Infectious, uninhibited joy. If I could condense tonight’s worship with the kids into a few words, those are the ones I would choose. The service was special because it doubled as a birthday party for the May babies and a farewell service for Mackenson, one of CHI’s graduates, who tomorrow will board a plane bound for Ghana where he will spend the next ten months in Bible school.
I’d like to share some of this young man’s story because I think it is worth hearing. Mackenson and his sister were sold into slavery as children for $12. I don’t know the conditions of their captivity but it’s not difficult to imagine. From child slave to servant of Jesus Christ and someday, pastor. Now that is the hand of the God we serve! Please pray for this brave young man. He is going to a country he does not know where he has no friends and a language barrier to contend with. Pray for the strength to handle the rigors of school and comfort in lonely times.
I said yesterday that a portion of the team would visit a nearby tent city today. What can I say about our visit? Well, here’s what I won’t tell you. I won’t tell you about the squalor and sickness and about the parents who work temporary jobs that pay a $1 per day. I won’t tell you about a family of nine living in a shack about the size of a Manhattan bathroom and the mother of two month old twins who just wants a proper home for her family. I won’t tell you the children’s stories of being trapped under walls and the friends they lost that terrible day in 2010. I wont even tell about the child who told one of my teammates when she wept as we left the city, “don’t cry, Jesus loves you!” All I can say is pray for them. They cannot continue to live like this … not while the body of Christ is alive and well!
Tomorrow, we will return to NYC and judging from the conversations I’ve had with my teammates; very different people will step off that plane – both in heart and waistline (Did I mention that Haitian food is amazing?!). In this final post, I’d like to share some more thoughts from the team that I pray will help you. The first comes from John 4 v 7-13 -the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, and Ezekiel 47 v 1-12 which describes a vision about a river. In the vision, the river - which supports a great deal of life – gets progressively deeper until it’s deep enough to swim in. Now we know from the passage in John that Jesus gives living water. So, here is the link — a deeper walk with God means going deeper into that river of living water; not just getting your feet wet but diving in. The result will be that as you go deeper, things will start to change because that water which sustains and supports life will do its work in you. So don’t be afraid of the current, jump in!
Secondly, God’s Word has been our constant companion and guide as we prepared and here in Haiti. Let this be the norm for each one of us at all times. My teammate, Y., shared these words, “this Book (the Bible) will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this Book.” The choice is yours. Be prepared for the heavenly pruning shears that will certainly come out as you begin to feed on the Word. They might hurt but oh the fruit you’ll bear!
I’ll end this way. During worship tonight, we sang the song “let it rain” and this prayer came to my mind. Lord, let it rain in Haiti. Open the floodgates of heaven and let mercy, freedom, justice, compassion, and provision rain down. Let it rain Lord, let it rain in Haiti. Amen.
This is the Haiti BrickThink/I-61 May 2012 team signing off!
Bondye beni ou!
Bonjou ki soti Ayiti!
T-minus one days left on this mission!
We’ve nearly finished painting the exterior of the boys’ home and I think the house mother’s quarters are done. Again, thank God for an accident and injury-free day! Alas, I have no funny happenings to report but hopefully today’s pictures help you get a sense of what the day was like.
For our last full day in Haiti, the plan is to shift gears a bit. Some members of the team will be working in the girl’s home while the rest will be likely cleaning bathrooms at the boys home and putting the final touches on our paint job. Also, tomorrow will be the day the second half of the team will visit the nearby tent city. I’ll be with this team so I look forward to sharing more with you about the experience in the next post.
I have mentioned several times now, I believe, that this team is working with a group called Child Hope International on the ground in Haiti but I haven’t said much about the ministry. I’d like to briefly do so now.
Child Hope International is Christian organization that rescues suffering and abandoned children in Port Au Prince, Haiti. The ministry was founded in 2001 by Bill and Susette Manassero first to share the love of Jesus Christ through music and song. In 2004, the Manasseros, at the urging of their then 9 year old daughter Ariana, sold all they owned and moved, with their three young children to Haiti. The orphanage they’ve established, dubbed Maison de Lumiere (The Lighthouse), operates two homes – one for each gender – a school where the children are taught subjects such as English, Math, French, Science, Bible, as well as business and vocational training to prepare them for independent living, when they leave the CHI’s care after they turn 18.
Remember those pictures of a feeding program from previous posts? That’s one of CHI’s ministries. Three times a week, the children in CHI’s orphanage serve meals to children in the area who are too poor to eat and/or suffering from malnutrition. The ministry also runs a medical clinic, which in addition to providing healthcare, teaches children courses in health, hygiene, and nutrition.
If you’d like more information, I encourage you to check out CHI’s website especially the videos. They’re pretty cool! Also to learn a little bit about the group’s relief efforts following the earthquake, check out this blog.
Bondye beni ou!
At some point during the day, two members of the team put down their paint brushes or rollers and head over to CHI’s staff quarters which houses a small prayer room. These teams of two spend about 30 minutes praying about a preset list of points and listening for God’s heart for each situation. Some of those requests are for CHI’s staff and its ministry to the children and others are for us.
As I have shared in previous posts, the Lord has taken this team to task on more than one occasion about our heart to our mission and the fact that the enemy, who has perfected the art of distraction and disorder, will do his best to undermine all efforts. His attacks have been subtle in some cases and not so subtle in others. The method is not important, it’s the result that matters.
But, we’ve learned that whether its an attack on the mind, a challenge to authority, or a physical affliction, the weapons of warfare are the same. So for part of our devotions this morning, we meditated and interceded focused on Ephesians 6 v 13 – 17, the armor of God, before heading out to the work site and we plan to make it a habit for the rest of our time here. Please pray for us, that no matter the attack, we will stand united and complete what God wills for us to do in the 2 days we have left.
Finally, a brief update on our manual labor. After several buckets of primer and paint, we’re almost finished painting the exterior facade the Boys’ Home a lovely off-white shade with a blue trim. And the house mother’s new lodgings are almost done as well. God willing, we should complete that project tomorrow and move on to something else. Mercifully, there have been no major injuries so far save for a few scratches, some sore body parts, and paint chips stuck in our hair and fingernails. Not bad for a bunch of mostly novices right?
Bondye beni ou!
I opened with a question yesterday and so I’ll keep that trend going with another one today … what are you waiting for?
Remember Junior, the 16 year old preacher from yesterday’s post? Well, he ended his sermon at the Saturday worship service with that question and although the context was a little different from the one in which I will use it, the question itself is still relevant. What are you waiting for?
Let me try to paint a picture for you. Imagine dusty streets and row after row of makeshift shacks packed like sardines in a large field. Now picture a family – small or large, it doesn’t really matter – crammed into an enclosed patch or land covered by tarps tacked together to make a crude room. Now imagine that room has no floor, just sand and mud, it has no furniture except perhaps a bed. The rains have come this year so imagine this same family huddled in their makeshift home trying to stay dry as the water drips in from above and seeps in from below.
These were only a few of the unpleasant images that members of the team carried with them when they returned from visiting one of the tent cities where large swathes of Haitian people still live in the aftermath of an earthquake that happened over two years ago. Because of restrictions on the size of groups that can enter the city at a time, only nine team members were able to visit today. The rest of us, God willing, will have our turn on Thursday.
What was the experience like for them? Mixed emotions: helplessness, frustration, sadness,and not surprisingly, gratitude for the blessings that most of us do have. But also joy in both children and adults who know that their Redeemer lives.
One last emotion requires some context in order to understand its significance so let me bring you up to date on our activities today. For the better part of the day, we worked on scraping, priming, and painting the external walls of CHI’s home for boys as well as cleaning and repainting a new room for the house mother, Cindy. You can see from some of the pictures below. Those selected for today’s trip to the tent cities went there straight from the work site so naturally they were covered in old white paint chips and primer. E., who was on the tent city team, told me that when some of the children saw the paint on her arms, they began trying to wipe the paint off with their hands, scratching the spots that wouldn’t come out. Attending to her needs, noticing them, and doing something about it, as if they had no cares of their own.
Its obvious that many people have responded to Haiti’s pain and there is a lot of good work going on but to say the need is overwhelming would be a gross understatement of the fact. Haiti may or may not be the place God has in mind for you but every Christian is called to go bearing the Good News, extend the power of His blood, fight injustice, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter (Isaiah 58: 6-7) so what are you waiting for?
I’ll add a note of caution here and some lessons this group has learned as we prepared for and while on this trip. If you are considering missions, mind how you go. You are about God’s business so do not take it lightly. God has rebuked our team on more than one occasion on that point. Also, if you can, come having no expectations or if you cannot, hold those you do have very loosely. God will do what He’s willed to do. If you cannot submit to His plan because of a preconceived notion of what missions entails, He might not be able to use you and the loss will be entirely yours. This too, the team has had to learn. Finally, mind those God places in authority over you. As the Lord revealed to one member of the team in his devotions, where there are too many authorities, there is no order.
Now, I know that not everyone can jump on a plane and take off for a week and we aren’t all tolerant of cold showers or worse no showers, 90 degree weather, and pesky mosquitoes or very large insects too frightening to contemplate (okay, I am exaggerating just a little bit) but everyone can pray.
Before I list some specific requests, let me share some highlights from a sermon we heard last Sunday about prayer. When we pray, the Pastor said, we must have faith in God as God and believe in his character, his purposes, his ways, and in his promises.
Keeping these points in mind, please pray for Edouard. He lost his wife to breast cancer some years ago and now has to care alone for their five children. He has no money, no job, and the family is facing eviction. There are many others like him. Pray for them as well.
Also please, pray for the people in the tent cities. Their circumstances are far more desperate than most of us could probably imagine and that I could describe. Pray that their immediate needs for shelter would be met but also the needs that we don’t see whatever those may be.
Finally pray for a young man named Ivens. He is the principal of CHI’s school and our guide to the tent cities. He often goes into the tent cities and prays as he walks the dusty streets and in the homes of the families there.
I’ll wrap up with a prayer for Haiti that my teammate E. wrote: “Ask God for mercy, protection, and for the Holy Spirit to touch the lives of each and every heart in Haiti so that the nation may prosper.” Amen.
I’ve got a a question for you … do you know God’s phone number? No, I’m not kidding! He’s got one alright. Take a guess … give up? It’s Jeremiah 33 v 3: “Call unto me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
That came from a young 16-year old boy, named Junior, who preached a sermon during a worship meeting which the children living in CHI’s homes put on to share Christ with their community. Pretty cool right? I’ve got some more choice nuggets for you to chew on.
Here’s one from M., the only member of the team who is not from the NY/NJ area. He shared that for him to fear the Lord is to be afraid to hurt your best friend’s feelings. I’ll let you think about that and apply it in your life. Also from M., we need to be followers and not fans of Jesus. There is a difference.
We have so much more to share. God’s been speaking, confirming things he already told us and challenging us in new areas, one of which is a need for repentance, which God willing will be discussed in later blog posts. I can’t give you all the goodies at once, where would be the fun in that?
Yesterday, I shared some stories from the team and the kids we’ve met here in Haiti, but there are some things that were left on the cutting room floor. I didn’t tell you about Anderson, one of CHI’s graduates who now works with the organization, and who is a talented artist and musician. You can see some of his paintings in the pictures below. I’d like to tell you about one of them. Its the one with the face of Jesus Christ and what looks like a wave of water coming towards Him.
Anderson told us he painted that picture right after the earthquake. The picture, he said, is meant to show that Jesus was there when the earthquake happened and He was watching over the people of Haiti and the sad look on His face declares his compassion for their suffering. Enough said.
I didn’t share with you that P., another teammate, told me that during the worship led by the kids, a little boy standing next to him whispered the meaning of the Creole choruses in his ear so that P. would feel like he was part of the service and could worship with them.
I wish you could have been there so that you could see how another teammate, S., experienced the Lord’s joy when a young girl grabbed her hands and pulled her into a cluster of children dancing without restraint to a beating drum. If you were there Saturday night you might also have noticed the young man who spent much of the service off to the side, completely cut off from the crowd of singing children, in a world where only he and Lord existed. You might have seen him walking back and forth, then falling on his knees, and then laying flat on his face completely focused on his Heavenly father. In those few moments, nothing else mattered. Oh yes, God is moving in Haiti! There is hope!
Now just to show you that God moves in mysterious ways, I’ll share one last story that let’s just say only He could have orchestrated. On Saturday during the service, a man who lived in the building next door heard the singing and walked over to see what was happening. Some members of the team had a chance to talk to him. They found out that although he’s currently in Haiti, he lives in the US; to be precise in NYC. And it gets better. They found out that he works on 54th street, a few blocks away from Times Square Church! He isn’t a Christian and the team had a chance to share with him and the fruit is in God’s hands. Now how’s that for a divine appointment?
I haven’t forgotten that I promised in my post yesterday that I would share some of my teammates’ stories of being stretched by God and I fully intend to deliver.
First some background. Today, we had an opportunity to perform some skits – on prayer and God’s love – for the kids. You can see one scene in the pictures below and before you ask, the sunglasses on the person playing Jesus were deliberate … the kids got a kick out of it. One of the actresses, E., shared with me that she’s always been nervous about speaking in front of large clouds. Well, guess what, not only was she one of the chief characters in one of the plays, but she also had the honor of introducing the skit to roughly 40 intently listening kids.
E. told me later that although she generally is nervous about public speaking, when she speaks about the Lord, it’s as if the tension is “sucked out of her.” She felt that same release earlier today as she performed in front of the kids, she said. By the grace of God, that courage will extend to other aspects of her life.
You might also recall that I mentioned yesterday that we are a BrickThink/I-61 team. Since we landed, we’ve spent most of our time playing games with the kids living in Child Hope International’s homes and trying to take opportunities to share God’s love with them. The I-61 portion of the trip is in part complete and starting tomorrow, the BrickThink portion of our trip begins. For our first task, we’ll be scraping and painting the walls in the boys home as well as possibly working on building some composting bins.
FYI: most of us have zero construction experience so I’ll definitely be looking out for some funny stories to share.
Bondye beni ou!
In my rush to share with you the events of our first day in Haiti, I neglected to tell you a little bit about the very eclectic team God assembled for this trip. So before I launch into today’s Haiti happenings, let me tell you a little bit about us.
We are a BrickThink/I-61team of 18 men and women, split evenly among both genders, most of whom are from the New York/New Jersey area with the exception of one member who joined us from Seattle, WA. Our ethnic backgrounds however, are an entirely different matter. We have figured out that between us, we represent 10 nations – Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Nigeria, Singapore, South Korea, China, Ukraine, Philippines, and the USA. As if that wasn’t enough, we all have very different personalities: some are quiet and reserved, while others are direct and outgoing. But that’s the beauty of the Body of Christ. He specializes in birthing unity from diversity.
Over the course of our two month training, (don’t panic! we had a long stretch, but only met twice a week, once by phone) we were reminded time and again of God’s promises and brought to the realization that our coming to Haiti is His plan and He will do what He wants to do through us. We were also reminded that we’ve been equipped with everything we need to do the work we’ve been called to do and that’s a comfort because this trip has and will require some of us to do things that are uncomfortable. I hope to share some of these with you in later posts.
The first email that our inimitable leader sent out to us when we first began training was titled “God is good and we will know it in Haiti.” And she was right. Its only our second day and already we have wept, danced, heard God’s clear call, and seen His hands at work in the lives of these children and those whom God has tasked to care for them.
Permit me to share a few stories with you from the team. K, our resident dentist in training, heard once again the Lord’s call to be an intercessor and she has accepted both the gift and the responsibility that accompanies it. She talked about feeling a burden for the pain of Haiti’s people and expressed her longing for them to know God. It isn’t clear yet how God intends to use her but she’s certainly taken the first step; she said “yes.”
At a worship service tonight with the kids, another teammate, J, spent almost the entire service with a little girl – she couldn’t have been more than five years old – who slept in his arms. He told me later that once he picked her up, she wouldn’t let go. She didn’t know him from Adam, yet she trusted him. As he held her, he whispered, as he wept, that God loves her and sang some of the worship songs in her ear while she slept. J told me that from now on, he always wants to worship with a child in his arms.
Its getting late, but before I wrap up, I’d like to tell you a little bit about one of the children we met today. The little boy in the picture below, washing his socks? That’s Wilson. He and his siblings lost their mom in the earthquake when their house fell on her. Thanks to the folks at CHI, children like Wilson have a future to look forward to and more importantly, the chance to know a God who loves Him more than he can imagine. He is in kindergarten now and he has a designated chair and side of a desk in the classroom with his name on it. Pray for him if you can. He represents so many of the children we have seen and other who we have not seen that still live in the tent cities.
It seems appropriate to end the post with the chorus of a song by Casting Crowns that we heard a young girl named Ruth singing. Ruth is a 16 year old girl, one of 20 living in CHI’s home for girls. That’s her in the fourth picture in the pink top. I don’t know her story yet but I can see that God has put a song in her heart and she is not holding back.
“I will praise you in the storm, I will lift my hands,
You are who you are, no matter where I am.
Every tear I’ve cried, you hold in your hands,
You’ve never left my side, though my heart is torn, I will praise you in the storm.”
As we left the girl’s home, the words “And God said, Let there be light! and there was light” came to mind. Some have described Haiti as dark, but God’s light is shining in Haiti and darkness never overcomes light!
You’ve probably heard that Haiti is hot (or maybe you haven’t) but we are going to tell you anyway because the heat is one of the first things you notice when you step off the plane and into this beautiful land.
We were greeted at the airport by a band of men singing in Creole after which our guide, aptly named Mr. Big, ushered us into a van where our hosts were waiting and we headed down a bumpy road to our accommodations.
After treating us to a quick hot dog lunch, our hosts took us to a feeding program for “street kids” started by the children that are part of Child Hope International’s program. After a time of prayer, we helped serve the kids warm plates of rice and beans with a slice of sausage and multivitamin, which all the kids promptly pushed to one side of their plates.
We were able to interact with the children and staff while they were eating. One of the kids we met today was Davidson, a six-year old boy who took pains to make sure his little 2-year old sister got enough to eat by patiently feeding her spoon after spoon of food.
Once they were done eating, the kids were ready to play and some of the team spent several hours playing soccer and basketball with the sports enthusiasts while the rest of us sat on the pavement and traded stories about life in New York and Haiti.
After an amazing Haitian-style dinner, we ended the day early with worship and devotions looking forward to a good night’s rest in preparation for a full day of activities tomorrow!