Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Value of a Soul

The days go by much too quickly when people come from home to stay with us. We were blessed to have our elders and their families here from late Thursday evening to very early Monday morning. Two days of travel time left just three full days to do all that everyone wanted to do while they were here. Despite the short visit, Barry enjoyed taking some time off to fellowship and we were both very encouraged through their time here.

Meeting the men who are working on the widows' house and visiting on the front porch.

Matching new friends

We enjoyed the fellowship and singing
together...in English! :)

Friday, Barry took the men with him to a discipleship meeting in nearby Williamson. It was a blessing that they were able to be there for one of these and later offer their feedback on how things are going at these meetings. We returned to the same church for Sunday morning services and invited some of our friends from another Williamson church to come along. It was one of the more mild services we've been to as far as the music and worship time goes, which we were glad of. After the congregational singing, our youth that were along went up to sing a few songs for the church. Although the congregation couldn't understand the words, it seemed they were blessed by the spirit of praise our young people had in singing to the Lord. Barry then brought the main message, feeling led again to share a salvation message and expressing the need to be freed from sin. It was followed by an alter call, and several people came to the front after seeing the need to get rid of sin they had been living with. Praise be to God for calling men and women to holiness!

Sunday morning service at Williamson
Saturday's plans were tossed around for some time after we waited to hear how much it had rained in the mountain and if we had time to make trip. After taking care of some errands in the morning, we decided to head out, leaving a little later than we'd typicallly like to start the long trek up to the
Stopped for a break
village. With two truckloads full of people, it was expected to take three or four hours at a slow and steady pace. When we were about two-thirds of the way to our destination, it was past lunch time and we decided to stop and have a light snack. After a half hour or so, we were packed up and on our way again. Up another hill and around a sharp left turn, we could see a small crowd gathered along the roadside about a half mile ahead of us.

A group of people along the roadside isn't uncommon, as they are often there trying to sell things, waiting on rides, or just congregating for social purposes. It didn't take long, though, to see that something different was happenning here. When our truck stopped right next to them, where we could see that a young man was lying on the ground with a bloody arm wrapped loosely in a shirt. It was apparent he had been bleeding a lot, but we had no idea how much since his shirt was covering the wound. We knew enough Creole to ask if he had been hurt by a machete, a common agricultural tool in Haiti. Barry was quick to tie a strip of the shirt tightly around his upper arm. It appeared that the bleeding had stopped. I could see that he was starting to pass out, so my first thought was to grab some water. He was still conscious enough that he guzzled like he hadn't drank in days as I poured it in his mouth. Brother Solomon prayed over him as we all asked the Lord what we should do next. There were a couple of men that looked very concerned, and their desperate countenances were enough to see that they were pleading for help.
Pulling away from the place we found the injured man
He was quickly and carefully loaded into the back of our truck, where some of his friends rode along trying to help. We turned our caravan around and headed back down to try to make the 15 mile trek to the hospital, knowing half of those miles would be at 10 or 15 miles an hour. We thought, with Barry picking up the pace, we would surely make it in time. As we bumped along the rocky trail, I was constantly turned around trying to check on him while we continued to pray inside the truck. It was only 20 or 30 minutes after we had picked him up that I noticed the faces of the man's friends change to be even more concerned. They were rubbing his face with cold water, and moments later asked us to stop the truck.

The man had stopped breathing. I was still crying out to God to save him, knowing that the chances of him ever knowing his need for Christ were slim. Barry performed CPR, but it was of no use, as he was completely depleted of blood. More crowds gathered and started shouting "Ki mouri! Ki mouri!" Which is something like, "he's dead."   They soon asked us to back up to the small village we had just come through, where they wrapped his lifeless body in the blanket he had been on in the truck and laid him back on the side of the road.

There were now many people gathered around, so it was a prime opportunity to share with them about the seriousness of death and eternity and explain that not everybody goes to heaven. We did not have Anouce with us, so only a handful of men who were sobered by the recent loss of life gathered around to hear what Barry shared through the soft-spoken Haitian we had along who was trying to translate. There were others around who carried on as if nothing unusual had happened.

When we determined we had done all we could do, we decided to continue on and head for home with heavy hearts. It's easy to say we could have done this or that differently, but God has a plan and design for all things that we don't always fully understand. This 20 year old man was out working in the field with his brother, as we understand it, and they broke out in a tussle. It started with swinging sticks at each other, but the anger escalated enough that one actually hit his brother with a machete. The strike to the arm severed his major arteries. With a wound so severe it was likely he had done most of his bleeding before we found him.

Last Saturday was a day I am certain that none of us will soon forget. It has led us all to further ponder how quickly life can end. How important it is for our hearts to be ready to stand before God! How important it is for believers to share this need with others before they take their last breath! This man never expected that when he went out to work in the fields, it would be hours later he would be coming to the end of his life.  Let us always be ready!
Realizing what just happened.

Witnessing to a group who were sobered by the loss of life.

We are thankful for God's protection while Barry is out daily doing the work he's called to do. His plate is always full; there was one week in particular that he preached at eight churches in five days. Just this evening, he called us on his way home from Port-au-Prince to tell me he may not be home for a long time, as there were riots and road blocks in Archahaie and traffic wasn't moving. The Lord is always faithful. I called him an hour later to see how things were going, and he was somehow moving right through everything. As he approached our road, people were telling him to turn back. He told them he just needs to go right here, and went ahead and made the turn. He arrived safely at home after passing through a situation that could have been quite hazardous without God watching over him. Again, thank you all for your continual prayers!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Preaching Near and Far


Benji, Steve, and Mark are back home again after a busy week here in Haiti. Barry had several things lined up during the days they were here; some days longer than others. I and the boys and Katie didn't go along for most things for lack of space, but I'll do my best to share their experiences from what I heard and the pictures Barry took. Thursday was supposed to be a meeting with pastors, but due to unforeseen circumstances it was canceled. They put their work boots on and went over to help with the widows' house for several hours in the heat of the day. That evening was Bible study with the group that Barry has met with regularly on Thursday/Friday evenings. It seemed to be almost all different people present this time, so they covered much of the same topic on modesty and women's role in the church. Friday was their long day as they made a venture into the mountains near Les Cayes. They had the translators along again on Saturday as they went to another meeting with pastors and church leaders west of Port-au-Prince. From there they went straight to the market in Port-au-Prince to witness on the street. Each of them took a turn preaching to the crowds that gathered while others handed out gospel tracts.

One-on-one at a Bible Study

Making a stop on the long trip to Les Cayes

As for Sunday morning services, we all took a 10 minute walk down the road to the church that's pastored by our nearby neighbor, Oscar. In many ways, it wasn't quite what we expected to find behind those doors. There were many familiar faces as its kind of the neighborhood church, but the worship was far more zealous than anything we've seen yet. Since we are so closeby and and have begun a friendship with Pastor Oscar, Barry felt led to allow Benji to bring the main message, believing he'll have a chance to share at another time. Benji opened his message by using the Titanic as an example, telling the story of how the captain received six warnings to stop the engines. The captain of the ship refused to heed the warnings, and minutes later the ship that "God himself could not sink" was at the bottom of the ocean. This was a picture of Haiti, a nation that is quickly sinking unless the people heed the warnings from God. The Lord led him to bring forth six warnings for the church: America's influence on Haiti's people, modesty and the need to be seperate from the world, sinners will not enter Heaven, the importance of submission and proper headship, there is no salvation without repentence and godly sorrow, and without holiness a man will not see God.

Following the message, Barry continued to exhort the group, and asked that if anyone felt they needed to repent of their sins to come to the front of the church. At first, not one person wanted to move. He asked again if every single person present was without sin. Finally one woman came forth. Soon another followed, then another. They continued to come until the front of the church was full of people, some crying out to God in prayer. We believe the Holy Spirit was moving in many of them and there was some true repentance happening. We praise God for meeting us there that morning! There are some important differences with our beliefs and some things this church practices, but we pray that through our time here God will allow us to continue in a relationship with them and the doors will be opened to share with Pastor Oscar and his flock.

Monday morning, they were off to the airport again to send our three visiting pilgrims back to the US. Early that afternoon, Barry had another preaching engagement set up nearby in Williamson. Wednesday evening around supper time, we had an unexpected visit from a whole church group that also came from Williamson. They had been doing something for a relative of one of their congregation nearby and stopped in to see us. We didn't have a translator here, so they blessed us with singing several songs while they sat for a visit. Jacmel was on the schedule for Tuesday, and after a four hour drive down south and a hike through the trees on a narrow footpath, they reached a church that was completely empty. It turned out there had been a miscommunication, and it was market day in the village. Pastor Bazalet was able to round up a small group for a Bible study before heading to another church in Jacmel to preach. Barry is back in Williamson again this afternoon (Thursday) meeting with two different groups.
Anouce and Pastor Bazelet on the path to the church outside
of Jacmel.

Things are moving along on the house for the widows. The block is laid for the walls
and they should be starting the framing for the roof soon. The younger of the two that's able to go out and sit and watch is so joyful to see this home being built. I am eager to see her moved in with a good roof over her head. May God be glorified through all of this!

If there are details of our stay here that you'd like to read about on the blog, let us know! We're again so thankful for all the letters and cards of encouragement that were sent down with the last group. They are being read and enjoyed slowly, and we're doing our best to savor the physical provisions and treats as well. Thanks for checking in with us!

Bondye bon tout ton!


Thursday, April 7, 2016

"..and let thy widows trust in me."

How the days fly by! We're nearly a week into April already and we've gotten behind on the updates. The days have still been packed full for Barry with more preaching opportunities, building projects, personal ministry and discipleship, and the everyday business of life.

Preaching Opportunities

Ressurrection Sunday we made our way over to the village of Titanyan for services at the church Anouse calls his home church.  It was a rather upbeat worship time again, and we were blessed to see that the men were more in charge here. It seems this group has a little more understanding of the Bible's roles for men and women. After an hour or so of congregational singing and a time of special music from a visiting choir, Barry had his turn to preach. The Spirit led him in a strong salvation message that I believe to be his most powerful sermon to that point.

Many of you are familiar with the Lifeline Mission that's nearby where we are living. We had been told it would be a difficult door to open, and that Barry would have to go through several people to have an opportunity to preach there on a Sunday morning. The Lord must have had it in His plans, because the door was opened after asking just one person. This past Sunday he shared another crystal clear message explaining true salvation. May God bring forth the fruit, even if we may not see the results.

Between Sundays, Barry travels near and far to preach and share in various ways. The travel can be quite burdensome, but the effort of getting there seems to be worth the time when he goes to meet with pastors. Heavy rains washed out a busy bridge in Port-au-Prince, causing the city to be in complete driving chaos. One Wednesday they spent ten hours in the truck just getting to the other side of town and back. Last Friday he went to a village just north of Les Cayes, which is said to be six hours away even in good traffic. The preaching went reportedly well, but the setbacks along the way gave the day its share of trials and temptations. We were thankful to have him back home late that evening.

Perhaps one of his most memorable journeys was on Monday, when he left before 6am for a meeting, uncertain of where they were headed this time. Many other times Barry has asked his Haitian accomplices, "How long is the drive to get there?" but they never seem to know. This time he tried a different approach. "What time are we supposed to be there?" he asked. It was after 7:00 by now and they were barely through Port-au-Prince. "They're expecting us at 8:00." After a steep, grueling trek up the mountain and four more hours of rather slow-going, Barry brought the truck to a stop next to a foot path that looked to go over the peak they were on. He was hoping to see the view of the countryside they were traveling, but when he reached the top, he also heard singing coming from the distance. Over on the next peak stood a small, woven-wall church building that was cerainly where the chorus was coming from. He hurried down and got back in the truck and continued on the way. Just a few minutes later, he learned that the same little mountaintop church was their destination. The entire congregation had been there all morning long, singing and waiting on their anticipated guests. The sound of applause and cheers now came from the little building as Barry and his passengers arrived. As he delivered the message, they were full of "Amens" and more applause. Although this group looked like all the other churches we've been to, there seemed to be some light there. Fourteen hours after he left, we welcomed him back home, exhausted from the trip but overall blessed by the  day.

A Home for Widows

Up until last Thursday, a small stick-and-mud shack stood behind our house, looking like any strong wind could take it at any time. It was a home owned by two very aged women who were currently living in an unaffordable rental closeby due to the unfit condition of their home. These women both have very interesting stories. The oldest says she is 120 years old and recently became the oldest living person in the country. The other, her daughter, doesn't really know her age. She had previously owned a home and land in the mountain with her husband. The story goes that her husband's family wanted the land, but he didn't want to sell it. They took matters into their own hands and took his life, sending the woman and her children down the mountain into the village to try to "make-it." She has one daughter also living there, along with three small children.

Thursday morning, Barry and four hired Haitians, along with the help of Merelin and Ramos, tore the little shack down and moved it aside. After a whirlwind of more Haitians arguing, attempting to communicate without an actual enterpreteur, and a lot of grace, the plans were laid out to begin the work on a new house for these widows. With one shovel and pick-ax, the foundation was started. Over the next couple of days, work continued with the help of a couple of hired hands. There were some, also, who showed up and worked while Barry was busy with other obligations then demanded to be payed and hired for the duration of the project. The foundation was laid, rock by rock and buckey by bucket, on Tuesday, and today (Wednesday) they were beginning to work on the walls.

The project is an opportunity in many ways. Working alongside the Haitians, giving them employment, and watching the faces of the widows light up while they watch it all unfold makes it worth the time and money involved. Some days it even gives little Abram a chance to go out and do some hard work with his daddy.

God's Provision and Blessings

Shortly after we moved in, a large swarm of bees came one afternoon and began setting up shop under the soffet of our house. The landlady wanted them quickly out of here, but Barry convinced her they wouldn't do any harm and not to kill them. A couple of beekeepers came and carefully moved the whole hive into a box that's now sitting behind our house. Since our last update, the men have returned with their equipment and pulled out a couple of honeycombs for us. We drained it, strained it, and ended up with about two cups of our very own raw, organic, very sweet honey. What an unexpected blessing! The hive is still thriving and we look forward to continuing to harvest from it.

This evening we were blessed to welcome Mark, Steve, and Benji for a five day visit. God was faithful in getting them here safely and without major difficulty in traveling. Their arrival brought even more excitement as we unloaded several suitcases full of surprises from home. We can't thank everyone enough for all of the treats, vitamins, gifts for the boys, dresses for the Haitians, more fresh honey, and many other blessings that came out of those bags. We're looking forward to reading the cards and letters together as a family over the next several days, and reading them over again for continued encouragement. Its truly uplifting to know people at home care.

Pray for the men here over the coming days, as the rest of the week is filled up with Bible studies and preaching. I trust God will use them mightily to spread the Gospel, as well as a great source of encouragement for Barry during their stay here.

Bondye beni ou.
(God bless you)