Saturday, December 31, 2011

In the Master's Shoes

Sometimes we find ourselves in unfamiliar circumstances, with no sound option but to move forward with the hope of learning something. The predicament, if we are watchful, can transform us like a caterpillar into the most beautiful butterfly, giving flight to our purpose in life. God places us there, not in the dire straits that we can see from our perspective, but in the opportunity to grow, from His perspective, into the masterpiece that He intends. It’s like knowing the expression of the Mona Lisa, but her lips haven’t yet tasted the artist’s brush, knowing the twinkle in eyes that have not yet seen the color of the paints, blending on the palette. It’s coming into focus more and more for us, the painted, but the Painter has seen the wonderful Vision all along the dotted way.

If we are never found in a new place, a new trial, or a new happenstance, we become stagnant and murky. Soon we start to stink, and before you know it we’re breeding grounds for all the nasty things. Selfishness and pride mix in with a dose of complacency and laziness, and it’s a terrible brew, a cup of wrath for the drinking.

But, If we choose to welcome the adventure of each new day, the epiphany of each sunrise, the troubles of each trial.....ahhhh, life is fresh, ripe, ready for the tasting! We’ve only to pluck that beautiful fruit from the tree and savor!

It was a flurry of preparations on the day we knew the master of the house would be coming to visit. Electric air! Thoughts were racing, anticipation churning.

Tikilene, my Haitian Momma, arrived early, with a bounce in her step.
“Pierre is coming!” She said with a smile. “We have alot of work to do!”
I gave her a big hug, the only proper way to hug a Mom, and decided to toy with her a bit,
“Hey, you want to go for a swim in the ocean with me. It’s beautiful out there. We can just relax and take it easy.”
“No, No, No!” She insisted, just the way I knew she would. “There’s no time for that! Only time for work! Work!”
I laughed.
“Yes, Momma. Ok. Well......let’s get to the work!”

She cleaned and scrubbed and mopped away with Abby and Kari. The girls had the inside.
Logan and I started picking up leaves, burning the garbage, sweeping the yard. The boys had the outside.

I’d never been in that position before, awaiting and preparing for the arrival of the master of the house. I’ve always been the master of my own house, and it was never up to anyone but my wife and I to clean up whatever mess we found. There were always plenty of messes, thanks to two kids, two dogs and a cat.
This was an entirely new point of view.
As the hour approached, the work finished and it was time for inspection. Under Tikilene’s watchful eyes, we gave everything a second look. All of us took on her servant’s heart. Smiling, singing, bouncing. We tried to put ourselves in the master’s shoes. What would be the first things he’d see? What would his eyes fall to as he entered the gates of his home? What detail needed polishing, so he would feel the most perfect relief to be home, to bring thanksgivings to his heart?

Verses sprang to my mind, and I realized that, once again, God was painting me a picture, making His words leap up off the pages so I could understand His story with more clarity. A smile was coming to my face. A twinkle to my eye, as I realized He was putting things into perspective for me, in ways I could comprehend, in much the same way you might tell a story to a child using puppets. I’m thankful He does that for me. It tells me that He loves me, He cares for me enough to help me understand, a little more every day.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." ~Matthew 24:45-51

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Different Noel

Yesterday morning Chelo and I embarked on another journey to find a new road and see just how far it would play out.  We came to the end of the line, and I marked in my GPS where the new trailhead began.  There's a new church just up the mountain another quarter-mile.   I've been taking note of the open huts, the gathering places that dot the tops of each ridge.   Some of them have large drums.  I remembered reading a book by a Haitian author about these huts, how they're used for Voodoo.   I've yet to confirm that, since it seems against the culture and etiquette to speak of it openly. 

On the way back I stopped to say hello to a man who I think is involved in Voodoo.  He was very kind to me.  He told me he was thinking he might come to pay me a visit for 'the party'.  

"What party?" I said.
"Ahhhh.   I see."
I'm still not sure how I feel about that.

From noon on we spent half the day cooking a special Christmas Eve supper for some friends. Yes, it takes that long to prepare a big meal in Haiti. Alot of time hovering over the dutch ovens. The time for them to arrive came and went, and for 2 hours we tried to keep everything warm. Finally we got word that they were unable to come, and so we sat and ate as a family. You know the parable in the Bible about the banquet that was prepared, and then nobody showed? We had more clarity on that message than ever before. We went out into the street and invited a neighbor over. By then the food was cold, but she was happy to take a plate home. It was a bitter sweet experience for Christmas Eve.

This morning we started early, just after sunrise, tending the fire to get the coals hot for cooking apple crisp and brownies. The neighbor lady Tililene began burning huge piles of garbage in anticipation of the owner of the house to show tomorrow. Preparations for his arrival are underway. The air is filled with smoke from burning fires. I opened the back gate and walked down to the river. Little Bebe was wading in the middle, using a long stick to fish out whatever might be laying on the river bottom that might be worth something. It's Christmas morning. I noticed the size of his arms. Sticks. He's deaf and doesn't make words, but he understood me when I asked him to come with me. We had a fresh coconut cut just for him, ready for the drinking. Then my son brought him a cold chunk of fudge. It took him 10 minutes to eat it. His smile was huge as he savored the taste of the rich chocolate.

Kari and I watched the sun coming over the mountains across the ocean.  The kids sipped on a special treat, hot chocolate.  I sipped on my coffee and told my wife,
"It's really like being back in Wyoming, except all the low-country is blue. I'm still looking out at big, beautiful mountains."
"Yeah, and you're in the tropics, it's already hot, that's an ocean, there are Haitians, they speak another language, they have an entirely different culture, Christmas Eve is an all-night party and Christmas is just another day."   She said.
"Hmmmm.  Yeah, it's a little different."   

Sunday, December 18, 2011


I preached my first sermon today.  We visited 3 churches and had 2 Bible distributions....
Sometimes, there has to be no reason whatsoever to just stop, let go, have fun and fly...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Many Thanks!

My family was asked to put together a short video for some school children back in the States today.  I have to say we found it very difficult to be on the other side of the camera.   We tried to give everyone a snapshot of what the mission here looks like.   To everyone who has contributed this year, helping us to come here and give great Treasure in His Name, Mesi Anpil, (Many Thanks!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Frantzou Singing

Frantzou is a young Christian man.  He wants to come with us on our next Bible distribution.  He stops by the house when he has questions about the Bible.  This Friday we'll be talking about Proverbs together after his final exams.
He has an insatiable hunger to know Christ, and I see no fear in him to spread the news.  It's encouraging and refreshing to see an individual mobilize for Christ, motivated only by the desire to share.

'There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. '  1 John 4:18

The image of the moon was our view of the Lunar Eclipse from Haiti.  We saw beautiful burnt gold, bouncing off the water.   Did you know when most people photograph the moon, they make the common mistake of slowing down their shutter, or cranking up their ISO's.  But it's actually the opposite that does the trick.  You have to shoot it like you're in the noon-day sun.  Why?  Because in total darkness, the light shines brightly!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

God's Donkey

My wife read to me the story of a man who used to take Bibles up into the mountains in China.  He was supposed to carry the Word of God to the people.
He said he was God's Donkey. 
That resonated with me. 
I think that's my great work, my seasoning, for now.  
Honestly, I don't even feel worthy for the task.
But this is the way He's arranged it.
I go and pick up Bibles in Cayes. The woman who runs the Bible Store knows me well.
I haul in the Bibles to my village, and then, almost as if on schedule, a pastor knocks on my door.
He's a new pastor.  
I've never met him.  
I've never been to his village.  
But he's heard of me and my call. 
We sit and have some cold water.  My brother-in-Christ always has a list for me, a list of souls, hungry for the word of God.
He always looks at me a little funny.  I'm strange.  I don't fit. I'm not cut from the Pastor cloth.  Not what you'd expect I guess.  
I've always been a little odd to the Shepherds, but I'm getting used to that.  When you look at the sheep all day, a donkey doesn't quite fit the mold.
We schedule a day that I will visit the church, or a day the church will come to the local clinic, and then he leaves with a bounce in his step, encouraged.  
The big day comes, and we bring the Bibles.
The people trickle in.  Then they pour into the chairs.
We give them the Gospel.
We write down their names in their personal Bible.
And they walk down the path to home.  
Big, hope-filled smiles.
Are they all saved? 
Was I born yesterday?
But my purpose is to bring the Word.  I'm not the Judge and Jury.
Discipleship is happening. In conversations, in actions, in love.
For now, it's a great privilege, an honor to carry these Bibles.  
When, or if He decides to give me more, I'll be glad to do more.
Other brothers and sisters, local men and woman, have asked to join us.  
They're not coming to get paid.  There is no pay.  
Only a chance to help. 
A pastor wants to come with me to the next church we visit.  
A young Christian man wants a part to play on Sunday when we give the Bibles again.  
There's not many parts.  
You can give a Bible. 
You can give the Gospel.  
You can testify of His Love.
Bible #408 walked down the main road of my village today.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mr. Gedna

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. 
Philippians 2:14-16

He's moved back to Haiti now.
He's been filled, poured into, richly blessed 
with solid teaching.
He's living in a house with 2 strong Christian men, 
down by the ocean, 
where there's time to think about God's plan.
A missionary, a carpenter, even built him a beautiful bed.
He's got himself a shiny silver, classic Honda scooter.
He's even got a new hair style.
But what really matters?  Now he's got a new way to walk - 
physically and spiritually.

Good morning!
Time to shine, Andi Gedna.  
Time to shine.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Diamonds in the Rough

When we lived in America, he was a classic rock hound.  It didn't matter where we were, he was always scanning the ground for any rock that might stand out among the others.  He was looking for the peculiar.

In Haiti, he has a new passion.  He will stand out on the stormy days in contrast against the shoreline, scanning the ground for the new treasure, of greater worth than gold in his eyes... yes, the ever elusive seashell.  The angry ocean churns up her bottom and spits them up on the rocks by the dozens, and when the water recedes, there is my boy, ready to commence the search. 

He has a whole tupperware container full of them, and I must admit they are beautiful.  He's even got his sister and some of their Haitian friends interested in the hunt.
I picked out one that was original, and I've strung it around my neck.
It reminds me.  Like these beautiful shells hidden among the garbage and debris, we're all just diamonds in the rough.   Treasure in the making, even though right now we may be all kinds of peculiar. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Walking in the Light

Yesterday brought an unexpected chore.  When Tililene went for our daily cup of moved.  Right away she dragged the bag out and plopped it down in the sun, then called for us.   Under the sink, inside the ice chest, in deep darkness, that rice seemed just fine.  But when we began to open up the bag and spread out the rice into pans, we saw what it was really made of.   It was infested.

In the darkness, even in the shade outside, we could have picked through it all day long, and it wouldn't have mattered.  The bugs were hidden deep in the sack, even inside the grains of rice where they couldn't be seen.

My friend Chelo came over just as we were making our discovery.
"We've got a problem." I sighed. "What a waste. Well, we'll have to get rid of it."  
But Chelo laughed,
"When you said you had a problem, I was worried.  I thought it was something serious, you know.  This?  Ha! This is no problem!  This happens all the time!  Just put it out in the sun!"

So we spread the rice out on the pans and set them in the hot Haitian sun.   It was so bright it seemed to luminesce, and almost immediately we began to watch the bugs rise to the surface. They couldn't stay. They couldn't leap out of the light fast enough.  They fled for their lives.  We sifted the grains over and over, until there was nothing left but the rice, and I'm left with my lesson.

God has been driving a message home with me recently, and I wonder if you can follow this thread as it weaves from age-old scripture into this dance of life called Today.

In discipleship with my Haitian brothers, we decided to read through Proverbs, and this verse lit up when I came across it:
The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. 
Proverbs 4:18-19

My family also has morning devotions.  We meet as soon as we're all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and we dig through scripture together.  The kids picked the book we're on now, which is 1 John.  These are the verses that have been highlighted in my heart:

"This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. " 1 John 1:5-7

"Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. 
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him." 1 John 2:8-11

Just like the rice, we can't claim to be something we aren't.  We can't claim to have righteousness, yet in the light be revealed as infested.  If we claim Jesus, yet we're blinded in darkness, what good are we?

Instead, wouldn't you rather be the first gleam of dawn?  Fresh, new, Hope!
Wouldn't you rather be a bolt of sunlight pushing out into these hills?  Don't you want to shine the light on the path to Jesus?  Don't you want to burst forth as the bugs flee?   

If it were left only to us and our infested minds one might think we're fit for the garbage heap.  But God doesn't see us as finished.
His Boy can fix the problem. His Boy can transform you today.

Take your life and pour on the Son. Let the dark things find their rightful, scurried place and light up your world today. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I don't like 'IF'.
It is the brother to Maybe, the cousin of Never.
If we're all going to live in IF, we all might as well rip our hearts out of our chests right now and let them slowly stop beating, because they no longer serve a purpose.  There's no point for blood to course through our veins if we can't back up what we know in our hearts to be true.

If all the stars align and everything falls into place before you leap, what room is there for faith? 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Travay Di

I saw boards piled high in the road.
I heard them long before I saw them.
They'd been at it for a long time.
The ladies were hauling water for them from the well.
One of the men was cooking in a big pot over the fire for them.
This is a simple video. It's purpose it to show only 1 thing.
Work Ethic.
Did I work hard today?
Did I work Haitian hard?

Local Faces 11: Lin

Her uncle sells gasoline by the pop or rum bottle just down the street from me, which is the standard measure here. The closest gas station is out near Cayes, so often times it's necessary to buy a bottle here and there.  Her mom goes to the Catholic church.  Her father has passed away.  She wants to learn more English, which is great, because her friend (my daughter) needs to learn more Kreyol.  It's a good match.  
She dressed up for church on Sunday, so we took some pictures. 
Lin is 13 years old, and she's extremely courteous and polite.  

Local Faces 10: Little Bebe

Some days I'm better off not writing what's really on my heart, because it's not checked.  It's not prayed over.  It's just raw emotion. I've deleted most of what I had written today because I'm frustrated.    Instead of being swayed into not posting at all, I choose instead to set down the words and pick up the pictures.

This is Bebe.  It means dumb or mute.  He's a homeless boy that hangs around my village.   He's deaf, so he can't make any words. He doesn't have the privilege of having a roof over his head, let alone an education.   He's harsh.  Because he can't communicate, he is very dramatic.  Somewhere along the line, someone hurt him.  He doesn't have much in the way of manners, because love is a foreign affair in his world.  

He has goodness in him, but he's quick to anger, and he'll fight anyone.   It doesn't matter to him if there's 2,3 even 4 boys on 1, he'll still swing for all he's got.    I've seen him cry several times after a fight.  Now and then he's hit in the head with a rock, and I see him screaming.   He's tolerated here.  Some people are kind to him.  Some are not.  Justice here is brutally efficient.  You are either right or wrong, and your punishment is swiftly carried out.  You just hope that your judge and jury has a forgiving swing.   

I wonder how he'll end up in this old world.  Will kindness rule the day and his heart at the finish?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bito's Bench

When my wife got here, she had this need, this inner urge, this pull, for us to have a bench.
So, one day when a man from the mountain came down the path with rough lumber and leaned the boards up next to our house, I took it as a sign.   Me and Rough Lumber have a history, you know.

Bito, a man who lives 2 doors down, is a boatworker and a carpenter.
When I asked him how much it would cost to build me a bench, he just smiled.
"I've got no problem with you." He said, "You gave me a Bible, I will build the bench for free."
I gave Benson the money to buy the lumber, and right away that night I could hear Bito's hand saw and hammer.   It was a Sunday night, and he'd gone to work on the project straight away.

A week later, there was our bench, and we thanked Bito for his work.  We payed him regardless for his effort.   He's a kind man.  Such a hard worker.

We tried the bench in several spots, and nothing seemed to fit just right, until just the other day.
I'd taken the bench outside the front gate and was talking with Benson and Tikilene.
"It just doesn't feel right having it here.  Maybe across the road.  That seems better." I said.
Without another thought, Tikilene walked up the hill to the neighbors and asked if they'd mind having the bench on their side of the road.
They smiled down at us and gave us the ok, and so we moved it.

I didn't understand why my wife needed a bench.  I don't know that she did either.  She just knew it would be filled up.   She was right.

We call it Bito's Bench for Everyone, or Ban Bito pou Tout Moun.   Every day we take it out and place it on the side of the road.  Beaming expecting mothers, a variety of giddy school children, teenagers, elderly sages of the community, and passerby's on their way to market all find respite in the nice shade.  It's a good place to shoot the breeze. Benson inscribed a greeting above that reads, "Have a Sit".
We try to only speak Creole when we sit there, it's the only requirement.

The purpose for some projects just can't be seen from this side of things, but now and then God gives us a glimpse through the clouds into His clarity.  Some projects are so simple and basic, they only require a little bit of love to kickstart them into being, but the finished work can move mountains.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Keeping the Focus

We were approached with a tremendous blessing from an entire SCHOOL that wants to help with this ministry in Haiti.
I really felt like I was supposed to let go of this, that my wife was the right Christian for the job.
This morning I woke up and saw a message she'd written to a teacher and friend in the school. It showed me her genuine interest in caring for this project, that she is God's perfect pick for the job at hand.
Now, especially with the coming Holidays, I was moved by her words and refreshed, reminded of something very important....our call.  With her permission this morning (given I check and double check for grammatical errors and mispelling) she's allowed me to post it here. These are her words, and this is our ministry:

Hello! Sorry for not responding sooner. I really wanted to pray about this and talk to Dan. I didn't know that your whole school was getting involved. That is absolutely amazing to me! I am constantly so in awe of our God and how gracious He is!! So, these are my thoughts as I was seeking God for direction with this. Honestly, my first gut reaction was, "YES! Let's do a Christmas celebration and give care packages to the community. I mean, I know we're not a "stuff" ministry, but it's just once a year, and's Christmas!! There's nothing wrong with giving gifts and simple toiletries, we're called to care for orphans and widows and the poor. This is a perfect way to show Love to the community!" Then, I talked to Dan and he cautioned me to think this through but whatever I thought was best, was fine with him. So, I prayed about this and your school and for Haiti and sought answers in the Word. And as much as my flesh wants to give gifts, I really feel my spirit saying no. I think we can bring more glory to God if we approach this from a Scriptural perspective, even though it may not be as "fun" or "attractive." I think it fits better with what God wants to be His ministry. When you have time, read these Scriptures and I think you'll understand why I think best to keep focused on the Gospel.
Colossians 1:24-29 Pauls ministry to the church - to make the word of God fully known.
Acts 3:1-6 "I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give to you"
Matthew 10:7-10 Jesus sends out the 12 with NOTHING
2 Timothy 4:1-5 I charge you....preach the word
James 5:13-15 Is anyone suffering, let him pray...
Philippians 4:10-13 Rejoice in all things, in plenty or in want

I could go on and on with scripture supporting what ministry should look like. Nowhere do I see candy or toothbrushes, or soap, or toys, or anything! I think it is so easy, especially as moms, to want to do these extras because we simply love people. God put that in us. But I think we need to be careful that the extras don't distract from the Lord's work. I think often it does and we don't realize it. I have seen the effects of giving things away and it isn't pretty. The day after Thanksgiving, word got out in the village that we were giving out Bibles and our place was almost overran with people that had a "give me" attitude. We went from a simple one-on-one ministry to a full yard of Haitians demanding Bibles (probably just to sell them.) It was crazy and ministry was definitely hindered. I never want people to see Jesus as any kind of prosperity gospel...especially here. More than likely they won't have any chance of prosperity....ever! We want to minister to people who truly want to know God and not be enticed by care packages. Once we start that, we'll have so many that all of a sudden....want to know God. By keeping our ministry simply preaching the Word and giving Bibles, God is bringing us people who have no other motive....because we have nothing else to offer. I think this is an important lesson for kids (and adults) in America too. We should never have to "entice" anyone with entertainment or gifts to hear about Jesus. The Gospel really is powerful enough to do the enticing. That is what I am learning here. I know I'm rambling so I'm sorry, but God has really shown me something with this.

So, now that I've written you a book, I can maybe answer some of your questions. Donating online is probably best if that works. If parents want to know specific numbers, Creole Bibles cost us about $8.50. There are some children's booklets I'm planning to get, but I don't have a cost on that yet. Our focus is simply to preach the Word, disciple those who want to know God more, teach people how to use and study a bible, distribute God's Word, and love His people. We also know that we're called to help others in need, but this is as God brings people to us.

I know you might face some opposition to helping us in this simple way because we have found that people get MUCH more excited to help with physical needs than for spiritual needs. But I encourage you to use this to teach your students, and even some adults as the opportunity comes, God's heart. He desires that NO ONE should perish and that everyone should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9b). Knowing this, every bit of our time and resources should be poured into spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Christ so that All the nations will PRAISE HIM!

What you can send us is letters and pictures from the students. Even photographs of what they are doing to help raise funds would be great (which you could email). My kids love getting mail, but you could also send them to people in the community. I can share their notes, prayers or pictures to encourage the people. Also, to let them know that these are not "hand outs." The hands and feet of Christ are working to ensure that Creole bibles are getting into their hands. It's truly a beautiful thing.

Also, I can get pictures and maybe some audio/video clips for you. Let me know your thoughts with any of this.

Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Take a New Line

When I'm driving with my moto up and down these rocky mountain roads, there are obstacles in the path.   Sometimes it's a giant boulder that will bust your tires and deflate you.
Sometimes there's a mud hole that will bog you down.
Now and then it's a rut that's just getting so deep you might get stuck in it.

Once along a very steep and narrow part of the road, there was just enough obstacle to sway my course, and my tire pushed off the edge.  I was left with nothing else to do but throw all of my weight onto the handlebars and keep the front tire on the road while the back end hung out over the edge.  I was in quite a hopeless situation, just holding on while a Haitian brother ran to my assistance to give me help. "Don't move!" he shouted, as he grabbed hold of me with one arm, and the handlebars with the other.

Even if I'm following Patchouko or Chelo, very experienced men who've logged a lifetime of hours on these roads, even if my eyes are fixed on the line of their back tire and putting my front tire in that same line, there are still times that it becomes insane to follow them.

My point is this.  In this road of life, seldom does the path twist and turn the way we expect, and even when we think we know where we're going, sometimes there is a better, more beautiful plan for us.   Inevitably, it becomes necessary then to take a new line.

Instantly you find you have a new strategy.  The old plan is flushed. The new plan becomes the only plan.
There is a shift in the gears, but the solace is this:  You will still arrive, eventually, at your destination.

Really it's not about which line we take.  It's about finishing well.

Continue today, Christian.  Don't stop.  Don't give in.  Don't worry.
Just trust, be available.  Be ready when that new line comes.  Drive right at it, and don't be timid.
Take it and own it.  It's yours.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Most Humble Man I Know

He walks up and down the mountain every day, in a suit and tie and briefcase.  Even though he's soaked and dripping in sweat, he is happy.  He is in the rural mountains of Haiti.
Yet his office is smaller than a jail cell. Sunlight pours through the cracks in the walls and there are holes in the rusty tin roof above his head.  There's just enough room for him to squeeze in, sideways, behind his desk, and for someone to sit directly opposite of him. They use his office as a storage closet for the school pots and pans that the rice and beans will be cooked in.  There is no water.  No electricity.  No air conditioning.  
His floor is made of dirt, but when you sit with him, he's as professional as any school principal in America.  
He is a pastor.  He leads the people of the village of Jabouin in prayer.
He is a teacher. The children have so much respect for him that when he speaks to them in a gentle whisper, they come to attention.  He sings with them in the morning as the Haitian flag is raised.  He teaches them to be proud of their country and their heritage. 
He is also a school inspector.  He has great ideas and a deep desire to further the education of his people. 
He wants to open a professional school in these hills, to bring jobs and help the local economy.  He's seen brilliant kids grow up and leave, because there just isn't any work for them here.   

Today at his school, pre-k and kindergarten meets outside under a tarp as the teacher sings to them.  Inside, first, second, third and fourth grade all meet in the same room, divided only by the direction of their chairs and the chalkboard of their teachers.

If we wait long enough in this life, there will certainly be enough distractions that we'll begin to forget what God might be calling us to do.  There will always be some other concern.  There will always be something else that will come and rob us of our time, and eventually, of our worth, our purpose. 

Our value isn't in dollar signs and bank accounts.  Our measure is in our ability to put others ahead of ourselves. What is our motivation? Why are we called to go, Christians? 

Nobody knows what this man does every day, how many steps he's taken in his lifetime for these kids, in the name of Jesus.  

This man could be anywhere in the world.  He's intelligent. He's passionate. His work ethic is through the roof.  But he's also full of something else, something that makes all the difference in the world.  He's the most humble man I know, and yet he is the richest man I know.

It is Love of Christ.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy 18 Francia

Miss Francia who lives in the MH orphanage turned 18 today.   It was the biggest party I've seen so far in Haiti.
She's such a sweet girl.  She has an amazing servant's heart.  She's always helping the ladies in the orphanage with cooking and cleaning and taking care of the younger kids.  It was very hard for her to be seated in the place of honor alongside Gertrude, who was celebrating her 36th birthday as well.  When it came time for everyone to dance, she was too shy.  But, her smile is absolutely priceless.

My gift to her:  1 free trip to and from Cayes, whenever she wants to go.  Ice cream included.

How Do You Like Them Apples

Bible #281 went to Peterson.
This boy is a thinker. I first met him in 2010, selling roasted nuts to the mission team.  He made sure to tell me how delicious they were.
He speaks pretty good English also, and when another mission team wanted to introduce sewing for diapers, it was Peterson who was the most efficient on the machine.  His comprehension is off the charts.
At 13, he has saved up enough to buy his own cell phone.  The word that comes to mind when I think of this boy in the middle of rural Haiti is: entrepreneur.
He's translated for me a few times, and he's an excellent soccer player.   To top it off, he's even brought other boys his age to our house for Bibles.  I've asked him to give the Gospel, but he's not quite out of that shell yet.  Soon, I think.

Yesterday we realized that Gertrude and Francia's birthday was fast approaching,  so we decided to make a  trip into Cayes for gifts and supplies.
Peterson got wind of our idea to go, and asked me if he could come.   He'd been saving up his money, and he had only one thing in mind, American Apples.

Rose and Lucy also asked if they could come, so we all piled into the car along with my friend Chelo.  We went bouncing down the road, zigging and zagging in the thick Saturday afternoon traffic of motorcycles, buses and tap-taps.   Peterson started to look a little green.  At his young age he's experienced many things, but car rides are not his thing.   Chelo said,
"I think we need to bring him with us to Cayes from now on, until he gets used to it."

We stopped to get the gifts for the ladies, and then went hunting for the apples.   It took us a long time to make the circle around the market, because traffic was so thick.  The kids all got some precious Haitian ice cream, and even some free chocolate from a store owner who was overjoyed by seeing so many children come into his establishment with smiles.

By this time,  Peterson wasn't talking much.  He looked like at any moment he might explode.   I imagined with apples, ice cream, and chocolate that would not be a very pretty mess to see.

On the way home He laid down in the very back of the car where I couldn't see him.  I tried to drive more carefully, but in the end it didn't help.

"Peterson.......Peterson?"  I called out from the driver's seat.
No answer.
Then the kids all joined in.
"Ye-----yes..." He said.
"Are you doing okay?"
"Do you feel like you need to throw up?"
"............yes......I did."
Thoughts of a chocolate, apple, and ice cream explosion in the back crossed my mind.
"Is it......Is it everywhere?" I asked.
"No.  I threw up in my ice cream cup."    He said, as we hit another bump.
He was back there holding a very full cup of throw up as I was bouncing over speed bumps....
We gingerly came to a stop and he tossed it out.
He took a deep breath as we started back down the road.
"I feel better now."  He said, taking a deep breath.
"How do you like them apples? Was it worth it?"  I asked him.
 "YES!" He said, still looking a little green around the edges.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Was That Really Necessary?

A new pastor came to our last Bible distribution, and so after our discipleship group this morning, Chelo and I decided to go hunting for his church.  
I'd never been past St. Jean, and so it was exciting to go exploring.   
We hopped on our moto's and zoomed down the road.  
After St. Jean it was new territory for us, and so we just started asking the locals.   Suddenly, out of the blue we came upon that very pastor, on his moto and headed for Cayes.  
He was very excited to see us, and he led us right to his church, called the Church at the Rock.  
We planned our next bible distribution and shook on it, then said our goodbyes. 
I asked Chelo if he'd care to just see where the road goes with me, and so we turned our bikes South and started out.  Have I mentioned that with every fiber of my being, I love this part of my job?  

Who knows what might be around the next bend?  Who might God be placing in our path today?! What new wonder might our eyes behold?!

We came to the fishing community of Krabye and stopped for a moment to enjoy the view of the ocean and the mountains.  It was then that Chelo told me,
"So....yeah....I don't think I'm gonna have enough gas to make it..."
"Make it where? To the next village?"
"No, back to Ti Rivier."
"There's a man selling gas on the side of the road."
"I don't have any money."
"That's going to be a problem, because I don't have any money either."

So we took our chances.  Chelo and I walked up to the man and explained our problem.   We told him that we were coming back soon with Bibles and we'd pay him back then.  Then Chelo told them that his mother used to come up and down this road to buy coconuts for the market.  
That was all it took.  Mario, the owner, filled up a beer bottle full of gasoline and handed it to Chelo.
"No problem." He told me. 
"When I come back to pay you, I'll also bring you a Bible."
"OK." He said.

We zoomed on down the road and soon the gravel turned to the old dirt roads of Haiti.    We passed a mile of marshland, and then came a river.  Really, a tributary of sorts.  There was only one way to pass the stagnant water.  Three coconut trees and a couple of planks of wood had been lashed together to make some kind of crude walking bridge with gaps wide enough to step through.   It was so narrow there was barely room to walk, let alone drive a moto.  

"Think you can do it?" Chelo asked me.
"I think I can try!" I said.
A man on another motorcycle came up from the other side and turned off his engine just as Chelo revved his engine and went bouncing over the makeshift bridge.  He bobbed to one side and then gunned it just enough to reach the far bank.  
My turn.  
Ok. No problem.  Just keep it in the middle.  Don't look to the left or the right...
Half way across I hit one of the spaces in the planks of wood.  It was just enough for my hand to slip, just enough to slow the motorcycle down.  I bobbed to the right and pushed off with my pinky toe, and that's when I knew it.....yep.  I'm going into this river.
As I began to lean past the point of no return,  I used every ounce of effort to gun the throttle to try and launch the bike across.  It was just enough.   

The handlebar reached an old piece of railing and I saw the bike lodge into the bridge as I sailed into the air and took the plunge.   I went in over my head into some nasty, stagnant, green and brown water.   Some of that water went right down the pipes, and when I came back up and took a deep breath, there was my Haitian friend Chelo, just staring at me in disbelief.  
It was then I realized that I'd fried my cellphone.  All along the bank were spiders and their webs, to top it off.  Not only did I fall in with no grace whatsoever.  Now I was scurrying long the bank, hoping I wouldn't meet a nest of tarantulas.  Something brushed my leg under the water....what the heck was that....ok, just a log, not a's good.  It's all good.
 The other Haitians standing on either side of the bank looked very upset.   That's when the man on the motorcycle jumped off and ran over to my bike.  
"I did the same thing."  He said,  "Fell into the river right where you did.  This is why we walk the motorcycles across."  
Ahhhhh.  That would've been a good piece of knowledge...beforehand!
"We're going to make a real bridge here soon."   said another. 
Someone threw me a hand and I climbed up out of the water looking like a drowned rat.
All eyes came to me.
"Well....." I said, searching for words, "I have my bath for today."
They erupted in laughter. 

My first visit to this village, and this is my first impression? 
Nothing like driving down main street, dripping from head to toe, leaving a trail of water behind me and waving to all the people with their jaws on the floor.    Even my hat was drooping down over my ears.  No longer Indiana Jones in it's style, I was now sporting this Mary Poppins, Hills are Alive with Music fashion.....
Really, Lord?  Was that really necessary?
I guess if that's what it takes, I'll be your fool.  

Anyway, it's Thanksgiving back home.  I have a cold tonight and a fever of 101.  If I have to look at this and find my silver lining, I'll say this:  Thanks, Lord, that the only thing I hurt today was, once again, my pride.

Spelunkers!... Shine!

Our family nugget yesterday brings me my thankfulness today:
'I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body.' from 2pete1:13 --  Did you catch it?   Not the castle of this body, not even the house of this body... the Tent of this body.    Ever go camping?  You unpack the tent, knowing it's not forever, knowing you will soon take it down and move on.  You drive in the stakes, knowing you'll pull them up. As awesome as it is, eventually you get rips and holes and snags, it leaks in the rain and everything just wears out...because it's not made to last forever.

That makes me thankful because I know someday there will be no hunger, no pain, no aches, no broken down old bodies, no separation.... there will be nothing left between me and Jesus.  The tent will come down and there will be no more struggle.  Just His Peace.

For now, our lives are just a mist.  We have only a short time to be effective and productive for Him.  There won't come a day when you finally have all you need to serve the Lord.  You Had all you needed the day He became your King.   There's no time for the stars to align.  You are the stars, when you hold out of Word of Life!  It's not complicated.  You don't have to get your degree.  You need only to shine!

There's always going to be rough weather, something from the outside pounding on the walls of your tent, wanting to make a mess of your Cheerios. That's okay!

Are you missing some of your stakes?  Turkeys!  Can't find your rain fly?  Cranberry Sauce! Is your tent dripping in the rain?
Great!  Good!  Gravy!
It's not supposed to be perfect.  It's not supposed to be easy.  It's not supposed to last.  Soon you'll take it down anyhow.  So get busy all you spelunkers! Strap on your headlamps and crawl down into the caves of darkness!  Shine your light on some lost souls and show them the way to freedom today!  Love them with everything you've got, because there's not time for anything else.

The sun is just beginning to rise here in Haiti. While I'm still here in this tent,  I'm going to go do a little exploring this morning!  There's a new church to find just down the road!  A new village I've never seen, but I've heard there are thirsty souls there, coming from the desert.  The Word of God will soon bring them hope.  Thank you Jesus!