I want to start this entry by giving Glory to our Savior, who chooses to use imperfect servants to accomplish more than we could ever plan or imagine. I also want to acknowledge my late father-in-law, Richard Faux, who gave me his precious daughter in marriage, and thank them both for their instrumental roles on my journey to Salvation. Twenty Five years ago, (yes, we started young) we accompanied a short term mission team from our Church to Haiti. We thought we were just going as volunteers to help build benches and roof trusses for a Church, but God had bigger plans for us. We had travelled abroad before and thought we knew what to expect, but little did we know how our lives were about to change, or what great plans our Savior was about to reveal to us, or that our family unit was about to expand, and we certainly had no idea we would be making this trip regularly for the next 20 something years.
As we left the airport and travelled the hot, dusty 20 miles to our Motel in an open stake truck, we were struck with our first images of Haiti. The local taxi cabs were pickup trucks with wooden slats mounted to the sidewalls to accommodate about 12 Americans or 20 Haitians with their pigs, goats, chickens, and 50 lb bags of rice, beans, charcoal, and stalks of bananas. The trucks were painted in bright, elaborate art work, and most were adorned with Bible verses or Praise statements for Christ. Each taxi had music blasting in the back as they competed to catch the attention of potential passengers. The roads were narrow and riddled with huge potholes, but it did nothing to slow the drivers. The roads and sidewalks were crammed full of pedestrians who seemed to be engaged in a never ending game of “chicken” with the taxis and other vehicle. The only traffic rule seemed to be, “he who hesitated or showed any sign of fear would lose.” The traffic was like a constant rush hour, regardless of the time, and we found ourselves asking where are all these people going?
Haiti is located on the Western half of the island of Hispanola and was once known as the pearl of the Caribbean. It has numerous mountains similar to our Smokey Mountain region. As far as the eye could see in any direction there were houses on the mountains, or at least that is what they called them; huts constructed of cardboard boxes, twigs, block and anything else that could be strapped together were built into the sides of those barren mountains. Mahogany and Coffee trees once dominated the mountain sides, but had been stripped bare over time to render charcoal. The smell of charcoal always hangs heavy in the air and is the main source for heating and cooking. Haiti has no oil or natural gas reserves and electricity is limited geographically and only for the upper class who can afford it. The cook shacks are like our grills or camping stoves and are usually located outside the home. Despite being on an Island, fresh water is rare in Haiti and many die every year because they cook or drink contaminated water. Every day we would see women and children going to fetch and carry 5 gallon buckets of water from any source available.
The overwhelming poverty is present everywhere. With few natural resources, years of corrupt dictatorships, little chance of employment, and a lack of education which continues to support the oppressive regimes and superstitions of the past, Haiti remains the poorest country in the western hemisphere. But the most striking image we retain is the joy of these people who truly have no material wealth or potential for anything and yet find joy and thanksgiving in their daily walk with Jesus. It is very humbling and convicting to see these people practice faith in Christ despite having little to no earthly possessions.
Many friends and family members have asked us over the years why we feel compelled to help the people of Haiti when there is still poverty and famine in areas of the US. Our answer is always the same – because God has directed us to help these people. Unlike the US, Haiti has no internal support system, no Social Security, no Welfare, no Food Stamps, no medicare or medicade, no pension plans, no retirement plans, and no 401k plans to offer assistance to those who have need. With little GNP, few natural resources, few jobs, and over population, there are no funds to support any Programs and the Church is the only means of support, and despite having little or no material wealth, the Haitians have learned to give thanks and rejoice despite their poverty (70% of the 8.9 million population can’t read, average life expectancy is 57.5 years, mortality rate for kids and babies is 62 deaths per 1,000 births)
Never was this more clearly demonstrated than on our first night in Haiti when we heard voices like angels singing praises in a house across the alley from our Motel. We had finished evening devotions and several of us ventured across the street to visit the source of this beautiful singing. The director of the Orphanage answered the door and let us in and began to explain the children were praying and praising God and believing He would provide food because they had not eaten yet that day and it was nearly 9 p.m. We did not understand the Creole language of the songs or prayers, but then again, translation was not really necessary to convey the message. The house was very small had dirt floors and was occupied by 35 hungry children and 3-4 staff members. The director shared with us that she and her husband had felt led to start the Orphanage and had never gone a day without food for the children. Several minutes after we had arrived, a Missionary stopped in and gave them several bags of rice and beans because he felt the Lord was telling him to do so. Needless to say the intensity of worship increased as the hungry children waited for their one meal for the day to be prepared and served. Once again we sere amazed as 35 starving children waited patiently in line for their meals to be served. The children were fed their “mana” and rejoiced. We were humbled and broken and had just encountered our first of many Spiritual Lessons on this trip. We noticed one little girl with orange hair and a bloated belly lingering in the corner and she was too weak and depressed to fend off those who were stealing her food. We motioned for the Director to intervene and she brought the girl closer to us and with some encouragement began to eat her dinner. The Director explained the girl was a recent addition and was not handling the transition well and she was in third stage malnutrition, was mute, and seemed to have given up. We returned to the Orphanage every night of our trip to bring more team members and plenty of food and snacks. We played games and sang and prayed with the children, who were starved for attention.
When we returned to the states, we felt compelled to help and sent money and began raising funds and started a non profit 501c organization to support this Orphanage. God blessed our efforts and raised thousands of dollars to provide food, schooling, medical care, and spiritual training for those 35 kids and we partnered with them for about 5 years and the orphanage relocated to a larger facility and grew to nearly 100 kids, some of which still contact us today via facebook and other forms of networking media. We returned to Haiti 2-3 times a year for many years and after much prayer adopted that little malnourished girl and I had the privilege of sharing a dance with her at our recent Father Daughter Program at ROCC as we joyfully recalled our first trip to Haiti. We did nothing special and had no great skills, but we obeyed God’s call and were blessed beyond our wildest dreams.
I shutter to think what life would have been like the past 20 years and the countless blessings we would have missed had we not listened to that small voice telling us to go on that seemingly insignificant short term Mission trip. Twenty Five years later we had an opportunity to go to Haiti and identify potential Ministry partners for ROCC. Eight Ministries were contacted and screened in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien areas of the Island and a ninth was added at the last minute. So in October 2011, we visited Haiti and 8 Ministries at both ends of the Island over 4 days in very hot & muggy conditions. When it was time to visit the last Ministry we were tired, hot, and ready to come home. We were greeted at the airport by Donald Curtis, the President of Children’s Lifeline, and spent the 90 minute drive discussing their vision for Ministry in Haiti and we discussed the vision ROCC had for Haiti and suddenly we were there.
The lifeline Compound is set in the mountains about 3 miles away from the main road and was very quiet for Haiti. The view as we pulled into the Compound was like the opening scene of a Hollywood movie, the 13 acres contained a guesthouse for 50, a soccer field, a school for pre-school through 10 the grade, a medical clinic, an adult vocational school for sewing, welding and masonry, a Church, and large kitchen area with 14 cook stations to feed 8,300 meals daily for children attending schools at 15 locations and 53 other orphanages & feeding centers. In addition to all of this, there was fresh running water near the compound along side the road in cement irrigation canals and the property was littered with Mango, Papaya and Banana tress. We were very impressed and ate dinner with a visiting short term Mission team and capped off the evening with a trip up the mountain to the Cross, which is about 40’ tall and painted to glow in the dark. Between the glowing Cross and the shooting star show, it was the perfect way to spend our last night in Haiti and we were all in agreement this was the best selection of a Ministry partner for ROCC. We were excited about this opportunity and were excited to return home and inform the Committee of our findings.
Before we left we spoke with Donald and told him we would like to explore possibility of returning with Lifeline in a long term Mission position if they had any needs and an interest. The Committee agreed with our recommendation and invited Lifeline founder, Arnold Lemke of Buchanan to come speak to the group. During the course of the evening Arnold was asked what the greatest need was at the Haiti compound and he replied they were praying for a Missionary couple to come and give oversight to the projects and Spiritual oversight to the staff, and we spoke up and said we were ready to go. We spoke with Arnold after the meeting and submitted applications and interviewed in KY and have accepted a position with Lifeline beginning this June. This was an answer to a 20 year prayer for us and a perfect synergy for starting the partnership with ROCC. It will be hard to say goodbye to both our Moms, 3 children, and 7 grandkids, but we know this is where we are to be at this time in our life. It will also be hard to say goodbye to our Church family and home for the past 8 years and we desire your support in whatever way you feel led.
We are so excited about what God has in store for us, ROCC, and Lifeline and you will be hearing more details shortly about how you, your family, your small group, or your class can become involved in Missions. God may want to use with Lifeline in Haiti, or Cuba, the Congo, Mexico, Goshen, USA, your School, your place of employment, your family, but make no mistake, He does want to use you somewhere to fulfill His great commission, the question is; Will you listen and obey? Don’t let the enemy convince you that you have no talents or skills, or that you are too young or too old, or that you couldn’t afford to go and serve, or that something will happen to you. God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams and our most exciting times may be just around the corner. This truly is the great adventure and it all started for us by saying yes to a simple short term mission trip years ago, how will your journey begin? We will be updating the Lifeline blog weekly to share our activities, project status, prayer concerns, and needs. Please stay in touch with us at www.childrenslifeline.com