Well…our time living and serving in Haiti is over. It is hard to believe that this chapter of our journey is now done. Along the way, many people would ask us how things were (going) in Haiti. Our quick answer was “Really good…and really hard.” For those who wanted to hear more, we quickly obliged as we have plenty of experiences to talk about. The Really Good includes: the people, carrying out the great mission and vision of MH4H, mango and avocado seasons, the weather (except for the really hot months), learning about and adapting to context & culture (and language) in a third world country, sharing life with our American housemates and friends, recalibrating our priorities, and the list goes on.
The Really Hard includes: being separated from loved ones and friends, constant exposure to extreme poverty and oppression (and knowing that we could never do enough to help all), witnessing sickness and death as a daily way of life for Haitians (not Covid related at all), constant stimulation of all five senses (24/7 sounds, smells, dirt/dust, etc.), witnessing two steps forward and 1 ¾ steps backwards in the work (BUT trusting the slow work of God and accepting the fact that it may be a generation or two before the ultimate vision is realized). But our “hard” pales compared to the “hard” that Haitians endure each day. They are survivors and we have learned much from them and we’ll miss them.
It was (and is) very difficult to say goodbye to so many friends and colleagues and to walk away from a place that is so full of beautiful people with unimaginable need(s). But this is God’s work and it has been an honor to participate in it for this time. Many Hands will continue to do really good things in a really hard place. New people have arrived to fill the gaps and spaces that we occupied for the past few years and it is great to see their energy and spirit as they assume their new roles.
We now have the gift of a few months of transition. Coming off the mission field will require some intentionality to debrief, decompress, and recalculate what everyday living back in the United States will look like for us as a couple. It will likely be different than before we moved to Haiti. We expect it will be different. We hope it will be different. We hope to make some time to rest and recover. Perhaps some travel? At the same time, we continue to look ahead to our next adventure which as we shared last month, has us moving (back) to California’s Central Valley to serve in a much different part of God’s kingdom. We will be ready to begin this new work this summer but there is much to do in the in between. It will be really good but moving and saying more goodbyes in Michigan will be really hard as well.
Finally, we want to say again how grateful we are to so many of you who supported us during our time in Haiti. We were able to do what we did, to endure and survive, because of your support and encouragement which came through financial gifts, prayers, notes, and conversations. Thank you for lifting us up and sustaining us so that we could carry out our tasks to do the same for those we served here. We were better together for sure and your hands allowed our hands to participate in God’s work in this small part of Haiti. Together we have been Many Hands for Haiti. Thank you!!!
- For us as we transition off the mission field to life back in the U.S. and to our next “adventure” in California.
- For the logistics of selling our MI house and finding one in Visalia.
- For those we leave behind in Haiti. Those we worked with and those we served.
- For MH4H going forward. They have a wonderful mission and vision and God is using this ministry to build his kingdom in North Central Haiti.
- For God’s will to be done everywhere in the world, wherever we (and that includes you) are.
WHAT THE FOODIE IS UP TO
Over the last two and a half years, I have written about our experiences through the lens of being a foodie. Keeping in that line of thinking, I will write my good-bye to our time in Haiti through the language of a foodie.
food·ie /ˈfo͞odē noun
INFORMAL: a person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet.
I’m a foodie for many reasons: I believe that food is a gift to be shared. I believe that animals and plants and how they are raised impacts our nourishment. I believe that although I can’t paint or draw to demonstrate a creative spirit, I can cook and bake creatively. I believe that God can speak through how the gift of food impacts relationships and our bodies. So, when we decided to join MH4H and move to Haiti, and be defined as missionaries in the most traditional sense of the word, I would describe it as we were willing to look at changing where, how, what, and why we nourished others and how we ourselves sought and received nourishment from God. We knew we would need different recipes, ingredients, and tools than we had ever experienced before.
Some days I longed for PB&J – the tried and familiar way of living life. Not flashy, but filling and functional. But instead we were learning to taste new ideas, cultures, and relationships that were not familiar and challenged our palate preferences. Other times I longed for the soothing of a crunchy bag of chips or some Mayan Chocolate Pudding (look it up!), but learned to sit under a thatch roof and pray (or cry) or phone a loved one to be soothed by the Love of God. We often felt like we were tasked with creating a beautiful meal, but had not been given the keys to the kitchen or the pantry. In these times we degaje(d) it – figured it out with what was in in front of us with the whatever wisdom the Holy Spirit provided in the moment. This is not a reflection on our support or the organization, it is just an image of what living in a culture without your familiars: inner circle of friends/family and without your “normal go to ways” of loving people feels like. I most felt like “I had been let back into the kitchen” when we shared meals with our friends in Haiti, or when I was doing physical therapy sweating outside with chickens running around.
As a foodie I savor God’s love and seek to share the flavor of God’s goodness with others in ways their palates prefer, and in ways they can digest and be nourished in their hearts. Before Haiti I loved God and people with a set of recipes and ingredients that had felt creative and familiar. In Haiti, my old recipes – the familiar ways of loving God and people, weren’t going to work because I didn’t have my familiar ingredients – PT work, studying Spiritual Direction, circle of friendships with history, the quiet of the woods on an early morning hike, and the ongoing learning about holistic health and living. But Haiti taught me how to cook with new recipes and tools, and how to nourish with different foods. I learned that sometimes its less about the food – efforts and more about the heart and attitude of both the cook and the eater. I’ve learned that tastes and perspectives are strong and should not be judged. All I know is that this foodie has a whole new set of ingredients and recipes- ways to love others and God, but she will enjoy blending them with a few of her favorites too!
May you savor the Divine and always be learning new recipes to share God’s love in creative and nourishing ways.
My last five weeks in Haiti consisted of a combination of completing some projects that were still on my TTD (Things To Do) list and transitional assistance for the new missionaries coming in to take our places. There were three main projects, all school-related, that I wanted to get done before I left. The first, and probably most important, was the hiring of our first-ever school Director (think Principal). Up to this point, and with just three classes of pre-school and two grades of elementary school, we have been using a lead-teacher model. Our plan for the past three years was to hire a Director once we had students attending through the third grade (as we will keep adding one grade each year for the next seven years). We began advertising in early January, collected applications/resumes through February (we had 26 apply), invited five to campus to take a written test, narrowed it to three for in-person interviews, and selected one whom we offered the contract to. We are pretty pumped that Micul Pierre accepted the contract and will become our School of Light Director beginning with the 2021-22 school year. We introduced him the instructional staff this past week. At that meeting the staff also gave me a surprise going-away party complete with a cake, a beautiful song that they sang for me, and a small gift. I have very much enjoyed my time working with these ladies. We’ve had a lot of fun together!
Another big project to complete was collecting the height and weight data, and taking an individual picture, of the 120 students which MH4H continues to support through sponsorships, at three schools in the community of Sauvanette. This is always a fun project but usually takes a few trips to Sauvanette to “catch” all of the students as there are often absences or as was the case this year, one of the schools was not in session when we arrived (even though we communicated twice that we would be there in that date and that time). That’s Haiti! After three trips this year we were able to account for all of the students. The pictures will get sent to their respective sponsors and the height and weight data is used by us to monitor health and track growth (we also provide food and health services (via a school nurse) for these schools.
The final big project was collecting the tuition payments from the parents of our 100 students attending our School of Light on the MH4H campus. This went pretty well and the vast majority of the parents were able to make their payment on time. I did have to send five students home (after a week of waiting and sending home two notes) as this seems to be a common practice in Haiti schools. It worked! Within 15 minutes three of the five parents came to make their payments and within two days all five students were back in school.
There were plenty of meetings and conversations with those folks who arrived and will be filling the positions that I am vacating. Obviously, there was lots to share and lots to learn but they are very capable and I know that they’ll do fine. They know that I will continue to be available to them going forward and that I am only an email away.
On my last day in Haiti, right after our daily morning devotions, the MH4H staff had another surprise for me. Some speeches, some refreshments, a song, and then lots of hugs and goodbyes, and pictures/selfies. Oh, and lots of tears, most from me think. I knew that saying goodbye was going to be the hardest part and it was. But after being away from Shelly for this last five-week stint, I am also ready to be back with her. I’ll miss many things about life in Haiti; the beauty of the country and the people, kids from school, goat kids, fresh mangos and avocados, warm weather, my friends, and many other things. These last three years have been an amazing period of growth for me personally and I have been honored to participate in God’s work in this part of his kingdom. I pray that my work and efforts will continue to be “watered” by the Spirit and produce much fruit in time.
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN!!!