is going to matter once THE race is finished.   Don't let anyone distract you- including friends and family.  "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?" (Gal. 5:7)

The preachers that joined John Wesley in his work to preach the gospel to the world died at the average age of 35 years old.  They were burned out for Christ.  But they changed the face of the Christian world with their Methodism.  By grace, John himself lived to be 88.  But he cried in disappointment at the age of 86 when he could no longer spend 16 hours per day preaching and teaching.  There is a group in India that we pray for and help and they work 7 hours per day in a secular job and then spend 7 hours per day in evangelism and discipleship.  That's not slow and steady.  That's full bore, all out passionate pursuit of the One that all out, full bore, passionately pursued me when I was but a lowly sinner headed to the hell that I deserved.  He was not slow and steady.  My Jesus was passionate for saving me.  My Jesus was reckless in His pursuit of me.  How in the world can I be anything less in my pursuit of Him?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blind as a Bat

It was once considered one of the most dangerous non-warzone areas on earth.  For 2 years the UN could not take control of the area from the drug lords armed with M-16's and 50 caliber machine guns they were given to them under the table by the former president.  Two square miles in which 100,000+ people share no electricity, running water, or sanitation.  Women are routinely raped and children abused and hundreds live in slavery.

The place is the infamous slum area on the perimeter of Port-au-Prince called Cite Soleil- City of the Sun.  Daphne was born in the heart of this hell on earth.  Her father died when she was young and her mother did the best she could to care for her and her siblings.  She got to go to school with the help of family.  Not every year but at 18 she was in the sixth grade.  Not bad for the kids in her zone.  But then she got sick.  She had trouble getting the energy to get out of bed.  She was always thirsty and hungry but only limited food and good water was available.  She started fainting and losing consciousness.  Her mom took her to the clinic but no one could find out what was wrong.  Most people thought someone had cursed her.  Then at age 19 she started losing her eyesight.  It was so frightening.  She prayed for God to heal her.  Her mom had raised her as a Christian and she knew God was powerful.  But her sight kept getting worse and the sickness too.

Finally she went to a little clinic that was too far to walk to.  Her mom took her in a tap tap- the taxis of Haiti.  The nurse there did some tests and determined she had sic- sugar or Juvenile diabetes.  By this time she was completely blind.

A few weeks ago we were doing eye screenings in that same clinic.  That is where I met Daphne.  She was led into my examining room and I was told by the nurse that it was probably a waste of time because she was blind and there was nothing that could be done.  I looked at Daphne and discovered her blindness is due to cataracts induced by her diabetes.  I asked if her diabetes was being controlled.  The nurse told me that they gave her oral medication but because of no refrigeration there was no way to do insulin.  Her blood sugar was staying around 5-600.  High enough to send her into a coma if she was not careful.  Definitely high enough to continue to destroy her.  All because at 20 years old she did not have a refrigerator.

Hey, I thought.  I have a refrigerator.  I have THREE refrigerators that run all the time due to the blessing of solar panels, and batteries, and inverters, and generators.  I have a bed too- Daphne slept on the floor in her hut in the slum.  I asked if I could talk to the family.  I told them the situation and how we could let Daphne- who weighs about 80 pounds due to her illness- come stay with us so we could buy and refrigerate her insulin and find someone to do eye surgery on her so she could possibly see again if the diabetes has not damaged other tissues inside her eyes.  The family could not believe it.  They praised God and thanked me.  We left with Daphne and took her to The Mission.

Daphne's blood sugar is still a work in progress but it is under 300 and most of the time closer to 200.  We are working on trying to get her cataract surgeries lined up.  I brought her to our house yesterday to spend the day with our kids here.  She loved putting her feet in the water at the ocean.

I asked Daphne what she missed the most about being blind.  I thought maybe the beauty of creation or being able to get around by herself.  She immediately answered it was the people's faces.  She said she missed seeing people.

God used that answer to speak to me.  I had laser vision correction before I left to come to Haiti.  I now see 20/20 without glasses or contacts or anything.  But so often I do not see "people's faces".  I see the pretty sunsets and beauty of the Haitian mountains.  I see the my kids running around and playing in the yard.  I see my work and the duties before me everyday as I do eye exams or work at The Mission or repair a broken generator.  I see the food we give away and the shoes and the clothes.  But do I really take the time to see the faces?

The faces are individuals.  But beyond that, the faces are a reflection of the heart.  The face shows the smile of happiness or the grimace of pain.  The face shows the lines of hard labor and the innocence of childhood.  Romans chapter 12 tells us to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.  But do we look close enough at the faces to know?  That takes time.  That takes effort.  It's easier just to DO something than to really look into the face and desire in my heart to feel what they are feeling.  Do I REALLY want to hurt with these people?  I mean, I know I really want to help them.  But do I really want to HURT with them?  Do I really want to grieve with them?  Do I even want to rejoice with them?  I mean when it rains while I am trying to do a crusade that I put a lot of energy and time and money into putting it on...for God of course... and the storm rains us out and everyone is rejoicing because it means their crops will grow and that God is blessing them... but I am pouting because my plans were ruined...what does that say?  When it is easier for you to just give that beggar a dollar than to ask them about the circumstances that led them to that place of desperation.  The widow that goes home alone every Sunday after church is lonely.  Do you want to feel the depth of her loneliness?  The single mom at your office is so frustrated and confused, but her frustration is not your problem... or is it?

I let Daphne feel my face and she was surprised at my scraggly beard that Jacy Klaire tells me I had better shave before she gets home.  (She is 8 she has never seen me with a beard.)  I pray one day Daphne sees faces again.  I would venture to say she will not take them for granted.  I venture to say she will appreciate the gift of seeing faces.  The question is will I. 

I found this little guy clinging to a tree beside where we eat our meals.  He was only about 50 feet from his home but he had gotten caught out in the daylight for whatever reason.  
I have about a dozen of these huge ugly fruit bats that live right outside my window in a hole in an almond tree.  Every night right at dusk they all fly out and then go back in before light.  Their eyes are so good that they can see at night.  They also have other senses to help them navigate and catch prey but they have eyes that can see with just the smallest amount of light.  BUT, if they get caught outside during the morning hours and daylight, they can't see anything.  They are overwhelmed by the light.  When they are out of their element the very thing that allows them to see at night..a little bit of light... blinds them during the day because it is more than they can handle.

When I was in the U.S. the "need" of the people in Haiti was a good thing.  It helped me to see that I needed to step out of my self absorbed, comfortable, world pleasing, church enjoying, riches chasing, American dream of a life and do something radical out of love for others.  But once here that "need" sometimes blinds me.  I can't see the faces.  I am out of my element. I am overwhelmed.  I am blinded.  I like just a "little bit" of need.  Like my little bat friend wants just a little bit of light.  Too much and I end up hanging on the side of a tree only feet from where I want to be... in the comfort of my little hole...blind as a bat.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spiteful People, Changed Plans, and Rescued Kids

We went to the tent village in the slum area of Port-Au-Prince today to check on some children we found last week.  We were told by a local clinic that there were a couple of families of children whose parents died in the quake that were basically living on their own.  As soon as we arrived, last Tuesday we immediately found the kids in question.

A litlle girl in a tattered dress approached with her face covered in dried blood carrying a naked, filthy baby.  She looked to be about 5  years old but her missing front teeth clued us in that she was probably a little older.  She said she fell down the day before and hit her head on a rock.  No one was around to nurse the gaping wound.  The baby was a little boy, quick to smile even through his apprehension of a big white man playing with him. 

Another little girl with all the signs of malnutrition and worm infestation stood naked nearby, a sister in the same situation only clothed in tatttered clothes held her close.  We assumed we had found the orphaned children.  As I inquired from the gathering adults about the family the stories were inconsistent.  Finally word slipped out that there was a mother and she slept somewhere nearby.  I sent for her.  When she came up you could see that someone had tipped her off about the "blancs" asking about her children.  She quickly informed me that she was a single mom living in the tents since the quake with no one to care for her babies.  Not even a look of concern for the festering wound on her little girl's head. 

She claimed to have 3 kids so I asked about the third and a little girl darted off to find her.  A few minutes later she returned with a naked toddler with no hair and distended belly, naked and filthy.  "I found her playing in the street" she explained, happy about her accomplishment for tracking down the child no one had known was missing.  

As we inquired further we discovered from other sources that there is indeed a father that comes around when he can although he does not take any care of the kids.  I felt we could not do anything until we talked to the father and no one seemed to be of much help contacting him. 

The other two little girls belonged to another woman that quickly showed up on the scene. She told us that she had 4 kids with a man that was killed in the quake and that she also inherited his other two kids from another woman that suffered the same fate.  She claimed to have no way of providing for them and wanted us to take them.  I told her that we would return in a week after some prayer and giving them time to set up a meeting with the father.  So we decided to wait on God to reveal His plan.We left with heavy hearts knowing the kids would spend more time in conditions that would cause people to be arrested in the U.S. if they treated their DOGS that way.  Much less God's precious children.

So that brings us to today.  We had contacted the mother of the 3 children and asked her to set up for the father to meet us today.  When we arrived there  was no father or mother just the three kids playing in the dirt.  They quickly sent a friend to try to track down the mother.  When she arrived we asked about the father.  She adamantly explained that she had talked to him and he wanted us to take the children.  I insisted on talking to him so she left to fetch the supposedly unreachable father.  After thirty minutes of  playing with the kids, the father came.  I explained the situation and how the mother wanted us to take the children because she could not care for them.  I asked what he wanted.  He hesitated and explained that he understood the situation and would like for me to take the children so they would have a better opportunity to live a healthy life. 

So then the other mother shows up with the 6 kids.  She tells me she wants me to take all 4 of her biological children.  I told her that we felt we needed to help the smallest two children.  After about 30 minutes of trying to figure out the many lies that were being told we decided we were going to just take the three original children.  This other mom had lied and only the father of 2 of the children had died, but that is not the two she most wanted to get rid of.  She had a teenage boy that skipped school and gave her problems and if we didn"t take him we weren't taking any.  That was fine with me.  Then she decided to convince the father of the other three that the little baby, 15 months old, did not need to go.  The mother disagreed and wanted us to take the baby.  But the spite won out and the father decided to make the mother keep the baby even though she does not want it and he is not there to care for it.  After a very thorough explaination of my opinion of that situation, we took the two precious jewels and loaded the bus bound for The Mission.

The situation did not turn out exactly like we had planned.  But we are grateful.  Little 7 year old Naica  will have her wounded head and heart cared for in love along with her 3 year old sister Kimberly.  Although our heart breaks for 15 month old Marckenly we rest in the fact that the Lord is in charge.  The first ride in an automobile started out exciting for little Naica but turned quickly as car sickness set in.  We are arriving now in the mission just before dark.  Their first night in a bed.  Their first shower.  Their first secure night surrounded by love and compassion. 

These are the first children we have taken into the mission that are not true orphans.  But I know they were worse off than most orphans.  A mentally unstable or uncapable mother and absent father left them living in a tent village vulnerable to vile predators of the kind we don't talk about in civilized society.  So our plans were modified to an extent.  Those of you that know us, know that Josie, Judah, Jaxon, and Justice all came from bad situations but not as orphans.  We trust God will put these new little ones into homes where love and protection are the norm and God's plan is revealed. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cracked and Broken

Have you ever had a time when God seemed to pull you to the side and whisper into your ear, "Let me show you something"? I had one of those moments today.
Cracked and Broken Lives All Around Us.

They are a bother to us. An annoyance in our day. It's the homeless man in Charlotte. It's the hitch hiker on the interstate. It's the pregnant teenager. It's the folks that are bringing down the property value in our neighborhood. You know the ones. The Mexican or Asian family down the street with 6 families and one car with no insurance. The crazy women that is always at the grocery store the same time I am. It's the trailer park crowd with the broken screen door and Buick on blocks in the drive. It's the hoodlums on the corner in the "bad" part of town. It's the guy that is always asking me for a ride. It's the old women that smells funny and really gives me the creeps. It's the crowd in the Emergency room when I really do have an emergency. It's the line outside the welfare office.

For us here it's the crowds outside our gate. It's the ones coming at 6 in the morning looking for food or begging for work. The throngs of single moms that don't take care of their children. It's the absent fathers that don't work. It's the swindlers. It's the beggars. It's the pimps. It's the prostitutes. It's the dirty. It's the smelly. It's the con men.

But they are so lucky we are here. Because since God made us smarter, and wiser, and Godlier, and better we can give them a "hand up". We can give them the stuff that we don't need any more. We can serve them some food at the homeless shelter and just our smile will light up their day. "It's the least I can do". I will make friends with one of them so that they will accept Jesus. He is the only hope "those people" have.

Before Joy left for the states we stopped beside the busy street in Port Au Prince to look at a local artisan's display of furnishings and vessels. He takes broken glass and tiles and makes tables and chairs and pots etc. Joy asked him to make her something out of broken mirrors. She showed him what she wanted and he happily agreed to do it. I passed by today and saw it hanging on the block wall by the road stopped to check it out.

It did not turn out like I had hoped. Several of the pieces of mirror were messed up and the dimensions were not like we had told him. I took a picture of the bad pieces of mirror to show Joy so she would know why I did not buy it from the guy. The street vendor. The peddler. The nuisance.

When I got home I went to look at the picture and that is when God pulled me aside. I had looked at the broken mirror before but when I got home God showed me the reflection of the man. His reflection was through the cracked mirrors. The missing pieces. The dirt on the surface. But God showed me that He sees us all that way. We are all broken. Cracked. Dirty. It turns out that there is not a scale of who's dirtier...or more broken...or more cracked. We are called to just love all of His cracked children.

You see that item Joy had the guy make was this cross. It was as though God was reminding me that we are to look at everyone in the reflection of the cross. We are to see His children as He sees them. We are to see them as Jesus saw them when He was on the cross. As precious. As valuable. As cherished. Each and every one. Yes, many are shattered. Bad choices. Bad relationships. Injustice. Corrupt governments. Evil people. A sinful world. But He loves them. More than we can imagine. When we see them in the reflection of the cross, it all changes!
The Cross

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Everybody Loves Louis

Louis was the grounds keeper at the abandoned apartment building that is now "The Mission". A humble man of few words, Louis never really had much to say to or about white people. He had seen missionaries come and go from Montrouis and never really thought much of the version of Christianity they were trying to spread. He just kept to himself and did his job. Guarding an uninhabited building.

Louis has taught me a lot. I had planned to let Louis stay for a month or so until we learned how the property operated. He knew all about the water system and the electrical. I really did not think we would need him after a few weeks because the guys on our staff could do those things. Plus I really did not know him and I could not have someone living on the premises and having access to everything that we did not know. We would eventually have children there and everything and I had to keep them safe. All the good reasons to not take a chance on someone that others overlook. But God had other plans.

I could not open the gate at the mission without Louis being under my feet wanting to know what he could do to help. He would carry water, pull wiring, fetch tools. Whatever I needed Louis was ALWAYS there. Even when what I needed was just a little space...Louis was there. God began to touch my heart for this guy. I still did not know anything about him. I thought he was a typical Haitian womenizer because of the women that I saw coming in and out early in the mornings before the place was ours. I eventually decided that at the end of the month that we would let Louis keep working but he would have to find somewhere else to live.

At the end of that first month I did not have the heart to tell Louis to leave. He was sleeping on the concrete floor in our storage room. When I bought the refrigerator for the kitchen he was so excited... because the box would make a great bed to sleep on. I finally decided to give Louis a place to live and a job on a three month probationary basis. Joy decided that we were buying him a bed and putting him in the apartment with our other guys that stay there. So she took the bed, fixed him a place with a little table and everything, and had his own little living area. He was so thankful. He loves Joy to death anyway. He thanked her and thanked her... slept in the bed one night and asked me if it would be okay if he moved back out to the storage room out back. He did not sleep good in the bed! I said sure and he moved back into the storage room.

The time came for us to open the mission to teams to come. The first team that came was from Atlanta. I had told the team to be praying because Louis was not a Christian but I had been sharing with him. A pastor on the team really took to Louis. Although Louis can't speak any English he really allowed this pastor to minister to him. Before the week was over Louis felt the calling of God to become a Christian. He repented of his sins and asked Jesus to become his "Gwo Chef" (big boss). Louis could not wait to meet me at the gate the next morning to tell me the news. He has not put his Bible down since.

When the team from Tri-City came to work with us for a week, Louis shared that he had never had anyone make him feel so happy. He said no one had ever hugged him like those white people did. He just praises the Lord for sending us to rent that apartment building. He says it was all done for him to become a Christian. He says that Joy's spirit and humility helped him to see Jesus as a reality and God touched him.

Now Louis is of course a full time resident at the mission. He does all of our maintenance and grounds keeping. If the current fails at 3 in the morning, Louis is there to get the generator going. If the water tanks on the roof all empty, Louis pumps the water. And if I need a screwdriver...Louis is always right under me to get it.

He still sleeps in the storage room. We have 12 showers at the mission. Louis bathes out back in a bucket with his clothes on. He lathers up- clothes and all- then rinses- and air dries- clothes and all. Saves time on laundry. Louis now is the best friend of all the kids in the mission. The twins just love him to death. If he is not working, he is carrying around one of the babies. He is a valuable part of our team.

We go to the mission field thinking we are going to give people what we have because that is what they want.

Louis does not want my shower I can give him.

He does not want my bed I can give him.

He wants my love I can give him.

He wants my hug I can give him.

That's why we are here. I could send a bed. I could send money. I could send food.

But I can't send a hug.

I can't send 2 hours working under a sink with him and letting him tell me about his mother and his childhood.

And oh yeah, all those strange women coming in and out of the apartment building, Louis was catching water as it ran off of the roof and keeping it for them and letting them wash their clothes there. Lord make me like Louis!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bokor, Loogau, and Zombies

The thing about darkness that makes it so bad is that it is dark! I have had the opinion of many missionaries that come to Haiti that voodoo is false religion that is full of lies and based on fear. Now I have changed my opinion somewhat. I still believe that lies are fear are much of voodoo but it is not a false religion. For the people in Haiti it is an everyday way of life. Whether you are a Christian or not it is a regular part of your life and a reality. Let me share a few of the things that have been hardest for me to understand and believe but are taken as facts and reality to practically everyone I know in Haiti- including pastors and our closest friends. I want to understand these issues better- not out of curiosity, but out of a need to be able to minister to our people. I have to understand the depth of their belief and what areas I can help them see the light. It does me no good to curse the darkness without shedding light (thanks pastor Ruffin). This hits home for me because our two boys that live with us both come from voodoo practicing families and so it is total reality to them.

Here is how the information comes to me.  I am stating it as fact because that is how it is believed.

First there are a few terms you need to be familiar with. A voodoo priest or witch doctor or sorcerer as we would say in English is called a Bokor (Bo'- ku) if he is male and a Mambo if she is female. They are said to practice magic "with both hands". Meaning good magic and bad magic.

A Loogau is someone that has been turned into a soceror by a Bokor and is bad. They are usually a normal person by day but are responsible for killing babies. If you go to the Bokor's house too often they will turn you into a Loogau. It is possible to be a loogau and not know it. If you are the first one to cry at your grandmother's funeral and she was a Loogau, then you will be a loogau. A loogau turns into an animal at night to do bad things. The most common are bats, rats, and cats. But even pigs, dogs, or donkeys are known to be loogau. The most common thing they do is to enter a house and make a baby sick or kill it. Then the baby goes to the bokor for a healing or it dies and the bokor digs it up to eat it and use it for spells. Some villages have thousands of loogau. If you know your baby was made sick by a loogau, you can take it to the loogau and threaten to kill them. If you do they can make a tea to give your baby and they will be instantly healed. But to do that makes you a target to be killed too. A loogau turns into an animal but leaves his human body somewhere secret. If another loogau knows where the body is it can come and put hot peppers and salt on the body and the loogau can't reenter the body and it dies. If you kill the loogau while it is an animal and you burn the animal completely, the human body dies where it is at sunrise. A loogau only enters houses of non-Christians because of fear of being defeated by the good spirits that guard the house of Christians.

Bokor make loogau so that they will go around making people sick so the bokor will have business. Sometimes bokor make people sick with an evil spirit so that the people have to come to them and pay for a healing. If one bokor can't heal you, he will send you to a bokor specialist for the healing.

A zombie is someone that the Bokor kills and then raises from the dead to be his slave. When someone is a zombie he or she does not remember anyone from before. They cannot speak but they can do work. If you see someone that you know died and they are now alive working at the house of the bokor, you cannot say anything to them or anything or the bokor will turn you into a zombie too. You have to act like you never saw them. You can't tell anyone because the bokor will know. There was a documented case on Haitian T.V. that included the police and ivestigators and the zombie was made after the person spent a few days in the morgue before being buried. The father of the deceased waited at the grave for the bokor to come and then attacked him after he raised the son from the dead. He then tied the son up and took him home. After some time the son can't walk and can't talk but he is alive. It aired on St. Marc T.V. several times.

A "flash"- Young people cannot be in the streets after 11 or 11:30 pm because the bokor will "flash" them and they will soon die. Then they are zombified. The flash is just with a light of some kind but it labels you for the evil spirit to know you. It is like marking you with a mark to let the spirit know to possess you and kill you. Sometimes if you know you were flashed you can take off your clothes before you go into your house and the spirit will not enter the house and you will not die. If you get possessed you can ask for intercession and sometimes the spirit can be cast out and you will live.

Powder is a concoction made from corpses of dead people or dried puffer fish (some confusion here) and is used to kill people. It can be bought from the bokor. You can put it in the top of a coke bottle and when it is opened the powder puffs out and the person gets sick and eventually dies. Any way to get the person to inhale or step on or in some way touch the powder. Powder is the most common way that people use the bokor to kill people. Although you can just pay him to send an evil spirit to kill or make someone sick too.

You have to be careful who you talk to if you do not know them. They may be a loogau and if you tell them where you live they can go ahead of you to your house and turn into a bad animal and kill you then go in your house and rob you. Loogau also turn into animals to enter houses of young non-Christian women to rape them. They also suck the blood of young children for power.

Now this is not the story as it comes from those who practice voodoo. This is the belief of practically every single person I know. It is all taken as fact. I spent 3 hours today talking to a pastor at my house along with a good friend and they confirmed everything I had been told. They also agreed with me that the bokor has power because people believe it. They agreed with that. But if you say I am not going to believe in the bokor any more because I do not want him to have power... it is too late. You already believe. He already has the power. You can't not believe so that he won't have power.

So there is Haitian voodoo 101. Most Haitians do not want outsiders to know what they believe. They do not like to even talk about it because of the power it has. So there is our battle. To shine light into darkness. We hold to 1 John 4:4- "Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world".

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Friends, Floods, and Fatalism

Bristel, his sister, and their mother all lost their houses in the hurricanes of 2008. They lived beside the river in Montrouis and their houses and everything they had in life washed away. Bristel helped his mother rebuild her house and now he had saved enough money from his fishing to buy 3 truckloads of sand, 2 loads of gravel, and 30 bags of cement and was ready to start rebuilding his house next door to his mom again. He had the building materials stored at his mom's house. Bristel is my friend.

Roger also lost his house and his mother's house in the 2008 hurricanes along with everything they had. He started over again with a new wooden canoe fishing the shores of Montrouis. He is my fishing partner that helped me catch my big sailfish by hand. He rebuilt his mother's house too in the same place. The same land their family has owned for generations. It is all they have. The little piece of land by the river. He's my friend.

2 weeks ago Roger called me at about 5 pm to tell me the river was rising and I needed to see it. I had a missionary family visiting - The Robinsons- and so I did not think a trip to the river was timely. We decided to go and visit another orphanage instead but decided to at least drive by the river...When we pulled out of our driveway we could see the mass of people down the road. The river was working it's way towards our house. We decided a look at the river would probably be timely.

The river which is usually 3 feet deep and 15 feet wide was now a rushing torrent that had flooded a half mile down the road. As we joined the crowd, Roger found me. He told me his mother's house was "taking in water". He took me and Tracy through the banana fields to show us the damage. We went to check on some friends and found their house almost flooded but a wall collapsed across the road and allowed the water to flow away. We could not reach Roger's mother's house. It was too far into the water. The next day we went to see it.

Roger's mom's house was just a flat concrete slab. Everything she had was gone...again. The same for Bristel's mom...and all of his building materials. We let Roger's mom and niece come live at our mission for a while to see what we can do to help them find somewhere else. Bristel came to me today to tell me they were starting to work on his mother's house again. In the same place. By the river. He was asking if we could help. I tried to tell him that I did not think it was wise to build there again. He said their family had lived there for generations. Sometimes floods come. I tried to tell him that it is different now. The deforestation had caused so much silting of the rivers in our area that they can no longer drain the land in heavy rains. The flooding will be worse now than ever. He just blankly stared at me and said the little land by the river is all that his whole family owns. He does not believe the river is any different than it was for his grandfather. If it floods it floods. Fatalism. He's my friend. I hate it. He does not believe me and does not believe that cutting down trees to make charcoal has anything to do with his mom's house. So what do we do?

We keep working, and loving, and helping, and sending, and giving, and teaching, until they trust us. We can't reach anyone that does not trust us. We can't make anyone trust us. We can't change people's belief structure in a year. So we are here. We are praying. Everything we do helps us build trust. So our friends won't continue to be sick from preventable disease, and lose their homes by self destructive measures, and die without knowing the love of the God of salvation that sent us here.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Jean Patrick's (JP) mother died when he was a year old. He was raised by his father and his father's family. His father had a baby with another woman in the village. That woman sold bananas in market. The woman beside her consistently sold more bananas and that became a strife point. One day Jean Patrick's step mother decided to eliminate the competition. She had JP's father buy some "powder" from the local houngan- witch doctor. The powder is made from the corpse of dead people and is used to curse someone that you want to kill. JP's dad bought the powder and the jealous banana peddler used it to kill her competition - believe what you want- it is the reality of life in Haiti- true or not- science or religion- people end up dead- and that's the ultimate reality for them...

When the woman died it was known that JP's step mom had put the curse on her. So she fled to an island off of the coast to get away from the vengeful family of the dead woman. Since the vigilanty mob could not find the murderess, they decided that the husband that provided the powder would be a good scapegoat. So at age 7, JP had his father dragged into the streets, hands tied, a tire placed around his neck, and burned alive.

So now the 7 year old, traumatized orphan was left to basically fend for himself. He found a suitable home in the shelter of a dirt floor hut that was home to his elderly great grandmother. Unable to provide for most basic needs, JP found food and help where ever he could.

One day we received a phone call about a 9 year old boy that needed a home and a family. We were told the story of JP's past and how he did not have family that could take him in. We went to visit little JP and his great grandmother. She just cried as we talked about our mission and how we could provide for him. With nearly blinded eyes and no teeth, she pulled Jean Patrick close to her chest and wept over him. She kept saying how he had no mother or father and she had prayed and prayed for God to somehow deliver him. She kept telling him that he must be a good boy. He must not do anything to lose this opportunity. She told him this was his only chance to make it. It broke our hearts. She was so happy for him but she was putting so much pressure on him at the same time. We were just ready to get JP home and show him the love that Jesus had placed in our hearts for him. We were ready to help him heal from the trauma of a murdered father and the stigma he had received by the local villagers.

Since coming into our home little JP has flourished. He loves our kids and especially Joy. He just sits in her lap and lets her hug him. He is constantly looking for her to grab him and and brag on him with her broken creole. It is amazing how little verbal language is needed to convey love. He still has issues. He is plagued by the fear of the voodoo that took his father's life. I caught an octopus this week to show Sidney Robinson that was visiting. She wanted me to throw it back. Jamoy wanted to eat it. But Jean Patrick wanted me to just kill it so it would not go and bring a "devil" to curse our home. He believed that since we had caught it that it would now go in anger and tell the demons and they would come and curse our home and kill the children. He has been so afraid to sleep near the window. Although it is barred, he believes the witch doctor can turn into a rat or other animal and enter through the window to take him away.

He can't swim but we have gotten him to get into the water. He has never learned to swim due to his fear of what lives in the water. You can see by his gear that he is not taking any chances on sinking!

Keep JP in your prayers. He is a special kid and God has a special plan for his life. Pray God will let us help him over come the fears that plague him. Unchurched and unsaved, we know God wants to take over his life and lead him to a place of peace and victory. We are so thankful we get to be a small part of that process.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

General Update

I just wanted to take a minute to update everyone on how things are going in general. God is really allowing us to see some pretty awesome things happen. By that I do not mean blind people healed or sweeping revival. But we are seeing individual lives changed and a hand full of precious Haitian people really beginning to understand the depth of God's love for them.

Eye Clinics: We have one clinic in a hospital in St. Ard that is going great. We regularly find patients that have glaucoma, cataracts, pterygiums, and inflamatory eye disease that would have other wise gone untreated. Our staff of guys- Wesner, Paul, Robbins, Bazelais, and Dago all received a week of training by Dr. Lori Geddes and her team a few weeks ago and it is really paying off in our clinic. We also have a full office of equipment waiting in the container that is stuck in PAP right now. That office will go in a hospital in Pierre Pyan where we will also see patients each week. We regularly do screenings in churches and schools and that is often our most effective way of finding patients that need care. Peter is a 10 year old boy with just such a need. He was found during a screening in one of our mountain churches. He has an eye tumor and we are currently trying to find the best way to have the intensive surgery he needs and follow up care. Be praying for him.

Schools and Churches: Our schools are out for the summer right now. We are in the process of trying to get food shipments in so we will be able to feed the kids next year. The churches are doing well. All of our pastors are working hard and we will be holding a pastor training seminar again in the fall.

Celebration Children's Home: That is the name of our "crech". A crech in Haiti is a home that aids in the adoption of children. We have recieved 5 children into our crech so far. (Three of which we are adopting...) Wilna is the little 10 year old almost blind girl. She is doing great. Adelson is a 14 year old boy that was living in the streets in Montrouis and he has found a new home at Celebration. Jamoy lives with us. So does 9 year old Jean Patrick. His father was burned in the streets for practicing voodoo. And little 5 month old Justice is the pride of us all. She is doing great as well.

We have a local Haitian artist that is helping us decorate the mission and the children's home. He is a good guy and we are praying for him to realize his need for a real relationship with Jesus. He has an amazing talent and can paint anything. He has one drawback. He likes to surprise us! So he decides what he thinks we would like and does it. Even if we have totally other plans. One day I told him I wanted a logo painted on our wall in front of the mission. Joy mentioned a rainbow and kids playing on it with the name of the home. I had in mind a small logo under our New Vision Ministries logo. This is what we came in to find even before we confirmed the plans. So Celebration Children's Home became Celebration Home Chidren (no 'l').

We also have 3 moms and their babies living at the mission. They are doing well too. We are blessed to be able to invest in lives each and every day.

Fisherman's Ministry: God is really working in the lives of our fisherman. We have had many chances to minister to them lately. A friend from Hickory came to visit and brought me a roll of donated fishing line. We were able to give it to the guys for them to make jugs with. We are in the process of developing a plan where we help the fisherman catch more fish and then we buy them at a good price to give to the local schools to make sauce to feed the children. We are trying to get all of the logistics worked out but we believe it will be a great way to help the fishing community and at the same time feed children a healthy protein food that they love.

Biker Ministry: Many of you know we lost a good friend in a motorcycle accident. He was a driver of a moto -motorcycle taxi- here in Montrouis. As a result of that we are trying to reach out to the moto drivers in our community. We are planning a weekly meeting where we are able to minister to the moto drivers. I want to help them have proper equipment and then pray over them and their motos for safety and protection. Most of these guys are unchurched and now that the road has been built here in Montrouis, they have a very dangerous job. We had our first meeting scheduled Sunday but it go rained out. We will be meeting with them next Sunday.
We are looking for partners to help us know what all we might could do to reach these young guys and make their jobs safer. If you want to be involved, just let us know.

Earthquake Relief: Life is still very difficult for many here since the quake. Things are slowly getting back to normal- except for the fact that there are still lots of white people in PAP. We spend time in some of the tent villages doing distributions and helping with the transition. Tons of broken concrete are trucked to the outskirts of PAP and dumped everyday. Not much permanent rebuilding is taking place yet but many groups are building temporary housing for displaced victims. It will be a long long time before things are back to normal... whatever that is!

School Sponsorships: We are gearing up for our next year of school sponsorships. It costs us about $150 to put a child in school and buy their books and uniforms and everything they need for a year. We sponsored 27 kids last year ourselves but we are looking to open things up to allow others to sponsor kids this year so we are hoping to sponsor about 50 Montrouis kids to go to school. We are going to partner with a local group of young Haitians to help us identify the kids with the most need and let them help us with the logistics of the program. It is one of the ministry programs we enjoy the most. We are impacting children and families and they are so grateful for it.

Celebration Kids Club: Joy's Friday Kids club is doing great. She has about 40 kids that come to our house for a time of fun and Bible study. She always has a fun program lined up and the kids love her. Our only problem is that about half of them come everyday!

Monster Bus Worship: We had our first Monster Bus Worship service last Wednesday night with a team from Hickory. It did not go as well as hoped and the weather was not ideal but it got us started. We have a short school bus that is our main mode of transportation. I up fitted it to be a mobile worship center. We have a sheet of white plywood with hooks that hang it onto the back of the bus. Then we extend a boom with a projector to project worship videos with words back onto the screen. We have videos in English, French, and Creole. We use the laptop inside of the bus and run amplified speakers outside. We have an inverter hooked up to the 2 bus batteries to power everything. Our goal is to develop a service that we can take anywhere and draw people with sound and video. We also have the Jesus video DVD in creole that we plan to start showing in different communities.

Mission Teams: What a huge blessing teams have been in the last few months. It has been a lot of work but so much work has been done by teams from all over the US coming to Montrouis to work. I wish I could give proper credit to all of the ones that have been here. We can't believe so many people are willing to sacrifice to come and help us. We have had crusades, medical clinics, eye clinics, sports outreaches, pastor trainings, construction projects, shoe distributions, food distributions, clothes distributions, baby health programs, staff seminars, and much more through teams that have been here. I can't say how thankful we are!

Family Update: Jacy Klaire is in the states visiting family and friends. Joy is leaving in the next week to go get her. She will be going with Josie and leaving me here with the rest of crew. We are all doing great. God healed me of my ongoing illness and we are all doing well. We miss everyone back home but we are enjoying the life God is affording us here. We have a great place to live by the water and our kids can play and run. There is often a breeze and in the moments when we sit down we get to enjoy it. Thank you for your prayers for us personally!

Current Events: We had a flood in Montrouis 2 days ago. The river could not be contained by its banks and many homes were swept away. It was quite a sight to see the power of the raging river. Many people lost everything. The river came down our road to within a few hundred yards of our house. The deforestation and subsequent silting in of rivers has made flooding a deadly way of life here for many. One of my fisherman's mom lost her house and everything she owned. We moved her into the mission today for a few weeks until we can help them decide what we need to do to help her relocate. We also saw a tornado in the distance last night as it formed and touched down from a storm cloud. It was too far from us to be a hazard for Montrouis but it was a reminder of the fact that flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tempests, are part of our new life. But on a good note, the weather has been much cooler lately with all of the storms and rain. Every cloud has a silver lining.

The boys from HOB came over to swim in the ocean today. That was a great surprise for us. We enjoyed the time of playing with them and letting them play here. They asked about many of you that have been here to visit in the past.

So there is an update of how things are going here. We have not seen the sweeping revival and change in the superficial religious culture of our community but we are seeing God work. We stand amazed!