After returning from Jeremie at the end of June, it's amazing how fast July has flown by. God's work continues here and we love being a part of it. Aaron Harris went home last week and we miss him terribly. I am certain he will return. He is a blessing to the ministry here and I am sure God will bring him back in time.
Since my last update I went to Jeremie again with just my translator. We inspected the plaster (looks beautiful !), got the window framing started with our Haitian carpenter and negotiated making the windows for the church with another Haitian contractor. It's so nice to see the project moving ahead. Running short on funds though (which is always the case !) but we should have enough to finish the church, orphanage and maybe some bathrooms. Eventually we want to build a school here, as well as some self sufficiency projects when God brings in the funds.
Monday we tried to take another team to Jeremie on a rented bus. They were going to paint the outside plaster and do some other work, as well as do a "Vacation Bible School" for the children in the orphanage. We left out of base camp at 6 am in one of those "military style" buses I mentioned in my last update. I say "tried" to take them to Jeremie because about 6 hours out of base camp, on the mountain road to Jeremie, we encountered a road block and could not pass. That morning someone had killed a Government Representative from Jeremie and the killer (supposedly the representative's own body guard !) lived in the area we were in. Angry residents from that mountain town blockaded the road and would not let anyone (Haitian or American) pass. They rolled huge boulders across the road and were standing around shouting and not allowing anyone to pass. We eventually had to back down the mountain road for nearly half a mile to find a place to turn the huge bus around. We discussed our options with the team leaders and finally decided to go back home to base camp to avoid the possibility of exposing the team to any danger. So for another 6 hours (plus stopping to get food) we road that huge bus all the way home - 13 1/2 hours total in the bus !! What a long day !! But the team was fantastic ! They were all junior and senior high school students and their leaders from Washington state and there was absolutely no complaining from anyone - what a great group of people !! It was a disappointment not to get to Jeremie, especially as the people there were expecting us, but we know that God had other plans for this team. So since Monday we worked on the church property, set up another new tent in the tent city and poured a new concrete "entry ramp" for the girl's orphanage front gate. We've broken two mufflers at the entry into the girl's orphanage property these last few months since the entry is so rough and steep !! (they both broke off as we tried to drive in !) After losing the second muffler, we decided to fix the problem and did so yesterday. It looks great and hopefully will make it much easier to get in and out of the girl's orphanage from now on !!
Work continues on the National Church property and now with the larger facility the church is growing quickly. Last week the building was almost filled to capacity ! One of the things I enjoy a lot is picking up people in the tent city on Sundays to bring them to church. It's a tiny little "bus ministry" and is such fun. Usually I drive over to the tents about 45 minutes before church and gather up anyone who wants to come in our base camp van. A couple times I brought bread rolls for them to eat on the way to church. It's a great time to practice my Creole as I "knock" on their tent "doors" and get them all loaded up in the van for church. Sometimes it's mostly children and other times it's mostly adults. My closest friends there - John, Junior, Miquel, Gerald, Carmen, Kekett and one or two others are regulars, but we often have "first timers" come along too. As I enter the tent city to pick them up, it's also a time to really see how they live - sometimes eating nothing and sometimes eating just a tiny bit for breakfast, then doing dishes with dirty water in a bucket squatting down in front of their tents. Then they put on their "Sunday best" which is often clothing that we would probably throw away and not even bother to give to the Salvation Army ! But they want to come to church and try to get dressed up. One thing they are always needing is shoes. They don't want to go to church in their broken down old flip flops (which is what many of them wear all the time). They want regular shoes for church. We have begun asking teams that are coming to work in Haiti to bring men and women shoes so we can give to them and get them to come to church. I am praying for an increase there (with shoes for them all) that will require a huge bus to bring them all to church !!
Another thing we just started two weeks ago is an English service at the National Church. The Haitians want to learn English so badly and this is an opportunity to learn English as well as worship the Lord. The service is much smaller than the Creole service, but I am certain will grow in time. The Americans, of course, also love it since the teams usually have no idea what's going on in the Creole service.
Last week the Washington team decided to bless the girls in the girls orphanage with a meal - so they cooked up a giant pot of spaghetti and we took it over to them Saturday at lunchtime. At first the girls were hesitant, but soon their hunger overcame their shyness and they devoured the spaghetti. We watched numerous girls, no more than 10 years old, come back for two and even three plates full !! A number of the team members didn't even try to eat as we watched the girls gulp down the food with smiles on their faces. We didn't want to take away any of what they could be eating. After lunch the team did some skits and then painted the girls nails with fingernail polish. The team decided to wash the girls' feet before painting their nails (it's pretty dirty there and the girls are often barefoot). At first the girls didn't seem to want their feet washed but, again, pretty soon they were loving it. As they were getting to the end of nail painting it started to rain so we all headed for cover at the girls new dorms. Some of the teenagers on the team decided to play in the rain and the girls thought that was so funny ! Haitians don't generally like the rain and quickly head for cover whenever a shower approaches. To watch the Americans dancing and singing in the rainstorm was hilarious to them !
Another team from Las Vegas was also here last week and did a medical clinic in the church similar to what we did back in May. Hundreds of people from all over the community came for free medical attention. It is such a great way to bless the community and connect with them. We had helpers who prayed with the patients, and others who just played with the children of the patients, colored, blew up balloons, or simply held the children while their parents got attended to. Great time of loving on the local people ! This week the same team went out to Les Cayes (another remote province) to do a second medical clinic. Although I didn't go to that one, it went great and continues to the end of the week.
And another team from Georgia came, drove two hours every day for three days and build a small church structure in the mountains by a town called Las Cahobas. From the road it's about a 30 minute hike straight up the mountain to the church property. Their Haitian brothers in Christ carried all the lumber, roofing tin, generator and other supplies that would have killed me to carry. But for them it's simply a days work.
The work continues all over Haiti. Haiti has such great need. Many wonderful things have been done in Haiti since the earthquake of January 2010, but there is so much more to do. I am so happy to be a tiny little part of what God is doing here.
Blessings to all,
The almost completed church and orphanage in Jeremie with the new entry and "steeple". The masonry block in the foreground is a neighbor's new house. They asked me if we wanted to buy their property when I was there in February, but I said no. I told them to build their house and then come to our church. Maybe they will now that they are building it !!