Friday, December 16, 2011

Freely given by an unknown giver

     Being back in Haiti for almost a week has had it's desire effect on me.  I no longer like to be in the U.S. for the holidays due to all the emphasis on buying and gifts.  I blame myself as I can't seem to get away from the advertising and pulse of "buy, buy, buy" all the time.
     People here in Haiti do exchange gifts sometimes.  The gifts tend to be practical to meet the oppressive needs.  We won't be able to do everything we'd like to do....for our staff and friends around us.  Last year we were promised a donation and told to buy gifts for everyone and have a big party only to find out that the check never came.  Sadly, that wasn't the first time that has happened in our history that we've been left holding the bill.  So like many others worldwide we'll take it more simply and enjoy area church services, Christmas singing, and pumpkin soup (Haiti's traditional holiday meal).
     We're praying for the needs around us, for the resources to pay our staff and even to be paid ourselves.  I like the fact that this year, even more than donations, we have been seeking people to pray with us for the outreaches here.  The business model says we should list our shortfalls and let potential donors know.  I believe that if we let our Father know, He'll motivate those who are listening to Him to bring the resources we need.
     With the harsh realities of unmet needs surrounding us back here in Haiti, it's been a joy to appreciate the little things.  I'm grateful that I have electricity tonight to be able to catch up on mail and updates.  I'm grateful to be able to be back in a small Haitian community that doesn't attract the big celebrities.  This past week the traffic was so bad in the capital due to all the big names and their security teams that normal workers couldn't move freely.  I'm just glad the biggest Name walks with me every day on the dusty roads of Haiti where only the two of us know what is being done.
     One of the biggest privileges I get is to coordinate communication with our 250 or so sponsored students and their friends worldwide.  This gives me the job of being Santa's elf this time of year.  I was  greeted very enthusiastically by a crowd of kids this week (see below) as they wondered whether they'd get something this time...

     It's been fun to deliver what is probably the only gift a lot of the kids here will get.  Our sponsored kids sometimes receive gifts from their friend in the U.S. who pays for their school expenses.  They have usually never met the donor.  And there is no way they can repay this gift that is freely offered to them.  Wait, that's like an experience I had when I first realized and received the baby in a manger who was given by someone I really didn't know.  He was a gift freely given to meet my needs by someone who cared that I didn't yet met.  
     Mike (pictured here) is pretty happy tonight.  I'm glad to be able to share his joy with you.   May we all be as grateful for the incredible gift given to us as are the children of Haiti.


Friday, December 09, 2011

Heading Home

     It's been a long few weeks of travel for our family.  My daughters and I left in early October to stay in Little Rock.  Our goal was to get some rest, get some dental work done, visit supporters, and visit some potential college homes for our oldest daughter.  It's been a good time, even though I required more dental work than originally anticipated.  My husband had the privilege of traveling to Uganda and Kenya on a mission trip for the first time.  It was an energizing experience for him and he joined us in late November back in the U.S.
     Now that his final speaking engagement is done, we head back to Haiti this coming week.  We are all ready to go.  Please be praying for our safety.  Also for the Lord's provision for our staff and all the needs at home.  One thing we were hoping for this season is more people to pray for the ministry in Haiti, please join us!  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Trip to the South of Haiti

Our family recently had the chance to travel to the southern peninsula of Haiti.  My husband has been many times and now that our children are older, this was a good chance as he had a speaking engagement and we could tag along.  I came away from the trip jealous of the south's beauty and roads.
These are some of my favorite flowers, that grow throughout Haiti

I was surprised at how many mountains there were even in this portion of Haiti.  This shows driving along the southern peninsula towards Les Cayes.  I was jealous of their roads!

Stunning beaches near Port Salut

The opening of the largest cave system in Haiti, in Port Piment.  The system stretches 4 miles long and includes an underwater lake!  

This was also my first chance to travel through Leogane, which was the epicenter for last year's earthquake.  There were quite a few still living in tents, and some homes built for people in the mountain communities.  I saw several schools and homes built as shown:  
While I appreciate the work of whatever organization put these up, I was disturbed to hear that the little homes cost $2,500 but as you can see, are made of plywood and are heavily mildewed from the rain and humidity.  Without paint or any type of treatment, I predict these homes will fall apart in less than two years.  When I asked if the same amount of funds couldn't have built the more commonly used cement block homes, I was told yes.  Not too surprising, but sad.  

While the roads are good, rains frequently flood this national highway around Miroguane.  

The southern political leaders had this bill board up expressing a common opinion, that the UN forces  and Cholera are one and the same.  

The highway descending down to famed for arts and crafts, Mardi Gras festivities, among other things.  

Jacmel, Haiti

Coast in Jacmel

I had to agree with other travelers, though that the most beautiful beaches I saw were in Port Salut, further out from the capital, but worth the drive.  Just beautiful.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

One who stopped to say thanks

     This afternoon as the sun was beginning to sink, I had some unexpected visitors.  The young man I recognized as Edlin E. who had been a sponsored student for the past 13 years.  He introduced the small, older woman beside him as his mother.  Edlin's father had died about the same time he entered into our sponsorship program.  His mother began by telling me she wanted to come by and thank me.  I stopped her and told her, "Hey, I'm the contact person in our sponsorship program,  not the one who gives funds, but I can send your greetings and thanks to the sponsor".  She nodded her head and said she understood but still wanted to say thanks.   Her son spoke up and said that ever since his father died, he had prayed for another way to go to school and God had provided.  He has gone through our school and finished with the equivalent of an Associate's degree here in Haiti.  He excitedly told me he'd been given a scholarship to attend a dental tech. training program in Port au Prince and planned to start next month.

It's thrilling to see answered prayers.  I told Edlin's mom that it was encouraging to me as well, because some day I'd be in a place where I needed help and by seeing how God provided for them, it encouraged me to trust Him with my future needs as well.  The same God who hears the prayers of an impoverished widow and son, hears all our requests today.  I can rest by  trusting in Him with my future, just as you can.  

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Some things are Universal . . .

     The first day of school, holding on to your parent's hand to get rid of the anxiety of trying something new.  New uniform which is stiff and clean, shoes that are not  yet broken in.  It's interesting to see that there are some things which are the same for all of us:  such as the desire to help our children advance.  I've watched many parents and kids come in to register and then this week, actually to start classes.  We had the preschool and elementary grades start first.  Next week will be the secondary grades.  One of the strange things here to me is that children don't always come on the first day.  Here in Haiti, up in the hills anyway, children seem to come in stages.  Often it's because their families have finally managed to scrape together the needed funds for supplies and tuition.  All I know is that every day there are a few more students who've "made it in" and the classes are growing each day.  
     One thing we've been careful to do is to make sure the parents know how important they are to their child's success.  We see it over and over each day.  The children came come to the same school, same class and have the same teacher, but if their home life isn't stable and secure, they will have a very hard time making it.  The school administration has already had parent meetings for each section.  The parents whose children are on scholarships or sponsorships are also told how important their role is.  We tell them no one can take over their responsibility to parent their child.  Someone may be helping their family out financially, but it is up to them to love, support and impart how necessary education is here.   
     The other image I loved from the first day was the preschool class meeting under the gazebo and basically having a party!  The three to five-year-olds were greeted with decorations, chairs set out for them, snacks, and a lot of games and activities.  They were learning a new French song as I walked by and saw the teachers enthusiastically singing and dancing.  I'm amazed at their energy level.  I hope they can keep it up past this week (smile!)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

School Registration

     He was sitting very straight in the chair before the registrar's desk.  His white baseball cap was balanced on his head.  Behind him stood a man in an identical white cap, watching proudly as  his son was assigned to the next level, secondary school!  To get to this point, the boy had to pass the national exam required for all 6th graders.
     Seeing him before the registrar's desk was the first sign that I had that he had passed.  I asked him, "Did you pass, Olandy?"  He grinned shyly and nodded his head.  His father nodded his head, too.  I don't know all the 1,000 plus students enrolled in our school, but this young man, I did.  He has been in our sponsorship program since preschool and I was thrilled to see him make this progress.  Besides the generous donor who's sent in $30/month to help this student, the other reason was probably the presence of his father today and in his life.  Just putting funds in a situation may or may not really help.  If the families don't stay involved and feel responsible for their children and hold the kid's accountable, there is little chance the kids will be successful.
     As I spent the morning getting the 6th grade results to give to their sponsors, I was pleased that most of them did pass this first major test.  There was one surprise with a young girl who didn't pass.  The elementary principal and her teacher were bemoaning the fact that they hadn't realized how her home life had deteriorated and she was probably hungry and lacking other basic things.  Even though we provide one hot meal a day for the students, it's not enough to survive.  We agreed we'd try to give her a little coupon to use at the school cantine to cover some breakfast/snacks, etc.   I wrote and told her sponsor a bit about her situation, encouraging them to pray.  Hopefully, with some extra attention, we can give her the support she needs to get ahead.
       By sharing this, I'm giving you a view of the realities we're facing, some successes, and some set backs. I've learned to enjoy every success, and today it was seeing  my friend registering for the 7th grade!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Foreign driver's license

     When I first moved to Haiti about 18 years ago, I went in to apply for a driver's license and was issued one that was valid for 6 months. Then the governments kept changing about that often so I just stopped applying.
      This past year, I was stopped at a local check point because the new police were trying to crack down on children driving motorcycles (yes, really). I told them I didn't carry my US license b/c no one had asked me for it in 16 years. Trying to big big shots, they told me they could take me into the jail for that and I smiled and said okay. (if they had it would have a riot, literally). Ironically, I found out that at the same time they were bugging me, the resident foreigner in town, their boss was calling my husband asking for help in furnishing their police station.  We had previously helped them out by providing bicycles and an outhouse.   It would have been a funny exchange if they had arrested me on the same day.  I almost wished the new guys had just to see them explalin they arrested their benefactor's wife on a traffic violation.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mission Trips in Haiti

There was a fund raising plea made after the usual offering.  The pastor stood up and told the congregation that there had been 65 conversions in last week's outreach and the leadership wanted to take another group to a nearby area.  The location?  A neighborhood called Terre Rouge near a community of Pignon, Haiti.  The mission team would be made up of 15 people, maybe more if they could raise the funds who had already been trained with how to share the Bible.
They would arrive at the designated locale, set up beds in tents, and be responsible for making their own meals.  Due to the shortage of drinking water in the area, they would be carrying some water in and boiling other water to use between services and outreaches.  The total amount of funds raised?  $50 USD.
Was the outreach canceled due to lack of support?
No, the Haitian believers joyfully picked up their loads of supplies and walked the 5 miles under scorching sun.  Why were they happy?  Because they had seen God's provision for them to eat that week.  I saw them walking home later in the week in two rows singing hymns.  They were thrilled to report that 30 more people had made professions of faith.  All of them would have gone back in a heart beat.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Taking Chances: Learning to Breathe in Haiti

Taking Chances: Learning to Breathe in Haiti: "After every trip, I usually find myself overwhelmed by a number of things; the experience, the stark difference between how we live in Ameri..."

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Prayer Requests from Haitian Women

Last week we had our semi-annual women's conference.  While the speakers taught through translators, one way the attendees related back was through prayer requests.  I thought readers might enjoy hearing these requests and perhaps praying for them as well.  My hope in sharing them with you is that you'll see how similar all of our lives really are:
Translated from Kreyol:
1.  Please pray for my family's spiritual life.  Pray for my son who doesn't want to live with me.  Mrs. P.
2.  Please pray I can have a baby.  Mrs. K
3.  I have had a headache for a long time, please pray for me.
4.  Please be praying for my brother who has breathing problems.
5.  I need to send my children to school, pray that they can pass.
6.  Pray that my son will return to his place with me.
7.  Pray that my children will pass all their exams
8.  Pray for my friends who have a lot of persecution in their lives.
9.  Please pray I can be faithful in my Christian life.
10.  Pray for the many problems that I am experiencing.
11.  Please pray that my friend, S. will become a Christian.
12.  Pray for my friend who is paralyzed.
13. Pray for my child who is sick.
14.  Please pray that I can have a house.
15.  Please pray for my family.

These are samples of the prayer requests we received from the 250 plus women who came from all over northeastern Haiti.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Why I haven't written anything in a while

I haven't been doing the best job of keeping people informed of activities and happenings here in Haiti.  There have been various reasons for this, some of which are personal.  Those of who live here continue to process everything that has happened here in Haiti in the past 18 months.   Some time in the spring the realities of life hit me afresh.  I saw and continue to see a lot of post traumatic stress issues among first responders and people who worked so hard in the initial days and months following the earthquake.  In the face of incredible needs all around us, we've been working to maintain the education outreaches we have every day.  All that to say, this hasn't been an easy period to work through except to walk and work day by day.  Perhaps because of our own fatigue, it's been especially encouraging to have various groups come and volunteer alongside us.
What follows are some of my favorite images of outreaches from the past few months

In January, Terrie W. delivering items Haitian style

Playmates at the school express caring in June

Youth group from Memphis helps us unload donated supplies

These guys from Tennessee are strong!

New friends are building at my school! 

Donated dresses from Minnesota!

Puppet performers from Texas in March!

Teaching all 500 of our elementary students about the armor of God.

These are just a few images of outreach activities in the past months.  Coming up we have several children's camps and youth camps scheduled.  The school year finished a few weeks ago with kindergarten graduation.  Many proud parents celebrated this accomplishment showing me yet again that life goes on, slowly rebuilding and advancing day by day.  My Haitian friends are masters at going on in the face of incredible odds.  

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Living in a time of Cholera

As a western trained health care professional, names like typhoid and cholera send chills down my spine.  I was in the states as the current epidemic was worsening.  I wondered how we would find life and living when we returned home before Christmas.  I needn't have worried tho' because as usual God's grace and the resilience of the Haitian people continue to astound me.
While cholera is terrifying simply in it's speed of destroying lives, it can be dealt with so easily.  One of the first things most of us who live here did was spend quite a bit of time and resources educating people. I learned long ago that the cooks here were skilled at preparing safe food.  They could take a piece of fresh meat from the market, "wash" it with lemons (acetic acid) and thoroughly cook it into a yummy, edible dish.  Those that tend to get sick (often foreigners) , are those who fail to use these methods.  Trust me, folks, our cooks know what they are doing!
But with cholera now endemic in our area, the main difference is needing to treat quickly.  Normally, if someone gets sick in our neighborhood, they'll just stay home and groan for a few days suffering through fevers, etc.  With Typhoid and malaria, this was okay.  But cholera's severe dehydration can kill in hours.  My nephew, a newly graduated physician in the Dominican Republic, has reported to me that there have been quite a few cases there, but very few deaths because of people seeking treatment quickly.   The 4,,000 plus deaths we've had in Haiti are largely due to people not responding quickly enough.  The terrible tragedy to me is that the treatment is available to most people in their own pantries.  Oral re-hydration solutions can be made with sugar, salt, and clean drinking water.   If someone would just start drinking as soon as they have symptoms, they would in all likelihood survive.  In severe cases, only one dose of Doxycycline should be sufficient.  If all this is true, why the panic?  Because old reflexes die hard, at least in this old registered nurse.
So besides spreading the word about how easily this is treated, we are practicing prevention with visible measures as well.  For example, all of our students have been taught the importance of hand washing.  The little ones can chant rhymes and songs of the needs to wash hands..  On our school campus, we have well water (thanks to Rotary International) which our guards carry to the classrooms.  The younger students are helped to wash their hands before eating, etc. so it's a constant reinforcement of how to stay healthy.

Overall, life has changed very little up here in the north central plateau.  Occasionally I'll see a cot being carried by some men (our version of an ambulance)  to the cholera treatment center in our community that is being run by Doctors Without Borders.   But the good news for us is that most of these cases are coming from outlying areas and very few cases from within the community.  We are so grateful that the education seems to have had an impact.
One reason I think all this is on my mind now is that I know some folks are considering coming to help out in Haiti this coming year, but this cholera stuff is just too scarey.  Trust me, I can understand the trepidation, but this is our reality.   I have learned long ago after raising my children here, that God has ALWAYS provided what we needed, often in very unexpected ways.  Ten years ago  I broke two bones in my right hand in a freak accident.  After it was diagnosed via Xray at our local hospital, there just "happened" to be an American surgeon and Occupational Therapist specializing in hands visiting that week who could ensure my hand was set properly.   I think it was just God's way to reassure me.  Over and over, I've seen things like this, until I realized I really could trust God to provide what we needed when we needed it.
Anyway, I'm not going to mislead people and say there's no risk of anything here in Haiti.  But I've learned that living in a time of Cholera is just the same as any other time, proceeding one day at a time, being cautious (rather than shaking hands, everyone now "hand bumps"), and trusting in God's provisions.  

Thursday, February 03, 2011

If it takes so little to help, why is it taking so long for some?

     I've long ago realized how relatively small my husband's ministry and my impact is in the tumult of  need here in Haiti.  But what I can't figure out is if we can do a lot with relatively little, why is it that many big NGO's are so slow to be able to accomplish much?  Just this week in the Haitian newspapers I continue to see well known organizations just now hiring staff to start their projects or to do research to justify needs for a project.    If I observe them too much, I get disgusted.    But, I'm seeing again the high impact that is possible in individual lives with a narrow focus empowered by skilled, local leadership.
    This week, I was asked to document a simple micro-credit project.   The ministry had received several dozen large igloos (the kind North Americans use for tailback parties).  Caleb thought up a plan where we could give the igloos to some folks in need, along with a loan of $300 HD (around $40 US).  The idea being that they could use the start up costs to stock cold drinks and other items they could then resell.  The group was asked to repay at $25 HD each month until they repaid the full amount in a year.  Most of the recipients have already repaid their loans ahead of schedule so we could start with another group this month:
It's such a small thing really, but is able to provide these women and their families with some much needed income.  This isn't the first time we've done projects like this, just the most recent.
      Another example of small cost but high impact outreach:   Last fall, we had several students on a waiting list who were needing help to attend our ministry school.  Even the small amount that we must charge students in tuition was beyond the ability of their families.  This week we  have a team here from Pekin, IL (yes, they escaped the terrible Midwest blizzard).  While working on refurbishing office space at the school facility, one of the gentlemen, Dustin, decided he'd really like to help a student here.  We were able to introduce him to 7 year old Mike (see below):
     Dustin asked to be able to meet Mike's parents as well so we asked them to come in this morning.  I had the privilege of translating for them as he got to meet Mike's mother and hear their story which helped explain her still shell shocked facial expression.  Mike and his family were in the capital last January and in the middle of the earthquake.  When their home was destroyed as well as his mom's place of work, the mother decided to come back to her hometown where she had some family. I asked her if she had stayed at the camp facility last year and she told me she had considered it, but decided to leave places for those people who didn't have any support at all.  I found her humility and willingness to make room for those in greater need really touching.   As we parted today, I told her I hoped she saw that it wasn't the blan (foreigners) who were helping her, but that this provision came ultimately from God whom she could trust for the future.  It isn't easy to go on when you've lost everything like Mike and his family, but when you see the Lord's hand through the help and generosity of others, it does give hope.  
I want to encourage those who are in a position to give, to continue to do so.  Please check with the organizations you are giving to, and ask them if the funds you are sending are reaching those in need and how they are helping now.   It really doesn't take much to help.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What is REALLY going on....

     This week has been full of breaking news from Haiti again as former presidents return, political futures are determined and some arrests are made.  All in all, another week in Haiti.  Eighteen years ago, the weekend I was getting married, the headlines were also about Haiti.  Some things never change.
     Before the current headlines broke I had something else I was going to share with friends though, that is what is really going on among people who are living and working in Haiti.  And what is really going on is life and outreaches.  My husband still left on schedule for some speaking engagements, schools are still open, businesses are still open, and people are still going on.  Despite the seeming drama that attracts all the media, the behind the scene,s opportunities are still here as well.
     Two Sundays ago I had the opportunity to hear a 73 year old woman named Lucy share with some Americans about her work with community women.  She and other church women started the Dorcas ministry at Caleb's encouragement about 20 years ago.  Over the years, the group has expanded to other communities.  What is so special about this fellowship is that it includes women from almost every church in town and they work together meeting practical needs they see in the community.  Lucy had the ladies share verses they had memorized with pride (most are illiterate); and list projects they had completed in the past year.  They had replaced roofs on homes, found ways to clothe the poor, gone daily to pray with the sick at the local hospital, and prepared a local soup kitchen when they had the resources.  Lucy told the Americans how she taught the ladies to find resources.  "Every time they are making rice for their families, I tell them just to scrape off the top of the measuring cup, and save that portion, by the end of the week they can bring all their portions together, and we'll save it until we have enough to feed the needy in our area."   Very humbling indeed to see how much these gals can do with their "leftovers".  I translated for the visitors telling them that the women fed over 300 people the week before.  When asked how much it would take to do the feeding more often, we were told they needed $150 USD.   (let me know if you want to help, I'll get it to them)
     This past Sunday, a pastor was speaking in the church I was attending.  He also was encouraging the people in their second hand clothing on how to help.  He said, "I want to see all of us bring clothing that we are not using, and put it together, so we can help those around us in need."  Hearing this, and seeing how these folks are working together and giving out of their poverty was very encouraging to me.  Why?  The way people give to others, reflects much of their spiritual health.   Any group which is striving to help those in need, is living and growing.
My real point though today is this:  don't get caught up in the latest highlights or headlines.  What is REALLY going on is that life and work is continuing for us common folk.  All the productive people I know are going on with planned outreaches, finding what they can to make things work, and not paying much attention to "the big stories".  One of the things I love most about God, is that so much of what He does in people and through people is behind the scenes.  Please know, that I can attest to the fact, that His servants are still hard at work here in Haiti.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Caleb's Thoughts on Haitian Earthquake Anniversary

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the Haitian Earthquake.  The government of Haiti has declared tomorrow a “Day of Mourning” and throughout the world Haitians will take a moment of silence to remember those 400,000 plus who died on that horrible day. 
It was only this past Friday that across from the destroyed National Palace and next to the Plaza Hotel (formerly Holiday Inn) that they found and removed three more bodies from the rubble of a destroyed home.  When I commented how sad that was, someone responded that there are more than 1,000 homes where you would find at least one if not ten bodies within.  Sad realities but true!
Over the past twelve months it has been reported that billions of dollars have been spent in Haiti. Whether the total is accurate or not, it seems like only a Band-Aid has been applied on a huge wound.  Over a million people are still living in inhumane conditions.  Through the various tent cities, there are numerous reports of violence, rape and abuse of every kind that are taking place.  Several thousands have died through the cholera outbreak, several dozen have died as a result of the election and everyone is asking what else that could possibly happen to our beloved country?
The outlook for Haiti may not look too bright these days but we cannot and will not lose heart.  We will continue to reach out to those in need.  To the less fortunate we will provide each and every one the hope that can only be found through our Savior. 
Please, take some time to ray for the families that are still suffering and pray that God would continue to raise up servants that will really focus on the needs of those that are suffering.  Thanks for helping us make a difference in the lives of so many in the past year.
In HIS grace,   Caleb

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Holiday Gift Distribution 2011

Each year we have the privilege to distribute gift boxes that donors across the U.S.  This year we had friends from Illinois, Florida and Minnesota send shoe boxes full of gifts.  Our staff prepared chicken and rice dinners for everyone and we gave out boxes to kids in our neighborhood and town.  Overall, it was a great time.  Caleb was touched that the song they chose to sing as a part of grace was "Great is Thy Faithfulness".
Enjoy some smiles from Haiti: