Wow, I for sure posted a great blog reviewing all of January's activities, but seems it was all for not, as it has disappeared into cyberspace. :(
To check out photos and what's been happening though, check out our FaceBook page for Haiti ARISE Ministries, or Lisa Honorat.
Wow, I for sure posted a great blog reviewing all of January's activities, but seems it was all for not, as it has disappeared into cyberspace. :(
It has been a wonderful holiday season for our family and for celebrating the wonderful things God has done through Haiti ARISE Ministries. It is hard to believe that we are in our tenth year of ministry! We had a fabulous Christmas Appreciation dinner with our partners on Dec 13th. About 50 people came out to Silver Willow Sporting Club in Carstairs, AB to celebrate A Night to Remember with us. We had special music from the Lapp family, which was a beautiful tribute to our Saviour. Then we shared a slideshow update of what's happened recently in Haiti. It was very encouraging. We had gifts people could win at each table and a magnificent raffle basket that Pastor Ed Allan, from Daystar Christian Fellowship in Leduc, won. His wife was for sure blessed to find all the treasures he brought home for her, a basket donated by Elisa Humphreys of more than $450 value!
That weekend we took a jaunt out to Rocky Mountain House and shared at Rocky Mountain Alliance Church. We got to take the kids to the Christmas Lights Parade the Saturday eve. Marc, Austin and I stayed inside a storefront that had hot cocoa and treats and lots of other 'wimpy to the cold' people hanging out inside. The girls were thrilled to hang outside, despite the -20 weather, to catch candy and wave at the lit up vehicles passing by.
This weekend I sang in an interdenominational Christmas choir at Airdrie Alliance and lots of friends and family got to come out to watch. It was a beautiful set of worshipful Christmas songs, about 20 songs. After I returned from Haiti in Oct, I got to join the practices in November with a wonderful group of singers and orchestra players. It's been a great opportunity to get to know the Airdrie community better and build some new friendships here. Asher and Miesha even sang in the choir too. After the concert yesterday all of our friends and family came to our house to hang out and have lots of yummy food. It was so nice to have a houseful, even though our place is small.
This is definitely a season to rejoice in all that God is doing...
But then at the same time, unexpected sorrows show up. We got a call early this morning from Haiti from one of our leaders. A young man in our church named Eli, who use to play electric guitar in our worship team, was suddenly killed yesterday in a motorcycle accident. Such a tragedy for this family at this time. This young man was bright and talented. He lived in Petit Goave and would travel every other day to come be a part of our church services. His family was fortunate to be the recipients of the 50th home we built through the EachONE BuildONE Home Rebuilding Program. He has 8 brothers and sisters in his family and one of his brothers just passed away last month from a long battle with a flesh eating disease similar to leprosy. Now the family has been hit again with another loss.
Accidents remain accidents, but this situation with Eli should not have happened. There were so many facotrs wrong that caused this accident, which make it hard to comprehend why Haiti even allows these motorcycles to be so prevalent. Evidently, he was on the natioanal highway between Grand Goave and Petit Goave heading home. A heardsman was crossing the street with his heard of cattle. Eli slowed down, but still could not avoid hitting one of the cows, which sent him falling from his motorbike. He was stunned and hurt, but still alive... until seconds later. A following taptap (small pickup truck used as a taxi) that was probably traveling too fast or too close and may not have had proper brakes, or a licensed driver for that matter, ran over him, killing him instantly. The part that outrages me the most is that the taptap, full of passengers in the back, did not even stop.... it's these kinds of situations that we face often in Haiti that stir me to want to be an even stronger advocate for change in that nation. Too many meaningless accidents, wasted young lives, from thoughtless unnecessary and lawless acts.
We ask for your prayers at this time for this family, for our church family and for our young people who were close to Eli. We also ask for your prayers for changes to happen in Haiti, to help development come, laws be made and enforced to protect its citizens and young people.
Sorry to share such heavy news with you all. The sorrows of this life are often sudden, rarely forseeable, even though we may have warnings, and can come at inopportune times. But we do have the hope of Heaven to remind us that one day we will no longer endure these sorrows. And at this time of year, what better reminder than the story of Jesus sent as a babe to save us and provide us that access to an eternal hope. We pray that all of you have a wonderful Christmas season.
In the midst of all the work and stress that comes along with full time operations of ministry and construction and staffing, Marc and the long term missionaries took a short weekend trip to clear their heads and breathe some air on the other end of the island. They took a long trek to northern Haiti, to Cap Haitian. That's a long trip for 8 people in a vehicle made for 5-7. Makes for a bonding time. They got to visit Laberdee, which is a beach off the northern coast near Cap Haitien where the cruise ships stop. Major revenue goes right to the Haitian government from the cruise ships docking there and none of the locals benefit from those funds. The beach is closed to locals on days that the cruise ships are docked and they don't even tell passengers that they have landed in Haiti. They say Labadi is a private island off the coast of Hispaniola. At any rate, Laberdee is a beautiful paradise, how all of Haiti should look.
Then they got to go to the Citadel. The mountaintop fortress is the largest in the world and was built by Henri Christophe, a key leader during the Haitian slave rebellion, after Haiti gained independence from France at the beginning of the 19th century. The massive stone structure was built by up to 20,000 workers between 1805 and 1820 as part of a system of fortifications designed to keep the newly independent nation of Haiti safe from French incursions. It's an amazing place. The Haitians outfitted the fortress with 365 cannons of varying size. These were obtained from various nations, and still bear the crests of 18th Century monarchs. Enormous stockpiles of cannonballs still sit in pyramidal stacks at the base of the fortress walls. Since its construction, the fortress has withstood numerous earthquakes, though a French attack never came and it was eventually abandoned.
So, I am officially jealous, being over here in Alberta in -12 blizzardy weather, while Marc and our friends got to tour this great historical monument in Haiti. Why am I hear again? No, honestly, I am blessed that I get to have this time with the kids here, though I miss being with Marc and everyone in Haiti and I am very eager to get back there in the New Year.
You can see some great photos of their trip that Cassie VanCamp has posted on her Facebook page
Here are a few photos from their adventure:
It has been so fun watching the students keen to come learn all they can in computers, construction, tiling, plumbing and electrical, with of course some fun in English with Cassie, our larger than life smiles of a girl! Marc's been snapping lots of pictures of the action and the WA Computer Lab team shared this great update with their church, Grays Harbor Foursquare, when they got home.
And here are some fun photos of all the action. (if you've received this blog update by email, click on this link to view the actual post with photos: http://www.haitiarise.org/hear-our-heart-blog/ )
OUR AMAZING GOD
What an amazing 10 days in Haiti! It is so awesome to see God’s hand literally moving in tangible and visible ways on our behalf. He truly is accomplishing all of His promises that He gave us when He first planted the vision of Haiti ARISE in our hearts just over 10 years ago. He has been so faithful to complete what He has started in us and in Haiti and we are honored and in awe that He has used us to do it! So first and foremost, before I share all the great stories, we want to give glory to God, whom it is due first! And then we want to thank all of you who have stood by us, believed with us and this vision, supported us in your prayers and contributions and have come alongside to see each step fulfilled.
So let me just remind you of the vision of Haiti ARISE, that we felt God gave us back in 2003 and share with you how God is fulfilling each part of the vision. Our heart desire is to raise up godly leaders and strengthen the Haitian people spiritually while expanding their skill base so that they can bring positive change around them. And here is how we are doing it:
Our central venue for raising up godly leaders and strengthening the Haitians is the local church. We share the gospel, teach people love God and others, how to better care for their families, strengthen their marriages and be better citizens. On our very first trip back in 2003 to start the foundations of Haiti ARISE was for the buildings of the Bible College and Tech School, but God made it clear that the foundation was to be the church. In less than 2 weeks 45 people had accepted Christ and the church was birthed. Today, the church is literally bursting forth. Every Sunday there are not enough chairs and room for everyone coming. Over the summer our church leaders planned two months of prayer and fasting and then finished with a weekend of revival services. The result was more than 60 people giving their lives to Christ, and many people being healed of sickness and serious diseases. One woman had ovarian cancer with a tumor larger than a grapefruit and was scheduled to go in for an operation. She had gone twice for her appointment and each time there was some reason from the hospital the operation could not be done- no anesthesia, and not the right medication. Then she was prayed for in the services. When she went in the third time, she asked the doctor to do second ultrasound check and when they did the doctor said the cancer was completely gone! Out of these months of prayer and fasting, the women’s group were also led to go on a local mission to visit the hospitals and prisons in our area. The women all brought items to take along, like soap, feminine hygiene products, clothing, food etc. They had so much to give away that they were even able to leave extra with the prison guards for the prisoners to use later AND they made enough food to feed all the prisoners and hospital patients that they visited. While I was in Haiti this past week I got to meet with the ladies and hear these amazing reports, as well as with the young girls club and share gifts with them and teaching about feminine hygiene and purity as young women. I am amazed how God is using the Haitians to fulfill this vision by bringing good news to others and positive change!
TECHNICAL & BIBLE COLLEGE
It has always been one of our top priorities to work on developing and offering skills to the young people in our communities of Haiti so that they can in turn provide for themselves, their families and their country. It has been an amazing journey, especially since Marc and I are not “technically” skilled people at all, to see how God has brought alongside us so many people to help in this part of the vision. We were thrilled back in 2009 to see the fruit of the first part of the vision being accomplished and when the 2010 earthquake happened, we felt that God spoke to us about giving to Him as our tithe and sacrificial offering, the building that we had labored over for the previous seven years. It was the first part of the big vision God had given and we knew that if we obeyed him in giving it back to Him, He would fulfill His promises to build all the rest. And He has! We are just 3 years after the earthquake, with a beautifully finished building twice the size of the original and almost already as many students as we had in Dec 2009. On Oct 7, 2013 we re-opened classes in the Technical College with over 280 students in Bible, computers, ESL, construction, tiling, electricity and plumbing! Isn’t that amazing?! The campus is buzzing with young people, motor bikes, cars and backpacks. Marc spent all last week in meetings with each teacher working out salaries and positions. Roy Ralph is back in Haiti with us again to help on the start of the Shops for carpentry, mechanics and welding. And we had a team of guys from Montesano, WA come to help install the new computer lab, which we have heard is possibly the best in the country!
Educating children as well as young people has always been a part of the vision since the start. The 2010 earthquake helped propel us forward into opening the school in response to so many local schools being lost. We did not imagine this element of Haiti ARISE becoming such a catalyst for changing our community, but it has. Children that had never had an opportunity to attend school before now have it. This school year that just ended was a real celebration. We graduated our first group of kindergarten kids who started in our school in preschool. There was a huge party for them, all organized and planned by the great staff and teachers of these classes, recognizing this milestone in the lives of these young children who will become leaders of our future. We also had our first class of six graders moving up into secondary school take their official exams and every single one of them passed with flying colors! This is unheard of in most schools!
Another major piece of raising up leaders and giving them skills comes the essential element of health. When we first put this part of our goals on paper ten years ago, we had no idea how God would accomplish this one. And then in 2005 He began to unfold the process by partnering us with Hungry For Life and Dr. Bob Cutler from Cranbrook, BC. This man’s vision for building and supporting a local clinic in Haiti fit right along with ours to teach the people skills and positively impact their communities. It has been a huge answer to prayer to see the medical clinic now fully operating on a regular weekly basis with full-time Haiti staff. They are doing a fabulous job providing quality care and the number of patients coming from all over has steadily increased since last spring. They now see an average about 50 patients a day, 3 days a week. They also do health teaching seminars monthly and weekly home follow-up visits with many patients, some that live far up the mountain. God is not only helping raise up those that come for care, but also using the local Haitians to make it happen. They are being strengthened and supported by the medical teams that will still be coming alongside to assist. Our next medical team from HFL, with Dr. Bob, comes this November.
A goal that has been dear to Marc’s heart since the start is the Children’s Village, because of his own upbringing and experience, first as a slave, then in an orphanage. Over the last ten years, since we started, there has been so many times that we have come across abandoned, slave or orphaned children and wished so much that the Children’s Village was already open. So to now see it materializing and coming close to opening is so exciting. We will be continuing to work on the first two duplexes this fall and winter to get ready for opening this coming year. We are looking for teams to come help now with tiling, painting and cabinet making. We are also thrilled for the support of so many through our fundraising campaigns this summer. Thank you!
And lastly, the desire to see sustainable food production through an agricultural program and goat farm is developing. We were so blessed to have Laurens and Louisa Vanvliet travel with us to Haiti this month to work on the garden and envision some plans for the training program for agriculture and husbandry. They plan to return in the new year to help start classes and training, working alongside a Haitian teacher. We also are getting ready to get goats into the farm to start raising them for meat and then dairy.
COMMUNITY TRANSFORMATION PROJECTS
I also just want to make mention of the other projects that reach outside of our campus walls and into the community to help bring lasting change, because as you’ll see here in a minute, the numbers are significant.
Our Education Fund program has exploded and we have a number of students who have graduated high school and gone on to college through the support of the program. We will keep helping students with schooling as long as we have opportunity. We are also excited about partnering with Childcare International to help find sponsors for our students.
Our EachONE BuildONE program continues to provide sustainable and secure housing for families that were victim to the 2010 earthquake. We have built more than 50 and will continue as we have funds.
The more than 15 wells that we have drilled throughout the surrounding communities continue to provide water and will soon also be outfitted with clean water filters.
And then there is the very practical program of meeting physical needs of people through food and clothing distributions. Our church distributed rice twice this summer. We also give monthly provisions to a group of about 10-15 widows and a few babies.
All of these things are actually happening now! Every single point of our goals and plans are being accomplished. Now, I just want to point out that when God asked us to give our tithe back in 2010, after seven years of our sweat and labor, and He promised to build all the rest, He has... in three years! And don’t you know, that numbers are so significant to Him, there are actually ten points in our list of goals of the vision that God gave us for Haiti ARISE. God established the first, the Church. We worked hard to establish the Technical and Bible College as our first point. It took us twice as long to do that one part as it did for God to accomplish all the rest and both the numbers 7 and 3 are numbers that represent completion. Isn’t God amazing?!
So I was so encouraged by this short 10 day trip and sad to be staying so short this fall. Marc will be in Haiti for another 5 weeks while I am back in Canada with the kids. Then we will all head back down for New Years. I can’t wait!
We have just 10 days left now til we arrive back in Haiti. I am getting very eager to go. We have one bag already packed and have a list of shopping to do, which I am convinced will not fit in just one more bag, so we will probably end up paying extra... unless Marc still gets Priority Access with American Airlines. Hey, maybe we will even get bumped to first class! That sure would be nice. More leg room and maybe even a good sleep on the plane would be so wonderful. With all his travels, we are sure to still have secured his status. He just came back from a short trip to Haiti in Sept with Jason Quantz to check in on things before our AGM.
We had another trip down to Portland, Oregon for the Minister's Fellowship International annual conference and it was wonderful, inspiring and vision refreshing. The worship was powerful and we got to reconnect with a lot of pastors and leaders in the Northwest area of Canada and US. We already have a list of churches to visit next summer in WA, OR and CA!
We also spoke at Prosser Community Church, Castlegar Christian Fellowship and Kootenay Christian Fellowship while on this trip. It was great visiting and catching up with our friends at these churches. We are especially excited for PCC and KCF, who have both recently obtained new properties. KCF is in their new church building and there is such an electrifying atmosphere of faith and joy in the place! They also host Our Daily Bread, an outreach that serves hot meals 3 days a week to the community, which brings in lots of interesting folks, some searching for Jesus, some just for a warm place and some food. This is what Jesus calls us to though, as he said to the disciples, "I was hungry and you fed me..." With this kind of ministry poses some of it's own challenges though, dealing with folks that may not be so friendly, smell very good, or be in their right minds. We had one intriguing visitor the day we were there that didn't seem to follow much of what was happening in the service except for the coffee pot and snacks. He tried to snag one of our books from our display table, but Asher was sly and got it back when he set it down on a table. Nonetheless, I prayed for him during worship time, unbenounced to him.
We made the long drive back to Airdrie on Monday and have been slammed busy the last few days with appointments, kids activities and preparing to travel. We've had so much fun watching our kids grow and become more and more confident in who they are, especially in singing and dancing and praising the Lord. We have also had some very encouraging meetings with groups who want to partner with Haiti ARISE. God is amazing and has been giving us His grace and favor. We thank Him for His leading and direction as He provides the way as we go forward in all He has called us to. I have also enjoyed us getting more involved in our community here and getting to know more people in businesses as well as families in the Christian circles. We have put Jasmine in to kindergarten at the Airdrie Koinonia Christian School and have gotten to meet lots of wonderful folks. The school even invited us to share about Haiti ARISE with all the students already in 3 different chapel services with all the grade levels. That is something Marc and I really enjoy- sharing our testimony and inspiring children and young people to follow God's heart and calling on their lives. Who knows, maybe one student who heard us speak will become a nation changer because of the words we were able to share. All praise to Jesus!
Well, as we get packed up and ready to go, we have some of our long term missionaries already on their way and preparing too that we will meet when we get there. Cassie VanCamp left yesterday and arrived in Haiti today. She was supposed to be accompanied by Wade and Marilyn Fitzpatrick, but they missed their first flight out of Regina, SK and then Wade got really sick, so they missed their second rebooked flight too! Hopefully, with no more illness, they will be on their way tomorrow. Joe Park heads down on Wed, then Roy Ralph will head down with Marc and I on Friday, as well as a group of four from Montesano, WA. Darrell Damron, who used to be HAM USA's Vice President, his daughter Hannah, Jack Funk and one other gentleman will be coming down to help re-install the computer lab in the new school. Jack and Darrell were the ones that did the first lab in our original building, so it is fitting that they get to come and do it again! Jack was able to secure 30 laptops for just under $9,000 US, so their bags are all packed with all the gear! We also have Louisa and Laurens Vanvliet from Agassiz, BC coming down for the week to help assess our agricultural needs with the hopes of returning to work with us in the new year to get the goat farm and garden projects jump started.
I personally can't wait to see everyone again in Haiti, reconnect, help out with the teams, help get Marilyn working in the office with Geanne and enjoy the heat. It will be a short 10 days for me though, as I will return back to the kiddos to the great white north- fortunately we have no snow yet and I sure hope that it will hold off til after I am back so I don't have to endure that climate change shock on my way back. Marc and the rest of our long term missionaries will be down there til mid Dec, then we will all come home for a short break and back down again for the first of the new year, this time with the whole family. Miesha is eager to see her puppies, which are not so small anymore and I am not so eager to have to train them.
You can follow our Long Term Missionaries' Blog on our website, or one of their personal blogs by going to their link. You can even subscribe to get any posts by email when you Become an Online Member and then visit that page and subscribe after you are signed in. You can also do this for the Team Blog, which will be active as soon as the first team also hits the ground. We will be running, so keep up with us!
It has been a great summer of traveling, speaking and fundraising. We are getting close to the end of our circuit of touring as the fall has rolled in and we gear up to go back to Haiti soon. After traveling literally from coast to coast across Canada, we've spent the month of August and September in Alberta and enjoyed having some family focused time, while just traveling on the weekends to speak at churches from Gand Prairie, Leduc, Medicine Hat, Carstairs, Strathmore and Calgary. The kids have had some time to join some activities again- taekwondoe, dance, gymnastics and music and we've had some 'normal' North American family life. Its been good, but we are now getting eager to get back to Haiti.
We held our AGM for Haiti ARISE on Sept 14th and it was wonderful, a real celebration of all that God has done this year. It was very encouraging hearing reports from each department and committee head members updating everyone on the status of things. Rebecca Girvan shared how the Education Fund program has grown in tremendous ways this year, with more than 150 kids sponsored in our elementary school and 80 more in other secondary and post secondary schools. We had a number of students graduate this year and most all of them are continuing on to college with the support of the Education Fund, which is very exciting. Michelle Guenther and Wade and Marilyn shared how we have had some very productive teams this year and how lives have been changed through these trips, Haitians and North Americans alike. We heard a report on the medical clinic from Diane Sampson, who worked with us for 3 months to get the clinic up and oopperating this past spring, and Leah who is our Haitian administrator. The Haitian staff are doing a fabulous job and have really captured the vision and heart for the clinic to be serving the communi. They do regular teaching and community visits and are seeing almost 50 patients a day, three days a week. kathleen Harrison shared an update on the progress of the Childrens Village and how we are pactively fundraising to get the first two duplexes finished and operational in 2014. Marc and Jason Quantz shared a report on the tech school getting ready to open for classes this coming Oct 7! We have a beautiful building and have more than 100 students registered for electricty, plumbing, computers, English, Bible and construction. We are working on getting it furnished and equipped for these classes. A group of guys from WA state are coming down to help set up the new computer lab- the same team that installed the original lab before the earthquake happened in the original school. Then I shared about the excited opportunities we have to partner with some other organizations to maximize our impact- Childcare International is partnering with us to help get 50 more students in our elementary school sponsored, and STM Network is partnering with us to help train our mid to long term missionaries. Jessie Lawnce gave a financial update and let everyone know that she will be resigning at the end of December from her role as Chief Financial Officer. She will still be involved, but wants to play a more in the background role. Michelle Guenther will be stepping in as Financial Manager as well as maintaining her role as Team Coordinator. We are still in need of a CFO to sit on the board and work with Michelle, as well as a controller to help work on the ground in Haiti. We are also looking for a volunteer coordinator and people to continue to help with fundraising.
Phew! That is a lot! It has been a busy year and summer and we have been so blessed too by the response of many churches and individuals support in helping us reach our fundraising goals. We are still not there yet, but striving forward.
I am getting anxious to get back to Haiti. I miss the Haitian brothers and sisters so much, their vivacity for life and generous, simple lifestyles. I find life up here in Canada to be so complicated, too many distractions and responsibiliti to balance that go along with owning a home and running a family in this culture. Haitian life, though there are still responsibilities, just seems simpler. Expressions of faith are unashamedly spoken freely and anywhere, materialism does not consume people's minds and hearts, even dressing is simpler in only one year around season of hot weather. The kids gain a deeper appreciation and gratitude as well when they are daily encountering poverty and befriending children that have much less than they do. I love watching them process and learn for themselves the rewards of living generously and sacrificially. Though this is more challenging to do in Canada since the needs do not seem as glaringly obvious as they are in Haiti, we have been able to enjoy developing relationships within our community and reach out to people with God's love when the oprtunities arise. As the kids are getting older now and are just as much a part of this lifestyle of ministry as it is our calling, we are giving them some say in our annual plans. They love Haiti and they love Canada and desire to be a part of both cultures equally. So I am planning again this year to stay in Canada with the kids til after Christmas. I will head down with Marc to Haiti in Oct just for one week, to help get things jump started for the fall with our long term missionary staff and then leave Marc there to lead. (He's a great leader, by the way) he will come back for Christmas and then we will all head back 1st of January for the rest of the school year. This plan also helps us save some money on flights and travel.
So, that's where we are at! Actually, we are in the car, where we spend a lot of time with the family. We've become pros at packing small carryon bags, each person responsible for their own backpack of books and toys. we've got our snacks and ipad and cell phone and so manage to save some footroom. We are on our way down to WA to share at Prosser Community Church, then head to Ministers Fellowship International conference. on our way back up next weekend, we will stop in Castlegar and Nelson, BC. Then we just have 10 more days and one more short trip to Montana before heading south to Haiti. I'm looking forward to the sun, as fall has wuickly descended upon us and I am sure winter won't be far behind!
One last note- we are really glad to have Joe Park coming back down to join us in Haiti this fall and help out with mechanics projects. We really need him. He needs our help though too, to raise his support and a little more. If you are willing to help out, you can give support for him through Haiti ARISE, and designated to Mechanics 2013 Project. Or you can give a personal gift to him directly to help him out with personal expenses he may have. If you would like to help support any of our long term missionaries, it would be appreciated. Cassie VanCamp is returning this fall to help teach ESL, Wade and Marilyn Fitzpatrick are continuing as Team Hosts and Marilyn will be helping in the office, Roy Ralph is also returning to help with continued contruction on the Chldren's Village and the technical school shops. We appreciate any support you give. It all helps us change lives for God's glory!
well, traveling on...
It's been a wonderful month of travels through Alberta, BC and WA state. After leaving Haiti June 11 and getting all unpacked, we packed up again and hit the road on June 20 to head to Surrey, BC. We almost didn't make it out of Calgary though as there was mass flooding from severe rains that caused every highway out to close. As we started out that morning, each route we headed for we had to turn around I. Search of another. We tried highway 1 east first, but it was closed as the bridge in Canmore was completely washed out. We tried 22 south of Cochrane- flooded, 22x south, closed at Black Diamond, 2A south closed at Okotoks. Our last chance was 2 south. We got as far as High River and had to stop as the river flooded over the highway right before us. One car got washed away as we watched some vehicles still attempt to cross. We had to backtrack again and find an alternate route around. Eventually we made it out and got to Nelson 12 hours, double the normal time it takes. But we enjoyed a good visit with Pastor Jim and Doreen Reimer and got see and pray over their new church building in Nelson, Kootenay Christian Fellowship. We're so excited for them.
We spent a week in Surrey with our friends from Surrey Alliance and were so blessed by our time of fellowship there and the reaffirmation of the churches partnership with us fulfilling this Great Commission of the gospel together. We got to also take a day to go into Vancouver on the Skytrain and visit Science World with the kids. We then headed south of the border to Aberdeen, WA and visited a pocket of strong Haiti ARISE partners and friends there too from Grays Harbor Foursquare and other churches. It was so encouraging to reconnect with some friends we hadn't seen in a few years and see God moving to ignite a passion again in them to be more involved with Haiti ARISE. We are keenly aware of God's grace and favour as He leads us to each place and connects us with those He desires to, not only for partnering and networking for Haiti, but even more so for knitting us deeper together with the wide body of believers, His church that extends beyond borders. I love fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing together in the testimonies of God's work in our lives and meeting others who are in search of deeper meaning through finding a relationship in God and with His people. We just finished up with another fantastic weekend in Peachland with Roy a d Olive Ralph and their church, Emmanuel Church.
Now after our visits with these churches, we venture into a few weeks of family camps. First we were with my sister and family for the holiday week, now we are at Nelson family camp, then we will head to Weyburn, Saskatchewan. From there we get to fly to PEI, which will be our first time to the Canadian east coast and I'm hoping we'll have time to tour around and take the kids to the site of Anne of Green Gables. Marc will be speaking at the Gideon's Conference there and we will be exploring ways with them of how we can facilitate distributing Creole Bibles throughout Haiti. On our return from there, we will stop over in Harriston Ontario to visit Crossroads Community Church and hopefully spend a day with Joe and show the kids around Toronto. So, as we are covering thousands of miles to share the gospel and our testimonies of God's work in Haiti, we are also enjoying some fun and educational times with our kids in the beautiful outdoors of Canada's summer, (which I definitely prefer to its winters).
It has been a full month of travels and experience. In the midst of the sad events of my last blog, we had some wonderful opportunities to get out for some excursions to refresh our minds and renew our perspective of life in Haiti. While Claire, Marc’s adoptive Canadian mom, was here in May along with 3 of her grandkids and 3 other friends, we were able to travel with them and Marc’s brother, Luc’s family up to Buva to see the rest of the Honorat siblings. Since Marc’s mom passed away in the fall, it has really been on his heart to take our kids to his birthplace and show them where he came from. It was a wonderful trip for them and they thoroughly enjoyed the time. We picked up many extra travelers on our way as we were a part of a caravan of 3 vehicles traveling up north to the mountains. It felt like the old wagon trains to me, as each time we stopped somewhere, we received more passengers and more stuff to go up the mountain with. We left Grand-Goave on a Friday morning at 5am Haitian time, which by the time everyone was ready, was 6:30am. The total journey up to Buva, which is north past Gonaives, took 12 hours and included an hour to change a flat tire in Leogane, another hour to repair the tire in Port Au Prince, an hour in a construction traffic jam, an hour for lunch in Monrois, and an hour to buy groceries in Gonaives. Each of these hours hold rich stories that I don’t have space for in this blog. The last 12 km is another story all on it’s own. The paved highway ends after Gonaives and we turn away from the ocean to climb the mountain, which added the last 2 hours to our trip. Cameron, Claire’s grandson, had an even wider perspective, as he held on tight on the top edge of a large canopy covering the back of the Diahatsu flatbed truck, since the inside got full of more passengers and groceries at our last stop in Gonaives. After such a long journey, we were all happy to arrive in Buva, which is not much of a tourist attraction, but a small village of stone and palm branch roofed huts. The ladies unloaded and got right to work on dinner. Our kids were free range, just like all the chickens and goats and dogs, and loving every minute of it. The only downfall for them was they had to keep their shoes on, since northern Haiti is all desert and full of cactus and thorny bushes. They got to meet all their aunties and uncles, see where Marc’s mom used to live and bathe in the creek, which was so refreshing. On the Saturday, we traveled back down the mountain to the beachfront town of Grand Savane where we swam in the ocean and did a rice distribution. Then we went on to the house where Marc spent 7 years of his childhood as a restavek. He showed the kids where he used to sleep under a table, fish in the front yard at the ocean and the fresh water spring he used to have to walk to everyday to fetch water. Ariana even got to ride a donkey that is used for hauling water. It was a great weekend of history lessons for the kids on their dad’s upbringing and good to get out and see the countryside. The landscape changes so much from the west to the north of Haiti, making me grateful again that we are in a lush area in Grand-Goave compared to other places in Haiti.
The following weekend we took another tour to the island of La Gonave. All of us were in for a treat on this voyage as it was not somewhere any of us have been, not even Marc. Again, Claire and the grandkids were with us, but this time we took our long term missionary staff too- Howard, Val, Wade, Marilyn and Joe. Diane opted to stay home... I think she had some sort of idea what the boat ride might be like. We sure didn’t! We drove to Miragoane, which is west past Petit Goave, then met our tour guides and transportation- a large Haitian transport boat used to haul charcoal from the island of La Gonave back to the mainland. The mariners guiding the boat boast that it could hold 450 bags of charcoal or up to 500 people. We all agreed we would not want to be on either of those trips, as there was not a bench to be found in the boat. All the same, we were in for the adventure, not for the comfort, and adventure we did find! There were a total of 25 of us on the boat and only 6 life jackets. We agreed if anything happened, we would share. Howard also offered himself as a life raft. That was comforting. The boat ride was a 3 hour tour and we all were having thoughts of Giligan’s Island. The sun was hot, the motor ran steady, but slow and the ocean was as crystal blue and inviting as could be. I actually preferred the gentle lull of the boat as we pushed through the waves to the bumpy roads of Buva. We did not take the kids on this trip, except for Austin, since we were not sure what we would find. Austin and I had a little nap to make the time go by a bit quicker. Others tried to do the same, as they squished their bums between the wood slats on the sides of the boat bottom, or spread out over the few sacks of charcoal that were in the bottom. When we arrived on the island, it was almost shocking to see how different and far removed the colonization there seemed to be. The place we landed was called Grand Vid, which mean “Great Nothing”, and that described in pretty well. But there was a quaint, peacefulness about the place. Each hut was hewn from organic matter available on the island- rock, clay, grass roofs and rough wood posts. Each property was neatly fenced in with stick fencing and even the goats were kept in a type of corral. The land was all sand and very little trees, save for the towering coconuts. La Gonave is known of living off of charcoal, so you can imagine how the land is getting more and more desolate. Just the same, the people were few, but friendly and very polite. We hiked to the local church, with the pastor friend of ours leading us, carrying our gallon of Culligan water and Rubbermaid bin of P&J sandwiches, mangoes and hard boiled eggs. After we ate, we shared the rest with some onlooking children, who politely and silently sat in order and ate what we gave them. Then we went in search for the “private beach” that was supposed to be clean and good swimming compared to the pier where we docked (a pile of rocks jutting out into the shallow bay). We found it, a small fenced in white sandy spot, right next to an open piece of beach where the local little boys entered into the water in their birthday suits and came to find us out in the waves. The water was so shallow for a long time, it was hotter than bath water, which was not all that refreshing. But beautiful just the same. Then it was time to head back onto the boat for our return trip, which actually ended up being 4.5 hours due to the wind being against the boat with our “little engine that could.” In all, it was another wonderful tour and good to see how different other places are right within the same country.
We are winding down now on our time here this season. We have ten more days before all of our long term missionary staff and we depart. It’s always with some bittersweetness. I look forward to going back to North America and seeing our friends, sharing in the churches who partner with us and taking some time to concentrate on our family, but I miss our Haitian family and pace of life when we go. It takes me a bit to adapt back to being on time places and having to make appointments to see people. Those are not relevant issues in Haiti. And each year as we come and go, come and go, I thank the Lord that He has given us such amazing opportunity to travel, to share His Good News and about the amazing works He has allowed us to be a part of. We will do a lot of traveling this summer too, but I think the roads will be a little smoother and not so hot.
Well.... I don't know what to say entirely.... I've been thinking about needing to write an update for the last couple days. It's been a tough week....
First, we had hopes for the condition of our young friend, Ketsia, who was in a serious motorcycle collision with two vehicles. She seemed to be getting better, inflammation in her body was going down, she was responding and moving her body, though she still could not speak. Then the doctor did more x-rays and found that her clavical bone and wind pipe were all crushed and he did not think she would survive a surgery on her airway, nor would she be able to support the pain or be able to heal. We pleaded for them to seek out whatever means possible to save her life rather than just giving up and unplugging her from oxygen, but as the family were on their way to seek out other options at another hospital, they got the call that she had passed away. 5pm on Saturday afternoon. We were all in shock and saddened by this turn of events. This young girl was exceptional, living in the midst of an area of very young teen pregnancies and young people with no vision, she had chosen to not let her life lead that way. She had worked and made her own way to learn carpentry and masonry. She paid for her own schooling and was working hard to finish high school. She had vision and dreams. She was only 23.
In the midst of all that, political upheaval broke out again in the town center of Grand-Goave on Wednesday. There has been problems since the old mayor who was in power for more than 15 years had overspent his term and had been kicked out by the people. A new interim mayor committee was put in place until there is a proper election, but the old mayor still does not want to leave. His partisans had hired some thugs from Cite Soliel, the worst slum in Haiti and possibly the world, to come cause trouble in town. Wednesday afternoon, the bodyguard for the new mayor was killed just a few houses down from our house. Then shots were ringing out all night long as the thugs paraded up and down the streets, right in front of our gate and on the main streets that our house sits at the corner of, just shooting in the air to make their presence known. Some of them were so loud, Marc and I hit the floor and slept there for the night. The next morning we packed some small bags for all of us and we all stayed down at the Haiti ARISE campus til Saturday when things finally calmed down. During those few days, all the houses on our street and the ones near us were empty and the roads were blocked. The police finally made a number of arrests and ramped up their surveilence of the area. The Cite Soliel thugs disappeared. All is calm. Now I just hope someone moves the huge bolders out of the road so we don't have to keep weaving through them.
I want to make it clear that even though it was scary and we lost a lot of sleep, we were not in grave danger. The problems were political and only included those involved. Though it has really effected the moral of the town and caused everyone to be on edge, no innocent by-standers were injured. This is the first time in all the ten years I have lived here that I was unsure of our safety in Grand-Goave. It has always been a peaceful area to live for the most part. I also want to say that our teams and everyone at Haiti ARISE are safe and were not in danger. We are located out in the country, on the outskirts of town and we have excellent security. We even had some of our neighbors come stay here for a few days when all the shooting was happening. We were closely monitoring the situation and were ready in case we would have had to evacuate. Thankfully, we did not have to do so.
On top of all that, because of shock and losing sleep, my milk supply went down drastically and poor little Austin couldn't get enough to eat, which made him pretty fussy. Not usual for my little mister. I also got sick from too much sun and not enough water on Friday while helping seal the floors in the clinic. Thus I spent the next three days in bed with a slight fever and even missed Sunday service. That's not usual for me! Finally caught up on sleep though and was back on my feet Monday.
Yesterday, we got more bad news, as one of our dear staff members, Madam Marc, fell sick suddenly due to high blood pressure. She was rushed to the hospital in town and then on to the Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Leogane. Right at the end of church service last night, as we were reminded to pray for her, we got the news that she died. This has been a real shock for everyone here at Haiti ARISE. This is the first time one of our staff members, in fact even a first for one of our core church members, to pass away. She was our school janitor and faithfully, with joy, cleaned the church as well. She was a strong woman of prayer and loved to make people laugh. She has left behind her husband, who is a farmer, and eight children. She was only 42.
It always seems to be this way in life, especially in Haiti, that when the going gets tough, it gets REALLY tough and all at once. The amazing thing I have found is that God's Word still remains true and when the storms of life are circling all around, if we stay right in the center of His will, in the eye of the storm, there is peace. His peace still remains. Everyone here is still smiling, even if the atmosphere seems somber. We know that though sorrow may last for the night, His joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
This coming weekend we are going for a bit of a break. Our anniversary was on the 6th of May- 13 years of marriage! Marc wants to take the family up to Bouvard, the mountains up north past Gonaives, so the kids can see where he was born. That should be refreshing.