Thursday, July 31, 2014

The not-so-little Things

Day to day life in Haiti can get overwhelming very quickly.  If we were to just scan the population and observe the people in need, in a moment it could be enough to say there is nothing we can do to make a difference we might as well pack up and go home.  But God says otherwise.

A Haitian friend that leads a small, fairly new congregation had extended multiple invitations to us to come to his church for Sunday worship.  He had been telling us of the need for a church building which has made us cautious not to ‘promise’ anything we weren’t prepared to follow through with.  We have Many Hands for Haiti ministry efforts at hand, not our friend’s ministry efforts.  This past Sunday we made our way along the dirt roads, bumping along on the ‘moto’ looking for our destination of the church.  We arrived to find a very humble worship setting with 4 simple benches and a table with a dirt floor underneath a thatched roof with ‘walls’ created from sheets to outline the ‘Sanctuary’.  We arrived on time so…we were the first ones there!  It gave us time to appreciate the stillness, the cool breeze, knowing God is HERE in this ‘simplicity’. 

During the worship time there was beautiful a cappella music from both the congregation and individuals.  There was preaching about Jonah (Jonas in Creole) not wanting to serve God in Nineva.  The scripture just before the offering was received was 1 Korent 16:1-4 …two 5 gourde coins (worth $0.12 US each) and the money we gave as our offering to God made up the entire giving on that day.  It seemed like so little.  Our thoughts were mixed.  After the service ended the pastor was excited to walk with us down the road a ways to show us the site where they would build the church.  There was wood to be used as posts for the walls at the site.  The announcement was made that because of today’s offering, NOW they could buy nails and NOW they can begin to build the church. 

With Pastor Elisma and the wood to start their new church

Faithfulness, patience, perseverance, gratitude….JOY!  God’s reminder to us that HE takes the little things and makes them BIG…for His Glory.  A baby in a manger, a teenage mother, a cup of cold water, a mustard seed, two coins… Not-so-little after all.

Homemade Pizza and Koka
Bread Art from the local market

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Exchange, Calculate, Convert, Translate

On the roof working on the latest post
This morning on the ‘motocross’ ride from our place in Savanette to Pignon for our Creole lesson, a thought came to mind.... As we are getting acquainted with Haitian life, we find ourselves learning to adapt to a different system for money, a different measurement system, and of course a different language.  These systems we know must take on a different form. 

The words exchange, calculate, convert, translate come up daily.  We seem to spend a fair amount time carrying out the action of these words….Exchanging US dollars for Haitian gourdes and then calculating the value of gourdes into Haitian dollars and then calculating back the approximate value again in US dollars; Converting kilometers to miles, Celsius to Fahrenheit; Translating English to Creole and Creole to English.  It can be exhausting to think of the ways the culture we know and the culture we are learning can be SO different. 

BUT… the thing that doesn’t have to be exchanged, calculated, converted, or translated into a different form is GOD.  The God we know is the SAME God we know in Haiti.  GOD is GOD.  God hears the prayers uttered in Creole and in English. God loves Haitians, Americans…the World.  And… the system in place for salvation through God’s son, Jesus Christ, is available to all, no matter where your journey begins or ends.   

Listen to 1 Corinthians 8:6 from THE MESSAGE  …They say – again, quite rightly – that there is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him.  Also, they say that there is only one Master – Jesus the Messiah – and that everything is for his sake, including us.  Yes.  It’s true.

Now… a couple of things that are NOT hard to get used to…It is not hard to adapt to a place where you say ‘Bonjou’ as you pass people along the road.  It is not hard to adapt to a place where a ‘midnight mango’ is a great late night snack.  Just think…the moon you see tonight is the same moon we see here in Savanette, Haiti.  (Thanks John, for that thought!)
Midnight Mango

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Oh, The Places You'll Go

July 17, 2014

It’s a small world after all!  No we are not at Disneyland but it IS a small world.  Our son-in-law, John, is having a birthday today.  “Happy Birthday to you!”  We met John’s cousin, Sarah from Sioux City, Iowa, here in Pignon yesterday afternoon.  Crazy!

It kind of feels as though we could add a few pages to the Dr. Suess book titled, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.”  One of our upcoming projects took us here, there, and everywhere to count school desks at 8 out of 9 schools which we are associated with through MH4H and PFH (Promise for Haiti).  We were accompanied by Ronal, the school superintendant and a driver who could squeeze a 4 wheeled vehicle through a one lane donkey path like no one else.  
Three Bears School maintenance project will be to replace the tin roofing

Each of the schools has had some of the old desks replaced with new ones.  The goal for the project is to have all new desks in each school by January 2015.  We also documented other maintenance and repairs that need to be done.  After we traveled the countryside we sketched out a map of the area mapping out the approximate location of each school.  We did not track the distance from place to place so… the mileage scale on “The Map” reads… ‘1 inch = your best guess’.

The opportunity came this past Saturday to visit several families in the Bohoc and Lapila communities that have potential to have a new house built if certain funds are available.  With a trusty little notepad and pen in hand, we could document the families by name and jot down how many people reside in each house and include ages of the children.  Each family showed such character and personality in such humble living conditions. Two of the families had already gathered rock, one of their most plentiful natural resources, which will help build the new house foundation.  The people that show they have taken the initiative to invest time and effort into the project will likely be at the top of the list. 

Going to Market provides great opportunity to practice speaking Creole.  We try to ask for the items we want to buy and then attempt to understand how much we need to pay.  One successful market trip yielded a beautiful ‘Anana’ (Pineapple), Mango, ‘Bongu’ (cheese that never melts…not even baked on a pizza in the oven), ‘Ti Malice’ (plastic-y margarine that only melts in the fry pan), ‘senk ze’ (five eggs), matches to light the propane gas stove, ‘Kanel’ (Cinnamon to grate into the French toast batter), and a bag of ‘Savon pou lavi vesel’ (powdered dish soap).  We have been on a hunt for a bunch of ‘fig’, (Bananas).  We thought we had found some one market day but later realized they were plantains which are hard, not sweet, and need to be cooked which we don’t know how to do.  We have been told they sell out fast so we need to get to market EARLY!

What a blessing the motorcycle has been for us and the work we need to do.  It gives us independence to take care of whatever comes up in a day.  Most days we have ‘a plan’ in the morning of how the day might go.  Quite often the plan has been changed even before breakfast is over!  We are adapting to Haitian ways pretty easily.  Three people on the ‘moto’ is ordinary. On the moto with us is our friend Dasley, a fine, trustworthy Christian young man.

This afternoon our souls were fed to overflowing by the kindness of a Haitian who shared his story with us.  We had a printed document that we needed scanned to send in an email to our son Michael’s college.  We stopped by a small business where ‘impressions’ (photo copies) can be made.  We had been to this place earlier in the week to have some ‘impressions’ made of “The Map”.  That day when the copies were completed the business owner said there was no charge, the work was done for us for free. 

Today, in talking to Pito, the young, Christian business owner, we learned that he had the capability to scan our document to the flash drive we had along.  As he went about the task, we said quietly to each other that today we would insist he let us pay for his services.  The work was done and we asked how much we owed.  He again said the work was done for free.  We said we REALLY wanted to pay him for the work.  He continued¸ “ The other day you did not understand me when I told you how missionaries had helped me in my life.”  He told his story…when he was 15 his mother died and he was living in the streets.  Some Christian missionaries from the US had gotten to know him and shared the love of Jesus Christ by providing the opportunity to attend school and go on to attend university.  Other missionaries provided the resources for him to open this business.  He told us, “missionaries just like you helped me in my life.”  He, in turn, wanted to demonstrate Jesus love by offering his services to us.  It was very evident that his heart is full of gratitude to our Lord.

“Jwi lavi nan Jezi”…  Enjoying life in Jesus,  Craig and Christi
This vain bird was staring at his reflection
 in the muffler of the moto all afternoon.

A Haitian kitchen.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ratatouille Wisdom

The Least of These
A Many Hands for Haiti feeding program based on James 1:27
Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the father, is this:  Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

We have been reading the book “Walking with the Poor” by Bryant Myers.  In the book he references work by Amartya Sen and says: 

For the prophets, the test of the functioning of society and governing of the powerful was the well-being of widows, orphans and aliens.  If the poorest can function, than society is functioning too.  But surely there is more than survival in God’s intent for human beings.  Sen argues that to experience human well-being we must have the freedom to choose what we wish or are called to become and have the means to get there. …to seek functionings in their world that the people themselves deem valuable.

How do we help to bring about that freedom and responsibility to act and create.  Human well-being is not just an economic problem.  In what ways can we assist in the ethics and empowerment area to foster creativity and discovery with our Haitian brothers and sisters? 

Not too long before we left for Haiti, we were sitting with our grandson, Oliver, watching the movie Ratatouille.  There is a scene where Remy, the curious rat who preferred to eat and cook human cuisine, makes the comment, “I like humans, they’re not just focused on survival.  They discover and create.”  It made us think of how in Haiti, sometimes life is just about survival, but what about our capacity to pursue all God’s riches?

Myers in his book also states:

The understanding of and the pursuit of well-being is to come from the poor themselves.

We, as Americans, can come with some preconceived notions about ways of “fixing” some of the problems of poverty with our Western solutions.  As we are here, now, experiencing the Haitian life each day,  our hope is that we can be agents of empowerment to help the people here pursue happiness as they determine.  To help in the understanding that true freedom comes only from Jesus

Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8: 34-36

This is one of our biggest tasks here, to seek God’s wisdom on how we can aid in the spiritual development with the staff and greater community that we are part of.  With a growing understanding in Christ, will come the freedom to discover what true well-being is and how to increase it.

Gyrlene and here grandma on laundry day.