Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Welcome Marie France!

For some time now, Marie France has been going out with many of our Sister Church teams to help with translation. Everyone loves her and the women especially enjoy having her translate for the Ladies Tea. About two weeks ago, Marie France started working with us in our office, assisting us with some secretarial tasks as well as helping translate documents and letters. We are excited to have her on board with us! We asked her to introduce herself to the world wide web and here is what she wrote:

marie france 2

I was born in Haiti but I grew up on an island close to the Bahamas called Turks and Caicos. I returned to Haiti eleven year ago. I live in Cayes in an area known as Simone where I attended grade school and high school. I spent 2 years in college to become a secretary then, went Port au Prince for six months for additional training. I also attended a one- month-long seminar to receive training as ticketing agent for an air line.

Because I grew up on an island were they spoke English I have been able to serve the Lord with my knowledge by translating for a lot of teams that come from the States to visit Haiti. I was doing the Lords work with another group from the states when I was introduced to RMI. By that path the Lord led me to them as part time staff, occasionally translating for teams as well as for Hope for Kids letters. I also taught 2 of the RMI staff Creole and I teach some kids in the neighborhood English during the summer.

I love to work with RMI because they are doing a great and important job by helping people in Haiti, especially the kids. The bible says in Proverbs 8:17-19, I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me. Riches and honor are with me, Enduring riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, than fine gold, and my revenue than choice silver.

So I encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing and continue serving the Lord because the Bible says your work will not be vain.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jeff and Janel

jeff collage

This is Jeff, Janel, and their two youngest siblings. You can read their story in blog entry below.

A real life example of the needs of Haiti’s children.

I was asked to find some children who had no way to go to school and learn their story. Marie France, one of our National Staff was asked to go with me. She immediately said she had neighbors who would be great to talk with. We set a time for 10am the following day. We were going to meet with Jeff.

When we arrived to his house Marie called out asking if anyone was home. Jeff’s mother responded and in a minute or so she emerged from the house carrying a baby and beside her was her three year old daughter. She explained that Jeff wasn’t there. We were told he would be back just after 1pm so we agreed to come back at 1:30. We asked if we could sit and hear her story. Emily is 37 years old and has six children, ranging from 1 year old to 16 years old; Jeff being the oldest. She was born in an area called Pestel but spent most of her life in Port au Prince. Six years ago she had trouble with rent. She couldn’t pay it. So she left Port au Prince for the quieter, less expensive Cayes. She has family here. When they moved from Port au Prince she had hoped the new place would give them a new start. She said in reality, it has only brought her more suffering.

They rent a room in the house where we met her; a space all eight of them share. The children’s father used to help with rent but hasn’t given her money in months. She said that they are behind on rent and if it isn’t paid up in 20 days they will be evicted. She is also solely responsible for providing food and clothing for all the children; and schooling when she can.

Jeff wasn’t there because that morning, like many other mornings, Jeff had gotten up, put on his uniform and headed off to school. He was hoping this would be a day he wouldn’t get sent home because he hasn’t yet paid. That’s not an unusual thing. Children, in hopes of being allowed to stay, will often get dressed in their uniforms and go to school like all the paying students, hoping to make it through the day without being sent home. When they are eventually sent home, that day or some other, they may wait several days or sometimes weeks and try again, hoping to learn something, hoping to catch a break, and in the meantime hoping to find a way to pay for school. Jeff had an exam the following day and was hoping he would be able to stay at school to learn the material. He had no assurance he would be allowed to take the test. It seemed that on this day though he hadn’t been asked to leave. In fact, all four of Emily’s kids that are old enough to go to school live in this cycle. Some of their school debt has been paid for, some by her and some by Jeff who goes fishing and tries to sell the fish to earn enough money to pay off some more of the debt. Other days he fishes and gives it to his family to eat. I didn’t see the two other schools aged kids but his thirteen year old brother was at home, on an off cycle. In a few days he will try and go back.

School usually lets out at 1pm and Jeff comes straight home because there is a show on television he likes and the neighbors that share the house next door have a TV. I arrived at 1:30pm greeted Marie France, who had put out a chair where I could sit to wait. Jeff had yet to arrive. Jeff’s mother had gone down into the village just below and had left the two youngest there with his thirteen year old brother. After some conversation back and forth with Jeff’s brother and some of the other kids there watching TV trying to figure out if anyone had seen Jeff, he came running up to the door out of breath. “Sorry they kept us late at school today”.

Jeff is sixteen. He is tall and slim and a serious kid. I asked him a lot of questions. I asked him what his favorite things about school were. He loves math and wants to be an accountant. I asked him if there was anything he didn’t like about school; his response? He didn’t like when there was nothing to do. He prefers learning. I asked him if there had ever been a year when he had been able to finish a grade in a year. Once, he said, when he was in second grade. I wanted to know if it ever frustrated him that this was how it was, or if he had just learned to accept it. His answer was a definitive, “It doesn’t matter how long it takes or how old I am. I AM going finish.” But coupled with that determination is the fear that he is getting too old to find good work once he finishes. We talked a lot about his future and hopes for a better life. It was evident that his heart was heavy for his mother. He said he wanted to be able to get an education so that he could get a good job so that he could get his mom out of the place she is and into a better life where she didn’t have to suffer any more. I asked him if there was anything he wanted to share with me that I hadn’t asked. He sat thoughtfully for a minute and said not really. His brother had been sitting with the two youngest there in the hallway where we were, listening in. At this point, he jumped in and said he wanted to talk.

Jeff got up and Janel eagerly took his seat. Janel is thirteen but very small for his age. I would have given him nine or ten. He was dressed in a plain white tee and khaki shorts. He was a bit more playful than Jeff has been. I asked him many of the same questions. I found out he had also been able to finish a grade, once, in just a year, back in first grade. Even though he was now in second grade he had been trying for several years to finish that grade. As we sat and talked, the same baby that climbed into her mother’s lap earlier in the day now climbed into Janel’s lap, crying. As though it was second nature, Janel cradled her and rocked her just as her mother would have done. He often steps in as caregiver for his younger siblings. He also helps with the cooking. I asked him what he liked to do for fun and Marie France quickly laughed and said he was a trouble maker and that sometimes he torments the neighborhood dogs. He laughed and I teased him about it. I asked him what he liked to do in addition to tormenting the dogs. “Joking and cutting up with my friends”, he said, “and I like playing soccer”; left field is his best position. When asked what obstacles were keeping him from accomplishing his goal of becoming an engineer he said money and the fact that he misses so much school for lack thereof. Unlike Jeff, he does get frustrated because he says getting an education is much better than just sitting around doing nothing. His heart was also deeply burdened for his mother. His goal for the future echoed the sentiment of Jeff, to get an education, to get a job, to make money and to make a better life for themselves individually, for their brothers and sisters collectively, and especially their mother. I asked them both if they believed there was hope for their future and in reaching their goals. They both answered yes but both seemed to understand that unless they could find a way to get their education that was going to be difficult.

One of the things that struck me, that I noticed was missing from all three of the conversations I had was the word opportunity. I was hoping for someone to tell me that an education gave them an opportunity for a better life. I finally asked Janel what opportunities an education would give him but when Marie translated the question into Creole, she never used the word opportunity. It struck me to think that on so many levels maybe that word doesn’t really exist in a cultural context. Sure, there is a word for opportunity in Creole but perhaps on a much bigger level, it’s what the Haitian people are lacking. Opportunity.

At sixteen years of age, most teenage boys in the US are downloading their favorite tunes on to their iPod, texting the girl they have a crush on, or are dreaming about their first kiss or their first car. At sixteen years of age, Jeff has already decided what he wants to do when he grows up, is burdened by his mother’s incessant suffering, wishes to make a better life for himself so he can make a better life for her, and hopes that maybe this year will be the year he finishes 5th grade.

Want to impact the future for the better? Want to make a real, tangible, life changing difference in the lives of children here in Haiti? The Hope for Kidz Program is a great way to do so. It provides children with a chance to receive a Christ centered education and the opportunity, which so many of the children lack, at a better life.

You can get more information through your church’s Hope for Kidz Coordinator or online here at the Hope For Kidz page.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It Went Over the Cliff

Where’s the big truck? Excuse me…where? Oh, it went over the cliff. WHAT?! IT WENT OVER THE CLIFF?!

Mercedes rollover 1

In January, RMI’s big Mercedes flatbed was coming back from a team visit on the other side of the peninsula. As it was coming across the mountains, the driver had to make a stop and got out of the truck. The emergency brake failed and it rolled backwards over a cliff and down into a steep ravine. We are thanking God that no one was in the truck and there were no injuries. The loss of the truck is a huge blow to RMI. It was in use almost every day, transporting equipment, luggage, water and ice for teams or delivering food aid or Homes for Haiti materials. After a difficult extraction process, transportation to Cayes and evaluation, it is clear that it is a total loss.

Fast forward one week…

Where’s the red Toyota? Huh? Where?! Ok, we’ll send out the Foton flatbed. Well, let’s do this – the Foton can meet you, you guys transfer the team’s luggage to it and it can still make it to the airport in Port-au-Prince in time. Once you off load that luggage, we’ll load the new team’s luggage and 4 people will have to squash together in the cab to get out to Cayes. Once it unloads the team and their luggage in Cayes, it’ll have to turn around, go load up the Toyota and bring it back here to Cayes for repairs.

red truck being transported back to Cayes Jan. 2011

This was a major breakdown and the jury is still out as to whether or not it can be repaired.

(Yes, these are true stories!)

How can we do our ministries without these vehicles?! These are significant issues and has left our staff in Haiti scrambling to carry on. We must have reliable vehicles, and urgently!

As of this week the following has developed:

1. A 1970 Jeep “Deuce and a half” military truck has been donated to RMI. It was transported from Venice, FL to a mechanic’s shop in Ft. Myers to be given a thorough checkup on Wed., Feb. 9. Once it is given the all clear, it will be driven to Miami and will be shipped in from there. It will cost approximately $10,000 for the shipping and customs. We are trusting that it doesn’t need any major repairs. It will be used in transporting equipment, food aid, housing materials and much more.

M35 Deuce and a half truck

2. A 7 passenger Ford Everest has been ordered in Haiti. It is not available in the US but it will be a great help in transporting teams. They should have it by the middle of March.Ford Everest

3. A 4 door Toyota pickup (like the red Toyota in the picture above) has also been ordered. Since the dealer is so backed up, it will take 3-5 months to arrive. This will also be used to transport teams.

4. A used Ford F350 flatbed is being purchased locally here in Ft. Myers. Once the mechanic has given it a clean bill of health it’ll also be driven to Miami and shipped from there. The shipping and customs for it will be $10,000. This vehicle will be used to transport luggage, equipment, water, food aid, housing materials and much more.

Ford F350

Our vehicle fund will cover some of these costs, but not all of them. We are making a step (more like a LEAP) of faith in these purchases. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of having safe, reliable vehicles to carry out RMI’s ministries. Those who have been to Haiti know the kinds of “roads” we have to travel. Since there is only 1 paved road in the country this means anywhere we go off that road can be anything from a dirt or rock bed road to a cow path. Most of the time we literally go “over the hills and through the woods” to get to our destination. Vehicles are one of the main tools we use to minister.

We need your help! You can donate online here. Choose “Where needed most” on the form to donate to the vehicle needs. Please send us an email at rmioffice.florida@rminet.org to let us know of your donation towards the vehicles. Or you can send a check to: RMI, 5475 Lee St., Suite 301, Lehigh Acres, FL 33971.

Pray with us that God would supply the necessary monies to provide these 4 “tools” for RMI’s ministry in Haiti!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Wait and Pray

It was just over two months ago that Haiti exploded into a mass of manifestations, protests and the burning of public property and government buildings. It was because the results of the recent election had been announced and the people weren’t satisfied with the results. On the tail of an earthquake, a cholera outbreak, and a tropical storm, the news of the final candidates did not bode well, especially in light of all the rumors and accusations of election fraud coupled with a country very dissatisfied with their current administration. Haiti, with an already very sordid past would add 2010 as another chapter in a worn out tale of despair.

Today, there is a nervous energy in the air. Run off election results, which were recounted, are slated to be announced this afternoon. Its anyone’s guess as to what things will look like on Thursday morning. It is hopeful but unknown what the local and national reaction will be. It will solely depend on whether the majority likes who is put on the ballot. Baby Doc is still in the country, Aristide, another exiled dictator, is rumored to be trying to enter the country, and the sting of an already tumultuous year hang heavy on everyone’s minds.

At times, when we look at the surface and only see the problems in Haiti, the solution seems to elude us. For as many NGO’s and Humanitarian agencies there are at work in Haiti, there are as many opinions as to whose fault this is and what it will take to fix this broken place. RMI has been on the ground in Haiti for over 25 years. Collectively we have seen first hand ill-fated elections, coups, embargos, hurricanes, earthquakes, starvation, sickness and death. Despite it’s beautiful tropical setting, Haiti is not always an easy place to live. Quite often it’s anything but easy. Yet we continue to do what we do, to live as we live, and serve as we serve in this broken place because we believe there is a solution to this brokenness. That solution is the reason we exist. We believe that in Jesus Christ old things become new. We believe that what was broken can be restored. We know that what often feels forgotten is eternally loved and treasured. That is why we do what we do.

On this day, February 2, 2011, please join us in praying for Haiti. As we all await the election news and what may follow, let us hold fast to what we know. We know that we serve a sovereign God who is not interested in politics nor limited by our human need to have control. We know that God is a loving God full of wisdom and goodness who longs to save His children. Please pray that God, above all, would have His way. Pray for those of us on the ground, that we would be strengthened and encouraged as we face long days. Pray for our Sister Churches, that they would remain committed to the cause of Christ and fervent in their love for the Haitian people. Pray for the team that we have in country, that they would be protected and arrive home safely. Pray for Haiti’s leaders, for wisdom and direction. Pray for her suffering, that relief would come. Pray for her lost, that they would be found.