Thursday, November 29, 2012

Small Project, Big Impact

A few months ago, I got word that the kids at the church I grew up in, Trinity Alliance Church, in Cologne, New Jersey, had collected school supplies to send to a school in Haiti.  They contacted me asking if they could send them to me and if I would distribute them.  Today I got the opportunity to deliver this box of supplies to a local Christian school.

Rob and I have visited Miserne Baptist Church a few times over the last few years.  The people are always very friendly and welcoming.  When I asked RMI’s Haitian Administrator, Benjamin Altema,  who to give the box of supplies to, he suggested the school at this church.  They are not very far from where we live, but a little off the beaten path and rarely receive outside help.  I thought it was a great suggestion! 

Here are some photos of the Miserne Baptist School and the kids in their classrooms.  This small Christian school is preschool through sixth grade.  There are 3 large classrooms: one for 1st & 2nd grades, one for 3rd  & 4th grade and one for 5th & 6th grades.  There is also a small classroom for preschool (K3, K4 and Kindergarten).  





Here I am with (left to right):  The 5th-6th grade teacher, me, Pastor Duvil Fleurvil and Director Nixon, the school director.









The school as a whole was happy to receive crayons, glue, markers, scissors, pencil sharpeners and more to keep in their classrooms. Each child was thrilled to be able to take home something as well.  The younger kids IMG_0123each received a pencil and a marker, the older ones a pen and pencil. 

IMG_0135 There were enough notebooks for each 6th grader to receive their own notebook.  When we left, Perguens, the RMI employee who came with me, said to me that the supplies came at a really good time.  Perguens told me that the teacher shared with him that just yesterday, their teacher had told each student they needed to purchase a notebook for classwork.  Today, they each received that needed notebook.  How exciting for me to be a part of that!  The kids and teacher didn’t miss it—they recognized that God provided for their need in a very timely manner.

IMG_0133 Pencils, pens, markers and notebooks may seem like a small gift.  I’m thinking back to when I was a kid, if I got one pencil and one marker, I probably wouldn’t have been very appreciative.  But these kids really were!  In a place where many don’t know where their next meal is coming from and their parents have to to decide whether to pay for school or buy food, this is a HUGE gift!  I’m sure many of those 6th graders had no idea where they were going to get the money for a notebook. 

Trinity Alliance Church, thanks for your donation and thoughtfulness.  God used you in a very tangible way to show these kids how much He loves them and how He provides them with even their smallest needs.  When you sent this box down, I didn’t know what school would benefit from your generosity.  But God did!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving for 120!

What do you do when you live in another country and important US holidays come around?  I, for one,  am not going to sit around and mope for what I might be missing!  You make your own traditions and celebrate with the family you have close to you—and you learn that family is not limited to those related by blood.  We are incredibly blessed to have a community of missionaries from different organizations and countries to “do life” with!  They truly are a second family.  There are also many other ex-pats in southern Haiti, many who I don’t know well, who are also missing their families and friends. 

Our community here in Les Cayes, Haiti has been celebrating American Thanksgiving together for over 20 years.  Most years, this gathering has happened at what is now our home.  I have been thrilled to carry on that tradition!    I think we set a record this year—120 people came to our gathering!  Countries represented included the US, Germany, Canada, Haiti, South Africa, Nicaragua, and Uruguay. I think one of the best things about Thanksgiving, is that it is a holiday that transcends nationality. We can add our American traditions to it, but all of us in this missionary community enjoy setting a day aside to thank God for His blessings over the past year. 

All 120 of us!











This was our third year here for Thanksgiving and my third year hosting.  I really enjoy organizing and hosting this event!  Some of you may think I am insane, but the truth is, now that I’ve done it a few times, this was the easiest year yet.  I’ve got a good sense on what amounts of food we need and the best way to set everything up in our yard.

So how did I do it?  What is needed to pull this off?  TEAMWORK!  I didn’t do it!  Everyone contributed.  A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I send out invitations and a sign-up list via email. I ask  Agape Flights to purchase the amount of large turkeys we need and they fly them in when they fly in the mail and packages. I purposely choose to sign up to bring dessert, so that the only cooking I have to do is baking the day before.  The sign-up list includes tables and chairs available.  The day before, some missionaries brought down their tables and chairs and Rob and Gary drove around picking up the rest.  The day of Thanksgiving, while everyone else is making the dish(es) they signed up to bring, Rob and I are setting up tables and chairs and working out last minute details.  I invited anyone who wanted to come and decorate the tables to come at 11 am.  All the tables were beautifully decorated by 11:30.  I always set up an activity table for the kids with lots of crayons, Thanksgiving coloring sheets, mazes and word searches.  Drew’s teacher, Ms. Karen and the teacher’s aid at the school, Sarah, came up with a craft as well.

Someone made a comment on Facebook that I must have a very large house to do this. Hahahaha!  We could never fit a quarter of the people in my house.  What we do have, is enough space in the yard and driveway to pull this off outside.  Imagine our panic, when at 12:30, an hour before everyone was to start arriving and all the tables, tablecloths and decorations were set up, it STARTED RAINING!  When we realized it was not a quick shower, we grabbed all the tarps we could find and covered the tables.  I never prayed so hard for rain to stop! It stopped raining right as people started to arrive at 1:30 and the rain held off the rest of the day.  Praise the Lord!

All the tables set up in the driveway before the rain started:



Wondering what we had at our meal? Here is the run down: 4  20-pound turkeys, 1 15-pound turkey, 5 trays of stuffing, 5 bowls of gravy, 4 trays of mashed potatoes, 3 trays of sweet potatoes, 16 cans of corn, 5 trays of “other vegetables”, 6 different salads, 3 baskets of bread (with butter), 3 bowls of cranberry sauce, 15 different desserts,  3 10-gallon thermos’s of juice, and large amounts of regular and decaf coffee.  We all ate very well!












We try to stick to a loose program.  Eat dinner, then take a group photo, then get dessert.  While eating dessert, Rob shared a short devotional then opened up the mic to anyone who wanted to share what they were thankful for for the past year.  Tessa’s first grade class sang a song complete with sign language hand motions.  This time of reflection together is always very special.






Braden was pretty tired from all the work and fell asleep at the table!


What a great Thanksgiving with our ‘second family’!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Deep Partnership Before Deep Waters…

IMG_8734I had the privilege of joining up with NewChurch, from Georgetown, TX, on their recent visit with their brothers and sisters in Abricot, Haiti.  The team had a great mix of veteran visitors, as well as first timers.  God brought that exact team together for a purpose.

picturesThe US team was fun to watch.  Their authentic passion for people, their contagious joy in celebrating God, their constant want to go beyond the external, and their desire to be who God intends his 1 body to be was on display at all times.  It wasn’t about appearances.  It was so much more than doing.  It was being.  It was about being together, in love, honoring and lifting up one another and the Lord in the process.  Encouraging one another. Together, worshipping the same Lord.  There was something unique in their smiles as I watched Haitians and Americans spend time together.  Smiles.  Laughter.  Tears.  Jumping.  Listening.  Holding hands.  Songs.  Dancing.  Hugs.  Looks.  Squeals.  Genuine relationship building.  Real care.  True partnership.

IMG_8616As I shared in conversations and I listened to both sides, it’s obvious that this partnership is about collaboration.  It’s about sharing and seeking understanding.  It’s a process.  It isn’t about a US church acting prematurely without the presence of understanding.  It wasn’t about being Santa Claus.  It was about being Jesus.  It was about mutual edification and service to one another, and with one another to the community at large.

I believe God was pleased and lives in Abricot, and lives from Georgetown, will never be the same again.

Of course, the Abricot visit did get cut slightly short.  The typical 6ish hour trip back to Cayes turned into a protracted 93 hour expedition/journey/adventure…  Instead of leaving Abricot on Wednesday morning like normal, we “pulled an audible” and took off early on Tuesday afternoon. We knew with the impending Hurricane Sandy, that we had many potential obstacles on our way out.  We didn’t want to leave.  We had to. We made the right decision! 

iPhone-13At 3pm, we reluctantly pulled away from our family in Abricot, leaving behind our sleeping and eating quarters, that would later be flooded with 4’ of water, covering our beds where we slept, and the tables where we ate.  We made it up out of an already muddy Abricot, on the road perched along a narrow step/ridge nestled high above the ocean on a steep mountain side that later would wash away in the storm.  We made it across the Jeremie bridges, that are now closed due to damage (Note: they should be open soon, our next team goes through there Saturday!).  We made it to the Ice River in Duchity.  But, that is where we sat, and sat, and sat, and sat.  We arrived at the Ice River at about 7pm Tuesday night, and immediately knew we were stuck.  We “slept” there in the RMI trucks at the rivers edge, taking in all the sights, hoping the water would recede.  It was an interesting night to say the least.  I think we all knew it would not recede, but we had to watch/hope.  Instead, it kept rising.  For days the river ravaged that narrow gorge.  We returned back out of the gorge at 3:45am, resigned to the fact that we weren’t going anywhere.  Sitting there at rivers edge, with the other frustrated crowds, seemed unwise and unproductive.  We backtracked about 5 minutes to the closest MEBSH church, in Duchity.  We “slept” on church benches above wet floors below a very leaky tin roof.  Some even “slept” standing up!  At about 6am, the pastor, who lives across the street came over to see what was happening.  Pastor and his wife immediately took action.  There wasn’t a question.  We were fellow members of The family.  Our team of 10 took over their house.  I’m not kidding.  For the next 3.5 days, we took over.  We filled their house, and they served us all day long.  There were 2 beds that the 4 ladies shared.  There was a back room where most of the guys slept on the floor.  Some slept in cars.  It was wet.  It was cold.  The food was a little scarce.  But, the team did AWESOME.  We persevered as we heard of additional mudslides that made the roads in front and behind impassable.  RMI worked every angle.  My phone and internet was more active than ever.  We considered every option.  Yet, there was only one option.  Wait for the water to recede. We had a roof over our heads and we were with people who cared.  The following statement is threaded with irony, but the Pastor shared with us that he can’t complain about his life. He was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and personal contentment when he saw the testimony on display by the team’s spirit through their great attitudes, laughter, willing sacrifice, spirit driven perseverance, confidence, hope, etc.  The NewChurch family back home should be proud of their team.  As we might say in the US, they were troopers!

All are home now, but we will never be the same due to the deep impact of this partnership, and from one deep river.

Pictures are available here.