Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Another year, another disaster

So now it's 2016, and not surprisingly there is yet another trauma to Haiti.  We weren't affected directly by weather; I've seen worse flooding in our area from tropical depressions.  Shielded by mountain ranges on all four sides, the remoteness of our location has its advantages.

I've been sharing day to day updates on facebook and twitter for those around us on the front lines reaching out.  But there's a reason I personally haven't been writing more the past week.  It's because we've been here before.  I'm already feeling the long term struggles of disaster relief and it's only been ongoing for a week- and that is troubling.   The fatigue, despair, tears tempered with increasing respect for the survivors who still go on in spite of everything.

 One positive thing I can already see this time around is the recent experiences of the earthquake relief has created a more savvy response from the Haitian community and aid workers.  I'm hoping donors listen this time around.  We've already gotten several phone calls from big name groups asking how they can help.  It's ironic that some donors I know will only give to the "big groups" but same large groups are calling us, a smaller, more nimble NGO on the ground with decades of relationships to build on.  Sigh.  But I'm not going to digress on this-it's a waste of time.  Help if you want to help people--we will be accountable with what we're given.  Those who know us know that.

If you want to know what if feels like to be in Haiti, just scan back to posts from 6 years ago...it's pretty much the same thing but on a slightly less scale.  It's encouraging to see the Haitian community within Haiti reaching out to those in need.  May we learn that unity leads to survival and growth.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Struggles and Needs

I wish I knew why we as humans have to continue to go through the same struggles repeatedly.  It'd be nice to skip over problems and remind God, "Hey, remember, I've had this issue before we don't really need to repeat it."
And that in a nutshell is really what I've been frustrated about the most.  Like a whiny child, I've been asking God, "Really?  Do we really need to have this old issue crop up again?"  And the answer is Yes, apparently we do as I am still responding in the same old ways, trying to use the same old answers.
The issue is this:  we have people who can do the work, just not the resources.  And living surrounded by needs it becomes mentally and spiritually painful to not see the needs met.  Waiting on God has always been a hard path for me.  But it really gets down to just believing that He knows best and knows when it's best to move forward.  My only response can be to trust Him.  

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Real Development takes time....

In the summer months of 2001, before terrorists changed many people’s view of the world, a five year old boy named Enel P. was brought by his family to a local church in Lapila, Haiti.  His parents had been told that by doing so, the boy’s photo would be taken and perhaps with the help of some foreign friends, the school could pay its teachers for the coming year.  His parents thought this was a good thing.  When they later heard that some people picked their son’s photo to continue to help, they thought, “God has opened a door for him to go to school.”

With his brother and two sisters, five year old Enel started preschool and walked through sunny and rainy days to begin to learn about letters, numbers, and colors.  Each night returning to his home built with mud and sticks and a tin roof, he would sleep close to his five family members after doing “lessons” or repeating his school work back to his parents. 
School continued with the help of donors who kept his school open.  In fact, the stable sized school grew to house over 500 students.  Initially meeting just under sticks and thatch roof with no walls, the students were excited to see a 500 sq. ft. cement block building with cement floors go up after a few years.  Now when it was muddy outside, the classrooms could still stay clean.  Enel progressed slowly but surely although sometimes he had to share the school supplies he received through sponsorship with his brothers and sisters, but really, he was glad to do so. 
In 2009, he was thrilled to be able to start secondary school since he continued to have a faithful sponsor.  Enel walked further to attend school, but proudly wore the peach and tan uniform of the upper division school of College de la Grace.  The next year was very hard for his family because his father who had long suffered with weakness finally died leaving the family with even fewer resources.  Enel says clearly that if it wasn’t for the financial help he received through sponsorship, he definitely would have had to quit school then as an 8th grader.  But since he had that support, his family saw clearly that God had kept the door open for him to continue his education.
Two years later, while discussing life with one of his classmates and hearing many speakers at church and school, Enel decided to become a Christian.  It’s interesting that his classmate, Nesly, was also a sponsored student who was being helped by some friends to attend school.  Since becoming a believer, Enel has been active in the choir and enjoys helping to lead worship at his local church. 
While it’s taken a long time to complete, this year, after 17 years of steady investment, Enel finally finished secondary school at College de la Grace.  At the recent graduation, I recognized his name from one of the first groups of children ever helped through sponsorship.  He agreed to pose, tall and proud in his graduation robes, with the school founder, Caleb Lucien.  I asked him if he would stop by and talk to me the next day about his future dreams and what he would like to say to his sponsors. 
The next day, a Saturday, he eagerly greeted me and told me he was so grateful for the help his sponsors had given him and his family.  He is the first member of his family EVER to finish high school.  He dreams of becoming a doctor or an engineer but knows it will take many years to accomplish such a goal and he had no means other than his family’s farm.  BUT, he now is fluent in two languages, Kreyol and French, has the equivalent of an Associate’s degree, and a firm opening to “society” as we say here in Haiti.  He now looks me in the eye when we talk and speaks clearly about his faith and his sense of responsibility he feels for the future of his family.  Enel understands what a great privilege he has received. 
He told me he’s now waiting on the Lord to see what doors will open for the future.  I asked him how he could help members of his community this summer and in the fall and he thought he could help area students study, asking families to pay him only what they could afford.  I encouraged him by sharing several stories of how we’ve seen God work in the lives of other young people and how often they have to wait.  Finally we talked about his sponsors and what he’d like to tell them.  Mostly he said, “I’d like to tell them THANKS!  I’ve never had the chance to meet them but they’ve helped me so much”.   I told him I’d be sharing his graduation picture with them and let them know how they’ve blessed his life. 
Enel headed off that day back to his small home where he lives with his mother and some unmarried siblings.  He walks tall and straight and proudly, knowing the God who took him this far is able to help him arrive exactly where he needs to be. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

God winks & you can't outgive God

          I've heard the phrase "God winks" before in relation to the little coincidences we see that seem uncanny and speak of God's presence and care in our lives.  Recently I had one that encouraged both Caleb and I.  My part of the story started last week as I was shopping with my youngest for a prom dress.  She had been out looking with several friends and was feeling the pressure to get it purchased.  We're living on a pretty tight budget even with the help of many generous provisions while I'm stateside this school year.  So we really stretched it to make the purchase she wanted.  I headed home determined not to spend any more money for the next weeks to make up for it (smile).
          The same weekend my husband was hard at work in Haiti.  On Sunday he was scheduled to speak at a small community church that doesn't have a meeting place just yet.  He spoke under the tent covering about giving to the Lord.  Using 2 Samuel 24:24 he reminded the congregation that we can't offer to God what has cost us nothing.  He taught that giving to the Lord is simply obedience that demonstrates our reverence, commitment, faith, and love for Him.  Finally as he watched several women carrying 60 lb. bags of cement on their head to give for the building of their church, he challenged other members.  Caleb told them that if 100 people gave bags of cement he would match each bag to give for their building.  Happily 156 people responded!  So while Caleb gave more than he planned, he was glad to see the people giving with joy.
          Now, back to my side, I knew he was speaking but didn't know what all had happened or the gift my husband had given.   I went out to eat with a dear friend and was enjoying a great meal and fellowship.  She startled me and said her husband had felt urged to give us a personal gift and she promptly wrote out a check.  I was surprised but grateful and promptly texted my husband in Haiti to tell him about the Lord's provision.  His response:  PTL!  (Praise the Lord)  Later in the day he sent me more details about what had taken place over the weekend and what he had given.  What really blew our minds was that the cost of the prom dress & the cement in Haiti matched our unexpected gift almost to the dollar.  It reminded us that He is always in control, He knows our needs, and that we can't outgive God.  Living under His leadership is the most joyous and empowering way!

Monday, September 02, 2013

It's not even 10 AM

People who know me at all know that I enjoy sleeping in if at all possible.  Part of this is due to the fact that I tend to be a night owl and do a lot of reading and work during the evening hours when it's cooler, quieter and there are fewer interruptions.  So that's my excuse of sleeping in anyway.  
     This morning I got up and was roaming the house by 9 AM and found some visitors waiting for me.  One was a young woman who had a head cold who was waiting under my gazebo in the front yard.  After greeting her and sitting down, she proceeded to tell me about why she had come and this urgent need she had, that her child was in the hospital and needed medications.  I listened and looked at the prescriptions she brought me.  Now, while not unheard of, most people do not come up to folks they don't know looking for help.  I honestly don't recall ever seeing this mother before in my life.  Normally in this situation (where I don't have a relationship with the person), I will encourage them to go to people in their neighborhood or their church and ask for help there.  When I asked her where she attended church, after starting to answer, she glanced at me and told me she goes to the same church I go to.  While I doubted this,  I looked at the receipts she brought to support her claim of need, I noticed that they were dated more than 6 weeks ago.  I told her this.  To me it seemed that she probably had a real need, but was trying to mislead me as to what it was.  Then I told her the cold fact that my husband is traveling and I don't have extra funds available to help others, just to provide for my own household right now.  It's always easier to hide behind the spouse, when you're a sucker like me.  She said she understood, and I tried to treat her with dignity, but I'm not going to hand funds over to someone who is not telling me the truth.  I hurt turning people away but I don't want to be a sucker either.
     A few minutes later, after I poured a cup of coffee I found someone I did know.  Eddie is a former student who graduated a few years ago from our high school and from our sponsorship program.  He had a donor who subsidized his tuition and allowed him to be the first of his family to finish secondary school.  He has come by to see me every once in a while to tell me how he's doing and what he hopes to do in the future.  Initially he found some help to try dental school in the capital city.  He did okay but then the help ran out.  Since that time he periodically comes by to see if I've heard of any opportunities of help available.  Sadly, the answer has been, "no, I haven't".  His needs are real and he is becoming increasingly discouraged.  At about 23 years of age, he says everyone is looking at him expecting him to do something but there are no jobs, no financial assistance programs and no help available from his family.  I told him the only thing I could, that I would be praying and hoping God would open a door.
     I hate not having better answers or more resources to help people.  Not everyone should be helped.  I would not advise helping petitioner #1 due to her attempts to mislead, but I know #2's needs are legit.  I want to scream and kick something.   It's not even 10 AM and I would like to finish my coffee.
     A bit later I get to my home office and find an e-mail message from someone who'd like to help a young student attend school this year.  This is an answered prayer.  I send off an introduction to a student on our waiting list and am grateful.  Why can't they all be helped?  It makes sense to help this younger student who is too young to work.  I'm reminded that while I can't do everything, I can help do something and try not to scream.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

It's been awhile...but wanted to share an important link

Okay, okay, so it's been awhile since I've posted anything.  It's not because things aren't happening, but rather, it's been hard to sit down and write.  I'm trying to get more organized and am even putting an app on my phone...we'll see.
The reason I'm posting today though is just to share a link I've been waiting for...
I've read alot of critiques of child sponsorship programs for years, especially since I started volunteering with one ten years ago.  I was a reluctant volunteer.  To be honest, I wasn't completely sold that it made much of a difference to students and it seemed a little bit exploitative.
Then I began working with the families.  I realized quickly it wasn't just about helping the kids, but providing relief and a helping hand to the families who were struggling just to send their kids to school.  I've seen mixed results from my viewpoint.  Mixed in the sense that I don't always get to know what happened to certain kids.  Most would advance and graduate, as several are this month.  We had kindergarten students finish today, and more are taking national exams in the next 6 weeks.  The results don't always come right away or at once.
I had a friend send me a link on facebook asking if our stats reflected what Christianity Today reports below.

Sadly, I've had neither time nor funding to do a similar study or analysis, but still it's nice to have this kind of data for those who appreciate it.  What I know is that sponsorship or wisely investing in the education and training of the young, makes a huge difference.  I know because of the families I talk to day by day, the way I see them praying for their donors, and the majority of people I see making a difference in the community in which I live.  Those who are making a difference in the lives of others, paying it forward so to speak, are those who have likewise received targeted help in the past.  Don't tire of doing good people, it does make a difference from my viewpoint.  (Today's grads featured below)

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Ripple Effect

     Several years ago, Dustin came down on a trip with his church, First Baptist of Pekin, IL to offer a hand here in Haiti.  He did just that and then also signed up to help one of the needy students at our school.  We introduced him to Mike and family over a year ago.  Since that time, they've exchanged photos, letters and due to Dustin's frequent trips back, several personal visits.  This winter, Dustin got to visit Mike's home, or rather when he and his family are living for now.  He told Mike's Mom that he was planning on coming back in the summer time with his kids and would like them to meet Mike.
     In anticipation, Mike's mom came to my house twice in the past three weeks wondering when Dustin was going to arrive.  She had her own mission trip planned and wanted to make sure she could meet up as requested with Dustin and his children.  Yesterday  I had the privilege of arranging their meeting at the camp where Dustin's family was staying with Mike's family.  Mike is a quiet, little guy, now entering 3rd grade.  His older sister and brother were also present and received generous gifts of backpacks from Dustin's kids.  I told him the Lord's timing is perfect, because now Mike's family can use Dustin's gifts as they go on their own mission trip to another city in Gonaives.  I shared how his mom was taking their whole family on a mission trip as well, and how cool it was that both families were like minded in wanting to help others!  There is a time for all of us to give and receive, and sometimes it coincides.
As we took this picture yesterday, we rejoiced that they were two families who were friends, but also one family in the Lord!  And the effect of giving to others, goes far beyond what we can ever see, rippling through time and effecting lives we can only see with the eyes of faith!