Thursday, September 16, 2010
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 www.fish2feedhaiti.tv 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
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
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.
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.