Monday, April 2, 2012

A New Bakery & More!

Aloha Everyone !

The Bakery is almost here!!!!! I can almost smell that fresh baked bread now!! One of Pastor Guy's visions for Haiti (he's the National Pastor for Foursquare and pastor of our local church) is to have a bakery at every Foursquare church to feed the congregations and to sell bread to the local communities to earn money for the churches. This past week we started installing the very first bakery for Foursquare Haiti at our National Church (where our base camp facilities are)!! We are thrilled and looking forward to that first loaf of bread coming out of the oven (hope I get a taste!)

Serving the Lord here this past month has been great! We are almost done with the Torcelle orphanage and hope to have the children in by the end of April. Teams have come to Haiti to work there and have poured their hearts into it. This past week, we installed the kitchen cabinets (my favorite since that's what I used to do in Hawaii!), finished some tile in the children's bathrooms, painted and finished the security wall around the property. Lots of other work was also completed and it's starting to look like a finished house. One of the carpenters made a small cabinet for our neighbor next door - Mama. You may remember I mentioned her in my January update. Mama's "house" is a tent with some tarps and scrap plywood next to the Torcelle orphanage. She is such a blessing to all of us and we try to help her as often as we can. Mama saw the small cabinet the carpenter made and she started dancing and jumping up and down - you'd have thought she'd won that 640 million dollar lottery I hear about on the news in the USA. Such a simple thing to make her so very, very happy. Makes me a little ashamed of the things I complain about sometimes.

Building the Sarthe orphanage had to slow down for a month or so, but we are still praying for God's provision there and for starting construction again soon. While we were putting up the block work for the orphanage, the community "protection force" (basically the local mafia who look after the community) suggested we stop and build a security wall before we go any further. They do take care of their people, even if it's in their own "interesting" ways. I met them when we first started work there this year and they came to "check us out". They look pretty rough, but after a few minutes of conversation they were very nice and accepted us because we were helping the church and orphanage. Anyway, they suggested the wall be build first before we finish the orphanage as they had heard people talking about the Americans coming to help and that the orphanage must have money now. They were concerned about people breaking in to steal whatever they could from the Pastor and his family. So.... We halted work on the building and started construction of the security wall in front. Sarthe is a very very poor area of Port-au-Prince, right next to Citè Soleil which is another very very poor section of town - considered by some to be the poorest and most dangerous place in the Western Hemisphere (Wikipedia). So the bottom line is that we took the "protection squad's" advice and are currently building the security wall. We hope to get back to building the orphanage soon too.

Security is one thing we sometimes forget about, but it's a very serious problem here and we have to pay attention. With still over 70 % of the nation unemployed, there are many desperate people around. The security is not only for keeping things safe from thefts, but also for the safety of the children (and us). We were touched by that problem again last month, when someone or some group stole every single chair from Pastor Bellande's church - only 100 yards from the Torcelle orphanage. They even took the curtains behind the pulpit and the light bulbs from the ceiling light fixtures!! Frustrating, but it's a fact of life here. At Sarthe as we are building the security wall, Pastor Renold said that he will sleep in the front of the church now until it's done because people will come by and cut off and steal the reinforcing steel we install in the foundation that will become columns in the wall.

But God is so good to us here ! Lots to try to drag us down, but so many miracles and blessings to give us joy and hope. Two weeks ago, we were in the tent city again installing tarps over old tents and a woman was sitting in her tent doorway with a huge rag tied around her knee and a compress underneath made of some nearby plant leaves. She told me it was "fe mal anpil" (VERY painful). The group that was with us, stopped and prayed and then we moved on to install more tarps. Two days later I saw the lady walking near her tent with no bandage and she said it was all healed!! Another miracle of God is how he works in the hearts of the people we see all the time. A young man we call Papa has worked for us for about 8 months building the Torcelle orphanage. A few weeks ago he developed a pretty bad headache for days and started wearing a bandana around his head under his baseball cap. We kidded him about how he looked, but we also prayed for God to heal him of that. One Monday I went to work at Torcelle and found out that Papa had given his heart to the Lord over the weekend!! And beside that - his headache was completely gone!! We gave him a Creole Bible and he is attending church every week and telling others about Jesus. A few weeks ago, we were blessed to be able to pray for Geraldine's new little brother. Geraldine is one of the kids I've sort of "adopted" from the tent city. Her mom just had another baby and we were fortunate to be able to pray for him when he was less than a week old. When I went into the tent to pray, though, it was at least 110 degrees!! I explained to her that was not good for the baby and she needed some cooler air. About a week or so later I was able to come back and install a "window" in her tent to let some breeze through. It's much better now. Geraldine is so proud to have a new brother - she is always talking to me about him!

Tons more going on but this is just a small "slice". I have to say I use Pastor Creighton's phrase quite often - being in Haiti is like "Christmas everyday!!! " (Creighton is one of the pastor's at New Hope Diamond Head, my home church in Honolulu - thanks Creighton!!). Please continue to pray for us here as well as the Haitian people. They are such a blessing to us and I can see God's hand on the Haitian people all the time.

God bless

Uncle Mark

The beginnings of the bakery oven at the Foursquare National Church !!

New Torcelle orphanage with security wall (and orphanage) almost finished! Tons and tons of rain lately and you can still see the "streams" flowing through the front yard!

Adrian (from a Beaverton Oregon team) along with our Haitian interpreter, Gregory, in the nearly finished kitchen of the Torcelle orphanage.

Mama (our neighbor at Torcelle) in the blue "Polo Jeans" tee shirt, along with her family. Linda, the girl on the right, and Jonese, the smaller girl in the middle, just started going to school this February due to a donation from a man named Cliff on one of our USA teams.

Geraldine's new baby brother! He's barely a week old here. Hopefully he will be able to grow up in a regular house someday and not live his whole life in a tent. But at least he is loved by his mom and family - he is blessed!!

Building the security wall at Sarthe. The "stream" is the open sewer that runs through the area. Hope the new wall keeps out some of the smell too!! Ha! (but I doubt it !!) The reinforcing steel sticking up will eventually become columns with cement block in between, but until then, this is what Pastor Renold will protect from thieves by sleeping in the front of the church building!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A New Year, A New Beginning

Aloha !

What a great start to a new year in Haiti !! After a wonderful Christmas holiday with my daughter and family in Florida I arrived back in Haiti on January 1st. My first day back was so great - renewing friendships at church, visiting friends in the tent city, and getting back into speaking Creole again. The second day I was also honored to be invited into John's tent (tent city leader) to have dinner. About eight people crammed into his tent and a bunch more outside talking and listening through the doorway "flap". They asked all kinds of questions about my family, etc. - great fun and great time to get reacquainted. The rest of that first week was somewhat relaxing visiting friends in church and getting things set up again for teams coming to serve this new year. Since then it's been "fast and furious" (no relation to the "gun thing" in the USA !). Teams have come and gone and done wonderful work here for the Haitian people.

Right now we are focusing on finishing the Torcelle orphanage that we started last fall. As of today the second floor is built and the roof is starting to go on as I write this. It's so exciting for Pastor Bellande and the orphan children as they will finally have their own home to grow up in. This last fall, as I mentioned in previous emails, the children had to move out of their rented house that was over an hour's drive from town. Now the boys live in a small rented house close by and the little girls live in our bunkhouse at base camp. Move in day in the new building will be quite a celebration !! We've also started the well for the orphanage and church close to the building. This well will provide free fresh water to the church, orphanage and to the community as well.

Last year I put out the word on Facebook for anyone who wanted to help put two of my Haitian "children" from the tent city in school. God has blessed them with sponsors so they are now attending school at our church. Two of my kids are orphans and the other has only a mother who works in another city. So I was their "papa" at a recent school event where they issued the report cards to the children's parents. My kids did just "ok" on their report cards so I decided to start helping them with school work. A couple times a week we sit near my bunkhouse and work on lessons together - VERY difficult !! - Just try helping someone with school lessons that are written in French. I speak no French and only a little Creole and my kids don't speak much English !!! Communicating in that context is a riot ! And with my old brain, I feel like I'm the one in school and not them !!!

Last fall we started working with a new orphanage called Sarthe. They are the ones with a school of close to 200 children, along with a church and girl's orphanage, currently with 15 girls. Our first project is to build a bridge over the existing "stream" that runs across the front of the property. It's a "stream" - but it's mostly made up of waste water from the local soda bottling plant about 1/4 mile away, as well as raw sewage from "somewhere". It's an ugly mess in front of the property, but what a wonderful group of people. We've gotten to know many of the children and local families there as well and hope to have some new facilities built for them this year.

Some of the same American staff is back from last year and some new ones coming as well. Should be a wonderful year, helping the Haitian people and advancing God's kingdom here.

Blessings to you all !!

Uncle Mark Olson

Torcelle orphanage - Second floor all framed and starting to put up the roof trusses !! A couple of the Haitians working with us are learning carpentry very well and will be able to use those skills after the building here is finished. That's Jeanjean, one of our Haitian workers, in the corner with white t-shirt and hat working on a stack of roof trusses we just built. And that's Aaron Harris (who most of you know) on his knees next to Jeanjean laying out the next truss to be built - or maybe he's praying !

Well drilling rig for Torcelle orphanage working away. Finished the well at 150 feet deep with plenty of water for our needs !

This is Joneese with me. She lives in a tent behind where we are standing with her mom, sister, another lady and her baby. Their tent is right next to our Torcelle orphanage. One of the American team members building the orphanage donated money this week so Joneese and her sister could start school. Hopefully they can start in February after we get them uniforms, books, etc.

My Haitian "kids" - It's all smiles now but we haven't started lessons yet !! This is Macule in front, Geraldine by me and Witchiny in the middle. Interesting being a "father" to young children again. Homework is especially hard for me !!

That's the Sarthe church on the left with the "stream" in front. We were just recently blessed to be able to purchase the empty lot next door to the right and will be able to start construction of the orphanage facilities as soon as we complete the bridge over the stream. When the stream is flowing full the entire neighborhood stinks. We hope to cover the bulk of the stream across the property to enable our construction vehicles to drive onto the site. We were also recently blessed by a church in Oregon who has decided to pay for drilling a fresh water well here to get clean drinking water for the school, orphanage and community!!

Two of the orphanage children doing laundry next to the church/school/orphanage.

Pastor Renolds, his wife Roseland and their three boys. They run the school, the church and the orphanage at Sarthe and have become almost like family already.