|Haiti: June 2008|
This was my ninth trip to Haiti. Before I tell what all we did and the results from our efforts, let me give a little history... Pastor Bob has been ministering in Haiti for more than thirty years. He started out in Port-au-Prince, but had a vision to move to a more remote area away from the urban center. Poppy and Mommy are a Haitian couple who have been with him from the early days. When Pastor Bob was able to locate and purchase a property, Poppy worked 12+ hour days with only a handful of peanuts to eat to get it ready. Through the years, they've built several buildings and made a comfortable, safe environment for mission teams to come visit. I've been visiting since the summer of 2002.
And we're off...
This trip we really hit the ground running. The day after we arrive, we generally unpack all of the food, clothes, gifts, and other supplies that we've brought and then take it easy the rest of the day. This time, though, we unpacked and then had our first service that evening.
Most people who know me know that I love bread. The older I get, the more I'm reminded that my days of freely indulging in wheat-based goodness may be numbered (at least without major consequences - for now, though, I press on). For me personally, but more so for the orphanage, it's great news that the bakery is built and operating! When our team went this past December, a bakery at the orphanage was only an idea. Pastor Winston allocated $1000 to get the project started and then they took out a loan to make it operational. After we unpacked, they were really excited to show it off. Apart from having as much bread as we wanted available, the bakery employs several people and they sell it along the highway...a tasty economic boost. Oh, and we were able to pay off the loan and supply enough money to bring the project to completion.
Before the trip, we talked about ministering to people who had never heard the gospel before and set that as one of our goals. We didn't get to head off into the wild, but we did get to reach out in a place we never have before. Pastor Bob has another property about a 20 minute drive from the orphanage. It's on the ocean so we've been there to swim, but for the first time, we held a service right there in the yard.
The area where the beach house is located isn't very developed and requires a pretty rough drive away from the highway. There's no electricity there so we went in the afternoon before dinner to take advantage of daylight while it lasted. Someone may have done ministry in the area before, but we don't know who, when or how effective it might have been. Regardless of the past, though, we were determined to present the gospel of Jesus to whoever came. At the end of the day, it was a great goal. Five people accepted Jesus as their savior and we were able to pray for many others. During the altar time, some of our kids from the orphanage were praying with people, too. As things were winding down, they had Sara come over and prayed for her. It's awesome to see them stepping up for God and taking an increasingly active role in ministry.
Covering more ground
Over the years we've established relationships with several pastors. When one of our goals is to try to reach out to new places, it becomes increasingly difficult to have a service at each church we already know. That's why one day, Pastor Winston put me in charge of leading part of our team to the mountain church, while he led the rest to the Villsua's church. There was a miscommunication, so when we arrived at the mountain church, only the pastor was there. He rounded up several of the church members, and though it was a small group, we had a great service. Probably the best thing was that we really got to pray for everyone who came. From what I heard about the Villsua service, it was amazing...and there was one salvation.
For the youth
Another of our primary objectives during this trip was to focus on the youth and purposefully minister to the teenagers. We had two youth services, and had our kids promote it and get the word out. The first one went really well and we had a great prayer time. The second one was amazing. More than eighty kids showed up and after worship, testimonies and a great message by Jessica, many of them responded to the altar call, including 11 for salvation. An older lady who wandered into the service came forward for salvation, too. Afterwards, we gave out bread to everyone.
So all the services... three at our church at the orphanage, two in Grand Goave, one at the beach house, one at the Villsua's, one at the mountain church and two youth services.
One of the days when we went out to visit people, we saw a friend of ours named Kaul. She is a member of the church and whenever she sees us going to visit and pray for people, she joins our group and goes with us. Last time, she said she was praying for a house. When we saw her on this trip, she was excited to show us where her house is being built! That's a great testimony, but there's more to the story... Before she showed us her house-under-construction, she took us to visit her parents and siblings. Their house is one I know well.
On my very first trip to Haiti, there was a Voodoo priestess named Adelle who was very sick. She had gone to doctors and tried everything she could to get better, but kept getting worse. After exhausting all of her other options she sent for our team to come pray for her after one of our services. Pastor Winston went in to talk with her while the rest of the team interceded outside. Adelle accepted Jesus and rejected Voodoo that night and over the next few days, she started getting better. We visited her several times and, with her permission, destroyed all of the things that she had used in practicing Voodoo.
Adelle was healthier and started attending church, but died several months later. Her house became a refuge for travelers...a safe place they could stop for the night. And now, that same house is where Kaul's family lives. I marveled at the transformation I had seen...from a place where evil things were done to a refuge for strangers to a place of blessing for a godly family... God has redeemed this property and can redeem this nation!
We bring as much as we can...clothes, shoes, food, medicine, toilet paper, toys. Luggage weight restrictions are getting harder to deal with, but Jessica and Sara have a lot of practice and maximize our effectiveness. Pastor Winston made a big push this time to really bring a lot of money to take care of needs and make some dreams possible. I already mentioned the bakery as one example. Without giving too much detail, I'll say that this trip was, by far, the most we've ever been able to give.
Again on this trip, there is an example of God's timing. At the end of the trip, we always buy some rice and beans to give away, along with clothes, to some families who are special to us. We had not visited Nicole until the day we distributed these gifts. They had no food and we learned that Nicole has been in the hospital some since we visited in December. God has used us to help this family a lot over the years and once again brought us to them at just the right time.
On top of needs, we really like to bless our Haitian family... "Christmas in July" has basically become a tradition. Jessica and Sara shop for all the kids (some practical things, but definitely some fun things). On the day it's scheduled we decorate and wrap gifts while the meal is being prepared and then serve the Haitians, young and old. After everyone has had plenty to eat, it's time for the presents. The little boys were excited about toys trucks and Spiderman cards. The little girls loved the Hello Kitty bags. And the older guys were especially thrilled with the wallets with chains. Earlier that day, Pastor Winston said that he wanted the Haitians to go to bed that night knowing that we loved them. From the embraces we received after all the presents had been opened, they did.