I've been home from Haiti less than a week, and my emotions are still all over the place. As usual, those closest to me are asking questions, sometimes probing questions, trying to see where I am, how I am emotionally. And it's truly a moment-by-moment thing.
On the one hand, I came home with my heart so full. So, so full. God has brought an amazing team together at Haiti Awake, and recent additions to our team have eased my burden so much. For this, I am thankful. I found so much joy in my 12 days in Haiti. So much joy. I was not exhausted like I have been in the past because "Men anpil, chay pa lou" (many hands, burden not heavy). I wasn't necessarily longing for home (but really, where is my home now?) as I often am after being away from my family for an extended period.
At the same time, I came home with my heart once again tender toward so many things. Tears haven't been too far from my eyes on any given day. I often pray that as I continue to see and experience more of Haiti and her people that I will not become jaded, that I won't become callous, that the things that once broke me won't become routine and common. Like so many, I pray the prayer Bob Pierce once prayed, "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."
So tonight I sit here in the quietness of my Wilmington home, missing the sounds of Haiti (the rooster who crows both day and night, the barking dogs, the beeping horns, the ridiculous nightclub down the street . . . ), I am filled with immense thankfulness for all that Haiti has become to me - and to so many others - through Haiti Awake.
And I pray that in some small way God will enable me to give back a little of what I have received from the most precious people in the most precious place.
Here are just a few photos of some extraordinarily beautiful moments.
It's been another year. We have another opportunity to look back and see God's providence, His faithful hand, His leading...and to see that once again, we never walked alone.
The first four months of the year were marked by change as the children came under our care. We also began to discuss the idea of expanding Haiti Awake outside of Port au Prince, hosted teams in the new upstairs guesthouse, launched our child sponsorship program, and added stateside coordinators - Hannah Telman, Liz Kyle, and Alicia Mercer.
Glwa pou Bondye.
The middle four months were characterized by teams - five of them to be exact . . . in addition to the four we had already hosted in the first four months of 2017. Fun times. Busy times. Times of growth. Many of this summer's team members became sponsors to our children, and for that we are grateful.
The latter part of 2017 brought great joy, as well as some hard times. The children returned to school for their 3rd year of schooling since Haiti Awake began providing for their tuition, and we rejoiced. Haiti Awake was also able to open the copy center and begin its first chicken project during this same period. We are thankful that God continues to expand our resonsibilities. We also were forced to think about the brevity of life when Wesly and Idelmy were involved in a serious accident. And we finished out the year with a wonderful Christmas celebration provided by friends and sponsors.
We look forward with great anticipation to where God will providentially lead in 2018. We anticipate growth through new business opportunities as well as outreach and expansion of responsibility outside of Port au Prince. But we recognize and affirm the truth found in Proverbs 16:9:
Tout glwa pou Bondye. Toutan.
Thanks to the generous donations of so many of you, Christmas for our Community was a blessed time on Sunday afternoon, December 17th. All of the families and individuals we had featured were sponsored, and God multiplied your gifts in such a way that we were able to not only provide the items listed in the original announcement, but each family got two bags of beans and $150 in Haitian money, as well.
Steeve prayed with everyone and shared the truth of I John 3:16 - "This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us." God loved us so much that He sent His son, Jesus Christ, in the flesh, as a baby, to be our Redeemer.
Steeve shared that we at Haiti Awake and those of you who support our ministry are motivated by love, true love, love found only in Jesus Christ. He explained that the gifts were not from the staff but from others - most of whom have never been to Haiti and have never met anyone in our community.
Steeve went on to explain that our community is important to Haiti Awake, and how the gifts being distributed were not benefiting anyone associated with Haiti Awake. Instead, we are looking outward, to care for people in our community. We want our community to know that they matter to Jesus; and because they matter to Jesus, they matter to us.
Thank you to all who showed love by financially giving to this initiative. We pray that it will be an annual event that God will continue to grow for His glory.
Glwa pou Bondye.
Although we praise God for you every year on your birthday, Wesly, today we are praising Him in a special way for giving you an another year of life. Your accident this summer reminded us just how precious life is . . . and how quickly it can be taken away.
You are an important part of Haiti Awake. We are thankful for the opportunity to continue to walk out this journey as friends together. May the Lord continue to keep you and sustain you.
Enjoy these pictures of a few of the moments we've shared together.
You are loved.
From our first meeting . . .
Until today . . .
You are loved, Handy Oge.
Happy 8th birthday!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.