What or Whom do we live for?

“A Pharisee shuts you up, not by loud shouting, but by the unanswerable logic he presents; he is bound to principles, not to a relationship. There is a great amount of Pharisaism abroad to-day, and it is based on devotee-ness to principles. Devotion to a cause is the great mark of our day, and in religion it means being devoted to the application of religious principles. A disciple of Jesus Christ is devoted to a Person, not to principles.” –Oswald Chambers

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Coming Home

We got up at 5:00 this morning had a couple muffins and hit the road for Port-au-Prince. We had a successful trip to the airport which is always an adventure in under two hours. I was amazed to see everything packed on a Saturday morning at 7:00; all the markets, soccer fields, and basketball courts. We have made it through immigration and both security check points. We are sitting at our departure gate waiting to board our flight to Miami at 9:30 – 10:20 departure. Pray we make it all the way home today and looking forward to seeing everyone.

Day 6

Today was another good day. It was bittersweet for many of us. We look forward to getting home and seeing our friends and family, but I think we all really enjoyed ourselves and would have liked to spent some more time here. We worked again up to lunch helping with all the grading being done around here, since it’s pretty much been a construction site for awhile. After lunch we relaxed and spent some time with the kids. Every day that went by it got easier and easier for our. Group to interact with the kids. We learned more of their language and they became more comfortable. In the afternoon, we all jumped in their 1966 M35 ( awesome truck, 6 wheel drive, some sort of army truck – think Raiders of the Lost ark truck ) went down to the Children’s Village to pick up the younger kids and drove to the beach. We spent a little more than an hour with the kids. Our group enjoyed that. For dinner we made pizzas which were awesome. After dinner we debriefed with the missionaries talking about our week. Keep the missionaries Andrew and Angie Sutton with their two girls Faith and Glory in your prayers as they continue to work with these orphans showing them the gospel of Jesus Christ. We leave at quarter to six Saturday morning, pray for us to get back home on schedule. Pray for those that went that God would use this week to empower us for the advance of his kingdom. Thank you all for your prayers and we look forward to seeing you soon. God Bless!

Day 5

It’s Thursday and, I, John W have volunteered to start the blog for this day. Since Jon will talk all about Tony “the coffee guy” I thought I’d comment on Romy, a young man who lives here in Haiti. Colby and I have talked to Romy, and the other boys more than anyone and it has been a huge eye opener. Learning of the hard struggle in Haiti, and how education, God, and the life inside the orphanage walls showed that these young men live a life truly showing the love and blessings of God. The young men constantly reference a sermon from Sunday saying “The word of God makes me rich.” There is always more to say about these young men but I’m getting tired so Goodnight, we will be home soon and Jon will finish the Blog.

Thanks John!

Today was probably the best day. It was a little cooler than the others. Jeffrey, Melissa, Darya and myself were up this morning to watch the sunrise. We had pancakes this morning for breakfast. It was Colby’s 21st birthday today and we ended up singing Happy Birthday to him twice, once in the morning and again in the evening after Jocelyn and Abby ( sorry it is not Abbey, she corrected me today ) made him a birthday cake.

After breakfast the whole group worked together on getting the 6 almond trees. We had to dig up some hard soil with half broken shovels to mound up the dirt to plant the trees. They were fully planted and watered by lunch. This lunch was my favorite as was some others. We had a spicy cole slaw, Haitian calzones, fries, and chips with pizza dip.

After lunch, I went for a walk with Abby, Jocelyn, and Valeri higher up the mountain while the others stayed back to hang with the kids and relax a little. Our walk was quite interesting. It was about an hour up the mountain. We saw many villages where the Red Cross and other relief agencies had been. The further you went up the less and less civilized it appeared to be. We interacted with most of the people we encountered. A few of them knew some English most of them did not. Most would stare at you like they didn’t know what to think of you until we said something to them in the little Creole we know and they would wave and respond in kind. We came across a cemetery and the lady that lived across the street did not appreciate us being there. At the top there was a group of kids playing soccer with a stuffed sock. On the way back down the mountain we encountered an older guy with a very weathered face and shredded clothes running after us and yelling something. He was very frustrated with us. After awhile following us, he was finally grabbed by a guy carrying a machete and held him back, lol. It sounds worse than it was haha!

After we got back from our walk, we rested a bit and got ready for the weekly Hands and Feet worship service. The younger children came up from the Children’s village for it. This was a really neat experience. Angie led the worship and played the keyboard. Romy played the bass and another of the children played the drums. We gathered on the roof ( second story they are starting construction soon – it’s all concrete construction ) of the building. Our group really enjoyed worshipping with the children. Angie gave the kids a devotion in Luke about Mary sitting at Jesus feet.

After this we had a time our group will not forget. It was the highlight for many of our group. I am going to share a little about it. I will write more about it later but Darya and Melissa journaled quite a bit of what was said and I think I may use their stories a little later when I get a chance. I will try to sum it up. As Little John mentioned earlier, we listened to the testimony of Tony the coffee guy, what an incredible story and a man used by God. He was saved at the age of 39. He was a successful businessman near Toronto. He was a log home builder. He always loved what he did, but after his salvation God gave him a new desire. He sold his business and went to Cuba as a missionary working underground. He supported himself becoming a businessman doing exportation with his plantations. After four years of this he was kicked out of the country. They literally put him on a plane and told him not to come back. He left everything he had built behind.

He found his way to Haiti and owned a gas station. One thing after another he was removed from that by some of the political families. Then he told his story how God opened things up to sell coffee for the mountain people above Grand Goave. He told us there is about 120,000 people in Grand Goave, 110,000 of them are in the mountains, the farther you go up the harder they are to get to. He supports numerous schools and widows by selling the coffee of the mountain for full market value to the states. The one thing in supporting all these schools they had to teach the Bible if he was to support them. Well as he quickly found out voodoo is rampant, it’s everywhere. The stories of God’s grace were amazing. He told us stories of all child sacrifices that take place, the witch doctors that curse people putting them to death, witch doctors that can win lotteries for you, all the demonic possession, but God’s grace saving these people even the witch doctors that are now preaching the gospel. We serve an amazing God. So much more to tell about his testimony.

You can find his website and buy his coffee at

http://www.morethancoffee.org

We have greatly enjoyed our week here, we are sad it is our last day here, but look forward to coming home. Pray for us tomorrow as we leave here at about six o’clock to catch our flight in Port-au-Prince. Thank you for your prayers, God Bless!

Day 4

Only Abbey and Valeri did not stay up for the new year. The rest of us stayed up. There wasn’t much excitement, it was very quiet where we were staying except the faint noise of a night club about a half mile down the road. After bringing in the new year, we were all up by seven this morning, and Jocelyn and Valeri got up again early to watch the sunrise. The workers are all usually here to start working by seven, I think they started even early this morning. Today was probably the hottest day so far. I think it was in the low to mid nineties.

After breakfast, Darya, John, Jeffrey, Melissa, Jesse, Colby all got to work on various projects. The shelves and tables in the tool depot were all finished today. They sanded a lot of concrete prepping it for painting when it fully cures. They were also doing some grading work moving a lot of dirt and rocks around in the back preparing the back for some trees to be planted.

After breakfast, Jocelyn, Valeri, Abbey and myself went with Angie to look for the trees to plant in the back. We were also checking out some possible trees to plant in the front for the plan I had worked on for them. We went for about a twenty minute drive to look at some trees that someone was selling from their backyard. I don’t think there are too many nurseries to buy plants. When we got out to the place with the trees, we looked at what they had which were papaya trees, mango trees, the small coconut trees, and bread fruit trees. Angie was looking for some almond trees, they didn’t have them there so we waited while the man went somewhere else to bring us some almond trees. The girls played with Angie’s two girls and the little neighborhood kids there while we waited on the plants to return and really enjoyed themselves with them.

The drive was interesting, we processed a little more this time than the first day we got here. Humans definitely do not have the right of way. The bigger vehicle always has the right of way. I would guess that three fourths of the vehicles are motorcycles on which there are usually two or three people on them. It is not uncommon to see children on them. The other fourth are almost all vans, trucks, and buses carrying a load of people. The pick up trucks cart around loads of people in the back bed, which is how we have been getting around. We have hardly seen any cars. It is very interesting to see some of the buses completely loaded with people. It is common to see people sitting on top with the luggage or standing on the back bumper or on the sidestep barreling down the tight road pretty fast. Sitting on the top, back, or side is a cheaper ride after all. There are more horns in the road than when we went to New York with the high schoolers this summer. Someone is always passing you doesn’t matter if somebody is coming the other way or not, they just push the other direction onto the shoulder. I am taking a lot of pictures but have to do it discreetly, the natives do not like it, it has something to do with voodoo with the picture stealing your soul.

After lunch we relaxed a little then headed down to the children’s village to play with the kids. Andrew set up the computer on the tv to play their Temple Run tournament. Jeffrey got knocked out in the first round. Colby and John made it to the third round. Later, Jesse, Jeffrey, and Darya played three on three basketball against the kids. We also played on the playground with some of the smaller kids, and watched despicable me 2 with them. We also got to meet a neat American couple with three kids that just moved down to Haiti this past August. They started a mission called Education Impact to work with young adults to teach them a trade and how to make a living. They are trying to work alongside hands and feet as the orphans graduate from high school.

Tonight we had dinner from an Americanized restaurant which wasn’t very American.

It was another good day. God is good. Our group is having a good time together learning and experiencing much and seeking God in it all.

We read Scripture last night together for about an hour, and this was shared by Abbey which she thought was fitting for the week, which I agree. Pray for revival in Haiti, pray for workers to go with the gospel of Jesus Christ that they might see the glory of our Lord and his great salvation.

Lamentations 5

Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace! Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows. We must pay for the water we drink; the wood we get must be bought. Our pursuers are at our necks; we are weary; we are given no rest. We have given the hand to Egypt, and to Assyria, to get bread enough. Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities. Slaves rule over us; there is none to deliver us from their hand. We get our bread at the peril of our lives, because of the sword in the wilderness. Our skin is hot as an oven with the burning heat of famine. Women are raped in Zion, young women in the towns of Judah. Princes are hung up by their hands; no respect is shown to the elders. Young men are compelled to grind at the mill, and boys stagger under loads of wood. The old men have left the city gate, the young men their music. The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning. The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned! For this our heart has become sick, for these things our eyes have grown dim, for Mount Zion which lies desolate; jackals prowl over it. But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations. Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days? Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old— unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.

Day 3

The third day was filled with some unique and new experiences for our group. Valeri, Abby and Jocelyn got up at 5:45 to see the beautiful sunrise this morning. The sun appeared about a half hr later. They said they could literally hear the mountain wake up. First the roosters, then the donkeys, then the goats and then they could hear many of the children making their noises. They enjoyed waking to the sunrise while spending time in the Word and prayer.

After breakfast, the girls went with Angie down to the market in Grand Goave. They enjoyed the experience of learning and seeing so much in a short time of Haitian culture. The guys went down with Angie after lunch after the girls got back. Usually, the market is open two days a week on Wednesday and Saturday, but since it is New Years Eve they were open today and was very packed. The people were very touchy and trying to get the attention of our group. There were hundred and hundreds of booths packed very close to one another. The number of different things they sold was pretty amazing. The number of smells from the market were many. There were all kinds of meat everywhere. Some booths had people chopping it all up with their big machetes. Some booths were cooking it. There was many different kinds of fish which they season heavily because they have very little refrigeration. At one booth was a big cow’s head sitting front and center. There was a lot of plantains, sugar cane, tobacco, and every kind of vegetable it seemed. These were pretty much all stored on the dirt floor. Flip flops, all kinds of shoes, many types of clothes, and toiletries, were also available. All the girls bought some skirts, treats and hair things?? Valeri and Abby almost bought something from the voodoo lady before they realized who she was and thought better of it. The guys didn’t buy much. The only thing worth noting was Jesse buying the warm ( never refrigerated ) shelf milk to just try it, he apparently liked it. The rest of the guys were prepared to duck. Shelf milk is common, since cow milk is $24 a gallon. As Jeffrey described it adequately, it felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movie going through the bazaars. 🙂

While the girls were at the market in the morning, all the guys helped move 40-50 large boulders in the front of the building to outline the parking lot and the front where the kids play and hang out. Some of the boulders we were able to pick up with two people, the others we rolled into place. Our guys had fun acting like it was world’s strongest man competition rolling them around. There were also two boulders placed as the entrance to the front that probably weigh a ton or more. It was something to watch about 10 of their workers roll the boulders with four 2×4’s ( which are actual 2×4’s America ).

After lunch while the guys went to the market the girls made some cupcakes to celebrate some birthdays of the kids down at the children’s village. Melissa and Darya got a chance to talk to some of the older orphans. This has been a challenge for us so far, they have been a little difficult to have any genuine conversation with them. They know more English than they let on, but don’t seem to take some of us too serious.

After the guys got back from the market, the whole group went down to the Children’s Village to meet a young man who had Haitian souvenirs which our group got several. Afterwards, our group watched the children play soccer of which they played rather intensely. It was the guys vs girls who were badly outnumbered but still held their own. Little John, Darya, and Jesse all jumped in to help out the girls. Jocelyn, Abbey and Valeri got a chance to ask Andrew and Angie a lot of questions about the organizations, the kids and Haiti. After the soccer game, we all gathered together and sang Happy Birthday to a handful kids who had their birthdays in January. It was now dark and we rode up in the back of the pickup truck up the mountain back to our place.

I think our lunch meal and the dinner meal were our two favorites so far. I know it was mine. For lunch, there were chicken drumsticks, brown rice with beans with a thin semi spicy gravy, and potato salad with beets. We also had freshly squeezed white grapefruit juice ( everyone’s favorite ) For dinners we had cooked potatoes with ketchup and pork with barbecue sauce.

I think probably half our group is going to stay up to see the new year start. It is the biggest holiday of the year for the Haitian people so we are curious if we will see many fireworks tonight. There were a few last night. We are all up on the roof while I write this blog. They are really enjoying each other. Every night we come up top while very dark and talk about anything and everything, enjoy viewing the stars, and reading Scripture for awhile.

We all miss our friends and family very much and pray you all have a very Happy new year, may God bless you all in the year to come.

Day 2

Today was a good day, it was a busy day. I think everyone feels much was accomplished. Since the last blog was yesterday afternoon I will start with last nights worship service. There was an obvious cultural difference of which our group really enjoyed it. It was a 5 o’clock start that got started at about 6 so pretty accurate for Haitian standard of time 🙂 The worship team was very young, enthusiastic and loud. They sang a handful of songs most of us recognized. They would sing the first verse in English then sing it again in Creole and followed this pattern through all the songs. Our group loved it. Then we had a pastor from Massachusetts who moved to Haiti with his family give a short message to us on the parable of the sower. He spoke most of it in Creole and some of it in English. The drummer who did all the translating would translate to the other language that wasn’t spoken, which made it very interesting to say the least.

The church is a very short distance away from where we are staying so we discovered that on the ride back that it is possible to fit 17 people in a mid size pickup going back up the mountain ( Cincinnati Straight Street made of very unlevel gravel ) of which there will be pictures coming lol.

Today was our first work day of which was pretty productive. Valeri, Abbey, and Jocelyn got quite a bit of the building we are staying at painted before lunch. Darya and Melissa helped the missionary couple unpack since they just moved up the mountain with the older kids. Jeffrey, Little John, Colby and Jesse built a system of shelves in the tool depot. After lunch Darya, Melissa, Colby, Little John, Jocelyn and Abbey went down the mountain to play cards, basketball and soccer with several groups of younger kids while Angie did Bible studies with them as well. Jeffrey, Jesse and Valeri stayed back to work on the shelves. I spent the day working on drawing a landscape plan for them to put in over the coming months. Hands and Feet gives many opportunities to the locals to work to support themselves. Andrew acts as the general contractor overseeing workers to do construction, concrete, landscaping, and anything else they need to do. Angie has several local women help with all the cooking and laundry for all those on both sites.

It gets dark very quickly by 6 o’clock and since electric is sparse and lights are sparse it gets very dark where we are staying. Hands and Feet is solar powered which is backed up by generator when the solar runs out over night so we have access to light but everything around us is very dark. So at night we have a lot of free time, so we go up on the roof of our building which is eventually going to be the second floor which they start construction in a couple of weeks. Since it is very dark here, our group is enjoying looking at the sky and seeing all the stars so bright. Also, Andrew has a very nice Telescope and is showing us some things like Jupiter and some of its moons. The group is also spending their time together playing cards, talking, laughing a lot, enjoying themselves, reading Scripture and sharing some testimonies

Being up on a mountain, where we are staying we have some spectacular views of the Caribbean. Also, being up on a mountain we haven’t had any issues with the mosquitoes of which we are thankful. The worst of the insects is very many ants. The other thing that is very nice here is that they dug a well and have a good purifying system so we haven’t had any issues with the water.

It has been a very good two days, and I know our group is looking forward to the rest of the week. Thank you for your prayers and I ask you to continue as God works in our minds and hearts for His glory. Good night and God Bless!