Thursday, March 31, 2011

God Is Still In Control

Helicopters buzz overhead as I lean closer to the razor sharp security wire, careful not to touch it, and peer over the wall. Thick branches of leafy Bougainvillea block my view of the street below.

"Mom, what are you doing?" I hear Jayden's questioning voice below me.

"I'm coming Jayden, just wait there!"

I shift positions, but other then glimpses of the dusty rocky riverbed that's supposed to be our street, I can't see the tank.

"Hmm, what now?" I wonder.

"Mom!" Jayden interrupts my reverie and I turn around and climb down from my perch.
"Were you tricking me Mom?" He asks now. "No Jay," I laugh. I just wanted to get a picture of the tank!"

I look down at my pajama clad little boy with his messy bed hair and bare feet.

I'll get him changed in a minute, I decide, as I scoop him up and peer through a narrow opening where the gate meets our thick security wall.

The tank is still there. I walk to the opposite end of our gate and notice a half a dozen police officers and a UN vehicle on that end of the street. Better not try anything sneaky, I decide. I don't want them to think I'm spying!

If I want a picture of the tank now's my chance though! It's not every day we have one protecting our street!

Balancing Jayden on my hip, I ease open the gate and walk up the rutted street towards the tank. A soldier is sitting on a lawn chair and as I come closer I point to my camera and then at the tank. He nods and then stands up, posing with his gun. I guess I'd better have him in it too, I decide, not wanting to offend him.

I snap one picture and then walk closer to the tank.

I snap another picture and am just ready to turn around when I hear knocking on the tank window. A second later the door opens and four more soldiers spill out, guns and cameras in hand. Their uniforms proudly displaying the word 'Bangladesh'.

They smile and wave hello and once I've snapped some more pictures they beckon for me and Jayden to come stand with them.

Jayden, not terribly impressed with the whole paparazzi thing, turns his head as cameras get passed from hand to hand and pictures are snapped. A minute later my camera batteries go dead, so I thank the soldiers and say goodbye.

Walking the short distance to our house, I can't help but wonder about the almost daily increase in security. Now our tiny street sports a tank with 5 soldiers, a UN truck with 5 soldiers and at least a half a dozen Haitian police officers! Just when I think there can't possibly be more soldiers and police guarding our dusty excuse of a street, more show up!

Not that I mind. Both the police officers and UN soldiers have been the epitome of politeness and friendliness and besides that, extra security around our house is never a bad thing.

Back inside my thoughts wander to the conversation I had with Denise earlier this morning.

"If Madame Manigat (one of two candidates) gets voted in, fairly or not, I'm afraid this country is going to explode," she had said. "I was listening to the radio and President Preval said he would rather die then have the other candidate Michelle Martelly become president! At the markets right now it's almost impossible to find machetes or knives. Martelly's supporters have bought them all, so if he doesn't get in they'll burn the city down and go on a rampage. Food's going to get even more expensive, so I'm going to shop today before results are announced Monday!" She sighs.

"God is still in control," I remind her gently as she worriedly runs her hands through her dark hair. She looks at me for a moment and then nods.

I think back to the verses I memorized yesterday. Hebrews 13:5-6 For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

God is still in control, also of Haiti, and whatever political drama may or may not transpire in the days ahead.

God is on His throne.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Refreshed & Renewed

Fluffy white clouds hang motionless in the humid Caribbean air as our airplane glides smoothly over the city. I edge closer to the window and play with my camera settings until I find the aerial mode. I point, focus and click.

Port au Prince from above is something to see!

The city slowly disappears from view and is soon replaced by dry, arid mountains. Deforested to manufacture coal.

It's a sad sight.

Just like we regularly need rest and renewal, Haiti needs it too, badly.

We continue to climb until we reach the clouds.

Their bright whiteness makes me squint and for a moment takes me back to a time and place where I'm surrounded by snow. A pang of homesickness hits me. It's been a year since I've seen snow. Not that it's snow that I really miss, but it reminds me that it will have been a year before I see my family again in June, God willing.

A year is a long time.

I reminisce for awhile and then drag my attention back to the present. Today is an exciting day and I am looking forward to a relaxing and refreshing week.

We're on our way to the Dominican Republic for our MAF staff retreat, and to top it off we're flying all our own airplanes!

A year ago, when a team of Americans were detained by the Haitian justice system, MAF provided both emotional and physical support to the team members. As a thank you, the church where the team was from sent money and one of their pastors and his wife for our staff retreat. To keep costs down we decided to fly our own planes, and since the Dominican hotels are cheaper then the ones in Haiti we opted to fly across the border!

The total flight time is only an hour and 15 minutes and I marvel at the changes in landscape as we cross the border. Dry, bare mountains are replaced by flourishing green ones. Lush, tropical, beautiful.

It doesn't take long before a nice paved runway appears. Jason lands the plane smoothly and before I know it we're on the ground. 15 minutes later we're on a bus headed to our destination.

The hotel consists of individual villas and they are beautiful!

We put away our bags and then walk hand in hand to the beach. Turquoise ocean, sparkling sand. My eyes feast!

Jayden armed with Thomas and friends soon gets to work making tracks in the sand.

We walk further and enjoy the view from a rocky cove.

The landscape and bird-life are beautiful.

Walking back to our rooms the sun begins to sink. After an early dinner I fall into bed exhausted. 13 hour later I feel a lot better but continue to sleep 13 hours a night for the remainder of our stay. We've been so busy these past months!

Not only do we now have time for physical rest we spend hours each morning studying God's Word which provides spiritual refreshment. Under the guidance of Pastor Hamm, we spend our mornings studying the book of Philippians. As we study each of the four chapters, these truths in particular speak to me.

Philippians 1: Rather then focusing on our circumstances, to look at suffering and trials as opportunities to advance the gospel.

Philippians 2: Jesus wants us to be unified in Him regardless of our backgrounds, denomination, or character traits, to advance the gospel.

Philippians 3: To count everything we've done as nothing in the light of who Christ is and what He has done for us.

Philippians 4: The God of peace is the provider of all things.

When we've finished one of our morning sessions, the entire MAF team gathers together for a group photo.

The days go by quickly and before we know it, it's time to pack up and fly back home.

Once again I peer out the window and marvel at the beauty of God's creation.

Nearing the Port au Prince airport, I notice newly planted fields of trees.

How fitting it is to see physical proof of hope and renewal for Haiti, especially after experiencing rest and renewal ourselves!

Haiti News!

Former president Aristide who had been exiled to South Africa returned to Haiti, Friday, March 18. What this means for Haiti, only God knows.

The second round of presidential elections are scheduled for tomorrow, March 20. For us this means a day indoors and a home service. We pray and ask you to pray with us for God's will to be done and peace for Haiti.

With thanksgiving, we would like to share that a friend and fellow missionary in Jacmel has been released after spending 5 months in a Haitian prison without trial.

Monday, March 14, 2011


14 years ago, two young children were adopted from Haiti.

Their mother had died and their father was unable to provide for all four of his children. His youngest daughter was only 9 months old and he soon realized that her only hope of survival was giving her up. The first orphanage he took her to was full but a friend recommended a second one and that's where he brought his precious little girl. He visited her every week and although he missed her dearly, was happy to see she was alive and well. 6 months later, when his second youngest, a three year old son, became sick and weak, he sadly brought him as well.

At the orphanage, he agreed to allow them both to be adopted together, but it still took months before the adoption process was complete. During this time he traveled every week to the orphanage to visit his two precious children.

One day he came to visit and found them both gone. All that was left was a photo of a very special family that had come from Canada to adopt his children. He treasured this picture and then slowly made his way back home. Would he ever see them again?

The adoptive mother kept his memory alive by taking the only photo she had of him, enlarging it and hanging it in the children's rooms. She looked at it often and always wished that she and her husband had had a chance to meet him. A chance to tell him they would love his children, treat them like their own and raise them in a Christian home.

14 years later the adoptive father and mother took their Haitian son and daughter and together flew back to their country of origin. Haiti.

Prior to their arrival they spent much time and effort trying to locate the biological father of their children. They sent inquiries to his last known address and paid for daily radio ads asking if anyone knew any information about him, but it was all to no avail.

It wasn't till the day after they arrived in Haiti that we received a phone call. God's perfect timing. It was the children's half brother. He was very happy to hear from them and immediately contacted their father. We soon learned that since the earthquake, the children's father had moved back to his grandparent's land near Jacmel because he had lost both his home in Port au Prince and his livelihood. The earthquake had caused the house he had rented to crumble, and all his animals had died in a landslide. There was nothing left for him to do but move back to a piece of land his grandparents owned far away in the mountains.

Now 54, he was old, but at the news of his childrens' visit he hiked 12 hours from his home up in the mountains to the nearest road, where he could take a tap tap to Port au Prince.

The day of the meeting began early and he dressed in his best clothes. Was this real? Would he really get to see his children again after fourteen years?

Suddenly they were there, standing in front of him. His son looked just like his deceased wife, while his daughter looked more like himself. He held their hands and smiled and smiled. "I'm so happy to see you!" He kept telling them, tears in his eyes.

There were other people with his children, talking and asking questions, but he had eyes only for them. Were they happy? Had he made the right decision so many years ago?

The adoptive mother had brought photo albums of his children for him to keep and as he looked through them at his children's smiling faces and watched them interact with their adoptive parents, he knew he had made the right choice.

Of the four children, his oldest daughter had died 5 years ago in childbirth, but his other son was still alive.

We drove to where he was living with an aunt and uncle and the reunion was sweet. "I pray for you everyday," the brother who was only fifteen months older, said to his younger brother and sister. "I'm so happy to see you!"

He bore a striking resemblance to both his younger brother and sister and they were full of questions.

When asked what he hoped to do for work when he finished school he explained he had always dreamed of being an auto mechanic. "But that's what I want to be too!" said his younger brother amazed.

I was translating for them, and finally asked the older brother if he had any questions for his younger siblings. He looked at them for a moment and then said to me. " I just want to know if they know Jesus." I struggled to hide my tears. For all the questions he could have asked, he asked the most important one.

With promises to stay in touch the two families hugged. Watching them I decided that this day was one of my best days ever.

Jesus said "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10b

In the midst of the day to day difficulties and challenges of living in the third world Jesus has given us a life more abundant then I could ever have dreamed or imagined. A life centered on Him.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Final Team Post

Well our trip has come to an end!

We had a very productive time in Jacmel, and completed 8 homes in the time we were there. Our Haitian crew also did an incredible job, and managed to paint and pour the floors in all the homes we had framed by the time we needed to leave.

On Saturday the women were all able to volunteer at His Hands and Feet Orphanage and help Dr. Ken Pierce and his wife look after some of the 56 children there. It is a very well run and funded organization, and the kids were well fed, cared for and loved.

At lunch on Saturday, as I was sitting at the table in the hotel restaurant, my chair suddenly collapsed. As the entire group burst into laughter, the waitress, with a big smile on her face told me, "You big fat!" Only in Haiti! Life is always interesting here.

Saturday evening we went to Hotel Cap Lamandou for dinner. This is a beautiful hotel in Jacmel that was recently purchased by Comfort Inn, the first major hotel chain to invest in Haiti. This is hopefully a sign of things to come. We all enjoyed excellent burgers and fries for dinner, our first since leaving the States.

Sunday morning we were invited to a neighboring Protestant church by one of the Haitians. We followed him in the morning to the Apostolic Church of Cay Jacmel and worshiped with them for an hour or so. The service started at 6 AM and ended around 11:30, so we didn't stay for the entire service. It was a Creole service, but they were very helpful and gave us French hymnbooks so we could sing along with them. Later, we had a time of Bible study together about the mercy seat and the tabernacle, and how it represents Jesus Christ and the work of salvation. It was a very good Sunday.

On Monday morning we were all up early and ready to leave by 7. Because we couldn’t fit all of us on one flight, the Beeke’s and Joyce stayed in Jacmel till noon, when they were picked up by tap tap, brought to the airport, and flown back to PAP by Jason.

AJ and I were able to fly as copilot with Jason and John, another MAF pilot, on several flights to Hinche, Pignon, and La Gonave. It was very neat to see the southern part of Haiti from the air, and be able to fly into the more remote villages. At La Gonave, one little boy who had never seen a white person, screamed in terror every time we came close.

Coming back to the rubble and devastation in PAP was hard to take after the beauty in Jacmel. The difference between the two is incredible. While there is poverty in both areas, the natural beauty of Jacmel seems to make it less extreme.

We are looking forward to seeing our children and being home again, but not looking forward to the cold weather!

Chris & Joyce

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Jacmel Update II

Tuesday morning we left Port au Prince and flew with Jason to Jacmel. What a beautiful and scenic flight!

We flew over the ruins of the parliament buildings and national cathedral.

The devastation in Port au Prince soon gave way to dry, red mountains with scattered homes and grass huts.

Other then the occasional cattle tied to stakes the mountains were bare with almost no trees in sight.

As we flew over one hilltop, we saw a circle of people with hands joined, praying. We climbed higher to 5,500 feet and the dry hills gave way to the lush green forests of Jacmel. The contrast was amazing!

We flew down the coast and marveled at the beautiful coastline, turquoise water crashing into the cliffs, beautiful bays and coves, and scattered sandy beaches.

With a textbook landing, we were on the ground in Jacmel. The airport terminal was a beautiful new building recently completed since the earthquake.

We carried our bags and all the paint for the homes to a waiting tap tap.

Shortly after we were on our way to the Calvary Chapel’s work site. The work site included a furniture factory where they were building church pews, desks for schools, and all the furniture for a new school in Jacmel. At the site we found Jilne, Mikenson, and the rest of the Haitian workers from PAP busy loading materials for our first house.

Once everything was loaded we hopped back into our tap tap and Jak, our driver, brought us to our first home.

Driving in Jacmel was much different then driving in Port au Prince. The roads were paved, and clean! The vegetation and natural beauty was also astounding. At our first home, we were holding bunches of bananas out of our way so we could swing our hammers!

At the job site we had no water with us, so we gave one of the Haitians a few dollars and they came back with Coke and Sprite for all of us. We also had been given a Haitian phone by MAF, so we were able to phone Jak whenever we needed a ride.

At our second home we were working in the middle of a field full of peas, with palm trees overhead and a creek running near the home.

When we arrived at the third home of the day around 3:30, the rest of the guys had it almost complete! Nearly three homes in our first day and it was only a part day!

Jak then brought us to Calvary Chapel’s guest house, which was a beautiful home located on a bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

We showered, enjoyed a delicious meal of Haitian rice, beans and chicken, and relaxed on the balcony for the night. Good discussion and an ocean breeze made for a relaxing evening.

The next morning we awoke at 5:30 a.m. and went down for a breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. Jak then brought us to complete the last home from yesterday. We were done around 9:00, but had to wait for Jak as he had a flat tire (a common occurrence). The homeowners were ecstatic with their home and brought us thick, sweet, Haitian coffee and fresh bread. The bread was delicious, though the coffee was a little sweet for us.

At our second home we worked in the shade of several huge mango trees. At noon a local boy climbed up about 40 feet into the tree and picked some fresh mangoes for us.

We enjoyed them for dessert!

At the last home we were brought chicken, deep fried plantain, onions and tomatoes. Even though we already had lunch, we ate so as not to offend them. It was delicious!

After returning to our home for the evening, we asked for directions to the beach. They asked one of the girls who lives at the guest house to lead us there, so she led us on a ten minute walk down the bluff to a beautiful beach.

Colourful fishing boats were pulled on shore, and a few locals were enjoying the water.

We relaxed in the warm, refreshing water and enjoyed the beautiful setting. It almost made us feel guilty for being there, but not quite.

All in all it’s been a wonderful couple of days, and while we miss our wives, we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves. We can’t wait to have the women join us so we can show them the housing sites and the area.

Till next time,


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jacmel Update

Today was another beautiful day in Jacmel! After a breakfast of oatmeal and craisins we went with the tap tap to one of the job sites. On the way we learned that Jilner, the Haitian foreman, had his thumbnail ripped completely off while putting a wall in place. Ouch!

We finished the third house at around 9am, just in time for the delighted homeowner to bring us Haitian coffee and bread. What a treat! The coffee is very strong and sweet and kind of tastes like molasses.

The future owners of the home we were building were very happy! The man kept walking around the house grinning from ear to ear rubbing his hands together and the lady was actually dancing and laughing. It was wonderful to see!

The next house we built was in a field with a few mango trees nearby so a neighbour boy climbed to the top and picked some ripe mangoes which we could eat with our lunch.

The people here are friendly but don’t crowd around as much as in Port au Prince. However as we leave the houses we finished, people begin to appear and inspect them. I think they are quite amazed that a house can be built in about 3 hours! No wonder they keep asking for us to build them one too.

On our last house for the day, we were given some more Haitian food, which consisted of a styrofoam take out container with a chicken leg, deep fried plantains and some tomatoes and sweet and spicy onions. The food here is fantastic! It apparently can make you sick but I’ll take my chances.

Our tap tap has been having trouble with flat tires today so we’ve had to wait periodically, but Jack, the driver, is such an apologetic and nice guy we can't get annoyed. At the end of the day a friend of his drove up in his tap tap with a flat tire too and he helped change it before he brought us back to the guest house.

While we waited an old man hailed us who spoke very good English. He had been to Canada and the US quite a few times, and if we have the terms right, he had been a mayor in Port au Prince! Very interesting!

While we were talking a dump truck came roaring up the street and came bouncing and swerving through the school yard directly toward us! All of us were scrambling to get out of the way when he suddenly turned sharply and drifted the truck around the soccer goal and stopped. Out stepped Jack! Apparently he doesn’t only drive tap tap! I've never seen a dump truck driven like a dirt bike before, but I am a witness that it is possible!

After we arrived back at the guest house we were guided to the beach by a mischievous little girl named Linda. What a wonderful, refreshing way to end a work day and to wash off the dust and sweat! Beautiful turquoise water, white sand beach, cool salt water and an incredible picturesque setting!

After a great dinner of beet salad, stew, and mashed potatoes, the three of us washed and put away all the dishes (don’t tell our wives). When we finished we called our wives who had an eventful day back in Port au Prince. We are now relaxing on the couch, typing, writing meditations, and reading.

We've had a busy day and are almost ready to pack it in. Time to recharge for tomorrow.


A Day With Us Ladies

Today us ladies started our day with a trip to the market!

We took the car but were forced to park halfway up on a curb since there was nowhere else to park. The market was VERY crowded! People were everywhere selling goods. The vendors took up a lot of room, which left little room to walk.

When the occasional truck or car would try to come through all the vendors had to move their produce, rice, etc, out of its path. As soon as the vehicle passed it was a mad scramble to get their positions back. We watched this happen over and over again. Looking at the vendors I noticed that instead of a few people selling a lot of things there was a lot of people selling only a few things each.

It was a very interesting morning!

I, Joyce, was even approached by a man holding a basket full of small bags with a white powdery substance in them. “Drugs?” he said. “ Non, Mesi!” I replied.

I did make a few purchases there in the clothing section and had a good time watching Will barter for me. Unfortunately, without realizing it, we made a few cultural blunders, so word quickly spread through the market that the 'blan' were there just touching and not buying. That made for some grumpy merchants!

One merchant even said to Will; “You have beautiful straight hair and nice clothes, and you didn't bring enough money with you? Let me pat your pockets down! I will find money!”
Will argued right back and told her that if she wasn’t so grumpy people would actually purchase items from her! It was quite humorous to watch them!

When we arrived back "home" it was already 11:00 so we quickly regrouped before heading out to the Apparent Project. We were supposed to be there at 10:00 but it was more like 11:30 by the time we got there. When we arrived some ladies were busy sewing while others were waiting for more material.

I can't believe how fast they are making the purses and they really look nice too! They are turning out purses factory style, and we can hardly keep up.

Ruth was able to give a fancy purple dress from Kari-Jo to a Haitian girl whose mother was sewing purses today. Ruth and the girl were very pleased.

We considered giving away men and women's clothing today since we didn’t do a feeding program but we ran out of time so instead we decided to leave that for tomorrow.

We were back at Jay and Will's by 3:30. Before dinner some local boys (age 8-11) who visit Will from time to time came by. Will asked me, Joyce, to look at their heads as two of them had a white spotty rash. Apparently they used to have medicine to put on it and the spots would go away but now they don’t have money to buy it anymore. I really don’t know what it was.

As usual they had to hold and kiss our hands and give us lots of hugs. They also invited us to see their homes, so we went with them. Turns out they live in a tent city in a ravine. We went into each of their four homes where we were greeted by their family members like very special people. In each house they offered us their only chairs to sit on, if they had any. Wow!

Now we are back at “home” catching up on emails, etc. It is very nice to return here each night and be able to shower and just relax.

Joyce K. and Ruth B.

The Purple Dress

Dear Kerri-jo

Grandma found just the right little girl for your purple dress today!

Yesterday we tried it on two girls, but it was too big for the one girl and too small for the other. Another Mom who was watching the girls try on the dress said she thought her daughter would be just the right size and she would bring her along tomorrow.
So today her daughter, Linlin came to the Apparent Project. She was very excited about trying your dress on and it fit her perfectly!

She loved it and kept smiling her big smile!

She said to tell you thank you over and over again!

Love, Grandma.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Guest Post II


Today we flew from Port au Prince to Jacmel. It was very interesting to see some of the ruined landmarks of Port au Prince, the dry, deforested mountains, and then the lush, green, coastal town of Jacmel.

Jacmel has the best airport terminal in all of Haiti, which the Canadian military helped build after the earthquake in the hope of stimulating tourism. It was obviously not that busy yet, since our ride broke down and blocked the main entrance of the terminal and it wasn’t an issue at all.

The building sites here are farther apart, about a 5 minute drive, but are much more beautiful than in the city. Large palms, banana trees, and other fruit trees surround the houses on all sides. One of the homes we built today was even located in a large pea field!

We started building the first home at 9:30am and by 3:00 p.m. we had completed two homes and assembled the walls of a third! All in all, it was a very productive day.

The weather is warmer today, and it is more humid here too. We all have a good sunburn/tan happening! Our wives are not with us for the first three days that we are in Jacmel and we obviously cannot take care of ourselves without them!

We have a tap tap that takes us around from site to site and wherever else we need to go. The Haitian driver drives very carefully and we've decided that sitting on wooden seats and ducking under a low metal canopy is actually more comfortable than driving through Port au Prince on padded seats in a land cruiser!

During one of our commutes from site to site, Mikenson (a Haitian crew member) lost his cellphone. After calling it several times a girl answered and a heated discussion followed. Apparently it was her phone now and too bad for him! He is now attempting to get it back. I wonder how that will work out for him!

We are now at a guest house run by Calvary Chapel. It is a very nice, large place with all the comforts of home. We don’t have to rough it too bad! Right now we are comfortably sitting on the balcony, enjoying the afternoon sun and breeze coming off the ocean. Yes, it sure is rough out here!