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October 2013
Dear Friends in Christ,
It was wonderful to return to the Merci Village this month. There are many opportunities for blessings as it offers endless possibilities and outlets to minister to the people. Kenny continued his work throughout the entire month and we were excited to go back to assist.
After our first visit to Merci Village, John Leininger informed us that 8 couples in the village wanted to get married. Cliff Hawley had given a mini-marriage seminar at the church. After the seminar, realizing that several of the couples were not married, they asked how many wanted to get married. Surprisingly, 8 couples raised their hands. So John asked us if we could find 8 wedding dresses and return to help with the weddings. It is obvious that the Lord is working in the hearts of the people in the village, so we were happy to help. I knew right away who to call. Our daughter, Sara, is a seamstress and loves shopping resale to find great deals and interesting items to recycle for her home or to wear. I asked her if she would like to help me find 8 wedding dresses. I explained what was happening and told her we had 2 weeks to find the gowns and suits and needed to start shopping. She replied, "Mom, I have the dresses. I have 8 of them!" Unbelievable! Who has 8 wedding gowns lying around in their homes? She previously purchased the dresses in bulk for a great price, planning to redesign them for resale. She hadn't found the time to do so and was ready to let them go. We invited her to make the trip back to Haiti with us to alter the ladies' dresses. Excited about this opportunity, she and Joel made arrangements for her to join us the second week of our trip.
At the village, we set up a Bible memorization contest for the children and offered prizes for the winners. We met a young lady, Phalie, who memorizes Scripture regularly so we asked her to help the children memorize passages of Scripture. On Wednesday night, the children recited the verses they memorized. Those who did the best job of reciting, received a Bible and $50 Haitian. This is just under $6 American, but these children were thrilled! To have a new Bible of their own is very rare for them. We gave additional Bibles to several of the other children who had done well. Everyone who participated received a small prize for their efforts. We plan to do this again each time we return to encourage the children to "hide God's Word in their hearts."
Sara arrived on a Monday ready to work. We arranged for a friend of ours, Met (Teacher) Philemon, to come to the village and help Sara with the alterations. He taught at the school where we lived years ago. He is also a tailor. Sara and Shelby learned a lot about sewing from him. Sara helped the women select their dresses based on what would work best for them. She pinned and tucked the dresses here and there and they all needed hemming. Then she, Met Philemon, and some women from the village, worked on the alterations. They did most by hand so that they could be easily taken out and the gowns used again for other ladies. While walking in the village, we met a very kind woman who had an old Singer pump machine on her front porch. She is a very talented seamstress and so is her daughter, Madam Loneold. They have made many school uniforms for children. She let us borrow her machine and her daughter helped Sara with the sewing. We set up an area to work in the church. Once we began working, lots of children and additional ladies arrived to watch and assist when they could. It was a fun "group" effort.
It was arranged that we would host a wedding for 4 couples. The other 4 will be married in January. With all the help, Sara not only finished the dresses for the first 4 brides, but she was able to alter two of the gowns for the January brides as well. Before coming, Sara found suits for the grooms. The men were pretty excited to receive their suits, which we allowed them to keep.
On Thursday, wedding day, we cleared out all the sewing projects from the church. Some of the ladies and girls in the village came to clean and decorate. Kenny helped with an arch for the doorway and took a few ladies to gather flowers and plants for the decorations. The weddings were to begin at 4:00 p.m. All the brides and grooms were not there at the beginning of the service. We began to worry since some were an hour late. But, by the time the service was over, all four couples had arrived and were happily married. Praise the Lord! After the weddings, we had a nice table set for the couples in the gazebo of the guest house. We served a wonderful feast which was prepared for them and 400 guests. Madam Loneold and several ladies began working the night before preparing the meal. They served hundreds of pieces of fried chicken, enormous amounts of beans and rice, sauce, pasta salad, and fried plantains. The couples were each blessed with a new Bible and some young chickens. These were gifts lovingly sponsored by a missionary pastor and his wife. Sara took pictures of each of the couples. We plan to present copies of the photos to them when we return.
The next day Sara, Met Philemon, Madam Loneold and her mom worked on a few more sewing projects. We are excited about possible future sewing projects in this village. We left a new pump sewing machine for Madam Loneold and her mom to use and paid to have her old machine rebuilt. They will be sewing uniforms for two little girls in the village who were not in school because they didn't have money to buy books and uniforms. We were able to purchase the books, and the uniforms were under way before we left.
While working on our projects, we were so blessed to see the Bill Walsh Medical Clinic being used. Each week, Pascal, a sweet Christian nurse, and Dr. Whistler hold a clinic on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. They saw between 45-60 people each of these days while we were there. Pascal is Lussade's sister and we have known her since she was a girl. She and Shelby were dear friends. It was a blessing to see Pascal begin the clinic each morning with prayer and a hymn. The clinic is ministering to so many people. Praise the Lord!
Going to Lussade's home for a couple of nights before we went home was nice. We visited his church with his family and had a quiet relaxing day on Sunday. While at Lussade's home, we talked to his parents who are a wonderful Christian couple. Lussade shared that his mom has been ministering to the people in the downtown hospital and prison for years. She takes food, clothes, and the love of Jesus Christ to many needy people. This is a vision God gave her years ago and she has been consistently obedient to His calling. We were very excited about this ministry and offered to help her with food. OSM donated a case of Bibles as well. She was very happy and expressed her appreciation to OSM over and over.
As we flew home we were very tired physically, but it felt so good to once again be there with the people in the village and Lussade's family. We have grown to love them all very deeply. We have only scratched the surface of the stories and details of our trip, but we hope to encourage and bless you in what we have illustrated in this letter.
Kenny went to Nava the end of September with his friend, Paul Braymer, who has ministered with him in Haiti. When they arrived, they went to a men's prayer meeting. To Kenny's surprise, things were not as they have been in the past. The spirit over the meeting and the colonia was very bleak, dark and suppressed. Similar to what it must be like to live in a war zone, which is what our Brothers and Sisters in the colonia have been living. Many of the members and leaders of the John 3:16 Church were disheartened and worn out emotionally and spiritually.
We were blessed and humbled by Kenny's response and the maturity he showed in his reaction. He asked Pastor Santos if he would have the leaders of the church come together for a meeting. Santos thought it was a wonderful idea, so a meeting was called. Kenny spent time talking and encouraging those who came. He encouraged them not to lose heart and reminded them that in times of battle, we are to go forth and reach the lost more heartily. He said he knew they were worn out fighting against satan himself. The people there are living in fear and discouragement, which was disheartening for Kenny and Paul. They tried to rally the leadership so they could lift up the church members.
Thanks to you, they were able to purchase food bags for the members of the church to hand out to families in need. Kenny told them to use the bags to begin going out and sharing the gospel of Christ once again. The next day, he and Paul went with them to distribute some of the bags. They left many more to be used for evangelistic purposes. As we have shared in the past, the food bags are a tool to reach out to the lost. Thank you for your gifts so we could encourage the John 3:16 Church in this way!
Because of Christ,
The Kennedy Family