Monday, July 22, 2013

The Pain in Loving the Unloved

Last week we were able to visit some villages for the first time.  I personally went to Trou-Caiman for two days with a VBS group.  This village has no Christian church, but has multiple voodoo temples.  There is also no school in this village.  While it is within walking distance of our campus, it is still quite a long walk.  For this reason, people only come to campus if they are very ill and need to visit the clinic.  VBS was a little overwhelming, with people coming from every corner of our designated area.  The snack time was practically mobbed by the adults in the village.  While people in this area are not violent, they can still be overwhelming.  This was especially true for the team who spoke very limited Creyol.  I stepped in and helped regain control of the situation and we had a better plan for day two.

While we were working with Trou-Caiman, we also had two other traveling groups.  In addition to having all that going on (plus English Camp on campus), we had endless vehicle troubles.  It all worked out, but it left us stranded in different areas on multiple days.  My first day in Trou-Caiman, our group was left waiting for a vehicle to come pick us up.  We were packed up and ready to go, but waited another hour before being picked up.  During this time, we played with kids and interacted with adults who were still hanging out.  I picked up one little girl who was very tired and she quickly laid her head down.  I found someplace to sit with her, and kids continued to come to me and talk.  I was being taught more Kreyol while we talked.  This led to continued questions, which at first I did not understand.  When I realized what they were asking, I still did not realize all that was behind it.  Multiple children asked me, "Are you taking her with you to Chambrun?" in regards to the girl nearly sleeping in my lap.  I thought it a strange question, and answered that no, I was not taking her with me.  I told them she lived in their village, not in Chambrun.  They said they knew that, but I could still take her.  At that point I figured she must have family in Chambrun.  Since these two villages are only 5 miles apart via footpath, it would make sense.  I simply told them no, I was not taking her.

Within the next 15 minutes, I had more children ask the same question.  Then I just thought it was strange, and sad!  One of the mothers who had been observing VBS came and asked me the same question.  I told her that no, I could not take the child with me.  There was an older child who had been helping me with Kreyol who came over to explain to me that I needed to take this child.  At this point, 10 children and one adult had told me the same thing.  In our conversation in Kreyol, he explained that her mother had left and no longer wanted her.  She had been abandoned.  She was maybe 4 or 5 years old.  I then became very burdened and asked him who was watching her every day.  At first he was startled because I asked very sternly.  I told him somebody had to watch her and help her.  He said other moms were helping her.  I asked again to ensure that I understood, "Her mom left?  She does not want her?  She is not coming back?"  He answered that I was correct.  My heart broke and my stomach sank.  This feeling of helplessness was overwhelming.  I could not take this child simply because an older child told me she needed someone.  She is not an animal that I can just sweep in and rescue with no care for where her family may be.  Still, the fact that she had to walk away with 2 older girls (who were no more than 8 or 9) and I did not know if her mother was truly coming back...this was a hard fact to swallow.  My heart broke and my mind raced as I tried to determine what I could do.  The difficult answer: nothing.  I could do nothing.  Our children's home is full, and I do not fully know the situation.  It is indeed kidnapping, even if her mother abandoned her.  This is hard to swallow.

Later I returned home and cried over this little girl and prayed that God would watch over her.  I prayed that somebody would be there to hold her that night, and somebody would bring her food and water.  I prayed that I could see her again if we returned to the village.  Maybe one day I could do more for her, but not that day.  When I can do nothing, God must do everything.  While this is such a difficult place to be, it is right where He wants me.

Then it hit me: why do we not see this the same way in the USA?  In America, we say we want to help the orphans and abandoned.  Our hearts break for these children who nobody wants.  We say we will step in and some may even read my blog and feel like I made the wrong choice.  Yet, there are tens of thousands of children in the USA waiting to be adopted or fostered.  There are thousands in your own area who need a foster home.  Is it easy? No!  Would it have been easy for me to bring this child home with me last week? Perhaps it would have felt easy at first.  In reality, it would have grown increasingly difficult as we tried to help her with no insight into what her life had been or who her family was/is.  It seems like an "easy" answer...young child is potentially abandoned in a village in Haiti, we should definitely step in.  However, when we look at the faces of young children in America, our hearts are not moved in the same way.  We can look the other way because there is a "system" in place to make sure they are taken care of.  I cannot help but think it is a Christian's biggest cop-out to their calling to care for the orphans.  We look the other way and let them live in group homes, never reaching their full potential because they do not have someone fighting for them.  Many of these kids will end up back on the streets like their parents.  We blame it on the system that we so quietly allow to raise these children.  When will we step up and truly love the orphans??  Loving the unloved is painful...but it is right.  My prayer is that this story may move at least one person into action to begin loving the unloved and provide a home for a child who is lost in the "system" that we entrust with more children than they can manage (to their own admission).  May this story of my heart breaking not simply be a story to you; may it move you to do something more where God has you!
~ Cathi

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dangerous Prayers

I've taken up a prayer of asking God for opportunities to show His love to people in meaningful ways. Sometimes, this has been as simple as giving a mom with her little ones a ride to the clinic. However, yesterday, this prayer turned into a much bigger adventure.
I was driving back from the airport in our JAC (little tap-tap). Miguel was sitting next to me in the cab and Cathi was in the back with the rest of our children and the 4 we had just picked up from the airport. We stopped at the first stop light on our route and, as usual, kids at the intersection began asking us for money. One came up to my window and I was looking at him. When I looked over at Miguel's window, the boy on that side had jumped in through the window into the JAC up to his waist and grabbed my iPhone sitting on the seat next to Miguel, then took off running behind us. I did what I felt any good Haitian would do... I put the parking brake on and ran after him. There was a street vendor behind our vehicle and I asked him, "Kote li te ale?" (Where did he go?) He pointed down the street and I took off in that direction. I ran by a man who started talking to me, asking, "¿Hablas español? ¿Que pasó?" (Do you speak Spanish? What happened?). I said, "Un muchacho me robó el telefono" (A boy stole my phone). He then took off in that direction, too as I was stopped by policeman on a motorcycle who asked me, "Sak passe?" (What happened?) to which I responded, "Yon gason te vole telefon mwen" (A boy stole my phone). He turned his moto around and took off down the street. I kept running up the street and the man and the police had caught up to him and had him off the road (we were literally running down the street). I thanked the Hispanic, who asked me, "¿De donde eres?" After I told him I was from Puerto Rico, he went back in the direction we'd come. (We are next to the Dominican Republic, so it's not all that strange to run into Spanish speakers.) The police asked me again what had happened and I told him, "Li te vole telefon mwen. Li ble epi nwa." (He stole my phone. It's blue and black). The policeman reached into his pocket and found my phone there. He proceeded to essentially spank this kid, who was about 13 years old.
By this time, we had quite a gathering of UN officers around us, inquiring as to what had happened. I was questioned by a UN officer from India, another from the Cote d'Ivoire, and various Haitian police. The police asked me to stick around so they could get my report. At this point, I asked if I could go and at least park my vehicle somewhere, since it was still at the intersection. So I ran back to the intersection, hopped in the JAC and drove it across the intersection to a gas station. I then ran back to where they had the kid in custody. He was now with his hands on a wall and legs spread apart, with a police officer holding him by the back of his pants. I waited there for another half hour before a police car showed up, in which they put the boy and then asked me to follow to the police station. I drove the JAC a ways to the station, where I parked it once again and went in. At this time, they had me give an official statement. As I was doing so, I noticed the jail cell adjacent to that room, where there were quite a few people, inquisitively looking on. They did not seem like very friendly people. The police then explained to me that they would like to press charges on this kid to have him spend a few nights in jail, but in order to do that, they needed my cooperation. I looked back at the cell and back at this 13 year-old kid and did not think that was a great idea. Instead, I asked the police officer if I could talk to him. He almost chuckled, but said fine. I then walked up to the kid and told him that the police wanted me to give them what they needed to keep him in jail. His eyes grew big at the realization. I then proceeded to tell him that I didn't want that to happen; I told him I forgave him and wanted him to be a better person because God had made him to do something better with his life. I told him he could be helping people instead of taking advantage of them. I told him that when the police let him go, it was his choice to do something good with himself, but only God would know if he did. I told him I believed in him. After I talked, the boy looked me in the eye and apologized.
I told the police officer I didn't want him to spend the night in jail and that he could let him go. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to do that. He tried to talk me into letting them press the charges, because otherwise, the kid was just going to do it again. I told the officer that there was a better chance of him doing it again after being in jail; nobody's probably ever given this kid a reason to do anything good with his life and I hoped that he'll remember this next time he thinks about stealing. The police officer actually did chuckle at me this time. First, he asked me how long I'd been in Haiti. When I told him 2 months, he asked how I'd learned Creole! I told him I learned by talking to Haitians, how else?! He then grabbed my phone, put his number in it and as he gave it back to me, he said, "My name is Reginald. You're a good person. If you're ever in trouble, you can call me and I'll help." I walked out of the station unsure of how to feel. It dawned on me that this was one of the most tangible ways that kid would understand God's redeeming love. And I prayed that this crazy afternoon would make a long-lasting impact on him.
I challenge you to pray, "Give me opportunities to show your love today, God" and see what happens...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pastors' Conference

The last twenty-four hours have been long, but an incredible blessing. About this time last night, I was finishing writing up my final paper for one more semester of Seminary. That's one more class down and still trucking along my degree plan. I didn't end up finishing the paper until about 3 am to then get ready for bed, to get up at 5:55 am! I slept around 2 hours in order to get up in time to get ready for the pastors' conference this morning. I began to get the tap-tap ready so that I could go with Clersondy (one of our Haitian staff) to pick up the pastors. I wanted to see where they got picked up in the event I ever have to make that pick up by myself. Jim has been managing the pastors' conferences for the last 14 months and has had around 60 pastors come consistently. This morning we had around 40 pastors. When we asked about the text message that was sent out earlier this week, 75% of them acknowledged receiving it, however, they said there was an error in the message which could have easily accounted for the lower attendance today. Either way, it was a great morning. We served breakfast, sang a few worship songs, did an activity, met in small groups, and had a teaching. Jim made sure to introduce me to the group and allowed me to address them at the beginning. Then, I was able to participate in facilitating worship, leading the activity, guiding the small group time, then adding closing remarks to the session before praying at the end. The activity we did today was a
tug-of-war (which they had not done before). We made four teams of four men each and they competed for top place. They absolutely had a blast and they got into it quite a bit. We had one team literally get dragged across the floor, because they refused to just give up! It was hysterical. Jim tied it in later as an illustration of spiritual warfare. For part of the small group time, we had the pastors  discuss in their groups topics they deem important that we can address in later conferences moving forward. I was surprised at some of the responses, ranging from practical ministry topics to deep theological studies. I look forward to sharing more with these men, building these relationships, and begin to engage some of them in a more one-on-one setting. One pastor this morning, Clermont, came up to me afterwards to give me a picture of his church. He pulled it out of his backpack and wrote his name and phone number on the back. We talked for a little while and I found out that he pastors a small church in Croix-de-Bouquets which is not far from NVM. He asked me to call him so that we could get together later. I was so encouraged that although I was not expecting it, God allowed me to connect with someone on a personal level at my first pastors' conference.
Yesterday, we had a team of 17 fly in. They will be helping us out with English Camp this next week. After the pastors' conference and lunch, I took them on a campus tour, explaining our pillars of ministry, talking about our current ministries and the vision for the future. At choice locations throughout the tour, we stopped to pray for the ministries and staff at NVM, for Haiti itself, and for their upcoming week of ministry. It has been a long day and I am absolutely exhausted. But at the same time, I am feeling so fulfilled in what I get to do.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

English Camp today

English Camp Activities

Here are some pictures to show what the kids are doing in English camp.
They learn a new game each day.  Today was kickball, which was quite the adventure
for this group of kids who has never played anything similar to baseball.
Ok, we are in the what?
First one up... kicking a ball is an easy enough concept for a
"futbol" focused culture.
"Coach Heidi" - she did such a great job! She is one of our interns
focusing solely on English Camp this summer.
Lined up to kick the ball
What a kick!  No special effects here. He was really angled that much.
I don't know how he managed to stay standing!


Evangelism Class

Team members visiting with Sandra and Isaac during Evangelism Class
Jackson helping a child practice the phrase, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan
for your life." This is so precious!
Younger group out, ready for some kickball.
So there you have it.  A snapshot into day 2 of English Camp.  Each child gets to play the game, go to Evangelism Class, sit through an English lesson, eat lunch, drink juice...what more could they want in a camp for a month?  We are blessed by the interns, translators, and children who are here for this.  You may be wondering if this "camp" means the children stay on campus all month.  The answer is no.  They walk or get a ride here each morning by 8 AM.  They leave around 2 PM to return home.  Yesterday we had 73 kids at camp. Today we registered nearly 40 more for a total of 110 kids.  These 110 kids will be able to hear the gospel, be reminded that God has a purpose for their life, and enjoy a hot meal each weekday for the entire month of July.  I look forward to continuing to post pictures and stories of how God uses this time to bless these families!
~ Cathi

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Happenings

For the past month we have had a lot of down time to learn tasks, adjust to living here in Haiti, and organize our house. Now that we are in July, we are gearing up for the busiest month of the year. We have somewhere between 120-150 people coming this month on short term mission teams. Next week alone we will have 70 short-termers on campus! This is an exciting time for us as we get to see all that God is going to do in and through this ministry and the people who come to help! Today, English camp kicked off with over 70 children in attendance. Each child pays to come to English camp. This gives them access to faith-based education in order to learn English. If a child can learn English in Haiti, they can greatly increase their chance of a good job. In addition, each child is fed a hot meal of rice and beans for lunch. This is a meal that most of these children would go without since school is done for the summer. Instead, they have a constructive place to come play, learn, hear about Jesus, and be fed. English camp runs for an entire month, Mon-Fri. We have 3 interns who have prepped the curriculum and will run the camp all month. All 3 of them are education majors, and they are an immense blessing to our staff here! We will miss them when they return home in August! Next week we have a medical team arriving, doing medical clinics in 3 different villages (4 days) that otherwise have very limited access to medical care. They will see a wide variety of issues and be able to love on the people in each village as they help them in such a powerful way. It is so sad to know that people in Haiti often die simply because they had no access to proper medical treatment. The hospitals are allowed to turn patients away if they cannot afford treatment, or if they think the case is too risky (preemie babies are a prime example), or if they think they cannot actually help the person. Most people cannot afford the medical care, so a traveling clinic that reaches out to them where they are is a huge blessing! We are excited for this team to come and help the people of Haiti next week! In addition to English camp and the medical team, we also have 2 VBS teams coming next week. Each team will go out for 4-5 hours a day to different villages, proclaiming the love of Jesus to the children there. We are so excited for this as well, because they offer a snack to each child who comes. Once again, it is a chance for that child to have something to eat that day, simply because 20 Americans chose to come and do VBS. While at VBS, the kids will do crafts, sing, and play games. These are simple activities, but when your summer consists of sitting in the heat, hungry and thirsty - it is huge! The children are thrilled to come to VBS. It shows them that someone cares about them, as a hungry child. Someone wants to love them. Someone wants to show them the love of Christ. They matter! One of the most heartbreaking things we experience living in Haiti is that so many children have nobody to fight for them. There is nobody to push for proper medical treatment, nobody to ensure the child is safe and well fed. VBS is a time where these kids have someone coming from another country to fight for them. The battle is as much spiritual as it is physical. What a blessing to pray over these kids in these villages and feed them, even if just for a day! We will have other teams coming this month as well, but this is a glimpse into what our minds are focused on today. We are excited, and we know God is at work. Know that when God is at work, so is the enemy. He is hitting our family from every angle. We are putting on our armor and standing firm, trusting God will work it all out in His time. Additionally, we know the other staff members - Haitian and American - are being hit hard as well. There is a lot to distract us all, and to discourage us. We ask for your prayers as we charge forward into this month of spiritual battle. We are grateful to be here, and thankful for all of you who read our little stories, and pray. ~ Cathi