Monday, December 31, 2012

To Break The Fallow Ground

"They utter mere words; with empty oaths they make covenants; so judgment springs up like poisonous weeds 
in the furrows of the field."   

"Sow for yourselves righteousness; 
reap steadfast love;  
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord, 
that he may come and rain 
righteousness upon you."   

I read these words in Hosea and I can relate.  When you've gone through the labor of bringing in the good soil, breaking it and tilling it under, forming it and watering the furrows with the sweat from your own forehead as your form up the rows, the last thing you want to see is a poisonous weed taking pleasure, reveling in the labor of vain, 
stealing the nutrients from your garden.  

"The more they were called, the more they went away..."  

I am not alone.
I stand in the footsteps of the whole of history.
To come asunder, into the question of such an agonizing thought.
To pick up the axe with weakened grip,
To break up the fallow ground, the soil already prepared and sown with seed, is a painful experience.  
Nothing hurts more.
To start over from scratch, to bring yourself back to nothing, absolute brokenness, 
is it possible to return from the cusp of such sorrow?
Only in seeking the Lord, 
To marinate in His mercy and grace.
There can I find the only light to break forth the dawn.
Do you see how His love does not wane,
how He desires to permeate the
soil of our souls?

"My heart recoils within me; 
my compassion grows warm and tender.  
I will not execute my burning anger...
for I am God and not a man, 
the Holy One in your midst, 
and I will not come in wrath."   

Saturday, December 29, 2012

He Dotes

A simple reminder from my garden as we prepare 
to start a new day and a new year:  
God's mercy is fresh as the dew every morning.  
In His careful and perfect measure 
He dotes upon us the provision we require 
to grow and navigate each new page and chapter 
of our lives as we stretch and reach for Heaven. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Small Miracles

Yesterday I was out tilling up the ground outside my house with a pick-axe, bringing good dirt from Jean Wilbert's garden into my yard. Just a stones throw from me, several young men were playing a Haitian form of poker, squatting and huddled in a circle on the ground while they gambled. 
They saw Wilbert and I working, but none of them offered to help. They asked questions, like why Wilbert bothers with me, moving dirt from here to there and nonsense such as that. In fact, one man even walked straight up to me and held out his cell phone in my face. He pushed the record button and stood there recording me as I worked, swinging the pick. Apparently it was a sight to see, the White, sweating.  One man did pick up a shovel, but asked me first for money.  

"I'm helping Wilbert.  He's helping me.  If you help Wilbert, he will help you."  I said.  
It wasn't good enough.  The man lost interest and eventually dropped the shovel, returning to the cards. 

It went without saying that I hadn't made much headway into my community. 

But an agronomist missionary friend of mine told me a month or so ago about a tree that grows naturally in Haiti, called the Moringa. He'd learned of it while working in Nigeria. It grows naturally in what happens to be some of the most poverty stricken areas in the world, but hardly anyone knows about it.   

The facts he presented me were astounding. The health and nutrition benefits of what's come to be called the 'miracle tree' are off the charts. It's a superfood of sorts, and you can actually use the entire tree, from the root to the bark, from the seeds to the leaves. 

It doesn't need great soil. It doesn't need alot of water. You can feed it to your fish or your livestock, you can even fertilize with it. It is an extremely giving tree.
But here's where the miraculous comes in: 

Each ounce of Moringa has the calcium equivalent of 4 glasses of milk, the vitamin C of 7 oranges, the potassium of 3 bananas, 3 times the iron of spinach, 4 times the amount of vitamin A in carrots, and twice the protein in milk.

Are you kidding me?!

I'd asked Tikilene if she could find me a tree, and it just so happens her sister has one in her yard, so yesterday we cut some branches down.  

This morning I gave some to Wilbert to plant in his garden and around his house.  Then I walked over to the house I'd just visited in the night with the screaming kids and asked if I could plant it in her front yard.  

I told them about this little tree, and how good it is for fighting infections and malnourishment, how in America you'd pay about $30 US/pound for the powder from these leaves.  Then I went back to pick-axing the ground with Wilbert.  

Before I knew it, a few young men were standing around, then some women, then a whole mess of kids.   Wilbert was telling them all about this tree and what it could mean for their community.    I set down my work and went into my house, then reappeared with a bucket full of fish-water and a handful of fertilizer.   I cared for Wilbert's Moringa's that he'd just planted, and then I fertilized and watered the house of the people who seem most opposed to our existence here.  
At first when they watched me sprinkling the fertilizer and water, I think they thought I was performing some kind of reverse-voodoo ritual or spell.   I can't tell you how tempted I was to give a little one-legged hop and a twirl with a few chants of some Bible verse, just to watch their mouths drop to the floor... but nevertheless I did refrain. 

The entire time I was being watched.  I came back to the pick-axe, picked it up, and went right back to work.

Wilbert was still talking about the vitamins in the plant. There was a pause as they absorbed everything he was saying while watching me swing the pick...
and then one young man came over and stood next to me, picked up a shovel, and began to dig.   
I was shocked, but I kept on swinging the pick.  Thud...Thud...Thud...breaking into this Haiti ground.  Breaking into these hearts...
It's a shame we live under the curse, but I do still enjoy the work of laboring in the field...
Another man walked over next to me and picked up Wilbert's pick-axe.  He swung it heavy over his shoulders and buried it up to the shaft into the earth.   Thud!  Thud!  Thud!

I looked at one of the women.   There was a smile.  I looked at Wilbert.  There was a great big grin.  
The woman with all of the children walked up to me with her hands on her hips...
"Are you still taking my kids to church on Sunday?"
"Yes."  I said.
"They don't have shoes."  She said.
"God loves us, shoes or no shoes.  If the Pastor has a problem with these kids he has a problem with me."
The truth is, he doesn't have to worry about me at all.  He'll have an much bigger problem with God.

When the work was finished, these men didn't stand waiting for me to pay them.  They waved goodbye to me and walked away.  Not one of them asked me for a single goude.

My prayers continue, that someday soon in this place, God's Word will have the same such impact as this little Miracle Tree, to cause a buzz from home to home, to bring people out from the woodwork to see with their own eyes, to cause people to lower their guards and open their hearts, to bring such authentic smiles of hope and joy. 
That men would be so motivated to join with me in swinging an axe for the Lord so that together we can break real ground in Haiti. 
My God made this tree. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Striving Together!

On Christmas day we visited with some missionaries who had what I could only describe as a covered bicycle with seats for 4.  There were two sets of pedals, and of course it looked like loads of fun, so my entire family plus Oberline jumped on board.   
I felt like Fred Flintstone. 
As we were moseying along, the little girls were sitting up front saying, "pedal a little faster please, we are enjoying the wind in our hair", while the boys were sweating like crazy in the back, huffing and puffing to keep the wheels turning.  

I began to weary very quickly (especially after a Christmas meal), and thought the task was becoming insurmountable, when I looked over and realized my son had stopped pedaling and was coasting.  

All it took was one look from me and a teeth gritting "Boy!" and he snapped back into motion.   Immediately I felt the relief of his efforts on my tired old muscles. 

The next morning, God vividly reminded of that painted illustration when we read these words from Paul:

"I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by   the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf."

Immediately I made the connection, and I realized what happens when we stop doing, and simply don't.  When we stop the work of praying for one another, laboring for one another, and loving one another, and begin to coast through life, all we really do is make it harder on each other. 

How simple.  
How profound. 
How easy to forget,  
or dismiss.

Paul, at the end of Romans, takes a reprieve from his teaching to send his greetings, and what captivated us today was the truth that, hidden within his simple salutations, was the perfect evidence of a sincere love.  

"Greet the ladies who worked so hard, the guys who went to prison with me, the folks who risked their lives for me" other words, "give my best to the people who did life with me and gave it their all, the people who loved me, the people I love."  

That level of commitment only comes from one brand name,  It's custom fit.  It's Jesus Christ.
Isn't that what it's all about?  
We're not meant to coast, Christians.  We aren't just here to feel the wind in our hair.  
We're meant to labor together.  To do life, all in. 
Won't the fruit of that blood, sweat, and tears be ever so sweet, as opposed to witnessing such blessing and having to yield that you did not partake?   Some of us may not taste it until we rest on the other side.  Some of us will be blessed and filled with the sugar of encouragement to catch a glimpse while our hearts yet beat. 
Don't you just have a burning desire to squash the grapes together?  Maybe you'll get your feet a little stained, but they'll sure smell good.  Together, I know, it will be more fun.

Here's where my family is, today in Haiti, on the brink of '13:  
There is the possibility of God using ethanol to open up the farming industry in Haiti again by restarting the sugar mills.
This would be an amazing thing to witness.  Haiti is in great need of infrastructure, and more importantly, jobs, so this could be a way to revitalize the culture and help to bring them up from the poverty that chokes.  I'm convinced that this will happen regardless, as soon as the country turns back to God.  It's interesting to see where God might be taking us. 

We're about to have a meeting with a ministry called Life Literature, on January 8th.  I worked with them last year in buying the Bibles as a subsidized cost, and since we are the furthest South they've pushed into Haiti, they are thinking of using our home as a satellite hub of sorts, to bring literature (Bibles and study materials) to this area.   There will be dozens of Pastors coming to visit, so please pray for God to show us clearly if this is a good step.  

On more personal levels, we've started a small aquaponics project at our house with about 400 fish, and in another month or so we'll have vegetables.  I'm turning our yard into a mini-farm. 

We are dealing at the present with alot of voodoo in our area, and since we've just moved to the new village, some have made it clear they don't want us here.  This is of course only during the night, and in the daytime everyone seems to be a friend.  We could use your prayers in that regard, for patience and love, on their part and mine.  This Sunday I'm taking alot of their kids to church with us.   

Today after we had a great meal of spaghetti, I walked out my back door to 3 of those little ones, none over the age of 5.  They were knocking raw mangos out of the tree. They were not yet ripe but in their minds, it was close enough.  Their mother and step-father were laying on the ground, weak with headaches from malnutrition.  The kids were fending for themselves for something, anything to make their bellies hurt less.   I know the answer in Haiti is not to just give food. I know the answer is to give them Christ, to give them a hand up, not a hand out.   I know I can't feed all of my village, nor should I.  The whites come.  The whites go.  They can't come to depend on me... 

I also know that I will be judged for doing nothing, when I could have done something.

We don't know what to do, and we could use your prayers.  We are looking for solutions to problems much greater than us.  Could you join with us in prayer on these things?

Where are you?  What are your needs?  If there's anything you need prayer for, please don't hesitate to write it down in the comments.  Let's do life together.

I hope there can be fruit, at the very greatest, in prayer, striving together.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Twirling, Whirling Joy to the World

There is a Haitian girl, thirteen years old, dancing and twirling with my daughter to the song, "Let it Snow" and "Walking in a Winter Wonderland", over and over again.  It's 80 degrees.
My son is baking brownies with his Momma. They're flipping them every few minutes so they don't burn on just one side.
An extra egg was cracked, so the puppy even got a special breakfast.
Even the fish are swimming happy this morning with their bellies full, and the plants in the garden are fully watered and stretching toward the Sun.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

He's Not a Baby Anymore

Two nights ago in the darkness of yet another power outage in Haiti, terrible screams shattered the night.  We could hear the smacks of hands hitting skin, and shear terror being realized by someone in very dire straits.
Kari and I thought for certain either someone was being beaten to death, or one of the young ladies in our village was being gang raped.
To make a long story short (for the holidays and peace of mind) I walked to the house where the screams were coming from and shined my light inside.  They told me there was no problem, but I could still hear someone crying.  I asked the people to come outside, and a woman told me she'd only been punishing one of her children.  

A couple of hours passed, and then commenced the most furious spiritual attack on our house.
For a solid hour, three or four men stood in the darkness beyond where we could see them, chanting and making voodoo.  
They'd worked themselves up into a trance of sorts.  They'd throw rocks, they'd clap, they'd yell things such as "We remember them!"  Then they'd hoot and holler loud as they could.  
What was heartbreaking to me was when I heard the voice of a young boy, with them.
They were teaching him the chants, training him. 
After awhile the boy began to laugh in a very evil way, and eventually it was his shouts and growls that were the most offensive and bristling.  A child?  Really?  You're bringing a child into this?

Morning eventually came, and the sun along with it, and of course the darkness did what it must, it fled.

For a couple of weeks a man in my village has been asking us to visit his brother's church, a few miles off the main road, and so we left with him, a bit groggy but still ready for whatever God might bring. 

We came to a little bamboo structure, about the size of my mom's living room.   It had pieces of old tarp strewn about the top, and poles of wood cut by machete, supporting the center.   Inside, church was in full swing.  

The Pastor was welcoming, and we took the seats offered to us while they finished with their Sunday School.   I looked over the room, and immediately I was flashed with the eyes of dozens of little children.   Almost the entire church was filled with them, and we realized instantly that there were hardly any parents present.   The Pastor's daughters were teaching the little ones a new verse from Psalm 91.  The teacher would start with her voice of authority,
"He who dwells..." followed by tiny voices, "He who dwells..."
"in the shelter of the Most High..." , "in the shelter of the Most High..." 
"will rest in the shadow..." "will rest in the shadow"
"of the Almighty."  "of the Almighty."
Then they would smile at me, and the teacher would say, "Ok.  Again.  He who dwells..."

A man stood to read from the book of Acts, the passage where the Holy Spirit came into the room where the disciples were waiting, and how it was like a mighty wind.   At just the exact moment that the man said the word, 'wind',  a strong gust actually rose up within our little church, so much that it even knocked over one of the supporting poles.   A little one shrieked in fright.   The Pastor set their minds to ease, telling them everything was OK. Then he asked me to give the message. 

I told them the story of the Baby Jesus, the reason for Christmas.  I told them that a great king tried to have Him killed when He was just a helpless baby, but God is so wise that He had His angels warn them.  The king killed many baby boys, hoping to kill Jesus, but he still failed.    
It's important to remember Christmas, that Jesus came.  

And it's also very important that we remember something else...

He's not a baby anymore.  He grew up.  He died for us, for all of our sins, and He was raised again.  And in fact He is a warrior.  He fights for us. He protects us.  He loves us.  He knows every hair on our head. 

God loves the little children.  So much that Jesus actually warned us,
“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels  in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."    

"Wow!"  I said, "That's like me having a problem and going right to President Martelly about it.  I get to walk right through the gates, right through the security.  Right into his office!  I get to sit in the chair right in front of him, and I get to tell him my troubles!  I don't have to report to anyone.  I get to go straight to the top guy!"
They liked that. 

I told the congregation about our night before and hearing them train the little boy, in darkness, in the ways of evil.  I told them how beautiful it was to contrast that with the morning and the light, with coming into this little church full of children.  How blessed we were to see them training these little ones to trust in Jesus, to follow Him and turn from evil. In this place this is no small task.

Kari asked the Pastor where all the moms were.  
"They aren't Christians." He said.  "They don't believe."
He still invites all of the children to come, hoping to reach their parents through them.  He said God told him to leave the city, to come and start a church, and for a year and a half he's been doing just that.   He will be so richly blessed for his obedience. 

"There is evil here," he pointed,  "and over there." And there. It's on either side. But they don't give me any problems."

I thought of the men in the night, brewing evil in the hearts of the little one.  They have no idea they've taken a bull by the horns.  

“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.  But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,  it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." ~Jesus

Thank you for coming, Lord.  For the courage to come as a babe, to live among us.  For bringing light and warming our hearts.   Thank you for Christmas and the chance to remember. 

"Let us acknowledge the  Lord;  let us press on to acknowledge him.  As surely as the sun rises,  he will appear;  he will come to us like the winter rains,  like the spring rains that water the earth. ”  ~Hosea

Friday, December 21, 2012

Goodbye Jill

My Dad agreed to take our two dogs when we left for full-time missions in Haiti, and my Mom took our cat.
It was a hard thing to do, for all of us.  It was very hard on my kids, who had to learn to understand why they couldn't come with us.  You get used to them protecting your family, giving unconditional love and random doses of happiness.  They are there for every birthday as your little ones grow.  All of the home videos are filled with their cameos.  A tail wagging across the screen here.  Ears there.   A wet nose sniffing the lense....before long they are a very real part of the family.   Life is filled with memories together. 

Most Haitians think very little of a dog, and most people here certainly wouldn't shed a tear over one, so it's been hard on us all to find out today from my Dad that Jill, our oldest in the family, had to be put down.

She made the trip with my wife and I across the country from Tennessee, when we were almost ready to give up on our marriage.  She was there when we rediscovered our faith.  She was there when my boy came home from the hospital as a baby.  She was there when my girl came home too.   
She always watched over the kids like a mother.  She went on every family camping trip, and hiked every trail with us until her paws were sore and tender.   We don't have any wedding pictures on account of her chewing up the album when she was a pup.   She used to follow me everywhere, even to get the mail.   She never required a leash.   She wouldn't call it a night until she was sleeping on the floor next to me in the bedroom, and she always got in the middle of every fight.   If someone was yelling or even if we were just wrestling, she'd have none of it.  She'd bark and even nip at whoever she thought was the instigator, until there was peace again.     I choose to remember her before her hips gave way, when she was lightning fast and could run and jump like a deer.  She could catch any tennis ball no matter how high you threw it.  

To my Dad: I truly believe there's not a better place in the world she could have gone to live over the last year. You loved her as if she was your own, and I know you gave special care and attention to our old girl, letting her sleep by the fireplace to help her arthritis, and giving her extra special helpings at dinner time.   I could never say thank you enough, Dad.   I know this has been hard on you.  You've had to say goodbye to more than your share of old dogs.  But I know you were the best choice for her.  Thank you for letting her come to Wyoming to live with you. 
We loved her very much, and I'm glad God gave her to us for as long as He did.  

Fourteen years was a good stretch, pup.  I'm gonna miss your kisses. 

Goodbye Jillybean. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy Day Before

Happy Day Before the End of the World!
If America isn't there tomorrow, maybe you can all come visit Haiti.  It might take you some time to get here but by the time you arrive I should have some fresh sweet corn and tomatoes for you.  
You will all be Pilgrims to the New Old World, but I'm sure we can kill the goat and the rooster crowing out back in your honor.  With my veggies we can start Thanksgiving all over again.

Monday, December 17, 2012

An Update on the Rocks

I decided to break silence after two-weeks of the rock throwing in the middle of the night. I told my friend Wilber, and also my Haitian Momma, Tikilene. They had both came by the house in the morning and they knew I hadn't slept. I was also sick, so I opened up.

I got a tongue-lashing right off the bat from Tikilene, telling me that under no circumstance am I to venture out in the night again. Instead, I am to open my Bible to a Psalm and pray.

I told her I'd just as soon sneak out with my machete and scare the daylights out of whoever I find, but she just gave me a "don't you dare" look, followed by a "You hear me boy?" Yes, Momma. I hear you.

After that, I heard some shouting outside my window and looked out to see Wilber with his pick-axe, tilling his garden whilst having words with my neighbors.

Before the hour was out, we were the news of the whole village.
Just outside our front gate is where alot of the tap-taps pick-up and drop-off, and by noon I heard the key words come up in a few heated conversations.... "Whites....Rocks....3 am.....Hitting the House."

As the Sun began to set, my friend Pastor Lucner tapped on my gate. Wilber was with him, and told me that the whole village was upset, that there was persecution happening, and I was just caught in the middle. The path by my house was going to be fenced off, and a few of the men in the village of whom I've been trying to open up relationship with had offered to take up watches in the night.

Lucner walked into the back yard with me and said,
"If you're going through life and you're not being persecuted, you have to wonder if you are a Christian." He agreed right away with Tikilene and told me not to go outside. I started to argue my case with him, and he just pointed his finger at me and said, "Exodus 14:14. You just go read that and do what it says." After he left I looked up his conversation-stopper, "The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still."

Ok...Ok...that guy always has the choicest, most tender and tasty pieces of Scripture for me.

But still, the night came along, and eventually, the rocks came sailing through the air, this time at 2:30 am.

The next morning I told Wilber that we weren't through it yet. He told me he'd be stepping up the security, and not to be afraid.
"Wilber, I'm not afraid, man...I just need to sleep." I said.

My sickness hadn't worn off, and I was now following strict Haitian Momma guidelines, to take a bucket shower with orange leaves while rubbing papaya on my head. Aren't you glad I've spared you those pictures? :)

Night came again. I was dog-tired, and at 1 a.m. Wilber sent me a message on my phone. "Don't worry Dan. I'm out here, and I'm in control."

I've been sleeping, been praying, been asleep with my eyes half-open, been awake with my eyes half-closed. Last night I crashed.
I could see by the light that someone was outside, but I didn't care. We're locked up tight, prayed up, and God's got the fight. Amen?

Earlier in the week my boy asked his Mom, "So, this is persecution? This is really happening. Good vs. Evil." The Bible, his faith, it's all becoming so alive to him this year.
Kari smiled, "Yeah, and just think, this is nothing."

We just happened to land in Romans 12 for our family devotions this morning.... "Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse." I read slowly to the kids and set my Bible down. "I guess we can stop right there. You think we can accomplish even that today?"
"No." said my son. He's my Honest Abe.

I asked Tikilene if we should make up some sweet kettle corn and just go offer it in the general direction of where I think our opposition is coming from.
"Not yet. Leave it." she said.
"How is that following what the Bible says?" I asked her.
She waved her hand to dismiss the notion,
"It says to bless those who persecute you, to bless them and don't curse them...but you don't know who THEY are, because they throw the rocks at night.... No. You leave it."

There's always yet more rocks to throw.
But Daylight comes and the dark will go.
And we are called by our Lord's will
to let Him fight while we stand still.
The last measure of whether we've done well
will be the souls in Heaven, or the souls in Hell.


Down To the River

In Haiti, just like it used to be in America, when the people are ready to show the world they want to follow Jesus Christ, they make it public.   They put on their Sunday Best and they walk together to the nearest river to be baptized, singing in worship the entire way.  The world is buzzing by all around them, but many people stop their day-to-day to watch and follow along. Hundreds come down to the river as the Christians make a statement on the outside about something that has already taken place on the inside, in their heart.   Curiosity overflows the cup of every Haitian heart as they witness something much bigger, much more beautiful than themselves.  These people are committing to become disciples, to love as Jesus loves, to forgive as He forgives, devoting their lives by turning from the chains of sin and running into the arms of freedom through obedience to God.

I think this is a large part of what we are missing, America.  We have forgotten what Haiti remembers. Let's learn from the riddled mistakes of tragic headlines and make a U-turn back to Jesus.  His arms are always open to you. While there is still breath in your lungs and blood pumping through your veins, God is not finished with you yet.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lucner Laine

This is Lucner and most of his family, in front of his home in Laqua.  He has one more daughter who is away at university. 
He's a pastor, a friend, an encourager, and he's also translated for me several times, in giving messages to churches and in teaching classes. 
I told him a couple of months ago that I don't deserve to be standing in the pulpit preaching.  I couldn't understand why pastors kept asking me to preach.  I'm not a pastor.  
He told me that God can use me because of my brokenness. "Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you UP, my friend!" He says, literally holding my hands up in the air.  
He always backs up his words with Scripture. What's most unbelievable to me is how like-minded we are, even in casual conversation.   He stops by, almost always out of the blue, when I most need a word of encouragement.  He has an uncanny way of quoting a passage to me that I've just read or thought about.  

He's not yet allowed me to pay him to translate, even though this is how he provides for his family.  He tells me that when it's for the Lord, God has already shown him that our friendship is enough.  There is only one other man in this country that has been that way with me.  His name is Antenor Frantz, and he  will forever be my brother.  I love how God knits. 

Lucner and his wife run a school for the deaf in Cayes.  I'm hoping to visit after they return from Christmas break, to help to tell you his story.  Every time in this country when I've run upon kids who are deaf or mute, it's plain to see they don't stand a fighting chance.  They can't go to school and they are always on the fringes of society.  The street is their mother, and more often than not, they are the outcast. They fall through the cracks in Haiti, because the cracks are a mile wide.  
God bless this man.  His heart is bigger than the cracks.

Our Connection

Here it is.  The most stable solution we've found for somewhat operational internet.  That pole may look tiny, but it's actually 20 feet tall, on top of the roof, and surrounded by razor-wire.  Not 1 hour after I'd raised the pipe and poured the cement, the internet suddenly quit. 5 days later I decided we'd never know if it was just the country of Haiti or something I'd done, so I climbed up to the top of that pole.  Yikes.  I was just a little shaky. It was worth it though, because the wire was loose at the top.  Later, my son confessed to 'possibly' being responsible.  He'd been swinging around a long piece of PVC, which may have somehow knocked the cord loose at the top of the pole....possibly.  Yeah.  He's 13.   It's all good.  I used him as my example in the sermon today.  It was a message about obedience and know-it-alls. :P

Note our nifty clothes-line, made from a cut-up 30' bamboo pole, from earlier attempts at finding an internet signal.    It was a little too natural, bending and swaying in the wind, so we moved to the metal pipe idea.  It's good that it worked because if this failed too, I was out of fresh out of degaje.

Also note the mangos coming into season...mmmmmmmmmm.   

Friday, December 14, 2012

Letting Go of the Manna

I saw a report just the other day that Hurricane Sandy along with another unnamed storm, took out a great deal of the crops in Haiti.  The report claimed that merely by studying the trends in historical data, the country will typically see 'food insecurity' and famine, usually around 6 months after such a catastrophe.  Sandy came along in October and wiped out about 90% of the harvest here.
Jean Wilber and I were sitting on my porch after working together building some stairs. 
I mentioned to him that I'd read the report. 
There's already a food shortage.  The cost of food is rising so quickly that many just can't afford to eat, and there's already been sparks of riots. 
"There's some food on the streets and in the markets now, but in another 3 or 4 months it looks like it's going to be a bigger problem."   I said to Jean Wilber. His face was solemn.
I could tell he was thinking.  
"You know that means?  I think it means if you've got ground, it's time to plant."
"Yes!"  He said.

I went to bed thinking about the many people I know here who are already hurting.  There's always faces.  Then I began to think about the millions that I've never seen.   It's astronomical, the need here.  

But over the course of the last few days I've noticed something in our community.  The neighbor on the other side of Wilber was digging up his yard.   Another man was digging up ground just kitty corner from us.   Wilber was digging up the rest of his garden, and also a large patch of ground behind that.   It looks as if my whole village is getting ready to plant, and they aren't messing around.   They are going to do the best they can, and make do with the hand they've been dealt.   That's what they are doing.

What are we doing?  

I'm not talking to the folks back home, hunkering down for Old Man Winter. 
I'm talking to our local, fellow missionaries, myself included.  You and I are different, and by God's sovereignty there's a reason for it.  He made us all different parts of the same body.  I'm an elbow, you're a brain.  The point is, we're all supposed to be working together.   
Most of you also have one thing I don't.  You have the means.   You have the funds. You have organizations, mission teams,   and equipment.  Haitians don't need another handout, but they do need a hand up.  Give them the opportunity, and they will plant. 

If you've got tractors, this is where I think we need to lend a hand.  Let's plow some fields.  If you've got extra hands on deck, put those young up-start missionaries in charge of leading the delegation to open up a community outreach.  It's inevitable if you live here long enough, you will see a car, truck, or  bus loaded with Americans on a mission trip, zooming down the middle of the road, with atleast 4 or 5 standing up or hanging onto side-rails as if they have commandeered a raiding party,  leading the charge to 'fix Haiti'.  (I have full authority to say this.  I've wagged my tongue with the best of them, a lost puppy in the wind, hanging out the window, pushing my cheeks to my ears.)   Go to the villages, ask them if there's any farmers who need help getting their fields ready. They've got zeal. Turn them loose. Just remember to ask.  Don't just do.  Load them up with pick-axes and shovels and all your good wheelbarrows, and if you never see them again, big deal.  They need them more than you do.  If you've got seeds, help to get them into the ground.  There will be fruit.

If we've been blessed by God in Heaven to have the provision, now is the time to open up the gates and share what we've been given.  I'm fairly certain we're not going to out-bless God.  One thing I know, before anyone starts getting hot-headed, is that we can't hold onto anything here on Earth.  You know it too.  You hold on to all that manna and you're just going to end up with a pile of something that really just stinks.

Does this not fit into your vision?  I have to ask you Who's vision do we share?  Is it God's, or is it ours?  

Let's let go of our American control-issues, that we somehow have the world understood and these poor saps just need us to set them straight.  Maybe all along they've just been setting us straight? Can you imagine?  Let's not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. 
Just like anywhere, except more enunciated in Haiti, there are the Have's, and the Have-Not's, and the Have's need to start making friends and shaking hands with their fellow Haitian neighbors, who incomparably Have-Not.  

They won't care what you know, until they know that you care.   One way to show them, is to give up whatever you're holding onto in the Name of the Lord.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Within the Sounds of Good and Evil

Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell. ~C.T. Studd

Believe it or not, this has always been somewhat of a censored blog.  There are some things, living here, that are left unspoken in the hopes of preserving a shred of parental peace at night.  We all have Mom's and Dad's, Grandma's and Grandpa's.  It's natural to try to shield those you love from worry.   We went through alot of that last year, things I just wouldn't post because they were frightful or they reflected the 'other side' of Haiti.  We kept it positive, almost always, and gave the rest to God.

I'm beginning to think that maybe the time for reservation has come and gone, and the time for prayer warriors is more at hand.  

So here it is, friends and family.   We live in a new village, and there's evil.   Sorry.  It's Haiti.  
Across the street from our house is a big night club.   Behind our house is a place where they dance for evil.   C.T. Studd's words strike true here, except that just a couple of doors down from the nightclub is also a church, so we get the rescue shop AND the sound of church.  In Haiti, you get both.  There hasn't been room for just one or the other on this island. 

I've made a friend, a man named Wilber. But it's been slow going to press any further into the community.  When we first came, people were shooing us away.    Some said the day we first stopped at the house, "Ale, Blanc."  (Go, White.)    We knew it was going to take some time to dig in, get our foxholes in order, and begin.

The people here are just as beautiful, and they need Jesus just as much here as anywhere, and besides, they are no worse than me. 

Here's where all you prayer warriors need to perk up...

For the last two weeks, at exactly 3 a.m. in the morning,  two or more people come down the path to my house and begin to throw rocks, at the house, over the wall, onto the roof. They walk up to our bedroom window.  They tap on the walls.   Sometimes they talk quietly to one another.   We've heard drums.  I've opened my eyes from sleep to hear someone take a step just outside my window, at least a dozen times.  I'm not afraid.  That time passed from me a year ago.

Until today I've only told one other person, my good friend Todd.  I told him that because of the progression of my prayer,  I know God is growing me.

When it first began, my prayers were rudimentary:   "Lord, right now, please knock down my enemy.  Confuse him.  Hit him in the head.  Make him fall down and run away.  Make him very afraid. Give me strength to fight like one of David's Mighty Men, should we come to it."

Then the prayers began to evolve:  "Lord, let's try this.  Put love in the heart of my enemy.  Love for You, God.   Then put love in them for the Blanc.  So much that when they feel it, they are surprised, and they say, 'Oh-Oh!?  What's this?!  Do I LOVE the Blanc?!'  In a very 'Matrix' moment I imagine Neo diving into the Agent, light bursting from his eyeballs and finger tips...

Now, when I hear them as I awake, my prayers already have commenced: "Lord, put love in MY heart for my enemy.  Make ME love them.  Put Your Love in them.   Give them the call You've given me, 10x fold.   May they each reach 10x the people I might reach in Your Name."   I have to admit this is followed, just a touch, by a 'bwa-ha-ha-ha' on my part.

Last night, the rocks again ushered in 3 a.m., right on time with the roosters, and my prayers began as scheduled. But, this time I woke my wife and grabbed the machete.  I picked up a light and told her to let me out and lock the door behind me.    I stepped out where I thought they were but didn't see them.  I grabbed a rock and chucked it.   I heard something  jump in the bushes.    
"God will find you."  I said.  
I listened.  
All rock throwing was quiet.  They were curious.  They hadn't seen this yet.   They were calculating their next move.  I was waiting.  I began tapping my machete on the wall.  Metal against concrete makes a distinct sound. 
Then, after a couple of minutes of this little game of chess, I heard steps.  I came to the wall of the house and shined my light.  There was an older man with a machete, in a blue shirt, with a black dog.   He 'hiccuped' just a bit  when the light fell on him, trying to continue like a bright light hadn't just blinded him.  Then I think he realized the foolishness of trying to ignore a blinding light in the middle of the night, and he looked at me.  
"Salu!"  I said.
He huffed and puffed something unrecognizable under his breath and kept walking, out to the road, past the well, and down the national road until he was out of sight.  His black dog followed close behind him nervously.   

I came back into the house and locked up tight, checked the kids, and told my wife, 
"I know there's more than one.  Soon as we lay down, you watch."  
Sure enough, after about 10 minutes, there came the now familiar knock of a rock against the wall.  

I won't go out anymore.   My Haitian friend already advised me this morning not to do that again, and I already know better.  If they can plan on me charging outside, I really do nothing but create a security issue.  

So, all you awesome warriors of the great Conversation with God, please when you are down on those well-worn knees today, offer us up, would you?   Present my case before the Judge.  I'm sick.  I have a cold.  I need a little rest, and then we'll get back to work.   


'Do not be anxious about anything,  but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,  will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'  ~Paul

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's Snowing in Haiti

Something I never thought I'd be doing in Haiti... I was in the city and so I stopped at the cell phone company to see what kind of phones they had.  My wife's isn't working.  When I walk in, they are in the throws of decorating for Christmas.  Some workers are making a tree.  Some are stringing lights.  
Am I in Haiti?? 
Then a Haitian woman walks up to the front door, which is plate glass, and begins shaking a can of fake snow.   She sprays it about a centimeter away from the window, and it looks like white spray paint as it melts instantly and runs down the hot glass.   
This is met with alot of 
"Ewwwws!" from the staff, and frowns.  
"That's ugly."  Someone says.   I can see they are wondering who could possibly think this is festive...
I start laughing,  "That's because of the way you did it.  You can't stop, and you have to spray fast, like this."   I said, making a sweeping hand gesture.... (hey, I COME from the land of snow.   I KNOW what fake snow needs to look like, especially in a country where they've never seen the fluffy white stuff before. )
"Can you show us?" The manager says.
And there I am, in the middle of the city in Haiti, 95 degrees, 'artistically' frosting the storefront for Natcom Haiti, while the whole store watches, with the security guard and his pump-action shotgun right behind me.   
When I finished, I turned and said, "What do you think?"
"Belle!"  (Beautiful!) they said.  Big smiles.  Happy faces. Even the security guard had a big grin, although his shotgun was still cold and steely.
Even the Haitians outside the store were standing still. They were all imagining a Winter Wonderland.    It was like time stood still for just a moment, and we were all figures inside one of those little shake-em-up snow globes with the wind-up Jingle Bells playing in the background.  I began to wonder if we might see Santa Clause streak across the open sea.   Poor fella.  Hope he has some shorts and a nice palm tree printed t-shirt.  It's too hot here for white beards and stocking caps. As I left with a bounce in my step,  I could hardly help but whisper Tiny Tim's line under my breath, "God Bless Us, Everyone.  :)"