Selflessly Sewing

The following is a guest post, shared by our friend, Dori Nason.

For the past four summers, I have had the opportunity to teach 9-13 year olds how to sew with a group of talented ladies in my church. Power Camp is a ministry of Myrtle Grove Presbyterian that shares the gospel of Christ with kids (rising 1st -8th grade) as they are extremely active in various sports and arts activities. During the sewing specialty week, we teach the basics of sewing, and then tackle a project to take home, whether it is a pair of pajama pants, a wall hanging, or something equally challenging. It is amazing how much these kids learn over the course of 15 hours!

Historically, only girls have signed up for sewing camp. However, this past summer I was personally contacted by a homeschool mom who said her 11 year old son wanted to learn how to sew. Surprised by this, I wanted to learn why he wanted to sew. She responded that her son, “wanted to learn how to make clothes for his little brother and to make dresses for little girls in Haiti.” His answer touched my heart and I knew that we needed to add a new element to our week of sewing. 

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16

We were going to make something for someone else. God helped us move quickly into making this boy’s idea into a reality. Approvals were given, fabric and notions were donated, and a dress pattern was designed. We were blessed to be able to partner with Haiti Awake and teach our 11 students not only to make a backpack they could take home for themselves, but also a beautiful dress for a girl in Haiti. Decorating the room with the Haitian flag and a world map, we showed them pictures of Haiti and Haiti Awake’s ministry there.

Over the course of the week, 11 precious dresses were lovingly handcrafted and prayed over. We taught the kids that even though they didn’t know who would receive their dresses, they could pray for that person’s safety and that they would also come to know the Lord with each stitch that they made. As a final touch, we had labels attached in the dresses telling the recipient who made each dress. When I packaged everything up to take to Becky, I had no idea how our prayers would be directed later that summer as hurricane season started brewing.

Early in September, Becky started sending me pictures of the recipients of our dresses. These pictures brought so much joy to us! The first picture was of a girl named Phoebe holding the dress made by our inspirational young man. Next was of a little girl who lives near the ministry wearing her dress. It was their beautiful faces we visualized as we prayed that Hurricane Irma would turn before it reached Haiti. Those precious smiles will be forever etched in my memory. Stateside, we rejoiced as the hurricane turned and we received word that all at Haiti Awake were safe. Our prayers and stitches made a difference, not only for the recipients, but also for each boy, girl, and sewing instructor involved in the project.

Hope that's hard to find

Let me first say, I’m not an author. I’m not a blogger. I do not pride myself on my ability to write, but I was asked to write something about the day I visited Centre de Reeducation des Mineurs en Conflit avec le Loi (CERMICOL), a boy’s prison in Haiti. I will attempt to do that.

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I was taught from a young age, just like many American boys, that men don’t cry.  I’m not in any way saying my parents raised me wrong, but I deal with emotions like many other American men - I bottle them up.

The night that followed my trip to the boy’s prison, I cried,  and then I cried some more. I wept in a way I haven’t wept in a very long time. I cried at the position these boys were in, the hopelessness of the situation, how their entire life is altered. Forever. I cried because if I had been born into poverty, I could have faced a situation that some of these young men faced, made a similar decision, and ended up in a boys prison at age 14.

This could have been me.  

 

I have an 11 year old son. He’s a good kid, but he’s done things that are, well, regrettable. Just like every other kid. I could not help but picture him when I was at the prison. I don’t know the kid's ages, but some were young. Probably 12 or 13 years old.

The boys are locked up for various reasons, I don’t know what each one did, I didn’t care.

I saw children. I saw my son. In a green jump suit with CERMICOL on his back. Hopeless.

Now, I’m far from saying that these boys should not be held responsible. But to see a kid that has been locked up for a crime, and find out some go 2 years before they ever see a judge, that’s heartbreaking. Some of them committed crimes, some terrible crimes, stuff we spoiled Americans only see in TV shows. They do not need to be told that’s ok. They need tough love. They need to be educated. And they need hope.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
— Jeremiah 29:11

When we arrived, we unloaded the supplies we brought - rice, sodas, toiletries, a hand written scripture for each boy. Each item was inspected by guards and then loaded into a wheelbarrow. There were 3 prisoners that were pushing the loaded wheelbarrows into the prison. Quite obvious this was their reward for good behavior. Once it was all in, there were a few conversations between guards, some more waiting, and then we got to enter. They escorted us to a room, set up similar to a classroom, with a chalkboard, seating for 30 or so, one door.

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There was a large window that opened to the common area. The cells with bars were across from this. We could see the boys. They looked at us, they didn’t look angry, or threatening, they looked like my son. Some were a few years older, but they were young men, trying to find their place in life. While in a holding cell with 125 other prisoners. Hopeless.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
— Deuteronomy 31:6

The guards ushered in about 40 at a time, 3 groups. The groups came in, we spoke to them. Told them God loved each one of them, that we at Haiti Awake loved each one of them. We prayed. Then they left, back to their cells.

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We left, empty handed, sad with the situation, angry thinking the boys may not get a fair shake, disappointed that decisions were made to put them here, but hopeful that some of these young men heard our words. Hopeful they heard us pray for them. Hopeful they heard the message we had for them. Heard that it’s not over. They have decisions to make every day going forward. Maybe as they make one of these decisions, they will think back and remember the Haiti Awake team, and remember some words we shared, or a prayer, or a verse written to them.

Maybe this will be what they need to get through a rough day. Maybe it’ll help them make a good decision in the future.

Maybe it will give them hope.

That Day When Your Dream Comes True

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
— Ephesians 3:20

In January when we asked the children, "What is your dream?", most responded with traditional jobs like "block layer," "translator," "nurse" . . . and as I looked at their responses, it was easy to envision how they could grow up to be these things.  

When I saw Kiki's card, however, I knew that it would have to be a God thing.

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Today, however, Kiki had his first experience toward fulfilling his dream.  He had the opportunity to be the "co-pilot" on a Mission Aviation Fellowship flight.  

The very fact that this little 6 year old with big dreams was up in an airplane today, able to see the amazing beauty of his country, confirms for us at Haiti Awake that God has BIG plans for our Kiki . . . and that Jesus will complete the work He has started in Kiki's life (Phil. 1:6).... as He will for all of the children in our care.

To all the children, we say, "Dream big!'  

The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
— Psalm 138:8

Oh, and we did realize today that Kiki's not quite ready for flight school.   Nap time called during the flight, and even though he was so excited to be flying . . . he couldn't fight off the need for some zzzz's.

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Thank you MAF Haiti for making a little boy's dream become reality.

I was sick, & you visited Me (Matt. 25:36)

I often get a different perspective on a familiar passage of Scripture when I attempt to put aside my American interpretation and try to see things the way a Haitian would see them.

For example, "Give us this day our daily bread" means something completely different when a person is actually depending on God each day to provide sustenance . . . in absence of a well-stocked pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.

While I was in Haiti this week, I was asked to read Matthew 25:31-46 at The Bridge tomorrow morning.  Reading that passage in Haiti as we were back and forth to the hospital, it took on a whole new meaning . . . especially because we now have a new friend, Herby Joseph.

Herby Joseph is from St. Marc, a town about 2 hours north of Tabarre.  While in Port-au-Prince over two weeks ago, he had a moto accident and severely injured his leg.  And he's been at Medecins San Frontiers since that time.  With no one to visit him.  Day after day.  His family is too far away to come to see him.

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Herby's bed was next to Wesly's, so as we visited Wesly day-by-day, Herby became our friend.  His face would light up when we'd come into the room, and he was more than eager to play a hand of cards with Steeve or Polo to pass the time.  (There were 9 men in the room with nothing to do all day.)  He, along with the other men, were very happy when we brought snacks for them each day (snacks that many of you donated this summer).

This is what ministry often looks like - just loving the people God puts in front of us each day. There's not a big plan or agenda.  It's just opening our eyes to the people around us who are in need.  It's loving our neighbor . . . and that neighbor might be the person in the hospital bed next to our loved one.

Being in the hospital in Haiti is such a lonely place. We never know when the little we do changes a life.

I really don’t pay attention to people who say, ‘Oh, coming in and doing something like that isn’t a lasting work.’

We don’t get to say what a lasting work is. God does.
— Gloria Guignard Board
Herby and Polo playing cards

On Tuesday when Polo and I went to the hospital for my last visit before Wesly would be discharged and I would return to the United States, Herby asked to take a photo with me.  It was so hard to say goodbye knowing that Herby would be without visitors and because we don't know if or when we'll see each other again.  He doesn't have a telephone, but he has Steeve and Wesly's phone numbers, and we're hopeful he'll call when he is released from the hospital.

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There are many Herby Josephs in Haitian hospitals tonight. Some of them, like Herby, do not have family nearby who can visit.  Some of their families do not have the money necessary to hire a moto or take a tap tap to the hospital.   Some of them actually don't have anyone that cares. (There was a man like this in Wesly's room). 

These people need someone to visit them, to encourage them, to show them Jesus' love.  Will you pray with us that God will allow Haiti Awake to have an outreach to the hospitals in Haiti?

When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
— Matthew 25:39-40
 

An Emotional Week.

Last Friday night, Steeve and I talked by telephone.  He was still in Doko with Fre Jacques and Maken, but they were finished working there and had plans to travel back to Port the next morning.   We were rejoicing, praising God for everything that had transpired in Doko during the week.

Roughly an hour later Steeve sent me a text: "I just heard that Wesly and Idelmy had an accident.  They are at the hospital."

That text led to a restless night followed by several busy days filled with texts, phone calls, and requests on our part for favors from people in Port-au-Prince as we tried to ascertain the severity of Wesly and Idelmy's injuries.   Getting medical information about loved ones in Haiti is not always an easy thing. 

Idelmy had surgery on his foot on Sunday and was discharged on Monday.  Wesly had surgery twice (hand and foot), and he is still hospitalized.

I arrived in Haiti Wednesday afternoon and was able to see them both.

Seeing Wesly at the hospital is not an easy thing, but Steeve and I have been able to see him each day since I arrived.  

Visiting hours are twice a day (noon to 1:30 - but they seem to cut the line off about 1) and (5-6:30 - but again, the line isn't open that long). Each patient can only receive one visitor at a time, so for the last 3 days Steeve and I have arrived about 30 minutes before the scheduled visiting time in order to wait for the gate to open where we can pass through, wash our hands, give our ID, and then be given permission to spend a little time with Wesly while trading time with other people who care about him like his mother, his brother, and other friends.

Idelmy is recovering at home.  He can't do much yet because of his foot, so he has been the happy (and exclusive) user of a Kindle tablet to help him pass the time.

The privacy of both Idelmy and Wesly is important to us, and we ask you to please respect that.  We also ask that you pray with us that God will allow them to fully recover.  We are specifically praying that Wesly will be able to come home before I return to the States on September 7.

Thank you for loving the people we love and caring about them.

We have new friends

With all sincerity, I can say it was a wonderful week. Everybody was happy for this new house in Doko. It is one of the nicest houses up there. This week was an opportunity for several people to have a job, & some people just came by to help. Even children were able to make a little bit of money, & we have new friends.
— Steeve Derard
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It was nearly 11 months ago that Hurricane Matthew took aim at the southern peninsula of Haiti, and we first became acquainted with people in Doko.  We shared our experience from that first weekend here:  http://www.haitiawake.org/news/2016/10/9/the-heart-can-only-grieve-what-the-eyes-have-seen

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In January we returned to Doko.   Seeing the difference that three months had made in the reemergence of life and community was encouraging.  We knew at that time God was leading us to do more in Doko.

And this last week, Steeve, Fre Jacques, and Macken went to Doko for the week to work on repairing and expanding a home that had remained inhabitable, though damaged, since the storm.  What they saw was the beauty returning to the countryside.  The lush vegetation is back, and many fruit trees are already bearing fruit.

Doko needs the Gospel.  

We are praying that God will allow us continued opportunties to love people there so that we can build relationships, based on the Gospel, abounding in hope.  Please pray with us.

 

Church Ministry Development

It is our desire to see an awakening of Haitian Christians through community development, economic development, and church-ministry development.

It is our hope to provide opportunities to Haitian Christians in a variety of ways, including personal relationships, community Bible studies, and formal Biblical training.

Our goal is to equip these local Christians to reach their own communities and their own country through showing Christ’s love in action.
— From our ministry statement

Because of your gracious support, Haiti Awake was recently able to financially invest in three groups of believers with whom we have close relationships.

According Steeve Derard, our Ground Director, one of the challenges facing Haitian churches is construction and church maintenance.  Two of our June teams worshipped in Contraternite Church with Pastor Danjour Sylvain, and our July team also held a VBS with some of the children from his church and community.   This church building, which has about 150 members attending on a Sunday, is currently made of tarps and sheet metal.   The church is grateful for the financial partnership of Haiti Awake which will help them move forward with construction.
 

Pictured above is Pastor Romanès Jean's church in the community of Cannan.  Pastor Romanès  has been a friend to Haiti Awake for some time now, being a key partner in our prison outreach.  Recently Steeve was able to meet with Pastor Romanès  and give a financial gift toward further work on the church building.

And finally, Haiti Awake was happy to be a blessing to Eglise Evangelique Baptiste Lewis Memorial which is in the middle of a construction project to build offices and bathrooms for the congregation.  Because this group of believers meets in our community, within walking distance of our mission house, teams from Haiti Awake have worshipped with this body of believers on many occasions.  This is the church Wesly attends and where he first professed Jesus.  Pastor Andrew Lefort is graduate of STEP and a friend to Haiti Awake.

We are thankful for how the Lord continues to direct our steps in the area of church ministry development, and we are thankful for financial support of our ministry which, in turn, allows us to recognize and partner with growing Haitian-led ministries in our area.