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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Haiti 2013 - Day 4

This week I am putting aside my normal blogging and writing about our just-concluded mission trip to Haiti. Three great servants of the Lord drove our team to Atlanta in the wee hours of Saturday morning, July 6th - and then drove back to Huntsville after dropping us off. Two different (very kind) folks did the same thing upon our return, and we arrived in the WHBC parking lot close to midnight on Saturday, July 13th. Compressing a week's worth of blessings, struggles, grace, mercy, thought, and anecdote into blog-form is proving to be more difficult that I expected but I'll keep at it...

Tuesday morning found me less sore than I expected to be after a full day of manual labor on Monday. I'm not as young as I used to be, and I sit at a desk in my workplace for long periods of time with little activity. Transitioning from a relatively sedentary life to one of heavy labor, I expected to wake up paralyzed. However, our God is great and He strengthened me.

After morning ablutions, I once again made my way up to the roof. This Tuesday morning, I preceded my Bible study and prayer with some stretching and isometrics in an effort to prepare my body for another day of construction work. Working through a series of exercises I typically use to warm up for soccer left me refreshed and feeling strong. After prayer, I read John 10.

As I mentioned in Haiti 2013 - Day 2, our team was reading Bruschko as our devotional material during this mission.
Now THIS is a missionary...

A couple of the verses from John chapter 10 resonated with me on this morning (all Scriptural references are from the NASB translation):

John 10:16 - "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."

John 10:32 - Jesus answered them, "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?"

Jesus was speaking to the Jews regarding His role as shepherd. In verse 16, it was clear that Jesus was widening His loop and letting the people know that they weren't the only ones that God wanted to bring into His presence in the fullness of time. Many of the Jews were not happy about that and this was very similar to the reaction that Bruce Olsen encountered when he went to Colombia to share Jesus with the Motilone peoples.

In fact, the Jews got so angry that they began to pick up stones and threaten Jesus. His reasoned response in verse 32 pulled them up short. In Bruschko, Bruce Olson endures unimaginable suffering in order to make contact, establish relationships - and eventually share Jesus - with the Motilones. As I raised my eyes to the faint light behind the mountains, it occurred to me again that Jesus did not promise us an easy path. The minor discomfort I was encountering by my physical labor was nothing compared to what Bruce Olson faced in South America - or indeed - what Jesus faced in the hours leading up to His death on the cross.

What did I have to give up? Or, as the song says, "Lay down,"?

Air conditioning; television; some personal comforts?

What was that in comparison? Frankly, I had it easy. It was time for a quick cup of Haitian coffee and a PB&J sandwich - then off to Bercy!

Time to lay down some re-bar!

I ended up only working a half-day at Bercy on Tuesday; each team that comes into MoH spends time during the week on what they refer to as Village Time. Village time can be anywhere in the communities that MoH serves. On Tuesday, we went to a small village called Guitton. Tucked off in a corner of a larger town called Cabaret, Guitton is a very poor community.

Our interns, Derek and Sarah, introduce us to the people of Guitton

The first thing I did was connect with our translator (Johnny) and ask if we could play some soccer with the kids. Johnny said, "Of course!" and led the way to their local 'pitch'. We had an old, half-inflated ball; none of the local boys had shoes, and our pitch was a patch of dirt near the south end of the village. There were no goals. To score in village soccer, you had to kick the ball against a cinder block that was stood up on its end. Each team had a cinder block as its goal.

We got smoked.

The Haitian boys were organized, moved up and down the pitch in concert, passed well and had phenomenal ball control. Our team was (mostly) old, out of shape - both physical and tactical - and despite having two or three guys who could play, we could never find a rhythm against the local's high pressure defense.

After about 45 minutes, Johnny called me over to talk with a man from Guitton. Mr. Evans was a serious looking fellow who spoke no English. My French is sketchy and my Creole is non-existent, so we carried on our conversation through Johnny.

Mr. Evans wanted to know why he could not get a job as a driver with Mission of Hope. He explained that he only wanted to support his family and that he had a driver's license. This was a struggle for me because I had only been at MoH for a few days and really did not understand their hiring practices. However, I do know that one of the core foundations of the MoH vision is to provide meaningful roles throughout the organization for Haitians. For example, the hospital on the MoH campus is fully Haitian-staffed; doctors, nurses, everyone.

I did my best to explain this to Mr. Evans. Earlier in the day, we had been held up at the entrance to Bercy by a group of men who were upset that we (white men) were working and they were not. We did our best to explain the reasons we were in Haiti and, that as much as MoH wanted to hire as many Haitian workers as possible, their budget does not allow unlimited local staffing.

This issue was one that I struggled with quite a bit on Tuesday. I spoke with our interns about it and later in the week had a chance to speak to the MoH COO, Bob King, about it as well. It's a constant battle. The unemployment rate in Haiti is around 75%. So there are A LOT of people looking for work. MoH is committed to putting Haitians to work - they are not a "give and forget" organization. Their goal is to bring life-change to every man, woman and child in Haiti. This means that wherever and whenever they can, they are plugging in a Haitian to work where needed. As I explained to Mr. Evans and some other men in Guitton, it's an exponential equation. As more and more mission teams come to Haiti and work with MoH, they are able to fund more and more projects and, the more projects they can fund, the more Haitians they can hire to work - both contract/construction jobs and permanent staff. Everywhere I looked on the MoH campus, there were Haitians working - security, transportation, medical, education, warehouse, motor pool, kitchen, maintenance, grounds, agriculture...and this was just on the main campus. As MoH continues to expand their campus at Bercy, more and more jobs will be created for local Haitians like Mr, Evans and his family.

This is NOT a rave!

Any blog about Tuesday in Haiti would be incomplete without mention of the worship service we experienced Tuesday evening. I shot the picture above at the end of the service - a two hour worship-palooza; that's two solid hours of singing and praising God. The worship leader took the mic during the last song and exhorted the people. Frankly, I'm not quite sure what he said but between his encouragement and the outstanding praise band that we enjoyed all week, the floor in front of the dais - and many of the aisles - filled with people worshiping God. Young, old, black, made no difference. We were all one, praising God in English and Creole and French - and probably some other languages too. 

Afterward, we walked back to our porch up the hill and had our daily time of discussing what we had read in Bruschko. It had been a long, full and fruitful day. I couldn't wait to see what God had in store for us tomorrow!


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