Sunday, December 28, 2014

In Awe of Christmas

Jwi Noel e Bon Ane.... Our 20 year old son Michael is spending week with us during the holidays. There are 4 other students here as well. It has been such a fulfilling time for all of us. We have much to be in awe about! Craig had been sick a few days prior to the group coming. He was finally going again Christmas Day. He felt it was the best Christmas present.
The group prepared supper for the Many Hands for Haiti Haitian staff...Pizza, Mac 'n Cheese, and popcorn!
Front row:  Christi, Burns, Hank, Ann, Ebens
Back row:  Taylor, Odenes, Craig, Claudin, Alecia, Appolon, Michael

Haitian countryside sunset

These are Michael's thoughts...

From Michael Gabhart

The word to describe today would be "awe". However, the true awe moment didn't come until the end of our daily missions. The group started the day with the usual 8:00 AM devotions with the Many Hands staff. With this spiritual interaction built into our Haitian experience, we can ignite that fire for God and send it into the streets of Pignon each day. It almost resembles a pep talk before a game to get your teammates ready to go out there and give it everything they have.

After this time of discussion, Hank and I split from the girls and headed down the road with Claudin and Odenes. We prepared a nursery garden for a family, as well as 4 plots for them to transfer the young plants to in a few weeks. By starting in the morning, we avoided the blistering heat; however neither Hank nor I could avoid blistering hands.

"Muddy Hands for Haiti!" (Garden work)

By noon we had finished and headed back to the dorm to have an ice cold, cherry fun bag. Soon after, the girls showed up with some bananas (quite disappointed to find out they were actually plantains). With some diapers made by the ladies at Sewing Hope, our group and Ebens headed to the roads less traveled to distribute said diapers and some "Meals from the Heartland" (packaged in Iowa).

Over the next several hours, we walked door to door proclaiming the Christmas story through Ebens's translating.

Christmas Eve...meeting our neighbors and telling the Story of Jesus Birth

The "awe" moment is coming just be patient! The connection and interaction with these desperate families became deeper and more intense the farther we wandered. Inversely proportional to the size of the connection was the size of the path (roads less traveled). I am going to fast forward to the end of the journey then backtrack to the "awe" moment.

Beautiful baby in a new beautifully hand knit sweater. A special gift from Iowa

The very last and smallest path led to one couple with 4 young children. The parents couldn't have been older than 20 (my age). This was pretty rare to see a father figure with the mother. Often the mother and the kids will live with the grandmother once the father has left. I pictured myself in their shoes in the United States, no hope for improvement and truly the poorest of the poor. Would I be able to keep my faith and continue living life in parallel and where it seems as though time stands still? Christi kept driving home the fact that the couple had a BEAUTIFUL baby.

Trying to figure out what to do with a candy cane

Each time this was translated the couple smiled uncontrollably. It is amazing how one simple word could provide such joy in a young mother and father's lives. Even though their home was no more than 100 square feet and made of sticks and mud, these parents knew they had something right in life and had something to be proud of. If you think that's the "awe" moment, you won't believe the real "awe" moment when you hear it.

Approaching one family's home, we began talking to the mother (probably around 40). She was very excited to see us and was very willing to hear what we had to say about the birth of Christ. (This particular family was one of the poorest families I have seen first hand in Haiti). A "rough around the edges more than anyone else I had ever seen" man appeared,

He was the father (around 50) still with machete in hand, just getting back from a day of foraging. He began talking with Ebens and discussing the Christmas story, finishing Ebens's sentences like he knew the story word for word. He and Ebens talked and talked and laughed and laughed, and Ebens would translate what they were talking about so we could be a part of the fellowship as well. As a final goodbye to each family and one last chance to give portray the awesome power of God, the group would pray for the family. However, this family was different. Instead of telling them we would like to pray for them, Ebens asked the man if there was anything specifically he would like us to pray for. Assuming it would be about providing food and material things for his family, I was wrong. The man wanted prayer for him to "show God's love to his wife, his children, and all his neighbors." I stood there motionless and sick to my stomach, in complete "AWE". This man and his family have so little, and this is what he prays for? Love?

Our group's moto is "Pray and Love Others". If we do these things, we have the ability to be true servants of God in Haiti. This man, never having heard our moto, was living it out. He was praying and loving others. I had said earlier that this man was rough around the edges. Christi said something in our nightly reflection that each wrinkle and scar on this mans face tells an individual story. This made us think, what has this man been through

And still, through all these tough times with no signs of life improving, all he asks for is love not even for himself, but toward others around him.

This was a sign of hope for Craig and Christi and all others trying to be God's warriors in Haiti. God is here, and his followers are growing by the day. Hope for improvement in this life may not be present, but a hope for a better life in heaven shines brightly. Our devotion on Monday provided one verse that explains the hope for the Haitians around us.

1 Samuel 2:8 A (NIV)
"He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with the princes and has them inherit a throne of honor."

By Michael Gabhart. (1st time to Haiti was 2007, this is the 2nd time)

Christmas Eve

Michael had the chance to get reacquainted with Lemes, Mesadier, and Kadou.
He met them when he visited Haiti in 2007

Praise be to GOD our Father! for sending His son Jesus to be our Saviour!!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Open Door

“Day by day, step by step.”  That remark is made often as our staff here in Haiti is staying the course God has set. This has required daily devotions and prayer- intentional communication with our Lord, intentional communication with area leaders, followed up by sharing ideas and discussion together as a MH4H team to evaluate next steps of ‘action’.  One particular meeting that had somewhat of a daunting air to it turned out to bring an ‘open door’ for MH4H and the work ahead. 

A 'reyinyon' (meeting) was scheduled to sit with Jakilo, an elected leader in Savanette.  Having served as a politician in the area since 1995, Jakilo told us, through Ebens as our translator, that he is a “Friend of Development” and when Many Hands for Haiti helps Savanette it helps him.  He acknowledged seeing many positive changes with education, agronomy, the goat program, etc.  He proclaimed, “right now we work with Many Hands for progress.  I give myself to work with you.  100% of people know Many Hands is HOME in Savanette.”

Our remarks to Jakilo indicated our position, “This is a new day for working together in Savanette.”  Jakilo said, “Thanks again to invite me to talk.  This will not be the last day we talk.”  Agreed, we will have more communication to find out what the community needs.

Craig and Cliford (front) and Burns (back) organize smaller food items for the distribution

While we work to find the ‘open door’ to a more permanent Thrive for 5 location, Many Hands for Haiti used this ‘open door’ to implement a food distribution for the families of kids enrolled in the Thrive for 5 program.

Using the same location where a Savanette community meeting was held recently, families gathered and some bible teaching was shared along with prayer and communication for what we hope to do in the near future.  The task of verifying the correct names on the enrollment list was quite challenging but with the help of the staff we successfully distributed the food to 118 families. 

Any thoughts on what the problem is with this child's scalp?  If it is a treatable condition we would seek medical care.

Each mother made their way through the crowded space with child in tow….a box full of rice/beans/spices balanced on the woman’s head while carrying a gallon of oil, some pasta, bouillon, and a large can of tomato paste…Sent off with a blessing..."Bondye beni ou!" (God bless you) they made the journey home with determination and HOPE for a better tomorrow. 

Pictured on the right is Ebens Renard as he shares a bible story with the kids and parents of the Thrive for 5 program

Hope also comes from another MH4H program. There is a group of 10 new students participating in the current 3 month session of Sewing Hope where beginning sewing skills are taught.  This week we met with the ladies, brought along 10 bibles that will be available for use at the sewing center, and shared a devotion for the day.

Sewing diapers made from t-shirts is a joint project. (center picture)  People in the US can get the pattern and cut out the pieces which are brought to the sewing center with a team.  A sewing school graduate is asked to sew 100 diapers that are given to people in the community to invest back into the program.

An open door is available for graduates of past sessions through a generous donation which will provide fabric and wages for the ladies to sew backpacks for Haitian students at Pella Christian school in Ba Savanette.  A sample backpack was presented for approval.  Next week the work can begin.

Operating a sewing machine that is powered by a generator is a new experience.  It makes time spent taking out incorrect stitches kind of tense knowing the generator is running.  A treadle machine would be the next level of experience!  Also a bit tense thinking of the fact that there is ONE sewing machine needle.  Fabric can be purchased at the local market so we will determine the cost per backpack and then a fair price can be set to pay the graduates for each one made.

While reading a book titled "Travesty in Haiti" by Timothy Schwartz a reader review caught our attention when it stated, "What Haiti needs is Trade NOT aid."  The Sewing Hope program is working toward that goal.  Two times now at the local Saturday Market we have seen a man, a tailor, who has set up his 'booth' with his treadle sewing machine and right there on the spot he is making men's tailored trousers.  We assume he can make custom alterations on demand.  That is trade!  Learn a skill and persevere to make it profitable.

Last night through the stillness of the evening came a sudden "POPppffsstt" sound.  A big cargo truck making a late night journey to Port au Prince blew a tire traveling on the road leading out of Pignon. While on the balcony of the dorm we could hear through the darkness the clink-clank-tapping sounds of the tire being changed. ALL in the black of night.  Perseverance!

Our recent multicultural Thanksgiving Celebration gave an opportunity to meet new people.  Countries represented here in this picture: Haiti, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Dominican Republic, US (Iowa, Kansas, Texas, New Jersey, California and more) 
Our 12 inch Christmas tree and string of 35 lights...1/2 on the tree and 1/2 circle around the 'trunk'!!

One day this past week for our Advent devotion with the Haitian staff the key verse was Rev. 3:8...... "I know your works.  Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.  I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."

We think God is urging everyone to continue on, praying for perseverance and looking for those open doors that provide opportunity for the Gospel to be shared.  An open door can lead to an open heart.

Look at this example from Acts 16. Paul and his companions were traveling and presenting the Gospel in many places.  The Holy Spirit kept them from preaching in Asia.  Then they tried to enter Bithynia and again the Spirit of Jesus would not allow it.  But Paul, through a vision concluded that God had called them to preach the gospel in Macedonia.  So they went to Macedonia...

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who gathered there. One of those listening was a women named Lydia from the city of Thyatira who was a dealer in purple cloth.  She was a worshiper of God.  The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. (Acts 16: 13-15)

God temporarily closed the door to Asia and Bithynia, but the door to preach in Macedonia was open and it led to the open heart of Lydia.  An open door can lead to an open heart.

Pray intentionally that God would prepare the hearts of those people we encounter and that we would have the sensitivity to recognize these open doors.

May God grant the open doors of opportunity, so the gospel may be proclaimed and the lost will be saved. May God grant perseverance to find those open doors, and the faith to enter them, through His grace and His glory.

As we wait...O come, o come Emmanuel!  In Christian love,  Craig and Christi