Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pressing on

We've been in Haiti for a week now after a month-long furlough. It was a blessed time visiting family and friends, Barry sharing at different churches, and trying to get some much needed rest.

Just before we left Haiti at the end of October, the family of our neighbor, Alice, finally completed funeral arrangements and laid her body to rest. It was everything typical of a "proper" Haitian funeral, and everything we would consider to be completely improper in the States. There was a brief time to view the body before the service started, which was also the time for family photos around the casket.   Then began the wailing and crying. Most of this  bemoaning was done by the women, some of which were family who seemed to never take any interest in Alice's well-being while she was still living. Now, though, they were devastated.

The crying stopped upon the entrance of a brass band, playing cheerful, celebration-type music.  So many people were packed into the tiny church building that many  were standing in back, and dozens more waited and listened outside. The crowd in back parted as a line of young men squeezed through, dancing their way up the center aisle and then to the front of the church. All decked out in hip-hop gear and their faces half-covered by aviator shades, they put on an MTV type show in semi-unison at the front of the building.. After the young men filed out, a group of girls took their turn. Their shimmery blue uniform skirts swayed as they performed their moves to the music of the brass band. One young man in an all-white sailor suit directed it all, blowing a whistle to indicate when to march, when to dance, and when to stop.

The funeral service itself wasn't long. The pastor of the hosting church shared an introduction and prayer, followed by one of Alice's great- grandsons sharing a brief story of her life.  When it was Barry's time to preach, he knew it had to be quick and powerful. It was almost entirely an "unchurched" crowd, and it was obvious. He had been told to keep it short, so the Lord gave him the words he needed to speak in his allotted time.

When the service ended, it was time to begin the half-mile funeral procession on foot. The band, the dancers, the crowd, and the casket all proceeded down the rocky path toward Alice's home, where the tomb was built and ready for the burial. As the trumpets blared and the drums kept time, all the dancers spun and bounced their way along.  From our perspective, what seems to be the strangest tradition they have is rocking  the casket up and down to the rythm of the music, almost dancing with it in a ceremonial way. The pastor had a brief time of prayer at the burial-site, and Alice was slid into the tomb, the first of many family members that will likely follow after her in the same hole.

Months ago, one of Alice's great grandsons, Will, said that he would become a Christian after the funeral. Now, over a month later, he's still not ready to give up and give his life to Christ. Last night as Barry spoke with him, he was clear that he's not there, but knows where he needs to be. In a way, he has a better chance than many people around us who, simply by going to church, believe they are Christians on the right track. Will sees the hypocrisy in that and doesn't want to profess anything unless he's truly converted. He's at the top of our prayer list!

Back on the Mission Field

Our first week back in Haiti has been a reality check and a reminder that, well, we're back in Haiti. We've been without a truck, Barry's been terribly sick with an unknown bug of some sort, we've run out of diesel fuel, water, and almost out of toilet paper. Katie Yoder is back with us and joining in the battle, including the big fight against the cockroaches that did their best to take over while we were gone. One of their favorite places to reproduce was in the boxes of gospel tracts and literature we keep on hand.  The motorcycle has been sufficing in getting Barry back and forth to a few places he's had the strength to go, but he returns home worse off than when he left.  Part of his running has been to work with 20 or so locals in the  building of a wall around the parcel of land that was purchased for a future mission house.

The drama really exploded earlier this week with one of the families we've been working with for quite sometime.  A 20 year old girl with no parents had been living with her aunt and her aunt's family, but they kicked her out because they were convinced she was telling us bad things about them.  It was revealed that the girl's parents were killed by witchcraft spells that were imposed by this same family. When Barry called a meeting witc
h them and their pastor to get to the bottom of everything, the aunt got so angry with the girl that she
 picked up a dense two-foot-long stick with several sharp protrusions and began beating the girl over the head with it, accusing her of lying. Who can we believe? Everyone wants the upper hand, and it seems they'll do anything to get it. A few different, uninvolved Haitians said "maybe they will kill her" when they heard what happened.  We're doing what we can to help this girl and prepare her for eternity.

We did enjoy a small, impromptu children's Bible lesson here on our porch. We had some booklets that briefly spelled out the death and resurrection of Jesus in English. We had Peter goal through each page and translate it for them, and he took it a step further and really elaborated and shared the gospel with the children. It was really a blessing to see him so willingly jump in
and start teaching with such zeal. They all took their booklet and a small box of crayons home with
them.  Despite having children coming and going all the time, it's hard to get them settled down and organized to actually share with them in that way.

Pray for us as we try to get the ball rolling again here. We look forward to what the Lord has in the coming months. There are several churches on the schedule, and Barry's ready to get back to teaching and preaching.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hurricane Matthew

A few days ago I thought we were surely about to have another story to tell.  We got the first phone call about the approaching hurricane on Friday evening, and began watching the storm travel through the Caribbean.  On Monday we made preparations.  It was a fitful night of sleep when the wind started to pick up around 2am. Though it was a pleasantly cool breeze blowing through that would have made excellent sleeping conditions under normal circumstances, we couldn't help but wonder what was coming. By the time daylight came it was raining, but the wind wasn't getting any stronger at our house. We were in contact with people in southern Haiti who were detailing the ferocity of the storm as it ripped through the area.  At the rate the hurricane was moving northward, we expected it to really hit us around 11am. We waited as we watched the rain pick up intermittently. Several times we thought it was about to get ugly for us.  We knew many people at home were praying for us as we braced for impact.

But the impact never came. Hours went by and all we saw was steady rain with an occasional gust of wind. It was as though we had a strong hedge around us while the rest of the country was hit terribly hard. Howling winds and rains pounded the towns and villages across Haiti. We heard about thousands of homes being completely flattened. Yet here in our little neighborhood, you wouldn't know it was happening without the watchful eye of technology.

Although the storm has passed, it's all far from over for many, many Haitians who will suffer the impacts for months or years to come. While we hear the nearby river raging as it nearly bursts its banks, we are thankful that we don't have an "exciting" story to tell. Lord willing, we will have something more to share as we try to help anyone in need in the coming days and weeks.

Consider this post a thank-you to all who lifted us up in prayer.  We have once again seen the evidence of God's watchful hand over us!

The End of the Road

This morning the rain still drizzled as we ate a late breakfast.  When we were nearly finished, we heard the uncomfortable sound of loud crying coming from nearby. It was a sound that we've learned can only be associated with death. We looked at each other and agreed that it must be Alice. Barry quickly got up and went next door, where a large crowd had gathered outside the home of our dear old widow friends. There was a whirl of commotion, and before long Alice's frail, thin body was wrapped in a sheet and placed in the back of our truck.  Several of her grandsons and great-grandsons jumped in and filled the truck while Barry drove her to the nearby morgue, where she'll be for fourteen days until burial.

Barry will likely have the opportunity to preach at the funeral, and is looking forward to many of our distant neighbors who never go to church hearing a solid message. Pray that it will be a time for God to really speak to their hearts. Pray also for the many people who have lost homes this week, that perhaps they may turn their hearts toward God.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

We Wrestle Not Against Flesh and Blood...

The team recently had another mountain "adventure," but thankfully this time it was much more peaceful and accident-free.  The trip began at six in the morning, with nothing more than a piece of leftover bread to fuel the journey. The terrain of the mountain road became impassable by vehicle, so the team had to set off on foot in order to continue. They hiked for several miles down a narrow path that crossed several streams and small rivers. Holes have been worn through Barry's shoes, so his feet were wet while they hiked. What a blessing to reach the church building, after several hours, that was found "in the middle of nowhere!"

Each day holds something unexpected while they typically travel to preach six or seven days out of the week. Most days there is at least one person, but often more, at our door asking for different things. Many want money for school, some want money for food, and sometimes they just want to sit around. We pray for discernment as Barry tries to do the Lord's will with each case.

One recent Sunday in particular held something that was quite unexpected.

The truck was finally "fixed" very late Saturday night, after waiting for the usual mechanic to run to and fro while he went to get parts and tools.  When he disappears for hours at a time, it starts to look like there's no chance the truck will be put back together, but somehow, he manages.

We left rather early Sunday morning for services at a church an hour and a half north of us. However, when we were under halfway there, we pulled into a gas station after noticing the truck was not acting right.  It was evident that something had been done incorrectly the night before, so once again we waited for our friend the mechanic.  Several times we called him, and like always, several times he said he was on his way, but wasn't. When he finally arrived, he already had another part to replace the one he had just put in the night before, apparently already knowing it was bad.

It was a quick fix, so we were on our way again, but behind schedule. After an hour or so on the blacktop, we turned onto a dirt and rock side road. We bumped along and saw many rice farmers out working with their hands and simple tools to harvest their crops.

The church building, like many, was only partially finished. It looked as though it had been started many years ago, and was done with a vision of a very large meeting place. Only the walls were in place, and the hundred or so people who were there this Sunday were all gathered on one side of the "building" under a tarp roof that was supported on one side by crooked tree limbs, and the unfinished church wall on the other. They were all out of their seats when we got there, singing with great volume that could be heard when we climbed out of the truck. As our family, the team, and another pastor we had picked up on the way all entered and found our way to the front, Barry couldn't help but notice the unwanted presence in the second row of benches.

As he passed by, a young man forcefully sat down in his seat, and began shaking his arms and sort of growling and hollering. He didn't sit for long, but soon plowed his way through the crowd and was out in the open, uncovered side of the church, now turning about aimlessly and making obscene noises. His veins bulged as all of his muscles seemed to be flexed at once. Soon all of the pastors, Barry, and Josnel were trying to restrain this man, who clearly had inhuman strength. While the demon was rebuked, the song leader did her best to keep the singing and praises to God at ample volume. The battle went on for some time, and the other men stepped aside while Barry stood face to face with this evil. His eyes were completely white. The demon was commanded to leave in the name of Jesus, who has already won the battle. The demon had the young man tossing himself all over the ground, rolling around on the rough, dirty ground. . He said he couldn't leave, because his "mission" was not yet finished.  However, at some point, the young man stopped, stood up, and seemingly in control of himself, started asking what happened and why he was so dirty.  Seconds later another demon took over. This happened several times before he finally seemed delivered. He gathered himself and went home to shower.

After Barry began preaching, the man returned. Cleaned up and in a change of clothes, he came and stood directly in front of Barry, his eyes were back in his head and all muscles flexed. Barry continued to preach. When this demon saw that he wasn't going to stop the message, he put his fingers in his ears and walked away. Barry went to look for the young man after the service, but no one seemed to know where he went, or even care to bother finding him. Interestingly, the pastor said that he had been converted the Sunday before. God help that man's soul!

Given to Hospitality

After an unusual stream of events that morning and a service with some rather friendly church members, the pastor and his family stopped us as we were headed for the truck and invited us to their home. What we expected to just be a quick visit turned out to be a fine display of hospitality like nothing we've seen yet in Haiti. They sat us around their dining table, and soon brought out their nicest plates, and dish after dish of their finest Haitian cooking.  We were surprised but blessed at the warmth they showed as we enjoyed the meal and fellowship.

The work continues this week after a visit from Barry's parents and some time seeing other parts of Haiti, where their church and family has been working over the years. We are praying for strength both physically and spiritually to accomplish all that is asked of us on the mission field.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Traveling Trials

Nobody ever said getting around Haiti was easy. There seems to be a recurrent theme lately as the team continues to take the Gospel in every direction. They've been bruised, battered, and a bit shaken, but always protected by a powerful God who carries them through every trial they face.

An early morning departure for Miragoane should have had them all back home in the afternoon after preaching at another new church. On the return trip, less than twenty minutes from our house, a group of unruly citizens had a different idea. Without warning the truck was surrounded by a rowdy group of men, all hollering and shouting orders. Barry thought they were trying to rob him, but when one of them reached through the passenger side window, grabbed the keys from the ignition, and took off, he soon realized what was happening. The truck was being used to start a roadblock on busy Highway 1.

If there is a disagreement on an issue, be it political or otherwise, it leads to crime and violence as the upset party takes to roadblocking and rioting in attempts to get their point across. Vehicles are set aflame, fights break out, and often lives are lost with no remorse from the instigators. And now the team found themselves sitting right in the midst of all this starting, with no way out.

I don't know all the details of what went on while they sat there, but it became evident that there was a guardian angel around them that afternoon. After six hours of sitting in a situation that grew continually more dangerous, a man somehow came running with the truck keys and told them to get out of there immediately. We were very thankful to see Barry return to our house late in the evening.
The view from the truck; vehicles backed up for miles

On one less action-packed trip, they drove to Cap Haitian, at the northern tip of Haiti, to preach at an evening service. They stayed the night, then preached again in the morning before heading back home. This was Barry's first overnight trip without the family along, and a good first hand experience of staying in a common Haitian home. There were cobwebs surrounding him while he slept, and only one "toilet" that sat out in the open for an unknown number of people to use. He was thankful for the old pull-out couch that he slept on, and that the night was basically free of rats and other critters that like to venture inside Haitian homes.

Last Sunday they made a trip deep into the mountains, where Brother Nate and others have been working, on the motorcycles. Right from the start it had its challenges. They had just departed and were still on the blacktop when Barry heard Peter, riding on the dirt bike with him, give a startled gasp. He stammered while he tried to relay that Pastor Bazalet had just wrecked the motor cycle behind them. He was badly scraped and bruised but didn't seem to have any broken bones. He opted not to go to the hospital, but rather went home where he spent the next several days recovering.

Police soon arrived in an armored vehicle to monitor the scene
Pastor Bazalet suffered some painful swelling and roadrash, but thankfully was not seriously hurt!

After finding another driver, the rest of the team pressed on. Maneuvering the bikes up the rugged
mountain road was more difficult that they had first anticipated, but they eventually made it there and had a blessed service.
Before leaving our house, Barry had mentioned something about maybe being back before noon.
Twelve o'clock came and went, and I noticed he wasn't receiving my text messages. Soon it was 4:00, then 5:00, and I couldn't get through to his phone. By 6:30 it was quickly getting dark, and heavy winds were picking up, bringing a big storm with them. I still couldn't get through to his phone, so I
assumed it had died. After the downpour started, it was completely dark out, and still no team. Finally
I heard a motorcycle outside the gate. Peter's long arm reached over to unlatch it. He had left with
Barry, but came back with another driver on a different motorcycle. "Where is Barry?" I asked, assuming he was coming close behind.
"He take Josnel to Titanyen." That meant Barry and Josnel were still out on the dirt bike in the dark, with strong winds and a heavy downpour, driving along the most dangerous road I've ever been on. The boys and I sat at the supper table and prayed for Daddy to make it home.... And finally at almost 8:00, the gate slid open again and a bike came in, this time with Barry on it. He was drenched from head to toe and came in limping. After wrecks, flat tires, strained ankles, and the like, they all made it back home. It was a struggle, but all worth it for the work of the Gospel, he told us later.
This week's Sunday service took us an hour into the mountains to a small church in a beautiful setting. A cool breeze blew through as we heard the message about truly believing in Jesus.  It was a blessing to be among this group while we worshipped the Creator, without walls and surrounded by the beautiful creation.

More Behind the Scenes 

Along the dirt lane we live on, just off the blacktop, almost daily there sits a man in a wheelchair. He survives by asking for money and barely scraping by with enough to eat.  One day, he asked if we could build him a small house. After much prayer, Barry decided it was the right thing to do. The usual work crew is busy this week putting up a one-room home for him that should be done soon.

Just behind us in the widows' new home, Alice is still with us, but quite weak and frail. She was sick and really not doing well for a time, so the young men from the neighborhood started on a Saturday evening digging her grave.  Right behind her house where she could surely hear every scoop of the shovel, they picked away at it. Apparently it's common to make an event out of such an activity, so they all passed around a whiskey bottle and carried on well into the night. The grave eventually got dug, and now the open hole is there just waiting to fulfill its purpose.

As each day passes, we are made more aware of the severity of the work that has been set before us. Death here is common and frequent, however for most, a false hope has them believing they're ok. Please pray that God can help us to relay the Gospel of peace to the needy souls in this country.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Behind the Scenes

While the schedule is still very full of traveling to preach and lead Bible studies, I thought I would share a look behind the scenes and introduce you to some of the people we see a lot of and work a lot with. Many of you have been here to meet them, but its always interesting to see pictures and updates and get an idea of what happens in the spare moments between traveling to preach.


We met Gilbert several months ago when Barry received a request to go pray with a man who can't walk. Gilbert (pronounced Jil-bear) used to live in the mountains, but according to his story, his life changed for the worse overnight. One night, he says, he had a dream that he was crippled, and woke up the next morning without the use of his legs. As you may know, everyone must earn his keep in the mountain, so Gilbert came down to live in Williamson, hoping to find a means of survival and help with the more abundant resources and larger population. We found him and his very few belongings in about an 8'x10' room that he was renting, sleeping on a thin mat on the rough concrete floor. Doctors have told him they have no idea what's wrong with him, and concluded, not so elequently, that he's "finished." There's nothing they can do.

One morning, we received word that in the previous night's storm, one wall of Gilbert's house had completely fallen in. Although he now had only a raggedy canvas tarp over that side now, he was thankful that he wasn't home when it fell, since the falling rocks would have likely killed him if he was on his bed.

Gilbert continued living in his one-room home until suddenly the owner decided it was time for him to go, so he and his belongings were tossed out in the street. We never heard the reason why, but we assumed he hadn't been able to pay the rent. There's not a whole lot of promise for a crippled man without a roof over his head, so the search was on for a new place for him to go. "I'm not sure where to take you, Gilbert," Barry explained. There happened to be a woman standing nearby hearing everything take place, and she was quick to offer her current home for him to live in. Thanks to the donations of anonymous givers, Gilbert had six months' rent paid for a new home that is nicer than the one he was just "kicked out" of. This even allowed his adolescent son to move in with him, too.
Gilbert in his new home
Moving; No trucks or trailers needed

Many hands pitched in to move Gilbert's few possessions, including the single mattress and box spring he's been upgraded to sleeping on. More excitement came when Gilbert, who is typically downhearted and doesn't have much interest in trying, got up on his crutches and slowly but surely, walked with his thin, shaky legs all the way to his new home. Now that he's seen himself do it, he needs the encouragement to keep on trying! God can allow him to regain his strength and get back on his feet!


Just a few days after we moved into our house, we were sitting on our porch/livingroom getting ready to have an evening family devotion. The wall was not yet up around the yard, so the usual large crowd of children were gathered outside, peaking their little heads in through the bars, and laughing and carrying on in the dark where we could hardly see them until their bright white eyes caught the glimmer of the porch light. Most of them were young children, but there was one that was taller than the rest and stood quietly trying to keep them all in line. He said something that opened the door for us to see he could speak a little bit of English. The next few nights he was back again, making small talk with us and sort of supervising the younger children. One evening Barry said, "Let's invite him in and talk to him." The boy was more than happy to come in and take a seat on the porch. "What's your name again?" Barry asked. Like many of the Haitian names we hear, we couldn't quite make it out. "Piker," he said more than once.

"Ok, Peter." Barry declared. "I like Peter." I missed this part of the conversation and had no idea his name was not actually Peter until months later.  "How old are you, Peter?" We were both blown away when he said he was 18 years old, since his thin frame and youthful face had us thinking he couldn't be more than 13.

Some later night we invited him to sit with us for supper, and he's joined us for nearly every supper since. From the very start, we liked his calm nature. He was never saying "Give me Give me" like so many young children have been taught to say here. If he was here at supper time, we would all go sit down at the table, but he would never assume anything. He would very politely wait for us to invite him to sit down and join us. (After nearly six months he's almost part of the family, but sits down on his own after only a bit of hesitation). He's become a good friend to all of us. He's around to help Barry with many various tasks, and in return he's been thankful for the meals,some small pay to contribute to his household and savings, and many learning experiences.

His family situation isn't the best, and sometimes I wonder if that isn't what draws him around so much. His parents are seperated, and I believe he enjoys the time of gathering around a supper table and singing and praying and laughing together. Peter's mother and five younger sibings live just down the road from us, while his dad, Jean, lives behind us. The boys all take their turn going to work in their dad's large garden. Jean is also around a lot and is one of the nearby neighbors that Barry has enjoyed getting to know, thanks to the help of Peter's translating.

Peter in March, with his dad, Jean; taking a break while working on
the foundation for the widows' home.

Peter more recently. Barry took him to the market to buy a
calf. The calf belongs to both of them, but Peter takes care of
it. They have an arrangement that, when it's time to sell, they
will split the profit. It's a wonderful opportunity for him to learn
about how he can make an investment, work hard,
and earn a living.

We are thankful to have the opportunity to be involved in Peter's life. He seems to slowly be coming out of his quiet shell and learning and growing, both physically and spiritually. He was under 100 pounds when we met him, but is slowly adding to his undernourished frame. More importantly, his understanding of many Bible truths is growing tremendously. He is here most nights for our devotions and discussions, and now goes with Barry to hear most of the preaching and Bible studies.
The other day Peter and Barry were driving somewhere, and Barry asked him if his heart was clear. "Is there anything on your mind and heart, Peter? Anything you need to confess and clear up?"
Peter paused, and thought, "Yes," he said meekly. "I buy a pig from Jean, and I paid him less than you did for your pigs." Oh, the purity!

Into the Mountain

Its interesting to see the way people and events connect and lead to new places to share the Gospel. We have been in contact with a ministry that distributes reusable cloth diapers to mothers with babies all over Haiti. We were given several to distribute, so we decided to take some to the young woman who was recently widowed for her one-year-old son. While we were there vistiting, checking in with her, showing her how to use the diapers, and tending to her other needs, we were informed that her young daughter was sick, so she was five-hours into the mountain with her grandmother. The plan was for her return in a few days. Weeks before our visit, the Lord had been urging Barry to take the Gospel more into the mountains, where few, if any, have traveled to preach and share Jesus. If he voluteered to go pick up the young daughter, it would be an opportunity to go meet people, find new places, and hopefully another place to begin preaching and witnessing. That following Monday, the team picked up the young widow, and they headed out. It was a rather rough trek and very hard on the truck, but they made it to their destination. Josnel didn't make it that day, so without a translator the team made their way around handing out tracts and witnessing one-on-one. Lord-willing, they can return and set up and organized meeting with several people at once in this village.

The truck got stuck more than once; this time it took a crowd
of Haitians to get it out of the rut.

Reading a Gospel tract

A short time later, they returned to that same mountain road, but didn't go quite as far as the village. They came to a rather large market, and everyone that was along took his turn at open-air preaching, even quiet, reserved Peter! It was a blessing to see he and Josnel step out of their comfort zones and share with their own countrymen, "Jezi ap vini. Repente de peche ou!"
Barry preaching at the market while Josnel translates

Peter with the microphone, preaching at the market
Anytime Barry takes the truck up a rough mountain road, its very hard on the truck that we're blessed to have here to drive. With really being led to preach more in the mountains, it was becoming a tough call to make. Is it worth all the damage and repairs with every trip we make? Thankfully, this problem has been greatly helped. Yesterday we were able to bring home a dirt bike that will be able to easily and speedily handle the rough terrain. With that and the other motorcycle, the whole team can much more easily go to the difficult places they need to go in order to share the Gospel.

Praise be to God for always meeting our needs in order to do His work!

Michel, the voodoo priest

Another huge witnessing opportunity was nearby our house, after Barry met the voodoo priest who lives just a few houses down from us. For months they had been passing each other on the road, and at first Michel would not make eye contact. Eventually he started glancing over with a look of uncertainty about who we are and what we're about. One afternoon while we were visiting with Jean, Michel approached, wanting to ask Jean to build a coffin for him. When Barry asked him if he was a Christian, he quickly shared that he was into voodoo.  They agreed that they should meet and have a discussion sometime.

A short time later, we were finishing dinner when we heard the unmistakable sound of a brass band coming down the road, telling us there was a funeral procession passing by. We hurried out to find out who it was. It turned out to be another local voodoo priest. Apparently, this priest's girlfriend had cheated on him with another voodoo priest and became pregnant, so he cast a spell on the baby. When the baby died, the father of the baby then cast a spell on the first priest, and at 41 years old, he was now being buried. 

All of this taking place seemed to open the door for Barry to have a serious talk with Michel. He and Josnel went right into his "temple" and shared the Gospel with him. "I've never seen anyone be so bold and confident in Jesus," Michel said. After a long discussion, he seemed to be considering his life and pondering some things. It would take a great sacrifice for him to give up voodoo if he were to turn to Christ, as it is also his source of income.

Michel inside his voodoo temple

The paintings are all done by Michel

We're encouraged and confident, despite frequent setbacks. Please continue to pray for us as we plan to take the Gospel deeper into Haiti, where there is a different culture and all around different type of people. Pray also for the people of Haiti that they will hunger not for meat and drink, but for the Gospel that can save them.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Making Adjustments

We've had some changes occur over the last few weeks here on the mission field.  We're adjusting to now being a family of five and having a little girl in the house. Perhaps the more challenging transition came about when Barry was informed that Anouce, our talented translator, had decided to take a different path. His church elected to send him to a six-week seminar in order to train him to be the youth pastor, and provide a paid position when the training is completed.

With a schedule full of Bible studies and preaching engagements, a translator is pretty necessary.  A young man from Port-au-Prince was interviewed and came along with the team a few times to see how he would do.   Between he and Josnel, they were working together to translate while Barry preached. Last Sunday, when there was another opportunity to preach at Lifeline, the young man wanted Josnel to translate on his own. In the end, it was decided that Josnel would be the way to go. Looking back, we can see that it was likely the Lord's plan all along. We had wondered at first why Josnel had "tagged along" with Anouce from the first time they went preaching. It turned out to be a tremendous blessing that another English-speaking Haitian was right there already on the team.  He does a good job now, and with more practice  I believe he will end up being an excellent translator.

A look inside Lifeline Mission church building; Josnel translating 

We also enjoyed a week-long visit from my parents since the last update. The children really enjoyed their time with Grandma and Grandpa, and I was blessed to have the help and time with my mom while I recovered after the baby. It was quite an experience for my dad, as he went near and far with Barry to various Bible studies,preaching and running errands around Haiti.

A new church was on the schedule this past Sunday, ironically in Titanyan, where we would have been going to share at the church Anouce attends. The Lord gave a clear and powerful message to the group, who seemed to receive it well.

This week Barry continues to fulfill the roles of problem-solver, preacher, and daddy. The team has Bible studies scheduled every day this week, and he's working to help people with all their various needs in between, while also doing the running to get Bethany her citizenship paperwork taken care of.  Pray that he can remain strong both spiritually and physically as he takes on so many tasks every day.

Thank you for checking in with us!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Counting our Blessings. Baby is here!

From the time we first began praying about the call to move to Haiti, there has been an ongoing battle with attempts to make us fearful and not put our trust in the Lord. A day or so after we were asked to consider the mission, I found out we were expecting. I was quick to start looking into what it would be like to have a baby in a third world country and what kind of red tape would be required to claim our child as an American citizen. An article at the top of the Google search results was titled "One baby's story shows why Haiti is no place to give birth" while the subheading read "Haiti is the worst place in the Western Hemisphere to give birth." Scroll down the page and you'll see "Giving birth is fraught with danger in Haiti."

While I looked over the Embassy website at the "report birth abroad" requirements, a text came across my phone with the news that Gino had just been hit by a truck and had been killed.  Although I'd never had the pleasure of meeting brother Gino, I instantly broke down in tears. Why so much at once?

I started thinking maybe expecting the baby would keep us home, but when we shared the news of the pregnancy, it wasn't an issue. Plans continued to be made to prepare for us to leave, and while we waited, the temptation to fear the worst continued.  Our van getting smashed by a deer, later the hood flying up and smashing the windshield while I drove down the highway with the boys, and the biggest shot- Zika.

 Thankfully Barry was the one to first tell me about this terrible disease that was spreading through so many countries, including Haiti. The travel warnings were put out for all to see. If you are pregnant, DO NOT go to these countries. Of course, Haiti is one of them. How could we possibly put our unborn child in such danger? Microcephaly is a big deal that would affect him or her for a lifetime. Family members pleaded with us not to go. What was God trying to show us?

Less than a month before we left, I had my midwife check things out to see if she thought everything looked fine and if we would be OK to deliver the baby without (possibly) a whole lot of medical attention. She said things were fine, but a couple of days later called to say she wanted a second opinion on what she had seen with her low-tech ultrasound equipment.  There was potentially a condition that has caused many women to be placed on bed rest for the duration of their pregnancies. Could we move to Haiti like that?

We scheduled the appointment with the clinic she referred us to and waited in anticipation for the results of the ultrasound. They said they would call us back later the same day, but the call never came. It was agonizing not knowing what was going on, but all I could do was to ask God to let us not be afraid. The next morning I spent a great deal of time seeking the Lord, and finally was able to give it all over to Him. I had to truly hand it over and put our unborn baby in his hands.

It wasn't more than an hour later that my midwife called to let me know that it looked like the issue in question was going to be just fine. Wow! God is so faithful!

We still had 20 weeks to live in Haiti before the baby arrived, but here we were, daily doing what we could to keep the mosquito population at bay and off of me and praying for God's protection. Katie ended up getting Zika while she was here after constantly being bothered by the little critters, while i typically hardly even noticed we had mosquitos.

The months went by and soon we were down to a matter of weeks before the due date, and still had been unable to find a doctor or midwife to deliver the baby. After several doors were closed, we ended up going to a Doctor in Petionville that had been recommended by various sources.

He seemed to be what the Lord had for us, the only issue was location. Getting to Petionville on the south side of Port-au-Prince can take several long hours if one gets stuck in traffic. He advised that we get a place to stay in town for at least a week before the baby was due. We managed to stay at home until the 5th, four days before the due date, and also the day that our help from home would be flying in. We had no one here to watch the boys while we went to the hospital, so we were eager for Kate and Angela to arrive.

At a checkup with the Doctor that morning, I hadn't felt like anything was happening, so we were still kind of questioning wether we should check into the hotel or not. We didn't want to end up staying for days just sitting around unnecessarily.

After the appointment we thought we would get something to eat and see how I was feeling when we were done.  By the time we finished eating around 1:00, I knew something was starting to happen and thought it would be best if we did go ahead and check in and stay in town. Getting some rest seemed like a good idea. After the drive back across town, checking in, and getting up to our room, it was after 3:00. By 3:20 I was too uncomfortable to rest, and by 3:30, right after Barry parked the truck, it was time to go to the hospital. Right now.  He called the doctor and we were (quickly) on our way, with the boys and an overnight bag for me in tow.

In a matter of minutes I had gone from wanting to take a nap to desperately needing to get to the hospital. After a rough drive, we made it from the hotel to the hospital parking lot at 3:35, and I hurried inside while leaving Barry to handle the bag, the boys, and parking the truck.  By 3:45, our little girl was crying in my arms, just as healthy as could be. What an awesome God we serve!  (I was told later that people were praying it would go fast.  He heard those prayers!)

We are rejoicing in the arrival of little Bethany Darlene. One week later she is still doing well, and mom is recovering and thankful for all the help from Kate and Angela. They were thrown right into the mix as soon as they got here late last Tuesday evening, watching the boys that night and taking over the cooking as soon as we were all back home. Although it all went nothing like we had tried to plan out in our minds, we can rest in knowing that God's plans are always better than ours. This has all been an excellent reminder that there is never any need to worry, and that it can all be placed in the Master's hands.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Take the Name of Jesus With You

The Lord continues to open doors for preaching and ministry in various places and churches throughout Haiti, and last week we were blessed to have another group from home to participate in the work here.

James' and Jonas' arrived last Tuesday evening, and the men started right in on Wednesday with a visit to an area hospital. They were surprised to find that the hospital was not actually in operation, as the entire staff went on strike months ago. Despite there being basically nobody there to offer medical assistance, there were still plenty of sick people filling the beds and longing for some help. It seems it was a sobering and heart-wrenching, yet blessed time of witnessing to these people. From there, they headed to preach in the streets of Port-au-Prince. Thursday morning was an early departure for the long drive to Miragoâne, where Barry preached after they finally arrived.

The women and children went along on Friday as we took some time to visit some of the other missions in the area and learn a little more about the work they are doing in Haiti. It was interesting to see the sheer volume of food and other supplies that are distributed continually to so many people in need.

We were back home again for a short rest and the men left for a Bible study in Williamson. This was at the church where Barry preached the Sunday before, where there had been a good response to the message and some young people had come forward wanting to repent. There seems to possibly be some fruit coming forth from this group!

The plan for Saturday was to head up the mountain, but rain the night before and more on the way postponed the plans. Instead, we all went and visited the little orphanage in Williamson that we've recently been working with. We had Anouce along to translate, so it was a wonderful opportunity to share with these tender hearts. James and Jonas both had a short lesson for them, encouraging and reminding them of their need for Jesus to lead their lives. That same afternoon, the men went to visit
the pastor in charge of the church and orphanage in his home. It was a meeting that allowed them to dig a little deeper into what he's about and what the needs truly are in order for those dear children to be taken care of.
Brother James sharing with the children at the orphanage

The third Sunday of the month brought us back to Titanyen, where brother James brought the morning message. He opened up Galations 5 and explained the works of the flesh in detail. He ended the message with the encouragement to be sure we are among those who are in Christ and are called up together with Him on that glorious day.
Sunday morning services at Titanyen

The mountain trip was moved to Monday, so the group loaded in the truck and ventured their way up the rocky 22 mile path to the village we typically hope to make it to.  After they arrived, the people were gathered together for a service and Jonas opened up and shared a message. Anouce was unavailable that day due to family circumstances, so Josnel, our other Haitian on the team, had his first opportunity to translate a sermon.

Since our visitors left last Tuesday, God has continued to show us that He is watching over us. As we were headed home from Port-au-Prince that same day after getting the truck worked on, we were driving down a back road when we heard a loud cracking noise. Suddenly Barry slammed on the breaks, locking up all four wheels. A large utility pole had split and was falling right for us! It crashed down, hitting the metal grill guard on the truck. There was an array of sparks and wires tangled up on the truck. Barry put it in reverse and pulled us from the entanglement. No one was hurt, we praise God!

Wednesday was Barry's first "megachurch" experience, as he and the team traveled five hours away to the southwest side of Haiti. They arrived to see that the very large building had already been filled, and people were standing outside the windows waiting for the service to begin. An estimated 2,000 people were there to hear about sin and the blessed promise that Jesus offers to be freed from it. They returned again to the church in Williamson last night for a Bible study that dug deeper into some things Barry had shared on the last time he preached there.
This morning we plan to go down the street to Pastor Oscar's church. This is the church where many of our nearby neighbors attend. We've gotten to know many of them better over the weeks, but we haven't been there for church since the Sunday Benji was there to share the main message. Lord willing, this will be a great opportunity to share what's on his heart from the fruit we have seen by living among many of these people.

We are once again thankful for the visit from home, and all the help I had from the women while they were here. It is always a blessing to have American sisters here helping with all the cleaning, laundry and cooking, and being here to fellowship. I pray you are richly blessed by your efforts. We have less than two weeks until the expected arrival of our little blessing! God is truly worthy of our praise!

Monday, June 13, 2016

An Unexpected Funeral

Just over a month ago, we witnessed the  miracle of healing when God took a man that was frail and bedridden and allowed him to rise up and walk. The man joyfully began working in his garden, anxious to return to caring for his young family. In return visits, he was still up and about and said that he and his wife had committed themselves to serving God with all they had.
One later visit, though, Barry found that he was a bit sick and running a fever. Although it seemed to be nothing serious, Barry felt prompted to ask, "Are you ready to die?" To which he confidently responded, "yes."

A few days later, the shocking news came that the man, indeed, had passed away.

The family asked Barry for help with the funeral, and thus began another new Haiti experience for us.  We were to help transport the casket up into the mountain, and also preach the message before his burial.  Thursday morning, our family, our translators, and our church brethren who were here for the week, all loaded up into the truck and headed to Williamson where we were to pick up the casket.  After a time of waiting for the vehicle from the morgue to arrive, a small white van labeled "ambulance" pulled in and stopped behind the truck. The men carefully placed the casket into the back of our pick up. They strapped it in to be safe, and a spray of silk flowers was placed on top.
When everything was secured, we headed out of Williamson and up the rocky road into the mountain.  Like other frequent trips, we were uncertain of how far we were going or how long it would take to get there.

About an hour up the rough road, we began to see people dressed in their best, clearly waiting for a funeral to begin. Around the next curve was a small cemetery and a group of people were gathered on the road.
When we stopped and got out, we learned that the church building that had been reserved was no longer available because the pastor had changed his mind. So, what do you do in Haiti? You make do.  A couple of chairs were placed about six feet apart under a shaded area, the people gathered around, and the casket was placed across the chairs.  Being surrounded by God's creation, on the side of a mountain, seeing the ocean in the distance, and a pleasant breeze blowing to keep things fairly cool, was a more beautiful place to hold a service than any structure man could build.

Everyone was assembled and ready to begin, except for one person. Where was his wife? Someone had gone to get her, since she was certainly not anxious to attend. As she drew nearer, we could hear her agonizing cries and then saw her coming, trying desperately to break free from the arms of the two other women who were dragging her to attend. Seeing the casket was too much for her. She wailed and cried like she had just heard the news of his death. Finally Barry calmed her down enough to talk to her. "I know this is very hard," he told her, "but God wants to help you. He wants to help you. Please come over here and sit and we will have a nice funeral for your husband."

She came and sat in the lone available chair and slumped down, placing her face in her hands. I wondered what was going through her mind.  Would she be able to have peace from Christ after this loss? In Haiti, especially in the mountain, a woman becoming a widow is more than just the loss of her love. It's also the loss of her support, the loss of any chance of income, and, she probably felt like, the loss of everything. Typically in these situations, no one steps in to help.  No family, no friends, nobody. A young widow is left to fend for herself with young children to care for.  This certainly adds to her intense grieving, as she fears what is to come.

The funeral began with an opening from Pastor Bazalet. One of the four brothers, whom he seemed closest to, then shared a few words. Next, Barry began the sermon.  It was a sober time for many who were gathered there, as they heard about the brevity of life while a vivid reminder lay before them. The sermon was clear about the need to be truly a child of God when we die. They were informed that this man was four years short of the average life expectancy of Haiti, which is only 36.

Following the sermon and a closing prayer, the casket was moved across the road to the cemetery where a hole was already dug in preparation for burial. As the crowd followed to say their final farewells, Josnel informed me that it's not typical for a woman who is expecting to go along to the graveside. Interesting, I thought. Another old superstition that still lingers here? I slowly made my way down anyway as the shovels were  busy placing dirt back over the casket.  It was noticed that there were remains from a prior burial mixed in with the dirt.

While the burial was finishing, a young man approached and told us that he wanted to make Jesus Lord of his life. The men spent some time with him, praying and helping him through repentance. Another young man also wanted to repent, as well as a teenage girl who had been battling with evil spirits. She seemed to be sobered by the day, as it turned out she was the daughter from a previous relationship of the deceased. These young people have a great battle before them as they return to their lives, surrounded by the evil and negative influences that are abundant here.  They and the family, especially the young widow, could use our prayers.

Other Opportunites and Happenings

Last Sunday morning Barry and the team traveled to a church near the border of the Dominican Republic.  The rest of the week, we were happy to host Nate and Darla while they were here testing for wells, and James while he helped us out with the electrical set-up at our house.

Yesterday morning, we were back in Williamson for Sunday services at the church we were at two weeks ago. Following the message covering the difference between a sinner and a child of God, this time nine people came to the front to pray and get their hearts right with the Lord.  It seemed to be quite a different atmosphere from two weeks ago.

This coming week, there is more preaching on the schedule as another group comes from home to stay with us.

Thank you again for your prayers as we continue to delve deeper into the lives of the Haitian people.

Bondye beni ou!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Outside the Gate: Citè Soleil

A new church has been added to the ministry list, as we traveled again the short drive to Williamson this past Sunday. Pastor Bazalet arranged for Barry to preach at a church we had not yet been too. Like we see all around us, there was clearly deception and hypocrisy in the church. The sermon clearly explained these things, as well as defining repentance and painting a clear picture of what it means to be born again. The warfare was raging that Sunday morning. Of the same group of people who danced and clapped all through the singing before the sermon, many of them left the building in a hurry looking angry. Lord willing, they were provoked to consider what they heard and ponder their souls in the scope of eternity.

That same afternoon, we returned to Williamson to visit an orphanage with 14 beautiful children. We came into contact with the pastor of the church that runs it when he came to our house seeking help. They seem to be in great need of support, most months barely scraping by and losing some of their staff for lack of pay. It was a blessing to watch them joyfully sing about Jesus for us. It seems to be an organization that is offering these children a lot of potential as far as how and what they are being taught. We are in prayer about how we can help in ministering to these tender young lives.

Tuesday presented a new venture for the whole team. They decided it was time to head to an area in Port-au-Prince that is rather uncharted territory- Citè Soleil (City So-lay).  It seems that the gospel has not been preached there, as people are fearful to pass through this area, and many avoid it.  Barry has felt lead to preach there for quite some time. Even the Haitians were nervous about going. One of his team members was nowhere to be found that morning. As they approached the area, it was clear that these people needed a savior. As Barry began to preach, a crowd quickly gathered. These people were starving for the gospel!

God blessed their efforts. People were hungry for the Gospel like nothing they've yet seen. Thousands of tracts were handed out in the time they were there.  Several new contacts were made, and three people wanted to repent and give their lives to Christ.

What a testimony of what God can do when men are given the courage to go outside the camp! Now that the door has been opened, they plan to return in the future, praying that God continues to give these desolate souls a hunger and longing for a hope they've never truly heard of.

The rest of the week has been filled with going to and fro helping with various needs, language lessons, and Bible studies with different churches.  Wednesday and Thursday were Bible studies with two different churches in Williamson, and today they made a four hour drive (in good traffic) southwest bound to Miragoâne to preach to a church group. Barry is thankful to be back in full swing preaching and ministering wherever the Lord calls.

Thank you for praying! 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Week 14 on the Island

The past few weeks have been different from the first 12 weeks of our time here. We were without a vehicle, so it was a time to slow down and experience Haiti on a more personal level.

The down time all started when Barry realized that the black truck, his main transportation, was in need of an engine rebuild. The plan was to take the truck to Guyteau, a man in Port-au-Prince whom Barry was referred to for various tasks. He would have one of his mechanics rebuild the engine.  Barry would need a ride home after dropping it off, so someone would follow him with the red truck, another truck our church brethren bought years ago. Since our translator said he has a valid drivers license and drove frequently for another mission, he seemed fit for the task. They were less than a mile outside of Arcahaie when Barry noticed that the other truck was not behind him anymore. He called Anouce, who said only that something was wrong with the truck and he had to pull over. It turned out that the automatic transmission had been kept in low gear, rather than drive, and the engine was blown to pieces. 

The red truck was towed to a different mechanic nearby, where they claimed they could fix it in one week. The appointment was kept for the black truck in Port-au-Prince and a rental car was picked up to use for the five days it was supposed to take to fix it. When the time "in the shop" was too far extended, the rental car was returned in order to save expenses. When the black truck was finally picked up, there were still several things terribly wrong, and the truck was left in Port-au-Prince with the mechanic again.  It soon became evident that preaching at long distances away would have to wait. 

Meanwhile, we have had more time with the locals, and it seems that the Gospel is stirring some people up. More of them seem to want to go to church and have become more open to hearing about their need for of salvation. There was one particular opportunity to share Christ when we found out that electricity was being stolen directly from our generator by several nearby neighbors. They tried to deny doing any such thing, but when the evidence clearly pointed against them, and they were told that God sees everything, they confessed their theft. Barry still felt led to find a way to set up five houses with the ability to run lights off of a battery that's charged by our generator. 

The home for the widows behind us is finally finished, and they seem to be truly blessed by their new place. The oldest, Alice, seems to be growing more frail, but is always happy to see visitors and tries to share and talk as well as she can. The other day she asked Barry to "give her a blessing" and pray with her. Her daughter, Getrid, is full of smiles; quite different from her burdened demeanor when we first came here.

Barry has also been doing some traveling around nearby to pray with the sick. He and Merelin are working with two young people who are mute because of voodoo spells that were placed on them. They are rather lifeless, just sitting in a trance, and appear to eat only enough to keep them alive. It is such a burden to see young lives under this bondage and waiting to be set free. 

He sat in this position for a long period of time while they cried out to God.  

We are glad to now have the black truck back with us.  After leaving Barry stranded a few times and more things getting fixed, it seems to finally be running more smoothly. There are still a few things that need repaired, but we are hopeful it will all be done soon. Barry is ready to get his team going again and continue preaching and discipling wherever the Lord leads.

Barry and the boys replacing a CV axle on the black truck

The longer we are here in Haiti, the more needs we see abounding everywhere.  As more people find out where we are, we receive more opportunities to minister to the needs all around us. Please continue to pray for us, as doors continue to open, and the devil continues to war against us.