Monday, March 21, 2016

Ile de la Gonave: Journey to a Sunday Sermon

Getting to the Island

"It's time to go! We'll miss the boat if we don't leave now," Barry announced as we scrambled to finish a quick lunch. We were trying our best to savor it, despite the rush, knowing it may be our last real meal of the weekend. It was Saturday at noon, and Aneuse and his friend Josnel had just pulled in on the motorcycle ready to head for the boat dock with us. Pastor Bazelet, whom Barry had met during his first trip to Haiti, had arranged for him to preach at a church on the Island of Gonave. We had been a bit uncertain as to whether or not the whole family would go along, but we decided to trust the Lord and tough it out if is what was called for. We had no idea what to expect with sleeping conditions, what food would be available, or what exactly the weekend would entail, but off we went, happy that Daddy wasn't going to be away without us until Monday.

In a bit of a rush to get to the dock in time, Barry was focused on the road and on a mission to get to the destination. Suddenly there was a hefty tap on the back window signaling that it was time to stop as Pastor Bazelet was at the roadside waiting for us. We stopped in front of a fairly busy road, the pastor jumped in, and, uh oh. No clutch. We were stuck. The locals were starting to look and wonder why we weren't moving. Some were getting impatient and starting to holler as we were blocking the way for a "taptap" to leave and get on the main road. Soon enough all three of our Haitian accomplises were out of the back of the truck and pushing to the other side of the road, just far enough to be out of the main stream of traffic.

We called a mechanic, and he and a couple of others arrived on a motorcycle. Once our translator was able to help communicate the problem, they tore into things, got out the suspected part, and two of them were off to get a replacement. The chidlren were quickly getting tired of sitting in the hot car, but Katie and I were doing our best to keep them occupied while we waited. Barry was able to sit and talk to the one remaining mechanic, and ironically, he knew many of the people we also know here in Haiti, mostly through connections with Lifeline. After two hours of trying to savor our very limited water, handing out a few gospel tracts, and an unexpcted expense for the weekend, we were off again, still very thankful for a nice truck to drive,and trying to catch the next departure time. I was already wondering what the Lord had in store for the next two days.

Arriving at the parking area near where the boats come and go, we sighed a bit of relief that we had made it, but it was evident that just finding a place to park would present an entirely new challenge. With the help of some of the employees and some others who just wanted us out of the way, Barry carefully squeezed the truck into a downhill, narrow spot, and we were off to the races toward the dock. We had all been thinking how good bananas sounded, and here the entire dock was lined with Haitian women displaying their beautiful produce, mostly mangoes and bananas. "Fig! Fig!" They shouted as they presented us with their hard work. I wanted to doddle and admire and pick up and armload of bananas, but another shout from ahead kept me moving.

"Let's go! Let's go! Come on!" a Haitian man directed us toward the boat. We could see that it was already completely packed, and it didn't seem there was any way the eight of us and our backpacks could still fit. Aneuse had been ahead of me and Barry, carrying Abram. My heart jumped when I heard, "There goes Abram." Through the crowds and confusion I could see that litte Abram had been handed off to a stanger and was moving onto the crowded boat, and Aneuse soon followed. I am fairly certian that I heard the man keeping the traffic flow coming now saying, "That's all, no more." I was still on the dock and my little boy was in the hands of strangers, terrified and screaming for his parents. Barry jumped on the boat just as I was telling the man, "That's my baby!" and pointing at Abram. "Yes, come, come," he directed, and Katie, David, and I were soon leaping our way onto the crowded boat as well. Barry finally managed to grab Abram, who was now clenching tight around his daddy's neck. The man giving orders directed us to "sit up there" as he pointed to two unidentified items. I contorted myself to sit tightly in on top of a large plactic bag that felt like it was full of clothes, while Katie ended up on a large, round item covered in several layers of fabric. There was very little foot room, and we couldn't have stood up at that point if we wanted to.

After a few more people squeezed their way into the very tight quarters, the boat finally started moving toward the anticipated island. Out on the open water, the breeze was refreshing and the gentle waves quickly put both boys to sleep on our laps. We did our best to keep readjusting, trying to make sure our limbs weren't falling asleep with the contorted positions we were sitting in. We discussed how Paul's travels were so often on boats across the sea, and recalled our childhood history lessons of how the early pilgrims were packed tight onto ships for months, many of them not surviving the unfit living conditions. We were thankful our trip was expected to be a short one, and the occasional splash of sea water was keeping us fairly cool. The motor died several times, leaving us relying on the sail to push that old boat loaded with hundreds of people through the ocean. It gave us plenty of time to check out our surroundings. We were seperated from Anuese, so conversation was quite limited with the Haitains around us. Katie and I were trying to figure out what we were sitting on. I had determined that her round, hard item felt like a car rim. I just couldn't figure out why it was covered in so much material.

For a long time, it didn't seem like the island was ever getting any closer, but a two hour journey finally brought us to the dock on the other side. The mob of people scrambled to jump off, but we hung back so as not to get trampled while trying to carry small children. As we were moving away from where we had sat, a Haitian woman came from the other end of the boat looking a bit upset, shooing us away from the "car rim" and and saying something we, of course, could not understand. When we were off the boat and trying to get our group organized, the same woman approached us with a man carrying the item. They set it on the ground in front of us and quickly started unwrapping it. Bananas. That "car rim" was a tub full of beatiful Haitian bananas, and at least half of them were smashed. I knew we were about to be buying them, but I was thankful that, well, at least we'd have plenty for the weekend. As soon as an amount was settled on and the transaction was made, hands came in from every direction to snatch up the "free" bananas. We managed to walk away with a few pounds of them, and I was glad we'd at least have something for breakfast. Well, Praise the Lord for taking care of us in unexpected ways.

With our backpacks, diaper bag, and semi-smashed bananas in tow, we piled in a little black pickup and started accross town for the house we'd be sleeping in. I was surprised to see that the street was smooth and paved with decorative block down the main stretch. We made several turns and after 10 or 15 minutes arrived at a home with a wall and gated drive. We were sighing relief and praising the Lord to see that we'd be staying in a house that was more or less closed off from the rats, had a good roof, and a bed to sleep on. We had enough time to get settled in for the evening, and made supper of our pretzels and corn chips that (thankfully) other folks had left behind at the house.

Getting to Church

We awoke early the next morning after a scorching hot, restless night (yes, we're spoiled with fans and good ventilation at our house). On our way out the door, we went for the smooshed bananas, but they had already disappeared. It turned out we were able to help feed some of the other Haitians staying there. Departure time was scheduled for 6:00 am, since it would take some time to get to church. I had no idea what time the service was actually supposed to start, so Katie and I, holding Abram and David in the front seat with our Haitian driver while Barry and several others were piled in back, rode along not knowing what to expect. We headed through the town we were staying in, and the roads quickly turned to the rocks and dirt we were familar with in Haiti. We bumped along into another town, and I thought perhaps this was where we would have services. We kept passing several churches, however, and soon we were out of that town and back into the rocky countryside, bouncing along and honking at goats to clear the road. We slowly got further and further away from town, and it seemed like further and further away from any sort of civilization. The road got worse and worse as we went. Several times the driver had to use four-wheel drive to get through. It had been nearly two hours in the truck, and even the motorbike traffic had died off. There was a tap on the back window that we had missed a turn. What turn? I didn't even see another road. After the sudden stop, the truck died and didn't want to start back up. Again, all 9 men were out and a good push start got it going again. We made the turn onto a "road" that was more like a path that was so uneven and rocky I thought a donkey would have trouble making it. Futher and further we ventured, weeds and trees growing up in the path. We wondered how there could possibly be any people out here, let alone a church body waiting to hear a sermon. There were no signs of houses anywhere.

The path was finally deemed unpassable, and the truck came to a stop next to a foot path just off to our right. We gathered our belongings and set off on foot, still not seeing anything to even be headed toward. Down a hill and around a row of trees, there it sat. There was a partialonstructed, block church building sitting completely alone in the middle of a large open area. As we got closer we could hear singing coming from below the temporary tarp roof. Beni swa a la'eternal! We made it!
They forgave our late arrival and welcomed our family and Aneuse to take the soft seats they had left open for us at the front of the church. After a time of more singing, some sharing, and an introduction from Pastor Bazelet, it was Barry's turn to preach. Exhausted from the sleepless night and the long journey, it was up to the Spirit to guide his speach. He was led to share a message on the biblical Christian with the group. When he finished and closed, Pastor Bazelet offered and invitation. Three women came to the front desiring to turn their hearts to Christ. We are prayerful that it was communicated well enough for them to understand the need for repentance and a broken and contrite heart. May these women be truly freed from sin and surrendered fully to Jesus.

After Church

We were invited to take a walk with some of the church body, and the mystery of where all these people came from was soon solved. A hundred or so yards further down the footpath, a little fishing village sat quietly on the shore of the island. It seemed as though most of the access, little as it was, was likely done by water rather than land. They showed us briefly around the village, and we admired God's creation at a beautiful, clear spring that flowed from underground and and into the ocean. It formed a small swimming hole that several young boys jumped in as soon as we arrived. We were treated to their best, as a basket of cold sodas came out from one of the homes to be shared with us.
It was soon time to make the trek back to the house. The children were again exhausted, hot, and terribly hungry. I tried to satisfy their (and mommy-feeding-two) appetites with more pretzels and corn chips, but after no supper and no breakfast, we were shutting down. We were thankful to count out that we had just enough money to get us some gas station food from nearby, a few waters, and still have just enough to pay for the boat ride for all of us to get home. Sunday evening, the men had some much-needed fellowship time. Barry was encouraged to hear that he and Pastor Bazelet share much of the same vision and biblical doctrine.

Despite our efforts and inquiries to return to the mainland and our much more comfortable living situations, we stayed another night on the island. We were anxious for a showers, water to drink, and fans to sleep in front of, but there were no boats running on Sunday. Despite our cell phones being dead and having no idea of the time, we were on the boat that left at 6am Monday morning. This time it was a much larger, American-owned boat with many more passengers. We were packed tight inside a steamy room with little ventilation, but we were quite thankful and optimistic about heading back to familiar surroundings.

I hadn't quite realized how much we had adapted to calling this rental "home" until we spent some time away from it. It's easy to take for granted our supply of drinking water and a plentiful supply of beans to cook when we're hungry. The trip was full of little flesh-killers, and if nothing else,we're all the more thankful for what we've been given for our long-term stay here in Haiti. I and the children spent the day back trying to rest and rehydrate, while Barry had more things that needed straightened out before he finally took a few minutes to sit down.

Other Opportunities Since Our Last Update

Pastor Bazelet has been busy for months talking to other pastors about Barry's vision for Haiti and arranging opportunities for him. Last week he met with a group of area pastors in Port-au-Prince and was able share quite a bit with them. The plan is to continue meeting with pastors all over Haiti, teaching them the importance of discipling their young men and wathcing over their flocks.

Friday evening we met for Bible study with a group from the church where we attended last Sunday. It was mostly women in attendance, and there were mixed reactions when Barry read 1 Timothy 2. There were a host of questions on modesty, how to handle an unconverted husband, and what to do in this and that situation. The pot was stirred a bit when he read straight from the word of God about women remaining silent in the church. What we've seen a lot of so far is women taking charge of the worship and speaking in front of the body. One in this particular group that does so stood up and said, "I don't like you because you said women should be quiet in church." The Word does it's own convicting of the soul. Overall, it seemed to be a fuitful Bible study, and the pastor has asked if Barry could come back every Friday at 4:00.

It has been a long week, and we feel we were all stretched and stregthened in our faith. Please keep praying for open doors, and that God will continue to bless our time here! We have been here for one month, and are thankful that God is always faithful. Also ,pray that we can learn the language, as it seems Barry is not finding as much time as he would like to learn it.

May God richly bless each one of you!!

Bondye bon tout tan.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Preaching, Teaching, and Little Learning Adventures

The early part of the week was again full for Barry with lots of running and taking care of necesary paperwork. The simple task of getting insurance to drive is not so simple here. There are so many people to go through and so many people wanting a slice of the pie, it took seven trips in six days to Saint-Marc, talking to an estimated 50 people, and a bit of a headache to finally get the job done. One thing Haiti will certainly teach us is patience. That's one of our first lessons about this country; everything takes longer here than in the U.S. Expect it and be prepared for it.

Last Thursday evening, we welcomed Katie Yoder from Remnant Christian Fellowship in Utica, Ohio. We are blessed to have her with us, Lord willing, for about two months. I can see her heart for the poeple of Haiti already, and her zeal for the gospel. She'll do well here as she isn't afraid to get her hands a little dirty.

Katie's brother, Rueben flew down with her, and they experienced their own set of difficulties with their journey. They flew out of Columbus early Thursday morning, but shortly after takeoff it was announced that they were turning around to go back to Columbus due to complications with the plane. After some reconfiguring and switching flights, they made it to Port-au-Prince around seven o'clock, but it was without their luggage. So, Friday morning, Barry and Rueben returned to the airport to get them as they came off the expected flight. Reuben got a full dose of Haiti as he and Barry drove around Port-Au-Prince for several hours trying to find a certain store to do some buisness. They also saw a man that had been run over, laying dead on the road. It quickly reminded them how short this life really is! As for the luggage, the Lord seemed to bless their efforts as they had to go "backwards" through customs and were able to pull them directly off of the baggage claim. Rueben's flight home was scheduled for Saturday morning, so back to the airport they went.

We are pleased to finally be wrapping up some of the running to and fro for business and getting on to the real mission. Friday afternoon, Mart, Nate, Dennis, Cory, and Barry, as well as our translator Aneuse, and a few others, went to Arcahaie during the busy market time to witness and preach to the crowds. It was quite different from what often occurs at home in the U.S., as people stopped to listen and many were interested in taking gospel tracts. They returned to the market on Saturday around lunch time with similar results.

A door was opened for Barry to preach at a fairly large church nearby on Sunday morning. A young lady from the area, Rodeline, had shared a recording of Barry's sermon from the previous Sunday with the pastor, and he asked Barry to come share with his congregation as well. The service was led off by a time of loud, amplified singing, complete with drums and keyboard. Unfortunately we could not understand what was shared after the singing to help offer discernment about the state of the church, but Barry's fiery salvation message seemed to be well received. After the service, the pastor asked if Barry could conduct a Bible study on Friday evening with them.

It's a blessing that the Lord is opening doors for Barry to share in various places with various groups. Yesterday evening, we walked a short distance down the road and ended up at a prayer meeting in the front yard of our neighbors. Nearly 40 people were gathered to pray for a young lady who is having kidney problems and is scheduled for surgery on Friday. It was an opportunity to express the need for one's heart to be right with God when we ask for healing.

Today we answered a call to go to an orphanage that is experiencing some management and financial issues. It seems as though the place, in dire need of many things, will probably have to shut down unless the Lord has someone step in and make drastic changes. There are nearly 80 children who would be taken and relocated by social services. Although the children at this orphanage may not have the best living conditions, they are hearing the gospel and receiving some love and Bible teaching while they are there. The places they end up are likely to be just as bad as, or worse, physically as where they are now, but without any biblical teaching. There are a group of men and women who have a great burden for this orphanage. Pray for them as they seek answers in how to handle the situation.

The coming weekend holds more "adventures" and open doors for ministry. Saturday we plan to head out on a boat for a small island, stay the night, and Barry will preach there Sunday morning. Pray that the Spirit will lead and God's will may be done as he shares with a new, unfamiliar group.

Meanwhile, we're starting to enjoy cold showers, learning to check our rice a little more closely,  and we've begun the language lessons in high gear. Aneuse spends time with Barry each day teaching him Creole. It's been a struggle for him, and the rest of us are trying hard to catch on as well. What a blessing if we can break down the walls that a language barrier creates!

We are continually thankful for your support and prayers. Remember, we love to hear from you!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Much Work to be Done

Greetings in Jesus' name.

Apologies for the delayed update. We've had a lack of internet connection that has made it difficult to post.

The first week here has been a busy one, much of which was taking care of the details that needed worked out for living life in a different country. We are now blessed with a vehicle to drive, and Barry has a license to drive it. Thankfully he seems to be handling the different set of driving rules (or lack thereof) that are on the road in Haiti. God is always in control of the wheel when we go out.

Saturday night we had a Bible study with some of the Haitians that we've been getting to know, some that Barry has been in contact with for some time before we came. Although two of them are able to communicate in English, there has been a lack of understanding when explaining some Biblical principles and answering questions they've had. Having a formal study with a good translator present was truly a blessing for this language barrier. Barry led the study and shared with them on the fruits of the Spirit and the changes that occur when a person is truly born again. It seemed as though some important truth was heard and they seemed to finally be understanding. We pray that this can continue through our time here and that true disciples of Christ can be made.
Barry leads a Bible study on Galations 5.

Monday, a group visited one of the Lifeline Mission schools and the orphanage. The orphanage had just enough babies to fill the rocking chairs on the front porch and there were plenty of us ready to sit with them. These children are in so much need of love and affection. There are only so many hands working at the orphanage, so it is impossible for them to spend enough time with each of them. As the ladies rocked them and tried to talk to them, they seemed to lack emotion. We couldn't get them to smile, but they cried as we were leaving and they had to be returned to their cribs. There is much need for someone to just spend time with them; to sit on the porch and just rock them for hours. As young as they are, it is a critical time in their lives to be developing an ability to bond with people that will be set or not for the rest of their lives.

Children at the school are excited for the visit

Rocking babies

We look forward to having more news to share soon! Thank you for the prayers as we start our work here.  We can see that there is much to be done in spreading the true Gospel to people in need of a Savior.

"Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you. Continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." John 15:8-10