We had a super quick, in and out, two-week furlough recently. The main purpose of this time was for us to attend the third (of six) retreat for the Soul Care Institute. We highly recommend this journey of the soul to anyone who is feeling bogged down, burdened, attacked, burned out, etc. Especially anyone who serves in some full-time ministry, as this is the primary target audience (although it is open to anyone). It is definitely a wonderful opportunity for individual spiritual growth.
Back in Haiti we continue to grow in our relationships with our fellow missionaries, our Haitian co-workers, and with others who we have met along the way. Our language (Creole) acquisition also is growing as each day we learn a little more…but never as much as we would like. Ugh!
Many Hands for Haiti (MH4H) continues to grow as well as an organization. We recently added four more staff members (two pastors and two classroom helpers) brining our total Haitian staff number up to 66. This is amazing and so good! I have to believe that we are one of the largest employers in the Pignon area (after the hospital). We are currently in the beginning processes of identifying the communities and boundaries that will make up our next “zone” in which we will build our second satellite center. This center will add more jobs and primarily serve local families through our Love in Action initiatives (PMJ feeding program and Power to the Parents programs). We hope to open this new center in January of 2022, Si Bondye vlè (if God wants).
We are super excited to celebrate the wedding of one of our dear American co-workers, Liz Clarke, on Saturday, November 7, when she marries a wonderful Haitian man named Odelin. While we are happy for Liz and Odelin, we are a little sad to be losing another house mate (Micah Aurand returned to the U.S. recently to resume her college education). We will wait to see how God grows those who will live in Irene’s Place in the future.
PRAYER REQUESTS FOR THIS MONTH
- For our dear friend and colleague Liz Clarke as she and Odelin begin their life together as husband and wife next month.
- For Haiti as there continues to be so much political unrest and economic instability.
- For the new school year that has just started. Specifically for the children as they learn and for the instructional staff and they teach and guide these precious little ones.
- For MH4H as an organization. The recent decrease in the value of the U.S. dollar has significantly impacted our finances and is jeopardizing what we are able to do as a ministry.
- For the safety and health of Haitians as well as for those of us working and serving in Haiti during these days of a global pandemic. Covid-19 is an added challenge to navigate.
WHAT THE FOODIE IS UP TO
Warning! This month could be titled “Missionary Muttering about Mistakes”
Celery, red peppers, cucumbers- three vegetables that made our day. It was a treat to find these at market last week. Silly us, when we asked the price of the celery we assumed it was for a bunch of celery. But we quickly realized that was the price per stalk. This was a reminder of how different food, economy, and culture are here yet again.
Last weekend I replanted my garden. Gardening is something I’ve always wanted to be good at – what with all the spiritual comparisons to preparing the soil, weeding, harvesting, and seasons, I just wanted to be able to have a hobby that reflected something deep (insert eye rolling emoji here). And as a foodie, I’ve loved the idea of growing the food, walking out to the garden to pick something fresh for a recipe, and learning how to preserve food. But then I realize I sound like I want to be a pioneer woman, but if I am honest, I don’t really want the work of that. Funny how ideals and reality reveal much about ourselves.
At this point I don’t know if things haven’t grown in my other attempts in the garden here because of the seeds I use, the soil, or one of the many “predators” chickens, guinea hens, or turkeys. Or, possibly due to lack of gardening knowledge to match my idealistic gardening dreams! So I increased my odds of something growing this time. If the packet said one seed every 3 inches, I probably threw down 20 seeds. I am not much of a gambler, but I like the idea of increasing my odds. With the herb seeds I just dumped all I had into a bowl and broadcast them over the “herb” part of the garden. How bad can it be if I eat a plant that smells like it should be an herb, and it isn’t?!
Last summer (2019) a labyrinth of lemongrass was planted on our campus for a contemplative walking experience. This month, Darryl and I reconstructed it with rocks. The lemongrass didn’t work out as envisioned, and rocks are plentiful here. Once it is completed the path of the labyrinth will be much more clear, which makes praying the emphasis rather than trying to find the path. The lemongrass idea was inspired by a labyrinth of lavender Morgan and I have walked through in Northern Michigan. The lemongrass was another way I am learning that my American ideas need to filtered through Haitian advice.
Since this month seems to be revealing truths about the reality of living and working in Haiti, here is one last one: What do you do when the group of people you are sitting with all agree that Creole is the easiest language to learn, but your reality is not lining up with that ease? Do you beat yourself up? Vow to put your “big girl pants on” and study more hours? Try harder to listen without daydreaming to the conversations going on around you – for the “immersion” technique? I found myself getting curious about it, wondering if I should try harder. Or if my work here isn’t about verbal communication with our local community as much as it is about something else, like gaining skill in the language techniques of waiting, listening, and presence. Although this conclusion may seem like a cop out, I am still wondering how God sees this…
“Above all trust in the slow work of God” – Pierre Telihard de Chardin (fellow science studying, God loving mystic)
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” – Romans 15:5
We had a wonderful graduation party last month and it was such a fun celebration with each class showcasing things that they had learned and prepared for the ceremony. A major focus for me these past few weeks is getting everything ready for the new school year, 2020-21, which began on Monday, October 12 and marks the 5th year of operation for our Sylvain Christian School of Light. It also marks for me, if my math is correct, my 35th career school start. We added another grade this year (2nd grade), a couple of new staff members, and we have 24 new students starting in our PS1 class this year. Our school is growing and our kids are growing. It is so fun to watch these kids grow physically and academically.
As promised last month, I will feature our goat program with some updates and lots of pictures. I am not even kidding….but our goats are! With our second year of annual controlled breeding cycle (May 1 – June 15), our 23 breeding does are just this week starting to give birth. This is called “kidding” in the world of goats. As of this writing/posting we are up to 24 baby kids born. Of these newborns there are 8 sets of twins (quite common among healthy goats that are not over-bred).
As with all animals, some mama goats are better than others and it is possible that we’ll lose some of these baby goats due to neglect. We are getting betting at recognizing this sooner and have been able to intervene and provide the necessary nutrition though bottle feeding. Hopefully this is minimal and I know our goat shepherds are getting better with each year of experience.
This past week we were able to do our first goat distribution for each of the 24 families with a student in PS1. This is always a fun day to be a part of MH4H as these families are so happy to receive a (pregnant) goat. But I have the most joy as I consider the end result of this program. It starts with the gift of a pregnant goat but ends with a child getting an education that the parents (not a sponsor) pay for. This year we distributed seven from our own herd and Claudin Augustin, our lead agronomist, purchased the rest in the market. These parents all took a class on how to care for goats and we also provide free monthly health checks for these goats along with free “stud service” anytime they are ready to breed their goat(s). Each family gets two goats during the school year that their student is in PS1. These families should receive their second goat next February.
This year we will be expanding our goat program to the families participating in the third year (Group C) at our Maliarette campus. Since we have decided not to construct and operate a preschool on this campus we wanted to still provide the same opportunities for these parents to receive goats, sell them back to us (we will purchase back 9 goats from each family for each student) and earn money which we hold for them in individual education savings accounts (ESA). Money that they can access to help pay for school tuition for their children. If all goes as planned we will be distributing 23 pregnant goats to these families later this month. We have had a couple of meetings with them and they are pretty excited about the program.
We have recently harvested a bunch of peanuts and will be harvesting our corn crop soon. We were not able to conduct Phase II of our seed corn project due to Covid and hope to resume that testing next spring. We also will have a congo bean harvest later this fall. We are also restarting our Alpha Gardens (family/Community gardens) where we do some extensive teaching (theory) and training (practice) with parents we are working with. Plenty of work to do in our agronomy department for sure.
UNTIL NEXT MONTH…