Fighting Poverty

In Haiti, the telltale signs are everywhere. There are babies with protruding stomachs that cry excessively; crying for food that isn’t there. Their anxious mothers hoist them up and down on their knees and coo in their ears, trying in vain to provide some kind of empty solace. Many young children sit quietly. Their empty eyes reveal even emptier stomachs. The orange hair, along with the thin arms, legs, and slight frames, reveal the onset of malnutrition. Their listless expressions and lack of responsiveness are often misinterpreted for inattentiveness to the occasional observer, but it’s just one more sign of the toll that poverty takes.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Already known for its extreme poverty during the Duvalier years, it has continued to spiral downward ever since. Subject to the rise and fall of many dictators and coups d’état, the struggle for power at the top has only resulted in extreme neglect of the rest of its inhabitants.

The average Haitian is incredibly resilient. Being descendants of former slaves, its people are used to untold suffering. Known for sustaining themselves by eating the bark off trees and even goat hide during the embargo of the early 1990’s, it is not uncommon for them to go days, at this present time, without food. Their thin, gaunt frames eventually succumb to one malady or another, however. Tuberculosis and AIDS are prevalent and are known to work hand-in-hand in the same body. Where one appears, the other is usually present.

A Haitian proverb aptly describes the state of the poor soul that has been subjected to such adversity. “Sak vid pa kanpé” means, “An empty sack cannot stand by itself.” The common practice of gnawing on a stalk of sugarcane can only relieve hunger for so long.

What is Rehoboth Ministries doing to help stem the tide of poverty in Haiti? It is working to make a difference in the lives of those that are hurting. One way is by providing hot meals for our schoolchildren. Fighting poverty is one way of bringing Christ to them.

With the feeding program getting ready to take off, we ARE making a difference !

Speaking at Fort Bragg

Last night we met with the group of believers that meet at Fort Bragg’s Airborne and Artillery Memorial Chapel. Lt. Col. Tim Atkinson serves as their chaplain. We shared the testimony once again concerning Prit’s healing and were warmly received. It was obvious that many of them had faced trials of their own and it was a joy to be able to pray with those that had specific needs. An added joy is knowing this flock has agreed to commit themselves to pray for us. Now, that’s something we always need! Tim has served in the army for 22 years. We are so proud of our armed forces and salute them!

We Made It!

Dear Readers,

We are very happy to announce that our feeding goal for this school year has been met! Thanks to everyone who had a part to play in this endeavor. And guess who’s the happiest of all? Max, our “status update” dog!!

P.S. Don’t worry! If you wanted a chance to give into this wonderful cause, we are still taking donations for next year’s program!

Changes

The last few weeks have gone by like a whirlwind! We had a great Christmas with two of our children (John & Deb) while Gabriel worked through the holidays in Portland. Gabe came in on January 11 and we celebrated Christmas again! Last Wednesday, we took off and met John in Asheville, spent the night, then continued on to Nashville, Tennessee. Gabe had a guitar audition with Belmont University on Saturday and will know in three weeks whether he will be leaving Portland in a few months to “fly south” in order to start a new phase of his life. We just returned from the airport after seeing Gabe off and our nest is empty again! It’s been 29 years since we left home to become missionaries to Haiti, but the “goodbyes” never seem to get any easier.

By the end of the month, we plan to be back in Haiti and busy about the Lord’s work. It’s been a great time in the States visiting with family and friends. Keep your eyes peeled on this site. We have great news coming up!

Earthquake Anniversary

Dear Readers,

I have been reflecting on the travesty of Haiti’s earthquake on January 12, 2010. Wanting to post something in its remembrance, I have come up dry. Frankly, there are just no words to capture all the vivid memories and sounds racing through my mind of that fateful day. I hope, instead, that you will be touched by our son John’s poem that I feel, in some way, may help capture some of the emotions of that day. – Dana

I am thinking of Benjamin, turning
Around in the the airport taxi
To learn my destination,
He’s a Baptist boy come to the city to make a living.
And also Pierre, the taxi dispatcher
Who winks and gives me half the going rate,
A price he says he reserves for those whom
He considers friends.

I am thinking of the city as I last saw it,
The mountains and their mining-scars
Masked by rainclouds
The tin-roof tenements hugging the coastline,
And the church roof that announces “JESUS LOVES YOU”
At the end of the airplane wing
As it turns toward the sea.

I am thinking of all the names and faces, familiar places
Buried now beneath sand and ash and rubble and stone,
The sound on the news of voices crying, 
The dazed look in the eyes of children, staggering
In the streets like wounded animals, trailing blood.
And the overwhelming sound of people worshiping
Atop the ruins of their fallen houses,
A sign and a wonder to behold.

I am thinking tonight of the miracle of faith, 
The mustard seed that grows into a mighty mountain.
Faith, the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not seen,
The miracle of those who, losing the world, are lost to it in return,
Men and women of whom the world is not worthy.

As the television glows, all I can do is think of Benjamin, and Pierre
And the sorrowful, rejoicing sound
That the Beloved of the Lord is lifting up tonight.

It’s Not the End of the World

Guest post by Rev. Rollie Simmons.

Well, here we are in another year where the world is apparently supposed to end according to the ancient Mayan calendar. Did you know that there is an official 2012 end of the world website? (Please don’t go find it.) I noticed that it offered other important predictions if you wanted to click on the link (I didn’t), but my thought was what other predictions do I need if the world is ending? It also had some articles on how people can prepare for and survive it. Survive the end of the world!

This of course is nothing new as these kinds of predictions have been going on for generations. Does anyone still have some Y2K supplies in their garage? I will never forget how some Christians I was pastoring at the time were very upset with my evident lack of concern for the crash of 2000. I wasn’t preaching on it or providing weeks of survival coaching from the pulpit. And then when nothing happened, it was amazing how some believers actually acted sincerely disappointed that the end of the world didn’t happen.

I have discovered one very good thing about these repeated end of the world predictions. They are signs to me of what Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Is that not the prophetic truth about mankind? All these predictions are evidence that God has placed eternity into men’s hearts and, no matter how we may try, we will not figure it out. He placed eternity there to point us to Him, but man still stubbornly tries to find a way around God.

I don’t know what 2012 holds for us but I know God is holding us in His hands.

Rollie Simmons is the pastor of Trinity Church in Tacoma, Washington.

Twenty-Nine and Counting…

Tonton Macoute soldier brandishing a machete

Twenty-nine years ago today, Prit and I left Tarboro, N.C. to move to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Following the call to missions, we said goodbye to our Rock Church family and left the familiar for the unfamiliar. Leaving the peaceful, lazy countryside, we later landed at the Maïs Gaté airport in the crowded capital city. The quiet life we knew was now met with the constant noise of people, traffic, and animals roaming about in the street coupled with Haiti’s stifling heat. It would take time to adjust to the new smells, a new language, and an altogether new life. The intimidating presence of President Jean-Claude Duvalier’s dreaded tonton macoutes greeted us from the moment we arrived. Dressed in their trademark denim uniforms and wearing dark sunglasses, each made a show of force by brandishing his own submachine gun. The feared Macoutes were Jean-Claude’s private army, a symbol of the brutal, oppressive spirit of a dictatorial government which would be one of many regimes we would see fall during our stay there.

Much water has passed under the bridge over all these years and there are just too many tales to tell of God’s unbelievable faithfulness in the midst of some of the hardest trials of our lives. After teaching at a Christian school for 5 1/2 years in Port-au-Prince, we moved to the other end of the island to eventually plant our first church in the old colonial capital of Cap-Haitian. The apostolic work of Rehoboth Ministries has grown into three church plants with the oversight of a fourth, a Bible institute, four schools, and various other ministries. In the midst of it all, we raised three beautiful children who all now live and work in the U.S. God has brought us through numerous coups d’état, an embargo, a kidnapping, life-threatening health issues, plus a myriad of other trials that would take a lifetime to share.

We thank the Lord for His faithfulness and, once again, thank all our supporters for “holding the line” so that we could serve the Lord all these years in a land that has seen many spiritual casualties. As Paul said in Romans 8:37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

2012: A Year of Completion

Guest post by Pastor Gesner Lefort.

Dear reader, a new year is upon us. It is an opportune moment to turn ourselves to God more than ever before so that we might receive a fresh anointing and the fresh perspective that comes from faith.

The people of God are a people of faith. In Hebrews 11:6, the Bible says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. “The one who draws near to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of the one who seeks Him.” In order to receive the faith that pleases God and for which God rewards us, we must turn to His Word — “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

The people of God are a spiritual people with spiritual vision of a spiritual destiny. We do not base our view of the future or our hope on the news of the day or what the government is doing. Rather, we put our faith in Christ and this faith is our assurance of things hoped for, the things that will bring us peace.

No matter what the situation, God always provides a door of hope for those who put their trust in Him. In the Bible we read (and we know this also from experience) that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

At the beginning of last year, God spoke to me intuitively and told me that 2011 would be a year of lack. At the same time, He gave the faith to believe that God would take care of those who put their trust in Christ. To be perfectly honest, 2011 was indeed a year of lack for us in Haiti, a year of political, financial, and public health crises, the year when an ongoing cholera epidemic began. Despite all of this, I continued to believe God, that He rewards those who seek Him. No member of my family, and no member of my church, was touched by cholera. God took care of me and my family, providing for our daily needs, and He gave us enough to take care of those He brought into our path as well. God is faithful.

At the beginning of this new year, I believe that God has entrusted me with a word different from what he spoke to me last year. I have shared it with my local church, and I would like to share it with you. I believe God told me that 2012 would be a year when God would complete those of us who trust in Christ in every domain. I believe that that meant that he would provide for our needs, although it didn’t mean that we wouldn’t have to seek his face in faith. On the contrary, it is faith that would give birth to the work that God is doing. As such, in our church in Haiti, we set the last week of 2011 apart, and went into spiritual combat to take hold of that which is ours in the Kingdom of God. There were some vibrant testimonies that came out of this period of spiritual combat, and the name of Jesus was glorified. Because of this, I would greatly encourage everyone this new year to be vigilant in the Lord to enter into all that Christ died to obtain for us. “Grace be with all those who love Jesus Christ with incorruptible love” (Eph. 6:24)

Gesner Lefort is the pastor of Centre de Formation Chrétienne (Christian Training Center) in Ste. Philomène, Haiti.

Haiti, May Your Soup Bowl Overflow in 2012

Guest post by John Adams.

In Haiti, the land of my childhood, January 1 is not only New Year’s Day but also Independence Day. It was on this day in 1804 that Haiti officially became independent from France, throwing off two centuries of slavery to become the world’s first independent black republic. To celebrate, Haitians eat soup joumou, a soup made from a squashy kind of pumpkin, laden with cabbage, turnips, and large pieces of beef rubbed with lime. It is believed that the newly freed slaves, forced for so long to serve the good food to their masters, chose to make it a symbol of their independence one they were free. Never again would master tell slave what he could eat. The Haitian would eat his freedman’s soup under his own vine and fig tree and profit gladly from the abundance of peace.

Sadly, for most Haitians, the Haiti of 2011 is nearly the polar opposite of the 1804 ideal. Today, Haiti is a weary, devastated nation teetering on the edge of extinction. Nevertheless, we serve a God who raises the dead, “calling things that are not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17). Jesus stated bluntly that the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor, and promised that the meek would inherit the earth. There are many in Haiti now who are of His flock, who hear the shepherd’s voice. I keep praying that as the Gospel bears fruit in their lives, it will spill over into an abundance of common grace for all their fellow countrymen. That is my prayer for Haiti in 2012 — individual, communal, and societal restoration through the overflow of forgiven hearts that are moving into the “Yes and Amen” promises God makes to those who love Him.

Oh, may it be so! May Haiti’s soup bowl overflow in 2012. May it know abundance and prosperity once again. May so many centuries of injustice be washed away by the rivers of God’s justice rolling like a river, His righteousness like a mighty stream. May the light of God’s truth pierce through spiritual darkness. May the knowledge of His love bind up the wounds caused by so much hatred. May He cause the sun of righteousness, who has risen with healing in His wings, to rise. May the day come when Haiti’s beautiful people go forth leaping, like calves newly released from the stall (Mal. 4:2).

John Adams is our son. He has a blog of his own, Oxford Circus, which he updates intermittently.

A Better Word than Happiness

Guest post by Pastor Corey Kope.

In my own life, I must say that hope has depended mostly upon my perspective. Hope is a deeper word in the western world than, say, “happiness” in most of our minds. Hope denotes something that can rise up out of the ashes of conflict and pain, of unstable circumstances, of lost situations. Too often, we’re seeking the FEELING of personal satisfaction when idealism in a relationship, or in anything actually materializes. But disaster strikes and the shallowness of our trust in God is revealed when we strike out at Him or those He has carefully placed in our lives because it didn’t turn out the way we thought it should. Hence the lack of Kingdom effect in our lives. We need to take a hard look at ourselves. We brag in the sunshine “though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him”. But when He has the nerve to do something for His own reasons we cry “unfair!”

It is ridiculous to beg God for fairness when that is the last thing we could handle. And the last thing I want is a god I can handle. No, hope in my life has happened in the darkness, when my last cry is one of despair and I throw myself on the mercy of the One. Mercy I never deserved and never could. And in the receiving of mercy, when I know in my heart that 5 minutes of the right kind of pressure could make me run from my own Master, a most basic shift takes place inside and the words “my Lord and my God!” are forced out of me. And hope is reborn. Not the hope that things will turn out OK for me, but that the Kingdom could continue without me. That there is something worth dying for. Only then can I look behind me and see God’s handling of my life. And I find rest in knowing that He can do what He wants. My ego is gone and my only question is, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

Corey Kope is in the process of becoming senior pastor at Chinook Winds Christian Centre in Didsbury, Alberta.