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Earlier this week, our External Focus International Director, Rick Howard, wrote a Watermark young adult who has moved to Haiti to impact lives there through teaching at a Christian school. Amber Epley traveled on one of our Haiti Discipleship Trips earlier this year, and God used that experience to point her back to serving that country in longer-term way. Her update (used with permission) is below!
As she mentions at the end of her letter, the upcoming Discipleship Trip group plans to visit Amber and her school next week! She’s also helping them by buying some food locally (saving them room on the trip from the States). You can follow Amber’s God-sized journey yourself (and send her encouragement) at her blog, alertsfromamber.blogspot.com.
Thanks for your email and your prayers. Things are still going very well here. The transition here was almost seamless. God has totally provided every step of the way. He has brought an amazing community of believers to the staff at the school, and it has really been a blessing. Also, through church and other gatherings we have been able to get to know other missionaries here as well – what a great community of believers. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Adjusting to life here has been easy as well, but the ease of that transition can only be attributed to God and his grace. It’s been an adjustment in every area: cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, sleeping… everything! But I have really enjoyed it. I’m not sure if the bloom is just still on the rose or what, but I feel very very comfortable here so far.
The school year is going well. We finished our first quarter on Friday, so we are 1/4 of the way through the year! Crazy! God is moving here at this school in so many ways. We had a girl on our volleyball team accept Christ last week!
Meanwhile, please pray for one girl whose parents are not believers; she is catching some backlash at home for her faith. Please also continue praying that God would move through this campus and in the lives of the students and parents here. The parents are leaders in Haiti, and their kids will be as well. Pray that their hearts will be open and their lives completely transformed by His love and His word.
I’m excited for the team that is coming and am SO glad they will get to come into the city and also see my school for a bit. Safe travels to all who are coming, and I hope everyone there is doing well!
Take a look at this clip about Brad Johnson, the founder of Mission of Hope in Haiti. It’s amazing to see what God will do when all we have to do is be faithful.
Join us TONIGHT, July 5th, at 6:30 to learn more about discipleship trips to Haiti. We will meet on the 2nd floor of the Watermark tower. We look forward to seeing you then!
-External Focus Team
Time Magazine has a best pictures of the week deal they do, and a few weeks ago Leveque was featured in one of them! It’s so cool to see how this project is gaining momentum!
To view the website and other photos featured http://lightbox.time.com/2011/05/13/closeup-best-pictures-of-the-week-may-6-%E2%80%93-may-13/#11.
Yesterday was a difficult day for me that ended in an incredible way. We went to Leveque yesterday to paint house. Leveque is planned community where they are building permanent houses for folks displaced by the earthquake. There is an incredible vision for this place that involves creating a sustainable community where people learn to grow their own crops, take care of their own land, take care of the trash, and basically take pride and ownership in their homes and community. It is an amazing plan.
JP and Brooke asked us to dwell on this question today: “What has surprised you the most about Haiti?”
What has surprised me the most is the magnitude of the problem that Haiti faces. Poverty, education, trash, clothing, sanitation, infrastructure, healthcare, laziness, entitlement, etc. And that doesn’t even touch on the religious problems. Voodoo is rampant. On top of that, even the Christians lack any sort of discipleship or sharpening. There are exceptions, especially at Mission of Hope. However, on the whole this is true. Almost everyone we have talked to knew the Gospel, but in just a short stay in each village we could see that their faith, if it is real, doesn’t appear to change the way they live. Again, I am speaking in generalizations.
After painting houses in the village and playing soccer and interacting with the folks, I left there tempted to despair for this situation. Let me remind you that I was having these thoughts in Leveque, where there seems to be more reason for hope than most places. It is EASY to despair here. It is probably difficult to understand where I was because you really have to be hear to experience it.
Side note: our faith requires an eternal perspective which requires that we realize that, as bad of as the Haitians’ living conditions are, the Americans back home that don’t know Jesus are infinitely worse off in eternity compared to those in Haiti who do.
This is where, in God’s perfect timing, His hope hit me like a train. I tear up as I write this remembering last night. Brad Johnson, the founder of Mission of Hope, spoke to all the teams sharing his story, the history of MoH, what they have accomplished, what they are currently involved in, and most importantly to me was the vision. There go the tears again. I’m not a cryer. MoH has an orphanage, a hospital, a food distribution center, a school, a prosthetics lab, and 18 other things I can’t list here…and their execution is excellent.
One profound example of the amazing vision was the goal to eventually shut down the church. They don’t want all of Haiti to be attending church on Sundays at MoH. They are going to train pastors and raise up churches in the communities like Leveque. People need to attend church in the community they live in, with the people they live with, with the people they are in community with. Community is a concept that is familiar at Watermark. Living in authentic, biblical community is God’s design. MoH gets that. Also, they realize that Haitians are most effective at reaching and discipling Haitians, not Americans.
I asked the founder last night what MoH’s greatest needs were right now. The answer was funds and Haitian leaders. We can’t raise Haitian leaders from the states but we have the greatest giving capacity the world has ever known as a nation. We can also pray for MoH as they raise up leaders.
My second question was if they had recorded Brad’s speech, because there was something profoundly impactful about hearing thevvision from his mouth. They are indeed working on a video and he said to look for it over the summer some time.
It is my firm belief that if anyone is going to change Haiti and advance the Kingdom here, it will be MoH. Make no mistake, this is a long term project and their is MUCH to be done here. Give, pray, and spread the word, and rest assured that there is reason to hope for Haiti.
This SHOULD be the most beautiful place on earth. We are right in the middle of Jamaica, The Bahamas, The Turks and Caicos Islands, and attached to the beautiful beaches of the Dominican Republic. But over time, in deep debt to the French, Haitians have robbed their half of the island of all its resources. Over ten years of deforestation (people cutting down the trees for charcoal, etc…) the mountains are left bare and dusty. When it rains the barren hills are washed away into the ocean killing the natural reefs and running off the fish. Bad choices lead to a series of consequences caused from people living for today with no thought of tomorrow. There is no fishing industry in Haiti (a Caribbean island).
They ARE beautiful. Haitians are very affectionate. They love to walk and hold hands. The children love to be held. One “problem” is that the children often do not have pants on. One child, about six years old, came to our bible story skit wearing nothing…completely naked. Most Haitians in the villages have less than nothing. Some are fortunate enough to have a tarp house, but it came at the expense of the loss of loved ones in the earthquake. Most people in the villages are displaced from Port Au Prince, and moved there after the quake. We have really enjoyed getting to know the people. They do all they can to get by. They have Jesus, but He is diluted with self reliance and a survival mentality. The children have BIG smiles and love to play. They make kites and fly them high over the villages. Every day we have seen this. They love to “help” us paint or carry things. They often ask for things…handouts…but they don’t know any better. Teams that give them handouts escalate this problem. This is why we read “When Helping Hurts” (an excellent read!!!). They ask for stuff, but we rely on God working through our partner to meet their needs, and He is.
Mission Of Hope
What can I say, they are the best. They give out 50,000 meals per DAY. They have a clinic, a lively growing church, an orphanage, a prosthetic lab, businesses, and a high-ranked school. The school is in the top 5% of Haiti with 2,600 students. They operate on $3M per year and employ over 250 Haitians. Their vision and language is very similar to our church’s. They are an amazing partner.
They say Haiti is 85% Catholic, 15% Protestant, and 100% Voodoo. The last president of Haiti, Aristide, dedicated the nation to Satan. (This has happened several times…and yes, you read that correctly) Haiti’s problem is described by many as a “dark cloud” that hangs over the nation. This proverbial “cloud” must cause everyone to live for themselves in the moment. Think of voodoo like materialism in The States. It bleeds through Christians and non-Christians alike. We know it is wrong and yet we embrace it. We embrace materialism in ways we are unaware of, much like Haitians and Voodoo. Most Haitians believe in God, they just believe He is slow to act. So, they rely on Voodoo for more instant results. Much like we rely on our stuff, status, and control for more instant results instead of God. For example, one Haitian couple’s baby was sick and eventually died. Cause of death? Starvation, because they spent every dollar on a voodoo priest- there was nothing left for food. This mentality is normative in Haiti. Even some “strong Christians” here have strange superstitions derived from voodoo.
Speaking of strange superstitions. Farkle is a game we play to embrace humility. There is no winner only one loser. The loser has to do something difficult or humiliating. Night one Matt had to call Todd Wagner (Sr. Pastor) and convince him he was healed by a voodoo priest with the gift of healing. That was fun to listen to. Todd instantly played along in brilliant fashion. Day 2 Greg Crooks had to embrace a person of our choosing until the pushed him off. (Think awkwardly l o n g hug). So, we chose the tattooed 60 year-old man with the thick grey handle-bar mustache. He was pretty quick to shove Greg off, but Greg held on for dear life. Then the man asked him out on a date. I lost last night, so this morning I had to run by the breakfast line to the open-air bathroom holding my stomach. Then I had to make “loud noises” from the stall right beside everyone eating breakfast. And for some reason they still love us here!
This is my favorite part. We have a question that we journal on each day. Tuesday’s was “where have you seen God here?” My answer: our team. Friends, they are so solid. Yesterday I cried just thinking how good God has been to The Porch. The leaders He has resourced us with has been amazing. Everywhere we go, people notice and comment on our closeness and love for each other, boldness, and their ability to improvise in the moment to teach the bible. They are ROCKSTARS. Brooke has been an amazing partner in leadership. It is really cool to see how she has the respect of her peers and a vision for this trip. I have really enjoyed leading with her.
One of the guys on our team, led a killer devo one day. Well, the next day Mission of Hope asked me to teach in the church. I passed the opportunity on to Greg, asking him to give the Haitians the devo that he had shared with us. Many came, many heard, and many believed. Three men came forward wanting to trust their life to Christ. I had not seen that happen here before…it was AWESOME. Our God is AWESOME!
This is a story about my friend, Frantzdy Odilon. In Haiti, the children have learned to ask the missionaries for money, sunglasses, hats or whatever else they see you with. They have nothing in the way of material possessions, but I have seen so many that are rich in hope (lespwa).
While playing soccer in a neighborhood with some of the kids, I began getting to know Frantzdy. He wanted to know things like where I was from, was I married and what I liked to do for fun. After getting to know each other, God provided what only He can. Frantzdy asked me if I would tell him the story of Jesus. Not money or sunglasses, he wanted me to tell him what I knew about our Savior.
God had opened a door that I was too timid to go through on my own. We sat on the basketball court, and I walked through the story of Jesus using an evangacube: why He came to Earth, died on the Cross and rose again to provide a way to our Heavenly Father.
As other children came around to see what we were looking at, Frantzdy took the cube and shared the same story of hope through Christ in Haitian Creole to the six young children. This happened two more times before we left. At least 18 children who would never have understood me heard the message of Christ because of Frantzdy.
I reflected on what had happened and how great our God is. I did nothing but God blessed me in offering a front row seat to see His Kingdom expanding. At first glance, the problems of Haiti seem insurmountable, and they probably are for us alone. But, I have seen God in this place. There is hope for Haiti; Jezi renmen mwen.
- Jake Edwards
Today was an absolutely amazing day! This afternoon’s trip to a local orphanage has been my favorite part of the trip…and the most heart-breaking. We spent time with a bunch of children who have very,very little. Either having lost the parents in the earthquake or having been abandoned by their families, God has led each of these children to a concrete structure with a tin roof in a village just outside of Mission of Hope.
Even in the despair and devastation these children have faced during their short lives we are able to see joy in Christ. With literally no material possessions or anything to lose, these children still sing, laugh, and love. They find great joy in the fact that Christ died for each of them and their reward is in heaven. I have yet to hear anyone complain about their circumstances or lack of the basic necessities. I have heard repeatedly that they love Christ and know what he has done for them. The way they worship is humbling and their faith genuine. I am truly humbled.
As you drive through the villages the despair is overwhelming. Poverty like I’ve never seen it. I stared out the window of our bus just praying for these Haitians. I kept wondering, how do they live like this? What do they do all day? What makes them happy or smile?
As our bus stops and we get out at village after village, children start running up to us immediately. They are grabbing our hands to hold, putting our arms around them, and wanting to be held. Many of the children are barefoot, without pants, and no parents in sight. Who takes care of these children? Do they know they are loved?
Then as we drive back through the gates of Mission of Hope I can exhale. We attended the church service yesterday where it felt like at least ten children to every one person over the age of 20. Today we attended the high school chapel service. Both times I’ve been moved by the genuine faith these people appear to have. The way they worship in the midst of absolute poverty and destruction. I’m encouraged greatly by the way the older children (teens and 20s) love on, disciple, and guide the younger ones. GOD IS HERE. In the midst of chaos we can’t even wrap our minds around, HOPE HAS COME. Behind the guarded gates on this hill a young generation is rising up, and I am left encouraged and challenged.
“I see the King of Glory coming on the clouds with fire, the whole earth shakes…I see His love and mercy washing over all our sins the people sing… HOSANNA.
I see a generation rising up to take their place with selfless faith. The whole earth shakes. I see a new revival stirring as we pray and seek, we’re on our knees. HOSANNA.”
Below are pictures from our time at the school today so you can check out the ways we got to serve this morning.
Praying for you all and the beautiful people of Haiti- Ally B.