TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
February 18, 2006
Much to my surprise, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Haiti in much the same way as it is in the states. This resulted in a special treat for me, as it had been years since a beau surprised me with a gift. A heart-shaped box of chocolate not only pleased my palate, but it brought back memories of the many heart-shaped boxes that my father had given my mother throughout the years. For them, it was a double celebration – a celebration of their love for each other and a celebration of the birthday of my father. It had always seemed strange to me that my father was the giver of gifts on HIS birthday, but really that is not unlike our Heavenly Father. He too gave us a very wonderful gift on the day of His birth! I was able to surprise my father on this Valentine’s Day’s birthday with a crystal-clear phone call in the early morning hours before he headed out to his busy post-retirement schedule. I am so thankful that God has blessed my father with 81 productive years!
January 9th through February 11th proved to be a very busy time for the ministry here in Les Cayes. We were blessed with the presence of three different mission teams. Individuals from the states of Washington, Wisconsin, Florida, New York and Michigan braved travel to Haiti bringing wonderful and diversified talents with them. So much was accomplished during their time here. A flurry of work took place in these four short weeks. Seesaws were built for the kids of the orphanage, souls came to Jesus through evangelism teams, storage shelves were built for the supplies shipped from the states, lay pastors and women of the church received encouragement and training for their ministries, an open air church was built, medical and dental clinics were held, some much needed painting was done, new friendships were formed and old friendships were renewed. The list goes on and on. The work that took place left many of us exhausted, but exhilarated, from what had been done for our Lord and for the people of Haiti!
It was after one of these teams had returned to their home country that I was feeling particularly exhausted. I was coming down with a head cold and felt like I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. It was then that one of the translators who had served with the mission team came to my door. He introduced himself and explained that, while working with a team member, a man in the community had accepted Jesus into his life. The man, however, had neither shoes nor clothes to wear to church. The translator asked if I could find some for him. I told him that it would take some time to do so, as the clothes and shoes that had been sent to us had not yet been sorted. I asked the translator if he could find the man and at least use a paper and pencil to trace around his feet so that I would know what size of shoes I needed to search for. After the translator left, I sighed a BIG sigh. I was exhausted and looking for the mate to a particular shoe, in the mound of mismatched shoes that were in a mountainous pile in the storage room, seemed a bigger task than my body could bear. I said a little prayer: “God give me the strength to quickly find just the right size of shoes and clothes for this man.” Only a day or two later, the translator reappeared bringing the man with him. My initial thought should have been one of dismay for having him arrive before I had even begun a search and before a sketch of the man’s foot size had been brought to me. But instead, I had to smile at the humor of my God in answer to my prayer. The man had only one foot and thus I did not need to search for a mate for a shoe, as any one shoe, of the man’s size, would do. God even answers prayers of tired and sick missionaries! The next day I was able to enter the storage room and quickly find two shoes (offering two choices for one foot) and two sets of Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes that were even color coordinated! Thank God for even little miracles!
Tuesday, February 7th was Election Day in Haiti. That particular day was surprisingly calm by the standards of previous elections. As the results of the elections started trickling in from the remote mountainous areas of the country, the days following the relative calm of Election Day disrupted into turbulent manifestations in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. It seems that the hope people had dared to place on a new and better government were quickly plunged back into despair. Will Haiti ever see the end of violence and bloodshed and poverty? Only God can heal such a broken land! God will continue to use the faithful prayers warriors from around the world to mend the hearts of the hardened and bring hope to the faithful!
Drums beating and a din of joyous people marching through the streets of Les Cayes are the sounds that I awoke to at 5:45AM on Thursday, February 16 – just one day after Rene Preval was declared the new president of Haiti. It was on this day that I was to travel to the island of Ile-a-Vache in answer to an invitation to visit a church there that I had never been to. The pastor of the church (Pastor Bertrand Elisma) accompanied Leon and me in a small boat that headed to the northeast corner of the island that is located about 10 miles south of Les Cayes. It took us about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to the little shoreline village of Pointe Est. As is usually the case, half-naked children met us on the beach. They giggled with glee when I told them “Good Morning!” in Creole. They then proceeded to escort me to the pastor’s home were we were warmly welcomed. As soon as we entered the home, a prayer was said in thanks of our safe arrival. The pastor’s wife poured water into a basin for us to wash our hands before serving us a meal she had prepared for us. The meal consisted of fried banana, conk, and white rice with a fish sauce. Leon had tried to find the correct English word to describe the fish that we were eating, but it was not until he showed me a conk shell on the beach, later in the day, that I confirmed what it was that I had eaten. Next, we traveled a short distance, by foot, to the church. I was surprised to see Pastor Bouloute, who had joined us from Grann Plaine, which is located on the Western shore of Ile-a-Vache. He had traveled for 2 hours, by horse, to join us. Arriving at the church we saw that it was in a half-finished state, with a roof that needs to be replaced and a partially finished concrete floor that used conk shells for the base filler beneath the concrete. Soon about 30 men, women and children had filled the crude benches and began singing and praying. Then it was time for introductions. Their hope was that my visit would somehow generate interest for a church in the states to become a sister church with this congregation. I addressed the congregation and asked them what their vision was for the future of their congregation. They relayed that they desired a new roof, a completed building, a raised pulpit area, songbooks and sturdy benches. Sitting off to the side of the sanctuary was a crudely made drum. I asked if someone would play it for me, as the congregation sang. They were all too happy to oblige. Following more prayers and a benediction, we left the church and proceeded to walk through the village to the Baptist school that was located on the outskirts. This school is the only school for miles around. If families do not want to send their children to this school, they must send them away to live with relatives in Les Cayes so they can attend school there. The Baptist school consisted of four different buildings, one of which is the Baptist church, with each building housing several classrooms. I was pleased to see that a noontime meal was being fed to the children and that a latrine was available on site. Following a short stay at the school, we returned to the pastor’s home where left-over food was offered to us, prior to our departure. The visit ended with yet another prayer for a safe journey and another benediction. We set sail for the uneventful journey home. I could not help to think, as we peered at the crystal clear aqua water, how privileged I am to see all the sights, hear all the sounds, and smell all of the smells that living in Haiti has afforded me! How blessed I am!
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic
Until next time ………….