Wednesday, April 2, 2014

He is Risen!

As we approach the annual celebration of our risen Christ (Easter) we are reminded that this is not just something worthy of annual recognition but, instead is a daily reason for celebration!  Our Lord and Savior is risen!  Our Redeemer lives!  Halleluiah!

It is the significance of this victorious event that causes Satan to shudder and to draw his followers together to create all variety of insignificant events to try to distract believers and potential believers away from the tremendous importance of The Resurrection.

In Haiti, Ra Ra bands will parade the streets at all hours of the day and night, playing dissonant music and conducting drunken dances to celebrate the crucifixion as “their victory” over Christ.  Of course, the irony is that we, as believers, also see the cross as “our victory” -- where the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God has washed away our sins and given us victory over sin and death for all eternity. 
Voodoo practitioners will do more marching, make more noise and conduct many sacrifices on Easter to distract and seek to mock the resurrection.  But their efforts are mere nuances, wasted breath to try to blow down a mountain, compared to the the majesty and significance of the resurrected Christ! 

As the children of MDL reach out to share the hope of the cross and the Messiah's resurrection this Easter season, they may face resistance and persecution.  Every Saturday morning, they wake up early and go out into the community -- into the ravines, the tents and out onto the streets -- sharing the hope of the Risen Lord.  The enemy hates this.  But our brave young warriors are strengthened and blessed when they see those they met that week appear at our Saturday and Wednesday evening worship services.  Lives are transformed and the Hope of the Nations is lifted up for all to see.  Yes, there is victory at the foot of the cross!

Please join us in prayer for the month ahead.  It will be true warfare!  The people who partake in these Ra Ra bands and other voodoo ceremonies are the parents and siblings of MDL children, the mothers and fathers of our feeding program kids and the family members of the students of our school.  They are the people who use our medical clinic and were assisted by Child Hope during the earthquake.  They are our friends and neighbors. Yet all they need is a chance to hear the Truth, to cut through the cultural melee that occurs this time of year and to embrace the everlasting Hope of a loving Father.
It is our prayer that, one day, these people will be regular attenders at our Wednesday or Saturday night worship celebrations.  That they will receive Christ as Lord and Savior and that the Truth would set them free.

It is our hope, that this season will bring a Harvest of Hope for the people of Haiti.  Please pray daily for the people of Haiti and our children as we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday!  That the victory we all know will become the same true victory for our Haitian brothers and sisters.

God bless you.

Celebrating the Risen Christ Daily With You,

The Manasseros

Monday, November 25, 2013

And a Child Shall Lead Them...

Prior to moving to Haiti, our family was involved in a full-time children’s music ministry called Mister Bill Music.  The Mister Bill Music Ministry was birthed out of my (Bill Manassero’s) early involvement, as a new Christian, in Children’s ministry.  Because I came to Christ late in life, at the age of 33, I felt I had a lot of “catching up” to do to make up for all the “lost years” so, as a new Christian, I always volunteered at my church for anything and everything they needed when they called for volunteers.  One of those “calls” was in the area of children’s ministry, or, more specifically, in the nursery, or, as my friend Pastor John McHoul calls it, the “poop ministry.” 

As a single guy, I knew nothing about about babies and even less about changing dirty diapers.  But I didn’t complain because I died to my old self and I was a new creation ready to suffer for the cause of Christ.  The veteran moms that served along with me used to get a kick out of watching me struggle with the complexities of baby maintenance.  But, over time, I eventually triumphed, learned the system and became a lean mean diaper changing machine.  

By the grace of God, I eventually got promoted up to the toddlers/Pre-K crowd.  Now they were fun.  I loved playing with the little kids.  I also was blessed to be matched up with a super Sunday school vet, a lady with 20 plus years of experience, who even knew how to make her own play dough.  She was the perfect Sunday school teacher and I learned a lot from her.  

When it came to “song time,” she put me in charge of leading the kids in singing little kid church songs little, “Jesus Loves Me,” This Little Light of Mine,” and “Father Abraham.”  The only thing was, I didn’t know any of these songs.  Having been raised a Catholic as a child, I never heard of these songs, so I had to listen to these cassette tapes (remember those!), learn the songs and then teach the songs to the kids.  

Now, I didn’t tell the teacher that I was a musician because that was part of my “dark rock n’ roll past” prior to becoming a Christian.  To me, music was of the devil (well, at least the music I used to listen to and play in my various bands).  But over time, and as I read God’s Word, I found out that the Lord actually loves music and that, used properly, can be a powerful means to glorify God and to reach young hearts with the Gospel.  So, one day, I pulled one of my old guitars out of cobwebs and brought it to Sunday School class.  Now, instead of singing along with tapes, I was able to lead kids worship by singing along with the guitar.

Years later, I got promoted again, but this time, I was the main Sunday school teacher for older kids and pre-teens.  To help reach the kids and help them remember specific lessons and verses, I would write little themed songs with a rock beat.  Certain songs became favorites for the kids and we would sing them all the time in class. Some of the kids’ moms would ask if they could come to the class and record the songs so they could sing the songs in the car and at home with their families.  One thing led to another and we ended up going in the studio and recording an album of some of the more popular songs.

So, to cut an already way too long story down to size, a local Southern California radio station picked up the CD, started playing the songs and before long, our songs were being played on over 300 radio stations in the US and internationally.

By now, I was married, had five children and a very busy life.  I had a responsible job and traveled extensively.  The only drag was that my business took me away from my family a lot and I didn’t like that at all.

As our music spread, many requests came in to do family concerts, play for VBS events, children’s camps and music festivals.  Unfortunately, it was difficult to do both music and my “real” job.  I loved the music ministry because I was able to serve alongside my family.  My wife Susette, and eventually, my kids, created hand motions for the songs and we even had a band with my brother-in-law Tim on drums, son Jordan on lead guitar and oldest daughter Jasmine’s boyfriend Danny on bass. We were a regular Partridge family!  Haha.   

We would do music events on a weekend here, use vacation time there and before we knew

it, were doing up to 30 music events a year – all while I still had a full-time job in business.   
The pressure was on and I felt the Lord wanting me to choose between my business career or full-time music ministry.  I prayed a lot.  I loved the music ministry because I was with my family and we were reaching children and families with the Gospel.  But, the problem was,  I never thought we would be able to survive doing music full-time.  It was a labor of love.  It was never about money.  I prayed more and the Lord made it clear He wanted me in full-time ministry.  But I just couldn’t see how it would work even though He said, “Just trust in me.”  After much much more prayer and much kicking and screaming I quit my “real job” and went into the music ministry full-time.  A giant leap of faith for me and my family! .
We sold our home, rented a tiny house, bought a 34 foot RV and spent years traveling and ministering together.  And the Lord always provided for our needs. They were precious years.

During those years, my daughter Ariana and I traveled a lot to places together where I couldn’t afford to take the whole family – Russia, Africa, children’s ministry conferences and special week-long events.  At a lot of the events we attended, Compassion International would often have a booth or display and Ari used to love to go and hang out at their booth with her best friend at the time Alyssa.  They would spend hours just looking at the faces of the children in need of sponsorship on the sponsor packets.  She got to know the people at the Compassion booth so well that they often asked her and Alyssa to watch their booth
while they went on breaks, even though she was only 8 or 9 years old at the time.

She would always show me the pictures of the children she wanted to sponsor and asked if I would pay the monthly sponsorship.  I thought about it but wasn’t sure.  I didn’t want to just pay for her to sponsor the child because then it would be “my thing” and not hers.  I wanted her to "own it" and appreciate the importance of what she would be doing.  Later, when Compassion International came to our home church, I told her she could sponsor a child but she would have to pay for the monthly sponsorship out of her own allowance and savings.  That way she would appreciate the true value of the commitment.  She agreed.  It was not easy and she struggled with only being able to choose one child.  Eventually, she was able to narrow it down to one little child.  She ended up choosing a boy named Donald.  He was from a place called Haiti.

She loved having a sponsor child and would write to him and patiently wait for his return letters.  She would send him pictures of herself and draw him little pictures too.  Her love for Donald grew and so did her love for the island nation of Haiti.  When she could get on the Internet, she would just research everything she could about Haiti.  She was impacted by the vast number of orphans and children living on the streets and in orphanages.  She would find orphanage web sites and print out pictures of all the babies at the orphanages and would put their photos in her “Haiti Notebook.”  (We went through a ton of HP ink jet cartridges during this period).  When we traveled, she would take her Haiti Notebook with her everywhere and stare for hours at the babies’ photos, memorizing their names and facts about their lives.

One day, when I noticed a jar full of coins on her dresser, I asked her what she was saving for, she  
responded with, “Dad, I’m saving to build an orphanage, hospital, school and church to help the children in Haiti.” And the rest is all history…

It started with a child sponsorship.  A child sponsoring a child.  And then, a child leading a family to Haiti.  And then a family being led by God to raise-up fatherless and at-risk children whom, Lord willing, will one day transform a nation. 

Today, other little boys and girls are choosing from amongst a bunch of photos of “Ariana’s Haiti kids” at Child Hope’s web site to sponsor a child.  To change a life… and not just the life of a child from the third world country.

This Christmas, some moms and dads are going to select a unique gift for their kids, one that will not end up broken or worn out in a month or two, or end up in a box at a garage sale.  They will give a gift that can change a child's life -- eternally. 

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14 
Child Hope has lots of children still in need of sponsors.  Children in need of an advocate.  Someone to pray for them, to invest in their future and give them a chance to succeed.  People who are willing to make a small sacrifice so that big things will happen in the life of a child who was once without hope.  A Child Hope child sponsorship.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child or giving a sponsorship as a gift this Christmas click here.  God bless you.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sergeant Dad

Two of our daughters, Ariana and Vienna, have been in California for the past few months and we are still missing them and adjusting to their absence.  Ariana is on a sabbatical and Vienna has started her first year of college at Santa Barbara City College.  They are both doing great. 
Recently, Susette had a very strong pain in her hand and she too left for California.  That left Mr. Bill alone, in charge of the household.  So now, he has Elijah, Frankie and Kenny and all the regular house duties (laundry, homework, running Frankie to ballet lessons, Elijah and Kenny to soccer practices, shopping, etc.) on top of the day-to-day duties of running the ministry here in Haiti.  Oh, and, I might add, temporarily taking over the Lighthouse Bakery until one of the graduates can step in to take over.

To keep it all in order, Mr. Bill has had to adopt a sort of paramilitary system so that the kids can better know expectations and have a little order.  For example, when requested to do something, the kids, instead of responding, “Sure, Dad, when we get a second,” they now must shout out, “Sir, Yes Sir!” and run to the task.  If just helps affirm proper ranking and respect.  The kids were doing pretty good for a while, until Mr. Bill started insisting when they came home, to change out of their uniforms in into camos to do homework.  But when they were required to clean the toilets with toothbrushes that  took them over the top.

So, after a little friendly advice from mom, he has backed up a bit and he’s down to only fifty push-ups in the morning, 5am wake-up call, instead of 4 and camos are now optional after school.

Please pray for Mr. Bill AND the Manassero kids and for a speedy recovery for Susette.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I Once Was Blind But Now I See

Spiritual attacks are a regular way of life in Haiti. One of our earthquake relief building crew workers died recently. He was a great father, husband and one of our best workers. He had a headache, went in to the hospital and just died. The doctors do not know the cause of death. Death - also, a common reality of life in Haiti. Members of his family say they know why he died -- he died because his brother put a voodoo curse on him. We hear this all the time here as well. It is sad. I'm sure we could debate for the next three years over whether the curse killed him or not. I honestly don't know but, being in Haiti, I won't discount the fact either.

Recently, we had a pretty intense week - the last week of three continuous weeks of back-to-back teams. We also had Adriano (a precious little baby who had a heart operation in the states) return to Haiti, our school graduation, are getting ready to go to the states and prepping for Camp-in-a-Box, summer school and a host of other activities. Right in the midst of this Angelo, our endeared family pet and Susette's constant companion since her bout with cancer, all of a sudden threw-up and lost his vision. He appeared to be completely blind. We rushed him to our vet and the vet confirmed him to be completely blind. The vet said he doesn't know why and has no cure or treatment.

We returned from the vet very sad for our little dog. He is the sweetest little dog in the world.

Elijah, our 11 year old son, didn't want to believe it and started weeping. We all started to question our faith and asked what are we doing and began to pray. I was very depressed and went up to my room to pray. Susette and our friend Scottie were laying hands on the dog, with Elijah, and praying against any demonic intrusion. Throughout the day, we continued to pray.

By the end of the day, Elijah was getting ready to go to bed. Angelo always joins him and crawls under his sheets. There was no change. We were weary and sad that there was no change. Elijah's eyes were red and wet. I told him that we can't give up. "Let's pray tonight that tomorrow morning, when we wake up, his sight would be restored." We prayed.

This morning, we woke up (i before Elijah and Angelo), and prayed some more. When Elijah woke, he came downstairs like he always does with Angelo at his side. Something was different. Elijah was tired and didn't realize that Angelo came downstairs without hesitation, unlike before. We looked at Angelo and he looked at us. He started licking our faces and was following us around the room. HE COULD SEE!! It looked like his vision was completely restored! Praise the Lord!

Yes, the spiritual battles are constant and, at times, very hard, but the battles help us to enjoy the victories and the victories are sweet! Thank you to our faithful, awesome God, Who can demonstrate His unwavering love for us through the life of a little dog.

To our God -- who is is immeasurably more than our worse circumstances -- to HIM be all glory, honor and praise!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Shaken But Not Stirred

It’s a familiar phrase to James Bond movie fans but it could be a sad epitaph for the Haitian response to the earthquake if we are not mindful.

As we reflect on the impact of the January 12th earthquake, here on the one year anniversary, I can’t help but think of those who were drawn closer to God as a result of the quake. I think of those whose lives were sparred who said, “God let me use this second chance to serve you fully, without reservation.”

Churches were packed. The nation had three days of fasting and prayer where I could literally roll down the windows of my car and drive for miles while listening to non-stop prayer, praise and adoration on the streets of Haiti. It was like nothing I have ever seen or experienced. It looked like revival.

It reminded me of the tragedy at the twin towers in New York City occurred on Sept 11. After the tragedy, churches were overflowing with attendees. People all over America turned to God. It also looked like revival. But with the passing of time, people settled back into their old, self-focused ways – mass consumers of entertainment, technology and total apathy to everything that didn’t affect them directly. It is all too familiar.

Will that happen in Haiti? Sadly, we’ve seen telltale signs. People who once worked hard to feed their families now get free food from NGOs that supply their daily needs at their tent city. They don’t have to pay rent. They don’t have to work. The tent cities have become ”the projects.” Non-government supported welfare. Rapes, robberies, extortion and late night drunken parties are common fare at the tent cities. These were the same people who, one year earlier, were on their knees during three days of fasting and prayer. But when the blessings came, what happened to God?

If the earthquake only caused people to be shaken without being stirred to respond to the will of God, then the loss is greater than all the destruction caused by the earthquake. Haiti, with its sad history of unstable governments, poverty, disease, famine and death, can be transformed. But it will not be through relief funds, nor a new president, nor NGOs, nor anything of this earth. It can only be by the mighty hand of a Mighty God, moving across this country in response to repentant hearts and a multitude of prayer.
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 1 Chronicles 7:14

There is Hope. The world should not forget what happened at 4:53pm on January 12, 2010 but, more importantly, the world should not forget to pray and pray hard for the nation of Haiti. The battle has just begun. God bless you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

And the Angels Rejoiced!

Haiti is a place of stark contrasts.

It’s hard to believe that, as I am typing this blog, people are rioting in the streets, fires are blazing and gunshots are ringing out. Schools, government offices and businesses are closed. Police and UN soldiers roam the street. Our orphanage is in “lock-down” mode. And the country is in utter chaos.

In the midst of this reality, I met Margolee.

Let me give you some background: A little more than a week ago, our friend and the principal of our school, Ivens, told me he heard about a young girl in a tent city, 17 years old but looking more like 13. A group of young boys said a girl lived in the tent city with four men and that were holding her against her will as a slave. We plotted how we could her out of there without the men harming her.

Apparently, she got into this situation over three years ago, when a person was visiting the girl’s village. The stranger told the mother of the girl that there were great opportunities for the in Port-au-Prince, that she could go to school, be taken care of and one day return to the village well-educated and much better off. The very poor mother, who could never afford to educate the girl, the oldest of six kids, agreed to release her with the stranger. They exchanged phone numbers agreeing to stay in touch and the girl left with the stranger. When the mother would call to check on the girl, the man who took her would always answer the phone and say the girl was out but that she was doing just fine. This continued for three years.

Ivens investigated the situation further, met the girl outside of the tent city and listened to her share her story as she wept uncontrollably. She was broken and fearful that the men would harm her if they found out she talked with Ivens. She was too afraid to leave and had no idea how to escape her situation. He told her that we would have her mother come and that the men could do nothing about it. The girl was able to sneak the man’s phone and find her mother’s phone number on it. Ivens was able to call the mother and explain the situation. When the mother heard the story, she was heartbroken and wanted to come take her daughter back to the countryside. We wired her the funds so she could take the 8 hour bus ride from her village to Port-au-Prince.

She arrived tonight, in the midst of rioting in Port-au-Prince. Ivens took a motorcycle taxi downtown to meet her at the bus station. She hopped on the motorcycle and they dodged burning tires, rioters and policemen, arriving at the tent city where her mother walked right in and claimed her daughter. They then came directly over to our house just in time for dinner. The mother was very skinny, tired and looked ashamed and embarrassed. The girl was thin, pretty, looked younger than 17 and very serious. She was expressionless and would just stare off. She was also very shy.

After they ate, we sat in the living room and shared how God had lead us to Margolee. That it was no coincidence. We talked of how much He loved her and how He wants her to know True Joy and Peace. We spoke also with the mother, how she should not feel guilty and how the Lord wants to take her burden as well. We explained how Jesus paid the price for our sins and that through His sacrifice and resurrection we are given a new life, a new beginning. Margolee began to cry and said that she wanted Jesus to be the Lord of her life. Through Ivens, we prayed with her and she surrendered her life. After we prayed, she started to cry and I saw her smile for the first time all evening. My heart broke. The angels rejoiced!

Ivens said their bus left early in the morning and they needed to leave. We agreed to pay school for the girl and help out her family with food. We said we would stay in touch and hoped one day to visit their village.

In the midst of Haiti insanity – Christ still has victory! God still reigns and is still Lord of all. Amen!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Freak Storm!

It was everyone’s worse nightmare. What if a hurricane or major storm hits Haiti with so many living in tent cities? Well, last night it happened. A storm that wasn’t even on the grid. A freak storm that hit with the intensity of a category five hurricane, all in just a matter of minutes. Devastation in minutes – just like the earthquake.

As I write this, we have no power and are dependent on generators for power. We are sparingly using generator power understanding that diesel may be scarce very soon. We don’t know how extensive the damage is yet but we know it is bad.

Yesterday afternoon, Susette was at the feeding program and I was on the way to pick-up my kids at school. We had no warning. It started with a few drops of rain, then, black black clouds moved in. Next, very powerful gusts of wind strirred radically, looking almost like a tornado. Then, the torrential rains hit, followed by everything else, all together. Tree branches flying through the air. Small airborne objects hitting the car. People running. Cars stuck or stalled everywhere.

When I arrived at Quesqueya Christian School it looked like a war zone. Trees down or broken everywhere. Rain flooding everything. Branches and other objects shot out of trees pelting my truck. By the grace of God I saw Vienna right away and was able to collect all my soaking wet kids. They were unharmed but shaken. Some of their friends had head injuries from flying/falling debris. The road I had driven in on had now become a small river and I had to cautiously navigate my way out in 4-wheel drive. Dodging trees, telephone poles and power lines, we finally made it home.

Our home was hit hard but with minimal exterior damage. It was just drenched. Water covered everything inside. Computers and electronics near open windows got soaked. We unplugged everything and cleaned up as best we could.

At the feeding program, the children were rushed inside the boys home as wind and rain pounded the area. The children (thank you, Jesus!) were not harmed. The water holding tank on top of the boys home was blown off and fell 20 feet like a crumpled piece of paper. People off the street ran into the boys home for shelter. Inside, we tried to calm the children and were able to continue the feeding. Many were crying as they feared for their family located in nearby tents.

At the girls home, trees broke and fell but no one was harmed. Everyone has huddled together under safe shelter. The guest house and school seemed alright as well.

To our surprise, a team from Maryland that was scheduled to do a special program for the feeding program kids showed up. They were soaking wet. It was just what we needed -- a Christ-centered activity to get the kids focused in the right place. We decided to conduct their program upstairs at the boys home. The team, a group of 15 dear friends from an African-American church in Baltimore, come every year. They love our kids and our kids love them. They conducted a very nice program with music, skits and lots of love. Afterwards our children led them in Haitian worship. It was a tremendous blessing.

We are just thankful, once again, for God’s incredible favor and protection. Thank you, Lord. We love you!

Today, we are going to do a walk through to assess the damage. Please pray for the children and our community. Hurricane season is not over.