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!💖😄

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mango season

                                                            Many Hands for Haiti Campus

It's Mango season! For rural Haiti, this is known as the time of year when no one goes hungry. In the Central Plateau where Many Hands for Haiti campus is located there are numerous varieties of sweet, juicy mangoes to 'pick' from. OR, if you use the traditional Haitian method of obtaining mangoes, there are many varieties to 'throw a rock at' to get it from the tree, into your hand, into your mouth.

             Picking mangoes with an apple picker basket on the end of a LONG piece of Bamboo

Last week, we waited for the Missionary Flights International plane to arrive at the Pignon grass airstrip with a team of college students that were saying goodbye after a week of mission service with MH. The wait was longer than anticipated due to a delay in Port au Prince because the recently elected Haitian president was in transit.

While we waited there was time to enjoy one last delicious mango, or two, picked directly from the tree. The team marveled at this beautiful experience.
We wondered how many airports there are that could offer fresh picked mangoes right on the airstrip while passengers prepare for departure.
We concluded that this is the best airport in the world.

            Even a PET cart turns into an off road vehicle to travel on the roads during rainy season.

Jobs are scarce in Haiti no matter what the season but rainy season does provide an interesting job that needs to be done. The historic Citadel just outside of Milot, Haiti is the location. The job is scraping lichen off the brick and rock fortress walls, inside and out. Shown here a ladder is achored with 2 cannon balls.

                                                                   It is precarious work!

                     The moist, humid air is the perfect environment to produce these vivid colors

Many people must take resources they have and pair that up with an entrepreneurial approach.         "Kokoye", coconuts, and a macheti provide this young man with a bit of income.

With a macheti, the top of the coconut is 'whacked' off to create just the perfect opening from which to drink the coconut water inside. We have heard this liquid referred to as nature's Gatorade.

After the water has been drank the second step is to 'chop' the coconut in half, slice off a portion of the shell for a spoon, and procede to scoop the 'meat' to reap the remaining nutrutional benefit of the coconut. MH Chaplain, Pastor Lumanes, demonstrates the technique. Just another aspect of a cultural day trip to the Citadel.

A recent visit to Anglen, the woman who was pronounced dead and then reappeared after 2 years, 
provided her family with a gift of food and a time for a prayer of encouragement. She looks physically more healthy but we could see signs of a troubled woman, emotionally and mentally. She had some things to say but she did not want her family members and others that were in the yard at the time to hear. She was very welcoming to our American team but was visibly resistant to the Haitian people. 
This is understandable given her story of all she has experienced in the past. She invited Pastor Lumanes to visit one day soon to talk. 


The last Sunday of May is Mother's Day, "Bon Fet Manman".  Mothers at church Sunday morning were honored with a special song and a small gift: a ribbon pinned like a corsage along with a package of cookies wrapped in white paper and a piece of candy. 

A group of young people brought a Mother's Day gift to MH Campus Sunday afternoon. The basket contained six pineapples and three coconuts. The gift also included singing two special songs with a Mother's theme. 

A very special Mother's Day meal was delivered to this elderly couple. Their grandson helps care for them. As they saw the gift come into the yard they sat down right where they had been standing and quickly, desperately, unwrapped the food and began to divide everything 3 ways. Heartbreaking, yet what a pleasure to have the privilege of sharing such a simple gift that was recieved with such gratitude. This in itself was a treasured Mother's Day gift for the hands that delivered it. Thank you, Lord.

MH Head Security, Kalo, asked first thing one morning, "Tout bagay anfom?",  
Is everything OK? That morning the answer was realistic. NO, not everything is OK because           Satan is working very hard all day every day, creating challenges, causing trouble, using                   deception, causing doubt, fostering jealousy, taking pride and using it for his gain, stealing the focus that MUST remain on JESUS as the one and only thing that can fill lives with confidence, joy, LOVE.  

We MUST encourage each other for the sake of Jesus to remain steadfast and diligent in what God has called each of us to do. This is for family, friends, co-workers, co-workers at MH and acquaintences. Jesus light shines!       Can you see it?

The end of a beautiful day where Jesus shines light in the darkness.  
He, in turn, asks us to shine light in the darkness. 

Please take these words from 2 Thessalonians 1 as encouragement from God right where you are today, right where your challenges and persecution lie. These are words for each believer to hold on to every day when Satan shows himself.

Greetings from Paul

This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy. We are writing to the church in Thessalonica, to you who belong to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, we can't help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God's other churches about your endourance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering. In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you.

And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from Heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don't know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power. When he comes on that day, he will receive glory from his holy people - praise from all who believe. And this includes you, for you believed what we told you about him.

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 New Living Translation