Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What does the RMI Sister Church Program mean to you?

Mark, after visiting his Sister Church, wrote the following to me…

skymall“Haiti was an eye-opening experience for me, and I don't plan to forget it. As I flew back into [the United States] Thursday evening and passed the time by reading the Sky Mall magazine, I was struck with the contrast of the life we live here and the life lived by many of those in Haiti. Here I am, hurtling through the air at 32,000 feet where I can buy an endless array of gadgets to make my life even more comfortable. Meanwhile the people of [my sister church] struggle to piece together a meal as a family of four huddle in a pitiful shack. But God loves us the same, and who is to say who is the most blessed? It was my experience that many of those who were so poor in material things were much richer in the spiritual things, and this is what I think our church stands to learn from the people of Haiti, and this is why I think this will truly be a reciprocal ministry.  I am so glad that RMI is there to facilitate the partnership with our church, and I pray that God gives us wisdom in how best to minister to our brothers and sisters there.”

Powerful words.  What has your partnership meant to you?

By the way, if you need a portable, floating, ipod speaker system, contact Sky Mall directly…

Rob

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Latest Newsletter Posted/Emailed…

You can check it out at www.robandbecky.com/news.htm.  If you didn’t get it, you can subscribe here.

In this edition, you will learn…

How are we doing with creole?
How are the kids doing in school?
What have we been doing?
How many teams will RMI facilitate in 2012?
How is our financial support going?
How can you pray for us?

We would love to hear from you!

Rob (for all of us)

A Great visit to Cotes de Fer…

IMG_2161Recently I blogged about seeing raw need on a trip to Cotes de Fer.  Yesterday, I went out there again, only this time I took 2 guys with me.  Steve and Mark, from The Summit Church, Little Rock, AR, were on a scouting trip to check things out before bringing their very first team in February to visit their new Sister Church here in Cotes de Fer.  We had a great time.  We don’t normally do these scouting trips, but it just seemed to work out.

BTW, you can see many more pictures here.

I took Drew out with me for his first adventure into the outback.  He did great! It was so awesome for me to bring him along.  I can guarantee that he saw/experienced some things that he never would have seen or experienced in America!

DSCN1499We made it out there over the rough terrain, river crossings, etc in 3 hours.  First, we viewed the old church site.  The church building completely collapsed in the earthquake.  We greeted the children in a children’s service that was in progress and got to hear them sing.  We then went on and visited the town square and small port where the dugout canoes and sailboats used for fishing come in from the sea.  After this, we went up the mountain and visited the new church site.  They are moving the church and school up the road to higher ground out of the flood zone. The church is made of woven walls of palm branches, with a tin roof.  The Pastor’s home is made of sticks and tarps alone.

IMG_2105We walked down the hill once again to visit the sites where we are going to put up some homes.  Yup, raw need once again.  I watched as my Haitian staff member handed the “home” owner some money.  He told me that he has seen poverty, but this was tough to see.  This spoke volumes to me.

We walked down to the rocky shoreline to simply see the sites.  Wow.  Beautiful.

We talked with a farmer to get some answers on how Summit Church can come alongside of these local farmers to help them.  Summit is not coming in with any preconceived ideas/plans or grandiose ideas.  Good ole’ collaboration.  Listening, brainstorming, due process.  Very healthy.

IMG_2115I can’t wait to get the team from The Summit Church back out there in February for their first official Sister Church visit.

Rob

Monday, November 15, 2010

Visit to Fond Deron…

I had the privilege of going out with Christ Community Church, Ocala, FL on their very first visit with their new Sister Church in Fond Deron, Haiti.  Fond Deron is located about 3 hours north of where we live, up in the mountains.  We had a blast worshipping, encouraging and loving one another.

Something very unique, very special happened.  It was truly amazing to watch as 2 churches came together and formed 1 family.  It was a beautiful union.  God has got to be smiling!

From the moment we arrived, to the moment we left, it was special.  Even though we got held up for 3 hours or so due to road construction and therefore arrived late (after dark) the Fond Deron church had a welcome party.  We danced into the village lighted by only our trucks.  The Haitians were singing, dancing and marching.  The team members from Christ Community had no idea what they were singing, but it didn’t matter.  It was obvious that the Haitian church loved their presence!  The ministry of presence speaks volumes.

Lives were changed, hearts were encouraged, perspectives were modified and God was glorified.  It was a good trip.

Here are some pictures…

Rob

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Financial Support Update…

thermometernewWe need financial team members! We are under supported once again.  It seems to happen so fast! 

If you are a current financial supporter, a huge thank you!!!  We appreciate your ongoing sacrifices and generosity.

If you are not a current financial supporter, would you consider joining our team? We need people like you to donate monthly to keep us serving here on the field. We currently need an additional $250 a month. Would you consider a monthly gift of $25/$50/$75/$100 per month to help us?

Would you consider a special gift to help us cover our needs as we approach the end of the year?

If you would like to help us, you can let us know here. You can give online here (checking account, credit card, special gifts, automated giving). If you would prefer to give via a check in the mail, you can get instructions to do so here.

Sister Church visit to Dame Marie…

I had the privilege of leading the RMI team as we went out with Calvary Baptist Church, Pemberton, NJ, as they visited their Sister Church in Dame Marie, Haiti.  What a joy it was to see the fruits of a long standing partnership between these 2 churches.

Here are some pictures…

I got quite sick on the last night of our visit, but I got better pretty quickly.  Thanks to Pastor Guy for driving the team home as I slept in the passenger seat! Thank the Lord I got better quickly because 2 days later I headed back out into the field with another church on another Sister Church visit.

I watched as relationships were developed, many pastors of many churches were encouraged, proclaimers (solar powered audio Bibles) were handed out to district pastors, lives were changed, hearts were won for Christ, open air evangelism was accomplished, widow visits were done,  the church was painted, computers were donated, and Jenga was played!

Great trip!

Rob

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Rough Day of Seeing Raw Need…

I came to Haiti to serve, but many times it is hard to see what we see.  Raw need is painful and almost overwhelming  to see.  It’s paralyzing.  Sympathy is one thing, empathy is almost impossible since their experience is so very far from mine.  Yet, I don’t have to be paralyzed.  I get to do something!  Through the generosity of others, I get to be involved in taking some action to meet these overwhelming needs.  One person, one family, one church at a time.

A little over a month ago, after a 5 hour trip in the pouring rain through mud bogs and swollen rivers on a motorcycle to Cote de Fer, I saw desperate need.  I saw homes, that shouldn’t be called homes.  I saw clothes that were just hanging and tied around wastes because they were so torn and tattered.  The ride was uncomfortable at best, but the people at our destination who I met live “almost outside” in deplorable conditions every day of their lives.  It just can’t be right that some in other parts of the world live in palaces, yet these people live like this.

I felt like I was in a national geographic special.  In many ways, I was.

This is a site where we are going to build one of our Homes for Haiti.  I am so excited to be able to provide this family a home!

Only a small worn path leads to their “lakou”, yard around the home.  Once you walk down this hillside path into the yard, you see 4 or 5 “structures”, all of which are in some state of disrepair.  2 of the structures, where people are still sleeping, had significant damage in the earthquake. The poorly built mud walls crumbled down as the ground shook.  They have tried to repair some of it, but there just aren’t the funds available to truly fix things.  Rebuilding with these same mud walls is their only option.  I can only imagine the conditions after the hurricane.

Here is one of the structures where 4 people sleep!  Can you imagine this as your house?

Here is a short video of the yard.

I can’t wait to get out there a build a home!  A few more pictures here.

Rob

Will you pray for us?

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” Colossians 4:2-4

prayer2Praise…

  • Praise for good health and safety.
  • Praise for good start to school for Drew and Tessa.
  • Praise for the opportunities that God has given us to serve the Haitian people.
  • Praise for a good start in language learning.
  • Praise for faithful donors and prayer warriors.
  • Praise for the great RMI team that we have serving with us.
  • Praise for the devotional time the RMI staff and Missionaries are having together each day at 8am.

Prayer…

  • Pray for Rob and Becky (and family) to have a supernatural ability to learn the language and culture.
  • Pray for Rob as he preaches at Simon MEBSH Church here in Cayes, Haiti on November 21.
  • Pray that we would persevere and be encouraged in the midst of the hard work of ministry.
  • Pray for our whole family as we all go out into the outback for our first time as a family.  We are planning on joining with The Orchard when they visit their Sister Church in Astruc, Haiti, Nov 27 – Dec 3.
  • Pray for new monthly donors.
  • Pray for wisdom as RMI continues to grow and reorganize here on the field.
  • Pray for peaceful elections in Haiti on Nov 28.
  • Pray for the Haitian people as they deal with the spread of cholera.
  • Pray for the Haitian people as they deal with loss of crops due to Hurricane Tomas.
  • Pray for wisdom as we try to squeeze in some rest for each of us as individuals, as a family, and as a couple.  This isn’t easy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Update on a Creole…

We are talking like kids in kindergarten, maybe first grade.  I guess that is good?!

We have been working at it, and are making good progress… I think.

From my vantage point, I often feel like we don’t have the time to invest like we would like.  When there are many other pressing responsibilities, it is hard to carve out the time to sit and study.  In fact, impossible.  Most will say, you just have to do it.  I say, you can’t really say that until you live a day or two in my shoes.  There is so much activity that is happening right now, it is just hard to pull away.  I am a little bit discouraged with how little time I have to invest, but I guess this is probably a normal feeling that language learners feel.

Yeah, I know, we just have to do it.

We have remained committed to having our teacher, Pastor Wilfried (see pic), come every weekday for an hour lesson.  There have been a fair amount of days that we have had to cancel because I am out with a team, but generally speaking, we meet every day between 9-10 am.  I have recently tried to get some time to study in the morning at the office before anyone else arrives.  I am hoping this works out.

We can now converse in simple dialogue.  We can greet a congregation from the pulpit totally in Creole.

Becky is great around the house with our Haitian staff.  This practice has been a huge help to her.  She is doing great.  I would say she is hearing Creole better than I.  No, it’s not a competition (so she thinks!).  She is excelling with hearing, where I may be struggling a bit.  It is one thing to be in control and be able to say something, but it is a totally other thing to understand someone else who is speaking.  Becky knows more Creole words related to the home, children, food and cooking.  I know more words related to the church, office work, staff, etc.

Yes, it seems that everything I say can be mostly understood.  This is encouraging!  But more and more I am finding that what I am saying isn’t really the way a Haitian would say it.  For instance, the other day I said “nou te kondwi vit”, which ‘word-for-word’ means “we drove quickly”.  Well, apparently Haitians don’t use that phrase.  They would instead say “nou kouri anpil” which technically means “we ran fast”, but contextually it would mean “we drove quickly”.  It seems more and more I am learning new ways of saying things.  I guess this is all the process of learning.

Sometimes I feel we are making great progress, but other days, it feels like we will never get it.

Rob

Map of RMI Related Things in Haiti…

Did you know there is a map online of all things RMI in Haiti (Churches, Missionary Homes, HFH Sites, Office and Depots)?  Did you know that this is a public map that you can collaborate on?  Check it out here.

I think this is a good visual of all that RMI is doing in Haiti.

Rob

RMIMap

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rain, Rivers and Mountain Passes…

Wow, what a day!  Our (Benjamin, Wilfred, Gary and I) goal was to “do the loop” to check on Hurricane Tomas damage to many of our Sister Churches.  We succeeded, but wow are we tired!  We had heard of some reports, but the phone reports were sketchy and unclear at best.

This is long, but I hope it tells the story…

A GPS track is available of our trip.  For a limited time, you can view it online with Google Maps here.  You can also download it for Google Earth here.

More pictures are available here.

We left our homes and families behind in Cayes at 6am.  Our furthermost destination was Les Irois, a little town on the western tip of Haiti.  We like to say about Les Irois… “It’s not the end of the world, but you can sure see it from there!”  Suffice it to say, it’s a long way out there.

(Note: Motorcycle travel in Haiti is so much faster and easier.  We can get to places in half of the time, and access remote locations inaccessible by truck.)

SAM_0197The trip took us past the following Sister Churches…  Cance, Camp Perrin, Picot, Fond Deron, Beaumont, Chambellan, Dame Marie, Anse d'Ainault, Tiburon, Les Anglais, Port a Piment, and Aux Coteaux.  We weren’t able to stop at all of these locations.  We only stopped at the places where the most significant damage was reported.

Before I get into details, the entire Western half of the Southern Peninsula of Haiti has received significant crop damage.  This will apply to just about every one of our Sister Churches.   When I asked a man about his garden, he said “se kraze ditou ditou, se kraze net!”  This means “it’s destroyed beyond repair, totally, completely!”   I can only imagine the impact on these people that had almost nothing to begin with.  They were counting on these crops to feed their own families, to sell for a little income to pay for things such as additional food, supplies and children’s schooling.

We left home, crossing the valley, and up what is known as “the ramp”.  The ramp is a collection of switchbacks (z patterned roads up a mountainside) that lead up over the mountains on the way to the Northern coast of the Southern Peninsula.  They are doing a lot of work on this road, so it is getting better.  At the top of the ramp, as we crossed between mountain peaks valleys, and plateaus, we had rain.  Not a lot, but a strong drizzle.  Enough to make the already damp clay roads like grease.  enough to make us wet.  One motorcycle, while slowly and carefully navigating down a steeper part, slid out from underneath one of us as if in slow motion.  No way to stop this once is starts.  No problem.

Along the road, we came across several mud/rock slides, that still left the road open.  But in one place, a third of the road had broken off and slid down into the lower valley.  Trucks couldn’t pass.  Our motorcyles were able to squeeze by the stuck line of trucks.  I have no idea how they will fix that.  We continued on our way.

After fueling up in Jeremie, a fairly large city on the Northern coast, we continued West.  We stopped in Chambellan (Sister Church with Crossroads Bible in Flower Mound, TX).  It appears to me the wind had come right up the Grande Anse River to face the already weakened and rusted roof of the church building.  One of of the sheets of tin ripped off.  Many others were loosened as the nails holding them down ripped through the sheets so they now lay there unattached.  Quite a bit of rain came in and drenched the interior ceiling.  While there, Pastor Jean Benoit also showed us many significant cracks due to the earthquake in the church and school buildings.  Pictures here.

Along the road, we began noticing an increased number of downed and damaged trees.

We continued on to visit Dame Marie.  We actually ran into the pastor, Pastor Julien, on the road as he was out doing his duty of checking on his other district churches.  He showed us a list of homes that were either damaged or lost.  He told us of at least 4 people from district churches who had died in flooding as the oceans came up.  After hearing there was no damage to the Chambellan church itself, we continued on to our next destination, Les Irois.

On the way, one front tire blew, so a repair had to be done.  Typical delay.

When we arrived in Les Irois, we were greeted by Pastor Jean Semprival.  He was eager to show us the damage.  Many many trees were down in and around the church property.  The big shade tree they had in the middle of the yard is gone.  Apparently, although they had cleaned up most of the mess, 3 large trees had come down on top of the new school they had just built with the help of their Sister Church, Harper EFC in Port Orchard, WA).  It appears the trees came through the roof at one point, pushing through the tin, doing some damage to the roof framing below.  Certainly not water proof any longer.  The children were there having school when we were there.  Pictures here. 

We asked some questions to find out if the mountain pass was open between Les Irois and Tiburon.  We knew it would be hard.  We could either go for it and see additional churches, or turn around and go back the same way.  We nervously decided to go for it.  This path is simply a path, not a road.  Apparently it had been a r3oad in times past, but no longer can trucks go through there.  It is pretty hard to describe the difficult terrain we passed.  The whole road was cut throughout by deep crevices caused by fast running water.  Extended steep and rocky paths were the norm.  Periodically it would level out into a grassy knoll, probably about 1000 ft above the ocean straight down the cliffs below.  Looking down the coast from those high places was stunning.  I fell twice, but was able to keep the bike from descending down the steep embankments!  Benjamin told me I am now “batèm dife”, baptized by fire.  Once we were down, Gary said to me…  “Well, I guess you’re a missionary now!”  He also quoted RMI President Dan Shoemaker with the all too often used, yet all too often appropriate, Haitian proverb…  “Sot pap touye ou, men lap fe ou swe!”  “Stupid won’t kill you, but it will make you sweat!”

After a physically challenging rough descent, and two more river crossings, we made it to Tiburon.  The church is intact with no damage.  The people were excited to see us.  The wall behind the church being built as a barrier to the river has collapsed due to hurricane waters.  This is not good news!  The church and community are once again at risk of flooding when the river rises.  Pictures here.

We left Tiburon, with the Les Anglais river crossing on our minds. It’s usually not easy.  When we got to the river, it was apparent that no vehicles were crossing.  It was moving quite swiftly and was about 3.5 feet deep.  Wilfred tried to cross on the motorcycle, only to get swept down river a bit.  Once a motorcycle is moving in the current, it is tough to get it stopped.  Many Haitians were there to give a helping hand.  Gary, Benjamin and I decided to pay for some Haitians to carry our bikes across.  We demanded that only 5 Haitians help.  But, there were 9 people that jumped in as they all wanted a little cash.  We paid “the boss” for 5 and let him figure out who get’s what.  Crossing on foot wasn’t easy, but we made it.  Pictures here

After crossing, it became clear that Wilfred’s motorcycle had gotten thirsty and decided to drink lots of water when it took a bath.  This isn’t exactly an easy fix.  Gary usually had all the tools necessary, but today he didn’t have the right size wrench for that bike.  We were able to find someone with a tool to open up the motor and dry it out.  After many tries, we finally got is started and were on our way.

Several more hours, after dark, we finally returned home.  Our 12 hour trip through rain, rivers and mountain passes was over.  Long road.  I wonder when we will do this again?!

Rob