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.