Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Broken Leg, a Baby, and a Bible Study

We are long overdue for an update! The weeks seem to fly by, and the slow/nonexistent internet connection makes the blog the easiest thing to slip past when the days are busy. 

As you probably know already, every day in Haiti has its own story, but we'll at least share a few of the recent events around the mission. 

The broken leg happened to our old neighbor Joez. He was one of those involved in our unofficial business loan program with the purchase of a motorcycle to be used as a taxi. Last week he was on a return trip down the mountain on a different motorcycle, with two other men (Merlin and Evanson) on the same bike. They struck another motorbike and since Joez was sitting at the handlebars, he got the worst end of the deal. His leg is broken in several places, requiring a plate to fix it. This unexpected incident put a damper on his plans to travel to Chile.  The plane tickets he purchased by selling the motorcycle will have to be forfeited.  He was reluctant to go in for surgery and have a plate put in his leg for fear it would give him life-long trouble. However, a reminder that he would never walk right without it was enough to convince him it would be best. So it was after much communication with a friendly and helpful Doctor that Joez was reserved a bed and an operating time at the hospital. 

In more uplifting news, our friends and neighbors Rameau and Helene, who were married early in March, welcomed their first baby home last week.  Their little daughter, Darla is healthy, but Helene is still trying to recover from a not-so-easy delivery. We praise the Lord for bringing this sweet little girl safely into the world, and we pray her parents can set out to lead her on the right path. 

On Saturday, we were pleased to host the large monthly Bible study with several other missionaries from around Haiti. Some traveled more than four hours to come here. It was a tremendous blessing to sing with a large group of around 60 people, followed by a couple hours of thought provoking discussion on a passage in Collosians.  The remainder of the day was spent with a meal and fellowship. It's so interesting to hear about what others encounter while they live in Haiti! They went back to their respective missions leaving us refreshed and encouraged. 

Things are still going well with the little church here in Hostin. We've been enjoying the consistency of having a regular church to attend every Sunday and Wednesday, and many of the same faces keep coming back for each meeting. There seems to be several that are counting the cost, please help pray for them! Some of them often bring friends along for Sunday morning. 
The young convert, Renalson, seems to be growing, and he's even been holding his mom accountable to do what's right!  A young mother that attends faithfully asks nearly every meeting for prayer. She desires to be soundly converted, but there are major issues in her life that are a great challenge to overcome!  I believe that God will meet her when she is ready to give it all over to him! 

With a continually-growing heard of farm animals (sheep, goats, pigs, cows, rabbits, broilers and laying hens), and still traveling to preach, Barry's days stay plenty busy.

Thank you for your prayers for the Haitian people. The seeds are still being planted, but God gives the increase! 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

More Turmoil on the Blacktop

"Sak pase la!?" The question was posed to the man in another truck who had just come flying up around us in busy Cabaret. The main stretch of road through town is always crowded and bustling with vendors, buyers, motocycles, tap-taps, and various passers-through.  We were headed back to the mission house after a mostly successful but long day in Port-au-Prince.  Now we were getting to the final 20 minute stretch of the hour long drive.

Like so many other days, traffic wasn't moving through Cabaret. There are just too many people trying to go different directions at the same time, so we were paused and waiting. Unexpectedly, a white sedan came swiftly around the curve from behind us.  Somehow he thought that by quickly swerving around us, he could get through, but there was no room.  So, "what's going on here? You can't go through...." But he was sure he could.  After some untranslatable shouting and a few gestures, he squeezed his way around, scraping the side of his truck on our front grill guard. Everyone was stuck so tight there was nowhere to move to help him clear a path. When traffic finally cleared, the man bolted like he was on a mission.

When we were out of town, we saw that he was slowing down, letting us go around.  As soon as we got around and resumed speed, he was right on our tail,  so close we were sure he was trying to ram into us. The best choice was to slow down and let him pass again. By now we were all trying to figure out just exactly what his problem was, and praying silently. When the angry driver now stopped square in the middle of Route National 1, and moved from side to side without letting us pass, Barry went off the road to go around. As we passed, the nose of the other truck came toward us and missed the passenger side door by merely inches. This man was clearly trying to hit us!!

After this dodge, there were several more passing rotations, then when the man was ahead, he again stopped his truck, and this time lunged out in front of us with one arm out and the other concealed. Guns are not exactly rare in this country, so we suspected the worst.  The confusion as to what exactly was the goal this man had in mind continued while we flew the long ten minute stretch to Arcahaie. We just had to make it to the police station. While we continued in prayer, the white truck passed us one last time and took off at full speed. We lost sight of him, but we knew it wasn't over yet.

Sure enough, he was already waiting for us at the police station.  It turned out that the man was a translator for one of the area missions and spoke a good amount of English. He told some version of his story to the present officer, and asked Barry why he didn't stop.
"Because you were trying to run us off the road! We had no idea what you were up to. You were mad and we didn't know if you had a gun or what!"

"I do have a gun!" He replied.

After an hour or so of sitting at the police station and filing a report, we left while the man who had tried to gain from the incident ended up being ticketed. The police only laughed at the scratch on his truck, and it turned out that he didn't have a proper license. When we made it home eight hours after we left, we were shooken up, but once again so thankful of God's protection. I know I write about that a lot, but it's so true! We never know what to expect as we step outside the walls of the mission.

And in some regard, we don't always know what to expect while we're inside the mission either. Odmar, the young man who has been to court several times demanding and receiving money for his share of the purchase price of the land, returned again the other day. He knocked loudy on the gate to deliver the handwritten court summons. "I'm not interested," Barry told him, and rightfully so. The issue has long been resolved in the Superioir court of Haiti.  Now, rumors are circulating that Odmar is displeased and plans to come to the mission with guns to forcibly take over the land and house. I've heard stories about criminals attempting to bring harm to believers, but they can't do it because of all the celestial protection that guards them. We can only speculate how many times that has happened and we're oblivious to it!

The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and deliverereth them. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Little Stick Church

After a month of inadequate phone service at home at the mission,I'm using the opportunity to finally update the blog while we sit in traffic in Port-au-Prince. It's another scorching hot, sunny day, and it seems as though everyone in Haiti is out in the streets with important business to take care of. Pedestrians carry rags, both to wipe the sweat and for a mask to filter out all the dust and exhaust. The fuel tank is running low, and every lane of traffic backed up.The smog from old, poorly maintained vehicles fills the air. Too much time sitting in this position often leads to dehydration and headaches. Nevertheless, we're doing our best to keep ourselves and the children joyful, singing songs to remind us of God's goodness. 🙂

The little church building is holding regular meetings twice a week. We've been blessed to see a group of regular attendees continue to return each time. Sunday mornings, we leave the house at 8:30 or so to make the walk at a pace the children can keep. The service starts at 9:00 with an opening song and a prayer. There is more time of singing,  which doesn't always have a lot of volume, but with the recent purchase of additional songbooks, we're hearing some improvement. Some of those who have been attending have not been in church much, if at all, before coming here. It's understandable that they don't know (m)any songs, and they appreciate having the words in front of them. After the singing and a brief opening from Pastor Bazalet, Barry has the message.  This past Sunday, however, Benji was here to preach. 

Wednesday  evening is a time of Bible study, currently examining the Sermon on the Mount. This can be a challenge, since this passage contains a lot of meat. In reality, the level of understanding for those present isn't really on milk yet. They had never heard the  difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Most of them had  never heard of the Ten Commandments.  How can someone understand that Jesus came to fulfill the law if he doesn't even know there IS a law? We  pray that this study is helpful in revealing and diagnosing sin for what it is.  Most of them also did not have a Bible to follow along with during the Bible studies, so we were gladly able to purchase some New Testaments that were just recently published. This new edition seems to be a drastic improvement over the older Creole Bible that left out some important details. 

Please join us in prayer for this little church. We have testimonies of people who are seeking the truth and say they want to leave their old lives behind, but soon, perhaps we will have real testimonies of conversion to share!

David catching a ride home from church 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Water in the rock!

The time finally came for the team from home to arrive who would set out to drill a well here at the mission house.  They made it to the mission on Monday afternoon, and after a supper of rice and beans, went right out to the drilling rig to get to work making things run properly.   Working with the equipment on hand was not going to be an easy task, but was one they were all mostly prepared for.  All through Monday evening, the team changed oil filters, cleaned parts, tore apart, re-assembled, and were able to get things going well-enough to be ready for the next day.

Tuesday morning, the men gathered outside to have a final prayer meeting asking for wisdom in knowing exactly where to start drilling. There was no expensive testing done, no water witching, just fervent prayer. The drilling rig and the water truck were parked along the west wall of the mission, and the process began.  It began as a not-so-dirty job, but by day three, the mud that was created from the mix of water and bentonite clay covered everyone that stepped near the job.  The large rocks and different soil made it a different experience for Eric Kell, a well-driller from Indiana who volunteered his time to come help. His guidance, along with a brother from Blue Ridge Mission who has a great deal of experience drilling wells here in Haiti, kept the project running as smoothly as possible. 

It is difficult for me to explain all the details that went into this process, seeing as I don't entirely understand it all myself, but I do know that it wasn't an easy task for all those involved. Threats of hurricane Irma loomed over us through the week, but it remained north of us while only dumping some rain and offering a bit of relief from the sun. It did, however, affect the itinerary for half of the people who were down here working. They had planned to leave Sunday morning, but their flights were canceled. If they wanted to leave any sooner than the following Thursday, they now had to leave Saturday.  While this was good news in getting them home to their families, it left one less day to finish the job.

By Friday it was looking as though they would be able to reach water. At 307 feet into the earth, they hit a waterway that seemed to be sufficient. Sixteen pipes, each at 20 feet long, were stacked one over the other into the whole that reached the water. Next, they all had to be taken back out.  One at a time, the old, sturdy truck lifted them out, and they were guided back down to lie on the truck where they were first taken from.  When this part was done, the well pump was lowered into the hole, only to realize that the pump we had was too small for the size of well. It was a little bit disappointing at the time that the job couldn't be finished before most of the group went back home, but things came  through in the end.

This week, we were able to get Blue Ridge to come out and bring a big enough pump, and clean out the hole. Wednesday evening we learned that we had water flowing at 40 gallons/minute! We are so glad to now see water flowing from the ground! Barry is working today to get the pipes hooked up to the water tank on the house, and get the wires that power the pump buried in the ground. 

Words can't express how thankful we are that God answered prayers and provided water for the mission!  After being so tight with water for nearly two years, the children couldn't help but run and play in the fountaint it came gushing from the pipe. We are thankful, also, for all who volunteered their time to come help with the process and "play in the mud."   In the rough, mountainous, island nation of Haiti, the Lord has provided "water in the rock!"

Making Repairs and Getting things Running.

Mike, from Blue Ridge, sat on a piece of cardboard when the fire ants were unbearable.

Mervin providing his mechanical expertise

Our old neighbors from Barbancourt, always thankful for work, hand dug the trench to run the water line.

Just beginning to drill.

Taking a break and juggling some breadfruits :)

Getting a little bit messy

A panoramic view of the whole operation

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A New Meeting Place

One thing that's been lacking is a place to send people who are seeking a place to go and hear the Word of God regularly, and surround themselves with sound doctrine, and sound believers.  For quite some time there has been a vision for such a church.

We are one step closer to that vision with the recent completing of a very simple, breezy meeting house. In the immediate moments following the completion, while the men who built the church were still there, and many neighbors had gathered around, the first impromptu message was preached. Barry stood in the midst of the group and shared without a translator, filling in the gaps with hand motions when the right words  were lacking.


The following weekend, and official meeting time was announced and an evening service was held. Pastor Bazalet officiated while he and Pastor Willy, a pastor who has become a friend over the past year, led the singing. This time with Franz's help, Barry preached the first "official" sermon, clearly establishing the vision for this new church.  When the service began, only a handful of people were present, but by the time the message began, every spot on the newly constructed benches were filled.

We are more then excited to see how the Lord can use this new meeting place to further His Kingdom! 

He Blinded Their Eyes

In another noteworthy event, Barry and his team had traveled via motorcycles to a mountain church for an evening meeting. Pastor Bazalet and Franz rode on one bike, while Barry drove the other with Dennis, who was still here visiting at the time, riding on the back. On the trip back down, Barry and Dennis were some distance ahead of Franz and Pastor Bazalet. They didn't see many people, but they did pass a group of men standing along the roadside.  People are typically friendly on these isolated mountain roads,, but these men didn't seem to notice that Barry and Dennis were even there. When they reached the bottom, Barry and Dennis realized that their Haitian teammates were delayed in coming. As it turned out, the group of men they had passed had stopped Franz and Pastor Bazalet.  It was learned that they had seen the group going up the mountain and had set out to rob the Americans on their descent, hoping to score a large sum of cash. However, it was as if they were completely blinded to even passing Barry and Dennis and stopped  the Haitians instead!  When they realized they had the wrong guys, no harm was done and the attempted robbery failed. .  Another marvel in the way God watches over the missionary! 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Early August update

For a quick update, we've been working the last couple weeks to get things wrapped up and tidied up at the mission house, awaiting our first overnight guests from the States. Once the ceramic was finished and the bathroom fixtures were in place upstairs,  there was a lot of touch-up painting and some heavy cleaning to do.  Barry put together a rustic little bed for the extra mattress that was purchased long ago and had previously been laid on the floor for guests to sleep on.

Things slowly came together and we're currently hosting the Zook family. The couple and their young daughter  attend church with Katie and brought her down to stay with us again. Dennis has been traveling to preach with Barry, having their first long trip together yesterday  morning.

Saturday evening we decided it would be nice to walk over to Barbancourt, our old neighborhood, and introduce the Zooks to some people. When we got to the river, which is roughly the halfway point in the back-trail, countryside hike, the sky started growing a little darker.  One of our old neighbors was upstream a hundred yards  finishing  his evening bath, and he pointed at the sky and told us we'd better start running.

We heeded his advice and picked up the pace, but it was too late. As we ascended the steep bank headed to Barbancourt, the downpour unleashed on us. In only moments the hill was too slippery to climb while holding four-year-old Abram. I slipped under the covering of a scraggly bush, trying to give him a bit of relief from the rain, since he was frightened by the sudden torrent that was so strong it was even hard to see where we were going.

As I climbed under that little plant roof and tried to keep my little guy protected from the rain, I had to think of the stories I've read about Christian refugees fleeing for their lives with little more than the clothes on their backs. For a brief moment I was closer to the reality of what they must endure while living in those conditions. Am I truly thankful for the roof over our heads to keep our young children out of the elements?

Lemè, the old neighbor who had been upstream, soon came dashing along and swooped Abram up and continued on the way. Katie was carrying Bethany in the backpack and also headed up the hill to try to find better cover. Barry carried David, and Dennis had their little Elizabeth.  Bethany and Elizabeth, who were both wearing sun hats and were apparently tired of being so hot all day, both thought the unexpected shower was quite amusing.

When we finally all slipped and slided our way to Barbancourt, the first house at the end of the trail was the Saint-Hubert house, where Piker's family were all huddled on the front porch staying dry. By now our clothes were all wet enough to be wrung out, and Piker's mom wouldn't allow that for the little children. She hurried inside to rummage out towels, the smallest shirts she could find, and some of her daughter's old dresses and began helping the children get into some dry clothes. It seemed she was more than happy for the opportunity to help us out a bit.

When we're used to temperatures in the 90s, a drop down to 80, while dripping wet, really did start to feel pretty cold.  We sat on the porch and visited, bought some glass-bottle Cokes from their little store, and waited for the rain to let up. When the sun started slipping behind the trees and the rain was still falling, we knew it was quite unlikely that we'd be heading back home the same way we came, so Barry took a motorcycle taxi back to the mission house to get the truck. Although we enjoyed the visit, we were glad to see him come back so we could get home to some dry clothes.

Sunday morning, all nine of us packed into the cab of the Ranger and headed to the town of Mouri, for services at Franz's church.  It was a familiar scene again, as the older folks nodded in agreement while the younger crowd did their best to giggle off the conviction, lest it settle too deeply into their hearts.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fetchin' the Well Rig

We can't say enough to express our gratitude for all the prayers that were lifted up on Barry's behalf yesterday. The journey to Southern Haiti to get the well-drilling rig was nothing short of an adventure, and we know that it was the hand of God watching over him and the two others involved that allowed them to arrive back at home safely.

Barry, Rameau, and Ocean started their trip in Rameau's truck at 5:00am yesterday morning, already tired from a less-than-restful night of sleep.  The drive to Petit-Goave took three hours, then there were two hours of treacherous mountain road to climb. When they reached the mission where the rig was located, they were a little caught off guard by the condition of the equipment. It was parked several years ago, and hasn't moved or even been started in quite some time.  When they turned the ignition key, nothing happened.  The possibility was considered that maybe it wasn't in the Lord's plans to bring the rig down, but after five hours of vigorous repairs, both the water truck and the driller were up and running. At 2:00pm they started the hazardous journey back down the mountain trail. There were several times when Barry could tell that many people were praying for him, Rameau, and Ocean. 

The old trucks barely had sufficient power to make it up the steep inclines, and more than once they began to roll backward. There were places where, if they looked out the window to check where the tires were rolling, they couldn't see the ground they were driving on, but only a downward fall for thousands of feet.

There were two flat tires, one of which was slashed when they got down the mountain and reached Petit Goave. Thankfully, they were equipped with extra tires that happened to be the ones needing replaced. Dusk was settling in and they still had several hours of traveling to do, but no lights worked on the equipment. This caused another several hour delay, as they worked in the dark to get some LED lights wired up. They knew the road going through Port au Prince was very dangerous, people being shot and robbed at night. Barry thought the Lord was closing the police eyes because they rolled through several checkpoints with no stops. But in Port,  a group of about 10 fully armed police with face masks stopped them, they demanded them to pull over and began the harassment. Barry told them what was going on, and asked them if they would just let them go and maybe even assist them through the bad area. They laughed at him and insisted on giving him a 10,000 goud ticket for no license plate lights on the trucks. Barry said, "Ok, if that is what you have to do." The chief reaponded with a question. "What do you want to do?" Barry said he wanted to go home, but he was the one with the gun so he had the final say. Ocean had had enough and told them what he thought about them, so after giving Ocean a ticket and letting Barry go, they were back on the road. Ocean wanted to take a long detour around this dangerous area but Barry insisted they just drive through, remembering God is in control. As soon as they entered this bad Zone, the rig died, once again, so they began cleaning filters and got it back running. The next day they were talking and realized that God had taken away all fear while in that zone, even forgetting about it while the machine was there stalled. Praise the Lord!

 When they were 30 minutes from home, the well-driller quit again. Barry got out to go talk to Rameau about what they'd do next, and he was already sleeping behind the wheel of his stopped truck. They decided to leave it there in Titanyan, in front of the police station, for the rest of the night. At 3:00am, 22 hours after he left, Barry pulled back in the gate of the mission, driving the water truck.

They returned to Titanyan the next morning to get the rig running again and bring it the rest of the way home.

The only thing lost through the whole ordeal was the a cooler (otherwise known as an ice chest ☺), which was stolen from the back of Rameau's truck. Material possessions are replaceable, but praise be to God that everyone was kept safe. The group at the mission that had the rig expressed their doubts that the trip could even be done, but here it all sits, right in the front yard of the mission house. 

Now, we wait for the next phase of actually operating it and seeing if we can't get a well drilled. :)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"If they can save thee in the time of thy trouble"

There are a lot of people packed into this small country.   Lots of people means lots of accidents. Lots of accidents call for lots of medical attention.  However, there are not a lot of doctors and nurses to even begin meeting all the needs that coming pouring into the hospitals all day long. They are understaffed, underpaid, and swarmed with people who are desperate for help. Mothers carry the limp bodies of their young children.  Victims of road accidents limp in with broken limbs and road burns. Whether it's terminal illness, severe burns, or just a belly ache, you have to just wait your turn in line.  Barry has been seeing first hand just what is going on, and not going on, in several different hospitals.  Just in the past week, he's been asked to help three different men in great need of medical aid.

One young man was in a tragic motorcycle accident and is unable to walk. Barry drove him all over Port-Au-prince to various hospitals, multiple times, to do several different scans and tests.  The machines work half the time, at best. When they finally got some results, the doctors said he's too badly injured and will never walk again.

Another very young man, whom Barry first drove to pick up in an isolated mountain village,  is seeking help for a large lump that seems to be overtaking his back, almost making him look like an old man. After the same story of running here and there, waiting in line, pleading for doctors, old, broken machines, more testing, more scans, they discovered he has severe, incurable scoliosis. It likely won't kill ho, but his spine is curving and will continue to do so until he dies.

These two boys are actually cousins, and the one in the motorcycle accident was already at the hospital trying to get help when Barry first took the boy with scoliosis. However, since he had no money for medical care, it was not possible for him to get any help.  There are so, so many needs, and so many people without money, that the hospitals can't and won't do a thing to help until they see proof that the patient can pay. If a mother has a baby in need of a life- saving operation, for example, but she can't pay, they will let the baby die unless she comes up with the money.

The third man, at the other end of the age spectrum, was also in the mountain. At 86 years old, he was planting beans on the mountainside and took a fall. Again Barry drove up the mountain, but the village where the man lives is an hour walk from the road. He was carried from the village on a make-shift stretcher and put in the truck to be taken down the mountain to the hospital.  The second trip there, last week, they learned from x-ray results that his leg is badly broken. After more than a week in the hospital, nothing had been done to help correct his leg, but they finally put it into a cast on Tuesday.  Nobody's really sure if the bone was set back in place or not before the cast was put on.

Unfortunately, many accident victims don't end up in the hospital. The severity of the crashes that take place on Route National 1 are sobering, as one can see the way the vehicles look while they remain on the roadsides for days, months, or years after the incident, that no one could have survived.  When there are not ambulances as we know them racing to the scene to help, passersby may even witness the gruesome scene before any bodies are removed.  It is often a public taxi involved in these horrific crashes, which means many lives are lost at once. For example, last week Barry and pastor gBazalet wher heading home one day when they came up on an accident involving a bus(in Haiti there called 'killer buses because there loaded down with people and supplies and they drive very fast and don't stop for much), Barry usually doesn't stop at accidents but this one was fresh and it looked like they needed help. The bus was on its side and there were people underneath of it, they tried to pull the bus back upright using a large box truck, the bus was raised about 5 feet, the bodies did not
look to be in good shape, Barry suspected they were already dead, but then the ropes broke and
the bus came crashing down. It was hard for Barry to witness the results of the impact. There were no survivors under the bus.

Another two men were shot in the field directly behind the mission house on Wednesday morning as a result of a land dispute. Life is only hanging by a thread, in the hands of a mighty, powerful God, and no hospital, no matter how advanced, can help when the time is up. There are millions still here, but, oh, that we would cry out for these souls before they pass into eternity! That they would find the true, unchanging, life-saving Jesus!

But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.
Jeremiah 2:28

Friday, June 30, 2017

Fresh Mountain Air

It's surprising how easily we can re-adapt to the way things are at home in the US, even for a short visit. Upon returning to Haiti from our three-week stay in Ohio, I was surprised at myself for having a bit of culture shock all over again as soon as we left the airport in Port-Au-Prince. It was spring in the Midwest.  The pastures were lush and green, surrounded by neat orderly fences, where plump, healthy animals happily grazed.  Farmers were cutting thick hay, and gardeners were tending their tidy rows of freshly sprouted vegetables, while flowers adorned the green, well-manicured lawns that surround nearly every home. Spring is beautiful in the Midwest. All of that scenery along with the calm, seemingly empty roadways give a stark contrast to what ensues the minute we stepped off the plane.

There are people everywhere. People people people.  There is hardly room to move through the airport. Everyone wants to be first. Hundreds of people are waiting outside the airport for their loved ones. Scores of vehicles are haphazardly jammed into the undersized parking lot. It took 20 minutes and three people watching all the angles just to back out of the parking space. When we finally get out, the streets aren't much better. There are no traffic signals or stop signs. The only rule that permits any movement is that everyone drives on the right side of the road (mostly.)  There is no description for the smell. Clogged sewer pipes are being dug out, and the grey sludge is heaped along the roadways,  adding to the trash that already carpets the landscape.  It's not uncommon to see bony cows rummaging through the heaps, right with all the pitiful looking dogs that run around scavenging, just trying to survive.

All of this, though, still isn't the most shocking contrast. The reminder of why we're here is painted on the public transportation vehicles. A vibrant rainbow of colors are the backdrop for various people  and  faces. Typically, the paintings  are hip-hop artists, various nude women, and then there's always a place for an artist's depiction of Jesus.  There is a cultural mentality that stems from voodoo heritage which gives  reverence to various spirits and gods. Jesus is one of the good ones that will help to protect them through the rigors of life, so "If I say I love and trust Jesus on my tap-tap or on my store, I'll be blessed."

The fruit of this mindset is clearly seen in the churches in the cities and big towns. When there's an opportunity to visit a church in the mountain, however, it's a breath of fresh air. Not only is the air cleaner,  the chaos subsided, and the scenery beautiful, but the people are different, too, as these groups still remain mostly unscathed from the influence of the world.  Such was the case with Barry's trips into the mountain this time around.

The team shared at revival meetings at a church in the southern part of Haiti near Jacmel last week. Since it was an evening service and such a long drive from home, they stayed over night for the start of the week. By Thursday night, they decided to make the trip home in the dark, arriving safely between midnight and one a.m.  During these meetings, Barry was in the heat of an intense sermon about being ready to suffer  persecution, or even die, for Christ's sake.  He hadn't quite finished his thought when some pranksters outside lit off some high magnitude fireworks right next to the church building! The entire congregation hit the floor, hiding behind benches as though their time had come. . There couldn't have been better timing to drive the point home!

This week offered another memorable experience. Pastor Bazalet arranged for preaching at a church so far off the beaten mountain path that the truck could never have made it, and the motorcycles barely did. The ascent up the footpath on motorcycles wasn't so bad, but the trip back down the steep grade was far more risky.  With the brake completely depressed, the bikes were still moving so quickly that it was difficult to keep them upright on the rough terrain. To one side was a steep drop off, to the other another wall of mountainside. Barry somehow lost hold of the footbrake, and couldn't get his foot back on. The bike picked up even more speed, and Barry was beginning to think his time had come, too, as he saw the drop off that lay ahead of the next curve. Suddenly and unexplainably, his bike just stopped.  Another testimony of the Lord's protection!

We're again reminded of the safety that is found only when we are in God's will and doing the work He has assigned. Thank you for your continual prayers and support!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

It's Rainy Season Again

Arcahaie went over four months without a drop of rain.  Winter in Haiti is the dry season. Aside from  all the dust, it was quite pleasant. The humidity was way down, and the temperatures were much cooler as well. It was a time to grow a few crops that may scorch in the summertime, in fields that are irrigated via canal systems that are fed from the mountain, where the rain still comes.

The return of rain in the lowland is sure to keep things interesting. Since many of the Haitian people walk to work or school, they don't much care for rainy days. A daytime rain is an uncommon occurrance, but when it does happen, things shut  down. Last week the children had two days off of school for "rain days."  Street vendors have to pack up their wares and lose out on potential income. Churches will cancel if it rains on a Sunday morning or any day through the week when a meeting is scheduled.

In all of our time here, though, it's never rained on a Sunday morning, and the opportunity to preach has never been lost. Two weeks ago as we were leaving Oscar's church, a downpour started, just after the service was finished. It's also never rained in the evening when a Bible study was scheduled, with the acception of one church. Pastor Odmi's, with a large group of young people who are hungry for the Gospel, have still come to the Bible study on multiple occasions in the rain. This is completely contradictory to how  they've been raised, and how other groups still operate. One evening last week, it was still a beautiful, clear afternoon at five o'clock when the Bible study started.  As the sun went down, though, the storm clouds also started rolling in.  A few young ladies got up and walked out to try to get home and beat the rain, but it was too late. The downpour was moving its way across the banana fields and reached the tarp-roofed church in no time.

The Bible study continued relatively uninterrupted, until the rain was hitting the plastic overhead so hard that only a person's immediate neighbor could be heard over the noise. Those who sat under a leaky tarp were soon shuffling to find a dry seat. Water soon began running in under the palm-leaf walls, transforming the packed dirt floor to slippery mud.  The front of the little structure had been covered with enough gravel that it was still dry enough ground to stand on. As the sun sank below the horizon and the driving rain continued, a group of young men were still quite involved in the discussion. They, Barry, and the translator were soon huddled around the small table with their Bibles open and their cell phones offering enough light to see the Word.

What a blessing to see young people so hungry for biblical discussion!  He feels like they're "getting somewhere" with this particular group and aims to see them as often as possible.

The rain was also a notable event during our move into the nearly-completed mission house. We prayed it would hold off long enough to make it over from Barbancourt with our belongings in the back of the pickup.  Barry pulled out of the driveway and headed away from Barbancourt, and the rain followed right along behind, but didn't catch up.

Once those items were unloaded and we were trying to get situated for the evening in the new house. It rained and rained and rained.  It waited long enough to finish moving that evening, but came in time to put out buckets and catch water for much-needed showers that night.  It was another little event that reminded me how well the Lord handles all the little details for us.

We are looking forward to a trip back to the US in a few days. We pray that it can be a time to be renewed, that we can return to the mission field refreshed to continue sharing the Gospel.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Losing Lenia

Last Sunday, midway though a visit with Denny and Leora's family,  and Stephan and Leanne from Kentucky, we were hit with the startling news that our friend Lenia had just passed away.

The news shouldn't have come as a shock, since she had been terribly sick for several months preceding her death. Somehow, as all the memories of the time spent with her came flooding across our minds, we had perhaps believed she was going to get better.  She had been to several doctors at the beginning of her illness, and none of them could tell her what was wrong. After a several weeks in the hospital, she was released because there was nothing they could do to help. Rather than return to her home, though, she went to the home of a nearby church leader. Lenia had apparently been directed in a dream to "go to the woman of God."   There she laid on a thin mat on the floor of that woman's porch, slowly wasting away.  Her children were no longer going to school. They were hungry. Yet she lay there, day after day, while the woman prayed over her. Lenia was almost daily calling for Barry to come, and we made many trips to also go pray.   We arrived one afternoon to find the woman prostrate on the floor next to Lenia with her hands placed over her, while Lenia intermittently tossed back and forth. Over and over the woman zealously cried, "Sortie!" (The Creole word for exit, or leave)

Several brethren from the church at home saw Lenia in this state, and helped pray for her and plead with her about her spiritual state. She persisted that she had no known sin, that she was right with God, and was clueless as to why she was sick.

Barry found that it was not beneficial to stay at that woman's house, so she spent the last month of her life back at home in her own bed, while her family tried to care for her physical needs. Barry recognized her symptoms as the same things he saw the man in the mountain suffer before he died. A couple of weeks ago, a medical doctor came to her house to do some final diagnosis. Pastor Bazalet and Barry were there to hear what he had to say. The doctor's explanation for the sickness: an evil spirit.  This confirmed Barry's thoughts all along.

Barry called Pastor Bazalet to set up a time the next day to pray for her deliverance.  When they arrived, she was not in her right mind, showing her teeth, writhing around, and speaking jibberish. They sat Lenia on a chair and commanded the spirit to leave, in the name of Jesus. Lenia then came to her right mind, and said she had felt the spirit leave, that had tormented her for months. The next day she was even further improved.

Then, Sunday just after church, Lenia's brother came crying to bear the news. We could hear our neighbor, Lenia's sister, crying the familiar screams that are heard after a death in Haiti.

The funeral was held eight days later. Hundreds of people came, but some that were closest to her did not. Her parents stayed home, as well as her good friend, Sonson. It seemed as though the ones the most grieved by the loss were the ones to keep to themselves while they mourned silently. Extended family and friends had a more typical display, screaming, kicking, thrashing their heads, and even passing out, motionless on the floor.

The service was fairly simple and not unlike those at home, with a few songs, a short biography of Lenia's life, and at the family's request, Barry preached.  It was another opportunity to preach to a lot of people who otherwise never step foot into church. When a 26 year old young woman dies, it can cause other young people to perhaps consider the brevity of their own lives.

After the service, the whole crowd followed the hearse up the hill to Lenia's home. Behind the house a large tomb already waited, built a year and a half ago for her husband, Gino. A graveside scripture completed the funeral, and the casket was carefully slid into the tomb.

Lenia's death left her children as orphans. The family says they plan to do their best to take care of them. We have hope that her deliverance allowed her to be free and die at peace with God. Barry pleased with everyone at the funeral not to let her death be in vain, and this is hour prayer as well.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


We are once again thankful for God's loving hand of protection over our children. As I recall the events that occurred around lunchtime last Thursday, I can see the way the Lord has things happen in order to show us something, while still keeping us from major tragedy.

Katie and I were working together to try to clean out the water tank that sits on the roof of our house. Abram and David were playing nicely in the front yard, where we could see them using sticks as hammers to "build a house." It was only a brief moment with eyes off of them and on the water tank before they were no longer in the front of the house, but were in the back, and both screaming wildly. I headed for the ladder as soon as I heard it, but Katie leaned over to see why was going. "Bees! They got in the bees!"

I skipped the last four steps of the ladder  and ran for the stairs. Abram met me in front of the house, with more bees than I could count attatched to his head, and with dozens more angrily swarming him. As I tried to swat them away from my son, I was quickly being taken up in the swarm as well. Katie came down the stairs right behind me as David was making his way around to the front of the house as well. Both boys were screaming in pain and desperation. In a semi panic, we were frantically trying to stand there and shoo the bees away. A few of the nearby neighbor women, after hearing the screaming and perhaps seeing a few angry bees come their way, rushed around to our gate,  which I just happened to consciously leave open that morning.  They rushed inside, grabbed the boys, and took off running. Knowing Bethany was safe inside in her bed, we ran too. The women parted directions with the boys, and bees swarmed the entire neighborhood. David went one direction and was stripped of all his clothes. I had stuck with Abram, and while I tended to him, the other women were calling for a motorcycle taxi to rush David to the hospital.

After being called and alerted of the situation, Barry rushed home and arrived before they took David.  He found us on Oscar's front porch, slathering David in baking soda paste from head to toe and silently pleading for God's intervention. While the commotion continued to draw a growing crowd, many of them had taken notice of Bethany's absence and were certain she needed rescued from inside our house, as if she was trapped in a burning building.  Rather, she was  in a pack-n-play inside a room with the door closed and screens in the windows, with the bees sealed out.  Despite our insisitance that Bethany was fine, and seemingly even safer where she was than out with us, one neighbor man put on a winter coat, his motorcycle helmet, gloves, and the rest of his gear and went searching for Bethany.

She was with us for a few minutes before we decided that the bees had calmed down enough to return home. Nearly two hours after the initial attack, we went home, while little David was still screaming and terrified.  The best option was to pray. He finally stopped crying and instantly fell asleep in his Daddy's arms.   Both boys still suffered some repercussions that afternoon as they were physically sick from so much venom in their systems, but the evidence of the Lord's protection was astounding! A peace came over us that told us they were both going to be alright. And what a testimony!  They knew it, too.  Someone told Barry about the bees in some areas swarming after the hurricane. Their hives were damaged in the storm, and they were so powerful that they were actually killing cows. He was the one to say that if it wasn't for God, our little boy would be gone.

David's head had been completely covered in bees. Hundreds of stingers were pulled from his skin. Six days later the swelling and redness returned so that I could more clearly see where each sting was, but I counted about 35 that had actually done damage.  That's a clear witness of the Lord's protection!  Our boys say they both learned something from the experience, and don't plan to do silly things with the bees anymore (David struck the hive several times with a stick). As parents, we have another reason to thank God for keeping them when the eyes of a mother fail to watch closely enough while little boys play.

Falling asleep after the incident

Six days later

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What is Normal?

There's always something to talk about in Haiti, insomuch that its a regular thing that a news-worthy event takes place, but does it always make the news? Are the Haitian people just used to these strange things happening?

There is still a sense of war on the streets here in Arcahaie. Last week the group of rebels blocked the road (normal) near our home. A news reporter showed up to video tape the action, but she must have forgotten that they would not appreciate there photo being taken. The camera was confiscated and the reporter executed. Earlier this week, the president of Haiti drove through on his way up north, on his way back threw Arcahaie, the rebels were waiting. They riddled the convoy with bullets and soon a shootout proceeded, The shooting could be heard clearly from our home. The president finally made it out, but is not happy. He has sent many secret police to our town trying to round up the culprits, and many innocent people have been arrested in the process.

We've had a couple of groups visit us recently; Barry's sister and her husband from Kansas, and John Lengacher and his children, from Utica, Ohio.  During the downtime from working on the house, the weeks have been filled with preaching and Bible studies again.

 One of the services on the schedule was at seven in the evening, when the sun has already set over Barbancourt, and the occasional solar powered light is all that breaks up the blackness. We crossed the blacktop and ventured a ten minute drive down the rocky dirt road that runs eastward into the countryside. We weren't headed for a church building, but rather found the congregation gathered practically on the road. They had left a break in the seating large enough for vehicles to pass through, which we did in order to find a place to park the truck. A make-shift stage with a tarp roof actually looked quite professional in the dim lighting.  Pastor Bazalet was there waiting for us. The speakers blared the strums of the electric guitar, the melody of the piano, and the enthusiastic praises by the pastor leading the singing.  All the men, women, and children were dancing, shaking, and chanting along with the repetitious lines of the song. We couldn't help but notice the two women in the back who were so engulfed in the rhythm that they seem to forget they were holding little baby bundles, wrapped tightly in thick blankets in the "chilly" night air.  After a half hour or so of this festival, the pastor opened the mic to anyone who had a testimony to share. A middle aged man quickly came to the front and began relaying a dream he had in full detail. Our translator tried to interpret, but couldn't really make out what the man was saying and soon gave up. It wasn't long before everyone was lost on the story, so the pastor thanked the man and kindly cut him off. 

Barry has preached to this particular group several times. They typically seem receptive and the pastor is thankful for the message, reiterating in his follow-up what Barry shares during the sermon. It was the same the same this time. The music fired back up after the message, and included a Creole rendition of "Power in the Blood." At the end of the service, about half of the people gathered there climbed into the back of a large tap-tap to head to their own neighborhood.

Another stand-out service was two Sundays ago, when, thankfully, the Lord struck me with a reminder.    We were thirty minutes north of home in the town of Mouri, where we had been in February as well.  The tightly packed, unfinished church was bursting at its seams again, and we squeezed to find a sturdy bench to sit on. The drums banged. The people danced. It was a real party, and I was struggling to watch it.  Just when I had started to "get used to" church being this way and was learning to sit through it. Can we ever become comfortable sitting through vain worship? As soon as the music ended and the pastor got up to mediate the service, everyone lost interest. The young people chatted and giggled, the old people leaned their heads and started falling asleep. When he was finished and the pastor returned to the pulpit, I had a squirmy, hungry baby to tend to, and I finally decided it was time to find a place to take care of her.  As I was about to exit, a young man stretched his arm across the doorway, and surprising me with his English, asked, "Where are you going?"

After a brief explanation of my need to tend to the baby, he reluctantly let me pass. I found a small, homemade chair inside a charcoal-dusted cooking shack that's used by the church's orphanage. When Bethany wasn't quite half-finished, the young man came out to where I sat and boldly declared, "Excuse me, but, your time is up. You are only allowed five minutes and that time is up."

"Excuse me?" I asked more than once, confused. He repeated himself twice. I got up and hurried back inside to ask Barry what was going on and why this boy was telling me I can't be outside.  Apparently, people are so "squirmy" at this church that they have patrols at every doorway to keep people inside during the service. When "Pastor Barry" told the boy to let me go, I was able to go back out and finish what I had intended to do. I had to fight back tears while I sat back down on the little homemade chair. The whole morning worship service had already been a struggle watching the way people behave, and a young boy telling me I can't be outside while I tried to feed my baby was almost too much.  

While this particular Sunday morning was a challenge at the time, I'm thankful for the Lord's reminder.  What is normal?  I am so certain that God is pleased when we can truly worship in Him in sincerity without the emotional highs that come with the blaring instruments and rhythmic drum beats.  I also don't plan to ever have a comfy rocker to sit on in an air-conditioned nursery while we're here, but maybe someday soon I'll figure out just how to modestly tend to a baby without stepping on the natives' toes while I do things our way. I pray that God gives Barry patience as he travels, preaching in these environments throughout the week!

Anyone's welcome, but nobody's leavin'

This past Sunday service was perhaps a little more uplifting. Pastor Oscar invited us down the road to his church again, and Barry is always very willing and thankful for the invitation. This large church in Barbancourt is where most of the people in our village go, so it's always a chance to preach to lots of friends and neighbors together.   They usually like to give us the comfortable chairs with the choir at the front of the building, a few feet from the speakers that can be heard a half-mile away. For the sake of the children's hearing, we thankfully declined and asked to stay on the benches toward the back.  We soon found out why they like to give us those nice chairs. At the start of the service, Katie and I and our three children shared the bench with just one older lady, and had plenty of room. Over the first fifteen minutes of the service, more and more people kept packing into the benches. The children were all on laps, and we were squeezed leg to leg with other women and their children.  On a warm day in Haiti, it doesn't take long for 200 people, most of them dancing and waving their arms, to really bring the temperature up in a building. Most people bring a rag to church to keep the sweat from dripping. Regardless of the heat, I thought it was nice to sit back with our neighbors and be "regular" people at church.

When Barry posed the question, "Do you REALLY believe in Jesus?" to the congregation and explained what that meant, it was well-received. Pastor Oscar, who sometimes disagrees with the Anabaptist vision, followed up with total agreement. He even told them, "the ax is already at the root of the tree, and every tree that doesn't produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

Inside Pastor Oscar's church, with not room for one more person on the benches.

Bethany making friends with Frido, our close neighbor and a deacon at the church.

May God keep working in this village, and in this whole country!

On Preaching and Pork

Barry has been encouraged with some of the progress that seems to be showing with some of the regular Bible-study groups. Interestingly, it seems as though the ones with sincere people who listen intently and ask lots of questions are groups of young people. It's been over 13 months since we arrived in Haiti, and the list continues to grow with churches desiring to have him come preach and teach. Seeing fruit from the efforts helps to give courage to continue doing the Lord's work, despite what obstacles may come along the way. Abram also loves going along to Bible studies with his daddy, and eagerly hands out tracts if he gets a chance to go street preaching.

In other news, the time finally came to butcher the hog that Barry's been feeding for several months. With much help from Brother John Lengacher and his family, as well as Katie and her sister who were all here, we are very thankful to have a good supply of homegrown pork in our freezer. Since I'm not very experienced with rendering lard, we offered the extra fat trimmings to the nearby neighbors, knowing they're accustomed to doing a lot of things the old-fashioned way. Well, it wasn't just the fat they wanted. They took the skin, the head, the intestines, the kidneys, and would have taken the feet if a random dog hadn't snuck away with it.

 The whole village was excited about the donation. They were all having a really good time, laughing and chatting as they prepared their feast. The big, heavy skin was hauled out of our backyard by three women, then scalded and the hair scraped off. The whole thing was then chopped into smaller pieces to be boiled or fried, depending what each household had on hand.  I boiled the bones and made broth, and we had pulled pork for supper. Piker was then glad to take the bones home to his mom for her to make more broth. When they were done with that, they would break open the bones and consume the marrow as well. I'm not sure if they all thought we were wasteful for handing out all those "extras," but I do know they were a little bit surprised that Americans would do their own butchering in the first place.   It was a good day building stronger relationships with the neighbors and learning a little more about the frugal ways they know how to do things.

Using dead banana leaves to make a quick fire to scald the pig skin

Showing off the skinned pig head.

Monday, March 13, 2017

February Church Roundup

February 24th: We headed to the little road just across the river to a large building, half full. When we arrived at 7:00 am, they were already singing their last few songs before the sermon.  It was a breath of fresh air to see that there were no jumbo, over-powering speakers to help with the process of hearing damage.  It seemed like everyone was participating in the singing, which was led by a young woman.  All the women wore something to cover their heads. (Head coverings were the norm for women in Haiti until fairly recently. Now, for the ones who still hold to this value, it doesn't always matter what the covering is made of either. I've seen it all, it seems. Any scarf, Lacey thing, T-shirt, children's pants, stocking caps, ball caps, or even wash cloths are consider adequate for covering.) 

After Pastor Bazalet gave his usual introduction and shared what a "great sacrifice" Barry has made to come live in Haiti, Barry's 90-minute sermon held the full attention of the congregation.  Afterward, the pastor stood up to reiterate what Barry shared.  "Usually we don't have anything to do with Americans," he said, "but it was a blessing to hear one preach the truth." 

February 17: A large group meeting in an old brick structure, squeezed tightly into the bustling town of Mouri, about a half hour north of our house. The building itself was only feet away from the blacktop, but the tight quarters meant the only place large enough to park was a fair distance down the dirt lane that ran nearby. Approaching the church on foot, we could not actually see the building until we had squeezed through a single file alley between other buildings, and stood in the small, paved courtyard just outside. Tne church seemed to have been added onto. A side wing that looked like it was still under construction allowed several more people to sit and participate. As we took our seats on the last available bench, we quickly realized we had to spread out evenly and try to keep our weight towards the ends, or the on remaining board may not hold our weight. I couldn't help but notice the pile of rocks in the back of the room, implying there was still work planned. I wonder if we would ever consider it viable to meet for worship in a building that was still under construction. Many, many churches here do this for years and years, simply for lack of funding. 

Barry delivered a practical message, using simple explanations and examples to paint a picture of holy living that was easy to understand. There was a small group of Americans visiting as well, workkng with the children's home that this church operates. 

February 11th: A somewhat familiar church. Barry has spent a lot of time with this pastor and having Bible studies at this church. Before we left for furlough, Barry had bumped into the pastor at the market. He was beaming. He joyfully told Barry that he was a changed man, and he was going to start getting his church in order. He didn't care if everyone left.  Well, a few months later there's not an empty seat in the house. 

February 4th: The "fancy" church. It stands tall in the village of LaDigue. For nearly a year it was a place that Barry said he would hope to be able to preach, but didn't see it as a very likely possibility. It turned out that one of the young men working on the house is a faithful member, and arranged to opportunity. Despite the grandeur of the structure, it was one of the smallest congregations we've seen. I haven't quite figured out exactly what draws people to one church over another, but it often seems like the more humble church houses are bursting at the seems. Of course, many of them have money for loudspeakers, drum sets, and everything it takes to have a good time during the music portion, and that does draw a crowd. This particular church was more on the mild side. 

This was Piker's first opportunity to translate a Sunday message. Josnel wasn't coming, so I suggested he give Piker a chance. He was evidently very nervous, but the message went forth nonetheless.