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.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A New House... But God has Something MORE

Once upon a time in a small Haitian community called Acassia there was a young boy who appeared to live with his mother in a house that could be blown down by the big bad wolf. For sure it could be blown down by a hurricane named Irma. The boy was named Anderson Charles and his mother, Venise. Anderson was able to go to school because of a scholarship provided by a generous family that lived in the United States. Some members of this family came to visit Anderson at his house, they met Venise, they brought some gifts to share, they could see the unstable condition of the house.

Because of the love of Jesus, the visiting family
members told Anderson and his mother that they would like to build a new house for them.

The first thing that needed to be done was to know for sure that the land the house would be built on was owned by Anderson's family. As the story goes, the land document came to Many Hands for Haiti showing the land to be in the name of Anderson's grandfather. The expectation was given that the document needed to be in Anderson's mothers name if MH were to be able to honor the wishes of the family from the United States to begin construction of the new house. A new document was presented and all seemed to be in order.

The day came, early June, for the project to finally begin. The land where the house was to be built was quite a distance from the main road. Materials for the house were delivered by truck but the truck could only get within about one half mile of the site.

MH hosted a short term mission team from Iowa at this time so the concept "many hands make light work" was practiced to get the materials up to the place where the house would be built. The 'many hands' part is accurate but the work was NOT light!

This is property with a view! Notice the team transporting block in wheelbarrows at the base of the mountain.

The first thing that needed to be carried were 20 inch concrete block. One block carried by a person was a load, and at most, three in a wheelbarrow. With one-mile round trips in the mid-day June sun, water was a lifesaver!

There was also sand and gravel to transport by wheelbarrow.  Load after load, the team pressed on.

Anderson, pictured above and below far left, was working alongside the team. There were several young boys from the neighborhood working hard too. Also volunteering were three Haitian men, friends of Many Hands, who came to Acassia with the team. One is Kaiman in the orange t-shirt.

Probably without the three men the team would not have been able to carry out the task. The men were able to maneuver the wheelbarrows full of sand along the winding path leading up to the site of the new house. More than one thousand concrete blocks were needed.

Anderson kept working up to the last 'mile round trip' of the afternoon. All the block reached the building site and about half of the gravel and sand. The team was hot, tired, thirsty, and hungry.

                                                                       What a day it was!
                                      There were snacks and drinks for the neighbor boys that helped.

With the building materials finally on site, in the days to come, the mason crew made progress.

                                                                      Old house, New house

The land of Acassia has a reputation of being a community without order, lacking good leadership. Many Hands has a history there and knows this to be true. During the process of the house being built challenges arose. Water drums and wheelbarrows were stolen.

Entering the story is the man pictured below in the green shirt. His name is Gilne. He is not Anderson's father but the father of two other children with Anderson's mother. It seemed the new house would be home for five people now. Also pictured below is another friend of Many Hands, Woodson. He is reading a message that was sent from the sponsoring family to the family which was soon to be living in a new house.

In this message to Anderson's family, the sponsor indicates she has been praying for the house being built and as she has been doing that she said some spiritual parallels came to mind. She says to the family in the message, "I am praying that Christ will be your firm foundation and the cornerstone of this house and your lives. I am praying Psalm 91 over you and all those working on building the house. Psalm 91 says, 'if you make the Most High your dwelling, then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to keep you in all your ways. They will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot upon a stone...' " The sponsor continues in the message saying, "And just as you will soon be living in a new home, I am praying you will invite Christ to make a home in your hearts."

MH friend, Woodson, translated these words into Creole for the family to hear as we met with them, brought a few house warming gifts, and prayed together to dedicate their new home to Christ.

The sponsor concluded the message by expressing what a special time this is for Anderson's family and thanking MH for making their desire for Anderson to live in a safe home a reality and that they are eagerly looking forward to returning and seeing the completed house and family.

Such love! A love that could only come out of the love that Our Father has for His children.

The saga continues MH Project leader learned that some of the block and rebar that were needed to complete the project had been sold. And still further into the story, it was learned that Gilne had been imprisoned for five days; they needed money so he could be released.

And the story continues when a few weeks later MH Project leader visited the house expecting to find the family settled and safely living in the new home. This was not the case. The doors and windows to the house were locked up tight with no one living inside. With more investigation into this twisted story we find a technical detail that created another problem to the ongoing saga. Anderson's grandfather had put the land in Anderson's name. The grandfather did not approve of Gilne living in the same house as his grandson so had forced them all out of the house and said when Anderson was grown, then he could live in the house.

OH DEAR LORD! What should we do? MH Chaplains and MH Project leader planned a visit with the grandfather and with Anderson's mother. Through these conversations it was determined that there are deep, deep broken relationships between family members, between Gilne and others, between everyone involved and Jesus Christ. No solution was found as to how this house would be inhabited but it was determined that letting God's love work through all these trials was the only way. The MH Chaplains will meet with the family from time to time, talking about the love they can find in Jesus and praying for reconcilitation to be started in all these places.

Rather than be upset and disappointed to think that all this money and time and effort was spent for NO reason at all, MH chooses to see this from a God perspective. If it took this project of a new, safe home for a sweet, school age child to uncover deeper problems, we can accept that this is sometimes how God works.

MH Chaplains would not have had a 'foot in the door' without this new house to 'open that door.'

God's story continues as we read on in Psalm 91, "If you'll hold on to me for dear life," says God, "I'll get you out of any trouble, I'll give you the best of care if you'll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I'll answer, be at your side in bad times; I'll rescue you, then throw you a party. I'll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!"

These words are for each of us. Often our life story gets twisted and may seem to be so complex that it feels as if there is no way OUT.  When this happens, use this example to know sometimes God may have something more for you to discover and that the way OUT is to turn to God's word and allow the counsel of wise people to help sort out a mess.  

Discover Salvation through believing that Jesus Christ died for YOU, Anderson, and for YOU Venise, and for YOU Gilne, and for YOU... and for ME... each one has the WAY to live happily ever after with JESUS.
Discover it if you haven't already, or remind yourself of it, or help someone else through a twisted life story to discover it.                  

God says He will throw a party!💖😄