Sunday, July 22, 2018

a story of perseverance

Persevering at all odds is a strong Haitian characteristic. But, what do they do when the road feels too long and too steep to keep going? Accept less than the best?

Contrast a trait of Western American culture... There was an eighty-foot tall antenna positioned at the top of the mountain that we hiked with a recent mission team hosted by MH here in Haiti. About a year ago, three of the sections of the tower had been taken down leaving about twenty feet of antenna still standing. One team member who had been to the top of that mountain before expressed her relief, "I am glad it is only that high. If it were highter, I would have to climb all the way up." There are those times, because of resources and personal confidence, we as Americans may choose the highest, the most, the best, the ultimate, for the reason...because it is there.

Here is a story of a family that has faced much hardship to the point of feeling overwhelmed into weighing the choices at hand.

We have known Tibens and family since Christmas Eve 2014. We were going door to door in our Haitian community, in fact with our son Michael, sharing a Christmas greeting that a baby had been born and his name was Jesus. We had a small package of food and a Creole New Testament Bible to share. We visited the family and encouraged Tibens by indicating we thought he had such a beautiful family.

Over three years have passed. January 2018 we see Tiben's eight-year old daughter, Anaika, with an injured leg.


Weeks and months passed before we would see Anaika again. Tibens was not able to seek medical care for his daughter because he did not have money. He works as a mason with his main source of income being working on occasional concrete floor projects arranged by Many Hands for Haiti.

We meet again late April. Anaika is unable to walk because her leg cannot bear her weight, as slight as she is. There is infection oozing through her skin. On May 1, a Haitian holiday, we take Anaika and her mother to the hospital in Hinche, 15 miles, one hour away.

A resident orthopedic surgeon sees the urgency and calls for a 'radiografi', an x-ray. The doctor's eyes say it all when he reports what he sees; infection in the bone of the broken leg. Within hours, Anaika is in surgery; an incision from her knee to her ankle is needed to thoroughly wash the infected area. By early evening Anaika is in recovry with the prognosis that she will have multiple surgeries to continue to rid her leg of the infection which may mean staying in the hospital two and a half months.

Tuesday, May 15th, Tibens finds us on the road into Pignon. He has a worried look on his face. He says the doctor "pral koupe pye li jodia", the doctor will cut, amputate, her leg today. With a rush of panic we make a few phone calls to see if this is true. We alert MH staff and other friends to be in prayer, asking God for miraculous healing for Anaika.

We are relieved to hear no amputation was done, things were holding, "Nap kenbe",  but there was still an urgent need to see some healing. We provide some Pediasure, some powdered milk, some mamba, (Haitian peanut butter) to make Anaika's body stronger. A visit was made by a mission team that was serving with MH at this time with prayers calling for a miracle for Anaika.

During that visit to the hospital, Anaika's mom made a disturbing comment. It seems as though Anaika's mom was considering a choice she felt they could make. As she drew an imaginary line above Anaika's knee, she said, "Si yo pral koupe pye li, nou ka retounen nan kay nou"... If they cut her leg, we can go home.

As we were suspecting, the mom had approached the doctor with the question, "How long would they have to stay in the hospital if they would choose to amputate Anaika's leg instead?" It seems the two-plus month stay in the hospital, in order for the leg to heal, seemed insurmountable to the mom. The suggested amputation came from Anaika's mom as a strategy to be able to return home sooner. With prayer and sharing the love of Jesus... weeks later... "Nap kenbe", we are still holding. Healing is evident, prayers continue, and there is HOPE in the hearts and minds of Anaika and her parents.

                                         A visit from another mission team serving with MH

       Anaika with her mom, her big brother, her little sister, and her baby brother.
            Far right is MH Chaplain, Pastor Sainphirin.

Now, for Many Hands for Haiti, this help is outside of our regular developmental approach of ministry work. BUT, when this comes right up to your front door, it cannot be ignored. A clarion call was made asking for support of medical expenses.

The call was immediately answered!

Another mountain to climb is the skin graft that is needed. Anaika has been anemic since the beginning of this process which has caused the healing to be slow. The doctor said they can't do the skin graft until she shows improvement in her blood count. Because of the generosity of financial donors, MH has continued to help with nutritious fresh foods, peanut butter, powdered milk, and an iron supplement.

We find encouragement for Anaika and her family and for us in the words found in Hebrews 12:1-3

Discipline in the Long-Distance Race...
Do you see what this means---all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running---and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed---that exhilarating finish in and with God---he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Anaika's dad has shown incredible faith. Each time there has been news that is hard to accept, Tibens has been the encourager. Just last night, he shared that the skin graft is still on hold because now there is a 'fever' in Anaika's leg. He saw our discouraged look and came at us with "Discipline in the Long-Distance Race". He said he was still confident, healing will come. He has continualy expressed deep gratitude for what MH has done for his family. He says if MH had not been here to help, he knows Anaika would have died.

There is a lot more to this story that we hope we could, at some point, share with you in person.

Currently, Tibens is able to help provide for his family himself because he has work through a MH Safe Homes project. Money was given from another faithful donor to build a house for a family of 10 whose house collapsed. Tibens' mason skills are being utilized. HE is CHOOSING to persevere, run the race, and reach for the top even within the limitations of impoverished living. Anaika's dad is modeling the words found in Hebrews 12:1-3, where God demonstrates how he doesn't settle. He takes it all the way.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Day to Remember

Early in May 2017, Many Hands for Haiti Chaplain, Lumanes, introduced the idea of MH providing an opportunity for new believers in Christ that were being ministered to through the work of the MH Chaplains.  Pastors Lumanes and Jean Ronel saw numerous men and women who had come to know Jesus as their Savior that were living together as a family, as parents of their children, but had not been united in marriage in God’s eyes.

Nearly everyone who considers marriage has hopes of it being a very special and memorable day.  These Haitian couples were no different. What if there were a way to offer these couples a day which honored God through a man and a woman making a commitment to each other and to God, that could be witnessed by family and friends? This was a prayer presented to God by MH. God answered, “YES!”

The number of couples was unknown but the interest was there. The MH Chaplains began meeting with those that had recently committed their lives to Christ, taking time to disciple them in the Word of God and began counseling them on what God desires for husbands and wives. Soon a date was set, Saturday December 30, 2017, and after some time, twenty-one couples, representing five different area communities, made a commitment to honor God by being united together in marriage. Each couple also connected with churches in their respective communities and would be guided in the future by those local pastors.

MH wanted to offer a very special celebration which should involve a special gown, shoes, suits, ties, rings, and food. After contacting some friends of MH in the US, offers were coming of new wedding gowns, new shoes, new wedding rings, etc. for the anticipated day. With the generous gift of people’s time, the generous donations, and the help of short-term mission teams traveling with extra luggage to bring these beautiful things to Haiti, the idea was becoming reality.  

Fittings were done by a local seamster, Jean Gary Joseph, who would make needed alterations to the beautiful donated dresses and the suits purchased in Haiti. One bride-to-be was nearly in tears as saw herself in a mirror as the fitting was taking place.  She considered this such an honor. Jean Gary made wraps, in Creole a ‘foula’ to cover each bride’s shoulders and a visiting mission team put together twenty-one veils to complete their attire.

The MH Chaplains continued to meet with all twenty-one couples, offering pre-marriage counseling throughout the months leading up to the wedding. Musicians prepared their music selections that would be played on an electric keyboard, guitar, and violin. On a very limited budget, a menu of ham and cheese sandwiches, decorated wedding cakes, and cold drinks was planned. Decorations for the Equipping Center where the ceremony would be held were kept simple, yet beautiful.

Days prior to the designated date, disappointing news came that one of the grooms-to-be was not prepared to give up his past lifestyle.  He had another woman in his life which unfortunately can be fairly common in Haitian culture. MH Chaplains talked with the couple and realized the marriage commitment would not be sincere on the man’s part so they were not to be part of the ceremony.

The long-awaited day arrived filled with freshly done hair, freshly pressed dress shirts, and newly unwrapped handkerchiefs for the men’s suit pockets. 

The start of the Ten o’clock ceremony was expectedly on ‘island time’ and began at Eleven o’clock. The beautiful brides and handsome grooms processed into the venue on MH campus while family and friends captured the moments with cell-phone pictures and video. 

The gathering of nearly 350 people was one of worship and praise and thanksgiving to God for all He has done and will do in the lives of each couple. The ceremony proceeded with such ease through each portion of the wedding program. The pastors of each couple’s church were there to ‘marry’ them with personal vows. 

                                                             United in God’s eyes.

 Three hours had passed. The couples signed the marriage certificates, they were presented as husband and wife, a benediction was proclaimed, and corks were popped on bottles of chilled Champagne to be shared by the newly wedded couples.

The sandwiches and cake were quickly served to all who attended in an atmosphere of joy and excitement. 

                         Haitian Limousines brought couples back to their community in style.  

MH has provision for two weddings which will be planned for the year 2018. Since it is common to be together as a family but not united in marriage in God’s eyes, many have already approached MH Chaplains to be considered in the planning process. To God be the Glory!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

You get used to it. It gets easier.

(A journal entry from Craig. Note, this is the first ever journal entry Craig has written. And maybe not really a journal entry because it was not in a journal, just in a Word document. 😊)

October 2017

The other day, we had the occasion to have one of the neighor ladies help us prepare food for a leadership conference we were hosting. She was gathering supplies and was asked to help get some things out of our guesthouse kitchen. I saw her approach the guesthouse and I wanted to shout, "Wait! don't go in there!" Here is a woman who scrapes by every day, lives in a house made of sticks and mud that is falling apart, her naked kids playing with a broken bicycle rim in the yard for fun.

All I could think of was, don't let her go in! I felt embarrased and ashamed for what we have. What would she think? Electricity that is available all the time. Water comes out of the faucet any time you turn it on and never runs out. We have chairs and tables and a refrigerator. We have a large, clean kitchen with ample supplies. A fan runs in the corner to provide some relief from the heat. Our sitaution is meager compared to our US home, but a royal palace to the Haitians.

The day before we had visited several families that MH is assisting. It was one of those days where I just felt like 'OH Lord, there is NO end to this'. We delivered medicine to a young woman suffering from AIDS. We saw a five-year old girl with epilepsy who spends her days laying on a small table in the yard. We visited a granmother who is taking care of children and grandchildren in a house that could fall over if you touched it wrong. We visited a 'Mambo', a female witchdoctor, recently widowed, has three children, and is wondering if we can help. As we went, we were stopped on the road several times with pleas for help with school, with food, with sufficient shelter.

We have lived in Haiti now for over three years. We should be used to the poverty around us by now, things should be easier, right?

I've been realizing that it doesn't get any easier. We may get used to some of the inconveniences, but each day's challenges are ever-present. I may get used to the food choices, but there are still very hungry people asking for food each day. I can get used to the sporadic internet access and the faulty phone signal, but right outside our gate is waiting a mother who just wants her kids to go to school but has no means. I can get used to the loud rain when it falls on our tin roof, but tomorrow we will hear stories of people who were up all night because there is no where in the house to sleep without getting dripped on because the roof leaks so bad.

People are desperate, they want to be productive, they want jobs but there are none. The desperation also means that they will ask and keep asking for help because they genuinely need it. People see that MH does help families as God directs. But our help is temporary and we can't help everyone in need.

That's the tension between relief and development. And that's why it doesn't get any easier. Development takes time. That's hard! It's hard to hold out hope for the future when you are hungry right now. Better to teach a man to fish, right? But the fish is needed today too! So, patience, perseverance, trust, with the commitment to focus on development but provide relief where we can.

It doesn't get any easier. And I am grateful it doesn't. I don't ever want to be desensitized to people's problems. I think about how God has to see hardships all over the world, all the time. We all need to obediently seek His direction on how we can be a part of His plan and share that with those we come in contact with.

Jesus provides both relief and development. Relief that comes from casting our burdens on Him and development through transformation by the renewing of our minds.

The yard of this house floods during a hard rain.  With the hurricane rains that have come, this family had been challenged to keep their household belongings and themselves dry.

This is little Wise-Betchara. Her parents brought her to the gate of MH to share their story.  in July she was examined by a doctor in Hinche which is a community about 45 minutes from where Wise-Betchara lives with her family.

At that time, medicine was prescribed but has not helped the situation of this tumor or growth which was much smaller then. She has not been able to sleep at night because of the discomfort. Today at age 18 months there is tremendous concern for her future.
      These are friends from church that struggle each day to feed and clothe the family they love.

This adult woman is in constant pain from this growth under her arm. As she sat on a chair in her yard, her face revealed her suffering. She must keep her arm raised at all times to relieve some of the pain. Potentially, a simple medical procedure could change her life, but she will never have the means on her own to find out what can be done.
In a country where many Christians take the verse in the Bible, "be fruitful and multiply" very literally, this family with 10 children has found the way to send the kids to school which includes the required school uniforms and the required black school shoes...cleaned, polished, and ready to go!

Her grandma had just picked these coffee beans from the yard. Great gramma also lives in the house. These ladies will enjoy the final product after the beans are dried, opened, roasted, and ground into "Poud Cafe" and then boiled over an open fire for 30 minutes each time they want a cup of coffee.

Such hardship in this family. The two Haitian men pictured are leaders in their community who are trying to counsel, comfort, and make a difference for the family.

       Another house in a sea of houses that are falling down around the people who inhabit the space.
       Mud crumbles, wood rots, tin rusts and leaks

An ordinary weekday morning at MH involves Haitian and American staff gathering at 8 am to begin the workday with prayer, adoration to God, sharing scripture together and being focused on what God has planned for each person in the group each day.

There is a daily intentionality to open ourselves up to JESUS who provides relief and development.

Relief that comes from casting our burdens on Him and development through transformation by the renewing of our minds.

We miss you Ivy and Oliver and all other family and friends.