Thursday, November 29, 2012

Small Project, Big Impact

A few months ago, I got word that the kids at the church I grew up in, Trinity Alliance Church, in Cologne, New Jersey, had collected school supplies to send to a school in Haiti.  They contacted me asking if they could send them to me and if I would distribute them.  Today I got the opportunity to deliver this box of supplies to a local Christian school.

Rob and I have visited Miserne Baptist Church a few times over the last few years.  The people are always very friendly and welcoming.  When I asked RMI’s Haitian Administrator, Benjamin Altema,  who to give the box of supplies to, he suggested the school at this church.  They are not very far from where we live, but a little off the beaten path and rarely receive outside help.  I thought it was a great suggestion! 

Here are some photos of the Miserne Baptist School and the kids in their classrooms.  This small Christian school is preschool through sixth grade.  There are 3 large classrooms: one for 1st & 2nd grades, one for 3rd  & 4th grade and one for 5th & 6th grades.  There is also a small classroom for preschool (K3, K4 and Kindergarten).  





Here I am with (left to right):  The 5th-6th grade teacher, me, Pastor Duvil Fleurvil and Director Nixon, the school director.









The school as a whole was happy to receive crayons, glue, markers, scissors, pencil sharpeners and more to keep in their classrooms. Each child was thrilled to be able to take home something as well.  The younger kids IMG_0123each received a pencil and a marker, the older ones a pen and pencil. 

IMG_0135 There were enough notebooks for each 6th grader to receive their own notebook.  When we left, Perguens, the RMI employee who came with me, said to me that the supplies came at a really good time.  Perguens told me that the teacher shared with him that just yesterday, their teacher had told each student they needed to purchase a notebook for classwork.  Today, they each received that needed notebook.  How exciting for me to be a part of that!  The kids and teacher didn’t miss it—they recognized that God provided for their need in a very timely manner.

IMG_0133 Pencils, pens, markers and notebooks may seem like a small gift.  I’m thinking back to when I was a kid, if I got one pencil and one marker, I probably wouldn’t have been very appreciative.  But these kids really were!  In a place where many don’t know where their next meal is coming from and their parents have to to decide whether to pay for school or buy food, this is a HUGE gift!  I’m sure many of those 6th graders had no idea where they were going to get the money for a notebook. 

Trinity Alliance Church, thanks for your donation and thoughtfulness.  God used you in a very tangible way to show these kids how much He loves them and how He provides them with even their smallest needs.  When you sent this box down, I didn’t know what school would benefit from your generosity.  But God did!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving for 120!

What do you do when you live in another country and important US holidays come around?  I, for one,  am not going to sit around and mope for what I might be missing!  You make your own traditions and celebrate with the family you have close to you—and you learn that family is not limited to those related by blood.  We are incredibly blessed to have a community of missionaries from different organizations and countries to “do life” with!  They truly are a second family.  There are also many other ex-pats in southern Haiti, many who I don’t know well, who are also missing their families and friends. 

Our community here in Les Cayes, Haiti has been celebrating American Thanksgiving together for over 20 years.  Most years, this gathering has happened at what is now our home.  I have been thrilled to carry on that tradition!    I think we set a record this year—120 people came to our gathering!  Countries represented included the US, Germany, Canada, Haiti, South Africa, Nicaragua, and Uruguay. I think one of the best things about Thanksgiving, is that it is a holiday that transcends nationality. We can add our American traditions to it, but all of us in this missionary community enjoy setting a day aside to thank God for His blessings over the past year. 

All 120 of us!


This was our third year here for Thanksgiving and my third year hosting.  I really enjoy organizing and hosting this event!  Some of you may think I am insane, but the truth is, now that I’ve done it a few times, this was the easiest year yet.  I’ve got a good sense on what amounts of food we need and the best way to set everything up in our yard.

So how did I do it?  What is needed to pull this off?  TEAMWORK!  I didn’t do it!  Everyone contributed.  A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I send out invitations and a sign-up list via email. I ask  Agape Flights to purchase the amount of large turkeys we need and they fly them in when they fly in the mail and packages. I purposely choose to sign up to bring dessert, so that the only cooking I have to do is baking the day before.  The sign-up list includes tables and chairs available.  The day before, some missionaries brought down their tables and chairs and Rob and Gary drove around picking up the rest.  The day of Thanksgiving, while everyone else is making the dish(es) they signed up to bring, Rob and I are setting up tables and chairs and working out last minute details.  I invited anyone who wanted to come and decorate the tables to come at 11 am.  All the tables were beautifully decorated by 11:30.  I always set up an activity table for the kids with lots of crayons, Thanksgiving coloring sheets, mazes and word searches.  Drew’s teacher, Ms. Karen and the teacher’s aid at the school, Sarah, came up with a craft as well.

Someone made a comment on Facebook that I must have a very large house to do this. Hahahaha!  We could never fit a quarter of the people in my house.  What we do have, is enough space in the yard and driveway to pull this off outside.  Imagine our panic, when at 12:30, an hour before everyone was to start arriving and all the tables, tablecloths and decorations were set up, it STARTED RAINING!  When we realized it was not a quick shower, we grabbed all the tarps we could find and covered the tables.  I never prayed so hard for rain to stop! It stopped raining right as people started to arrive at 1:30 and the rain held off the rest of the day.  Praise the Lord!

All the tables set up in the driveway before the rain started:


Wondering what we had at our meal? Here is the run down: 4  20-pound turkeys, 1 15-pound turkey, 5 trays of stuffing, 5 bowls of gravy, 4 trays of mashed potatoes, 3 trays of sweet potatoes, 16 cans of corn, 5 trays of “other vegetables”, 6 different salads, 3 baskets of bread (with butter), 3 bowls of cranberry sauce, 15 different desserts,  3 10-gallon thermos’s of juice, and large amounts of regular and decaf coffee.  We all ate very well!

IMG_9198 IMG_9202

IMG_9200 IMG_9214

We try to stick to a loose program.  Eat dinner, then take a group photo, then get dessert.  While eating dessert, Rob shared a short devotional then opened up the mic to anyone who wanted to share what they were thankful for for the past year.  Tessa’s first grade class sang a song complete with sign language hand motions.  This time of reflection together is always very special.

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Braden was pretty tired from all the work and fell asleep at the table!


What a great Thanksgiving with our ‘second family’!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Join us in welcoming another RMI appointee!

Suttons signing croppedWe are excited to welcome our third appointee this year!  Joel and Laura Sutton of Gainesville, Florida have officially joined the RMI family.  They are members of Creekside Community Church, which has been a Sister Church to Baradere, Haiti for many years.  Joel has been to Haiti 3 times, leading the last 2 teams.  Laura has been twice.  Both Joel and Laura have felt a clear calling of God to Haiti and are excited to step into whatever He has for them there. 

Being a “people person” and a “do-er”, Joel will be a team facilitator and will assist in maintenance and with projects.  Being a teacher and loving to work with kids uniquely qualifies him to work with the Teacher Training Teachers Program as well as with the Awana Program, too.

Laura is uniquely qualified to help develop a “medical package”, laying out everything needed for medical teams as well as facilitating those kinds of teams.  She will also assist in developing Community Health initiatives that teams and churches can participate in.  She’d also like to be involved in women’s ministry.  

Both of them are willing to fit in wherever necessary, so their niche will be refined when they arrive on the field.

Currently Joel is a teacher in the public education system, working with learning challenged children and Laura is the Clinical Assistant Professor of Nursing in the College of Nursing at the University of Florida.  She will be retiring in January 2014 (after which they plan to go to Haiti).  Between them they have 8 adult children and 13 grandchildren. 

Pray for them as they raise their support in the comings months.  It is no small challenge in front of them, but they are excited about this new chapter in their lives.  Drop them a line and welcome them! and

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti Hard…

Many hurricanes we watch for a long time as they slowly move across the Atlantic.  We often have the ability to prepare for more than a week.  As an organization here to help provide relief in emergency situations, we want to be ready to respond. Hurricane Sandy didn’t give us much notice!  It formed in the Caribbean just to our South, just a couple of days before its affect was felt.  In fact, Hurricane Sandy went well to our West, over Jamaica and over Cuba, but the winds and rain were significantly greater than any I have experienced in the last 3 years.   In fact, I have spoken with several Haitians who have commented that they had never seen such swollen rivers and related destruction.

groupsYou can be assured that we are working hard to contact our Partnership Churches to get reports.  We have gotten some details so far.  They are below.  As we get additional details, we will be sending them through our partnership eGROUPS.  If you aren’t already subscribed, you can do so here

You can see some pictures here that we are finding seem to be representative of most of our Partnership Churches and Communities.  These were taken 10/30/12, in a town called Cherette.

Please pray for your brothers and sisters in Haiti.  We are hearing of almost total loss of gardens.  Many have lost their animals.  Many have lost their school books and supplies.  Much flooding remains.  Roads remain cut off.   Bridges are out.  They have no insurance…

Please pray and consider helping your sister church at this time.


These reports are what we have received so far.  Many are hard to contact due to lack of power to charge cell phones and the busyness of cleaning up and serving others.

Calvary Baptist/Dame-Marie – No Report from Pastor.  We have tried on many occasions to contact Pastor, but it has been impossible.  We do know that Dame Marie experienced significant flooding and wind damage.

Christ Community/Fond Deron – Many homes of the church members were flooded; they lost all their animals and their gardens are gone as well.

Church on the Cape/Boyer – Pastor says, “I may praise the Lord.  We are safe after the Storm tropical Sandy.”  The church members have lost all their gardens.  There is a total of 60 animals dead.  These animals are cows, goats, pigs and donkeys. There are 15 homes that are damaged.  Saint Marten, the church where Church on the Cape just visited, tells us the parsonage is damaged.

Creekside/Baradères – The town was totally flooded; 14 ft of water was the high of the water in the town. The Parsonage was one of the main centers that received people from all over the community. The Christians in the church lost everything in their homes. They lost their gardens and their animals.

Crossroad UMC/Tiburon – The town was flooded.  There was a lot of water in the church yard.  The town is  currently cut off from receiving and supplies.  We don’t have specific damage reports at this time.

Crossroads Bible/Chambellan – We have 20 homes destroyed for the whole district.  All the church members have lost their gardens; the church members have lost substantial numbers of cows, goats, pigs and their chickens. We also have one person died in of our District churches and his name was Jean Joel.

Dry Creek/La Colline – The road washed out and all the Christians lost their gardens and their animals. Now it is hard to get to Lacolline with vehicles.

East Bayou/Petit-trou – There is no loss in human life.  That’s the good news and we thank God for that. But the Christians lost almost all their gardens. Some of their animals died from the storms too. Many homes washed away and the kids lost all the school supplies, now it is difficult for them to go back to school.

Estero/Cherette – We say thank you to God because it could have been worse, because his eyes were on us this is how it went: we have one person died, 180 houses damages, 80 houses broke down, 700 animal lost,  2000 acres land of garden is lost.  We can tell you that school has not been in function this week and don't know when it will because the parents lost everything, books, uniform, notebooks etc.  The teachers have lost their material so it is hard for school to function this month so please pray for us.  This evaluation has been made by the pastor, deacons the teachers of Cherette Baptist church, and other evangelical leaders in the locality.

First ARP/Source Baptiste – No Report

Florida Bible/Maniche – The church yard was flooded, the Christians lost all their gardens and the road washed out.

Grace/Aux Coteau – No Report

Great Valley/Cance – The Storm tropical Sandy finished and leaves lots of our Christians in a very difficult time. From Cance district, the Christians homes were totally flooded. The farmers lost their plantains, Vegetables down and also they lost in general for the District: 1 cow, 6 goats, 2 mules.

Harper/Les Irois – There are 15 homes of the Christians that are damaged, One of the district churches was damaged, “Jorgue Church”. The Christians lost all their gardens.

Hollywood/Corail – The town was flooded; the Christians lost everything since they had water in their houses. Their gardens are gone, I want you to know that the church was the center to receive the people from the community.

Hope EFC/Beaumont – The homes of some of the church members broke, they lost their gardens, and their animals. One of the churches in the district was severely damaged and the parsonage too. The church’s name is Debarye.

Linwood/Anse-à-Veau – The house of the church members were flooded and they also lost their animals and all their gardens.

Mainstreet/Port-Salut – We have not heard yet from the church.  We do know that Port Salute had significant wind damage and flooding, and therefore have most certainly experienced great loss.

NewChurch/Abricot – Many church members homes were flooded and damaged, Church members lost their gardens and their animals.

North Hills/Anse d’Hainault – Anse D’hainault Baptist Church has 3 broken homes and 11 homes damaged. The gardens of the church members washed out.   Fidele Church: 1 broken home, 4 home damaged and gardens washed away.  Francklin Church: 2 broken homes and 3 homes damaged. The gardens of the Christians washed away.  Fondain Church: The church in Fondain damaged severely and 3 other homes damaged.  Sicard church: The church is totally gone 5 homes damaged.  Galette Bouton Church: The church is totally down and there are 5 more homes damaged from the storm.  Gabriel church: the church in Gabriel is damaged and broken homes. The church members also lost their Gardens in the area.  Poban Church: the church in Poban is damaged and there are 3 more homes damaged.

Our Saviors/Les Anglais – There is 70 homes broken in the community of Les Anglais, Some of the homes are Christians members, they lost their gardens and they also lost lot of animals.

Petersburg Bible/Lièvre – Most church members lost their gardens.  We received a report and emailed it for all the district churches.  We are told that the whole town of Lievre was flooded.  We are told that the road to Lievre is totally washed out and Pastor said that it will probably take a couple weeks before trucks get access to Lievre.  They are cut off.

Schuylkill/Camp-Perrin – No Report

Second Cape/Port-à-Piment – 15 damaged homes of church members were damaged.  Every lost their gardens.  75 animals died, those animals are cows, goats, sheep, chickens donkeys and mules.

Sunrise/Morancy – The wall of the church broke down; the Christians lost all the Gardens and their animals.

The Orchard/Astruc – The road washed out after the storm and now trucks can not drive through it. The Christians lost their animals and gardens. Some homes of church members have been damaged too.

The Summit/Côte-de-Fer – The church yard was flooded.  There was no water in the church, but lots of mud in the yard.  The whole community was flooded. The people in the church have lost their gardens and animals.

The Village Church/Ducis – 15 homes damaged from the storm.  The Christians have lost their gardens.

Trinity Bible/Picot – No Report

Vast/Pestel – Many homes of the church members have been damaged. Many have lost their gardens and their animals.

A Deep Partnership Before Deep Waters…

IMG_8734I had the privilege of joining up with NewChurch, from Georgetown, TX, on their recent visit with their brothers and sisters in Abricot, Haiti.  The team had a great mix of veteran visitors, as well as first timers.  God brought that exact team together for a purpose.

picturesThe US team was fun to watch.  Their authentic passion for people, their contagious joy in celebrating God, their constant want to go beyond the external, and their desire to be who God intends his 1 body to be was on display at all times.  It wasn’t about appearances.  It was so much more than doing.  It was being.  It was about being together, in love, honoring and lifting up one another and the Lord in the process.  Encouraging one another. Together, worshipping the same Lord.  There was something unique in their smiles as I watched Haitians and Americans spend time together.  Smiles.  Laughter.  Tears.  Jumping.  Listening.  Holding hands.  Songs.  Dancing.  Hugs.  Looks.  Squeals.  Genuine relationship building.  Real care.  True partnership.

IMG_8616As I shared in conversations and I listened to both sides, it’s obvious that this partnership is about collaboration.  It’s about sharing and seeking understanding.  It’s a process.  It isn’t about a US church acting prematurely without the presence of understanding.  It wasn’t about being Santa Claus.  It was about being Jesus.  It was about mutual edification and service to one another, and with one another to the community at large.

I believe God was pleased and lives in Abricot, and lives from Georgetown, will never be the same again.

Of course, the Abricot visit did get cut slightly short.  The typical 6ish hour trip back to Cayes turned into a protracted 93 hour expedition/journey/adventure…  Instead of leaving Abricot on Wednesday morning like normal, we “pulled an audible” and took off early on Tuesday afternoon. We knew with the impending Hurricane Sandy, that we had many potential obstacles on our way out.  We didn’t want to leave.  We had to. We made the right decision! 

iPhone-13At 3pm, we reluctantly pulled away from our family in Abricot, leaving behind our sleeping and eating quarters, that would later be flooded with 4’ of water, covering our beds where we slept, and the tables where we ate.  We made it up out of an already muddy Abricot, on the road perched along a narrow step/ridge nestled high above the ocean on a steep mountain side that later would wash away in the storm.  We made it across the Jeremie bridges, that are now closed due to damage (Note: they should be open soon, our next team goes through there Saturday!).  We made it to the Ice River in Duchity.  But, that is where we sat, and sat, and sat, and sat.  We arrived at the Ice River at about 7pm Tuesday night, and immediately knew we were stuck.  We “slept” there in the RMI trucks at the rivers edge, taking in all the sights, hoping the water would recede.  It was an interesting night to say the least.  I think we all knew it would not recede, but we had to watch/hope.  Instead, it kept rising.  For days the river ravaged that narrow gorge.  We returned back out of the gorge at 3:45am, resigned to the fact that we weren’t going anywhere.  Sitting there at rivers edge, with the other frustrated crowds, seemed unwise and unproductive.  We backtracked about 5 minutes to the closest MEBSH church, in Duchity.  We “slept” on church benches above wet floors below a very leaky tin roof.  Some even “slept” standing up!  At about 6am, the pastor, who lives across the street came over to see what was happening.  Pastor and his wife immediately took action.  There wasn’t a question.  We were fellow members of The family.  Our team of 10 took over their house.  I’m not kidding.  For the next 3.5 days, we took over.  We filled their house, and they served us all day long.  There were 2 beds that the 4 ladies shared.  There was a back room where most of the guys slept on the floor.  Some slept in cars.  It was wet.  It was cold.  The food was a little scarce.  But, the team did AWESOME.  We persevered as we heard of additional mudslides that made the roads in front and behind impassable.  RMI worked every angle.  My phone and internet was more active than ever.  We considered every option.  Yet, there was only one option.  Wait for the water to recede. We had a roof over our heads and we were with people who cared.  The following statement is threaded with irony, but the Pastor shared with us that he can’t complain about his life. He was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and personal contentment when he saw the testimony on display by the team’s spirit through their great attitudes, laughter, willing sacrifice, spirit driven perseverance, confidence, hope, etc.  The NewChurch family back home should be proud of their team.  As we might say in the US, they were troopers!

All are home now, but we will never be the same due to the deep impact of this partnership, and from one deep river.

Pictures are available here.


Doing Life Together

It had been a season of change for the Baptist Church in Boyer.  It had also been a season of change for the Church on the Cape in Wilmington, NC.  Though unaware of the simultaneous transitions as they were happening, once together in Boyer, the churches began sharing their stories and realized the similarities.  The relationship in which Boyer had been joined with Church on the Cape was not random. It was ordained by God and had been set in place for a purpose.  God is in the details.  This was evident to the team from Church on the Cape after their most recent trip to Boyer. 

Boyer24Above:  Sunday Morning Worship.  The team taught the congregation the hand-motions to “I’ve Got a River Of Life”

It was an extra special trip for Pastor Devin as his wife and two oldest children were part of the seven member team.  In addition to a sweet time of sharing between churches, the Church on the Cape stayed busy during their stay in Boyer.  They held a youth meeting, a children’s meeting, a deacons meeting, a open air service and a ladies tea but the highlight of their visit trip was the three trips they made to three satellite churches.

Boyer8To get to the first church they drove a short distance, and then left the trucks and after about a five minute walk, they arrived.  The property sat on top of a mountain, with a beautiful view of the valley below.  The church is under construction so they met in a temporary structure.  The second church was tucked away in the countryside and after leaving the trucks it took about 20 minutes to arrive by foot. The building is also under construction and so a ‘hut’ has been put in place to hold services.  The third church was set on the coast with a gorgeous view of the ocean.  At each church, the team enjoyed sharing a message and worshipping with their Haitian brothers and sisters.  Its always a special time of worship at satellite churches, because many of them are rudimentary at best and its in that kind of setting that team members feel closest to the presence of God. The music is always sweet and the worship is always genuine and they aren’t distracted with ‘things’ that would distract them from experiencing God at his fullest.
(Photo: The team shares a song with the Moindre Church.)


                                                                  Left: The Church at Moindre      Right: The Church at St Martin

While the team visits and monetary gifts are valued and greatly appreciated by the Haitian church, it was made clear on this visit that its not only about that.  Its about the relationship.  Its about loving one another, supporting one another, praying for one another, and walking through both mountaintops and valleys together. 

Please pray for both churches as they continue to grow and for the work they are doing in North Carolina and in Boyer, Haiti.

Pictures from the week can be seen here.