Saturday, August 5, 2017

God's Word

Monday, July 17 
We’re up before the break of dawn to catch our early morning flight out of Port au Prince. It takes the entire 2.5 hours to check in and make it to our gate due to the extreme congestion and inefficiency of the airport. 

When we're finally up in the air I admire the bird's eye view.

After a relatively short flight to Ft. Lauderdale we find our next flight significantly delayed due to a freak storm over the airport.

When we do finally take off we are redirected to fly around what is left of the storm.

The delays cause us to miss our connecting flights; the team to Calgary, and me to Vancouver, but thankfully Air Canada is waiting for us with hotel and food vouchers when we deplane. That night is a short one for us as we need to be up at 3:45 a.m. to catch our 4:00 a.m. shuttle to the airport the following morning.  

Now soaring 38,000 feet over the earth I have all the time I need to piece together blog stories out of the many sentences scrawled messily in my journal.  

For me, the most important part of this trip is the gospel. On one of our final evening devotions we read these words:

"Some think it hard that there should be nothing for them but ruin if they will not believe in Jesus Christ; but if you will think for a minute you will see that it is just and reasonable. 

I suppose there is no way for a man to keep his strength up except by eating. If you were to say, “I will not eat again, I despise such animalism”, you might go to Madeira, or travel in all lands (supposing you lived long enough!), but you would most certainly find that no climate and no exercise would avail to keep you alive if you refused food. Would you then complain, “It is a hard thing that I should die because I do not believe in eating”? 

It is not an unjust thing that if you are so foolish as not to eat, you must die. It is precisely so with believing. “Believe, and thou art saved”. If thou wilt not believe, it is no hard thing that thou shouldst be lost. It would be strange indeed if it were not to be the case.

A man who is thirsty stands before a fountain. “No,” he says, “I will never touch a drop of moisture as long as I live. Cannot I get my thirst quenched in my own way?” We tell him, no; he must drink or die. He says, “I will never drink; but it is a hard thing that I must therefore die. It is a bigoted, cruel thing to tell me so.” He is wrong. His thirst is the inevitable result of neglecting a law of nature. 

You, too, must believe or die; why refuse to obey the command? Drink, man, drink! Take Christ and live. There is the way of salvation, and to enter you must trust Christ; but there is nothing hard in the fact that you must perish if you will not trust the Saviour." (Spurgeon, around the Wicket Gate)

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Matthew 3:14-15

I pray that God's Word that was shared each night with the team and the love we showed in both Word and Deed to the locals may have an eternal impact on their never dying souls. I have faith that God is able, and that His Word will not return to Him void.

So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: 
it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, 
and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. 
Isaiah 55:11

Friday, August 4, 2017

Freedom in Christ

Friday, July 14 
I wake up at 4:00 a.m. and check the time. Internet has been down for the past 2 days and it still isn’t working. 

I wait a little longer before getting up and enjoy a beautiful sunrise. 

At 6:30 we say goodbye to the Lemuel staff and climb onto the old school bus heading towards Port au Prince. 

The drive is hard to describe. The roads are extremely rough and narrow, dipping through valleys and curving around mountains. 

The scenery is constantly changing and every now and then we catch a glimpse of the beautiful Caribbean Sea. 

At one point a broken down dump truck blocks the road completely so all we can do is wait for the driver to get it going again. Thankfully this does not take too long. 

The first larger city we pass through is Gonaives, and it quickly envelopes us with sounds of blaring music, honking horns, and a cacophony of voices. 

Five hours later we reach a hotel on Haiti's beautiful coastline. We now have a little time to debrief and relax.

In our evening devotions we read about how people can be so foolish as to come up with all kinds of reasons why salvation is not for them.

"In these days, a simple, childlike faith is very rare; but the usual thing is to believe nothing, and question everything. Doubts are as plentiful as blackberries, and all hands and lips are stained with them. To me it seems very strange that men should hunt up difficulties as to their own salvation. 

If I were doomed to die, and I had a hint of mercy, I am sure I should not set my wits to work to find out reasons why I should not be pardoned. I could leave my enemies to do that: I should be on the look-out in a very different direction. 

If I were drowning, I should sooner catch at a straw than push a life-belt away from me. To reason against one’s own life is a sort of constructive suicide of which only a drunken man would be guilty. To argue against your only hope is like a foolish man sitting on a bough, and chopping it away so as to let himself down. Who but an idiot would do that? 

Yet many appear to be special pleaders for their own ruin. They hunt the Bible through for threatening texts; and when they have done with that, they turn to reason, and philosophy, and scepticism, in order to shut the door in their own faces. Surely this is poor employment for a sensible man.

Many nowadays who cannot quite get away from religious thought, are able to stave off the inconvenient pressure of conscience by quibbling over the great truths of revelation. Great mysteries are in the Book of God of necessity; for how can the infinite God so speak that all His thoughts can be grasped by finite man? But it is the height of folly to get discussing these deep things, and to leave plain, soul-saving truths in abeyance.

Thousands are now happy in the Lord through receiving the gospel like little children; while others, who can always see difficulties, or invent them, are as far off as ever from any comfortable hope of salvation. 

I know many very decent people who seem to have resolved never to come to Christ till they can understand how the doctrine of election is consistent with the free invitations of the gospel. I might just as well determine never to eat a morsel of bread till it has been explained to me how it is that God keeps me alive, and yet I must eat to live. The fact is, that we, most of us, know quite enough already, and the real want with us is not light in the head, but truth in the heart; not help over difficulties, but grace to make us hate sin and seek reconciliation.

God has sent His messages to man, telling him the good news of salvation. When a man believes the good news to be true, he accepts the blessing announced to him, and hastens to lay hold upon it. If he truly believes, he will at once take Christ, with all He has to bestow, turn from his present evil ways, and set out for the Heavenly City, where the full blessing is to be enjoyed. He cannot be holy too soon, or too early quit the ways of sin. If a man could really see what sin is, he would flee from it as from a deadly serpent, and rejoice to be freed from it by Christ Jesus." (Spurgeon, Around the Wicket Gate)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

He Who Has Begun A Good Work

Wednesday, July 12 
I wake up to the sound of sweeping and check the time; it’s not even 5:00a.m.. The locals get up very early to work as to avoid the intense heat when the burning sun reaches its zenith. Getting up, I see a large cricket clinging motionless to the bedroom wall. I contemplate the likelihood of eating it in my sleep tonight, and decide the probability of that is pretty slim, so I leave it. 

The sunrise is beautiful.

After breakfast the team gets to work on their various projects: watering trees, 

sifting sand for bricks, 

computer classes, 

a weaving craft class, 

husking corn, 

and hauling water from a river with donkeys.

That evening in our nightly devotions we read about how sin separates us from God. 

"It comes to this, my friend, as it did with John Bunyan; a voice now speaks to you, and says— WILT THOU KEEP THY SIN AND GO TO HELL? OR LEAVE THY SIN AND GO TO HEAVEN?

The point should be decided before you quit the spot. In the name of God, I ask you, Which shall it be—Christ and salvation, or the favourite sin and damnation? There is no middle course. Waiting or refusing to decide will practically be a sure decision for the evil one. He that stands questioning whether he will be honest or not, is already out of the straight line: he that does not know whether he wishes to be cleansed from sin gives evidence of a foul heart.

If you are anxious to give up every evil way, our Lord Jesus will enable you to do so at once. His grace has already changed the direction of your desires: in fact, your heart is renewed. Therefore, rest on Him to strengthen you to battle with temptations as they arise, and to fulfil the Lord’s commands from day to day. The Lord Jesus is great at making the lame man to leap like a hart, and in enabling those who are sick of the palsy to take up their bed and walk. He will make you able to conquer the evil habit. He will even cast the devil out of you. Yes, if you had seven devils, He could drive them out at once; there is no limit to His power to cleanse and sanctify. 

Now that you are willing to be made whole, the great difficulty is removed. He that has set the will right can arrange all your other powers, and make them move to His praise. You would not have earnestly desired to quit all sin if He had not secretly inclined you in that direction. If you now trust Him, it will be clear that He has begun a good work in you, and we feel assured that He will carry it on." (Spurgeon, Around the Wicket Gate)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Visit to a Remote Mountain Village

Tuesday, July 11
I wake up to the swish, swish of a straw broom. Groaning I roll over, by body still trapped in the throes of deep sleep. Outside, the sun is slowly rising over the distant mountains bathing the plateau with a serene, golden glow. 

Not normally a coffee drinker, I opt for a cup today. The rich Haitian coffee is just what I need to give my body the kickstart it needs.

Today we plan to head out to distribute food baskets to a very poor remote community in the mountains. As the only English/Creole speaker, I have been given the role of translating for the entire day trip. I pray for the gift of languages and am reminded that the same God who sent students for the various classes we were hosting and the same God who turned one donkey into thirteen would also provide for me now.

The road to Nanyilla is narrow and bumpy, winding around high mountains and steep valleys.

The views are beautiful and the sky is blue as we travel to our remote destination.

When we arrived in Nanyilla we are greeted by many elderly and blind people. 

After greeting them we sing for them, so at least those who can not see us can hear us. We leave the handing out of the food to the local pastor. 

One of the Haitian Lemuel staff, who is also a pastor shares the gospel with the people and several of them come forward asking for prayer and wanting to put their faith and hope in Christ. It is a very touching experience to witness.

When the food has been distributed, family members help to carry it home for their elderly or disable loved ones. 

Our next stop is a remote market where pale skinned people have rarely, if ever been seen. Many curious glances are cast our way.

We then stop for lunch at a local’s home. The soup that we are served is prepared over a stick fire.

As we eat, the sky becomes increasingly dark and threatening to the point that the Lemuel staff decide it is prudent to leave quickly.

Heavy rain could quickly turn the steep mountain road into an impassable muddy mess so in order to make it safely back to the mission compound we have no time to waste.

Although the ride is incredibly bumpy, fatigue quickly sets in and I soon doze off, even as we are tossed too and fro over the rough roads. I awake to a local woman slapping my leg in an attempt to wake me up. Slowly opening my eyes I am met by a pair of smiling eyes and a wide grin.

We spend the rest of the afternoon working on a local’s property, a stone's throw from the mission. 

The lack of edible greenery really hits me when I try to find a blade of grass for the neighbours goat and kid. They both look scrawny and dirty and hungry, but although I spend a little time searching the area, the only greenery is thorny and inedible and I find nothing to offer them.

For dinner that night we are served a delicious meal of Haitian pate', popcorn and pikliz. 

After the sun sets we sing together and have a devotional time. Charles Spurgeon has a good illustration of what faith is which I share with the team: 
""But must we not believe on Him?" "Aye, certainly. If I say of a certain ointment that it heals, I do not deny that you need a bandage with which to apply it to the wound. Faith is the linen which binds the plaster of Christ's reconciliation to the sore of our sin. The linen does not heal; that is the work of the ointment. So faith does not heal; that is the work of the atonement of Christ." 

What a beautiful description of faith!

Our evening visitors include geckos feasting on insects by one of the few light sources, a large cockroach in the sinkhouse and a toad the size of a baseball jumping out at me on the dark path.

That night, before falling into an exhausted slumber I thank God for His provisions for us. How great is our God!

Monday, July 24, 2017

One Day

Monday, July 10 
My alarm buzzes at 5:35 a.m. . Outside it is still dark. Today we hope to head out to the local market before breakfast and our transportation is donkeys. Unfortunately when I get to the airstrip. Only 1 of the 13 donkeys is waiting for us. Praying for more, I watch as they slowly begin to materialize. Sure enough one by one all thirteen of them eventually appear. 

Riding donkeys is more challenging then you think as they can be very stubborn. Mine wants to race and lead the pack so it takes careful, firm handling to keep him in line. Telling him I’ve had my share of experience with willful, stubborn toddlers and I won’t let him get the best of me makes no difference whatsoever! 

As we travel along a young man comes up alongside me, leading his donkey. Staring at me he begins to make kissing sounds. Holding up my hand I quickly tell him in Creole that I am married. I watch as a confused look comes over his face only to be replaced by a wide toothy grin. “We just make that sound to tell our donkeys to hurry up,” he then proceeds to explain in Creole, much to my chagrin. Laughing, we carrying on. 

The market is a most interesting place, bursting with life and colour and sounds and smells; many too disgusting to even want to try to identify.

We make a few purchases and then try not to watch as animals get butchered and skinned. 

Once we're back at Lemuel we eat a quick breakfast before getting set up for our computer classes.

That afternoon we head with the local youth to a nearby beach for a cleanup event. 

The ocean washes in a lot of garbage and working together we rake it on piles so it can be burned and disposed of. 

Once it’s cleaned up it looks much better and we take some time cooling off in the salty waves of the Caribbean Sea. 

When it's time for dinner we pile into two vehicles and head back to the mission.

The sun set that night is beautiful.

That night before I fall asleep, I listen to a song about heaven and how we will one day see Jesus face to face. The song reminds me of the verse where Jesus tells the disciples of John that the children of the bridechamber don’t weep or mourn when the bridegroom is present. 

And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? Matthew 9:15a

Thinking about seeing Jesus fills me with excitement and joy. How amazing it will be to one day see Him face to face and live with Him forever. Forever in a place where there is no more sadness, or crying or tears. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sunday at Lemuel

Sunday, July 9
I wake up to the sound of rain. I reach over to check the time and seeing it’s only 6:15 a.m., I lay back down. Outside, tropical birds chirp excitedly in the trees. Rain in the desert is special indeed, and definitely something to sing about. The fresh scent of rain wafts through the screened door and I breathe it in.

Church starts at 9:30 a.m. and I listen as the congregation recites Psalm 23 in unison.
Hearing it in Creole I automatically translate the words in my head.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. 
He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. 
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. 

It’s both surprising and heartwarming when I hear them sing my trip theme song “Nearer Still Nearer” in Creole. Knowing God is with us and He loves and cares for us is such a great comfort. 

After teaching us a Creole hymn, we sing several Psalters for them. Then our team heads to the gazebo for a time of Bible Study with missionary Brad, since they can’t understand the Creole Bible teaching. 

Together we read the story of Jonah and then discuss different aspects of it. We talk about how the story isn’t really about Jonah at all, but really about the grace and loving kindness of God. We also talk about how the Ninevites needed saving, but so do we. Have you looked to Jesus, our only hope, and the only name given under heaven whereby we must be saved?

Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. Isaiah 45:22

Friday, July 21, 2017

Traveling from Port au Prince and First Day at Lemuel

Friday, July 7 
Sometime in the middle of the night I wake up due to an unusual silence. The fan blowing humid air at me has shut off and everything is still and dark. With no city power, the battery bank powering the guesthouse must have given out. A few moments later I hear the rumble, rumble of a generator being started up. Within seconds the fan kicks back to life once again. I doze off again only to be awakened shortly thereafter by growling dogs and crowing roosters. 

6:15 a.m. 
Wide awake long before my alarm goes off, I take the time to read through the devotional guide Hungry For Life has provided. Today’s topic is the importance of solitude and how quiet time is not about being all along, but being alone with God. Some of the reference verses include: 

Mark 1:35 
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He (Jesus) went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. 

And Lamentations 3:25-28 The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because He hath borne it upon him. 

By 6:50 a.m. the rest of the group begins to wake up and get ready so I get to work unlocking a myriad of security gates and doors so we can get into the courtyard. The final hurdle is an iron gate leading onto the street, but no matter which one of the forty keys I try the lock refuses to budge. 

By now it’s already 7:30 a.m., the time our driver, Pierre, is supposed to pick us up and drive us to the airport, but I have no way of seeing if he is waiting outside the gate or not. I decide to just call him and he reassures me he is coming. This really means nothing to me as in Haiti “I’m coming” could mean in 5 minutes or 5 hours. 

I get back to work on the gate with the help of a Haitian youth who has at some point replaced our guard from the previous night. When we finally manage to get it open he high fives me with a big grin. 

A few minutes later I hear the friendly beep beep of our taxi van and after piling all our suitcases on top we squish in.

It takes thirty minutes to drive over extremely rough backroads to the airport.

As soon as we arrive at the domestic terminal we are swarmed by baggage handlers and money changers. Many of them recognize me and ask where Jason is. When I tell them he is taking care of our boys they have a big laugh. 

Once inside, we head straight through security and then wait by the MAF office. I greet the staff there and it’s special to catch up with them. Heading over to the office window I’m handed two flight manifests so I quickly get to work dividing up the group and writing down names.

The flight from Haiti’s capital to her north western tip is both familiar and beautiful. Tin shacks crowded together haphazardly, thin and then disappear, replaced by brown and green mountain ranges.

On the left a turquoise ocean sparkles invitingly. 

Thirty minutes later as we near Anse Rouge colourful palettes of salt flats dot the shoreline.

The vegetation becomes more and more desert-like the closer we get to Anse Rouge.

When Lemuel mission materializes beneath us, the airplane banks sharply and then descends down, a few minutes later connecting solidly with the hard packed earth below.

On the ground we are greeted by the Brunsch family who joined the Lemuel Mission six months ago, and who I had met on my last trip to Haiti in March.

Photo missing their two daughters.\

After a delicious breakfast of tropical fruit, cereal and freshly baked bread we receive a tour of the ever growing compound.

It now includes a church, school, several homes and guest rooms, outhouses and shower houses, a giant cafeteria and kitchen, an outdoor gazebo and a new kindergarten building under construction that the team raised money for.

We spend the day gettting to know the local youth and making home visits.

One thing that quickly becomes very evident is how valuable water is to the community. To think that people actually drink the water from this waterhole is inconceivable.

It's also incredible to walk through the hand dug canals that the locals have dug so that they can channel water from the mountains to their gardens.

How quickly do we take for granted that clean drinking water just flows into our sinks at the turn of a tap, when others struggle so much to receive even this most basic necessity of life?