I thank God for his faithfulness in providing for all our needs. He gave us peace when we were anxious. He gave us strength when our strength was failing. He gave us hope and faith to endure when the weight of the task at hand seemed overwhelming.
I thank God for our pastor Jerry. God has given him a passion to teach others about marriage in our church and he used him in a mighty way in Haiti, an unfamiliar territory to teach men and women about marriage according to the Bible. The truth he shared and the manner in which he presented the material indeed had a great impact on many couples. Thank you Jerry for the sacrifice you made to join our team.
I thank God for Brad. Brad has been very instrumental in demonstrating to the men how to love their wives. This was also for many the first time they saw themselves as the woman described in Ezekiel 16 in need of grace and a savior. He also reenacted the story in Esther, bringing it to life again and showing that Christ was at the center of it all. Brad, I thank God for the giftedness he has bestowed upon you in teaching the Word with humility and grace.
I thank God for Teren. God has showered his grace upon her so that she could deliver His message of grace and hope to the ladies. She brought submission and respect to the light of the gospel encouraging them to follow the model of Christ. What a blessing it has been for all of them! What a blessing to hear how they have realized that Jesus was the bread of life through the book of Ruth. Thank you Teren for your love for the Word and your great desire to share it with others.
I thank God for Rich. Rich has given the men practical ways to lead their home. In the faces of the men we were teaching, I witnessed (through body language) the priorities of their hearts begin to shift and change from providing material needs to their families to providing spiritual leadership to their families. My heart was also blessed to see how many have identified themselves with Hamaan in the story of Esther. Thank you Rich for the sacrifice you and your family have made to join our team.
I thank God for Christie, Chuck, and Chris. Your individual contributions in exercising your gifts to serve God, the Haitian people and our team were very well appreciated. The paintings, the testimonies, the pictures, and the support you provided were part of God’s plan to make this trip a success. Christie, your brush was an aperitif that prepares the soul for the Word. Chris, you saved the moment for those who were not there and for all of us to ponder over even in the years to come. Chuck, you have been an anchor to me. I’d like you to come again next time.
I thank God for my wife Sherri and our children – All of these years they have supported me to bring about this dream that God has laid on my heart. You have given up our vacation days, weekends, and other family fun-time to allow me to work in this ministry. Sherri is God’s gift to me and a good partner in this ministry. I praise God for the time and love you pour into Levanjil. I thank you for buying the gifts and distributing them to the women. You brightened the lives of the ladies and made them feel special and comfortable with the rest of the team. It is because of your love and touch that others have opened their house to us. One lady told me that she admired your patience with the kids. Someone else said that we were the right composition for the role that we were playing in both the US and Haiti. God knew what he was doing when he put us together. I thank God for the opportunity I had to share this Levanjil team experience with you and the kids.
Pastor Jerry reminded us the night we landed in Cayes that the goal of the trip was not just a mission outreach endeavor but also and certainly was for God to transform us to the likeness of His Son, Jesus-Christ. His work was effective in my life through this trip. As I went over the 10 days the team spent in Haiti, I was grateful that God has provided for us in every way. I was comforted to hear that everyone made it safely home and that their families were also doing well. I was grateful for the different bonds and trusts that have developed with the leaders, partners in ministry, and family. I was humbled by the positive and not so positive results. God has revealed to me that I needed the same gospel that I was preaching to the Haitian people. God has transformed me deeply through this trip experience.
I am thankful for Pastor Jean Admettre and Marie-Lucie Jeune who planned, promoted, and coordinated these activities. Your work will not be in vain. God will reward you.
I am thankful for those you have helped in different ways: the Berean women, who have made the bookmarks and prayed for us, our Berean body for holding the rope for us and faithfully praying, Sean for his caring advice, the Admettres and Emiles’ children, Caleb and Dorcas Ministries, 3rd Baptist Church in Cayes, the missionaries who have contributed tables and chairs, the cooks and the landlords. God is faithful to reward his children according to his riches and grace.
My dad is the doyen of MEBSH, the oldest living pastor of the denomination. He represents all the people God has used in the past to prepare the way for such an event. I am thankful for them. I have never been introduced or given the opportunity to speak to any event without someone referring to him as my father. I cannot begin to tell you the joy I felt when I heard him say: “I pray that I live long enough to see those changes” in the leaders, the churches, the families, and the communities in Haiti as the Gospel is preached faithfully. That is my prayer too. But this work is God’s work and we may not see its end. What a delight to trust a sovereign God!
I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18.1-2)
I couldn't even find a field with rows of corn. or grain. or anything. I couldn't bring order to the sights my eyes beheld.
As we drove that long road from Port-Au-Prince to Cayes on the day we arrived in Haiti, Pierre's counsel just kept ringing in my head: "When you get there you will know what to say." Really? All I could think about was that all I had planned to say didn't make any sense. Would the women really be able to understand the story of Ruth? Would they care? Did it even matter? I mean, these are real people with real needs...and I'm going to offer them the story of Ruth? Would they understand a story rooted in agrarian thought from an ancient city? Or was I just going to offer a meaningless, intellectual treatise to a people who just needed food?
By the time Friday rolled around and the women's conference started God had totally affirmed in my heart the cross-cultural wonder of His Word -- but the surprises of it relevancy still lay ahead.
I learned, after I taught the first chapter, that it has been nearly two years since they have had a solid, ground-saturating rainfall in Haiti. The crops are not growing. So to speak of the Lord who visited his people and brought them bread? Yeah...they got that! And more than that -- for they too recognized that the Lord has visited us in Jesus: the Bread of Life.
Many of the Haitian women are dependent on water from a well. They understood the gracious gift of Boaz when he provided Ruth with water. One woman even met her husband at a well!
Many of the Haitian women are helpless and desperate for protection and provision. Ruth was willing to turn her back on every sense of security because she found refuge at the mercy seat -- under the wings of the Almighty.
They know the temptation to accomplish the right thing in the wrong way. They could grasp the wonder of a God who satisfied all the law's demands and provided eternal rest superior to the rest any husband could give.
They told me that they even get together in their villages to pick a name when a baby is born! They could stand with me -- in awe of a God who would write the name JESUS on our foreheads! The name by which we are accepted and loved...forever!
I wish you all could have been there to listen and watch as the Word was read. At each session Marie-Lucie read one chapter from the book of Ruth. The ladies listened at the edges of their seats. They oohed and ahhed. They laughed and groaned. They didn't want to stop when we reached the end of the chapter. Never have I so clearly seen a people hungry for the voice of their Shepherd. Never have I been so utterly convinced that the Word of God is the very Breath of God. Never have I had a greater longing to see the Holy Spirit exalt Christ in the heart and life of His Bride through His Word!
On our first Sunday in Haiti I noticed the singing -- but everything was so new I didn't have time to think about what made it so beautiful. I nodded in my heart to the testimony of others who have shared their experiences of joining in the songs of worship in foreign contexts: there is a joyful unity in the expression even when the words are not understood. I didn't think much of it but as the week progressed, the music became more astounding.
I realized that though they use hymn books (they all own their own and bring it to meetings along with their Bibles) the books contain no notes, only words.
How do they learn to sing with such amazing harmony? Are they just born that way? Are they that much more talented than we are? Can they just hear with their hearts and sing in harmony? All of them? It didn't make sense that this beauty was common -- an experience shared just because they were human. We don't hear this kind of harmony in our churches anymore. We sing from words on a screen but the harmonies don't just effortlessly fill our worship spaces. How do the Haitian churches learn to listen and harmonize so beautifully?
On Thursday, after Christy and I finished our first session with the pastor's wives, a tall, thin, sharply dressed man showed up in the door of the meeting room with a stack of paper and a pitch pipe. Marie-Lucie told us that he was going to teach the women the song that they would sing together at the big conference in April. I didn't think too much of it as I was grateful to be free to leave, find a drink of water and a shade tree while praying for a cool breeze. An hour and half later they were still singing -- after the 2 hour mark I figured that it was just because lunch was late and they were filling time.
But, early the next morning the singing master came again; this time before our sessions so Christy and I sat through the practice. The singing master had the purest soprano voice I've ever heard in a grown man -- if you closed your eyes you'd picture a member of the Vienna Boy's Choir. All the ladies sat in the room according to the part they sang. Christy and I seemed to be the only people in the room who didn't know about this plan -- we were sitting in the bass section! For at least another hour the singing master moved from group to group laboriously working with them to get their notes just exactly right. He would sing, they would imitate, he would correct, sing it again, and they would imitate again. Then he'd have two sections sing together, then three. Note by note, line by line. I've never experienced such careful attention to detail in sound. By the time that session was over these ladies had over 3 hours of practice in on a SINGLE song!
Another thing that amazed me -- there were no non-participants. No one said, "I don't sing." No one opted out or sat on the sides. It didn't seem to occur to them that singing was anything other than a learned skill. People didn't wait till the singing was done and then come in the room. No -- the way they called people to meetings was to start to sing -- no one wanted to miss that part and they all piled into the building.
When the general women's conference started on Friday evening the first two hours of the meeting were given to singing. The congregation would sing, led by a worship team. Sometimes they used the hymn book, sometimes they all just knew the songs. Interspersed with the congregational singing, choirs from different churches would take the stage and present a gift in song. Most of them dressed in matching uniform and their songs were masterfully presented. Every session was just like this.
Sometimes I'm a slow learner. After about the 8th choir the truth dawned on me: these people sing with such beautiful harmony because they work at it! It doesn't just happen. They sacrifice their time to practice. They swallow their pride and accept correction. They set aside a desire for personal glory and instead work together. The result is a beauty in worship that no one of them could ever offer to God alone.
Just before we left I shared this observation with one of the missionaries that has been there in Haiti for 30 years. She told me that when the mission first started, about 80 years ago, one of the missionary wives thought that the people should learn to sing. She added a "singing school" to the Bible college's list of required courses. Each pastor that came through the school learned to sing, and to teach others to sing. There is no such class in the Bible college anymore. There is no need. The pastors caught that dear lady's vision and they have faithfully trained their congregations to lift their voices in song to the Lord ever since. She did not live to see the fruit of her labors, but just as God promised: fruit remains!
If you attend Berean, you need to know that this is the very vision that sits behind the youth choir initiative that begins at 4:30 PM on September 11th. To train God's people to offer their harmony in praise and thanksgiving to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords: a gift of beauty and excellence that no one of us could offer alone. Maybe, just maybe, long after Anne is in glory, the grandchildren of today's Berean youth will be teaching their children to sing and through the beauty of their harmony the manifold wisdom of God will continue to be displayed to the heavenly beings through the Church!
It is no accident that training is required.
1 Tim 4:7-10
"...train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe."
Never before have I so clearly seen my need for a mediator or been so very grateful to have one. At one point this weekend I got to the platform to speak to the ladies, I greeted them with one of the very few words that we
share: Bonjour. At that moment I turned to Marie-Lucie and she was gone. She’d been called away for a moment and there I was – speechless in a whole new way. The ladies laughed. I laughed. We shared the humor of the moment but the reality of our need put my weakness on display.
When Marie-Lucie returned I shared with the ladies how this need for a language translator magnified my need and gratitude for my mediator before the throne of God: Jesus Christ! Additionally, the words of Romans 8 have never meant so much:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself
intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts
knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the
saints according to the will of God.
Marie-Lucie is a godly servant leader who never stops moving. If she wasn’t translating my messages, she was off working, serving or organizing something. Christy and I tried to talk with the ladies – Christy’s French was a
life saver but our conversations were extremely limited. I longed to sit and hear their stories. I wanted to ask them about their families, their churches, their lives. I wanted to hear their dreams. But I could not. We shared hugs and
smiles and thanks. Cam Wolford’s advice is true: love is the same in every language. But I will admit – for this girl who loves words – my heart longed for the gift of tongues to redeem Babel’s curse.
When I was in middle school I had a good friend named Iona. Her smile lit the room. We went to church together and shared a friendly competition in our AWANA memory work. We went to my grandparent’s summer camps
and AWANA camps together. Iona’s smile lit the room. We entered high school and our paths went separate ways: I moved away, she married very young, had two children and when we were 21 her body was found in
bag in a field. I’ve shuddered at the pain she suffered and grieved over the friendship we lost.
Remember Georgette from a previous post? I’ve never met anyone that reminded me so much of Iona. I’ve never so
badly wanted to communicate to someone. In one of the sessions Georgette gave a testimony and I got to see a little insight into her vibrant faith. That was a gift from God. This morning Brad preached at her church and Georgette and Marcel, her husband who is a Jack (deacon) prepared a light snack for us after lunch. And we visited a bit more. Christy, Gorgette and I all cried when we said good-bye. How is it that God knits hearts together even when words are not shared? It must be a little picture of our final redemption.
How we pray that God will continue to use this couple’s service for the glory of our Lord. And someday -- when we are totally free from this mixed-up language mess -- we will sing with one voice, one new song! Even so Lord Jesus, quickly come!
I want to tank everyone who prayed that I would be used. I didn’t do much work but I think I was used significantly. It started when my wife (AKA Danika Patrick) drove Brad, Teren and me to the airport saving just enough minutes to catch our flight.
I wore many hats on this trip. Saturday I played nanny so the team could have a planning meeting. Babysitting isn’t as difficult as I’d imagined. I just let the kids do anything they wanted as long as it was not life threatening. Sunday allowed me to move tables and chairs and get my first opportunity to drive in Haiti. Well, me driving on the MEBSH property is like your 12 year old moving the car from the east parking lot to the west lot and telling everyone he drove in Michigan.
You’ve already heard about my opportunity to serve as “garcon.” Monday and Tuesday I was able to listen in on the men’s portion of the marriage conference which was very beneficial to me as a husband.
Wednesday everyone on the team met with the MEBSH board and I was able to give my input to the goat farm based on my experience working on a farm as a teenager way back in the early 1970s. On the way back Pastor Jean stopped at the
local hardware store to build a 5’x9’ frame. The hardware store surprisingly had a good variety of tools and hardware. However, we still had to go across the street to get the 16’ boards cut to fit in the truck. I’m sure the Haitians
could have carried them on a motorcycle taxi but we Americans tend to be a little more cautious.
Wednesday evening we had a prayer meeting with the missionaries (in English). After that I borrowed a hammer, saw, nails and square from Sean the missionary (a fellow packers fan) to build a frame for Christy’s painting. She didn’t need it built until 9 AM on Thursday so I started early. The ladies were very pleased and really had me thinking I could become a carpenter. Jeremie wanted to know why there were so many bent nails.
Thursday and Friday allowed me to get some exercise by moving tables and chairs again. I also heard more good teaching from Brad and Rich. Whoever coined the phrase, “The patience of a saint,” must have been talking about
Haitian saints. The men’s conference started “about” 9 AM and they didn’t get a lunch break till 3 PM and not even a water break till 1 PM.
I earned my second nickname Friday night driving the ladies to their evening sessions: James, as in, “Home James.”
Saturday was a typical relaxing day in Haiti. We were going to visit Pierre’s sister in the country. First, we went
to the ATM (All Three Men) to exchange US dollars for Haitian gourdes. We pulled to the side of a very busy street and Pierre did business with 3 different men, 1 on his side and 2 on the passenger side. Then we stopped for gas. Think of an ant hill or bees nest. After traversing some rugged terrain to get out of the station we were back on the road and headed for the country.
Soon we were on a new and uncongested road and enjoying a side of Haiti that we had not seen. Unfortunately, our vehicle broke down and we had to return to the guest house.
Today, Sunday, we were able to worship with a church that we had not previously visted. After another fantastic meal with Pierre’s parents we are back at the guest house organizing and packing for tomorrow’s return to Michigan.
Teren asked us each to write a blog early on in the trip. I told her I flunked English (true) and couldn’t do it. I don’t know if she specifically did it so that I could hear but a few minutes later she was telling someone about her translator who says, “Yes, I will,” and then figures out how to do it. I felt guilty. But not guilty enough to write a blog. Then as each person
contributed their blog, they looked more and more professional. I thought, surely, no one will want to hear my ramblings. I should have gone early so I wouldn’t have had to write so much. Now, my only questions is: “Does this excuse
me from having to speak at the next members meeting?”
First of all, I have no idea how Cliff finds time to post every day while he is on a trip! The week has been so busy that beyond the first 2 days I have struggled to sit and post. I will try to fill in some gaps.
After a very full day at the marriage banquet, Pastor Jean said,
“I am heading back to the church for Pierre, do you want to come?” I said yes. I
had been driving our rental truck around on the grounds, moving people and
stuff. Pastor Jean knew this and asked if I wanted to drive. Part of me wanted
to just to experience what driving really was like – imagine NASCAR (slower
speed) on a tight track with motorcycles, bikes, carts and people filling the
gaps. Though I was hoping for getting close to the people of Haiti, I decided it
would be better to not do it with a
When we arrived, Pierre was still preaching or answering
questions and was animated and filled with energy provided by the Holy
Spirit…it was a blessing to see. He is not a sort spoken man here. He is a
gifted communicator…it is evident in the eyes of the Haitian brothers and
Monday & Tuesday
Jerry did a great job speaking about the gospel in relation to marriage. He also connected with the people, which was fun to watch. He was also the same old Jerry (and I mean old in every way) joking around, providing counsel, shepherding us – all on very little sleep. If you are unaware, Jerry
struggles to sleep in settings like this…noise in the background, stray light, Chris breathing (Chris was his roommate), that type of thing. In the evening we prayed that God would speak powerfully and lift the veil of darkness caused by voodoo and the like…except for around Jerry’s room – keep the volume down and the darkness in place (its ok to get rid of the voodoo, just not the darkness!). All kidding aside, God used Jerry with power thru his word and deed, a great example of not mplaining in the midst of difficulty and pressing on for the sake of the Gospel…we miss you
I was able to present how God loves an adulterous bride (Ez 16) with the men on Monday which they were very receptive of: seeing how understanding our failures in the midst of God’s faithfulness can empower us to love a sinful bride brought hope.
By the way, Rich and I are officially pastors! The Haitians were kind in their respect for teachers, the title of pastor is given to teachers. Pierre let them know that we were lay teachers, but we still received the title of pastor more than once. Rich also presented a sermon in Pastor Jean’s church
Monday night. Though the crowd was on the smaller side 50 people or so the word was faithfully preached. Rich was a bit nervous (wouldn’t you be if the first time you preached, it was after a full day, to a crowd you didn’t know, in a language you didn’t speak), but God used him. He was a little discouraged, but realized that this was just another attempt for Satan to remove his joy and attempt to convince him that he was not the right man for the job.
Tuesday Rich bounced right back and did an excellent job, helping the men see some of the practical ways men are called to lead in their home (family worship, intercessory prayer, etc). His confidence was in the Lord, and his joy beautiful to watch.
I have to pause and say one more thing here about Rich, this guy loves his family. He has such a deep love for his wife and daughters. Have no doubt Cork crew that your daddy/husband loves you and thinks of you constantly. What a cool thing to see in the midst of a marriage conference!
Jerry did too by the way. He was always gushing about Colette (we all love you Colette, but Jerry loves you more…all the Haitians know it now too). I even saw Pierre blush a few times while translating (not an easy thing to do!). I also had to share in my session that at least one Berean couple does sin against one another, just to balance out things a bit. So I shared a bit about the Broses, Williams, and Caveliers…you didn’t think I was going to share about Teren and I did you?
Jerry preached Tuesday night, again with power and spirit, though he had slept so little. God is so good!
One further side note before I sign off for now. It has been a delight to see God work in the midst of constant change. Mike Mumford reminded me to pan on “flexure” and boy have we seen it. Change has been the constant. Meal times changed, sometimes there were chairs available, forums have flexed, sessions shifted, cut, or added to - but God has been faithful throughout.
Oh…one more constant: heat and humidity. I think the Hatians have fun with us and dress up for these meetings just to see us sweat! (not really – they are sharp dressers!) I am also not sure if you know this…Pierre never told me…you do not need to pee in Haiti. It is impossible to drink enough water. I am pretty sure I drink a gallon of water minimum per day and I am never looking for
a bathroom except to fill my water bottle. If you do not have a drink after an hour, your mouth becomes pasty and you are looking for any opportunity to drink. It makes me think of how this is the way we should feel as Christians, how we should crave the Bridegroom. One day we will never be lacking. I look forward to the day when we (both us and our Haitian brothers and sisters) are before the throne of God…completely satisfied!
"Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more,
neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Wednesday was a down day of sorts…no speaking engagements. The day was still filled with things to do. At 10:00am we met with the MEBSH board and discussed multiple things that might be helpful to partner with MEBSH to accomplish. We covered, among other things, the goat farm project and the printing project. We broke for lunch and then headed out to see the mechanical
presses they are currently using for printing Sunday school curriculum and we visited the goat farm. We had a truly off-road trip to get there having to cross a major riverbed that happened to be dry. I have no idea how they make due when the river is flowing at max capacity (probably 20ft deep and 400-700 yards wide). As usual the people got a kick out of seeing white guys riding in the
back of a pick-up truck (as I write we’ve been here 8 days and have yet to see another white guy in the back of a pick-up).
It was very sad not to have Rich along (he was prepping for the men’s conference). You see, Rich has fallen in love with goats (not quite as much as his family, but close). He loves to eat goat, to see goat, touch goats, dream of goats, wear goat wool sweaters, I think he may even have picked up a
couple of precious moments goat figurines at the local market. If Rich could be anything in the world, it would be a shepherd of goats. The uniform would be a pair of khaki slacks and a “Goat Nato” graphic tee. If you do not understand “goat nato”, you will just have to ask Rich when he is back. One more thing, Rich is starting a Christmas club with Jeremie Maceno. We were sitting at the dinner table and Jeremy said, We should start a Christmas club!”to which Rich, who was sitting nearby, fork having just shoveled in some goat meat, boisterously said, “I’d like me some Christmas club!”
We spent the evening joining the missionaries for their evening service. We sang some good old hymns and I preached from Ephesians 2:11-22. The 40-50 folks seemed to enjoy the message. We then prayed over the various requests and finished the evening. It was nice to actually know what everyone was saying…the whole thing was in English!
We then went to Pastor and Madame Alnev’s (the president of MEBSH) house for a late dinner. We had a great meal of Haitian soup and sat around the dinner table learning a bit more about their family, how the Lord saved them, their challenges in ministry, and how we could pray for them. It
was a lovely evening.
Thursday & Friday
The men’s and women’s conferences kicked off Thursday morning. Actually our morning began with the sound of the women’s choir floating up the hill, beautiful accapella voices in multi-part harmony (I love the singing here).
I started things off for the men’s conference, giving the men an understanding of the two main principles we would be using in our teaching – Biblical theology and Christ-centered theology. I explained that the Bible was one big story using the Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration
model to help them understand the basic thought. I also explained that Christ was at the center of all of Scripture – the Old Testament pointing forward to the Cross and the New Testament back to the Cross. We then went on to work through the book of Esther, demonstrating that it did indeed point to Christ. I covered the first 2 chapters and Rich covered the 3rd, following roughly the same model as we do on Wednesday nights with the men of Berean. I tended to focus a bit more on
the story aspect, bringing out the history, literary techniques, etc as we worked through the story and Rich tended to be a bit more toward the concrete categories of problem, resolution, characters, theme, etc as he worked through Ch 3. I believe this was a great combo because the people of Haiti love at least two things – stories and concrete answers. I believe that God worked this out in advance of our coming and intertwined these two things to help our brothers
grasp some new teaching concepts (at least new to most). They really seemed to be focused and interested, taking lots of notes.
Pierre gave us some great feedback, guiding us to ask more questions which helped us engage with and draw out the men even further on Friday. It was fantastic to see them work through Chapters 4-6 and make connections to Christ with gospel application. We also worked through some of the ways we can do it improperly and slip into moralism, liberalism, etc. Even
though there will certainly be some refining, and they probably didn’t all fully grasp the material, we were able to expose them to this type of teaching, and I believe that they did see the importance of pointing folks to Christ rather than Bible “heroes”, moral acts or Christian identity for identity sake. We ran into a snafu the first day causing us to not finish all of the lessons we planned, but we did work through most of the book of Esther together and Rich
did a real nice job tying a bow on things at the end.
It was exciting to have a fella from the Caleb Ministry (MEBSH Men’s Ministry) ask that we come back and teach at their Caleb Conference (the equivalent of the women’s conference Teren and Christy were sharing at – 3000 women strong!). Pierre shared that this was our desire, to come along side MEBSH ministries and partner with them. He shared more about Levangil and our goals. He asked if they would be interested in teaching like what we had done, but related to the Gospel as it relates to work, and receiving a positive response. Pray that God will open the right doors to open for this and to provide the right teachers.
Another thing we learned is a lesson in patience as taught by our Haitian brothers. We witnessed a wonderful outpouring of patience as these men sat in the heat of the day without water for the first 3 hours and waited for food that should have been ready by 12 and was not available till 2. There was some grumbling (Pierre mentioned today), but I never heard it. This culture has much more patience then ours does. When something goes wrong we tend not to wait, tend toward saying we have failed, tend to grumble rather than adjust and if the power goes out…forget about it! They tend to wait with patience. We have a lot to learn.
The men were very grateful, shaking hands and giving their thanks. One gentlemen from the conference even returned this morning to provide gifts, beautiful shells from the ocean, the big conk shell type. These are the items they sell at the market so this was a real sacrifice for this man and a blessing to us. What a joy to see giving from a grateful heart! Pray that God would bless this man…not for the gifts, but for his Christ like character that drove him to give the gifts.
Today is Saturday, a down day for the men. Teren and Christy are at the women’s conference throughout the day. We attempted to make a trip to see an orphanage that Pierre’s sister and brother-in-law runs, but again God had other plans. Our car didn’t make the last hill (transmission troubles again) so we spent part of the afternoon waiting for help. God sent a man that just happened to be working with Pierre’s sister some minutes earlier. We also just so happened to have a mechanic drive by and stop. God works on behalf of his people, playing out in front of our eyes, the day following a conference where we taught the very same thing – circumstances we didn’t plan for, but that painted a beautiful picture for us. We also got to practice some Haitian
patience! When we returned, we had some local “fast food”…it was great.
It was nice not to be running at full speed today. Regardless of the bumps in the road, what a great trip this has been! What a joy to be among the Haitian church and the body of faith. God is so
Tomorrow I preach at Pastor Tomas’s Church. Pray that God will work as he has been all along. I am excited to worship again in another language…hints of heaven I believe. Pray for energy for Pierre to translate. What a tool this man has been in the hands of the Lord these past 9 days. Pray
that Christ will continue to be lifted higher.
Blessings from all of your brothers and sisters-in-Christ here in Haiti. We miss you and look forward worshiping with you next week!
Due to a set of unforeseen circumstance (one which ended up having a cow passing us going up a hill) our team had to rent an off road vehicle with a pick-up truck bed.
Many people in Haiti tend to ride in pick-up trucks that are affectionately called ‘tap-taps’. Being able to ride in the back up a pick-up allowed us to experience, in a very small way, some of the Haitian culture.
I’ve spent the last four days riding in the back of the pick-up. On Wednesday I spent a full two hours sitting cross legged in the bed of the pick-up truck. One hand holding onto the tailgate to brace myself and the other holding onto my camera waiting for just the right shot. At one point I spent a half an hour sitting in the bed while the others went inside to buy wood. Just sitting there watching, observing and listening. During this time period I came to realize that:
Riding in the back of a pick-up truck allows you to see the Haitian children who are just like other little children all around the world. Innocent, full of wonder and unknowingly accepting of their lot in life. They smile and wave and shout, “Blahn!” (which means ‘white’ or ‘foreigner’). Riding in the back of a pick-up allows you to see the younger men who have grown weary at such an early age. The majority don’t make eye contact and walk by as if you weren't there. Still others will shout out words in creole and use gestures to let you know they aren't pleased with you being there while others strive to make an income for their family by selling goods to stopped vehicles. It allows you to see the older men who sit by the roadside watching the never ending traffic or work on one of the unfinished buildings.
Riding in the back of a pick-up truck allows you to see the little girls who at such a young and tender age walk along the sides of the busy roads gathering water for their families. It allows you to see the younger women who carry heavy burdens on their heads and in their hearts. On the rare occasion that you make eye contact they will respond with a shy smile. It allows you to see the older women who work in the numerous booths lining the road ways hoping that maybe today someone will buy the items they are selling. It allows you to see the very old men and women walking bent over deserving some sort of award for surviving an environment such as this for all of these years.
Riding in the back of a pick-up truck allows you to become intimate with the chaotic traffic that in spite of the single stoplight always seems to be moving, flowing: alive. You watch the motorcycles inch ever so near and gaze into the eyes of the driver before they speed up to pass on either side of the truck hoping to get nowhere fast. It allows you to feel the breeze of a truck as it passes way too close. It allows you to see the tap-taps and other vehicles packed with many, many people – the overflow hanging onto the sides or sitting on the roofs.
Riding in the back of a pick-up truck allows you to view the diverse architecture in this part of Haiti: grandly festooned cement structures surrounded by cement walls topped off with broken glass or barbed wire, windows and doorways secured with thick bars, half built structures attached to run down abodes with a towel acting as a front door, buildings adjacent to one another creating an unwieldy maze, beautiful flowers juxtaposed with razor sharp barbed wire.
Riding in the back of a pick-up truck allows you to see the carcasses of discarded vehicles strewn along the roadside, stick thin dogs panting under the hot Haitian sun looking for scraps to fill their empty bellies, donkeys under their heavy burdens trotting along the sides of the roads as their ancestors have done for centuries, cattle and sheep grazing in the fields or oxen pulling plows with men walking barefoot behind them.
Riding in the back of a pick-up truck allows you to see people gathering at a single source to collect water for their families, wash clothes or grab a quick bath.
Riding in the back of a pick-up truck allows you to experience every bump in the road, smell the exhaust, feel the cool rain on your skin or the heat of the sun on your face, and the taste of dust in your mouth.
Riding in the back of a pick-up truck allows you to gaze upon the wide open vistas show casing fields of grass flowing in the wind, palm trees swaying in the breeze, and flowering trees and bushes. To see the brilliant colors of the homes, cars and clothing.
Riding in the back of a pickup truck allows you to offer a friendly smile and a quick wave to the wonderful people who call Haiti home.
Last Sunday our team had the privilege of worshiping with our brothers and sisters in Christ at Philadelphia Baptist church in Caye. The church meets above Pierre’s parent’s home. After a wonderful time of singing, praying and preaching, we walked with a few deacons of the church to the site of the new church they are in the process of building. It is less than half complete and construction has been halted due to debt. With no financial help on the horizon, it appears completion of the project is far off at best and at worst may never come to fruition.
After viewing the construction site, we went back to the Maceno home for a delightful Sunday feast with Pierre’s mother. Unfortunately, Pierre’s father was too sick to join us. Pierre told us his father’s health situation is quite serious and he is having trouble eating any solid food. Pastor Maceno is officially retired, but in many ways a pastor’s work is never really done, especially in Haiti. So, Pastor Maceno battles bad health and continues to minister in some capacity to congregants he has pastored over the years.
Following dinner we headed outside to the courtyard to talk with Pastor Maceno. He was seated on a chair under some palm trees and was leaning on his staff. Pastor Maceno thanked us all for coming to Haiti to preach the gospel. He told us he had trusted Christ in 1947. He told us of his health issues and that at 82 years old he was the oldest living MEBSH pastor on the entire island. His grandchildren sat upon his knee and ran around at his feet while Pierre did the interpreting. We thanked Pierre’s parents for raising such a fine son. Then, after a few quick family pictures it was time to go. Our visit only lasted a few minutes, but I’m sure it will be among the most memorable things on this trip.
To see this faithful husband and wife, bearing decades of the joys and sorrows of ministry upon their faces and still fully engaged in the trials of life here in Haiti, the happiness of a father and mother welcoming their son and daughter-in-law back home, the pleasure taken in holding grand babies. I could not help but be brought to tears.
From the staff, to the son living in a far way land, to the grandchildren upon the knee, I immediately thought of Jacob at the end of his life. Walking with a limp he gained as a result of wrestling with God, but full of faith in God from whom he had refused to let go without a blessing. Jacob’s limp served as a reminder he had been blessed albeit through struggle.
All true blessings come from God’s hand and they often come through trials that leave scars. Think of the greatest blessing of all. Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”. God the Son willingly went through the trial of the cross only then to be seated at the right hand of the throne of God the Father. Before he ascended to that position, he appeared in his glorified body here on this earth after His resurrection. His glorified body, made perfect, contained nail marked hands and a scared side (John 20:27). They were now trophies of His suffering and proof he had died upon the cross, but had been raised again, saving the souls of all those who would turn from their sins and trust in Him. By His suffering we have been healed and believers, as His Bride, are part of His reward “”Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exalt and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” (Revelation 19:6b-8).
Haiti is a land full of difficult trials. There are disappointing set backs and extreme hardships that come as a result of living in a fallen world. The Christians here are in the midst of these trials every day, but I’m learning Haiti is also a land of scars, beautiful scars. Scars gained through holding on to God by faith in Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, even in the most painful of circumstances. Scars that remind of God’s blessing.
So, hold on Pastor Maceno, hold on. Hold on Hatian believers, hold on. Hold on Bereans, hold on. Christ has prevailed. He bears the wounds to prove it. You are blessed in Him. You are part of His blessing.
The trial is hard,
but you will soon get your scar.
A reminder of God’s blessing upon you.