Saturday, July 27, 2013

Adventures abound,

Last week I had the privilege of visiting the family of one our dearest staff members. I hesitate to even call him that because he feels much more like family to us than an employee. His name is Delli, he is 22 years old and the very fact that he is working with us is a miracle. The trip was a much needed adventure, good for my soul in so many ways. 
Deli in his new church clothes, ready to sweat for Jesus!

Two years ago, Pastor Jude ( the Haitian-American pastor we partner with in Port au Prince) went on one of his many mission trips into the mountains. There, he met Deli's brother who came to Faith at Jude's revival.  His brother asked Jude if Deli could move to the city with Jude in order to find work and support their family. Pastor Jude agreed and Deli left his home in the mountains in search of work to support his family.

Fast forward 2 years; Deli came to live with us after I asked Pastor Jude to help me find a security guard for our new home in Montrouis. When Deli came to live with us, we discovered he was unable to read or write. This being something he was very ashamed of, we offered to help him with a tutor. As of this week, he read to me a chapter from the book of Acts and wrote a paragraph about his life.

Deli and his tutor, Pascal. They have class 5 days of the week from 3-5pm.

Back to the story...
Last week we loaded up motos at 5:30a.m. and headed for Deli's home in order to meet his family and to see their home after they installed new roofing tin that God gave us the money to purchase. We've known Deli since December, but had yet to meet any of his family.

On the road

After 4 hours of riding through the Artbonite Valley, on decent roads, we arrived at a dirt road to begin our trek into the bush. We road 8 km in on a very, very muddy trail that included 2 river crossings.

At the first significant river crossing, the water was about 3 feet deep.

Super sticky mud, thankfully we didn't break a chain.

Around 11:00 am, we parked the motos and began walking on a path not fit for motorcycles. We hiked, walked, sat, walked some more, and eventually arrived at Deli's home just around 2:00.  Our hike took us through dense forrest, barren ridge lines, swampy cane bottoms, and along rocky outcroppings. It was incredibly peaceful and trash free. We passed the homes of his friends and family, all living incredibly simple and efficient lives. No one had running water, electricity, or glass windows for that matter. The wealthy had tin roofs, while most families only had thatch roofs made from palm frans. Homes weren't concrete, and yards weren't mowed. Lush gardens, overflowing with produce and flowers, filled everyone's yard. The people were friendly and welcoming; many stared and gawked at my lighter-than-Haitian skin tone.

A beautiful cemetery on the way, where Deli's twin sister is buried.

Lush river bottom

A well worn path across a very green hillside.

Deli's family received me as a long lost brother or cousin; I couldn't have felt more at home. His father of 70 years conceded that he had never met a white person, let alone had one wander into their village. Unfortunately, our visit was a surprise to them. Deli had been unable to reach the family's telephone because it was dead ( it's a 2 hour walk to the nearest place to charge it!). We were only able to stay for a few minutes in order to return home by dark with lingering storm clouds overhead. All of that didn't really matter though. They were so happy to see us, the entire family hiked back to the motorcycles with us. We laughed, told stories, and I asked a million questions as we walked 2 hours back to the bikes.

 Deli's father and mother

The entire family is residing in the little mud shack.

The sugar cane barn, where they melt down cane syrup to concentrate it before going to market.

Everyone loved having their picture taken.

Upon our return to the motos, they loaded up our bikes with plantains grown in their garden for us to take home. Wow, really? You live in a stick and mud house, and you are insisting that I take 2 weeks of income from you as a gift?  Really, you just walked 2 hours barefoot to share stories of Deli's childhood and laugh with us? Really, you tore down your house and are rebuilding it because your home "wasn't worthy of the roofing tin"we gave you? Really, you are happy with your life and your not asking anything of me? Really, you welcomed me like long lost family, blind of our differences.

Deli's entire family; brother, sisters, nieces and nephews.

After we reached the good road, it was a quick 10 minute ride into Mirebalais, where it began to rain buckets. We attempted to wait it out at the gas station with a thousand other people. Eventually, the rain subsided and we took off for home. Only to find it raining as we left town, and it continued to rain the entire trip home... all 4 hours.

Waiting out the rain at the gas station in Mirebalais.

Nasty raisin hands after a 4 hour ride in the pouring rain.

The whole day my mind raced, my heart pricked. What are we missing? By our standards, these people have NOTHING. They walk 2 hours each way just to find electricity to charge their telephone. There is no medical care; if you want food you have to grow it; if you want meat you have to slaughter a prized possession. These people are living 200 years in the past, with the exception of their cell phone.

Life was put into perspective for me that day. Are my desires and wants legitimate? Am I living a life that is sacrificial and honoring to the least of these? I feel like we are in some ways, but certainly there is room for improvement.

I can't wait to go back and take Sarah next time. The whole trip took nearly 14 hours, a little much for one day...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

July Update

While we seemed to have survivived tropical storm Chantel fairly well, the road to the Retreat Center didn't fair so well. I guess there was approximately 6-8' of water flowing over the top of the bridge. 

Our road became a temporary road bed

Many plantains and banana  trees were destroyed.

During the month of June, we hosted nearly 400 kids at the Retreat Center. We were blessed with beautiful weather and two AWESOME church groups from the states to help us with the kids.

We hosted our first annual 4th of July Cookout at the beach. Nearly 50 fellow missionaries joined us as well with their families and interns. We had a great time, what a blessing to make memories with our friends here! 

Our attempt at a group photo before the storm hit us!

Nick, our grill master

Food, Fun, & Felloship

We were blessed with 2 teams from the states this past month. First United Methodist Alcoa,TN  came with 18 college students and adults. We spent the week hosting kids at the beach, and a safari into the mountains to visit with the family of Deli (our beloved security guard). Most of this team has been down to work with us several times, and feel like family to us.

FUMC Alcoa

Earlier in June we had pleasure of working with 8 fine folks from Crosspoint Church in Decatur, AL ( . Crosspoint is one of our ministry partners, whom we are excited to be working with. If you find yourself in North Alabama and need a church home, we'd encourage you to check them out.  They helped us tackle a huge list of repair projects, painted the homes of 2 of our staff's families homes, and painted the roof of our house white. All this, and still managed to host 2 separate groups at the beach.

Marteen's family's home after a fresh coat of paint

Getting started on Octolem's house.

Octolem's house, the freshest in the neighborhood!

Painting our roof white to help cool the house.

Also, we welcomed our second intern for the summer. Alex is a recent graduate from Belmont University in our hometown of Nashville. Alex is a from Chicago and excited to work alongside us. She is responsible for creating the Childrens Retreat Center page on Facebook. If you haven't already visited it, go directly to the new page by visiting: Click here. Alex has her own blog up, check it out here:
Our super duper interns working on window screens to ward off pesky mosquitoes.

This month we were able to partner with Blue Ridge Well Drilling in the hunt for fresh water at the beach. As I mentioned earlier, we have a shallow hand dug well but it is slightly salty. So we contacted Blue Ridge to try and drill a deep well to penetrate the shallow salty layers of water.

The right equipment makes a big difference.

Blue Ridge drew quite a crowd in the community. No one had ever seen a "real"drilling rig. What a pleasure to work with a professional crew with the right tools! They hit water at 160 feet and drilled an additional 200 feet for a total of 360 all in a matter of 4 hours. Unfortunately, the water they found proved to be more salty than the shallow well. We have begun pumping it to see if it will clear up, join us in prayer for fresh water.

We didn't find a little water, we found the ocean!