Wednesday, October 26, 2005

life in the states...."if God wants"

Wow, it's hard to believe we've been in the states for just over three weeks.
I really respect all my friends who deal with the "busy-ness" of life...just the pace of it exhausts me, trying to keep up and fit in while we are here. Of course, Caleb is busy getting the word out of various projects. He's traveled to five states in the past weeks. I'm just grateful the kids and I have a place to roost while he runs around. I know many people in this lifestyle who live in a car the whole time they are visiting the states.
But it's the pace here that I struggle with, and the never ending distractions.
I really think it is exceptionally difficult to stay "tuned into" God with the lifestyle here.
I was chatting with two American wives and home school moms here in the South. I told them about even how we speak in Haiti is different, talking about day to day plans. One of the first phrases I learned here was: Si Dieu vle. "If God wants" ...I will do whatever. Every statement of intent or plans is prefaced with that phrase. It reflects the reality there, the knowledge that we can't really plan anything without God's provision and things working together to permit it.
But how quickly I revert to the cultural norm here, it never occurs to me to even consider what God wants for small decisions. I want to consider much more of what HE wants.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Kindergarten students ready for class! Posted by Picasa
Djo, Fenes & Jean Pierre, 3 residents of our foster home, pretty happy with new backpacks and munchies! Posted by Picasa
Pignon Mountain in the background, home of grades K-3, 7-13...the kids are excited to be back! Posted by Picasa
School started again at College de la Grace in Pignon...800 students this year! Posted by Picasa

Amoeba, & Roaches, & Mice, Oh, My!

Whew, about once or twice a year, we end up coming down with some illness related to the lack of sanitary conditions in Haiti. And two weeks ago we got it! Apparently, someone we had asked to purchase ice for us in the city as a treat, succeded in spilling it on the ground and then bringing it to us anyway. Unfortunately, by the time I figured out that the ice was not clean, my whole household had come down with all the symptoms of amoeba!
Lest anyone doubt, these little buggies make you feel miserable for quite some time.
I was commisserating with a fellow American living down here and she cracked me up saying this is the only place she's ever been that when one gets sick, the cure is worse than the actual disease. Too true! We've both been ill at different times with some parasite from water or mosquitoes and the treatment of pills for a few days makes you feel worse than the disease.
How thankful I am for the treatment though and now we're all pretty much up to par again!
In all the years I have been around here, I have to say it's the tiniest pests you can't see that make you feel the worst!
All the above complaining aside though, I have to admit that God is so gracious to us! When I first moved to Haiti with an infant daughter ten years ago, I was very conscious of the variety of maladies that existed here. It surprised me then to calculate that compared to my friends in the states, my children are actually sick much less than theirs! We get sick about twice a year whereas my friends are always bemoaning how ill their children are (5-6 times) annually.
One stark difference though, is that so many of my neighbors here in Haiti do not have the resources to take their children quickly to the hospital. And after being ill last week, I still stand in awe of my Haitian brothers and sisters, who manage to go on every day, in the face of such challenges. Many of them feel worse than I did last week, and still get up to praise God on Sundays. Yesterday in church, there was an older woman who came up for prayer, barely able to walk. She told a story of how she'd been walking down the road and suddenly fell down, (stroke?) Someone found her and carried her to the local hospital and they managed to revive her. This poor woman could not sit straight up in a chair, but the first words out of her mouth were: "When you follow the Lord, you have what you need...."
Humbling to all that observed, especially me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Nerve wracking times, yet moving forward

Almost every week we have heard of someone we know being kidnapped, or molested in some way as they go about their work and lives. I spoke with my husband recently about whether he was being cautious or not in how he plans his schedule and specifically his travels in the capital.

If 'd been more spiritually minded, I would have appreciated his response more. He said, "Deb, the Lord is my Light and my Salvation, whom shall I fear?"

"Yes, I appreciate that," I commented, "but I'd like to know that you don't expect God to rescue you when you do something stupid, too." (not exactly the supportive wife talking).

"Don't worry," he soothed. "I'm being careful." This said as he strode out the door for a flight to the capital.

The truth is I'm glad the man I'm married to is quite fearless when it comes to serving the Lord and doing what he feels like he's called to do. He's just as courageous as the Caleb in the Bible who wasn't intimidated by the things he saw in the land as a scout with Joshua. It takes a real visionary to have the courage to continue on with reports of kidnappers, robbers, and terrorists world-wide.

While I try to shield my elementary aged daughters somewhat from the newscasts, they have heard about how children are kidnapped and been hurt or killed both here in Haiti and worldwide. What strikes me about this is the fact that it never occurred to me as a child that that was a real danger. Yet any parent now must train their children never to talk to strangers, avoid going near a car they don't know, and in our area, stay AWAY from police. It helps me, I suppose, to realize that women worldwide have the same core fears and concerns that I do; concern for their families and uncertainty for the future.

I have much to learn in this regard . . .and graciously, a God who has much to teach.

Back to School, Haitian-style

For most of the world, the months of August & September means the end of vacation and getting ready for “back to school”. Here in Haiti, kids and families are also getting ready but it looks a little different. Rather than going home, for many families returning to school means going away. Many communities don’t have schools within walking distance so the kids are getting ready to go and live with friends and families in more developed regions.

The past decade has seen a lot of changes in Pignon, Haiti, where we live and work. Back in 1993, Caleb founded the very first secondary school in the community of 30,000 plus. For the first time, kids could live with their families and attend school beyond 6th grade. At first, some parents didn’t think a school in our small town could compete with schools in the cities. The majority of students who did enroll were from families who could never have afforded to send their children before. It’s been thrilling to see students who are the first members of their families to ever finish 6th, then 10th grades, and then even finish high school.

However, similarities to stateside preparations do exist: buying material and sewing uniforms, finding notebooks, pens and textbooks. This past Sunday one announcement in church struck me with yet another huge difference. The pastor announced there was to be a day of prayer and fasting for the new school year. No one in the audience was surprised as this is an annual, expected event. Teachers, administrators and parents (& some students) arrive early in area churches to pray for God’s blessing and especially His provision for the coming year. Even enrolling for school is an act of faith for many families in our neighborhood. These parents do not know for certain where the tuition and supplies will come from. But those who are believers know Who their source is.

Please be praying with us for area schools, their teachers and administrators who step out in faith every year. Also, if you want to help a student, our sponsorship program needs more donors who are willing to give $25 monthly to pay tuition/meals, uniforms and supplies for a student.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

One recent day at the airstrip

Not too many weeks ago I was on my way to our local airport (a grass strip with cactus fencing) which receives perhaps 2-6 flights a day. With me were my two young daughters and an American visitor and a driver, all just out for the fun of picking up my husband who was scheduled to fly in on a chartered Missionary Aviation Flight. (their planes carry 5 passengers and are the size of a small suburban)
As I drove up to the entrance it became obvious that there was a larger crowd than normal. I soon saw what the attraction was: not one but two large white U.N. helicopters parked on the grass plus a large U.N. truck filled with Chilean troops. These guys rotate through our area every two weeks protecting us from....maurading goats? The irony on that matter is that if there is a security problem, we can't call them. We (community residents) have to call the capital and ask for them to send a Haitian police officer to come from 3 hours away. Obviously the response time is a bit sluggish. But anyway....
So the helicopters even weren't that unusual but what the crowds talking were. In rapid fire Haitian Creole the bystanders were leaning on their shovels and holding their donkey reins and saying, "Will you look at that?"
"What Jean?"
"There's a bunch of blan/ foreigners lying down on the grass at the airport"
"What's wrong with them?
"I think they're sick"
"Nah, they don't get sick"
"Well, they look like they are hurt!"
"Should we call someone at the hospital?"
"I dunno, Joe, there are all the soldiers just standing there, why don't they do something..."

By now I was pretty curious...so turned around and sure enough there under the helicopters were about 8 South American troops lying in various states of repose. Some appeared to be "sick" ...holding their heads, while some were lying in the sun getting a tan. Since the U.N. troops weren't getting too excited, I rapidly discerned that this was a military exercise going on to check response time. Hmmmm.
The only people getting excited though were the local residents behind me wondering what it was they should do. I wondered why the U.N. translators weren't explaining that this was all a game for safety, but figured they were too busy protecting the "gamers".

"Well, Joe, I think they are o.k., one of them is now reading a book."
"Do you think I should offer him a ride on my donkey?"
"Nah, they've got that big truck over there."
"Well, I hope they are alright"

I did too. (they were, & this exercise cost the UN several thousand $'s, and was given to ensure the Haitian people will have peace & prosperity I'm sure)
Just another day in the developing world . . .

Monday, July 25, 2005

where we are

I posted this picture so you can see where we are from a satellite perspective.
The funny thing is, noone on the internet ever seems to recognize our small community. 
But we're the blue star at the top of the country on the left....right by the mountain...
so now you know.
This is where we are! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The teams have come and gone!

Whew, the last team left Pignon this bright and clear morning. It definitely took some courage and faith for visitors who came this year and braved all the news and warning to come and work along-side us anyway.
The past two weeks have seen two hard working teams....one from High Springs, FL who worked to complete the foundation of a new classroom building. The one which left this A.M. was a new outreach of an English Language camp which worked with young people and adults in the community who wanted to polish their English language skills. It was a smaller outreach in term of numbers attending but very impactful nonetheless....working with some key leaders....the town judge, high school teachers, high school upper classmen, etc. All the attendees I've visited with thus far say they enjoyed it alot and felt more confident trying to talk to others in English. I only wish I spoke French as well as they do English.
I'm glad the main group of teams are finished for the summer as it does increase our stress level a certain amount. Now I just hope we can get back to the day to day challenges of work here.

Friday, July 15, 2005

View from Mt. Pignon of our community.... Posted by Picasa

Our city by the mountain

This is a view of our community: Pignon, Haiti. It sits on the southern side of Mt. Pignon in the north central part of Haiti. It may not look like much but it is the home to nearly 30,000 in and around it.
There are so many troubling images coming out of Haiti these days...I thought I tried to let you see a more normal one. In our area, we are relatively protected from the conflicts that go on in the capital some 90 miles away. Even during the most uncertain days of the armed revolt in February 2004, when the conflicts spilled out to the country-side, we rarely heard anything unusual.
Still, things are NOT normal. United Nations troops rotate through here every few weeks on bright, white helicopters. The kids in town wave their kites at them and make toy helicopters from old tomato paste cans....

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Singing children arrive back in town!

Wow, I wish you guys could hear the singing of all the kids as they return to their homes today. One of the biggest thrills for them is riding home on the new donated school bus. They are all singing as they cruise back into town, "we've eaten well, we've played alot, Alleluia!"
The best news is that the leaders had alot of work to do last night as 200 children responded to the altar call. Be praying for these young people that their desire to follow God be strengthened.
Last night the American team handed out "glow sticks"...you can just imagine all these neon light sticks floating around in the dark as the children were waving them around. Wish I had pictures of that.
Thanks for your prayers....they've been answered in the responsive hearts of these kids!
Simply coloring a picture is a treat for these children!  Posted by Hello
Imagine helping 490 kids tye dye T-shirts! HE seems to like his! Posted by Hello
Kids in the morning chapel service led by both the visiting American team and area pastors. 200 kids came forward last night to express their desire to follow God's plan for their lives! Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Be praying for these guys as they hear the truth! They live in a rough world . . .and they need to know there is a God they can trust for the future! Posted by Hello
Campers excited for Haitian kid's retreat this week Posted by Hello

400 kids and counting....!

Today was the first official day of kid's camp. Most North Americans would never believe how thrilled these kids are to have this rather meager camp held for them! But it was with great excitement that 5 busloads of children descended to Camp de la Grace this afternoon. A team of volunteers from Ohio is here this week to assist by helping the Haitian camp counselors. The team's role is to teach a few Bible story sessions, lead some puppet shows, lead the craft projects which include tie-dye T-shirts, bracelets from beads and drawing & then just play and love on the kids the rest of the time! Does that sound like fun to you? We've got 400 kids lined up for them.
The only sad thing is there were so many kids who wanted to come but you can only take so many! My prayer the past few days is that we could raise the funds to have some more camps over the summer for the children. The main cost is the food! That many kids EAT alot in 4 days--yet strangely, the cooks tells us that this is their favorite group to serve because the children are so grateful.
Hope these pictures come through!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Alright, Alright....

Alright, so I haven't published in awhile but who's had the time. I'm really looking for a way to publish the best photos, etc. of things going on in our work and life.
But I'm not convinced anyone sees this website, so people better start letting me know...okay?
My good lookin' man....in his formal robes for graduation. He didn't get two master's degrees for nothing Posted by Hello
kindergarten graduates of College de la Grace, Pignon, Haiti Posted by Hello

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Traveling Conditions....

I don't mean to whine or complain, but I wish everyone would remember how difficult it is to accomplish the simplest of tasks in the developing world.
We established e-mail contact with the rest of the world a few years ago and strangely that has made one of the biggest differences in both success and frustration. We may receive a message or news instantaneously . . .but it sure takes longer to implement things.
Currently to travel to the coastal city where most of our supplies come in takes 4 hours, this includes fording a river that ranges from inches to several feet in depth and crossing a mountain range. The distance...39 miles of muddy road! (yes, that's about 10 miles an hour)
The good news is this year that we have lots of activities scheduled in the coming weeks. . .including several teams working on both physical improvements and teaching opportunities. Get ready everyone, it's going to be an exciting few months!
Beauty amidst muddy roads.... Posted by Hello
Treaveling in Haiti has it's challenges. . . Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Waiting for Christmas rice & beans & gifts! Posted by Hello

Smile from Christmas party Posted by Hello

Belated Christmas gift distribution . . .

This week we received our mail a bit soggier than usual. To get supplies and Christmas gift donations which had come into the coastal city of Cap Haitien our driver slogged his way for 3 hours to the city, loaded as much as he could on the back of a borrowed pick up and headed home.
Unfortunately, the river was higher than usual, so many of the gifts, which were gift wrapped even got soaked! We spent much of the evening trying to salvage what we could of our mail, the gifts, and many of the boxes were repacked in some plastic storage containers we had.
At last however, we could start distributing the gifts we'd received for area residents though!
Today we went to a soup kitchen Hosean International funds once a month and runs through the local women's ministry. For $500 (HD) several hundred people are asked to attend for both breakfast and dinner. We loaded up the truck (our version of Santa's sleigh) and headed to the meeting place. Lunch was almost ready to be served. I asked Lucie, who was charge today how they selected those who attended and she said it was people that their membership knew of and were in contact with...they invited them to come and eat once a month. She mentioned several people walked 5 miles to come in for the meals. Today they would also receive some gifts of clothing and toiletries from two churches in Minnesota and Florida.
As I visited with some of the the attendees, it was obvious it was the elderly, infirmed and children who were there...they are always the sufferers in every place. Some of them I already knew, a few were mentally disturbed; similar to a soup kitchen environment anywhere in the world.
I wish the donors could have been there, just to see the smiles I coaxed from the kids.
The most encouraging thing to me though, was that this was a community run outreach, attendees identified area women. These women are experiencing the joy of ministry! We only wish we could provide them the resources to do this weekly rather than monthly.


Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Years Festivities. . . 2005!

The first time I was in Haiti for New Year's I was struck with how similar it was to Halloween, 4th of July, and a religious holiday all in one! The Independence day connection make sense as Haiti's celebration of Independence is on Jan. 1st. Thus the fireworks and sense of pride, etc. present in many communities. Everyone who is not half dead returns to their home town to see everyone they can. Those who are living in the states or working in the Dominican Republic return to see family.
My cook finally married the father of her child when he returned..the wedding took place at 5A.M.! Who would schedule that I asked? My husband told me it was because they didn't want it to have it turn into a big affair. Well, that's one way to keep attendance down I suppose. I sure didn't go-I'm not a morning person.
Now the Halloween connection comes from the tradition of seeking "etrenne"--that is probably not spelled correctly, apologies offered to my francophile friends. For several years running my husband would go to the bank to get the newest, (i.e. cleanest) bills he could find for this event. Then on New Year's day, a little parade of kids, teenagers and occasionally really hard up adult will make their way to our house to wish us "Happy New Years!" or Bonne Annee! In response, we are to give candy or some change if we have it. It makes for a new way of celebrating for me, the resident American.
So Happy New Year everyone.....!