Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Journey to Jeremie...And Back

Aloha again !!

Well, just got back from working in Jeremie, Haiti for the last three weeks. We don't have any internet at the base camp there so I couldn't communicate with the world for a long time.

The work in Jeremie is going very well. We started a new church and orphanage there in February (I wrote about it then) but have not had any teams available to go back since then - until now. This trip the team built the front entry to the church and started plastering the outside to prepare for paint. When it's done, the new building will be a beautiful white "stucco" looking building with the church downstairs and orphanage upstairs. Pastor Casamajor is such a great man of god and serves his church people and community very well. He also heads up the orphanage and takes care of 45 children. I headed to Jeremie a few days before the team arrived to make preparations and measure each child in the orphanage for a new school uniform. A church in Charlotte, N.C. received a donation of $ 1,500 for school uniform material for the Jeremie children and our own Pastor Rosinell (assistant pastor at the National Foursquare church where I normally live) is going to make all the uniforms.

When the Charlotte N.C. work team arrived we jumped right into construction - built a front entry and "steeple" so the building looks more like a church. We also did some minor changes to the structure that was started in February. Working in Jeremie is so fun - and we have become the community entertainment. We call it the "blanc show". In Haiti we are "blanc" (white) and for some reason, watching us cut lumber, drive nails - or even just stand around talking - is so interesting to them ! One local lady even brought a chair to sit on the side of the road and watch us work. But their curiosity also provides such a wonderful opportunity to minister. I often ask the kids and even the adults - "ou renmen Jezi ?" (do you love Jesus ?) They are so responsive and developing relationships with them is so rewarding ! I am thankful beyond words to be able to serve here.

One Sunday Pastor Casamajor preached a great message on being patient for God's blessing (or course I don't know Creole well so the interpreter helped me understand !) Pastor knew his congregation would want to move in the church quickly as they watched us work, so he was wise to talk to them about patience since he knew the building would not be done before we had to leave and head home. After greeting visitors that morning he asked each one a question in Creole and after one young woman responded he waved at me to go outside to talk with her. Of course I had no idea what he wanted so I asked my translator what was going on. He told me the woman wanted to give her heart to the Lord and Pastor wanted me to pray with her. I was so humbled and blessed. Through my translator, I talked to the lady and we prayed with her for Jesus to come into her life. Afterward I was able to give her a new Creole Bible thanks to the generosity of the Charlotte church team. What a wonderful day !!

The two cooks we had for the team were wonderful. They cooked great Haitian food and even cooked (although I think a little reluctantly !) some "American" style meals to make the team feel more at home. After the team left, they continued to cook for me and my translator until we left. One morning after breakfast I was sitting at the base camp table and the head cook came around the corner from shopping at the open market with a huge smile on her face. With great excitement she told me she had a "sipriz" (Creole for "surprise") for me for lunch. I followed her in the kitchen, watched her open the bag and dump it's contents into a huge pot. I looked in to find the liver, lungs, heart and miscellaneous other "unknown" inner parts of a goat. She couldn't wait to cook it all up for me and made me try pieces of it before serving it for lunch. Of course I told her how excited I was to have such a "wonderful surprise" and couldn't wait for lunch. I did, however, ask my translator how long it would take to get to the nearest medical clinic - "just in case" !! Ha ! But it all turned out fine and actually tasted great - and I so much appreciated her love and generosity !

After spending nearly three weeks in Jeremie it was so very hard to leave. The neighborhood was getting used to seeing us and the children always said "Bonjou Pastor Mark" each day as I walked down the dirt road from base camp to the new church building. After the Charlotte team left, I stayed on another few days to work and help the Haitian laborers get the plaster work on the church started properly. On my last day I gathered all the Haitian workers together, along with anyone else who wanted to listen, and shared with them how blessed I was working with them to build this new church and orphanage. I prayed for them and for God to use this new facility and them hugged them all. A few tears were shed - even among the Haitian laborers - as we said good-bye for a time. Hope to be back there later in July to finish the job and get the children moved into their new home and the church into their new place of worship.

The trip home from Jeremie was quite an experience. I couldn't get a confirmed reservation to fly home so I took the "Jeremie bus" back to Port-au-Prince. The bus is a very old, heavy duty - almost military style - bus that's designed for about 50 people. They cram, however, nearly 70 people in the bus and of course I'm the only non-Haitian. All the luggage is lashed down on the roof and a few guys ride up there as well. The journey is only 150 miles, but it's still a nine hour drive. At least 60 miles of it are dirt roads and some are narrow winding mountain roads that are one vehicle wide with a 500 foot drop off only inches from the edge of the road. At times I felt like the Holy Spirit was the only thing holding the bus on the road, but there were other times I felt like we were in a run away freight train driven by Satan himself !! When the road is open and straight, the driver "puts the pedal to the metal" and pushes as hard as he can. When he comes up on another vehicle, he simple lays on the horn (which you can hear for miles !) and goes around what ever is in the way. We drove the same route a few weeks ago delivering lumber and it took almost 14 hours, so you can imagine how fast the bus was going to shave nearly five hours off the trip !! What a wild ride !! But the scenery was magnificent. Beautiful mountain country that often reminded me of the Big Island or Kauai. Going through one village I noticed a smokey fire on the edge of the stream ahead and as we got closer I saw a man burning the hair off his freshly killed pig with another lady next to him cleaning the insides out of her freshly killed pig at the edge of the stream. Made me smile as I thought what would happen if I ever saw that going on at water's edge in Honolulu !! Ha !

Love you all,


The side of the new church and orphanage with the plaster crew working hard. In the foreground is the church "laundromat". Ladies from the church wash clothes in the yard next to the new church, since we have a water source, and then lay the clothes out on the grass to dry.

Part of the "blanc show" as neighbors watch the team working. Notice the lady with the chair who came prepared to sit all day and just watch us work.

Building the new front entry of the church as the plaster crew works on the side.

Some of the orphan children who are anxious to move into their new living quarters. It was so fun talking and laughing with them during our visit. They taught me how to sing "Jesus loves the little children" in Creole and we sang it every time we got together.

Here's the existing church and school they use. Can't wait til they get in the new one !!!

Our wonderful and talented cooks in Jeremie - Fabienne on the left and Madame Roman on the right.