Many good things have been happening around here. And since my last blog, I have not had a chance to get back to share an update. We have definitely felt everyone's prayers and are getting some breakthrough.
After visiting the prison two weeks ago, I was struck by the impression that people do visit the prisoners, but don't seem to bring them much hope. They may receive food from some family members or loved ones, may even get to have a short visit. Yet the environment is so depressing that when we were there last time, I didn't feel we were much of an encouragement with our long faces and tears. I really felt that what these guys needed was some hope, some uplifting and joyful singing. So our worship team prepared to go for a visit to sing to the prisoners. This was also appropriate since Sylvio, our young friend in prison, was a part of our worship team. Our first attempt to go was last Monday and we got there too late so the officers would not let us in. We went again on Wednesday, this time taking enough buns w/ peanutbutter and soap to serve the 136 prisoners. The officers were really tough on us, not thinking it was much use for a church group to come pray and did not really trust our offerings of buns either. Most visitors that bring food, they are made to do a taste test in front of the officers to ensure the food is not poisoned. They did not know how to test our bins of buns and after much discussion decided to let us go through. This time our visit was much more encouraging. We served the prisoners and were allowed to share a message of hope with them and then sing some songs. If any of you have heard our worship team, you know how amazingly they can sing. In the midst of those dingy prison walls, it sounded as though heaven was touching down. Sylvio was so happy to see us, smiling from ear to ear and proud of his friends that would come to minister. He was in good spirits and had some good news from the lawyer that he may be released soon. We left the prison feeling like we accomplished a very important work for the Lord. Later we were told Sylvio may be released April 14th, which is tomorrow, if the prison decides to let him go. The courts have dismissed his case since the young girl's family sent a letter of pardon. This is very good news. We still need prayers though for the prison to respect the decision made by the court and for his quick release, as well that he and the youth of our church will have learned a great lesson through this experience.
On the health front of our teams, the battle has still been going. We had two teams from Calgary and Medicine Hat at the end of March. They all were strong and healthy while here, but a number of them got sick after returning home, all with the same symptoms that point to Dengue Fever. We are stepping up on as much vigilent prevention as possible. Since Dengue is transmitted by mosquitoes, we are spraying the building daily, enforcing the current teams to wear bug spray all the time, use their nets and keep their AC running at night. We have also done some major clean ups around the campus to ensure there is no standing water where mosquitoes can breed and all the falling mangoes get cleaned up.
In between the teams, us long term missionaries got a great opportunity to go on a journey to the western tip of the island. We drove 8 hours on Thursday all the way out to Jeremie and then another 3 hours to a beautiful little town called Dame Marie, which is the very last place you can drive to out on the western edge of Haiti. The beaches are sweeping and pristine, the town was very clean and the people were friendly and gentle. Our police friend who always escorts our mission teams to and from the airport, Price, was our tour guide. He has been asking us for at least a year to take this trip and he was ecstatic to finally be leading us around all of his old stomping grounds where he grew up. He took us on a great boat ride all along the coast. Jeremie is the last major city and was surprisingly clean and well structured, for being so isolated from the rest of Haiti. The roads to get there are like hiking across a rocky mountain range without snow. Beautiful, but bumpy. At one point, there's a beatuiful river and waterfall that the road drives right through.On Saturday we headed back towards home, stopping often along the way to explore some of the other towns like Les Cayes (not so friendly or clean), Camp Perrin (very nice town) and Miragoane (small, but a bustling port city). In all, it was very refreshing for us all- Wayne, Roy, Olive, Marc and I. It is good to get out and see what else is going on in the country. We did not see much evidence of NGO's working out that far on the island, but we did run into another Christian mission that shares our same vision- they are called Arise Haiti! We have talked to them before by email and phone, but somehow (God's providence) we stumbled right on them in a beachfront community called Gelee. We got to meet the directors and share a few stories about hearing of one another. We invited them to come visit us next time they are on their way through Grand-Goave to PAP. That was really inspiring. We came home refreshed and ready to run again.
Two new teams arrived on April 10th from California, The Father's House, and from Saskatoon, Cornerstone Church. They are working great and getting a lot of small projects and jobs done. Please keep them in prayer for health!! And follow the Team Blog. We are getting close to the end of our spring and team season and preparing for summer months- some construction will slow down, church programs will be held over the vacation time and Marc and I will head back to Canada and US for a tour of our partnering churches. It has been a great year!