If you are confused by the title of this month’s blog then mission accomplished. It’s meant to be a play on words that reflects everyday life in Haiti. Basically this means that in spite of many changes that happen here in Haiti, nothing ever really seems to change. New roads that have been built and paved bring promise of better commerce. A national electric grid brings the promise of better productivity and quality of life. A recent drop in the Haitian gourde to U.S dollar exchange rate brings with it the promise of a better economy. Upcoming local and national elections will bring the hope of new leaders who will finally help Haitians to enjoy a better life.
Even with all of these changes, they are simply changes and hopes in promises that are never realized. The new roads have only caused people to drive faster and faster and there are more and more accidents and deaths happening every day. The national grid only works occasionally and has led to many injuries of Haitians trying to steal electricity by making home made power lines that run from the high power lines directly to their non grounded homes. New leaders are emerging all the time but once in power their promises are quickly forgotten as they gain power and fall prey to the temptation of corruption that has plague Haiti for all of its nearly 220 years of independence. The exchange rate dropped over 40 points (in a matter of four days) recently which in theory strengthens the Haitian gourde against the U.S. dollar but because the price of goods and services has gone up so much over the past few years, it has actually hurt Haitians as they’re buying power has been cut in half almost overnight. If the prices for goods and services go down it could be a good thing but that is unlikely to happen. The reality is that prices will remain high and in time the value of the gourde will again diminish. Only the wealthy, who can stockpile the American dollar or the Dominican peso until the exchange rate goes back up, will get richer. Haitians it seems are just stuck! They cannot catch a break. Oh, and on top of all of this…let’s add Covid-19 to a country that has no health care system and no testing (except again for the wealthy).
So as not to be all negative in this month’s update, let us share some more uplifting news. Haitians are tough. They are adaptable. They are survivors. They don’t stress too much over the things that they cannot control. They focus their time and energy on the things that they can control and that are most important to them. Unfortunately, they tend to focus only on the here and now (which is understandable given their situations) rather than on the future. With a mission to see transformation and a goal to see sustainable development we have challenging work to do. While our work is hard, we see glimpses of progress and results of God’s work through us. We believe in the mission and vision of Many Hands for Haiti and we continue to trust the slow work of God.
Prayer Requests this Month
1. Pray for Haiti! Specifically for the economic situation. Pray that the value of Haitian money and the prices of goods balances out.
2. Pray for our physical health and safety as we work in a setting that just has so many unknowns. We don’t live in fear but we also don’t want to get sick or hurt.
3. Pray for our spiritual health as we are constantly at war with the spiritual forces.
4. Pray for our eyes to see and our ears to hear exactly what God wants us to so that our work can be laser focused.
5. Pray for our American team as we live and work together. There are plenty of shared experiences that bring both joys and challenges.
WHAT THE FOODIE IS UP TO
To start off, I want to share that the dried mangoes were delicious! They did turn a bit dark, but no darker than ones I have bought in the US. We missed mot of the mango season, but enjoyed what was still available. When I shared the dried fruit with our Haitian friends, most said it tasted good, but didn’t really want anymore. I get the feeling that dried mangoes are NOT the next big market item around here!
French melons (very similar to cantaloupe in taste, and look like an elongated muskmelon) were plentiful. We really enjoyed the mango/melon sorbet we made. It’s presentation (in the blue bowl) doesn’t do it justice!
Returning to the market has provided some old favorites, as well as some new items. We have also found a meat delivery service from Port Au Prince. “Farmer John” is an American who is raising livestock and training Haitians in the business of farming. We are able to get beef, pork, chicken, and eggs delivered to Pignon about once a month. We can make a pound of hamburger go a long way!!! I’m not sure what has taken me so long to figure out that we can make amazing stir fry here, but we have been taking advantage of the local produce! We use a leafy green that goes by the name Epina here. In the states it is known as Pigweed. And in health food stores it is known by its seed like grain Amaranth. So one plant has three very different identities: in Haiti it is considered as nutritious as spinach. In the farming world of the US it is considered a noxious weed. And in the health food industry, it is known as a gluten free mineral rich grain. I feel like there is a parable in this somewhere—something about, do we let culture determine our value and identity, or are comfortable with being known as a child of God the Creator of Life regardless of where we are? Ouch – that might have hit a little too close to home for me….
One other new food we tried this month is breadfruit. Here is an interesting history on the plant:
Breadfruit did not originate in Haiti. According to the Haitian version, Henri Christophe (the king of the north of Haiti during the early 1800’s) dispatched his servants to the Pacific islands to search for and transplant this staple to Haiti. After several unsuccessful attempts, the servants (who had never seen breadfruit before), finally returned with the actual plant that Christophe was seeking. After such a long wait, the story goes that King Christophe exclaimed in French, “C’est L’Arbre Véritable!” (“This is the true tree!”) Under his reign, breadfruit was planted abundantly in the land of Haiti and is one of the most plentiful foods available there. In the course of time, the name “L’Arbre Véritable” gradually descended into the Creole rendering of “Lam Veritab.” “Lam” means “soul” in Creole. The digression from the “true tree” to the “true soul” only proves how the variants of language can alter meanings over time.
Funny how foodie information seems to be prime for parable lessons! Once again I find myself wondering how my name or reputation has morphed over time. And maybe more importantly, am I living in my “true soul” as created by God? Wow, it is always good to see how God uses how we are wired, for me to be fascinated by the human body and food, to teach us more about Him and about ourselves. How does God teach you?! Here’s just a little more food for thought –
1 Corinthians 10:31-33 (The Message)
So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory. At the same time, don’t be callous in your exercise of freedom, thoughtlessly stepping on the toes of those who aren’t as free as you are. I try my best to be considerate of everyone’s feelings in all these matters; I hope you will be, too.
Wow! Has my work this past month been fun! It has been fun getting the school restarted after a five-month shutdown thanks to C-19. It has been fun observing the families reengage with MH4H as we have restarted our PMJ feeding program. It has been fun working with our Agronomy staff as we have been busy planning for and dreaming about some upcoming programs and projects (more on these next month as I plan to feature our Agronomy department). It has been (mostly) fun working on assembling our instructional staff for the 2020-21 school year. All eight of our current staff our returning and we recently interviewed five candidates for two new positions as we add a new class (2nd Grade) next year. It has been fun planning for our PS3 graduation (taking place September 18 = pics next month) as well as holding some parent meetings, getting new school uniform measurements, getting the new 2nd Grade classroom ready, etc.. We’ll start the new school year on October 12.
While I continue to serve as the director of three main pillars of our in-country ministry, namely Education, Agronomy, and Leadership Development, I now have a new job title (Chief Operations Officer) with some additional responsibilities. As our ministry has really grown over the past few years (new programs, a growing school, a second campus (with plans for a third campus opening in January 2022), 58 and soon to be 62 Haitian staff members, etc.) these organizational structural changes were needed. While there are some changes our mission and vision remain unchanged.
I am learning each day that I work and serve in Haiti. God is teaching me things about himself, his creation, his people, and his will. God is teaching me things about me and about how he wants me to serve, and lead, and love. I am being reminded each day here that God is in control and that my job is not necessarily to get it all right but rather to remain faithful to what he has called me to do at this time. God’s sovereign will is going to be realized in his time and in his way. He can use me and I believe he desires to use me in this but he doesn’t need me. I see this nearly every day. I see it when things are going great, as planned, on schedule. And I see it, even through my grimaces and squinting, when the days are hard and the work seems futile. While things are changing all the time and all around there is a constant. God’s unchanging power and love are steadfast. His mercies are new every morning. Great is his faithfulness (paraphrased).
UNTIL NEXT MONTH…