#Haiti2017 Wrapping Up

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Today is our last day.  We leave for Miami late this afternoon and due to the complexities of travel to Haiti, (meaning: cost, flight times, etc.) we are spending the night in Miami and then heading back to the airport at 5am for our 7am flight back to NJ on Sunday.  Prayers are always appreciated for international travel, I get nervous going thru customs for no reason at all…not to mention shepherding 23 others thru it.  I am, however, very excited (geek) to try out the new “Mobile Passport” app – hopefully that will speed things up.  I’m thankful for modern conveniences.

I’ve also developed a rather ripping head cold…yes…in Haiti in July…that is making things a little more challenging.  Aren’t head colds something you get in February when it’s 17 degrees outside and you’ve all be cooped up in the house for 3 months?!  I’m thankful for Nurse Lisa and her well-stocked medical kit.  Mucinex and Advil are helping to keep it at bay.

I’m thankful for everyone on this team.  Each one gifted by God in such unique ways.  There are a lot of youth on this trip here, thankful for those who lead the way by example and those who are growing in discipleship by seeing God at work.

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I’m thankful for being able to reconnect with some children – some we’ve seen for the last 3 trips!  Special bonds were strengthened and created.  We also made new connections.  We had the need for an additional translator and by God’s providence Lisa met a Haitian woman who spoke English and needed a job.  She hadn’t been able to buy food recently for her children, and she worked out perfectly.  We had several very good spiritual conversations with her, she was very transparent in saying that she believes God exists, but can’t trust him because why would he let her suffer so much?  Seeing God’s hand clearly as she had literally cried out to God to provide for her and then we show up from America and give her a job.  We are praying this strengthens her faith to trust him completely.

Yet, with all that thankfulness there is still the cloud of sin.  Yesterday was a hard day in some senses.  Some of the Haitian children knew yesterday was the last day we’d be with them, so they really ramped up their demands for “one dollar” or a “ballo.” [ball]  Like other times, this was very hard for me, and I had trouble holding back sinful responses when I was sinned against.  I felt like some of the relationships I had developed over the week came down to merely what I could give them.  And when they found out I wasn’t giving them what they wanted, some literally cursed at me and stormed off.

Naturally, all of these things cause deep thoughts to swirl in my brain.  I realized once again there is not much difference in what hinders Haitians and Americans from perceiving their real actual need for the gospel – materialism.  Just different sides of materialism.  Haitians seem to not be able to realize their true need of reconciliation with God thru Jesus because they can’t see past their everyday needs and poverty.  Americans seem to not be able to realize their true need of reconciliation with God thru Jesus because we can’t see past our overwhelming comfort and opportunity.  Same limitation – just two opposite ends of the spectrum.  One thinks God isn’t helping them, the other doesn’t see the need for God’s help at all.

Put all that together with that fact that I’ve been drawn to Romans 8 several times this week.  Ariana shared from it the other night during our meeting, I’ve been thinking of Romans 8:31 from time to time, and just today in a book I am reading Romans 8:22 and a “theology of groaning” was discussed.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:22–25 ESV)

God’s perfect creation is broken by sin, a sin that we chose to bring into this world when we rejected God’s authority over us, and continue to.  Now we struggle, strive…groan. Not only creation itself with all the evil and sin, but inwardly.  We struggle to see our true need for God.  We groan under the weight of sin and the effect it has on our souls.

We need to be not groaning in hopelessness, but rather in hope.  The permanent redemption we will experience one day when Jesus restores the world from it’s brokenness and we will spend eternity with him, without any struggling, striving, or groaning.  Without any limitations in seeing him clearly.

Until then, when Haitians or Americans, let us hope for what we do not yet see, and look past the materialism – whether in want or abundance – to clearly see our daily need for God, and his gracious provision of Himself in Jesus.

Haiti VBS 3.0

Welp…this trip has been unique in the sense that we did some sightseeing, tourism, and team building early…buuuuutttt that ended today.   Today…we WORKED! 

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We started off the day with songs…as usual, I exhausted my knowledge of Creole songs in about 8 minutes, but the kids didn’t seem to mind much.  I had another chance to preach this morning, along with our theme of the day today which was creation.  This week, we are going thru the main storyline of the Bible – creation, fall, redemption, and restoration – and always pointing back to the gospel.  This morning I talked about Genesis 1:1 how God created all thing perfect, including all humans made in his image so that EVERYONE has value and worth. Then we talked about John 1:1-5 how Jesus is the one who creates light and life through faith – and darkness can never overcome the light…no matter how dark. As I’m sure you can well imagine, things in Haiti can be pretty dark.

We then did our regular Vacation Bible School with the kids – a time of crafts, games, and more teaching.  One of the highlights was a soccer game turned varsity keep away with about 5 of us and 40 Haitian kids.  We schooled them…but of course we may have had the height advantage.  As Marc put it “That was chaos, but the coolest chaos ever!”  This also included the ever popular Haitian kid game of “Steal the bald white guy’s hat and sunglasses, pose, and make him take 30 pictures of us…” 

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We then fed as many kids as we could with 3 giant pots of rice and beans.  We took some of the last plates deep into the neighborhood behind the school, over raw sewage and past the neighborhood bathroom [which is actually just a pile of sand] to people who had houses deep into nooks and crannies.  Still there were met with smiles and a warm “merci” as we handed out food to people who probably weren’t sure where their food would be coming from.  

We then spent some time teaching English to the neighborhood kids, always a fulfilling…and fun time.  

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There were also many good conversations with some of the adults who were milling about the square.  Many young men came looking for “Mister John” and were happy to reconnect with him.  He picked right up where he left, holding a Bible study with anyone who was interested. 

It’s always a blessing to see Haiti thru they eyes of the folks here for the first time.  To see such poverty and yet see the joy in the kids eyes is a unique and powerful juxtaposition.  [Another Marc Bray word] 

We are looking forward to the rest of the week with the children.  Please pray for stamina for the team as it is absolutely exhausting in the heat, and most of all for hearts to receive the light of the gospel of Christ. 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God.All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.In him was life, and the life was the light of men.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  (John 1:1–5 ESV)

Haiti 2017 Days 1-2

Hello there, Haiti…it’s been two years, but it’s nice to see you again!  Team Haiti 2107 arrived on Haitian soil approximately 5pm Thursday night and went thru the usual chaos and uncertainty of customs and baggage.  Overall though, travel was smooth and uneventful…but long!  We are very thankful for God’s grace in our journey.

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We settled into the mission house at Deep River Mission, our home for the next 10 days, had some dinner, and decompressed a little.  The drive from the airport to the mission house was an eye opener, and particularly if you haven’t been here before, it is very sobering to see the poverty all around.  Still, this being my third time in Haiti, I found myself sufficiently sobered as well.

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One store had painted above it Malachi 3:11 which reads – “I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:11 ESV)  It was like a giant fist rising out of the ashes and boldly proclaiming “God is still here. Yes, this place is broken and people are desperate, but God will redeem. God will fight for us”  Indeed he has.  God has ultimately redeemed us in Jesus, in him we stand through faith in him – we will not be destroyed, we will be fruitful and productive – no matter what the life circumstance because the eternal matters of the soul transcends the temporal.

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Haiti attracts people to help.  I was surprised again to see the plane half full of Americans, coming to volunteer in some capacity or another.  I had the great pleasure of sitting next to a very successful surgeon, coming to Haiti for the first time to volunteer.  We spoke of the big questions of life and I was able to share my own passion in the gospel – as it alone provides the answers and the satisfaction our soul cries out for.  I pray for him to know Christ.

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We will spend the next 2 days preparing for next week’s VBS and doing work at the community center just outside the mission house.  Sunday will be the ever-popular trip to Children of the Promise orphanage, followed by the intense high-impact cardio workout hike up to the Citadel.  Monday starts the VBS whirlwind.

Thank you for your prayers and support.  If you would continue to pray for one of our own, our dear friend Stacey, who slipped last night and may have broken her wrist, it would be greatly appreciated.  She is in a lot of pain and I’m sure very anxious about spending the time here in Haiti with this injury.  We love her dearly and I’m sure she is hoping to soak in all that this trip can have to offer.  Pray that she still can!

Onward!

 

 

Haiti Day 5 = Chaos (and Bools)

So.  Yeah. Friday’s during Haiti VBS are nuts! Reason being…the kids all expect us to give them presents in the last day. We certainly has our share of soccer balls (about 50) and various other things…but when you have a couple hundred kids that doesn’t go very far.  Chaos is a good word to describe the atmosphere today. And shoving. Lots of shoving. With lots of yelling in CreoleEnglish telling us to “Give me bool.”  (Ball)

  
We did give away all of our “bools” via a contest where the kid lines up far away from the goal and gives it his best kick.  If he or she gets it in, they win the bool.  Here’s a pic of one of the attempts. I’m pretty proud of this shot, every once in a while I get a good one!

  

I had the opportunity to talk again with Alberto. He seems to be a legit follower of Jesus. I saw a man selling Bibles and bought one. After that Alberto asked me if that was a Creole Bible, which it was, and he told me that he didn’t have one. He only had a French one on his phone.  When I gave him the Bible his face lit up. He as so excited to have a Bible in his home language. Here is a shot of my bud and his new Creole Bible. 

  
Tonight we are going back to the town to hold a “crusade” – basically a church service. We will sing a few songs, and I am preaching from Luke 5. Please pray for the Word to go out and for it to penetrate hearts!

Haiti: Days 3 and 4 – All In It

I think it would be safe to say that we’ve all experienced a wide variety of emotions these last few days. Joy at seeing the smiles, laughter, and hi-jinks of the kids; bewilderment at how things got this bad and how we can best help; a dose of conflicted aggravation from being asked for money, clothes, shoes, wedding rings, candy, soccer balls, or water over and over and over again; waves of sorrow that can momentarily overwhelm you; and moments of seeing God move that can bring you to tears in an instant. 

The children are precious. They are so loving it knocks you over – sometimes literally. I’ve spent most of my time in the town square just playing with the kids in simple games like thumb wars, arm wrestling, and the ever popular “slaps.”

We can’t walk around outside without being mobbed with kids – such a great problem to have right?  Perhaps the only thing that rivals the beauty of the kids themselves is the beauty of seeing Jesus in the faces of our team as they show love to them.

  

The kids today (Wed) were pretty amped up. I tried to give away candy but had to bail when a near riot started.  They live to see pictures on my iPhone, and the really cool thing is I was able to show some kids pictures of us together from 2 years ago. Their faces were priceless!  This too I had to cut short as upwards of 15 kids would swarm me, with lots of pushing and shoving.  There is a ‘fight to survive’ mentality here.  There is never enough so they fight for everything. This is strange to us as Americans where we have such “order,” but we also have enough…more than enough, we have excess. I need to remind myself of this before I judge. 

  

We have had several very young children – like 2 or 3 years old – literally put into our arms by others. We hold them for long periods of time, some fall asleep in our arms. 

 
Then there are the young adults and adults. They hang back in the shadows and we try to engage them.  We try to seek them out to give them a smile, a touch, some food and water, or if the opportunity allows, to tell them about Jesus.  We gave this older woman some food and I was able to follow up and give her water, she thanked me profusely in Creole and the only thing I could think to say is “Jezi” (Jesus). He is the reason we are here, what we give you food and water, play with the kids, hold them, teach VBS. It’s all about Jesus, even if you don’t rmemenber us – remember why we came. 

  

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭42‬ ESV)

PS: Be sure to follow our team via #GPBCHaiti2015 – there are some great pictures going around!

Haiti – Day 3 – It Begins

One of the things I am liking the most is the chance that we have every night to sing together, be in God’s word together, and share what is going on in our hearts. Last night Alex challenged us from Matthew 19 that we desire most of the time to be first in yet Jesus calls us to put others before our own needs. 

 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

(Matthew 19:30)

When we do VBS in Haiti, unfortunately the opposite of this verse is in effect. There is a great amount of clamoring, yelling, and pushing and shoving him to be at the first of the line to have a chance to get in. 

I had the opportunity to preach to the crowd this morning – telling them we are here because we love them very much and so does Jesus. We see brokenness and the effects of sin and evil all around us – in Haiti or America, and God has done something about it. He has supplied us the restoration and healing in Jesus. Ours is to live by faith in Him while remembering what he has done for us in securing our new identity. 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(Galatians 2:20)

Today we started VBS and while it was controlled chaos, it still was chaos.  I saw some of the kids that we saw 2 years ago. But even in the midst of chaos,  the warmth and the love of the children is just absolutely amazing.

   

After our VBS classes we fed the community as far as two giant pot of rice and beans could go.  One of our translators suggested that would be a good idea to take some plates of food into the street and find the people that of been hiding in the shadows and bring them to them. This turned out to be a great idea as many were doing just that received the food gladly. 

 
After that we spent some time in small groups with children who wanted to learn English.  

We spent time showing them pictures from our iPhones are pointing to drawings and the books teaching them the English word for many common objects. The Haitian children are very excited to learn English and it was a blessing to spend some one-on-one time with them. 

  
We’re looking forward to a nice time together tonight over dinner and more singing and time of sharing this evening. Lauren has volunteered to lead our studying the word tonight and we are excited to hear from her. 

So far everyone is doing great and no one has become sick. Please pray for our stamina to keep up in the punishing heat and most of all for God’s word to have an impact in the hearts and lives of these precious children. 

Haiti – Day 2: Orphanage, Churchnp, and…Oh yeah…the Citadel

Welp, after a time of worship and a word last night from Psalm 1, most of us slept pretty well. It is H-O-T. Personally I don’t think I’ve ever sleep-sweated like that before, unless I was breaking a fever. (Oversharing?) Still, with 3.5 hrs of sleep on Friday, a sweaty 8hrs felt great!

After breakfast (we have 2 Haiten cooks here who fix us yummy breakfast and dinner each day) we set off for the Children of the Promise Orphange. They have many kids there and a few house parents that raise them and care for them. They also have some children with special needs. This was particularly hard to see, but my brother Josh spurred us on to love and good works and suggested that we pray with each child. One boy who was very restless and noisy became silent when we touched him and prayed for him. Many of these children will not be adopted, but some will. Some also will be cared for by loving house parents. Perhaps you are being called to be one of them?

We also were able to worship with the staff there today. We sang some songs and the watched a video sermon from 1 Peter 3:3-12.  To sing worship after seeing the needs of some of the children was emotional, these lyrics hit hard: 

Heal my heart and make it clean, open up my eyes to the things unseen. Show me how to love how you have loved me. Break my heart for what breaks yours everything I am for your kingdom cause, as I walk from here into eternity.  (Hillsong United – “Hosanna”)

It was a solid message on video from Pastor Lee Cummings from Radiant Church– our feelings and reactions are wired to our hearts like buttons that get pushed. Will we be Christlike in our reactions and actions?

After the service and some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we got in our vehicles and headed off for a bouncy ride to the Citadel. (my wife actually managed to leave there without stealing any of the children.)

This was my second time to the citadel and I think I was even more impressed this time. The hike up is quite a workout, but once you get there the views and history behind the massive fortress are amazing. See below for a great shot of my dear friend Josh with some cannons. Josh loves cannons. 

After the Citadel workout, the team was very excited to get some relaxation by the pool. Tonight we are looking forward to a yummy dinner and then some VBS planning. And then a time of worship and sharing together.  We have given the challenge for some of the youth to lead in a devotion each night and for tonight Alex has taken up the challenge.  I’m always thankful and encouraged when youth take up the challenge to lead. 

    

  As you can see, our room (somehow dubbed the honeymoon suite) holds all the supplies for our week doing VBS. Tonight we will talk about how we are going to get things done, but also how we are going to share Jesus with the children there.  May we truly love God and love his children. More to come!