October 30, 2008 The last couple of days have been very interesting. I took on a new kid and had to turn down 3 more. This is after we sent a mom with her 14 month old daughter to the Children of the Promise. Her other 3 children and her husband were killed in the Gonaives flood/mud disaster last month. Jose came to us yesterday. He's 11 but only in the first grade. His dad is dead. His mom abandoned him with a neighbor and went off to find work in the Dominican Republic. A friend of the neighbor who is also in my adult English class brought him to us. The orphanage has no room. So for now, I'm taking him. We are hoping his mom comes back. Now I have 5 boys living with me. Needless to say, cleanup is a major issue! The other 3 we had to turn down all have families of one type or another. Life in Haiti is so difficult. People can't afford to feed their kids. They feel if they can let one or two go to someone who they think can care for them, it's better for the kids that are left and better for the kids that are sent away. There is just no easy answer. Pray for Jose. You can't imagine (and I can't either), what it's like to be abandoned by your mom. I have told him that Jesus loves him and so do I many times. I just hope he believes me. Also, if anybody wants to help with his expenses, just e me. October 26, 2008 What a glorious weekend! I know it will be, but I just can't imagine heaven being any better than the weekend I spent in Ouanaminthe, about 43 miles from the orphanage. Ouanaminthe (pronounced more/less like "wannamint") is the northern border town with the Dominican Republic (DR). I went there to comply with Haitian law which requires foreigners (like moi) that don't have a visa to exit the country every 3 months. The cheapest and easiest way is to just walk across the border from Ouanaminthe, Haiti, to Dajabon, DR. That is what I did. It cost $45 instead of flying out of the country to the USA at a cost of $450. There were also some incidental costs like transportation and stuff, but still, it is the least expensive way to go. But the point of this blog entry is not the logistics of whatever I did. I spent the weekend with Celigny Santilnord, his super lovely wife, Monise, and his great family. Besides going to Dajabon to get the passport stamped, I also preached today at the Church of Christ in Savanne Longe, about 10 miles south of Ouanaminte. I had such a great time with them it is hard to know where to start. Celigny is the Bible school now and has been the preacher at Savanne Longe for 16 years, being baptized by Joseph Albert in 1992. The church building was constructed in 1997 by the Mountainside Church of Christ in Albuquerque, New Mexico. More on the church in a bit. Seline has 4 kids, Wesley being the oldest at 15. He and I have hit it off real well. He is almost like a 2nd son to me. Don't ask why, as the Haitians say, only God knows. Wesley has 2 sisters and 1 brother. The oldest sister is named...ummm, well, I call her Squeaky. She is 10 and very high octane, but just a lot of fun. Celigny also has his brother's 3 kids, all older (24, 20, 18) because his brother and sister-in-law died some time ago. In addition to that, he has one other girl about 3 years old who became orphaned. That's Celigny's and Monise's heart! It's hard to express the love and hospitality I felt this weekend. I guess the best way to illustrate it, is that when you're dancing with 5 year old kids in the street at 6:15 in the morning like I was today, it kinda sets the tone for the day and the weekend. At least it did for me. What's really so incredibly evident is how well the family gets along, everybody pitching in. After Wesley and I got back from the DR yesterday, the older 24 year old cousin was doing laundry. This was about noon-ish. She had not finished by 6:30 that night. She kept going until it was all done. But no complaints, no whining, (and no automatic washers). Just smiling and laughing and playing with all of us when we played with her. The male cousins, aged 20 and 18 were the same. Doing whatever they had to do to keep the household functioning. Just obviously grateful to have a place to stay. Also, I preached my first real Creole sermon today. For me at least, it was good. I'm not a great preacher and probably will never be, but I am demonstrative in trying to get my point across and keeping the people from falling asleep. When you have a translator, it's very hard to do. But with Wesley's help, I polished up my sermon in Creole and did a decent enough job. I can get a lot better, but as I teach in the Spiritual Disciplines class, Jesus talks a lot about prayer and service, but he doesn't say anything about giving a good sermon. I could go on, and maybe should, but I want to save room for the pics from this weekend. Thanks to God our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit for allowing me to experience it. October 23, 2008 We seem to have ignited the kids with the Asile trip (click on the Asile at Gran Riviere button above). The last 3 evening devotionals have been very interesting and involved. We are talking about other ways of service here locally. Tonight, I let Rodely (who I pray is the future youth minister here in a few years) try and drum up some ideas. It went great. They're talking about fasting for a meal or two each month or so and inviting the hungry in the community in to eat in their place. They're talking about helping the older folks in the church. Just great stuff! I'm letting this play out with their ideas. I don't want to force my ideas on them. That's why I let Rodely lead the devotional tonight. They will respond better to him and respond better overall if their ideas are implemented. Please pray that this passion for service continues in all of our lives. Speaking of prayer...Dianna had her shoulder replacement surgery yesterday. No word yet on how it went. I don't expect to hear from her for at least a week, as typing emails is probably not on the physical therapy list. Please keep her in your prayers. Also, please pray for my friend JoAnn Pratt in Maryland and her family. JoAnn is very sick too. Finally, please pray for my friend Peggy's mom. Her mom is in Washington state and has been in intensive care for almost 2 weeks. Thanks! Another interesting thing happened today. About 6 months ago, I wrote about the small orphanage that about 7 or 8 of our school kids go to. It's real close by, easy walking distance. Anyway, the older kids, Ronel (13) and Luckson (12) have been asking me each week to come and visit them. I wasn't able to for various reasons until today. It was such a blessing to just go with them and walk to their house, walk to the market with them and just be with them. They like it a lot and I'm not sure why. But because they like it, I do too! October 19, 2008 As promised, we finally went to Asile at Gran Riviere du Nord today for worship and service. What an incredible blessing the Lord gave us. It was truly a wonderful time! Please click on the Asile at Gran Riviere button above to read the story and see the pics. October 18, 2008 Being a kid is fun, Part 2 of? Thanks to the generosity of two of our friends from Nashville, we were able to take some of the kids to the beach today (we call it Picolet, which is the name of the French Fort in the vicinity). We took some kids who are a little slow or too young to go with us when we normally go. We took Ridlin, Gaelle, Wendolyn, Gephte, Mickey (Wendolyn's brother), and Chedleyne. I also took Jimmy and Alex to help with them. We had a great time. Instead of walking all the way, we took a tap-tap to Cap and walked the boulevard. The kids walked slow, but they made it. Nobody complained of being tired. Wedolyn and Chedleyne were terrified of the water, so they sat in the shade all the time. I tried coaxing them in, but they wouldn't go. Gaelle and Gephte were like fish, and stayed in the water all the time. Ridlin got in some times, but he preferred staying on the beach and throwing things. Mickey would go in, but only when I brought him in. If I went too far out with him, he went into panic mode. Again, still a fun time and it was so cool to take kids that I normally don't take. After swimming, we headed back on the boulevard and had a pre-lunch of pizza, cupcakes, and soda (we're in our nutritional mode as you can tell). Everybody loved that, especially me! We go to this French bakery that is very good and very popular. They all know us and always serve us real well. It's a great place to visit, especially if you like fresh pizza and other good stuff. October 8, 2008 Haiti is such a blessed place to live. Today on my walk I just thanked God so much for putting me here. I can't imagine living anywhere else. This is such a beautiful island. The people are warm and friendly and it is just a blessing every day that I wake up here. Our God is indeed an awesome God! Also, a quick note to let everyone know our trip to Asile at Gran Riviere du Nord has been postponed again, this time for just one week. Nanot, our cook's, father died this past week and we need the truck to go to the funeral this coming Sunday. We are still planning on going to Asile and many kids really want to go. That makes me happy! September 30, 2008 Just got back from Gonaives. Lots of stuff and pics, so click on the Gonaives tab. Thanks! September 24, 2008 God is So Cool Department, Item # 39871: Today at the Bible School in Galmaan in the Spiritual Disciplines class I was talking about studying, studying God's creation as a matter of fact. In my notes, I had written: What about our bodies or God’s other creatures? Do we study them? Do we understand the intricacies of life? Do we know how a butterfly flies or how a snake crawls or how a frog jumps? These are all creatures that God has created. They are not in his image and likeness, but they do show an incredible level of complexity. While I was talking about this, what do I notice inside the classroom but a butterfly? A great example provided by God for the students (and me!). I just thought that was sooooo cool. I told you on the September 20 entry that we had postponed going to Asile where all the terminally ill and elderly are at. I had asked Tabitha, a member of our church here, to go up there with $100 of the $500 donation we have received so that they could have some immediate relief. She did that yesterday and also set a date for all of us to go up on Sunday, October 12. I told everybody tonight in Bible Study and about 25 or so of the older kids want to go. I'm very pleased with that and hope we can get a great event out of it and teach the kids the meaning of service. I also want to talk a bit about Tabitha and the servant mentality I see here in Haiti. We've had a lot of rain here the last few days and the roads are muddy and the weather is not pleasant. But yet Tabitha took the $100 to Asile on the first day available to her. She didn't mention the weather or the mud or the inconvenience. She just went. I see that so much here with some church members and church leaders. They don't get paid, most depend on Americans for support because their congregations are so poor. But they continue to work hard to preach the gospel and grow their churches. Every time I watch a preacher like Joseph Joel, or Richard Rodney, or Fonrose Teogene, or Jackie Pierrot, or Jeaunace Ceid I come away amazed at how dedicated they are to their people and the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Could you imagine the response to an ad in an American paper for a typical Haitian Preacher: HELP WANTED: Preacher needed for young church. Our congregation is poor so we can't pay you anything. Also, because everybody is so poor, you have to help them out with food and medical bills from time to time. With sermon prep and teaching time, expect to spend about 60 hours a week on job. You will need to find external support if you expect to eat. You may also have to get a part time job. I just wonder how far that would go in the US. Somehow, I don't think there would be a flood of preaching resumes for that job. But yet that's just what these Haitian preachers do. Just watching them is a blessing and a life long lesson. In a few weeks from now in the Spiritual Disciplines class at the Bible School we will cover being a servant. I'm wondering if I should just throw away my notes and ask the 12 students to teach me everything they know and how they do it. September 20, 2008 I've been a little under the weather for a few days. That's why no blog for almost 2 weeks. But God pulled me through and I'm happy to be back and better. Some of the brothers from the Hertz Church of Christ here in Cap Haitien went yesterday to meet with the UN about getting in a convoy to go down to Gonaives. Churches in Tennessee, Missouri, and Maryland have raise over $7500 in relief. Now it is just a matter of getting into a UN convoy and getting down there. The man we met with told us that the guy that could help us was not there, so we have to write him a letter explaining what we want to do. Hopefully we'll know something more substantial this coming Monday. We will be taking 2 of our boys, Peterson and Luckson. I want to take more but there would be no room for the relief supplies. Because of the 2 hurricanes resulting in fuel shortages, we have postponed our trip to Asile at Gran Riviere. We were given $500 by a generous couple in Ada. We are going to send down $100 to relieve immediate needs, and then take the kids and the remaining $400 when we can in October. I will post a story and pics when we return. We were blessed to meet with Nancy Pharr and her friend Donna. I've known Nancy and her hubbie Brett for about 7 or 8 years. Brett is an elder at the Gold Hill Church of Christ in Fort Mill, SC and Vice-Chairman of the Haitian Christian Foundation. Fort Mill is in Northern South Carolina, which is not to be confused with Southern North Carolina. Or something like that. Anyway, Nancy is a very quiet and reserved woman, very prim and proper, but does extremely well here in Haiti. Her and Donna came this time with literally tons of relief stuff for the hungry in Haiti. Before they gave them all away, I saw 8 foot stacks of 110 pound bags of beans and rice at the Bible school. They visited us at the orphanage for a few hours and I took a couple of pics of them. Finally, I realized that when I talked about the extended family, I forgot to mention Junior. Yes, we have 3. We have Junior Senior, pictured below the September 8 entry with his sister Dotie. We have this Junior, whom I call Junior Middle, and then we have Smakem's brother, who is only 7 and of course is called Junior Junior. Junior Middle (midi in Creole), is one of those mysterious enigmas. I first met him early in August. The UN had delivered some food and we fed the school kids until it ran out. That's when Junior first appeared. I just assumed he was part of the school. He isn't. His mom is a Baptist and he goes to the National School. I guess he just came here cause he heard about the food and we let a lot of kids in. They were supposed to have little tickets given to them by Murelle, Fonrose's wife and the school principal, but you know how that goes. He just hung around me and kinda latched on. I found out later when his mom visited us that he has 2 younger sisters and his dad is in the Dominican for good (i.e., he deserted his wife). He doesn't relate too well with the other kids, being kinda aloof. It really just seems he needs a dad. Like the others below, he likewise needs a sponsor. I help where I can, giving him food and stuff, but when it comes time for clothes and shoes and school books, this really stretches the support I get from the generous Christians in the States. Anyone who wants to help is more than welcome. September 8, 2008 Welcome from the wetlands! We're still drying out. Keep us in prayer please! I wanted to take some time here to talk about my extended family. As some of you know, Anthony has moved out and now bunks with Rodely. He works for our mechanic Gerome. He is growing up and really loving his life here. In fact, tonight he is leading the Devotional on Drugs and Alcohol. I am very proud of how he is doing. In his place, we now have Jetro, Alex, Fefe, and Kendy. Waiting in the wings we have Brij, Smakem-Yackem and his brother Junior, another Junior and his sister Dotie, Rodlin and his sister Silves, and last but not least, our very own (or at least somebody's very own) Jeffly George Cowboy. Most of these kids go to our school or are members of the church. They have each come to me for help from time to time. As you help them, they come more often. That's expected. Often times, they and their families just have no where else to turn. I am so grateful to God that He has put them all in my life. It is definitely a challenge though, because they all have different needs. I appreciate all those that help me help them. If anyone else wants to help, feel free to e me. September 2, 2008 Hurricane Hanna passed us by yesterday and last night. We probably had about 18 inches of rain in 24 hours. In fact, it's still raining. I haven't looked at the maps, so this might be Ike, not real sure, and the name doesn't matter all that much. The orphanage and kids are OK, although we have a lot of water. The community of Petit Anse, where we live in Cap Haitien, is flooded. By my trash can estimate, we had over 18 inches of rain. We lost internet for most of the time. All the kids are OK, but the community is flooded out. Taking a walking tour this morning (September 2), I was up to my knees in water in some areas. Because we are about 7 inches above sea level, this will literally take weeks to fully drain. There will be mosquitoes and sewage in the water for a very long time. Until I can figure out why Yahoo is not accepting any more pics, all new pics are going to be posted on flickr.com. See www.flickr.com/photos/bob_valerius for 18 new flood pics. School is finally starting. At 4PM today I start our adult English class. Tomorrow I start the Spiritual Disciplines class at the adult Bible school, the Center for Biblical Training, 3 miles away in Galmaan. I am very much looking forward to that. Our kids start on Monday, September 8. I will be teaching English and Bible at the 2 grade schools here. I am happy to start that too. We have been working on a couple of books for the Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday devotions and the Wednesday night Bible Study. The one for the nightly devotions is called Ethix, by Sean McDowell, son of Josh McDowell. Anthony actually picked it out. It is geared to teens and I really like it. It covers things such as making the right choices, standing up for what is right, what is truth, sex, drugs and alcohol, and marriage among others. The kids seem to like it too. Wednesday's study is using Denver Sizemore's Thirteen Lessons in Christian Doctrine. Both books are for the older kids, but I hope that the younger ones are getting some stuff out of it. With Sizemore's book, there is a lot of Scripture reading as we talk about the various subjects, such as God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, their attributes, etc. My home church in Maryland, the Chesapeake Church of Christ, is studying this book and I felt it fit in very well with what I want to teach our kids.
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