Friday, December 25, 2015

Jwaye Nwel --- Merry Christmas

CHRIST, the Eternal Word         

4The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 
5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
14The Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son.   John 1:4,5,14

Imagine the star that shone over Bethlehem many years ago giving the Magi light by which to travel to find where the new king had been born.

"I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, Your handmade sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings." 
Psalm 8:3  The Message

Jwaye Nwel --- Merry Christmas!  

It was a starry, moonlit night as we wound our way through the mountains of Haiti du Nord and onto the Central Plateau in the taptap.

We were greeted in Cap Haitien by several friends who made the journey with us to our destination of Pignon.  Our friends had waited quite some time to see our 'white' faces.  One of our pieces of luggage did not come off the baggage cart in the small international airport. We successfully made a claim for the missing bag. We were assured by a pleasant young Haitian woman that our bag had stayed behind in Miami and that it would arrive in that very place the next day.

The next order of business involved stopping for a Koka, Coke, the kind bottled in Port au Prince with real cane sugar.  Because it is just a day or two after the winter solstice, nightfall came quickly. There are times when the night in Haiti can be the darkest dark but this night was illuminated by the brightest moon ever to be remembered. The moon was so brilliant that it cast shadows highlighting the beauty in every direction. It was as though God was saying, "Let me show you, even in the darkness, the beauty of this place you return to tonight.  The place where you are called to serve me and love the people I have created."  It was a perfect setting to reflect and prepare for the work He has in the months to come. Not sure about the others in the taptap but there was one that may have been wishing the ride was even longer, wanting more time to dwell in the Glory of God as He showed Himself in the nighttime.

God was faithful to give us time to be renewed by family and friends while we spent a month in the US.

'Grand Dad' couldn't have been more content!
Ivy, 14 months with brother Oliver, soon to be 7

Part of the time in the states was spent visiting our son Jonathan and wife Anna in Holland, MI.  Oliver and Ivy
enjoyed nearly every mile of this journey!  REALLY!

Just one of the highlights was attending Hope College Advent Vespers service in Holland, MI.
Jonathan was part of the alumni choir. God allowed His presence to be known as scripture was read and music lifted our praise to Him.

Uncle Jonathan and Oliver worked on a Mad Lib while shopping in downtown Holland.
Ivy thought it was fun too!

Oliver's school Christmas program was another highlight after returning to Iowa.

Christmas was celebrated a few days early with some gifts to be shared but mainly sharing time together as family.  Michael and Mom...each with a matching mini tape measure.

Christmas was celebrated with some silly games.
Oliver with mom Jennifer, helped each other with shaving cream...

Only then, to be a target for flying cheese balls!

AND an early birthday celebration for Oliver.

Even while being away, we were encouraged to see that MH4H work was still advancing.  On one of the days at home we received a Facebook Messenger picture of an outhouse that was constructed by the last team to stay with MH before our departure.  The leaders of the congregation where it had been delivered worked to dig a hole and position the outhouse, ready for use.  The crescent moon is definitely an American touch,
not Haitian.  :)

      Pictures also came to show the completed goat house on the land MH is using for a herd of goats
                that are propagating themselves for a program that will benefit the area people.
                  Kalo, on the right, is the MH staff member that has valuable experience in raising goats.  We learned about a problem developing...the goats were jumping the cactus and barbed wire fence.                   The culprits are being tamed with individual yoke collars made of sticks to keep them IN.

Once we arrived in Pignon and entered our home away from home, an amazing sight of two comfortable, solid, 'his and hers' chairs could not have been more appealing.

Creatively 'wrapped'
and addressed to us!

We came with gifts to give only to be blessed with more gifts for us from Haitian friends.  A beautiful tablecloth, a cabbage and militon from a garden, and some deliciously sweet bananas are a show of affection during this holiday time.

It was our privilege to pass out gifts sent here by others.  Jean Rene is overjoyed by this gift of a flashlight with batteries, some tools, and a shirt.

Many visits from friends who say, "Bienvini", Welcome!  This 7 month old is healthy and plump 
in part because of the gift of baby formula that a short term mission team brought.  
His mother, Evelouse, is the gal who developed a heart condition during pregnancy 
and is unable to nurse her baby.  Evelouse is currently being treated in a nearby hospital.  
MH provided the opportunity for Kayman, this caring dad, to visit her today 
and be able to pay for the medication that is helping her condition.  

                     Christmas Eve service was full of music telling the story of a new born KING.

Talk about highlights... a gift of a cement trowel in the hand of a hard working mason...
now that's Christmas!

And Boss Thermeland will get to put the trowel to the test when his crew is hired to pour a concrete floor in this house early January.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Planning time with family and friends

The anticipation of spending time with family and friends over Thanksgiving and through the Advent season has been on our minds for quite some time. This will satisfy a need for us as missionaries in a foreign country where there are no two days alike. We are thankful for each day God has given us to serve him in a challenging but rewarding way. The technology we get to use each day for communication is such a gift.

We still find it hard to believe that we can be "in the middle of NO WHERE" and answer a video phone call and see and hear IVY, our one year old granddaughter. The Kindergarten aged school girls we were with at the time were intrigued to meet her. Ivy and her brother Oliver, our kids, our parents, our siblings, other extended family, and so many valued friends are in our prayers as we plan the trip home, arriving in Spencer late Friday, November 20. We will have until December 22 to enjoy time to reconnect. If YOU are in NW Iowa would you have time to reconnect?

One many scarves will it take to stay warm in Iowa in December?

So much transpires in a month, a week, a day... time races by... a day begins and 'blink' it is done. Our "bofis", which is creole for son-in-law, has concluded that our grandson Oliver suffers from 'FOMO', 'Fear Of Missing Out'. We have concluded in the past couple of weeks that we may suffer from this as well.

The programs, projects, and people that fill our days have brought on this condition. God is at work and we have FOMO as we anticipate being away.

This is Evelouse. She was the main subject of our last blog post. She is a new mom that developed a heart condition during pregnancy. She was hospitalized with the help of MH4H but has been home for a few weeks. Today she is in pretty rough shape, retaining fluid because of her heart condition. A nurse that is a member of the short-term mission team serving with us this week visited her and reported that her resting heart rate is 128 beats per minute. She is a small woman but her abdomen, legs and feet are so full of fluid she has difficulty walking.

We pray... HOW do we help her? Her husband and mother are doing their best to care for her and her four month old son but it is not enough.

Agronomy is crucial to Haiti's future. Water is the main ingredient to success along with dedicated hard work. The two factors have been combined in the MH4H model garden to produce the most beautiful cabbage you could imagine. By the time we return all of this crop will have been harvested. Pictured below is Boss Kalo and two workers putting up a new goat house for the benefit of the MH4H goat program. The MH goats will have taken shelter in this house many times before we see it complete.

Mothers, fathers, and other caregivers of kids in the MH Thrive program are shelling peanuts, "pistache" that were grown by MH4H Agronomist, Claudin.  The peanuts will be made into peanut butter, "mamba" and will be a source of nutrition for the adults and kids that are part of Thrive. Marmits upon marmits of peanuts will be processed into mamba and eaten over the next month.
Below are two happy women, Geylene and Elirose, who work in the Thrive program.  New shelving has recently been installed to organize their supplies.  

Did you know that some scrap pallet wood and cardboard are all you need for a chicken coop? These two chickens think they have it made.

Pastor and Madame Francios are prayer warriors and 'sold out' servants of God. They tell us each time we see them that they pray for us every day.  We believe they actually do.

God will hear many prayers from these dear friends in our absence.

We have learned to do things the Haitian way. "Pa gen pwoblem", it is no problem to drive the moto up the mountain, sitting on the gas tank, while transporting two 75# sacs of cement on the back.

MH4H recently sponsored a new home build for a young family that had shown such determination and perseverance to beat the odds of living in poverty stricken Haiti. Far left is head of the household, Tibens, along with the concrete crew Francios, Kayiman, and Thermeland, plus 'blanc' helpers

A Christmas shopping list has been started for the approaching season. Included on the list are D'lite brand solar lights from Amazon for several people including Evelouse and two new cement trowels for Tibens and Thermeland.

The scenery will change as we travel from Haiti to winter in Iowa. During the time in Iowa there won't be any 'FOMO' when it comes to God's blessing and grace and goodness because that will follow us no matter where we are. Psalm 23:6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hard to know....

Wrestling with situations that we will never be able to fully understand the magnitude of pain and suffering that poverty and injustice brings is something that keeps us fully relying on God.  There are many times it is hard to know how to respond or what God is prompting us to do to help through MH4H.

God tells us over and over in scripture that whatever we ask in Jesus name will be given. We ask for answers and ask if you would also bring this before God.

Today we are searching for answers about what to do in this situation.  We had a visit from a young father who has come to us many times in the past three weeks asking for formula for his two month old baby because the mother is sick and can no longer nurse the baby.  We have been able to offer assistance because of the generosity of some teams that have visited and brought cans of baby formula.

Two days ago the young man came and said, "I do not know if I can count on my wife" meaning he was afraid his wife is going to die.  We know the wife had been in the hospital the first time the man came to visit.  We could sense the desperation now and began to ask how we could help get her to the hospital and how soon we should go. He thought a minute and said, "Lendi." Wait a second....Lendi? (Monday) that was on Thursday! If he thinks she is dying we can't wait until Monday. We persuade him to agree that we would go Friday morning.

So yesterday we went to his house to make arrangements for the wife to go to the hospital. She is very sick.  He is not ready to take her...Now he says Madi. Tuesday. What? He says he needs to wash some clothes and find some food and blah, blah, before she would be able to go to the hospital. What? Do we force him to take her? What do we do? We get this thought.... a thought we hate to even consider but it could be...could it be that he is so burdened with the outlook of caring for his baby AND his sick wife that he is thinking he can't do it and is waiting for her to die? Hard to know.

We prayed together, told him we would bring some food later and left the house kind of numb. Hard to know.

So this morning, after kind of a restless night, it is still hard to know. Waiting on God and asking you to help us cover this in prayer. That is the part we CAN know..."Everything to God in prayer." Tomorrow is Sunday, a day to worship and give thanks for all HE has done and will do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Patience Class

Patience class.  Our class was in session this morning.  It was test day.

As we left the dorm at 7:00 AM for staff/community devotions at the Sylvain Campus Gazebo, the intention was to return to the dorm afterward and spend at least the entire morning working on bookkeeping/accounting tasks.  Right about 8:00 as our closing prayer was ending, some guests were arriving at the Gazebo.  Yesterday the purchase of a small piece of land adjacent to the MH4H land had been negotiated.  The sellers had come to exchange the land deed for the agreed upon amount of money.

Here in the Haitian countryside nearly ALL transactions, no matter what the nature, are completed in CASH. to the bank we went to make a quick withdrawal and get back to complete the sale. The MH4H motorcycle is such an asset to the work being done.  It provides quick and easy transportation, as easy as it can be on what we refer to as roads.  We arrived at the bank a few minutes before it opened.  Just a short wait and we were at the teller window greeting the nice Haitian woman who supervises the other bank tellers.

We are 'preferred customers' and have gotten pretty good at Haitian banking.  We state why we came..."Nou vle Retre (a $pecified amount)"  (We want to withdraw $----). "Nou bezwen $---- in US and $---- chanje (shan-jeh) nan Gourdes".  (We need.....   .....Change to Gourdes).  Our friendly bank lady gives us an apologetic look and says, "Pa gen, nap tounen demen maten" (We don't have it, come back tomorrow morning).  But we say, "Nou gen moun tann pou nou." (We have people waiting for us). NOPE, come back tomorrow.  Seriously!!??!!

                         This is an example of Haitian money, Gourdes, but there was NONE today. scrounge around to see if we can 'find' enough to complete the land transaction.  In the mean time, Claudin, MH4H agronomist who negotiated the land deal, needed a piece of plain white copy paper, not very easy to find here, so he could hand write the contract agreement for the sellers to sign. Then we needed to discuss some motorcycle repairs that were critically needed on his bike. All the while, the family was waiting for us at the Sylvain campus. Come to think of it, they were in patience class too.

Finally, we were all gathered back in the same place ready to count the cash and sign the contract. UH OH...guess what?... There is a third party that needs to be involved because the seller still owes money to the person he bought the land from. So Claudin takes off to see if he can find Bariedel, pronounced Bayade, the original land owner. We went to the neighborhood boutique to buy water to give to the seller family while we wait. At least we had the shade of the Gazebo.

Claudin returns...SUCCESS!  Bariedel is on the back of the motorcycle! OK, now for the contract. The contract requires the sellers Haitian ID number off the sellers ID card. As Claudin is double checking the information he discovers that yesterday the seller had given his nickname rather than his given name which appears on the ID card. Bad news! The contract must be rewritten BY HAND with the correct spelling of his full name. We made the first move to go back to the dorm to get another piece of plain white copy paper. BUT, relief...Claudin had one extra sheet of paper in his backpack. Whew! We decide, to save time....  :(   the sellers could be counting the cash for the land sale while Claudin rewrites, by hand, the contract agreement that will be signed by both parties including witnesses.

With shaky hands, the son that has accompanied the family begins to count...slowly, carefully, cautiously. As we watch over, it is pretty clear that he will need some assistance. This young man can read, which it appears that his parents can not. Just one generation ago a large percentage of Haitian people were illiterate. This seems it would readily lend itself to fraudulent deals if people involved could not read a document or sign their name. Even today, as we make purchases which need a signed receipt or pay workers and ask for a signature, many times we get "X" on the signature line.

To assist with the counting, Claudin begins counting and laying bills in piles of an equal amount on a plank that is propped on concrete block stacks. Well of course the slightest breeze causes havoc with the bills laying loosely on the board. A stick from the ground serves as enough of a weight to hold the piles in place until the counting of dollars and gourdes has been verified.  But now Claudin must finish the job of rewriting the contract. Wouldn't you know...the ink pen he is using starts to run out. The writing was in blue ink...all we can find is black ink...that won't do for the official contract. You're KIDDING...right?  OH! Thank goodness, the blue ink started to flow. Mesi Senye a! Thank the LORD! At this point, all THAT seemed to be was God showing his sense of humor and looking on to see if we could pass our patience class.

NOW... the contract is signed! We exchange smiles, words of thanks, and handshakes. We express to the sellers how thankful we are and ask them to come by on occasion to see how God will use this small parcel of land, added to the whole, for HIS glory. The elderly, slight framed woman stepped close to Claudin and wondered if we had a bible to give her. Another son wondered, "how about 2?" So we ended the time with a prayer and a gift of 2 Creole bibles.

Today's Patience class, nearly four hours later... DISMISSED. Thank God, we passed the test. Bookkeeping and accounting will have to get done another day.

Look closely.  The terra cotta colored roof on the right is the Agronomy Training Center.  The area around that building with no visible trees is the Plantain tree field. The circular roof to the left is the thatch of the Gazebo.  Close by, a bit to the left is the Equipping Center with a mango tree on the side before the tin roof went on.

                              Watering the cabbage plants in the demonstration garden

                           Visiting MH4H board member, Tim VanMaanen assists Claudin

                                                         ...Transplanting a few plantain trees

                                     Agronom Claudin, Odenes (agronomy worker) and Tim

Pallets that came with the most recent shipment of Meals from the Heartland were cleverly turned into a wind screen for the temporary outdoor cooking area for the new Thrive program.

Amazing black dirt is such a gift on the MH4H property

Another clever use of pallet scraps...a TRASH can attached to a mango tree

RIDE FOR A CAUSE blessed MH4H with a donation to purchase a 3-wheel motorcycle
which will be a smart work vehicle for agronomy (crops and animals...the next time MH buys goats 
we won't have to WALK them home), AND for construction (money will be saved 
on transportation costs because we can haul bags of cement and other materials ourselves).  
Our friend Morales is an experienced 3-wheeler driver.  

The motorbike was purchased in Hinche and was driven back to Sylvain.
Not and easy drive.

                                                    Trusses and rafters...ropes and ladders

One word...~Balance~

This was THURSDAY....

Now it's TUESDAY!

The Equipping Center 
God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called!  
Please pray for Haitians of all ages that will come here to be equipped to serve HIM

This morning we studied 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 during our morning devotions. 

Living by Faith

16For this reason we never become discouraged.  Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day.  17And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble.  18For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen.  What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.

This afternoon in a conversation with Appolon, MH4H Haitian staff member, his concern for the Haitian people was shared in regard to the dry weather that has plagued the area.  He said Pignon is a bit better off but the area to the north, DonDon to Cap Haitien all the way to the Dominican Republic, is terribly dry.  There has been hardly any rain.  Even the sugar cane is dry. He said this is the first time he has ever seen this, "Every garden is lost.  How are people going to keep alive?"

Living by faith.  That's how.  Is this another example of Patience class?  Trusting God to provide and being patient during the wait?  We must fix our attention on things unseen.  Not a day goes by here without requests for help.... legitimate needs.  Some simple, others very complex with grave circumstances.  Please pray for endurance for the Haitian people as many suffer through 'small' and temporary trouble.  Give the people patience during their suffering.  It WILL bring tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble.  

During devotions we agreed that as Christians we need to stay in the competition for eternal life in heaven,  no matter what the persecution, no matter what the cost.  Don't give up competing.  Even when the body is weak, the spirit can be strong.  Keep in the competition every day, no matter what the cost.

What about YOU? 
"Ou kapab fe sa... avek Bondye"  You can do it... with GOD.   What cannot be seen lasts FOREVER.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A couple essential parts and Back to School

The realization that there were two essential parts left out of the overview of the construction zone in Sylvain has prompted this update.   SO...given we are working on new development in the countryside in a third world country one must realize there are no restaurants to get a quick lunch in the middle of a workday and get right back to work.  Food preparation here takes a long time. There are no packages of pre-made food to open and heat.

Food is prepared for the construction crew each workday by a hard working woman from the neighborhood in this 'kitchen'.  The woman is Rosita who was mentioned previously that asked Jesus to be Lord of her life.  Some family members have been helping Rosita with the cooking. Today we were captivated by the sight of Rosita's granddaughter, probably 7 years old...carrying a large wash tub on her head as well as a big shovel with two empty 5 gallon buckets latched on by the wire  handles!

Also...think about a construction site in the undeveloped countryside...what else would be an essential part of the daily routine with a construction crew of around 20 men?

Yep!  A Haitian Port-a-potty.  

Another side note...It is interesting to observe nearly all of the workers...
wearing flipflops on the job.

School starts here in the Central Plateau of Haiti on Monday, September 7th.  We hosted a back-to-school party for some of our friends who have helped Many Hands for Haiti throughout the summer.

       Pictured left to right...Craig, Kenedy, Christi, Roodson, Woodson, Heidi, Fransley, Richelin

What's a party without some snacks and drinks?  We had bread with Haitian Mamba (peanut butter), Cheecos (like Cheetos), Craig's famous popcorn, and ice cold 'Koka' in glass bottles.  As we began to enjoy the food, Woodson said. "oh no, we forgot to pray before we ate."  So we gave thanks for the food and the KOKA!  We finished the evening with a few hands of 'En'
(pronounced eh) which is 'one' in Creole... which is 'Uno" in Spanish.  In other words we played the Creole version of Uno.

Back to school also means a distribution of 'Meals from the Heartland' which are pouches of rice and beans along with a flavor and vitamin enrichment packet all packed in boxes.  MH4H distributes boxes to 10 schools and a handful of other designated recipients.  One school, located in La Belle Mar, sent representatives, all women, with a total of six donkeys and horses to transport their 28 boxes back to the school.

     The 28 boxes weighing an estimated 850 pounds are quite a load for these 'beasts of burden'.

It was an amazing sight... these women working together as a team, skillfully tying the heavy load securely, and guiding their caravan, maybe while singing..."Through the river and over the mountain to La Belle Mar we go".  Or maybe not!  (Oh wait..that is "Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go")

Even as much of a privilege as it is to be able to attend school, Back-to-School time brings economic hardships as families are trying to pay school tuition fees and pay for school shoes and school uniforms to be sewn and buy the needed books and school supplies.  We can sense a heightened desperation all around.  We have been fielding an increased number of pleas for help in a wide range of situations. One way MH4H has been able to ease the burden just a bit is by sharing back packs that have been brought by Mission teams over that past several months.  We had intentionally held on to them to be shared at this optimal time.

One morning this past week the staff devotion time was focused on the Word of God from
1 Peter 1:3-9...   A Living Hope:  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith--being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  We also turned to Hebrews 13:5b  Because Jesus said: I will never leave you, I will never forsake you."   As a group we repeated the verse out loud numerous times... 
"Paske Bondye te di: Mwen p'ap janm vire do ba ou, mwen p'ap janm lage ou."  

In times of hardship, God's word brings HOPE to a potentially hopeless setting.

Recently we met Wikenson, a 4 year old with similar problems seen in Elinise, the 3 year old that MH has been providing the means for physical therapy and doctor appointments.

Such situations just shout "The Least of These".  We are constantly trying to discern the right situations for MH to get involved.

Wikenson is actually the third such child in need that we have met.

The following picture shows John Kerry Cadet, 20 months, who came to us a few weeks ago.  His father walked from Bohoc which is a good 4-5 miles from the dorm.  He has been bringing John Kerry by foot into Pignon multiple times a week for physical therapy sessions hoping to see improvement in his son's condition.

We are praying for God to show a way to ease the burden for the families of children with these special needs.

Hebrews 13:5b  Because Jesus said: I will never leave you, I will never forsake you."   
"Paske Bondye te di: Mwen p'ap janm vire do ba ou, mwen p'ap janm lage ou."  

This thankful family has been blessed to have a one room concrete block house provided by MH along with partnership from Christ Covenant Church in Knoxville, TN.  Veronique George lives in Sylvain with her 3 children.  Her husband passed away and she has been doing her best to be the head of the household.  Hebrews 13:5b  Because Jesus said: I will never leave you, I will never forsake you."   
"Paske Bondye te di: Mwen p'ap janm vire do ba ou, mwen p'ap janm lage ou."  

Another house build project by MH is down the road from the dorm.  This house is being built in the same 'lakou', yard, as another existing house where 16 family members are residing together. The man standing in the doorway had put up the stick walls and had started gathering wood to be used for the roof.  MH is supplying the materials and labor for the roof and doors.  The materials to 'Krepi' the walls and pour a concrete floor will also be provided by MH.  The labor will be done by this man and his brother who have concrete pouring skills.

Hebrews 13:5b  Because Jesus said: I will never leave you, I will never forsake you."   
"Paske Bondye te di: Mwen p'ap janm vire do ba ou, mwen p'ap janm lage ou."  

Saturday is Market day in Pignon.  MH purchased some goats to begin a breeding program.  A young man seemed to be observing as we were adding to the number one by one.  He came close saying he was 'grangou', hungry, and needed money for food.  It is such a hard thing to handle as it is not the best thing to just stand and hand out money.  We were looking ahead to the task of getting the goats from Pignon out to their new home in Sylvain.  Rather than giving a handout, we asked if the young man would help walk the goats in exchange for 20 Haitian dollars (about $2.00 US).  He agreed.  He used part of the money on the spot to get some food to eat before the 1 1/2 mile walk to Sylvain.  He got a meal, we benefitted from his help, and we became friends.

You can't have a goat breeding program without the other half of the mating process.
Here we have...

a stud.  :)