Friday, February 25, 2011

Jeremie - Land of Motorcycles

Hi all,

Just got back from Jeremie three days ago. I was there from Friday until Tuesday helping a team from Washington state get started on the Jeremie church and orphanage. Jeremie is a small town right on the ocean near the southwest end of Haiti. You may not know this but New Hope Diamond Head church donated the money to purchase the land for the Jeremie church and orphanage in late 2009. We are now finally able to start developing the property and hope to have the orphanage and church move in there in a couple months. The Jeremie orphanage is run by the pastor of the Jeremie church - Pastor Casamajor. He is a wonderful dedicated man with such a heart for his people. Currently the 50 orphanage children live in a house with the pastor and his wife that is smaller than our Hospitality Tent on Sunday mornings (about 20' x 40') !! You can't imagine how crowded it is when they all lay down for bed ! And the existing orphanage has a tiny yard with very little room for the children to play. The new orphanage will be upstairs from the new church and will be almost three times it's current size. But with the church downstairs and a large area outside that is still on the property, it will be such a tremendous blessing for those kids and with plenty of room to play. When we went to visit them in the existing orphanage they all sang us a song - made my cry (as usual !!) I hope to be there in a month or two when they move in !

The heart of the town of Jeremie looks so much like an old wild west town with wooden buildings, some wooden sidewalks and the "feel" of that old west. The only real difference is that the horses of the 1800's have been replaced by small motorcycles. EVERYONE in Jeremie seems to drive a motorcycle. They even have "taxis" that are motorcycles. I had to take a moto-taxi from the church site to downtown Jeremie on Tuesday when I went to the airport to go home (Port-au-Prince "home" !) I gave my bag to the driver who put it on top of the gas tank. I got on the back and off we went. It was about two miles through very crowded, bumpy and steep roads to get to where I had to catch the "shuttle" (a beat up old van to take all the passengers out to the airport). The cost for that moto-taxi ride was 15 gourdes (pronounced "gude") which equals about 38 cents !! Pretty good deal !

Two other teams are currently here in Haiti but they are also out in outlying areas. One team went to help set up the church in Los Cahobas. A church from the west coast bought that property and we just set up the first actual new "structure" for the church - a huge tent, kind of like the tents at New Hope Diamond Head. The property is up a very long trail that you have to walk to so the entire church walks to church - and sometimes they stay all day and over night at the church if a team is in town !! Imagine doing that in Honolulu !!

Aaron Harris went with another team this past week out to Les Cayes - another remote church site we are developing. They are preparing for us to install the "self sufficiency" projects on the property there and eventually build another church. Currently the church meets in thatched sided "building" with a tin roof that I sent everyone a picture of back in January. Aaron is having fun "camping out" there with the team with no water, no electricity and no facilities other than a concrete building to sleep in. I am sure you'll hear about his travels on facebook when he returns this Saturday.

The other very exciting thing to report is that Jara (from New Hope Diamond Head) finally arrived here early last week to help us for the next few months. For now she is helping with the administration and assisting Debbie Booker (our director's wife) teach the English class. Aaron and I were the substitute teachers while Debbie was away but now she is back and Jara is helping. Jara will also be instrumental in getting our bakery started. That is a dream of our local pastor Guy Tomas. He wants to have a bakery in each church facility to make bread for the congregation and to also sell to raise money for the churches. Pastor Guy's dream comes out of the need for food here. He tells us that so many of his people come to church hungry and he wants to be able to provide some food for their stomach while he provides some "food for the soul" !! We are supposed to visit a local bakery soon to start getting familiar with how they do baking here and the equipment they use. Should be a great time as this dream develops !

God is moving here in many ways, and with so many other organizations as well. We met some wonderful people from Love a Child recently who are advising us on the talapia fish self sufficiency project and Samaritan's Purse (Franklin Graham organization) who are heavily involved in Haiti.

Blessings to you all !


Jeremie church & orphanage - the first floor is almost framed !!

The Jeremie property that New Hope Diamond Head bought - thank you NHDH !!!!

Jeremie orphanage water storage tank - with little friend !

Jeremie base camp kitchen with our cooks. What you don't realize is that there is no light in here at all and they are seeing by candle light - (candle next to the woman with the plastic bag). Tough to see what you're doing making dinner !!

The Jeremie "international " airport about four miles outside of town. The path in the foreground is someone's long "sidewalk" to their property which is on the other side of the gravel runway (behind me).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Promise Gardens and a Jeremie Adventure

Aloha again,

It's been ten days since my last update. Trying to get something out each week but it's not always possible.

This past week was something else. We didn't have any teams here last week, but that didn't slow things down. A couple teams had to cancel due to the political unrest, but that has appeared to settle down so we are almost back to normal. We have, however, set up 24/7 armed guards at the Base Camp and Church property "just in case". People are so friendly here, but there is a level of "desperation" that runs under the surface that you can see once in a while. People tied up in abject poverty sometimes do desperate things and with mostly Americans at our Base Camp and working on the church property, can make us a possible "target" of that desperation. Better safe than sorry.

As I mentioned last week, we continued getting the 500,000 packets of seeds delivered to the church property this past week. If you can imagine, 500,000 packets of seeds fills about five pick-up trucks !! We are beginning to distribute them and will start doing something we call Promise Gardens in the orphanages, schools and other places. A Promise Garden is a small starter garden that people can do almost anywhere and that we want to connect to the Word about planting seeds and harvesting fruit in our lives as we commit them to Christ - as well as provide an opportunity for people to grow food for themselves. We are just developing the idea and if you have any thoughts we would love to hear them !! You just can't imagine what's it's like to stand in the middle of 500,000 packets of seeds - and then to think all the vegetables and other things it will grow !! If God drops some ideas in your heart or if anyone wants to make some Promise Garden signs with scriptures and a border design, you can email them to me and we can print them here to put on each Promise Garden we start. Last Friday I had our Haitian labor crew build and finish two small Promise Garden beds on the church property for the school children to plant. I talked to the school master about it and he was "stoked" about the idea. Yesterday we planted the garden and the children loved it.

Last Wednesday the 9th was an experience to remember. I posted something on Facebook about it, but you can't do that experience justice in just a few sentences. Wednesday afternoon, I took Pastor Casamajor (pastor of our Jeremie church and orphanage) to the docks to ship supplies to his orphanage. When we arrived near the docks the entire area made our base camp road with its trash and debris look like a surgical hospital room in comparison to the filth and debris in this area. The road had once been a very nice concrete brick paved road, but now it was a complete mess. This dock area is for smaller ships that go interisland and down the coast like Young Bros would do in Honolulu, but this dock looks like no one had picked up trash for a few years and nothing had been cleaned or repaired ever ! The main dock for international shipments - “Matson” type stuff - is in another area of the coastline and supposedly much better. As we approached the “docks” (which turned out to be piles of dirt and gravel built against some type of barrier to raise the ground up close to the boat deck level at the shoreline) we pulled to the right side of the road near the end of a row of run down concrete buildings. We were almost to the end of the road which just "ends" like they were going to build it another mile, but decided not to. Beyond it was more “dump land” - piles of dirt, debris and finally the ocean. On the left was a street market with at least 500 people in the open or in little stick huts with tin or tarp roofs that sloped down toward the water about 100 yards away behind the market toward the loading area for the boats. It seemed like everything, including the stuff being sold, was either black or some shade of grey and filthy dirty ! Pastor Casamajor got out on the sidewalk (a dirt path) and phoned someone who suddenly came out of nowhere to talk in person. Casamajor gave him some money and the guy got in with us while Casamajor stayed behind. I found out that Casamajor is well known at the docks and people know he is a pastor. So whenever he goes to the dock, they want him to give them some of the stuff he is shipping to Jeremie. So now, he hires this man to oversee the loading and Casamajor stays hidden out of sight by the market.

We drove on to the end of the road and turned left onto a dirt “driveway” in between containers sitting on the ground. People mixed with pigs, goats, chickens, children and tons of trash debris were everywhere. We honked for the animals (and people) to get out of the way and drove about 200 feet down a bumpy slope toward the water. Then we turned again to drive behind the market and on the edge of the water. We were now only about ten feet above the ocean water level and about 100 feet from the water’s edge (no waves in this area if you surfers are wondering). The debris increased somewhat, but here there was also some minor order to the chaos. We stopped by piles of dirt and a couple huge mud puddles that were black with the color that raw sewage makes when it is mixed in with water (ugh !). I maneuvered around those to get closer to the ship. A line of vehicles was in front of us waiting to get on the ferry / barge / ship “thing” that was being loaded. The ship was about 70 feet wide and maybe 200 long and about 50 feet tall with numerous levels above the deck where all the vehicles were loading on. Not very seaworthy looking but that’s what they’ve got ! A huge ramp had been lowered onto the "dock" so the trucks, other vehicles and people could get on the boat. Next to the boat was two other large vessels that looked somewhat like regular Hawaii long line fishing boats, but they were wooden and in such poor repair I would not have gone with any of them with out a life preserver and the coast guard close by ! A half dozen kids were swimming naked in the ocean next to us and spitting water at each other just like kids would do anywhere, except that this water was oily and you couldn’t see into it more than an inch or two. They finally got out and ran barefoot and naked across the mud/debris ridden area through the line of vehicles waiting for the boat and then to somewhere in the backside of the market. Pretty funny sight watching six naked black Haitian kids running through the line of vehicles, people, animals and debris. No one seemed to pay them any attention except me. I turned around at the back of the line of vehicles and backed up so we could be unloaded to the side of the vehicle line. The man Casamajor had hired organized the unloading and the truck was empty in just a couple minutes. Boxes, 100 # bags of rice and other bags of supplies disappeared into the ship on the heads of a line of dock workers. As I was standing there waiting and watching, a tap-tap (a pick up truck with a covered back to carry people in) filled with sodas came racing down the dirt road and ran right through the huge mud puddle spraying a number of Haitians with the black "sewage looking" water. A huge shouting match erupted, but then quickly quieted down as the driver backed his truck up and they started unloading that as well.

It’s impossible to fully describe the sights, sounds and smells I encountered here. But suffice to say I’ve never experienced anything quite so filthy, so loud, so smelly, so unique, so different - but also so interesting and exciting all at the same time. I wish I had pictures of it, but that's not a place to be taking pictures like a tourist - especially for a white guy (and the only one for miles !!)

Last week Tuesday, again on Saturday and yesterday, Aaron and I taught English to bunches of our Haitian church members and community neighbors. It was so much fun !! But it's crazy how complicated our language really is ! Yesterday we started the class and there were a lot of students. I had to leave to take care of some other business and Aaron finished the class. By the time it was over there were over 80 students sitting there listening to Aaron ! We were amazed at the interest of these !!

That's it for this past week. Yesterday we sent the lumber to Jeremie for our orphanage & church. A team is coming tomorrow to begin building the building there. I will most likely be going to Jeremie myself tomorrow - if I can get on the flight - NOT on the ship !! More next time !

Love you all


Teaching English class

Some of our English class students

Our very first Promise Garden- it's an experiment with our church's school children that we are planning to start in many many places.

A few of our school children planting their Promise Garden

Sunday, February 6, 2011

So Many Blessings

Bonswa (good evening) !!

This week closes with the second base camp almost ready for missionaries to stay. We are also almost ready for our first experimental chickens. We will raise baby chicks to get our "friers" and "layers". There's an entire science behind chicken farming that I don't have a clue about, but I'm learning. The "frier" and "layer" part I can get, but not much more than that !! This last team finished enough of our chicken coop (more like a chicken condo - but it's beautiful !) so we can now buy our chicks. We'll do that this coming week.

President Preval (the Haitian president) will make a very important speech on Monday and so we are being a little more careful with security. He may not step down as the constitution requires and this may cause some more unrest with the people of Haiti. The UN has troops with guns and heavy armored vehicles stationed all along the roadways in anticipation of some trouble - but they all seem pretty relaxed. I think they're there mostly to persuade people to keep calm. Hopefully this will only be for a couple more days and then things will settle back to normal. In the meantime, we are very safe and secure in our area, but traveling to the city and airport requires a little more care. Pray for the nation of Haiti that God will make another breakthrough during this political transition.

The next teams arrive in two weeks so we have some time to rest, but mostly it will be to plan and prepare. After that teams will be constant for many months. And with Base Camp # 2 open, we can house nearly fifty people. Please pray with us for more full time base camp staff. Staff can come for a couple months or a couple years - or anything in between !! If you know anyone who has a heart for Haiti and able to give some time to serve, please let me know !!

This past week we also received a container with 500,000 seed packets for planting gardens. We are intending to start many "Promise Gardens" at our orphanages and with the local Haitians. The Promise Gardens will be a great Bible lesson opportunity as well as for growing vegetables for the people. The container also has shoes, school books and many other things to take the next step in rebuilding the nation of Haiti. We started unloading the container yesterday and will finish next week.

I want to introduce you to our Base Camp Haitian staff. We have four wonderful ladies here who clean and cook for our teams. They are all great and some of them have been here since base camp was set up after the earthquake. Linda is married with three children and is the head cook for lunch and dinner. Muela comes early to cook breakfast for us and then walks up to the corner where she has a little grocery / meal stand (just some tarps on poles !) and sells sandwiches and other things to the workers who come by. Louisetta and Ebenese both go to our church and are such a blessing. Louisetta understands english better than the others and has learned a lot since she started working here in May. She has always wanted to go back and finish high school and recently earned enough money working at Base Camp to purchase her school uniform and start attending school again. She was so excited about the uniform the first day she wore it - like a little girl with a new dress ! Ebenese is a very devoted Christian and recently sang a beautiful solo for the church a few Sundays ago. She comes to work at 6 am every day and cooks over a charcoal fire on the ground next to our storage container - preparing lunch for the school children at the church. When that is done, she comes over to the base camp house and works the rest of the day there. The other day I walked over to the storage container and Ebenese was there reading her Bible (while the meal was cooking) inside our storage room doorway - where there was a little shade from the 90 degree heat. Made me a little ashamed as I need my coffee and table and chair with the fan blowing on me in the morning before I feel comfortable enough to do my devotions.

That's it for today. God bless you all.

If you're interested in seeing more of what we are doing in Haiti, visit the Foursquare Haiti website at

Uncle Mark

Louisetta in your brand new school uniform

Ebenese on the left and Muela on the right

Linda (left) and Louisetta (right)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Aloha From Haiti

This week a team from Grace Covenant church in Camas Washington has been here working on our Base Camp # 2. Their church just recently purchased land here for a Foursquare orphanage close to our base camp so we have also spent some time with Pastor Bellande who will run that orphanage and the children who will eventually be living there. Those children are currently in a home way up on the mountain that is pretty difficult to get to. You may not know this, but our church (New Hope Diamond Head) purchased land for another orphanage in Jeremy, Haiti back in the fall of 2009 just before the earthquake. I hope to get out there in the next couple months to show you that property as well.

This week we finished the roof on the bunkhouse and the showers in the bathrooms and should be ready to have teams stay there in a week or so. Still very rustic (even for Haiti) but it will do fine - allowing us to handle about 24 more short term missionaries and do so much more for the Haitian people. Tomorrow we receive another team from Pacific Coast Valley church and continue our work on finishing the second base camp. And we say goodbye to the Grace Covenant church team. Sunday Pastor Guy will announce the new water distribution and this coming week we will have a small "grand opening" ceremony so the community can start using the system.

Caught a bad cold this week (how do you do that in a sweltering hot climate ?!?!) but I'm taking it easy today to recuperate and be ready to receive the new team tomorrow. At least it gave me the time to write this and send off some photos.

Below are photos from this past week. Our Haitian labor crew is great. In the photo below are Jackie on the left (he is our translator and we call him "Hollywood"). Next is Mackanson - a very tall strong man, but seems to have a very tender heart. He hurt his arm the other day and when he came to work it was bandaged. We prayed for him and he was very appreciative. Kneeling in front of me is Blanc (his nickname). White people like Aaron and I are called blanc (white). Blanc (the Haitian) is lighter colored than the other Haitians so they call him Blanc. Next to me is Jackson. He's a goofball, but also has a tender side. Today I left the job site early to lay down because I was sick and Jackson told me through the interpreter that he would pray for me. Kneeling next to Jackson is Johnny. He's the youngest (not sure how old he is). But he's a hard worker and easy going. Then comes Jacob who is very quiet and doesn't say too much. Jacob plays the base guitar on Sunday at church. Aaron on the end loves to work alongside the Haitians when they are digging or shoveling. I tried to do that a couple times, but the Haitians won't let me. They call me "boss" (which also means carpenter so it's a little confusing!) and they don't want the boss digging or using the tools with them.

If you ever have any questions or want to know more about a particular subject, please email me back and I'll try to answer as quickly as I can.

God bless


Finishing up the roofing on the new Base Camp # 2 bunkhouse. Two of our Haitians with the team on the roof (although I think they would rather be on the ground !!)

Water distribution !! Three faucets with James 7:38 written in French above. French is the "formal" language of Haitian and most Haitian understand it even though they speak Creole most of the time. The wall with razor wire is the wall surrounding the church property. May seem like a lot of tight security (and it is) but this is very typical in Haiti. If you have any money at all, most people try to build a wall around their property something like this one.

Blanc and Mackanson backfilling the electrical conduit trench. They do this all day and in the 90 degree heat !!

Our wonderful Haitian labor crew !! They are the best !!