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April 2019
Dear Friends in Christ,
We are very grateful to so many of you for your kind love, notes and prayers. Just after we arrived back in Florida from Haiti, we had the memorial service for Ken’s sister, Maureen. This is the first of either of us to lose a sibling, yet we are comforted knowing we will see her in Heaven again! Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Just before leaving Haiti, we took an amazing, rugged trip to Pastor Petty Noel’s church in the mountains. Heading west about an hour and a half from Gressier (Gray see aye), just past Ti-Guave, we turned off the main road onto a dirt road. We were immediately in a large market with people everywhere. There were at least 100 donkeys tied up and loaded with saddles and woven baskets filled with all sorts of items to sell. We had to move very slowly as the people moved out of our way, as merchants were grabbing their produce and different wares. Moms were taking the hands of their children and moving them out of the way. We inched our way forward for about a half mile, being the only vehicle on the road. Besides the donkeys, there were many motorcycles filled to maximum capacity, but no other vehicles. Once we got through the market area, we moved along a little better.
Soon, we began going up into the mountains, which I love, and it was a beautiful journey. We rolled down the windows and enjoyed the cooler, fresh mountain air and talked to people along the way. Donkeys with ladies, girls, and boys lined the road traveling to the market. It is new and a little unusual to see some of the riders talking on their cell phones. Motorcycles would pass us by with 3-5 people being tap-tapped to their destinations. Often, the people would stare into the vehicle, not sure why anyone would be driving on their road. If we wave or smile, they usually return a big smile, wave and yell to us, “Bon jou!” (Good Morning)
After about an hour and a half of very slow driving, sometimes over rocks and areas that I wasn’t sure we would get through, we arrived. The area was very rocky, high on a mountain and as realtors like to brag, it had quite a spectacular view. The church was small, a roof with woven sides, a separate small kitchen in the back with a latrine close by. As we met the pastor and his sweet wife, she began rolling out the red carpet for us. She immediately began getting an open fire going, killed and butchered a chicken, pulled potatoes out of the ground and prepared a delicious fresh squeezed juice drink. Knowing how little they have, it is humbling to be treated to the area’s best of foods when we visit. Some leaders of the church came to join us. It was very nice to be able to share Manna Packs, which are protein enriched meal packages, Bibles and Mission Soccer balls with the pastor and his leaders. They were very grateful to have these gifts. They shared that school for the children in their area was a 1 1/2 hour walk. Water was about a 2-3 hour walk and a medical clinic was about a 1 hour walk. We looked around the area, gave away more soccer balls to children as they walked by with their donkeys. It was soon time to make the long trip back home. What an amazing trip! We had been blessed discovering new ideas of how to further assist this remote and precious church.
Kenny has remained busy in Christianville. He and CJ, who live at Sue's home next door to Kenny and one other worker, took the old roof off and put a new one on the shop. Some of the wood needed replacing because of termites, but thankfully most of it was good. Working around rainy weather, they finished the job within a few days. Next, Kenny had additional loads of materials to deliver to the Christianville school. Altogether, there were about 50 loads. He carried 250 cases of food packages out to Deye Mon for the people who live at the Mercy Village. What a blessing the big truck has been for many people.
After much prayer and consideration, we decided for me (Debbi) to go back to Haiti to assist Sue. Our thought was that I would help her a couple of days so she could “get away” for a greatly needed rest and relax time. Just as I was going down, we learned that one of her children, Shelly, a precious 4-year-old with cerebral palsy, had pneumonia. Another sweet 4-year-old, Jeremiah, was going into the hospital possibly with a heart problem. The doctors ran tests to determine exactly what was wrong. He had a blood transfusion and Sue stayed by his side. All these extra medical problems added more stress on Sue. Within a few days they determined that Jeremiah has a severe case of sickle cell anemia. I realized there was a good possibility she would not be able to “get away” even for a couple of days as we had hoped. The children call her Grandma Sue, however she is an amazing Mommy to each of them. I dropped my expectations of how things would go, and I trusted the Lord would work out His will for the time I was there.
For me, helping Sue was a privilege and honor. Her stories of 20 years as a single retired school teacher in Haiti were extremely interesting. As she shared, I began to realize how much her life was intertwined with her 40 beautiful and precious children and, of course, each one of them had their own stories. She loves each child and knows the difficult details which brought each one to her. I saw the hand of a loving Father over her and the children.
I was blessed to work with Laissa, who has a sweet heart toward all the children. She took the assorted cross-stitch kits I brought, and helped the older girls choose one. She spent a lot of time helping them get these started. We took some crafts to the smaller children, which was fun. Each child had a beautiful picture or craft when we finished. Laissa works so naturally with the children of all ages. She patiently explains what to do, then helps them individually. One day, we made vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream for all the children and took it down, with cones, that night after supper. They were so excited! Later, many of the older children came to Kenny and Laissa’s home to watch ‘I Can Only Imagine’ with us. This movie is helpful for everyone, yet these young people have experienced some major life “monsters” and need to see how God’s love and forgiveness can change anyone.
Meal time is orderly for such a large group. Older children serve the younger ones, who sit and wait until everyone is served. Then they bow their heads and pray in unison, thanking the Lord for the food and Grandma Sue. Having raised 13 children myself, I know how crazy it can get at meal time. I greatly enjoyed getting to know the cooks and workers, who really love Sue and the children as well. Three sisters, who have worked for her over 15 years, Tamara, Fabi and Paulette, were especially sweet and fun.
By mid-week, when Jeremiah came home from the hospital, all the children and the workers were very excited to see him! I got emotional as I knew how much he had gone through, especially for a 4-year-old, and how much he was missed by 39 others. They are working hard to give Jeremiah a healthier diet and watching him closely. He is an adorable little boy and has much more energy now, than when he went to the hospital. Praise the Lord!
Sue shared that she felt it helped to relieve her stress to just talk. She asked me to go with her when she took her break. Finally, the day arrived when she and I were able to “get away”. I was excited to spend more time with her. A short distance from Christianville, we went to a hotel/restaurant and sat in lounge chairs, under trees, overlooking a beautiful view of the beach, with mountains across the water. The day was perfect. It was sunshiny with a cool breeze from the water. We talked and talked, sharing stories and experiences with each other. We ate an excellent meal together and then went back to sit and talk some more. Our visit will always be very special to me. She has a major heart for evangelism and a deep love for children, which are both dear to my heart. Our time went by quickly, and before we knew it, we were headed home.
My stay in Haiti is quickly ending. Kenny and Laissa will continue serving our Lord and Savior with those He brings into their paths. Many of you would be so helpful with the skills God has given you. Please, consider coming (small groups are best) to serve others and you will see, as God often does, the blessing falls back on you!
Because of Christ,