Plan B & Beyond

Due to the unpredictable nature of life in Haiti, missionaries have a running joke that one must always have not only a “Plan A and B”, but also a “Plan C and D” as well. This past weekend has been full of backup plans. From the time Pastor Dick and Sandra Stark arrived in Cap-Haitian on Friday until today, we’ve had to regroup and replan constantly. When Dick and Sandra arrived, ALL the hotels in the whole city had been booked for a wedding. At least 600 people had converged upon this little city, most of them coming from Port-au-Prince. They took up every room available. We sat in the hotel lobby of the Roi Christophe Hotel for several hours just trying to obtain just one room for our guests. Dick and Sandra had already been up since 4:00 that morning in order to get to the Fort Lauderdale airport for their flight into Haiti. Two-and-a-half hours later their luggage arrived.

After waiting several hours for a room and wrestling much in prayer, we were finally directed to a hotel outside of town where we got our weary travelers settled in. Well…almost. They had time to rest for a little bit, then had to get ready to drive back into town for a banquet taking place for our Bible school graduates. They were up to the task, though — both Dick and Sandra shared profound words that visibly moved our students. Driving them back to their hotel outside the city at night was quite a feat, since there was no electricity in that part of town (unless you owned a generator). In spite of there being no electricity, there was plenty of traffic and we had to navigate carefully to avoid the oncoming cars and huge trucks barreling down the road at breakneck speed. After returning them safely to the hotel where they were staying, we finally arrived home and fell into bed from exhaustion.

The next morning, we were up early since graduation was at 9:00 a.m. Fortunately, in this case, the hotel was on the way to the radio station where the graduation service took place. Dick was a great sport and dressed up in a jacket and tie despite the hot weather. After assuring him that there would be air conditioning upstairs where he was to deliver the commencement address, well…you probably already guessed. There was no AC and after another long day, our weary guests were more than happy to get back to the hotel room to rest. After dropping them off, Prit and I returned home, took a nap, then went back into town again to inquire about a possible room opening, but there was still “no room in the inn.”

Yesterday, we had our Sunday morning service and returned to the Roi Christophe for lunch. There was still no room available, but fortunately another hotel had a room open up and so we were able to move Dick and Sandra back into the city. Our plan today was to take them to Cormier Plage (the beach), but Sandra has had some issues with what we call the “Haitian Happiness,” we ended up just hanging around the hotel most of the day. At this writing, Dick and Prit have gone to visit our third church plant just outside the city and if Sandra feels up to it, we will go to the beach this afternoon. Tomorrow, they plan to visit our school and see the feeding program in action. They and the wonderful members of Faith Temple Church were the catalyst in getting this program re-started.

At this point, we’re playing it by ear and whatever plan is set in motion (A, B, C, or D) will be the right plan for the moment. We rest on the Lord’s promise that he “orders our steps.” One thing is for sure — I bet Dick and Sandra will be happy to return to their normal life in Alabama where everything is a little more predictable!

Having said all this, we commend our visitors for being such good sports. We see their love for missions and for Rehoboth Ministries to suffer alongside us here in Haiti. We have immensely enjoyed their fellowship and benefited from their wise counsel towards us concerning particular areas of the ministry.

Haitian Mothers’ Day

This coming Sunday, May 27, Haitians will celebrate la Fête des Mères or, as we know it, Mother’s Day. Mothers are highly esteemed here, whereas Father’s Day is barely noticed. This speaks volumes about Haitian society. Many of the homes have one parent and that parent is usually the mother.

The Haitian mother, in general, is a very strong and resilient person who works hard to support her family. She is also accustomed to extreme suffering and loss. I can think of very few mothers in our church that have not lost at least one child. In a place where disease, malnutrition and natural disasters are commonplace, it is common for mothers to suffer grave loss. Because of this, their hearts seem to long for Heaven more, especially since one of their little ones may have already preceded them there. Years of toil and emotional suffering are often etched into these mothers’ faces who age much sooner than they normally would elsewhere.

We are very proud of our mothers here, especially the “Mothers in Israel” who not only demonstrate a great love for their families, but also for the Lord and his Church.

Covenant of Grace Bible Institute Class of 2012

Time is winding down for the graduates of Covenant of Grace Bible Institute! Our 2012 class boasts of 12 graduates who will heave a huge sigh of relief on Saturday as they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. They will finally be able to celebrate the culmination of four years of hard work! Essays, tests, and late night studying will become things of the past as these bright young men and women embark upon new adventures.

Each graduating class has its own unique name. This year’s class is named after Martin Luther, the great 16th-century reformer. We are extremely proud of our students and the character and work that they have demonstrated.  Each one is already active in their local church serving in various capacities such as teaching Sunday school, leading youth groups, and serving on worship teams. Would you please remember to keep these future leaders in your prayers?

A Haitian Snack

It’s called “Ereba” in Central South America and “Fufu” in Africa. Here in Haiti, it’s known as “Kasav” and can be purchased by the side of the road. It’s a staple made from the yucca root. At times coconut is added (my favorite!) and it tastes great when topped with “mamba” (peanut butter). In English, it’s called Cassava Bread, but we never had any until we came to the mission field. Add a slice of “zaboka” (avocado) and you have yourself one great snack!

Mr. Peanut Butter Man

François Fabius has been making and selling peanut butter for 62 years. He started in his youth at just 16 years of age. We know him better as “Mr. Peanut Butter Man.” We enjoy his peanut butter as well as encouraging him in his small business. It’s pretty good peanut butter and the Roi Christophe (a hotel that hosts a lot of foreign visitors) buys all their peanut butter from him.

Haitian peanut butter is very different from your average Jif or Skippy. It has more liquid and can literally be poured from the jar instead of scooped out. It also contains piments (hot, red peppers) and has a bite to it. If you want the true Haitian experience, you need to put some Haitian mamba (peanut butter) on top of cassava bread. (More about that tomorrow!)

Here is a picture of François posing in front of a statue of Henri Christophe. He was delighted to see a picture of himself, as this is a rare occurrence for him. I bet Henri Christophe would have liked his peanut butter as much as we do!

Haitian Flag Day

Today, all across Haiti, people have been celebrating the Fête du Drapeau — Haitian Flag Day. Students all dressed up in red, white, and blue proudly marched through the city streets singing. In other places, onlookers viewed  marching bands as they played Haiti’s national anthem. The Haitian people are fiercely proud of their heritage and culture, no matter how troublesome the past may have been. They truly love their country. They also have a beautiful flag. Since 1803, the flag has evolved into the present flag shown to the left. For those interested in reading about its history, click here.

Doing the Work of an Evangelist

We recently posted the biography of Ronald Occilus, who is our evangelist-at-large. Ronald is our Haitian “son” who lived with us for thirteen years. We are so very proud of the man of God he has become. Ronald just spent a week  in the city of Ouanaminthe preaching a crusade. Did he ever have a story to tell! One night, at the end of a service, a woman came to him and gave her life to the Lord. She said her husband had left her after eight years of marriage. She had every intention of going to the witch doctor that very night to put a curse on him in order to kill him. But, she came to the crusade and after hearing the Gospel, said she wanted to be saved. She is now praying for the restoration of her marriage instead! The Gospel has the power to convict, save, and transform!

*Ouanaminthe is the last town in Haiti before crossing the border into the Dominican Republic. It is separated from the town of Dajabon (Dominican Republic) by the Massacre River. The Massacre River has a history of its own, thereby earning its name.

Bone Tired

I am tired, tired, tired. Tired to the bone! We had music rehearsals from 2:00-6:00 p.m. today. Group after group practiced, then the youth choir. We’re gearing up for the Bible school graduation May 26th, then the Sunday morning service on May 27th. There are more rehearsals on Thursday, then others on Saturday. We’re looking forward to our special guests, Pastor Dick and Sandra Stark from Faith Temple Church in Alexander City, AL. They will be with us during this special occasion. We know it’s going to be a special time in the Lord. But at the moment……I am tired to the bone!

Remembering My Mother

Mary Frances lost her left arm at five years of age in an accident. Her older brother had committed the forbidden act of taking their father’s hunting gun down from above the door. While the rest of the family worked in the field outside, the small boy played with the trigger until the sound of the explosion caused everyone outside to freeze in horror, only able to imagine the worst. The bullet found its way to Mary’s elbow as she sat on the big feather bed looking at the family picture album. Living so far from the train station resulted in a day’s journey before finding a doctor. Sadly, by then, it was too late. The arm couldn’t be salvaged, and life as Mary had known it changed forever.

By this strange twist of events, however, Mary was the only one of her big family that received a college education. Since she was handicapped, her scholarship was fully paid. She majored in French and English, then went to Holmes Bible College in Greenville, S.C., and earned another degree in Theology. She never once complained about her mishap, but rather saw it as a tremendous blessing. She later married and bore five children; girl, boy, girl, boy, girl. I was number five. I grew up watching my mother tackling many projects that the average person would hesitate to attempt.  Mama could do almost anything with her one arm that I could do with two. This included being able to tie shoe laces with one hand and cutting up a chicken. I would watch as she held a knife in her one hand and the chicken under her left nub that remained. Then she would manage to cut up the chicken, piece by piece. She had a device placed on her steering wheel so that she could turn the wheel with one hand. Nothing seemed to daunt her.

I dedicate this post to my mother today. She was an amazing woman and the loss of her arm was only the beginning of many sorrows for her. My father passed away unexpectedly when I was only seven, and she was left to raise her small children by herself. From managing to pay the bills, to keeping the creditors at bay, her fortitude in the face of difficulties was exemplary.  One night, a man that lived down the road from us, crawled under our house. Lying right beneath her bedroom floor, he whispered “Mary” all night long until daybreak, then finally departed. At that point, my mother did what she vowed she would never do — she bought a gun. It had been a gun that had caused the loss of her arm, but her fear of “Shadow” was greater than her fear of another mishap taking place. “Shadow” was later arrested for trying to kill a woman and sent to the state penitentiary. We never heard anything about him afterwards.

My mother’s courage and perseverance left its mark on each member of our family. I think all of us subconsciously held this thought in the back of our minds: “Well, Mama would have overcome this, one way or another.”  She resembled the Proverbs 31 lady who laughed at the future. Somehow Mama’s humor kept everything else in check and even though heart disease would slow her down considerably in her later years, she still maintained a strong will and independent spirit from having lived a harsh life.

There are so many other stories I could share about my mother. But what stands out  most in my mind about her today is that she was so supportive of Prit and me when we told her we would be leaving for the mission field. She had shared with me once that she had seriously considered becoming a missionary herself.  After my conversion in college, I came back home every weekend  and listened as Mama shared great truths from the Scriptures with me. I was the fruit of her prayers and after agonizing countless nights in prayer for her wayward daughter,  she was only too happy to open up the Word to me.

Mama went to be with the Lord twenty-seven years ago. I see her traits in each of our three children, even though they never had the opportunity to meet their grandmother. Two weeks shy of our returning to the States with our firstborn in 1985, Mama went on to Glory. I’m very thankful for her memory and believe her prayers are still availing for me and my family.

I would like to wish all the mothers that happen upon this post a “Happy Mother’s Day.” I hope these few words about my mother will bless and encourage you all today!

Saying Goodbye

We received word today that a dear member of our church died in her sleep last night. Marie-Marthe was a longtime member of our church in Petite-Anse and involved in the choir and many other activities. We are grateful for her memory and she will be sorely missed. Sadly, she had not been well for some time and left behind two young children and her husband. I just spoke with her after church on Sunday and prayed with her. What a surprise to learn today that she had slipped into eternity!

Anyone who pastors knows that, as a church, there are many times that we rejoice together. But we mourn together too.  But, even in this, these times of suffering serve to strengthen the bonds between us as we reach out to minister to those parts of the body that are ailing. Death often helps us put life in perspective. It’s a constant reminder that our days are numbered too. Perhaps John Wesley had this thought in mind when he made the following statement: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” I believe this a good motto to live by and it directly correlates with Galatians 6.10 which states, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

What will we wish we had done if we found ourselves suddenly stepping over the brink into the next life? There are so many opportunities to use our goods, our talents, and our compassion to lift the heavy burdens off of others that are less fortunate than ourselves. And while this post may seem a bit melancholy, I hope you will take a few moments to remember Marie-Marthe’s family in prayer today. I also hope you, the reader, will ponder what you can do to help alleviate the suffering of others by doing all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can.