There is a settled calm over the country, like a healing balm. After months of endless riots and violence, the new year has brought in a new peace. The opposition and gangs are tired, realizing that even their own kids and families have suffered enough. 4 months of education lost, that everyone finally agrees kids need to make up. The school year will likely run into the next September, with some schools even calling high school students to come on Saturdays to ensure they will be able to pass their essential exams. Even with that chance, Ken is still unsure if he will still get to graduate this year. He has ambitions and hopes to finish school then study art and marketing. His dreams may still come true, just delayed another year if he’s unable to pass this year’s exams. But he occupies his time with his talent, sketching portraits by request and inspiration, to keep his mind sharp and out of trouble. Not all kids have the opportunity to entertain a hobby that keeps them from boredom. The nagging sense of hopelessness in a country that revels in digging its own pit of despair has ravaged many youth. But thankfully, the digging has stopped for now, and young students can return to their daytime occupation of studies.
When I look around at all the things our hands, and many other hands, have spent years building. As we turn into the year 2020, a year I remember that used to be referred to in sci-fi novels, it marks another decade and a ten year anniversary of the deadliest earthquake in history that happened to hit Haiti. That event was a history marker for Haiti. Everything since has been measured by that catastrophe and he changes that transpired after; how long it took to clean up, to recover, to rebuild, to heal. And that decade closed with more catastrophe but of the man-made nature. Haiti is amazing in its resilience and ability to bounce back. I have to say that I am glad we’re launched into a new decade. I hope it is another new beginning, a chance to start again, fresh, clean slate. Seasons and times are a gift from God. He doesn’t need time, but we sure do, that grace and chance to start again. His mercies are new every morning.
So, setting into the new year, I joined the small team of old guys - Marc, Pastor Jim, our Scottish friend Barry and newcomer John. We entered Haiti on Jan 4, after all of the Independence Day celebrations, but still in time for the first Sunday of the new year, to rejoice and enjoy pumpkin soup with our newest church plant, Jeantiot Mahanaim Church, in the south area of Les Cayes. It was a wonderful surprise for the church and to see their new structure when we arrived on Saturday night after 48+ of travel. The ladies were busy preparing the soup and the youth were decorating. The church is eager and has made big strides to collaborate together to see the church advance. They have a foundation, pillars and a large tin roof, but very large gravel fills the floor of the foundation that could break a girl’s ankles when she struts in her high heels. And most of the young women were willing to take that risk for the Sunday service. They are hoping to collect enough funds by the end of February to pour the flooring, in time for their 2nd anniversary the beginning of March. They’ve invited Pastor Jim to come back for it, since he was instrumental in the planting of this church when we held crusade meetings two years ago. That’s a quick turn around, but he’s considering enduring the long 3 days of travel again to get there.
Sunday afternoon we returned to Grand-Goave and all breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived « home ». The highways were all clear, no blockades, no traffic, no problems. And the campus welcomed us with paradise lush mangos and happy staff greetings.
The last few days I have spent mostly working in the office with our newest staff member, Edvard. We surprised her with a birthday cake yesterday as she came out at the end of the day and we celebrated that for the first time in many years ALL of our accounting entries up to the end of 2019 are complete before Jan 10! I am so blessed and pleased with our team that work so well together and hard to make sure we have good accountability in all of our practices.
Each day we make a circle visit first to the clinic to kiss all the babies coming for the nutrition program while Barry goes to clean the yard, then to the school classrooms taking snapshots of children reciting their letters, then to all of our security dogs, giving them treats, training our security guards again how to walk them, and let them run. Lastly, we make our way to the children’s village homes to visit each family and let the kids cover us in hugs, with their sweet grins and shy eyes. At night we enjoy the finger-licking good chicken and potatoes that Luciana cooks for us, then we play a round of Up and Down the River (our famous card game). Worship and the Word fill our souls on Tuesday night and tonight I will be sharing a talk on Health and Living an Abundant Life.
We are preparing to receive 200 pastors and leaders from our fellowship of churches for this Friday and Saturday of seminar sessions. This is always a highlight of the year for them and for us. I am always inspired by these faithful men and women who tirelessly serve their country and people, despite so many setbacks and challenges. Most of them do not make a living wage as pastors, so they must have other side jobs. Pastor Prenel from Jeantiot was a taxi driver until his motorbike was stolen from him at gunpoint a month ago. Pastor Fejuste is a teacher in a school, despite he had no students for months due to the country shut-down. Pastor Amazan is an agronomist and has been teaching people in his community how to garden and raise their own crops. All of our leaders in Grand-Goave are fortunate to have full-time jobs within the ministry as well that provide them a stable salary, but many other country pastors don’t. Yet they still make big sacrifices to come join us every January to learn how to be better leaders to serve their people.
Marc and I have been staying at our home in town since things have calmed down. When I arrive there in the evenings, I instantly feel settled since it’s home, yet it lacks the life and luster of our whole family being there. The furniture is a little more worn, the dressers are empty and the books are dusty except for in the boys room where Vladimir sleeps and Ken, Pedro and sometimes Kiki join him overnight. I miss living here, being here for more than just a few days. I miss the simplicity of life and the ability to fully focus on the ministry. When we are in Canada there are so many activities pulling me in every direction- kids schooling, sports, my schooling and homework, having to grocery shop and make meals, which I don't have to do when in Haiti. We sit and chat with our gang of boys, while watching soccer or the evangelistic channel and they express how much they miss Asher, Miesha, Jasmine, Ariana, and Austin. Me too. I wish they were here. If I can raise some money somehow, maybe I can bring them in the spring or summer.
And the time is short. I’ll soon be back on the plane heading to the frozen north caught up in the whirlwind of responsibilities and activities there. But my heart will remain here. This is where I am meant to be.