We’re back in Haiti and adjusting back into the routines and culture that are life on our Caribbean Island. This is the third time returning and it seems, as it should, that the adjustment back is faster and easier than the previous one. This is a good thing! As was mentioned in the short email update sent out a couple of weeks ago, our recent furlough was less than relaxing as we dealt with some unexpected home issues. While those made for more work and less play, the time home was still very good as we were able to spend quality time with our kids, our families, good friends, and our beloved dog. And the extra work was not awful. We have insurance and what we dealt with is still pretty trivial compared to the hardships and issues that our Haitian brothers and sisters deal with on a daily basis. Perspective makes a huge difference and we are grateful that we have a renewed and renewing perspective on many things. It is good to continue be shaped and molded by and through our life and experiences in Haiti during this season of our adult lives. We did also celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary during this break and that was a special time for us as a couple as well. We have much to be thankful for.
We were excited to share this month a more formal introduction to the newest member of our family/team (in Haiti) by showing some pictures and telling you about our new puppy “Kairos.” Unfortunately, and with tremendous sadness, we can only share with you the news that he died while we were home. “Kai” contracted parvo and just was not able to survive despite the best efforts of our housemate(s) and a local Haitian veterinarian. We are not giving up hope on obtaining a puppy but we are not sure what that will look like now. Just know that we are pretty sad about this as we were looking forward to having an emotional support dog in Haiti. Trusting in his plan for this! We still have our beautiful dog “Numa” in the united states and loved being with her for a few weeks. We are also very grateful to Shelly’s parents for taking such great care of her while we are away.
As we send this update out we are super excited that our daughter, Morgan, and her husband Aaron are spending a week in Haiti with us. While Morgan has been here many times before (6) this is Aaron’s first trip to Haiti (although he spent considerable time as a child in Zambia). We love having them here and the opportunity for them to see what life is like for us on a daily basis. Shelly’s sister, Stephanie, comes next week so that will be great as well! We’ll use this to put in a shameless plug to ALL of you who receive and read our monthly blogs to consider and plan a trip to come to Haiti for a week-long trip. Not only would we love to host you for a week, we know how a trip to Haiti will be transformational for you as you experience life here and encounter a beautiful people who desperately want and need to know the love and provision of our God. Would you at least pray about it for a week (or longer) and see if this is something that you need to do? We are happy to provide you with all of the information that you would need to schedule and book your trip. You can come with others and form a team or just come by yourself. Whatever you want to do we can make happen. No pressure!!!!!
We want to say thank you to all of you again for your support and encouragement. Whether you are a reader of our blogs, a prayer warrior for us, a financial supporter, OR all of the above, we want you to know how important you are to us in the role(s) that you play. We know that God-willing (or Si Bondye vlè as they say in Haiti) we will be serving in Haiti for at least another 18-21 more months and having a strong support system makes what we get to do not only logistically possible, but also more effective. So Mesi anpil and Bondye beni nou. (Thank you very much and God bless you).
WHAT THE FOODIE IS UP TO!
Habitasyon – Haitian Creole for habitation. English words which describe one of my new favorite places in Haiti might be refuge, retreat, hideaway. Christi, one of our American co-workers shared this habitasyon with me this week and I think we both had huge smiles plastered on our faces the entire time Frè (brother) Arnold was sharing his garden with us. Not only was this place beautiful and a “thin place” (defined as a place where God's presence is known with particular immediacy), but it was also a display of this Brother’s immense knowledge of earth care and gardening. In the pictures you can see his use of banana tree bark for erosion barriers. His compost pile was “hot” and I could smell the richness of the forming nutrient dense matter. He even used old rusted out metal basins for container gardening in places. It was heart filling for me for sure, but based on Frè Arnold’s animation and words, he too loved sharing his land and knowledge. He was so welcoming and made the point that we are all one family. Thank you Christi!
If I am honest, the fact that we are living here is still surreal. And I struggle with FOMO (fear of missing out) often. But Christi is gently showing me in how she lives here how to be All In. Although Christi and I have very different personalities, communication styles, energy levels, and gifts, I am appreciating how she runs with God, while graciously encouraging me to sit or stroll with Him! We can both be the best “me” here while encouraging the other to be the best “them”. So I can honestly say that the good parts of being here are starting to catch up, and even surpass the hard parts. Just before returning to Haiti, I was given a book of daily prayer titled Venite. Which is fitting since praying is big part of what my role encompasses here. This book has been challenging. I have learned that my prayer language and how I hear or see God’s presence reflects my personality. This prayer book at first was nothing but frustration and sheer effort. SO MANY WORDS…… and SO MUCH REPETITION! But, I have come to appreciate the structure and intentionality, and even the ease of having a plan in place to systematically bring my awareness to more areas/people than I tend to gravitate toward. In full disclosure though, I will admit to tweaking parts at time in order to keep prayer from becoming obligation, and keeping it an ongoing conversation of listening and verbalizing!
Here in Haiti, I learned the phrase “mango moment”! Wish I had a picture to share with you, but yesterday, there was a group of guys standing around a mango tree on campus enjoying mangos they had just picked. When Craig pointed out their ‘mango moment’, I was reminded to keep recognizing the sweet experiences to be had here! Continuing on with the mango idea – I made mango chutney this week – mangos, ginger, cilantro, and onions. These are allowed to ferment a bit and the result is a sweet, spicy, flavor-full spread for cassava crackers! We can buy cassava bread, which looks like an 18 inch tortilla, with a bit more thickness. This is then easily made into crackers either via being left out in the air, or an oven can speed the process! This combination of cracker and chutney was my mango moment this week! Another great use for our abundance of mangos I’ve discovered is mango infused water. Just throw the pit into a glass and pour water over! Finally a way to maximize all the fruit I can’t get off those pits!!
This week we are having our first employee celebration, with all 50+ of our staff and families invited. Tim Brand and his family are coming today, and wanted to celebrate the people of MH4H and the goodness of God in this place. Cookies for the sweet part of the meal were decided on, and this provided me with time baking (Yay!) and practice shopping and communicating (smaller yay!) At one point as I spent most of yesterday baking peanut butter cookies I laughed out loud thinking about comparing Christmas cookie exchange baking I’ve done in the past with baking cookies for the fèt (party). Christmas cookie baking includes Christmas music – I had the sounds motos, guinea hens, dogs barking, and the agronomy guys bantering out our window. December baking in the Midwest is usually a great time to heat up the house with baking, but July in Haiti wasn’t quite as pleasant temperature wise in the kitchen! And baking in Haiti requires help getting the stove lit as I haven’t mastered that particular skill yet! But I do look forward to sharing a home baked treat with our amazing people we work with and their families, just like sharing treats with family and friends at Christmas time. I am looking forward to meeting families and celebrating with our co- workers. Stay tuned to hear if they liked the cookies and how the games we have planned turns out…..
AND – Morgan and Aaron are here for a week!! And my sister Steph comes next week. We are so excited to share our home in Haiti.
While I loved being able to be home for a bit and to spend time with family and friends during our time in the States, I did not feel very rested heading back to Haiti. Lots of house projects and traveling through and to eight different states in our final week, combined with battling a nasty chest cold, left me feeling a bit worn out. And I knew that there would be plenty of things waiting for me when I returned. I had left a very detailed list of jobs that I had described and assigned to various personnel (blancs and Haitians) to get accomplished while I was gone on furlough but as expected, some weren’t quite finished. I like to work off of my TTD (Things To Do) list so after meeting and debriefing with various colleagues I made my list and got back to work. What I found to be interesting this time was that the transition back into the rhythm and routine of life in Haiti went quicker than the previous times returning. We had been here a week and I asked Shelly if she thought it had seemed like a lot more time had passed since we got back and she agreed with me that it did seem like much longer than a week. I took this as a good sign. As an indicator that this place can feel like “normal” and “right” and “true.” Good stuff!
A quick run through of what was waiting for me and what is on my TTD list and on the horizon of things I have been and will be working on. First of all in the area of Education: The school year ended on June 19 and we had our first ever PS3 graduation. I wish I could have been here but I learned it went very well. Yay! The big task now is securing our teaching and support staff for the 2019-2020 school year. Since we are adding a First Grade this coming year it means hiring a new teacher and a helper. As of this writing we have issued contracts for all positions (8) and are negotiating those. Hopefully that will all be done soon and we’ll be all set with staff for next year. In the area of Agronomy: As was mentioned in a previous post we are experimenting with some genetically modified, drought resistant, seed corn. We’ve planted six identical tests at three locations one month apart. The first set of six tests which were planted in mid-March on our campus is almost ready to be harvested. That will be a labor-intensive process and it will be very interesting to collect and report the data. We also have completed our recent breeding cycle at our goat land and it appears that most, if not all, of our female goats are pregnant. With just a three-month gestation period the goats can conceivably (pun intended) start kidding (birthing term used for goats) in the next few weeks. I am very curious to learn if this new breeding practice (only 1X per year) will produce a higher frequency of twins and just all around healthier kids. Also in Agronomy we plan to begin the next Alpha Garden (preschool moms) training program in the next couple of weeks. It is always fun to watch these ladies learn about theory and practice for growing food from our lead agronomist, Claudin. Finally, in agronomy I am super excited to share about our raised garden trials with some of the local PET cart (Mobility Worldwide) recipients. We have identified three local men who all have received PET carts due to their respective disabilities and are working them to teach them about and learn if they are able to grow food in a raised garden(s). We have constructed three types of raised gardens (concrete block, wood, and a round wire and mesh material for each man (9 total = see picture) and are providing theory and practice training for these men as well. They are doing great and are super grateful for the opportunity to be part of this learning process. In Haiti, people who cannot walk or who have disabilities are often shunned and have very limited opportunities. What we are doing is so encouraging to them and has the potential to change the lives of many people who are stuck in similar situation because of their disability. In Leadership Development we are making plans to change the format of how we run this program. For the past four years we have worked with pretty large cohort groups (100 and 120 men and women) from a fairly wide distance radius. Starting in 2020 we plan to decrease the number of leaders (around 25), have them come from our own and nearby communities, and increase the frequency of the training sessions (from quarterly to monthly or bi-monthly). So as you can read there is plenty to do to stay busy. In addition to these three major areas that I oversee there are also many Miscellaneous things to do and be involved in. Most of these activities involve supporting a variety of other programs and activities that Many Hands for Haiti is doing.
What is so rewarding (and challenging) is the opportunity to do all of this “…in the name of Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3). Haiti is a very spiritual country. Most Haitians believe in God and spiritual talk is a common part of almost every conversation. Unfortunately most Haitians also function out of a theology based on fear regardless of their faith. This is due largely because of the influence of Voodoo that exists in this country. Haitians believe that the spirits dictate everything in their lives and because of this, they feel as though they have little to zero control in life. They have little very little hope and live day to day, and often moment to moment, wondering what will happen to them and/or their loved ones. We have an amazing opportunity to share God’s love and promises with these people and encourage and empower them to live a life of freedom in Christ. A life that is filled with hope and one that can be free of fear and doubt. What an honor to share to truth of the gospel (Good News) with them and what a joy it is to witness the transformation of lives and the one true Spirit takes over. This of course is the best and most important work that we are doing in Haiti.
UNTIL NEXT MONTH…