Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Rest of the Story

Here is 'the rest of the story' on the sacrificial gift of a chicken that was touched on in the previous post. On December 7th, Erfisa and her friend came to the main gate of MH campus with the beautiful intention of giving this gift to express feelings of gratitude for the way God has provided in their lives. 

Here is an inside look at 'the rest of the story' as was experienced that day.......

Today. A gift. SO you see the gift? A CHICKEN! She hands it to me. I hold it. It flaps its wings. Then I offer the ladies "a cup of cold water". (There is just something divine in this gesture)

Well I need two hands, two CLEAN hands to serve them some water. I go to the MH office and try to decide what to do with the chicken so I can get the water. I see a basket. I turn the basket upside down with the chicken under it. Then I put a box on top of the basket and go about my servant action to get them some water. I even had some packages of crackers to share.

That all happens and I go back to the office. The COCK is crowing!! Darryl is working in the office and comments on how loud the rooster is. I say, "I am sorry, he's not house broken." Darry doesn't really get my joke and gets up to look outside to see just WHERE IS THIS ROOSTER?!

So all this time passes. I need to get this chicken out of the office. I think I have it handled. I start to unveil the chicken....I see there is CHICKEN SHIT all over the floor! UGH!!

Now I really don't have time for this. Where am I going to put this chicken? I have work to do. 

I decide I am NOT getting chicken POOP on my clothes. I go to the guest house, change into my paint clothes, find an old t-shirt in order to pick up the chicken which also has stepped in and sat in the poop. It doesn't end here!

I take the chicken through the guest house. TiPay, the hardworking yard guy, says, "oh, Mr. Craig isn't going to like that chicken singing in his ear." I head out the back door and think I will just tie it to a chair in the yard until I have time to deal with it. TiPay comes around the corner. He points to another rooster in the yard. He says, "You better not leave him there. They will fight." Now Kalo, head security, enters the picture. He looks at me and makes a "slit-the-throat" motion and says you just have to kill it and eat it. I said maybe I can find another home for him. Kalo asks, "Was it a gift?" I say, "Yes." Kalo says, "You have to eat it." 

TiPay unties the chicken from the chair in the yard and takes it into the motorcycle storage shed complete with water, (which is what started all this to begin with) and some kernels of corn and ties the chicken inside. Now what? 

There is POOP that has to be cleaned up in the office. SO off I go! OH! how easy it was to receive yesterdays gift, simple plastic sack full of peanuts from the gift givers garden. All I have to do with those is roast them. How is it that I am so privileged to be the recipient of these sacrificial gifts?

Just reflect on the thoughts that were shared in the previous post from John Piper. This was a truest form of a sacrificial gift. For Erfisa, this was not meant to be a bribe. It was given to glorify God in this sense, as noted from John Piper, "The gifts are intensifiers of desire for Christ himself. When you give a gift to Christ it's a way of saying, 'by giving to you what you do not need and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, You, Jesus, are my treasure, not these things.' "

And after all the commotion that day.... this is the way in which the gift was received! As Erfisa's true desire for Christ himself. SUCH a true blessing to be in the middle! So it could be phrased instead... "How am I so privileged to be the 'middle man' of such a sacrificial gift?"

Friday, December 25, 2020

The Act of Sacrificial Giving

Wouldn't you say giving and receiving gifts is one of the sweetest things we get to experience in life? Gifts can come in many forms and can be given for a variety of reasons. 

What are some of the most precious gifts you can think of... the newest model phone, the latest in electronics, a brand new vehicle, expensive perfume. We hear of the precious gifts brought to Baby Jesus born in a and frankincense and myrrh. 

For many of our friends here where we live, a 'stick' or 'gode' of laundry soap would be a precious gift. 

What about a gift given or received that is a true sacrifice? We have been so tremendously humbled in the past weeks with some of the most seriously sacrificial gifts we could imagine.

Meet Adzeliah. She has no home of her own, certainly no car. You name it... she doesn't have it! She has no children. Adzeliah lives in a two-room house with her younger brother. She was recently a recipient of a Creole audio bible; quite likely her most prized possession.

Adzeliah asked if we would visit her one day. This in itself was a bit of a sacrificial gift on our part...the gift of time! However, Adzeliah demonstrated the true act of sacrificial giving when she handed us two of her hand-gathered eggs which she pulled out of a small bucket stored under her bed. As well, she uncovered four of the most beautiful avocados you can ever imagine. 

Angna is a widow, a mother and grandmother. She is blind. She often appears at the main gate of Many Hands with one of her children hoping to find some provisions for her family when often she has nothing of her own to offer them. Yet Angna also has mastered the art of sacrificial giving. She insists on giving us the gift of several 'joumou'; in English... pumpkins. She first comes with three large joumou. I have a 'macouti', a handmade basket, that has exactly just enough space for them. BUT, she offers a fourth. My mind is calculating... 'how can I transport all these?' and my thoughts are fixed on the fact that I still have to purchase and transport a 'flat' of eggs (30 eggs) on my way home. This puts my skills and my 'mini van', AKA scooter, to the test! How thankful can one be for a 'Haitian bungy cord' and that a pumpkin has a stem?

Bayade and his wife and grandson blessed us with sacrificial gifts from their yard. 

The delicacy of 'nature's Gatorade', drinking straight from the coconut shell. A straw would be a luxury but not a necessity. And then the fresh meat of the coconut! Grandpa Bayade has taught his grandson some good machete skills.

I have the gift of sitting and talking with Madame Bayade who also shares a gift... some clippings from her 'bazilik dou' plant... sweet basil... that is now planted and producing on MH campus. 

AND then there is the gift of a ...... CHICKEN! This handsome Cock came from Erfisa (on the left). Erfisa's gratitude comes from the fact that she has a house to live in. Another act of sacrificial giving. (There is MORE to this story... check back in again for the rest!) 

We recently had discussion about the MANY chickens that were sharing the MH campus with us. They are noisy and they poop a lot. We determined that we needed to have our security team help get all these chickens back into their owners yards. A follow up conversation with head of security, Kalo, revealed an unknown fact. "Those are all Madame Christi's chickens, " says Kalo. "Do you remember before when Madame Christi was given TWO chickens? These all belong to Madame Christi." 

Oh! That is the gift that keeps on giving! Who knew?!

Here is Joslin (center) with his father. You have 'met' them before! They both have limited mobility and are so grateful for their mobility carts. Joslin works hard in his raised bed garden and also has a garden with peanuts which he offers in the black sack as a gift. 

Roasted to perfection, they are beautiful AND delicious! This is one of Haiti's best sources of protein.

You have met Elence before as well. He has a job with MH as a community spiritual helper. He lives in the community of Fontenn and assists MH 'beje espirityel', spiritual shepherds, by being attentive to the spiritual needs of his neighbors. Here he offers these beautiful papaya direct from his garden.

And of course the classic gift. A pigeon. Now what does one do with a pigeon? Well maybe 're-gifting' is in store! 

Now, here is where the comparison to expensive perfume comes in. We have a friend named Charite who lives in Papite which would be the perfect "Can you hear me now!" test location for a cell service provider. It is more in the middle of nowhere than most can ever imagine. Charite is a man of many trades, one of which is being a bee-keeper. We met him through our friend Herode (pronouned Ewode) who works with leather and uses the wax from Charite's honeycomb to pass the needle and thread through when sewing leather machete covers. 

We have given the gift of Charite's honey to our family for Christmas in the past. Last week our friend Herby (pronouned Ebby, pictured here on the right) accompanied me 'to the middle of nowhere' to see if Charite had honey to sell. His bees had recently produced one-half gallon. I asked for a price. He told me 5000 gdes. I reached for my money to pay him but Herby indicated he thought the price was too high and negotiating was certainly acceptable. Even so, I paid the asking price. 

Charite offered to share the 'patat griye', roasted potato, he had prepared for own lunch that day. So lunch for one became lunch for three! No butter, no salt, no pepper, no sour cream, no fork or plate... just pure delicious flavor. Lunch was over, the honey sale was complete and Herby and I were headed back to civilization. I told Herby I understood and appreciated his effort to help me pay a more reasonable price for the honey but I said that for me, this honey is like an expensive perfume. It is a precious gift we get to give to our kids that in a small way expresses our love for each of them. Charite's honey is a one-of-a-kind gift that no one else can give them. Through Herby's smile I could tell he understood.

Below you see our Christmas tree, Charite's honey ready to give, and the six eggs Charite slipped in a bag just as we left his home. 

Milor had nothing to offer except her blessing of prayer. Milor received life-saving medical care with the help of MH "Komite Jenewozite", MH Benevolence Committee. She prays for us... protection, good health, and for God's blessing to come back to us.

The family pictured below offered a reminder of how precious it is to be together with extended family. Here is grandma and grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousin all together on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon. The family welcomed baby Woodmykendel home just a few days ago. The woman picture second to the left recently gave birth but the baby died about a month ago. She had lost another child before that. The boy on her left is her one and only son for whom she is grateful. 

These and other sacrificial gifts we have been humbled to receive is in itself a very precious reminder of our truest treasure. The gift of God's one and only son, Jesus Christ. We can bring our worship and praise before the LORD as a gift. 

"When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy." Matthew 2:10.   

John Piper in his Advent devotional book titled "The Dawning of Indestructible JOY" shares these thoughts....

Worshiping Jesus means joyfully ascribing authority and dignity to Christ with the sacrificial gifts. God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25). The gifts given to Baby Jesus by the magi were not intended as a form of assistance or for the purpose of meeting a need. They were not royal care packages. These gifts were not meant to be bribes. Then what do the gifts mean? How are they worship? The gifts are intensifiers of desire for Christ himself. When you give a gift to Christ it's a way of saying, "By giving to you what you do not need and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, YOU are my treasure, not these things."

May God awaken in each of us a desire for Christ himself. That whatever opposition we may find, we would joyfully ascribe authority and dignity to HIM and bring our gifts to say from the heart that GOD alone can satisfy my heart. That everything, every situation, every circumstance leads to God himself.

This might be what it means to worship God with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

So our desire for Christ himself is why we joyfully serve HIM. And we are grateful for our family who continues to say, "GO and serve". We love you Oliver, Ivy, Lila, and Liam and all our family and friends who 'send' us to serve.



Monday, October 26, 2020

God has a plan

God has a plan. In the wait of letting God's plan unfold, we put our best effort forth to stay in step with all that God has shown us so far.

Haiti is in a crisis. A type of crisis the country really has not experienced before. The exchange rate of US dollars to Haitian gourdes is in a tailspin. We hear of many families that are facing tremendous hardship because of the financial crisis at hand. What this has done for MH is cut our purchasing power basically in half. MH built 2 homes from the Safe Homes program in August. In September, that same amount of money to build 2 homes would now build ONE house. 

As an organization, the decision was made to let things unfold a bit more to hopefully find a more stable market. In place of building, our Safe Homes department is painting houses that have been previously built by MH. A great end product in itself!
The school calendar for Haiti is also unfolding with adjustments made because of the world-recognized Corona Virus which is seemingly not a problem here. MH 'School of Light' started the new school year in October with beautiful new uniforms for each of the students. Boss Kelic, below, met the deadline with the 39 uniforms he was hired to sew.

"School Registration Day" included trying on new uniforms to see if any adjustments were needed. Above, is a proud mom with her handsome preschooler.

Annually, incoming preschool families receive a gift of a pregnant female goat from MH prior to the start of the school year. With delays in the school schedule, some of the pregnant female goats have already given birth so a family could receive the adult female plus the 'kid'. These things 'unfold' with or without adjustments to the calendar!

Oh, what it takes in Haiti to be the mother of a preschooler! The goats are part of a program to help parents with the responsibility of paying school tuition. 

Choosing and meeting twenty couples from our area that will have the privilege of being united in marriage is right on schedule. Meet Erick and Louisemene, 24 and 23 years respectively. Erick came to meet Louisemene because his aunt and cousins lived in the same community as Louisemene. The couple's relationship unfolded over time, during which Erick wore out many pairs of shoes because of the long walk to get to her house. 

MH Lead Chaplain, Pastor Lumanes, sizes the couples for their wedding bands. Another beautiful couple, Makenson, a farmer aged 34, and Luitani, a small scale merchant aged 32, pictured below, will be married at MH campus on December 19. They were both raised in Christian families and both accepted Christ as their Savior early in life. They also lived in separate communities. Their relationship began as they attended the same church one day. They talked a bit after the service was over and things have been unfolding ever since. Makenson and Luitani have been waiting twelve years for this opportunity.

Part of the work of the MH Chaplains is to help put together all the documentation needed for the marriage to be officially recognized by the Haitian government. This birth certificate, issued in 1941, belongs to Ernest, and has been folded and unfolded more times than one could ever know. His beautiful bride, Debel, is just 72 years young! What a day it will be to see them in wedding attire

This is the first distribution of goats in the community of Maliarette, which is MH's second center for the First 1000 Days Program. Seated around the Maliarette gazebo are moms with the 3 year-olds of the program, excited to see the distribution unfold.  

After some paperwork is complete, moms and children are happy to take home a pregnant goat to be cared for. A goat in Haiti is better than a savings account at the bank because of the dividends that unfold.

Everything to GOD in prayer... Each day in the life of a Haitian family requires strength and often just sheer guts to make it through. More than sixty MH staff were part of a prayer walk that took place one morning on the main MH Sylvain campus as well as the Maliarette campus. Over time a prayer path has been created on campus and was a key element with it's prayer stations and quiet places to be in the presence of God. The MH staff were directed to think about the theme of "Restoration". By taking care of the vertical relationship we have with God, we can improve our horizontal relationship with our fellow man. We read together, Luke 10:27... "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."  Below are visuals at two of the prayer stations. 

MH school teachers, night security guards, agronomy helpers, chaplains, agronomist, cooks, taxi drivers, program leaders, mobility cart repairmen, depot manager, and more, focused their hearts and minds on Jesus to present requests to God and give thanks for all the blessings.

Following the prayer walk, everyone assembled together in the Equipping Center to conclude with a united prayer.

Finally, MH Raised Bed Garden program is rolling again after the COVID 19 interruption. The participants, those with physical disabilities, are hard at work on MH campus to clean their garden spaces of overgrown weeds during the past time of neglect. Soil will be prepared and seeds planted, and sprouts watered. They will continue the training for successful gardening to happen eventually in their own yards 

Agronomist Claudin shares some instruction with Joslin, also a handicapped farmer. MH has offered Joslin some training and assistance with developing a vegetable garden to provide a source of income for Joslin. 

Warm, friendly greetings were exchanged to start out a difficult visit to Joslin's house. Joslin was a bit preoccupied with arranging a piece of cardboard. At first it was not clear what it's purpose would be. Joslin finally gets the cardboard torn in two and folded in just the right spot. Then... he lays both pieces side by side as you can see below. Then, as a true gentleman... Joslin motions and suggests, "Would you like to sit?" This was to be our meeting space to communicate that the assistance for his vegetable garden would not be able to continue. It had been a 'one and done' deal so now we pray for Joslin and SO MANY OTHERS who are in the wait for God's plan to unfold in their lives to see just how GOD will provide.

Our HOPE remains just as we can see this beautiful palm leaf growing and unfolding right before our eyes. God continues to amaze his followers with His goodness and the comfort He brings in times of adjustment, uncertainty, and waiting in a crisis. 

God has a plan. In the wait of letting God's plan unfold, put your best effort forth to stay in step with all that God has shown you so far.  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27