Saturday, November 22, 2014

Doubtless Come Again Rejoicing

Landing in the Port au Prince airport, I was visually classified as non-Haitian so that my $10 tourist fee could be collected (my husband, Julian, reports that he passes as Haitian and avoids the fee). Upon being ushered into the baggage claim area, a man asked me if he could get me a luggage cart, and I conceded to receiving his assistance, since my luggage was in ill-repair and difficult to roll.  Tip due.  After rolling the cart a small distance, another man told me I needed to let him take the cart because he was responsible for it.  Tip due.  A moment later, two men were nearly fighting over my cart (a white woman landing in Haiti is obviously a target).

As we exited the building, my husband and a large welcoming committee received me and rescued me from the quarrelling assistants.  We loaded into a hired van with six Haitian friends and five other American visitors.

Upon beginning our three-hour trek to Gona├»ves, my senses were immediately peaked by the overwhelming smell of burning fires.  Food is cooked on charcoal and trash is burned.  Over the week, I found that one side benefit to the smoke may be that the mosquitoes are deterred, limiting their disturbance to the wee hours, when the fires may have subsided.

 As my husband has travelled upward of 25 times to Haiti, I’ve known many of the harsh realities that would confront me, but it is difficult to grasp the vastness of the landscape, and the multitudes.  

Along the streets there is a continual movement of souls, walking, walking; some grasping the hand of a child, some carrying a tremendous load upon their head.  The “motos”/motorcycles weave skillfully between the vehicles and pedestrians.  I quickly resolved that contemplating the precision of our driver would only serve to stress me, so I kept my eyes to the side window and watched the multitudes.  
 As our travels lasted many hours that first night, the sun went down and we beheld the darkness.  Looking past the spanse of the headlights, it would be easy to guess we were in a low-populated area, until we noticed the crowds gathered near the roadside, benefitting from the light of the headlights, selling food cooked on charcoal and enjoying the cool of the night.

Darkness is a reality.  In the city of Saint-Marc, the church/house building sits atop a hill, overlooking the city as well as the sea.  The city of 160,000 is barely aglow at night, with entire sections bathed in darkness. Most have no electricity.  No streetlights brighten the streets.  Pedestrians are dependent upon the constant beams of vehicles and motorcycles to navigate over rubble and avoid standing waters.  The Greater Grace building in Saint-Marc is blessed with a successful combination of generator, inverter with battery cells, and occasional public electricity (a couple hours a day).  This type of combination is an absolute luxury in Haiti and is a testimony to the generosity of the supporters of the missions work there.   For some coming to church means, among other things, getting out of the darkness in their homes to a lit environment.

We spent our first two days in the city of Gonaives for the purpose of a short conference and visits to two churches Sunday morning.  The pastors and young people who met us for the conference sessions gave me the first glimpse of the Haitians’ spiritual hunger and gracious hospitality.  We paired up with bi-linguals and did some street evangelism.  We stayed in a hotel that was set off with high walls.  Inside were flowering plants, running water and electricity. Outside, there was rubble, burning trash-piles visited by goats, dogs, chickens and pigs.  Rushing motorcycles squeezed their way between vehicles and pedestrians. Continual motion.

My husband led a group of us out on foot at night to go find a meal.  We hustled along the roadside to find the group of ladies he had purchased food from before.  Aluminum pots, three-foot in diameter, steamed over charcoal and produced meals of fish, hot-dogs, fried plantain and coleslaw.  Risky? Yes; but walking, riding, and existing in Haiti requires a measure of faith.  Every meal we ate in Haiti was so abundant that I found it a challenge to finish.

Visiting the churches of Pasteur Saul and Pasteur Wilson in the Gonaives area brought tears to my eyes.  To say their building structures were humble cannot encompass the reality.  Few buildings come to completion in Haiti.  Only a handful ever see paint and most are topped with metal spokes sitting atop, in high hopes of the opportunity to add another floor to the structure.  Cement blocks line the walls; beneath the structure, hundreds of people sit on simple wooden benches or plastic lawn chairs. They are lit by 2-3 lightbulbs that will doubtless flicker on and off several times during a meeting.  When the lights go out, people pull out their glowing cellphones and we remember we have not traveled back in time.

Their singing and worship is glorious.  The sheer volume astounds me.  They add clapping, hand-held percussion and a bit of piano (keyboard), but the vocal harmonies alone are beautiful!  

We “blanc” people are a spectacle.  The searching eyes of a child are completely satisfied to exchange a smile.  And they expected me.  Word that Pastor Julian’s “Madame” (wife) would visit had spread, and upon introduction there was a rush of excited applause. It was humbling…..

Karin and I decided that maybe we should have packed better clothes.  In a place where clothes are washed by hand and strung out beside the house to dry, where dust is upon your feet with two strides, the people dress beautifully and hold themselves with great dignity.  The children who prepared special music were dressed in shiny shoes, well-coordinated hair-ties and sang out their praise songs with all their strength.  I’m sure their praise was a well-received offering to our Heavenly Father.  I wept.

I wept more when I caught the glimpse of my husband.  That well-known glimpse from his seat with the pastors said, “now you know my passion”.  And we both wept.  I worked to hold back, wondering how a Haitian could understand our weeping.  How could they comprehend their beauty, how could they understand the gulf of difference in circumstance that surrounded their beauty?  Why did glimpsing their beauty make us weep?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Making Things Work: Bible College and Greater Grace Church, St. Marc, Haiti

Some rain was still expected, the last from the rainy season but the priority was getting ready for resuming Bible College classes… There was work to be done and all hands were available to assist.  It had been three months since the group visiting with Pastor Scibelli came in May.  The mud and debris buildup from the torrential rains had been cleared, now we needed to freshen things up.  The gate and foyer areas were painted, the purchase of supplies and items for the classes and student/pastors were delegated to others.  The steady flow of students began on Friday, September 11.  Classes began with thirty students; six are new.  Our newest long-distant student came from Mirabailis.  He traveled south, around and through the mountains 3 ½ hours to north to St. Marc.  All were excited to have a full classroom, eager to hear the Word taught and engage each other on relevant doctrines.  Here they are:

The extra air-mattresses donated by Pastor Dressel of Adventure in Missions made the two-night stay comfortable for those coming from six hours away.  All would participate in Sunday services prior to returning to towns such as Cape Haitien and St. Michel.  A great turn out for church services; we all shared a meal and continued through the afternoon with Bible College classes:

And of course the children were there, eager to learn, eager to participate:

Much time was spent teaching the elements of Body/Church life, of unity, of church growth and the necessity of identifying the gifts in the church, bringing them together and then allowing the commandment of God to bless the corporate Body’s/church’s experience.  Tony, a member from our church in Puerto Rico, assisted with this vision.  No place was too odd to teach these principles.

With the assistance of the soccer teams’ head coach, Denise and Gary Jiampetti (assistant coach, NJ) two teams were outfitted with uniforms, cleats and other soccer equipment.  After church on Sunday, the world cup was played in St. Marc.  Surely our outreach to the youth expanded that day.  They are now connected to the outer world of soccer:

Jeffte, was there, ready to assist in the distribution of soccer equipment to team members…

Let’s pray that many lives are changed using this treasured sport/outreach:

The work in St. Marc, Haiti is being done by the shared faith-support of many.  With notes scribbled in their best known English, the students, athletes and church members express their deep gratitude.  There is always an environment of hope and expectation.  Grace has been poured out in so many areas of the lives being impacted in this region of the world.  Bible College classes are scheduled for October 11th, 12th.

Some prayer requests, for:

·        Continued fervency to learn and apply Finish Work/Grace-oriented teaching by affiliating pastors/students (Haiti)
·        Team members: short & long-term (Haiti, Puerto Rico)
·        Finances to cover Bible College operations, building rental, travel (Haiti)
·        Bible College expansion (Dominican Republic)
·        General health for team members, wives, children (Puerto Rico)
·        Definition/vision for drawing and working with new missionary and home-school families (PR)
·        Ministry expansion to town of Aguadilla (Puerto Rico)
·        Elder members of church (Puerto Rico/general)…

P Julian Matthew
Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

Additional Photos:

Newest baby in St. Marc Church:

A little water for the walk home from church -- I was glad when mom said to me "let us go to the house of the Lord."

Robison: though handicap, faithful and always carrying a word of encouragement:

Our local barbershop -- a common scene among the young men. 

Beatrice assists with many things; holding down the ladder was one of the easier things she did the week of Bible College...

I think it's time to move over Harold!

Justin is not the supervisor... 

Pastor Precel's family.  What's in the bag, Pastor Precel?

A parade with tears, Lourdin's mom's funeral procession... 

"I can fix anything..."

So when are we going to eat?

Did Justin make any juice? Wedley is ready for the next best thing!

Looking up, looking out, seated above... Another sun-filled day in St. Marc...

Have questions about God's call on your life? Meet me in Haiti, I have something to tell you!...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

It Pleased the Lord to Bruise Him… Count it all Joy

Something happens deep in my heart preparing for the trips to Haiti. I am ever thankful for each return yet there are still pangs from realizing that I return, not going to Pastor Bill and Cheryl, but now to the resolve of Haitians to keep the work going… They are determined, built up and beautiful for such a time as this. I have been given reports of the giants, the wide chasms of misunderstanding, the Goliaths who tower over every attempt at transformation, even the certainty of the ground opening up and taking some more in… But if we, as a Church, are the Joshua of the Old Testament, then we have a Caleb in the person of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit assures us that no weapon formed against us shall prosper and the work and calling to which we go will definitely produce all that the Lord has decreed (Ish. 54:10-17; 55:11)
I head back to quiet confidences that all will go well for the Bible College this semester. I am slowly acquainting myself with a new phone which takes excellent photographs (sure hope I don’t lose it). Amid the familiar that dulls, I will need reminders of faces, places, people and situations that were touched by God Himself. I envision taking the motorcycle taxi to the high school principal and administrative offices to establish what the new semester demands of each student we support. I am rehearsing ways of saying “no,” without losing a soul or two, to those seeking things that are not part of the plan, budget or mission. I mentally make a transition to the reality of not having electricity and sending one of the young men to buy gas for the generator. Taking deep breaths before showers; they are five-gallon buckets of water drawn from the cistern, cold! Most of us in St. Marc have been primed for the ALS iced-water challenge. I go over already saying to myself, “Julian expect technological mess-ups and have grace reserved for them.” I will need to set the alarm clock before that weary hour (6:00 or 6:30 a.m.) comes when we must answer to the fervent raps on the metal gate by someone with an untimely situation.
With the Word of God we are agreeing that the best place for Haitians are not outside Haiti. Haiti needs Haitians to gather and speak of the wonders of God, who is not absent, aloof and unconcerned. By God’s grace we are impressing on hearts that the will of God is not on a main street or in the business district somewhere in a western country but rather to the unchartered provinces, to mountain villages and to prominent squatter communities. There they will find unsaved souls, desolate and parched hearts, places waiting to bloom because of the Seed of the Word of God and the watering of God’s righteousness --- The Glorious Gospel.
The group which accompanied Pastor Scibelli in May is planning a return November 2014. The buzz of excitement will be fuel for all the details needing to be covered. All the above mentioned need prayer. I however start on this path by giving thanks to God for each one who has committed this imperative (to pray). To each one who has by their finances, monthly supported the several ministries going on throughout this area of Haiti, Thanks! To each one who will come, has come and will come again; have also prayed and committed to the work financially, Thanks! To all, may God enlarge your containers as you go and draw from the reservoirs of His abundance…

For Continued Prayer and Commitment: 

*A clear vision for each new student
*An anointing for safety and renewal for returning students
*Definition for expanding the work, Bible College and 2015 Graduation
*Monthly financial support for the Sept-Dec. & Feb.-May traveling/Bible College expenses
*Bi-annual rental of school/church/Bible College/resident-missions building
*Excellent health for those traveling, supporting spouses/families
*Team members and short-term mission teams for Puerto Rico, Haiti & the Dominican Republic…
*The Caribbean – True establishment of a broad, multi-person/team, Regional base…

Leaning, yielding and joying in the Lord with you… P Julian