The Family

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sight Restored

He was lead into our eye clinic by a daughter.  He was blind for almost 10 years.  It was quickly evident that he had very advanced cataracts.  I could not tell if there were other disease processes as well because the cataracts were too advanced to see past them.  We set him up to see an American group of surgeons that were coming to Haiti to do cataract surgeries just a few months later.  The patient had his surgery a week ago and came to the clinic for his post op check today.

It was so fun to hear him talk about how he could see everything for the first time in a decade.  He told me that the only problem is that people from all around his village keep coming to his house to see if it was true that he could really see.  With the help of Medical Ministry International we were able to make an immeasurable difference in a person's life.  What a great opportunity!

These experiences are what keep us going down here.  When it seems that the pressure is just overwhelming and the thoughts of a "normal" life in America and practicing optometry in an air conditioned office with people who can talk about sports and "the news" begin to tempt me to wonder what I am doing here, God sends one of those moments that helps to remind me of the special opportunity He has awarded to us.

We have a container in customs that has 3 boats and motors that we will be using in the fishing ministry for the guys to be able to catch more fish.  I pray we can get it out tomorrow.

Michelet had his brain surgery for hydrocephaly.  He has had a few minor complications but is doing well now.  We are anxious to see how much he is able to develop now that the pressure on his brain has been relieved.  Keep him in your prayers as he is still susceptible to infection and other complications for some time to come.  

Our SUV has major electrical/mechanical problems and is broken down at a mission near Port Au Prince.  We will tow it back to Montrouis as soon as we get the truck fixed... a Ford diesel mechanic with a few days to spare should would be helpful!

We will be in the US for 3 weeks in December visiting family thanks to the generous donation of plane tickets for our entire family!  We are trying to get a visa for Justice and Jean Patrick but they have not come through yet.

Liberty Academy- our American school in St. Marc is going well.  We are starting to talk to teachers for next year if anyone is looking for such an opportunity.  Joy is loving the school and is doing an amazing  job of running  everything and teaching kindergarten.

The child sponsorship  program is still struggling to find sponsors for the kids in school but we have most of them in school anyway.  You can sponsor a child by visiting

We are in the process of opening a boy's transition home for teenage boys that don't have anywhere to go.  It will be housed upstairs in the property we rented to store the boxes of food and supplies that we use in our feeding programs.

The school feeding program is going well with almost 1500 kids being fed daily and teachers being paid a salary through the same program.  We are also starting a separate feeding program for the school in the fish village.  The huge cooking pots are being made right now.  It is a cool process as they use old aluminum pieces from junked vehicles to make the pots.

The elderly feeding program is also going well with the ladies in our women's ministry preparing the food three days per week. 

The fishing is good right now and we are buying hundreds of pounds of fish per week to use in our programs and we start transporting to other ministries starting tomorrow.

The kids at the children's home are doing great.  We have them in a new school this year and they are loving it.  Several of our kids are going  to school for the first time in their lives and that has been a wonderful change for them. You should see Daniel and Sonson in their little uniforms!

Wesner's house is getting the roof put on and windows and doors are being built right now.  His wedding next month is going to be a big celebration for everyone and we have several people coming down from the US for the shindig.

All of our children including Logan who is here for a couple of months are doing great.  School in St. Marc has definitely made that better and an answer to prayers.

We have a group from Operation Hope coming down again next month to do surgeries and we have been very busy with teams for the last several months.  Our 8 interns leave this week for a Christmas break.  We will miss them as they have been such a huge help to us at the school and the mission.

Justice's adoption is still a mystery and frustration but is apparently moving along.  Our creche license is still sitting in the office of social services waiting on approval.

Anson, the 13 year old boy that was electrocuted in our yard a few weeks ago is doing much better.  We had started letting him come into the mission some to help around and play with the kids.  Some local adults had talked him into throwing a wire over the government electrical main where it comes into the transformer in our yard so they could steal the electricity.  As he did the government electricity was on and it almost killed him.  He spent a couple of weeks in the hospital and will have scars for life.  Had he died, I would have been charged even though I was not there at the time.  We thank God for His continual protection.  Anson is now in our school sponsorship program and will live in the boy's home.  He said that a lot of the local people are mad at him because he won't steal anything for them from our home.  What a shame for a 13 year old to be put into that kind of position but it is a great chance for us to minister to him and rescue him from a delinquent life.

The small business program we set up for the earthquake refugees is going well.  We still need a few more business ideas to put a couple of the women into but overall it is going great.

Pastor Cesar and the other pastors are doing well.  I preached at Buas Nerf for their big harvest service yesterday and everyone was there.  We had a good 4 hour service and they gave me a pineapple and a gallon of fresh cow's milk.

I think that is a wrap of what's going on right now.  Thanks to everyone that has come to visit and sent support the last couple of months.  It has been a tough last couple of months but we are looking forward to seeing friends and family next month.  Pray we can get those visas for our two Haitian kids so Joy will be able to actually relax a little while in the states.  If Justice is stuck here I don't think Joy will have the same experience as she would have if Justice gets to go.  The Lord is in charge!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I love it when a plan comes together...

Situation #1-  She lost her husband and the father of 5 kids in the earthquake in 2010.  He was crushed under their house as it collapsed in the earthquake.  She had nowhere to go after the quake and ended up in the refugee camp in Montrouis.  Through a bad relationship in the refugee camp she found herself pregnant.  I met her in the camp but did not really know her until the day she was to deliver the baby.  We were on our way to the hospital and we were told she was trying to have her baby but it was breach.  She needed to go the hospital but did not have the money.  We took her to the hospital and she had her baby boy.  As time progressed and the camp closed she really began to struggle.  In her mid 40's, a widow, a new mom,  a refugee, an earthquake survivor, homeless, and unemployed in a community where she new no one and had no where to go.

We were blessed to be able to help madame Charles find a house to live in and rent it for  her but she still had no way to provide for her family.  Her baby became sick.  She contracted malaria.  When I went to visit her the despair in her eyes was hard to look at even though I see despair on a daily basis.  She was slow to complain or seem ungrateful for past help, but she let me know that she did not know how her family was going to make it.  I took her a week's supply of rice but decided we had to come up with a way for her to make some money.

Situation #2-  She lived in a small house by the river.  In June of 2009 she lost her home for the second time in two years.  In September 2008 Hurricane Hanna washed her little rented block home away.  She rebuilt a small place for her and her 3 children in the same place by the river but on that rainy day in June, it too was washed away.  She found herself living in a Haiti Red Cross donated 3 person Coleman tent in that same little place by the river.   Forced to drop out of school in sixth grade, Mary had her first child as a teenager.  For the last 10 years she believed using her body was the only way to find food for her small family.  Eight months after the flood, the tent shredded and providing little protection for the elements, she was desperate for a change- she humbly asked if there was any way we could help her find a place to live. She tells me how 2 days ago her 10 year old son found a bread fruit- a local starchy fruit prepared like a potato, and she was able to cook it for the family but for the last two days she has not had anything to feed them.

Situation #3-  She had 3 little girls by the same man.  Not a picture book marriage but she felt he took care of them as best he could.  But his other wife did not feel the same way.  She felt that the Paulette's kids were practically taking food off of her kid's plates.  In a deranged, evil state of mind one hot evening, this second wife savagely murdered two of Paulette's daughters.  It was more than she could emotionally handle.  Over the coming months, Paulette slowly lost her mind.  In a country with limited medical care of any kind, mental health facilities are all but none existent.  I first met Paulette as she bathed in the middle of the street one sunny afternoon.  I later learned she was not bathing.  She is just fond of clothes.  She doesn't always remember all of our encounters but she never forgets my name.  She can't tell me her story but I learn it from neighbors.  Paulette just tells me how hungry she is and how no one ever wants to help her.  She is not able to take care of herself and I often find her sick and she is very malnourished.  She needs someone to help.

God seems to love to work in these types of situations.  Not necessarily in this order, this is how God helped His precious child in each of the above situations.  We were just luck enough to be along for the ride.

We rented Mary a house.  In exchange for her rent she had to join our work program and ladies development program.  Her work assignment is cook food for 30 elderly shut-ins and others in the community like Paulette who cannot take care of themselves.  The food is delivered hot and fresh to Paulette three days per week.  We are working to add a daily vitamin and healthy juice to help maintain a healthy diet.  There are 13 women that were in Mary's situation.  They now all have houses for themselves and their kids and jobs to help them see that they can make a difference.  They are paid with vouchers.  The vouchers are redeemable for groceries at 4 local road side stands.  Madame Charles and 3 other refugee widows are the owners of the stands.  We helped them set up businesses where they sell rice, beans, oil, and other provisions to the community but specifically to the women in the feeding program.  When they receive the vouchers, they bring them to me to buy more product at a reduced wholesale price.  We help them understand business principles necessary to be able to keep their businesses viable.

Now Mary's kids eat every day.  She can speak some English and has gotten me to help her start a little side business with her sister and friend selling various clothing and supplies needed for the kids that are starting school.

Paulette is currently sick and can't get out of the bed.  I took her to the hospital but after several rounds of antibiotics we are sure what the infection is coming from.  She is still getting her food and we even try to keep her dressed.  She is not healthy mentally or physically, but she has people there to help her meet her needs.

This past week madame Charles came to buy more rice and supplies.  She came with both a stack of vouchers and a handful of cash.  I looked at madame Charles and asked her how things were going.  As she held the stack of New Vision Ministry food voucher cards she smiled and told me her life had never been better.  Now how does it get any better than that?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Power of Belonging

I was met at the back of the bare concrete block church by a sea of lime green shirts. Our fishermen and the women in our women's group all had on their New Vision Ministry T-shirts and black jeans we had helped them get. They were also all wearing white latex gloves Roger had found in our medical supply box at the fish house. It made them look strangely official. They were all serving as ushers. In the front of the church was Marcus' coffin...draped with his lime green T-shirt.

I was called in the middle of the night to tell me Marcus had had a stroke. Stephen and Autumn took him to the hospital where he died the next morning not long after I visited. He was one of our guys. He left behind two precious girls and a wife.

I gave the family strong encouragement to immediately take the body to the public morgue in St. Marc. I told them I would help with the funeral but I would not cover the cost of a private morgue. I thought they took my advice.

Two days later the family comes to me to say that a private morgue picked up the body from the hospital and had assured them they would do the funeral for cheap. Now the director of the funeral home was demanding $20,000 Haitian or about $2500 usd for the funeral. This was from a family worth about $200.

I helped the family with the money I would have paid for the simple funeral and then bought Marcus's bwafouye (canoe) from the family to do a memorial for him at the fish house. The family continued to come to plead for more money for two weeks while they sold everything they owned and borrowed money from everyone they could find to pay the morgue. I hate that system.

Finally they got $15,000 Haitian and the funeral home agreed to bury him. That is where the funeral picked up. They had a big wake the night before in which everyone present gets to drink and party at the expense of the mourning family. If the crowd feels the family did not produce enough liquor, beer, and sodas, the crowd starts throwing rocks at the family and the house. It is a very stressful time for an already stressed out family.

The funeral service was preached by a Christian pastor to an uninterested crowd. Everyone just stood and talked until he finished at which time the funeral home workers came forward to get the coffin. That is when the show began. Before anyone touched anything all of our women and guys posed in front of the coffin for a picture with their official uniforms.

As soon as the coffin was touched, dozens of women began to scream at the top of their lungs and wail. Four of our girls took the T-shirt off of the coffin and carried it one at each corner at the front of the funeral procession right behind the marching band as we went down the road in the pouring rain.

The procession lasted about half an hour until we reached the family's house. The criers cried and screamed the whole way. But now they turned it up a notch. Women began falling onto the ground and rolling in the mud screaming. One girl in particular kicked and screamed so much that the funeral officials who are responsible for getting them could not pick her up. She hit and kicked until she finally rolled off of the mud path into the water filled ditch in her best white dress. I don't understand all of that but everyone else acted like it was normal and since I was the non-Haitian in the whole processional I acted like I was used to it too.

We finally got to the tomb that had been the tomb in which Marcus' mom, aunt, and cousin were buried. They just pushed the remains of the old coffins to the side and shoved him in. Then a mason was there and ready to seal it up.

All of our group was then gathered together for a photo in front of the tomb with their matching shirts. My first group photo at a burial site.

We then visited the widow as she sat in the floor of the family mud house and each one of us passed through and kissed her. Everyone then was offered one more beer and it was over. All the crying and screaming ended as soon as the coffin was in the tomb.

It was so evident that our women and the fishermen were in a position of respect just because they were part of our group and had a T-shirt. They had a whole new self esteem. I can't wait to see how they respond when they realize they are a part of the family of the one true God.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Freedom vs. Bondage

The fourth of July came and went here without fireworks or fanfare. Haiti's Independence Day is January 1st. In 1804 Haiti became the first black independent nation. The US did not support this newly free nation out of fear that our own slaves may revolt and our white independence would in some way be threatened. In the years that ensued Haiti began to fall from the most wealthy Caribbean nation known as the jewel of the Antilles to the economic mess we all know of today.

The freedom the Haitian slaves fought so hard for did not result in freedom from the depth of bondage that they had dreamt of. Today the average Haitian is only free in theory. The bondage they endure is something we as Americans can't really fathom. The life of the people we encounter everyday is the epitome of the slavery described by the apostle Paul in the book of Romans. It is the slavery to the desires of the flesh. Our daily mission is to help our friends and aquaintenances here understand the true freedom available to them through Jesus Christ.

Just last night we lost another friend to a motorcycle accident. A young man that had been to our home on several occasions through the basketball outreach of Philip, Logan, and Wesner. He left a disco drunk last night and crashed his motorcycle into an on coming car and killed himself and his young cousin. Luke had been his friend and we had shared the truth of the gospel with him at our basketball banquet last year to no avail. Just like you and I in our preconveresion state, he enjoyed his sin and rejected the Light. He chose bondage and slavery over freedom and eternal joy.

I shared frankly at our Celebrate Life women's ministry meeting last week at the fishing village. These women are the ones we found living in shredded tents with their kids by the river. We rented them all homes and now have them working in our senior feeding program. I shared with them about the plan God has revealed in His word about how to live in freedom. Most of these women have multiple children from different men and many of them have lived a life of prostituting themselves for food for themselves and their kids. As I shared the model of one man for one women for a lifetime they could not bring themselves to believe that model is for them. I tried to convince them that at this point in their lives they need to stop looking for a man to sell themselves to for food and shelter. I tried to get them to begin instead to seek God and wait for Him to send the man He has for them. One of the women objected that she can pray all day for God to send her a man but she can't wait if she can't get food for her babies. Bondage. Slavery. I tried to explain that now they have houses. Now they have jobs. Now they have food for their kids. And these things did not come from a sinful relationship but as grace from God their father. As a proof of God's perfect planning, there was a short term missionary here visiting and she had the testimony of a life just like these ladies live. She shared with tears how God had delivered her and how he could deliver them too. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to reveal the truth and we can only pray for deliverance.

One of our fisherman has been delivered. Junior is one of my favorite guys. He was living the typical life of alcoholism and womanizing. One day he came to me and grabbed me in a big hug and said that he did not understand God or anything but he knows God picked us up out of North Carolina and put us here to change their lives. It took about six more months of sharing but now Jr and his wife are converted Christians and active in their church. Now he wants to learn to read so he can read his Bible with his family. Freedom.

No matter where we live the eternal issues of freedom and slavery are always the same. Christ bought our freedom through His death and resurrection but we all must choose freedom or live our entire lives in bondage. The chains may look different. Here chains are dirty and smelly. Poverty, oppression, prostition. In America the chains are shiny and polished. Big houses, nice cars, soft church pews. But in the end they are all chains. They hold us in bondage and often we deceive ourselves into believing we are free. It grieves the heart of our Father to think he offers us freedom and liberty and we chose bondage and chains because we are comfortable that way. Let's chose freedom so we can share it with others before more people like our young friend Wade die and are dragged to the depths of eternity by their chains.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Two Years and Counting

June 22, 2009 we pulled out of our driveway of our farm on Bakers mountain in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in North Carolina. It was the beginning of a journey that really has been more exciting than we ever would have imagined. I wanted to give a brief update of how things are going.

I came as an optometrist planning to have a little clinic doing eye care and helping the pastor we had been working with through the years of back and forth trips. God obviously had other plans! It's not fair though because He knew about the little event on January 12, 2010 - the 7.2 earthquake that destroyed much of the country and killing 200,000 people. Had I known about that in advance, maybe I would have had other plans here too!

Celebration Children's Home is our orphanage that houses almost 20 orphans, abandoned, handicapped, or neglected children. These little ones have been instrumental in changing our lives. Our vision is to develop a home where children can be united with loving adoptive families. The home is housed in a former apartment building that we have converted and also serves as our headquarters for the ministry. We call it The Mission and we employee about 20 Haitians that work with us there. That facility also houses long term missionaries that come for extended periods to serve with us.

In a country where only about 50 percent of kids get to go to school we get to pay for almost 100 kids to go to school through our child sponsorship program. We meet monthly with these kids in our Celebration Kids Club. We are working on getting that program more organized so that friends back home can be a part of changing the lives of these young Haitians.

Pastor Cesar has almost 1500 kids in 8 schools that we support. We pay and train the teachers and now are getting to the point that we are feeding all the kids a healthy meal ever school day.

Our most impacting work - most impacting on me if not the Haitians- is our work in the local fishing village. We have 13 fisherman that we are helping to develop their fishing businesses as well as discipling them. We are there almost every day and have weekly meetings and Bible study. Also in that village we have 13 women that we took out of tents by the river where they were living after losing their homes to a flood. We rented them all houses and have them working in our community development program. Three days per week they come and cook food for elderly shut ins in the area. They also participate in weekly meetings that include training on hygiene, family planning, literacy and other issues from a Biblical perspective.

Refugees from the quake live in tent villages throughout the country. In our town we have taken the last families out of that camp and helped them rent permanent housing. We are currently working one on one with them to help them come up with a business plan for providing for the family in the aftermath of this disaster. We have set a few up with wedding dress rental businesses, cosmetic sales businesses, small food stands, dry goods stores, and other small business ventures. As with all our projects we also follow up with teaching and training of Biblical truth teaching on how to live.

Oh yeah I almost forgot, we also do eye care and medical care. We have the only permanent eye clinics in our part of the country. This week we even have team of general surgeons here doing hernia repairs, tumor removals, and other much needed surgeries. What a blessing!

In the midst of all of that we are also trying to raise our 5 American and one Haitian baby that live here with us. School is our biggest challenge at the moment. We have discovered that homeschooling here is so hard due to our daily challenges. We found a mission school in St. Marc but they are needing teachers. If you know anyone interested in coming to teach for a year let me know.

So they we are in a nutshell. I am sure I left some stuff out but those are the high points. Keep us in your prayers and come to see us. We live in a hotel and we will leave the light on for you.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hero Makeover

My father is my greatest hero.  He set a high bar for me to shoot for as a husband, father, and spiritual giant.  He taught me everything I know about how to stick it out in tough times and come out the better for it.  When I grow up I want to be just like Dad.  He is sitting now by his mother's deathbed with faith and humility that is a testimony of faithfulness.

My other heroes in life have varied as the seasons of my life have passed.  As I mature in my Christian faith, I realize that many of the heroes of my past were not the best role models to follow.  In the years of my life when I was consumed by the American dream of sucess and comfort, most of my heroes were the men that had reached the heights of worldly sucess for which I strived.  One such man was the most sucessful businessman I personally knew.  He had been very blessed by God and truly seemed to have it all.  I only knew him from a distance but desired to be just like him.  While I was prayer leader at our church he once flew us in his jet to New York City to meet Jim Cymbala and attend a prayer meeting at The Brooklyn Tabernacle.  I wanted to be able to do stuff like that for people.  What a life!

May 31 marked two years since I walked out of my optometry practices and businesses.  It marks the day the whole world changed for me.  Even my heroes changed.  The American dream and living in bondage to the deceitfulness of riches were becoming a thing of the past.  I embarqued on a journey that would take me to places both bodily and spiritually that I never dreamed I would go.  In just two short years I have seen God in ways I never dreamed possible.  I have learned more about myself and the Kingdom of Heaven than I ever would have imagined.  But it has not been easy.  There are days I want to jump in the ocean and swim home to America!  There are times when I lose sight of the end goal of pleasing God and I only want peace.  But that is when God steps in and reminds of where we are headed.

On a hot day about a month ago I was in Port au Prince with Joy buying supplies for the mission.  We had been struggling with several things in the ministry and in our family and needed a big dose of grace.  Then my phone rang.  It was my hero businessman.  He never called me when I was living in America and I secretly covetted his life.  I didn't even know how he got my number.He began to tell me how God had been working in his life and showing him things he needed to change.  He had been reading some books and studying the Bible and God had shown him that his life of indulgence was non-Biblical and that he needed a radical change.  He said God put us on his heart and he wanted to know if he could come down to visit so we could talk.  I was blown away.  My God loves me so much that he took the inner thoughts of my sinful heart and rearranged things in such a way as to unequivocably show me that what He had told me was true.  The path He had put us on was the true Way.  He showed me unmeritted grace and helped me see He was there.

My hero and now friend did come down and spend the week with us.  He shared unashamedly how God was breaking Him and setting him free.  His testimony was one of the most powerful I have ever heard first hand of God through His spirit revealing truth to one of his children.  It was a great week.  I learned so much and received great wisdom from a wise saint.  He is now more of a hero in my eyes than he ever was.  Not because of what he has or has done, but because of who he is becoming.  He has now made my short list of heroes with my dad, pastor Ruffin, Bill Stafford, and Aquaman.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pirates, Fishermen, and Patient Seekers

I was passing a TV today and saw an advertisement for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  As I look out our hotel window where we live I see the Caribbean Sea, I can't help but think about the pirates that cruised these waters in years past.  As a major sugar producing colony, Haiti was a major working grounds for pirates that hijacked the many merchant ships that cruised these waters.  Pirates were not good people.  They were very hard men that were theives and murderers that lived tough lives.  They were not the glamorized heroes like Captain Jack Sparrow.   They lived very superstitious lives where they created their own religion to explain the world around them.  I think about how many of those men spent their lives trying to cope with the guilt of the lives they lived.  How many spent their lives drowning the guilt of a life of sin in rum that flowed through the islands here?  How many ever found the truth?  How many ever learned there was a loving God who died to forgive them of ALL of their sins?  How many found the peace that I found when God delivered me from the horrible life that I lived prior to my surrender to the Lordship of my Lord?

As I think about these men that will spend eternity seperated from God in a real Hell much worse than the feared afterlife that plagued their nightmares, I think about men like our fisherman.  Men that live lives plagued by alcoholism, polygamy, fear induced from voodoo beliefs, and the guilt from knowing they live a life of deciet and lies.  I think of men like Roger and his brother Lifrans that I get to work with everyday processing fish and trying to find ways to reach out to the community in which they live.  They know they are sinners.  They know that the God that I serve does not approve of the lives they live but they are so entrenced in false religion that they can't believe that the same God loves them immensely.  They don't truly understand why in the world I would chose to enter their village and pass my days with Luke and our family trying to make their lives better as we teach them about truth. 

Then there is Ayiti.  Ayiti is a grounds keeper at the hotel where we live.  His job is to sweep the unused tennis courts everyday and pick up trash that blows in from the sea.  Ayiti came to me a few weeks ago sick.  I examined him and found he had a severe ear infection.  I gave him antibiotics and drops (eye drops that I had him put in his ear) and he got better.  He was so grateful that I took the time just to talk to him and check up on him daily until he got better.  He started making it a point to catch me everyday as me and Joy go for our morning walk to just check in with me.  Then about 2 weeks ago he started bringing me everyone he could find that is sick.  He does not bring them to me during normal hours.  He knows I work long days so almost everynight as we are getting our kids ready for bed, Ayiti lightly knocks on our door with the day's patients.  Last week it was a hotel worker with a bad stomach infection that was keeping him from eating.  This weekend it was 3 workers from a little road side restuarant across the street with a severe skin fungal infection.  Tonight it was 2 security guards.  One had a headache and one with a bad back pain.  Ayiti has made himself our personal triage nurse.  He brings the patient to me and thoroughly explains their symptoms and then asks me to examine them.  The  term "EYE" doctor does not really register with my new friend.  He has found a place where he is important.  He is no longer the bottom of the employee social ladder.  He now has an important position of helping others.  Ayiti is not yet a Christian but he knows that I never turn anyone away and that I treat them all with love and respect.  He now spends the time after he finishes work going around looking for sick people.  He is trying to find a way to make himself a "good" person.  I try to share with Ayiti that he needs God.  He is not yet ready to truly listen but he knows that something about us is different.  That is why we are here. 

Every day we work with our orphans at the mission. We provide medical and eye care to some of the poorest people in the world.  We feed children in the schools.  Pay for kids to get an education.  Help the fisherman catch more fish and then learn how to sell them and invest in their community.  We train the women in our housing program to take better care of their kids and they are learning to cook food on our propane stoves to feed homebound widows.  With all of those programs and the hours invested weekly, the ONLY thing that matters is when one of our people starts to believe we love them.  The scriptures come alive as we see why Jesus said forget everything else and Love your God and Love others.  True religion.  Love God...Love others.  In America and on the mission field we make it so complicated.  We have to remember that we feed, educate, train, house, and heal BECAUSE we love.  We don't do it to get the right to share the gospel of Jesus.  We don't do it because we feel sorry for them.  We don't do it because we are trying to earn God's favor.  We do it because GOD has placed a love in our hearts for our people.  BECAUSE we love them, of course we share the truth of the Bible and the Living God.  We could never say we truly love them if we did not care about their greatest need... to know God and Love HIM.  

The hardship comes when we do all we do and NOT see people understand their need for God and they continue in their sin and hatred of truth.  It hurts so much when we try to reach out and only get people to listen when we have food or clothes or medicine to give.  We have not seen sweeping revival and hundreds come to knowledge of God but that only makes us more desperate.  But when Ayiti comes to my door with his daily patient I simply have to remember that MY job is to love them and share the truth.  GOD's job is to open their eyes and bring them to an understanding of their sin condition. 

Pirates, fisherman, patient seekers, me, and you.  We all need and want the same thing... to know the anser to "why am I here and how do I make my life count".  All the answers are made available to us in God's word but we spend our lives WORKING and STRIVING and often miss the opportunities to just love people and find our place. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hard Life in Hispaniola

Processing Sugar Cane
Joy with some of the kids in the batay
Hispaniola was discovered by Christopher Columbus and colonized before the mainland of North America.  Today it is divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  We live in Haiti but this week we took a trip to the DR.

The difference between Haiti and the Dominican are like night and day.  The Dominican has modern cities and visible infrastructure.  It is a major tourist destination and many ex-patriats retire there or move there from all over the world.  The land is beautifully lush and forrested.  The only thing that really seems similar is the depth of poverty in which the Haitians live. 
Houses at Amistad Batay

Haitians flee to the DR to escape the conditions of Haiti only to find themselves in a prejudice society where Haitians continue to live tough lives for the most part.  We have met a few Haitians who have found good jobs and are thriving.  It is a huge blessing to talk to them and see how blessed they are.  But this is still the extreme exception and not the rule for Haitians here.
Patients In Clinic
Luke Working in Clinic
Jacy Giving out Glasses and Josie Giving out Lollipops

We took our bus and made the 9 hour journey from Port au Prince to Santo Domingo in a quick 14 hours.  We had issues at the border- of course- got scammed a couple of times- of course- but made it finally.  After one night in "La Capital" we headed to the north coast.  Six hours over the mountains to arrive in Puerto Plata for 5 days.  We are here with all 6 of our kids including Justice- whose papers that took us an extra month to get but have not even been looked at yet.  We also brought Dago, Wesner, Baz, Madame Raymonde, and Jarrod- a PA friend from TX. 
Clinic Under a Mango Tree
Loving His New Specs- He's Smiling on the Inside

Uncut Sugar Cane Fields Due to US Subsidies

We got to spend two days doing eye clinics in Batays around Puerto Plata.  A Batay is a settlement in the middle of the sugar cane fields where the workers live with their families.  The conditions are horrible.  No septic, no electricity, limited water, and no security.  The two batays in which we worked were even worse off.  They are located in the middle of a plantation that a Cuban family owns.  The family owns over 1 million acres of sugar cane fields in the DR and are paid subsidies by the U.S. and Dominican governments to NOT harvest the cane anymore.  Because of that, the people living in the Batays are out of work.  The kids that are born here are not given birth certificates which makes it practically impossible to go ever go to school.  We were given a glimpse into yet another facet of the difficulty of the plight of the average Haitian.
Joy Visiting the Villagers

The clinics were great.  We saw hundreds of very grateful people.  The people here are thankful for help and their attitude is different than the people we encounter daily in Montrouis.  The people here, young and old alike, just want work.  They are not surrounded by humanitarian groups doing free distributions of everything from food to condoms like we see in Haiti.  The people are not trained to seek out the white people to meet their needs.  They know that if they can find some work, then they can make it.  It was refreshing to see that attitude even though the work is so sparse for uneducated and often hated Haitian immigrants. 
Joy Doing a Little Shopping

We return to Santo Domingo tomorrow to start looking for sources for supplies we need for The Mission.  We are also planning to talk to a pastor in the south of the island that works in many of the Batays there and hopefully be able to go and see a working plantation and see how we might be able to help in the future.

Then we return to our home on the other side of Hispaniola. We plannded the trip to be a time of retreat for our staff, relaxation for our family, and an exploratory excusion into the lives and plight of Dominican Haitians.  It has been all of the above. We are reminded why we have been called to reach out and share the love of Jesus with some of the most awesome people on earth.  What an honor!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Resurrection Parade

Early Easter morning we got all of our kids from the mission and went for a Resurrection parade.  The kids had made banners and took instruments and we marched up the hill behind the mission making a lot of noise in the name of the Lord.

Jacy Klaire making sure Nakisha did not get left behind

After the parade we made our way back to the mission for a worship service and teaching time.  We are so blessed by the kids God has sent our way for the mission.  We have 19 kids now and each one is a special blessing from God.  There are 10 boys and 9 girls.  They include true orphans, abandoned children, and handicapped children.  Each one has a story of how man and sin corrupt and destroy.  We have kids whose parents were murdered by voodoo.  Kids whose parents died of preventable disease.  Kids whose parents abandoned them because of poverty and injustice.  It makes it hard to remember at times that God is truly sovereign and in total control.  We tend to wonder where God is when evil seems to be able to run so rampant.  But then we remember that God has told us in the Bible that injustice and corruption and hardship are repercussions of living in a fallen world.  We are doing a study with our staff and it reminds us that God chose to give man a choice of sin or righteous obedience.  The choice of sin leads to destruction and there are always innocent our little Nakisha, or Jeffnika, or any of the other angels in our home.  It does not take away from the fact that God is completely loving, and completely good, and completely powerful.  He has a perfect plan for each of our lives and if we choose to follow Him and seek Him we can find and live out that plan.  When that happens, we find peace even in difficult times.  We find joy even when happiness evades us.  It allows us to see that God really does have a good plan even for these kids that qualify as the "least of these".  On Resurrection Sunday, we are reminded that the Cross is the key to that understanding.  Only through Jesus can we really begin to see the world the way God does.  Without Jesus coming and dying for us, we could never see the world the way God does and have a desire to see God glorified even in the darkest of circumstances.

The Girls

Michelet and his New Wheels

The Boys

Craft Time

Our Kids in Craft Time
When things get discouraging, God seems to always come through with a source of encouragement and insight.  We have spent 3 months trying to get things together to go to the Dominican Republic for a time of seeking sources for supplies, resting, and partnering with a Dominican mission to do eye exams at an orphanage and street mission.  We had everything packed to leave Monday and the papers did not come through.  We spent the day getting more paperwork done and planned to leave today.  Then the papers were rejected because one of the notaries did not stamp it right.  So we had to get Justice's biological father and Dago together to go back to Port au Prince to redo the paper work.  Now we are waiting to see if we get to leave tomorrow.  But when things get frustrating we have to remember that the life of a Christian is a life of death to self and all rights and expectations.  We have to remember that God has graciously chosen us to be a part of that 'good' plan for each of these little ones, and for that we are truly grateful.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Meals on Wheels Haiti Style

When we moved to Haiti in 2009 we believed that God was calling us to live by a different model of ministry.  We truly believed that God has a deep love for His Haitian children and a plan to lift them out of their despair and into lives of freedom through knowledge of His love.  We believed that if God has a plan to do work then He Himself had the means to fund that work.  We believed that if we would be faithful to throw ourselves completely into finding what God wanted to do and then spent our time in that, then He would send the money to do it.  I did not want to spend several months each year doing fund raising when instead we could be rescueing babies and taking care of the sick and dying.  I was totally unsure how it would all work out but truly believed God would provide the funds. 

In July 2010 the river in Montrouis flooded due to many factors including a poorly designed bridge and extensive deforrestation.  The flood washed away many homes in our fishing village leaving dozens of single moms and their kids homeless.  Tents were provided but that was almost a year ago and the tents have been destroyed.  We felt God wanted us to reach out to these desperate women and give them hope.We had a friend that agreed to help us rent homes for 18 of the women.  But we did not want to stop there.  Paying for someone's house as a handout is more detrimental in the long run than helpful.  So instead we decided to start a program for these women to reach out to their own community. 

Joy has a heart for the elderly and widows and we were already taking fish to many widows in our area on a weekly basis.  But Joy had a desire to start a "Meals on Wheels" Haiti style- the food will all be delivered by foot but Meals on Foot did not sound as good.  So we are now taking the 18 single moms that are the outcasts from their society.  Many have multiple children from multiple men.  All are uneducated and fundamentally illiterate.  Most have been raped and abused.  We want to help them become active participants in changing their community and their lives.  We want them to know that God has a better plan for them and that although they have never believed it, they are valuable and lovable and loved.In order to be in our housing program the women had to agree to several conditions.  First of all they have to come to weekly Life Lesson classes.  These classes involve life skills training like hygeine and mothering skills.  It also involves Bible study that teaches them abstinance and the true value of their body and their lives.  In addition to the classes the women agree to work in our feeding program.  They will come three days per week to prepare and deliver the hot meals to the elderly shut-ins.  They will also be taking clean water and vitamins.  We are training them to look for signs of illness and to spend time with the client.  Our goal is to help them understand the principle of investing their lives in others.The first two days they work each week will go towards paying for their house we rented.  The third day they will get paid and taught how to mange the money. 

The program will feed about 150 hot meals per week and employ the 18 single moms.  We pray that in the long run the effects will change many families and help many to come to know the love of Christ.  I did not know how we would pay to fund the program but we went ahead and started renting all the houses.  This past week a man we met while here in Haiti called and said he and his wife really wanted to find a program they could get involved with.  I emailed him the outline of Meals on Wheels and he called me tonight and said they had all the expenses covered and would start sending a check every month to cover all the costs.  God had a plan.  He chose by grace to reveal it to us.  We started it by faith.  And He provided the funding.  In the words of Hannible from The A Team, "I just love it when a plan comes together!"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What is an Orphanage?

It's been a while...over a month...since our last post.  It has been quite a month and lots of things have taken place and I apologize for not keeping people updated.  Here is an update of what's happening in our little piece of Caribbean paradise. (I unashamedly embedded my kids pictures in the text without any obvious reason except for the fact that I am an excessively proud daddy...)

Jacy Klaire on her 9th Birthday

When we first moved here I was naively under the false impression that an orphanage is where orphans live.  I am not sure how I came to that crazy conclusion.  Possibly the NAME of the place!  But in Haiti, sad to say, an orphanage is NOT typically filled with orphans.  It turns out that the much more common definition of orphanage is a great way for self serving Haitians and other foreign nationals to earn a very good living exploiting children whose parents are very alive but are happy to let someone else raise their children and use them as a fund raising tool through the internet and even in person.

Jaxon in a rare calm moment
A typical orphanage in Haiti is when someone, usually a "pastor", decides to take in a bunch of local kids to live at least part time- when the white people come to town- in a facility that they have that looks really sad and really needs someone to come along and just help those poor, dirty, naked, malnourished, little orphans that this loving but under funded pastor has graciously taken in.  It's all a scam.  A very devious, evil, manipulative scam.  I don't want to sound jaded...even though I am...because jaded is not one of the fruits of the spirit listed in the Bible.  However, it is a total reality for us because DAILY I have people that try to give us children to raise for them so that they won't have to and they have been programmed to think that way because of so many corrupt child exploiters that have built a horrible system here over the last 50 years.  And of course, who are the victims?  The duped white people that come and give their money to a con man?  No way!  The victims, as always, are the kids.  They are abused, kept "pitiful" looking, and even worse, taught how the 'system' works.  Most girls raised in these homes are raped by age 13.  Many of the kids get sick from preventable diseases and very few ever go to school.  They are the oppressed poor that do not have a voice of their own.  And now, we are in the middle of this whole deal because we have a facility to minister to kids too.  So what are we doing about it?
Sissy Joe in her Luau outfit for Jacy's Birthday
First of all, we have investigated the situation extensively.  We discoverered that hundreds of thousands of dollars flow through these homes every year and end up in the hands of crooks and not as food in the bellies of starving children.  So we decided to form a special kind of home called a creche.  A creche is a home specifically for children that are available for adoption.  At first, I arrogantly said we would take in NOTHING but orphans.  No kids who had parents at all.  Any parent that brought us kids to take, I would proudly explain to them how God had given them that child and that I would help them raise the child but I would not take the child into our home.  Then we had one of those children get kidnapped.  Then another one died.  So that caused me to reevaluate my stance.  Then there was Justice.  She had a mother that abandoned her and a 65 year old alcoholic father.  Now she is ours.  Even more at home was the fact that our very own adopted children, Judah, Josie, and Jaxon all have parents but they were taken from them due to an inability of the parent to provide for the children.  So we got wise counsel from licensing board here in Haiti along with others and redefined what type of children we would take into our home through the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Judah is not having a 'happy' day
Through that process God has blessed Celebration Children's Home so much.  We now have 16 children living at the home.  Many are true orphans.  Others were abandoned.  Still others like 2 little 2 year old girls we have recently taken in, are from mothers that have experienced one type of tragedy or another and now simply cannot or will not take care of the children.  BUT, in order for us to take the child, the parents have to go with us to the government office and sign over all rights to us and acknowledge that the children are eligible for adoption.  That eliminates many people who come and want us to simply raise their kids for them.  The kids we take have officially been given away by any family that is existing.  It is a heart breaking scene every time.  More so for us than the family usually.  I take a child into my arms that have often NEVER had a man hold them.  Many have never even had a mother show them genuine affection.  After just a couple of days you can begin to see sunshine replace the cloudy shadow that seemed to penetrate so deeply into the neglected children.  We love it and count it an honor and blessing to be able to be the rescuer on Jesus' behalf for these babies and children.

Luke is an amazing teenage missionary.  He has taught me so much.

Our plan is to be able to get these children adopted without charging orphanage fees.  Other creches in Haiti if they have legitimately adoptable children they often charge at least $12,000 - 15,000 USD for orphanage fees per child being adopted.  Our plan is to allow donors to continue to pay to keep the Mission running and adoptive parents pay the legal fees and government fees for the adoption but nothing directly to us.  We are in the process of Justice being adopted and are working with another missionary that is working on adopting 4 children and that will give us more exact understanding of the whole process.  In the mean time, we are enjoying investing in the little ones we have.  We also support a couple of different orphanages from St. Marc to Montrouis that are not legit but the kids need food, and clothes, and school.  And we get to try to change the system one step at a time.  We constantly get calls from groups that came to Haiti and gave thousands of dollars to an orphanage here only to find out later it was a shell and now the people are disenfranchised and disappointed.  But that is why we are here.  To be light in darkness.  To be a voice for the abused, helpless, weak, and oppressed.  We don't get angry- too often-or frustrated- excessively, instead, we become more and more determined.  We pray for more diligence.  More patience.  More wisdom.  More insight.  And more opportunity to see people set free from the bondage of deciet and manipulation.

We have had some amazing teams come down to help us lately.  I can't tell you how encouraged we have been.  God is really covering us with blessing.  We are planning to go to the Dominican Republic next week in our bus with the family and our leadership staff.  We want to check out possible places to get some boats for our fishing ministry as well as other supplies.  We are also going to do a leadership retreat and let my family have a couple of days of refreshment.  I will let you know how that goes.  Joy could use it and so could her husband.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cocobe' (Co-co'-bay)

Cocobe' in Haiti is the word given to anyone who is crippled or handicapped.  It is a word of contempt in most cases lacking any connotation of compassion.  In a culture where resources are so limited and life is already so fragile, very little compassion is reserved for those that are viewed as a waste of resources.  Why use up food, time, energy, and resources for a life that is not going to make any difference?  Even good intentioned, moral people have this mindset most of the time.  But Kevin was able to break down that wall in many of the lives he encountered in his short time here.

We were given Kevin as a last resort after he lost his mom in the Earthquake in January 2010.  He came to live with us in August and he brought much joy and  readjustment of priorities into our lives.  The lady that found him after the earthquake could not care for him and he weighed just 13 pounds at age 3 when we got him.  He had severe cerebral palsy and could not do anything for himself, but he had a smile that beamed and melted hearts.

Kevin managed to win over the hearts of all of our Haitian staff as well as any visiting missionaries that came to visit.  He would just hang there on my arm and smile ear to ear as we would go about our work around the mission.  I understand more than ever that every life is precious.  Every person is a perfectly planned out piece in the mechanism of God's creation.  Even though Kevin passed away today, I know his life made a difference.  I know it did for a fact because it made a difference in me.

I have never felt like I could care for a special needs child.  I never thought I had the patience or compassion. But I learned that God loves to use the least likely of techniques to change the things in us that need changing. As I helped build a coffin today to hold my little buddy and then washed and arranged his body before Joy and I dressed him for his burial, I could sense in my heart that God had done a work in me to help me love in a broader way and appreciate the sacredness of this fragile life we are given.

We buried Kevin today just 3 weeks after burying little Callie.  It has only been 2 months since Daphne died in my arms in the same hospital where Kevin died.  It is strange how death has such a profound affect on our view of life.

Joy reminded me as we were acting as funeral directors and dressing Kevin for his funeral, that children are a "gift" from the Lord.  When we got Kevin he did not have a name.  They never named him because his life did not seem to have a reason.  But I praise God for the "gift" He gave us in little Kevin.  I praise Him because it helps me appreciate the "gift" of all of our other kids- both Haitian and American.  I pray that I never get to where I can let another day go by without TRULY cherishing my family and friends and the ones God has given us to minister to.  Most of our lives are not as short as Kevin's but one day we will be just as gone as he is right now.  I am reading a book right now that I recommend called "Outlive Your Life" by Max Lucado.  I pray I can outlive my life in such a way that somewhere, in some way, some one can say that God used me to change something in them the same way that God used Kevin to change something in me.

Friday, February 4, 2011

For God So Loved the World that He Gave...

Things have been rather complicated as of late.  We moved to Haiti 7 months before the earthquake.  We lived in a little apartment on top of a small orphanage.  After the quake we moved from there to a place we found that we could rent from a Frenchman for one year.  During that year God blessed and we were able to start a children's home and all of the other projects you can read about on this blog.  But then that year ended and the Frenchman did not want to renew the lease.  That left us home hunting again.

The place we left was a resort-like property on the water where we were able to enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean.  But it was very high maintenance and I had to spend lots of time and money generating electricity, pumping water, and fixing problems.  All of which had to be done after spending the day caring for the needs of the mission and the people we were ministering to.  So as we learned we would have to move we knew God would open a door for us...but as is often the case, it was not  until the last minute that it opened.

We looked and looked for a house that could accommodate a family of 8 and be secure and safe for the family during times of me being on the road or out late.  We also needed to be close to the mission and the fishing village.  As I was getting tired of looking for houses, Joy recommended that we go to the local hotels and ask if they had apartments or other properties to rent.  I hesitated as I thought that it would be too expensive even if they did have something.  So Joy took the initiative and called a friend that worked at one of the hotels and got us an appointment with the manager.  Long story short, we were able to work out a deal where I will serve as their eye doctor and our teams will stay there if they need a hotel, in exchange they let us rent the one 3 room apartment that they have that just so happens became available for the first time in three years.  So although we all 8 live in under 600 square feet, we love our new home.  It is safe, secure, and Joy has people there that speak English!

We have already been able to meet people from Germany, Bermuda, and several other missions as well as making connections that have allowed us to transport a patient via helicopter to PaP, hopefully provide a source of water for the Mission, and a connection with Samaritan's Purse to get OCC shoe boxes for our 1500 kids in Pastor Cesar's schools for next year...all in our first week at the new place.  God is so good!

We were at the mission Monday and little 5 month old Callie had a fever.  We started medication and thought she was doing okay.  Tuesday night she took a turn for the worse and died at 4 am Wednesday.  We do not know if she was suffering from an infection related to her mother's death a month ago or some other type of infection.  It was a painful loss of such a precious little child.  Mirlande was holding her as she died and so she is struggling with the reality of the loss.  It is still hard to believe she is gone.

So much more is going on with the orphanage, teams that are working with us, the fishing ministry which is really taking off, and a couple of new programs for women, and a building project to get the families out of tents by the river.  I will try to blog on each of those opportunities in the days to come.

John 3:16 is probably the most quoted verse in the Bible.  It says "For God so loved that world that He gave..."  What did God give?  If He has an unlimited supply of EVERYTHING, what could He give that would be a sacrifice?  The only thing He could possibly give that would be sacrificial to demonstrate His love for the world was Himself.  Anything else would have been simply giving out of His abundance but not a sacrifice.  Who did He give himself to?  The world.  So God demonstrated His love by giving Himself to the world.  He is our supreme example.  We are ALL called to do the same thing.  ALL of us.  We are not called to give a token out of our abundance.  We are called to give the world.  But that only comes when we- the same way God does- love the world.   And how do we as selfish, fearful, lazy, comfort seeking, pleasure driven creatures come to a place in our lives where we are willing to give OURSELVES to a sinful, stinky, deceitful, ungrateful, hateful world?    

I think there is only one way that can happen.  We have to get to KNOW God.  As we get to know God deeper intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically we begin to love Him more.  It is inevitable.  As we get to know a God that is the manifestation of love- God is love 1 John 4:8- we don't have to work up a churchy presentation of love.  We can't help but develop a deeper love for God.  It is the natural response of knowing "love".  As we know Him, we love Him.  As we love Him we develop a burning desire to demonstrate our love TO Him.

As we begin that process we often feel that religious activity can actually express our love to Him.  We often try to come up with ways to express our love out of true and righteous motives.  But eventually through continuing to seek Him, we find that His example in the most quoted verse of the Bible is the only way for us to truly show Him we love Him.  We must give ourselves.  And who do we literally give ourselves to?  The World.  It is the only way for us to show God we love Him.  Our love for the world is birthed in our desire to show God our love for Him.  It is all God's plan.  Why is it so hard for us to see that God so loved the world that He that we would give the we can care for the poor, meet the needs of the orphans, be a voice for the oppressed, and a light in darkness so that the world will know God so loves them.  By doing so, we find the try meaning of faith, love, hope, life, and eternity.  So in the end we are the ones that truly receive the end product of God's love for the world.  What an awesome God to allow us to be such an integral part of His plan for His world.

We are all in that plan somewhere.  We start off as the recipient of someone else's understanding of God and their desire to love Him so they share love with us.  Then we progress to the place where we are working through the religious facade of what love for God looks like.  And finally we get to where we understand that to know God, means to love God, and a desire to give ourselves WHOLLY to His world and we spend the rest of our lives on earth trying to learn what that looks like for us individually.  In the process, God saves us, and redeems us, and matures us.  Where are you today?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One Year Post-Quake

One year has come and gone since the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010.  Today was a day of remembrance throughout the country.  I don't want to remember the days after the quake but I do want to remember the hundreds of thousands of people that lost family and friends.  It is a sad situation to see how little progress has taken place in the rebuilding process.  Hundreds of thousands of people...yes people...not just Haitians...not just 'refugees'...not just poverty stricken masses...they are people...with hearts, and needs, and emotions, and psychological scars, and fears, and dreams, and heart aches...and they are living in tents made of year old tarps and they are waiting for the government to come to their aid...the Haitian government.  Sit and think for a minute that your only source of hope is for one of the most incompetent and corrupt governments in the world to come to meet your most basic of needs.  So that is where we come in.  We have the chance to offer them true hope.  Hope in eternity as well as hope for today and tomorrow.  The crazy thing for us now is that because of this past year many of these 'people' have become friends of our family.  We have seen babies born in the refugee camps and others die.  We don't know what the next year holds but we pray we can see deliverance from bondage for many of the people that we know.  We have the chance to give mommies hope that their baby will be able to get medicine when they are sick.  We are able to give hard working fisherman hope that they will be able to send their kids to school so that they can have a better opportunity for providing for their families.  We are able to help elderly women see to sort their own beans again for the first time in years.  We are able to help hundreds of kids believe that someone actually sees them.  And we are able to help dying souls believe that once it is time for them to "cross over" they can actually enter into eternity with peace by having a relationship with the one true God.

It has not been an easy year since the quake for anyone but we are grateful for the progress God has given us in the ministry of many lives here.  We believe we were here for a reason and that God has a plan for us bigger than ourselves.  Thanks to all of you back home who make it possible for us to keep on course here.  Thanks for your prayers and your on going support.

(I have to link you to a blog for a friend that visited last week.  He is the running back for Texas Tech and came down to work here the day after their Cotton Bowl game.  He is an amazing photographer and took some pictures that are just awesome and he is helping with our child sponsorship program. He also took the picture at the beginning of this blog.  Here is the link to his blog.  Thanks so much Baron Batch!)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Beyond 2010

What a year 2010 turned out to be for our family.  I can't believe it has been almost a year since the January 12th earthquake.  It seems like just yesterday when I think of the experiences of the weeks following the disaster but yet in a way it seems like years have passed.  It seems strange that everything we have seen happen here has all taken place in just one year.  It was a year that we got to really see people at their darkest moments and most desperate.  But at the same time I feel that I personally grew more in 2010 than in any other year of my life.  I have learned so much about myself and about the things in life that really matter.  I don't have time to share all of those lessons here and much of it is too personal to publish.  I know that the things I have learned are just part of God continueing to prepare us to be used to meet people's needs as we invest ourselves in others.

Here's a breif update of what's been going on lately:

 "I'll NEVER go to Haiti...I can tell you that right now"- Logan commented through tear filled eyes days before we moved here in 2009.  He felt he was losing his mom and his family.  He did not see how it could be part of a 'good' plan from God.  In December he made his first trip back since he was here the day of the earthquake.  He spent 3 weeks helping with projects and getting to know his little Haitian sister Justice.  It was a sweet time and a gift to Joy through the holidays.

Cool Hand Luke-  "What we have a communicate..."  I love that movie...and Luke has proven that is not a problem for him.  He is already learning the language well and loves helping the guys in the fishing ministry and working at the mission.  He is home schooling with Jacy Klaire and doing well.  He is truly a missionary in every sense of the word.

 Escaline - or Callie as we call her- lost her mom to an infection 2 months after her birth.  She was left with a father along with 7 other children. The father was unable to care for her and brought her down the mountain for us to take.  She is doing great and is one of the sweetest little angels you have ever seen.

 For Christmas we took the family and our guys to Saut d'eau falls.  A sacred site to catholics and voodooists.  It is a huge cascading water fall that makes you forget you are in the desolate country of Haiti.  Here you see Luke and Wesner at the foot of one of the falls.

 Street services with our bus have become one of our primary ways of interacting with the community.  We pull the bus up to a spot beside the road and hang a sheet of plywood on the back rack.  We open the handicap ramp and roll out 2- 400 watt speakers and set up a projector and show videos and worship songs and have services.  This picture is of us showing the Jesus Film in Creole at a refugee camp of people displaced from the quake.  It was a fun time with a team from Joy's home town of Maiden, NC.  Thanks pastor Jonathan for all the help you guys were to us. 

 We have been working at The Mission to make a parking lot.  Here is Luke and the guys spreading gravel.

 Fidelo showed up at the mission in very serious condition.  He had gone to a hospital 8 days earlier with an eye infection but the hospital just gave him a drop and sent him away.  By the time he came to us he could not talk or see and could barely stand up.  He had a very high fever with neurological symptoms.  And as you see a more than slightly swollen right eye.  I took him immediately to a little mission hospital where we could start I.V. antibiotics.   After a couple of days the neurological symptoms began to subside and his fever was down.  This picture is after a week.  The eye is still an issue but we were able to save his life.

 Michelet is one of our fisherman and Dedette helps us in processessing the fish.  Their mom is very sick and near death so Joy and I were going to visit her with a group visiting from Operation Hope out of Lubbock, TX.  As we were going through the village by the river, Joy came upon a naked baby covered in sores and flies and gnats.  Open wounds and scabies covered most of her body.  The mother was near by but she was not in much better condition and could not open her eyes due to a horrible eye infection.  Joy picked up the baby and took her to the mission to clean and medicate her.  We also took the mother to the eye clinic and started her on medication as well.  As we were returning, the mother begged us to take the baby and let her live with us.  We tried to tell the mom we could not take it and so we returned them home.  In the trip back home as I talked to the mom, I learned she was not mentally able to understand.  We found family members and discovered the girl was first pregnant at 13 and this is her third child and she is 18 years old.  She is not mentally competant and does not know who the father is for 2 of the children.  No family is able to take the children in so they live in a shack on the dirt floor with a mother that is mentally unable to care for them.  After having the entire family and practically everyone in the village tell us that the mother truly can't care for them and wants to give them up, we took little Jefnica and her 4 year old sister Gatina to live at the mission.  That was just 3 days ago and they are doing great.  I went to visit the mom today and her family and they are so thankful for us being able to help them.  If we ever move back to the states, someone needs to give Joy an honorary social workers license.  She spends much of her day in that role!

 The day we discharged Fidelo from the hospital we were going to visit some women in a village that had tried to get us to take their 4 children.  We wanted to see how they were living and if the mothers were able to care for the babies if we helped them with food and supplies.  As we drove up we saw that an accident had occured.  A far too frequent event since the new road has been finished.  As we were parking the bus we saw one of the girls we were going to visit running up the road with a pillow.  She ran to me and told me that her mom had just been ran over.  We rushed to the scene and found the mother conscious but with injuries to her head and lower body.  We loaded her into the bus and took her to the mission hospital.  We assisted in getting her calf sown up and her other injuries 'briefly' checked and then took her to The Mission to take care of her for a few days.  She is doing better now and the picture above is from Tuesday this week when we took her back to her house.  We also decided not to take the babies fom that village but we are going to help teach the girls to be mothers and care for their babies without having more.

 Kitleen went into hidding after she refused to give her babies to the man that had tried to bribe her.  We originally heard she had given in and let him have them.  Later we discovered she could not do it at the last minute but was afraid of what he might do.  Her twins were Joy's first babies that Joy helped to rescue.  Today I went to visit them in their new house.  The little boy is still struggling.  He is 14 months old and still has no teeth, can't sit or talk, and weighs barely 10 pounds.  We are going to start him on a program available for malnourished children and see if we can't get him on track.  The mom is pregnant again and lives with her 18 year old sister who has a 3 month old baby too. 

Whenever I get to feeling like things are overwhelming or too tough God sends me a reminder that things could be worse.  We came by after this bus ran off of the road in a bad place on the way from St. Marc.  God is always there and we are grateful to be used to touch so many lives.  It seems lately that God is just putting us in the right place at the right time to be a tool to rescue people from dire situations.  We are grateful.  Although we have seen some lost, we rejoice for the ones we get to have a part in their deliverance.  We look forward to 2011.  Earthquakes, colera, riots, hurricanes, and dead friends were not on our radar as we entered 2010.  But neither were-

Kristi and Krista- Colleen's twins that Joy found dying of malnutrition

Kitreen's Twins that Joy also rescued

Niaca and Kimberly- sisters we found in a tent village and now live in the mission

Jean Moi- orphan living on the beach

Jean Patrick- orphan who's parents were murdered

Justice- our baby we are adopting that was abandoned at 3 weeks

Kobe- handicapped teenage orphan that was a street kid

Adelson- street kid orphan

Wilna- nearly blind orphan that had never been to school and now is top of her class

Kevin- Cerebral palsey 3 year old orphan that was going to be thrown into the sea

Michelet- handicapped 3 year old orphan with megalocephally that is finally being taught to sit up and speak

Jefnica and Gatina- sisters found in the fishing village

Callie- 2 month old baby from the mountains whose mother died of complications from birth

All of the ones we have been able to help with dire medical needs

The fisherman in our group that now have an income and are changing the economic landscape of Montrouis

The one's like Nabal, and Charles, and Louis, and Mireille that have accepted Christ and received the hope He offers.

You see the circumstances were only used to teach us that the only things that really matter are people.  Our highlights from 2010 are the people that we got to invest our lives into.  In return, they have enriched our lives in ways we never would have dreamed.  God has shown us that people are our inheritance in the promised land and we are grateful for such revelation.