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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

On a Quest for Christ

Every summer we try to help our children to visit any relatives they may have. Those without any known relatives are encouraged to go along with the other kids. We believe it is very important that a strong family and community bond remain intact while living at the orphanage. One day, when the children graduate from our orphanage, it is our prayer that they will return to help their families and be a light in that community.

Recently, nine of our children, seven girls and two boys, traveled to their village near Cap Haitian in northern Haiti to visit family. What made this trip unique, however, is that it was more of a mission trip than a social visit. Each of them carried a burden for an unsaved relative that had literally kept them in prayer weeks before their trip. These are the same families that kicked their kids out of the house, sending them to Port-au-Prince to beg on the streets But the children had long since forgiven them and now were more concerned about their salvation. Some of the children had even written letters to me to explain who they wanted to see and asked that I pray for them and their family members.

Before they left, we had a special prayer and worship night where we and the other children at the orphanage prayed over and laid hands on the children going out. It was much like how churches pray for missionaries they are sending out to the mission field. Children cried. We cried out. We petitioned God – interceded. And prayed for God’s favor.

Junior, one of our young men who wants to be a pastor, went not only to visit family but to hold an outreach/crusade for the entire village. We donated funds so he could feed those who attended.

One week later, the children returned and couldn’t wait to share their trip with us. In the living room of our home, they spoke of relatives caught in the bondage of voodoo that, at first, chastised them and wanted nothing to do with their Christ. But later, Love triumphed and the children were allowed to conduct daily bible studies in their homes. They spoke of how they presented a solar powered Creole audio bible to their village. They shared how family members and others from the village gave their lives to Christ. It was very moving, beautiful and awesome to see their faces glow as they shared how God moved through and in them.

Looking around the room at this group of teenagers I could not help but get teary-eyed. They amazed me. “Wow!” was all I could say. Look at these young warriors for Christ – battling for the souls of their families! All I could think was -- Watch out Haiti! The best is yet to come.

How great is our God!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Three Days of Heaven

Three is a significant number in the Bible. The Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Seraphin cry three times “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Jonas in the belly of the big fish for three days and three nights. The Three-fold gifts of grace are Faith, Hope, and Love. The Three-fold nature of man is Spirit, and Soul, and Body. And, of course, the most profound, the resurrection of Christ after three days in the tomb. It is a number representing divine completion. That was also the number of days recently acknowledged all over Haiti as a time of mourning, prayer and fasting on behalf of the earthquake.

We were here in Haiti, of course, during this powerful time. For us, it entailed meeting early Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning in the Ben’s (our sports center) with all the MDL kids, staff, neighbors, displaced families and friends to pray, fast, worship, read scripture, share testimonies, hear sermons, lift up praises to the Father and petition and intercede on behalf of Haiti. It was one of the most powerful, incredible experiences of my life.

Not only was the prayer and worship time at MDL incredible -- seeing our kids on their faces, passionately crying out to God or seeing the families who had lost everything, smiling, laughing, even dancing to pour themselves out as an offering to God for His glory and honor -- but it was also what was going on throughout the country.

Friday morning, after praying and worshipping with everyone at MDL, I had to drive up to Petionville (about a 15-20 minute drive) for a brief meeting. When I left the orphanage, I had my windows down and as I drove I heard something I only thought possible in heaven – constant, unceasing, intense, continuous prayer, worship and adoration -- from all over and everywhere. People joining together, singing in their tent citys, in their homes, on street corners, to offer up prayer and worship to God. Churches, sounding like choirs of angels, overflowing into to the streets. Small groups in circles on the streets prayed intently. Large groups paraded through the streets – marching and singing hymns -- reciting scripture together in unison. And the most amazing thing was the fact that the “beautiful noise” never ceased -- all the way up the hill.

Add to that the irony – this same weekend was already a celebration weekend, planned out long before the earthquake. It was the beginning of Carnival week in Haiti, the single biggest Haitian event of the year, a Mardi Gras of sorts. A time when people sing, get drunk, celebrate voodoo, march through the streets, and often get very violent. It is a week when all schools close down for the week and many churches host weeklong “family camps” to pray against the “spirit” of Carnival. To hear prayer and praises to God replacing the drunken revelry of Carnival must have been like a sweet sweet fragrance to the Creator of all.

Many say this weekend was a turning point. A miracle. A second earthquake – occurring not in the earth, but in the hearts of the Haitian people. A time of repentance and turning to the One True God.

I don’t know if that is the case but I’m praying. I’m praying that this is a major shift in Haiti. That the gods of the past will be rejected once and for all. That Truth will overcome culture. And that the people of Haiti will break the chains they sought to break over 200 years ago.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6

Please join me in praying that this very special weekend not just be a onetime event but, instead, that it mark the launch of a new beginning for Haiti, a time where God is lifted up, first and foremost, above all, and that the people of Haiti be truly set free, once and for all, by the power, grace and might of a loving God.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Back in Haiti!

Sorry I haven’t written for a while. Unfortunately, I was flat on my back from a back injury and was pretty much unable to do much of anything. I was totally out of commission as the result of trying to draw a bucket of water from our cistern.

You see, our generator died and we were without power – which can actually be quite fun. We’ve kinda grown fond of “no power” days here. No DVDs. No computers. No video games. It’s kinda like “Little House on the Praire.” Sometimes, however, the kids don’t like it that much, because I insist they call me “Pa” instead of “Dad” during “no power” days. When I light the kerosene lamp I will warn them of Indians lurking in the shadows.

So, this one night, I was heading out the door saying, “You younins keep the door locked while I’m out fetchin’ water from the well. You never know what’s out there.” I could see their eyes roll in their heads behind the faint pale of the kerosene lamp.

When I made it to our cistern, I dropped in the 5 gallon bucket, (set my rifle aside for a moment) filled it with water and began pulling it straight up, I took a step to adjust the rope and “pop” twisted my spine -- the wrong way. “Aghhhhh,” I shouted, and down dropped the bucket and down I fell. It was pretty pathetic. I could have laid there by the cistern, moaning and looking pitiful for the next hour or attempt to make it back to the house. So I chose the later – I hobbled upstairs, making my back pain even worse. As I walked in the door, I expected my kids to be standing there shouting, “Pa! Pa! What happened? Should we fetch Doc?” But they were nowhere to be found. I had to make it to my bed by myself. That is where I remained for the next three days.

Fortunately, however, we had no shortage of aide with three nurses and a visiting doctor to assist. They had pain meds and back patches and all kinds of things that made it a very painless recovery. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about those three days other than images of visits from Doc Baker . When I finally was able to walk, I got up and realized I lived in Haiti, and discovered that much was going on.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Many of the journalists that were here to cover the earthquake are leaving. Haiti will slowly begin fading from the news and the eyes of the world. People will soon likely forget and go back to their lives and daily routines. However, for those of us on the front lines, the images remain. The smell of death beneath the rubble will become more commonplace. The pain and suffering of the people we serve will be more heart wrenching and challenging than ever before. Daily, we will be dealing with the toughest task – rebuilding, restoring and trying to get “back to normal.” And the questions: What about all the new orphans? Where will they go? Who will help them?

None of us is looking forward to what is ahead. The task seems insurmountable but we walk completely in faith. We are on our knees, praying that God will move mightily through this terrible tragedy. That it will not be the final straw of a country already doomed, but instead that it be a place for new beginnings– a renaissance, a rebirth. The Haitian people, better than most of the world, understand that this is a spiritual matter of greatest importance. They are asking themselves and the rest of the nation, “What do we believe? Where are we going to put our faith – in other countries, NGOs, relief funds and programs or in the One who can create and take life away?”
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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chron 7:14

Please join us in continual prayer for the nation of Haiti and let us help others not to forget. There are years, perhaps decades of work to do here. And although the press will move on to the next big story, we cannot forget. First and foremost, we must keep the Haitian people alive in our daily prayers, and secondly, rally our friends, families, churches, schools and communities to remain involved. When all others fade away, the Church remains. We are the ones called to a higher purpose.