You know those special moments in life that God allows you to experience? The ones that break your heart, and build it back up? Not too long ago in Haiti we were blessed to be able to experience such an event.
As many of you are aware the earthquake in January 2010 left a lot of destruction in an already struggling country. Many of the dead were unknown at the time, so they were taken to a mass grave. Crosses were staked in the ground in memory of each person buried there. This has now become a memorial to the fallen in the earthquake. Over the past year, many of the crosses have fallen to the ground due to the wind and rain. It seemed to be that only about half of the total crosses were still standing and well over a hundred had fallen.
Seven of us, five Americans led by two Haitians, started heading in the direction of the fallen crosses. I don’t think our end goal was to pick up more than a few crosses each, but rather to honor the dead at this memorial. But as usually seems to happen, God had more in store than we had imagined. The number of people working side by side to honor the dead increased from seven to over seventy people in less than ten minutes. A group of Haitian farmers used their hands to dig new holes for the crosses while our vision trip team members pushed the crosses into the ground.
After the crosses had been righted, a circle began to form. A Haitian led us in singing the hymn “How Great Thou Art”. Kreyol and English were mixing together and it was a beautiful song of praise that surely reached heaven. The end result probably won’t fully be known until the other side of glory, but that day, to see Haitians and Americans working side by side in memory of those lost, is a moment that humbled all of us.
Our prayer now, is that the Haitian farmers would ask themselves, “What would drive a group of Americans to take the time to pick up a few dirty crosses?” And that the Americans would remember and wonder, “Who is really at the center of this act?” And that the answer would be…Jesus
Desire: an unassuming village on the outskirts of Gonaives, Haiti. When one is able to spend the afternoon in Desire, a few things stand out.
First and perhaps most obvious is the source of water. Just a few months ago the well, which was used by the surrounding community, was found to be contaminated and shut down. No one knew where water would come from but, by the grace of God, there turned out to be a spring not far from the old well. The funny thing about the spring is that it appears to come straight out of the side of a rock! It gives a perfect image of the Israelites drinking water from the rocks at Meribah when God told Moses to strike the rock with his staff. No complaint was heard about the long walk or the time it takes to fill up the buckets. The Haitians see the water for what it is: A gift from God, our Provider.
Second, at church the children probably outnumber the adults 10 to 1. The most amazing thing about this is how the Holy Spirit is working in these children. When asked, “Who does God love?” every child’s hand shot up in the air to demonstrate them saying, “Me!”
Third and most exciting is the developing relationship between the local church in Desire, and the church from the United States. This past week, members of this church traveled for two solid days in order to deepen that relationship. Because of my position with the GO Project, I’m able and joyful to see this relationship taking place. I can honestly look at this and see, obviously, that it is God ordained. I am really looking forward to watching how this relationship ripens, and witnessing the fruit that will come of it.
Some of the fruit is already evident, although it is wonderful that God has been providing water through a rock, he has recently provided funds, through this church, to build a new well on the village property. This will allow the village to open its arms with love to the surrounding area by providing clean water. Children in the village now have school available to them and the village has also been able to build its first permanent house for the children. It’s even getting ready for two more homes! All this because God decided to forge a relationship between two churches, and both responded in obedience.
The ultimate question
Of course our niche is orphan care, and no matter how messy it gets, we know that the Lord has called us to hold firm. I can’t help but ask how far the ripples of our ministry go.
I am overjoyed with the progress that has made in the past couple months, without having to look any farther than our own GO Haiti staff. We currently have five Haitian staff members who are able to become land owners, one former member of our house cleaning staff has been able to enroll in accounting school, and another staff member has just enrolled full time in construction school. Not to mention the 22 Haitians who have full or part time work with GO Haiti.
I’d say if there was any question as to whether or not we are making a positive difference, we need look no further than our own staff.
EXCITEMENT and hope often go hand in hand. The breeze blows lazily on a hot day. To the untrained eye this may appear to be just another summer day in Croix-des-bouquet, Haiti. But to the trained eye, there is a tangible difference in the air. Mademoiselle Troica, the head seamstress has waited months for this day. Her EXCITEMENT is absolutely contagious, EXCITEMENT begins to spread first in the employees of the new sewing center and quickly spreading to the kids, that this center will help support, and finally washes over the two vision trips who came to the grand opening of the sewing center. It is unmistakably the work of God that so many people would show up to support Haitian business enterprising, and to support some very amazing children. The thing that gets me so EXCITED is the hope that is found in the eyes of the men and women who believe that the Lord will bless their work.
When the time comes to dedicate the sewing, a few people step up to pray and talk about their experiences with the young sewing center. Jake Barreth, director of operations for Haiti spoke briefly of the joy he has had in being able to be a part in this plan that God is forging. After him Alan Dietrich, gave a prayer of dedication. Following Alan, on of our village pastors, pastor Calixte gave a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving and dedication.
To be at this event, in the middle of the Lord’s plan, can only be described as EXCITING!
In January 2011 we had the amazing opportunity to travel to the Holy Land with Southern Nazarene University. Our time there was packed from start to finish so we’ll just share some of the highlights!
After a series of long flights we landed in Jordan where we spent two nights. While in Jordan we had the opportunity to go to The ancient city of Jerash, a city of the decapolis. We also got to visit a house church in Jordan which was incredible! The people there truly live out their faith in amazing ways. Then we stopped by the beautiful Jabbok river, where Jacob wrestled God, earning himself the name Israel. The next day he and his family crossed the river and made peace with Esau. After seeing the Jabbok river we took a driving tour of Amman and were extremely impressed with the beauty of the city.
The next day we took the route out of Jordan, into the land of Israel! On the way out we stopped at Mount Nebo where God showed Moses the holy land. He saw a land filled with milk and honey and we got to see it, too! Also the last chapter of exodus tells us that God buried Moses here in an unknown spot. And in 2 Maccabees 2:4-7 it says that the ark of the covenant is buried here…Indiana Jones was looking in the wrong spot! After our stop at Nebo we crossed the Israeli border in record time and finally arrived in the holy land. I guess it usually takes a while to cross borders but we must have been lucky. We met our bus driver and traveled through no-mans land, where bedouin shepherds camped. Their tents and sheep lined the desert hills. On our way to Nazareth we stopped at Jericho, the oldest city in the world! From Jericho we were able to see the temptation mount, where satan tried to tempt Jesus into sin…fail. After a wonderful falafel lunch in Jericho we headed over to yardenit, which is the part of the Jordan river where people can be baptized. It looked like an amazing rain forest cut out of the desert! It was absolutely beautiful. After a very long day we finally made it to Nazareth. We visited a place called Megiddo which overlooks the fertile Jezreel valley. King Ahab built a waterway at the time of Hosea and Amos here and we got to walk through it! This is how they got water while under siege because the water source was outside city walls. There was also a big grainery here and is referenced in the Bible when Amos and Hosea chastised Ahab for his opulence.
We were able to go to a place called the House of Hope. A man named Elias Jabbour met and greeted us with falafel, hummus and some other delicious foods. He spoke to us about peace in the Holy Land and we were so impressed with his passion for God and for peacemaking. We didn’t want lunch to end, we just wanted to keep listening to his Jabbour’s jokes and eloquent speech. He said, “We’ve tried war, so let’s try peace. If it doesn’t work, we can always just go back to war.” He told us we can help by spreading the word about the need for peace and also by praying for them.
Then we went to the basilica of the annunciation which commemorates the place where the angel Gabriel told Mary she would have a son and name him Jesus. It started raining but we all wanted to roam the streets of Nazareth. We explored the bright colored textiles, and the fruit! I got a pomegranate and John got some olive oil. They are the biggest exporters of olive oil! Also, they have the largest and yummiest pomegranates I’ve ever had! I bought at least one every day! They were only like 10 shekels so how could I resist.
Another amazing thing we got to do was sail on a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Yep, the sea where Jesus walked on water! We sang worship songs in Hebrew and enjoyed the sun and water. It was an incredible experience! We learned, “Kadosh Adonai Elohim sev rah ot.” It means, “Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” (but I’m not sure of the spelling!) Our captain showed us how to fish with the same sort of net that Jesus and his disciples would have used. We had communion on the Mount of Beatitudes and visited the primacy of Peter where supposedly Jesus forgave Peter for denying him 3 times. We went to Tabgha where they say Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes for the 5,000, visited the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, a grotto where Jesus was supposedly arrested, the church of the Nativity, and shepherds fields commemorating where the shepherds watched their flocks by night. We decided to collect nativity scenes from everywhere we travel and so we bought one carved from olive wood in Bethlehem.
We got olive oil soap and visited Jacob’s well. This is the place where Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman! The dead sea was a fantastic place. It’s so salty you can just float! And the mud I guess is really good for your skin. We visited Qumran where they found the dead sea scrolls so that was pretty neat, too. We got to ride a camel, visit the old city of Jerusalem, play soccer with kids in Palestine, visit the wailing wall, walk the real stations of the cross, wander through a bunch of markets, talk with the most hospitable people we’ve ever met, and eat pita and pomegranates in the holy land! The Bible truly came to life on this trip!!
We just got back from Haiti this week and have been trying to really process what God did in our lives. We spent the entire trip loving on and playing with orphans at an orphanage dedicated to supporting earthquake victims. It’s truly amazing to see God’s heart for the poor. We are so privileged to have been able to go! There are two kids we want to tell you about, Ellison and Jamison.
Ellison is a seven year old boy who is only as big as a four year old. He is cute and fun and the most joyful kid either of us had ever met. This is so striking after hearing his story. Ellison was found in the trash after being thrown away by his father who just couldn’t care for him anymore. Sadness isn’t what you feel, though, when you see him on John’s shoulders singing, “Jezi remen tout ti moun…” (“Jesus loves the little children…”). God loves this little boy and Ellison knows it!
Jamison is another seven year old boy and he is one of the most beautiful kids! He has brown eyes, light brown skin (not the stereotypical Haitian), and a shy smile. He barely talked and when he did, we couldn’t distinguish his “wi” from his “non”. At first he seemed really sad but we found him slowly warming up to us. Needless to say, he captured our hearts. We later found out that he had seemed sad because his mother had recently been in contact with him, only to leave him again. He would always be so silent that he’d just fall asleep in our arms! Once John started running around with him, we had the privilege of seeing him smile. What a joy!
Now we want to tell you a little bit about the organization that we went with. The Global Orphan Project’s (GO project) mission statement is so unique compared to other mission organizations. Their goal is to empower native leaders to continue ministry in the name of Jesus. In order to accomplish this the GO project partners with local pastors and works with them until they are able to function on their own. This develops a culturally sensitive ministry that is able to fulfill the needs of the surrounding area.
We are so blessed to have visited Haiti with an organization that has such commitment and wisdom! God truly blesses us.
Forever in Service,
John and Abigail