Saturday, February 22, 2014

Orvwa, Haiti!

Haiti is called the "land of mountains," and as we close out our week here we are aware of the "mountaintop experience" this has been for each of us.  Our hearts are full and heavy at the same time.  

We spent our last day at Wahoo Bay, a beach resort along the northwestern coast.  The views were breathtaking and the water felt warm and cool at the same time.  It was the perfect place to reflect upon all we encountered this week.  

Before leaving we gathered along the water for our closing communion and imagined that it was along a similar shore that Jesus called the first disciples to follow him.  As followers of Christ today we came to Haiti to share his love and convey hope to this community.  In sharing the bread and the cup, we were reminded of the love and hope at work in each of us as well.  We will return home changed, and we look forward to telling you about it.  Just be patient with us as we share. We want to remain on the mountain for as long as possible.

I'm so grateful for this team and the amazing teamwork all week.  We're thankful for the prayer support and encouragement, and know that you were with us in Spirit, Hopewell church! 

-Shauna Ridge

The Holy Spirit is Alive Here

Traveling to Haiti has made a huge impact on my spiritual life. I had spoken to someone who had been here and they told me that you'll fall in love with the Haitian people. I think they were right. I have grown to love these people. Our village champion and translators are so nice and happy and make us feel like we're accepted and loved at all times. 

What stands out most in my mind and I will never forget is seeing so many children being held by our group. They would jump up and down wanting to be picked up or if we were sitting, they would crawl on our laps. They just wanted to be held and loved. I definitely felt the holy spirit alive here when we would pray with these lovely people.

-Steve Harvey

Bon Soir (greeting any time after 12:00 p.m.), Hopewell!

The team members agree that we're all in disbelief that we've come to our last day in Haiti.  To say that the time has flown is to understate.   So, I, personally, will come away with two words planted in my heart and in my soul:  "water" being the first(much more conversation to be had concerning water when we get back home.  Stay tuned) and "baggage" being the second.  

If you've read previous posts, you know the lost luggage/baggage story. That's become a wonderful part of Team Haiti’s 2014 story!  Then, in our women's bunk house last night, we spent considerable time sorting through all of the stuff we would be leaving here in Haiti- clothing, bedding, shoes and on.  Our physical baggage will be SO much less cumbersome when we fly home tomorrow!   

Though we will be coming home with burden on our hearts relative to the suffering and poverty we've seen this past week, we will surely come back a bit lighter, not just because of less in our suitcases, but because of the way our hearts are lifted in the HOPE and PROMISE that God has in store for the beautiful people of Haiti.  

Thank you for holding us in prayer, Hopewell.  

-Pastor Vicki Pry

All I can say regarding this trip to Haiti is that I am glad God sent me here. I knew very little about Haiti- - - and now I know a lot about the culture, the people, etc.  

No matter where you travel, poverty looks the same. Whether it is in South Africa, Haiti or the US, everyone seeks the same basic needs-food, water and shelter. As bad as things are in South Africa, it is worse here, with most having no electricity or running water. But regardless, they are happy people and they know Jesus.  

Hopefully, I made a difference with one single person while I was here. I know I leave with more than I came. 

God is indeed alive in Haiti!!

In Him,

-Dick Pry

Friday, February 21, 2014

A 'joyful collision' of different worlds

Of the many Haitian images replaying in my mind, is a wonderful one of hope.
In Leveque I met two deaf men. I explained that I was a student of American Sign Language, knew very little at this time, and they would have to sign very slowly in order for me to understand.  They were so excited that this stranger, obviously one who looked very different from them, was trying to learn their language.  They asked repeatedly where I had come from and why would I want to learn sign.  After I explained I was from the U.S.A.  and  have a niece who is deaf I’d enjoy signing with, they immediately took to teaching me. 

When I wasn’t catching on, one of the men took to acting out the meaning in a very animated and fun way.  I was slow, but eventually managed an understanding of most words.   

It was a joyful collision of two vastly different worlds, deaf and Haitian, hearing and American, yet we were able to share a wonderful afternoon learning together.

-Leslie Wildermuth

And more God moments!

Dear Friends,

It is so hard to adequately describe all of the things that we have seen and done in a few short days.  From one moment to the next we are moved from belly laughter to tears – the members of this team that Hopewell has commissioned to be on this trip are beyond extraordinary.  I feel truly blessed to be a part of this experience with each one of them.

Our team has been spending all of its time in the tiny village of Leveque.  The Village Leaders believe that there are approximately 10,000 people residing in the village and they have no idea how many children there are.  From our experience, we can tell you there are HUNDREDS!!!!!!!

Here are a few of the God Moments that stand out in my mind………

Pastor Louis Lonies
Yesterday we met the Pastor of the church in Leveque. With the help of a translator, he honestly and sincerely shared with us the struggles of his church – his parishioners are in need of essential things like food, water and clothing.  Adults need jobs and there are none to be found. He wants so desperately to provide encouragement and hope (espwa in Creole) for his people.  When he was done talking, our pastors, John and Vicki, quickly jumped up and provided him amazing words of encouragement – witnessing this literally brought me to tears of joy.  Then we laid hands on Louis and prayed over him, his church and his community for whom he cares so deeply.

Mass Grave Site from the 2010 Earthquake  
Today we went to the site where approximately 250,000 souls were buried after the 2010 earthquake.  A local young man and one of our translators, Berdy (he is only 21 years old) shared a bit of his perspective as a Haitian.  He explained that the earthquake was a horrible disaster but good came out of it because it helped to teach the Haitian people how to care for one another.  In Berdy’s words,  “God loves Haiti. The earthquake taught us to learn to love and to not be selfish.”  He went on to thank us for being here to support them in their time of need.

Children, Children Everywhere
One of my greatest joys here in Haiti is connecting with the children and there are A LOT of them!  Whether it’s a work day (planting mango trees) or a village day (we literally “hang out” in the village going from home to home to talk with these beautiful people and to pray with them), when our big yellow school bus groans to a stop, children come from every nook and cranny.  When they do, they want to be held, they want to play…… they want love.  Truth be told, there are a lot of us to plant these mango trees so I’ve been mostly hugging and snuggling on these children.  Now that I know a tiny bit of Creole, I can ask them their name, their age and a few other things.  Having these beautiful little timoon (children in Creole) clinging to me, smiling at me, napping on me makes me feel like God’s arms are enfolded around me.

-Carey Burke

Ps – I am now a Mission of Hope Sponsor !! I am holding my sponsored child, Malicha, with the adorable red ribbons.  I am officially in love with the children and the people of Haiti!!   

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

'God Moments' in Leveque

The team prays for Pastor Louis
Tuesday, Feb. 19: The first stop for our team today was the church that was recently built by Mission of Hope.  We met with Pastor Louis who spoke to us about the challenges of growing a church in such a poverty stricken area.  He talked about families and children that he wants to minister to, and the frustration of lacking the resources to accomplish that goal effectively. He went into detail about the lack of adornment in the church and described the communion table as plain and fit for the marketplace.  He desires to be a pastor in the fullest sense to his congregation but clearly faces major obstacles in this call.  

After Pastor Louis finished his presentation, we had an opportunity to ask him questions and then both Vicki Pry and I went up to stand with him and offer our support and prayer.  Vicki spoke to the simple beauty of the church and we both thought it was a sacred space that was filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Vicki lifted up the plain cloth that covered the communion table and described it as a work of beauty made for God’s glory. 

Vicki and I asked everyone in the church to come forward and surround Pastor Louis and we laid hands on him and raised him up before God.  All of us were connected with one another and prayed for him and his calling to serve his people.  In that sacred moment, God’s spirit moved through us, multiplied by His love to bless Louis.  We have had and will continue to have many “God moments” while on this journey in Haiti.

Today our objective was to get to know the people of Leveque. We walked from home to home in twos and threes, moving through the village and stopping to talk with as many people as we could and praying for them.  It is very inspiring to find God already so present here in Haiti in the lives and homes of these people.  

There was no ignoring the challenges we saw yesterday as they were present still.  Men with skills in the trades unable to find work, sick children who can’t get to see a physician and single parents trying to raise a family.  And at the same time, in the midst of doubt, uncertainty about God, nevertheless, they asked us to raise up specific requests in prayer.  From home to home, from person to person we offered what God has asked of us.  To come along side and walk with them, even for this brief journey and share their burden, worries and doubts and to assure them that despite all these uncertainties,  God is the one constant who loves them beyond measure.

Later in the afternoon, we had play time with kids in the village. We jumped rope, threw Frisbees, kicked soccer balls, played Simon Says in Haitian, did dramatic recreations of bible stories of the calling of Samuel. Kudos to Cynthia Black and David and Goliath, where Steve Harvey wins the Oscar for dramatically falling to the ground when little David threw his stone.

In the evenings, under Shauna Ridge’s leadership, we gather after dinner to process the day, reflect on the God moments which are mounting, and hold each other up when we are weary.  We covet all your prayers and look forward to seeing  you again with many stories to share.

-Pastor John Neider

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Speed Bumps and Mango Trees

On Monday, February 17th, we prepared for our first work day in Haiti. Yesterday we had been told that we would be painting but that changed and we were tasked with planting mango trees in the village of Leveque.  This is the second site for Mission of Hope, where they have helped build over 400 homes.

Leveque sits across a broad dusty plain and is crisscrossed by bumpy, dusty roads that are filled with the movement of donkeys, horses, goats and of course people. People walk singly or in pairs, sometimes balancing five gallon water jars on their heads as they move to or from their home.  The homes are quite simple without running water or electricity, unless of course someone has the fortune of a portable generator.  Many homes have small gardens where they grow various vegetables and some have a tree that bears plantains or coconuts.  There is a hill beyond the village where Mission of Hope has built a school, church and playground.  We paid a visit to that place on Sunday afternoon, hanging out with kids on the playground. 

The churches that we have visited in Haiti feature open air architecture. While they have a roof overhead, the sides are open to any breeze that might waft through.  The church where we stay at the main camp of Mission Hope, is built in the shape of a cross while the church in Levesque is a long rectangle.  

Riding an old school bus from Titanyen to the village of Leveque was quite an adventure. In fact, riding on the roads of Haiti at any time seems a high risk gamble. At random intervals across the main highway are scattered what we would call “speed bumps.” If you are not aware of them, it creates quite a bump on the bus. Fortunately, our driver was familiar with the roads and brought us to a complete stop before proceeding across these hazards. But the real risk on these roads is the traffic that often drives three or four across as they move up and down the two lane highway. I have learned at times to focus on my immediate neighbor on the bus as we drive perilously by a motorcycle filled with a family of three or four while in the opposing lane, two other vehicles are jockeying for position as one tries to the pass the other. And oh, let’s not forget the vehicles that are broken down and standing partly on the shoulder and on the road. Yes, driving in Haiti is a trip. 

Once we reached Leveque we divided into two teams, each with an objective of planting 10 mango trees that day, one each in a homeowner’s yard. We had the Hopewell team of 11, missing our one disciple Jan Smith who elected to serve on the medical team as there was a dentist from Canada who came down with a group and they were offering hours back at the main camp.  We were also joined by another team from a Christian high school in Miami, Florida and a few folks from Canada who were related to our intern Chris.  

Many of the homes we visited that morning had a hole already started. Using our pick and shovels we enlarged the hole and planted the mango tree. The homeowner and family stood nearby and once we were done, we visited with them and spoke both about our call to Haiti and asked them to share their story. Each team had an intern, translator and a village advocate with them.  In one particular case, we were at a deaf person’s home and needed a signing interpreter as well.  Talk about whisper down the lane. The signing interpreter vocalizing in Haitian to our interpreter who then translated into English for us.  

While I came to Haiti to be of service to these people, anxious to be busy at work, painting, planting and building, I have come to realize that this time of dialogue and relationship with the individual homeowners about their lives and their journeys has become far more important than any labor I can do.  They have blessed me with stories of their lives, often stories of extreme hardship, loss and challenges and yet they remain resolute about filling their futures with hope. We planted, we prayed, we cried with them and at the end, did what we could to tell them that despite circumstances, God loves them and is always present with them. 

We had a deep theological discussion with one man who shared that he left the church because he couldn’t stand the hypocrisy of many who acted one way in church and then a completely different way outside.  His name was Joshua and after long dialogue he asked us to pray for him and his relationship with God.  Street evangelism has taken on a whole new meaning for me here in Haiti, where simply telling stories of our journeys to each other seems to bring us all closer to God.  

Today was a mountain top experience for me and many of the team.  At the end of day we had planted twenty trees in twenty different homes and prayed twenty different times for families whose needs were as basic as food, water and a job,  and at other times simply asked if we would pray for them to draw closer to God.  It is often this way on mission trips. We come to offer service and hope to people in need, but we come away blessed as well, perhaps in greater measure.  

One last note, the mango trees we planted will not bear fruit for 5-7 years. As I prayed at one family’s home, I asked that the faith we have that the mango trees will bear fruit is the same faith that over time, the families of Haiti will have futures that will be filled with hope.  I am reminded of my favorite verse from Jeremiah 29:11 “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” God has placed a great blessing on me this week and I am thankful for it.

-Pastor John Neider