Faith of a Mustard Seed: God Outside of the Box

Near the end of our trip in Haiti we went to the mountain village of Arachaie. This village had never had missionaries before and the voodoo leaders continually told the believers who met in a little blue stone building at the peak of the mountain that the missionaries would never come. They told them we did not care.

from the church steps

from the church steps

We waited a long time that morning for a truck with big tires to pick us up and take us up the mountain. When the truck finally arrived it was nearly lunchtime. We traveled down the coast to the base of the mountain and started our ascent to the peak. A quarter of the way up the mountain our trucks could take no more and refused to continue to climb going instead in the opposite direction. We sat under a small tree until another truck came that was four-wheel drive. This small truck took the women and translators up first and came back for the men who had started hiking up the mountain.

While at the top of the mountain we started bagging up the rice we had  brought into smaller bags for each family and danced and sang with the kids. It was amazing to see the faith of the people who had been waiting ALL DAY LONG on us to come up the mountain. We passed out underwear to the kids and food supplies to the families. Then we played some more! The kids and parents heard the gospel from Ken and Pierre and many accepted Christ! It was by far one of the best days we had in Haiti.

The truck driver told one of the translators that he was not coming back. One thing about the part of Haiti we were in that was special was that I never felt unsafe. Still the same, it was not a great idea for the missionaries to be out after dark. We were worried and prayed that the driver would come back… and he did. He would not have time to make two trips back up to get the second group so we flagged down some motorcyclists and part of the group hitched a ride with them. I begged Jared to ride down on a motorcycle with me but he would not have it. It wasn’t “safe.” WELL, the motorcycles left and made it down the mountain but our truck did not. It broke a ball joint about a half mile from the peak. We hopped out and started walking in the dark.

Someone asked for me to sing as we were walking so I started singing every hymn I could think of. Rick taught me a few songs he learned as a boy in Plant City. One thing that surprised me about Haiti is how quickly a town or village would pop up out of no where. We were walking down the mountain road and suddenly there was a voodoo village! We slowed down and waited on Pierre to join us and Gia started praying as we were walking through. She said, “Jillian sing.”

…and we sang “Our God is an awesome God, He reigns, from heaven and earth with wisdom power and love, our God is an awesome God!” over and over again. We were not touched as we walked through the village and even had the children chasing after us laughing and singing too! It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced!

Finally, after walking for two hours or so, a motorcycle rider came back to find us. Our group started jumping on the back of the bikes in pairs and riding down the mountain. I have never heard my husband pray like he did that night. He prayed over every rock, cliff, pothole and passerby we traveled by. That was a terrifying and thrilling ride. Some of the time, I was sure we would not make it. Other times, I just wanted to scream and hop off and walk. Nevertheless, we made it to the bottom. Jared gave that Haitian driver a bear hug like you’ve never seen!

After we returned to the states, Jared could not get the mountain trip off of his mind. We also could not forget the sweet girl we sponsored named Edelande who had to walk several miles to school. Jared prayed and prayed and started looking for a truck we could turn into a school bus and monster truck to get missionaries up and down the mountain.

Edelande

Edelande

One Sunday a few weeks ago he found a 5 ton military truck. He told me on the way home from Dothan, “Jillian, if we could just get a few people to give a thousand dollars we could buy that truck.” I told him he was CRAZY! Who would give a thousand dollars to buy a truck for Haiti? The joke was on me… God provided over $8,000 in less than 24 hours. By Thursday there was over $12,000 donated. We bid on the truck but it was just too expensive. Pastor Damil called the next day and said, “I sure hope you didn’t get that truck.” Military trucks were being held up in customs. So, Jared turned his search elsewhere. That’s when he found the F350.

Haiti truck with camper shell

Haiti truck with camper shell

He contacted a fella on Craigslist from Hartford. As it turned out that man’s best friend had just returned from Haiti and he was willing to give the mission a deal on the truck. We bought the truck and had enough money for the shipping. Another friend of Jared’s, whom he hadn’t spoken with in a long time, called and donated a camper shell. God provided money for a truck, shipping, a shell and a whole pile of rice and beans to ship with the truck in less than two weeks! All that remains to be raised is the money for the customs taxes when we get to Haiti which will be around $4,000.

I write all of this so that you can see how GOOD GOD IS! It has been amazing to watch as He continually surprised us with His blessings for Haiti. It has been amazing to be a part of this grand plan of His. We serve a mighty big God!

If you are interested in donating money for the customs tax please visit Give Us Hope’s website for PayPal options or their mailing address.

Love yall! Keep praying!

Feed My Sheep Farm

This was a common sight in Haiti:

Twins suffering from malnutrition in Montrouis, Haiti

Twins suffering from malnutrition in Montrouis, Haiti

Hungry children at the mountain church

Hungry children at the mountain church

This boy broke my heart. He walked about like an old man--slow and methodical. He used his distended belly as a prop.

This boy broke my heart. He walked about like an old man–slow and methodical. He used his distended belly as a prop.

Mud cookies are eaten to fill their bellies when there is no food in the house. Pregnant women also eat these to get the minerals that are missing from their diet.

Mud cookies are eaten to fill their bellies when there is no food in the house. Pregnant women also eat these to get the minerals that are missing from their diet.

Hunger is a fact of life in Haiti.

In fact, according to World Vision’s website, 2.4 million Haitians cannot afford the recommended minimum daily calories.

One look into those twins faces on Christmas Eve and Jared and I knew we had to do something.

So, we put our ag nerd brains together, emailed a few of our former advisors from college and various jobs and started the development of what has come to be known as the “Feed My Sheep” farm. Our group’s goal is to develop a livestock operation near Ecole Bon Berger school in Grand Gode, Haiti that will provide the school with eggs, milk and meat products, as well as develop a sustainable 3 acre farm outside of L’Artibontie. Our goal in this is to teach the Haitian people agriculture skills that they can use to manage this farm. We want this farm to be completely Haitian run and independently operational in a year.

This is a big undertaking and we need your help. We need people with agriculture expertise to share their knowledge as well as monetary donations to purchase the supplies in country. We also need your prayers as we seek to implement this plan quickly, before anyone else in the community gets more ill or passes away from starvation.

Check out our plan here.

To donate money via PayPal to purchase livestock or equipment click here.

Thanks! God is doing great things! 🙂

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ --Matthew 25:35-40

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ –Matthew 25:35-40

Beauty from Ashes

She welcomed us into her home which consisted of a one room concrete building where her and her 5 children slept. She had a “kitchen” outside though to us it would look more like a camp site. Her dirt and gravel yard was swept much like our grandparents and great-grandparents used to do. She was happy and unhappy at the same time that we came a’calling. We brought her rice and beans as a Christmas gift to show her the love of Christ. When we asked if she went to church she told us she was too ashamed to.

You see, with no husband to work to provide for her and her children she had resorted to a life of prostitution. She wanted to go to church but she was too ashamed to attend. She did not want to continue with her current occupation, but she had 5 children to feed and no resources or skills to have another source of income. She was a woman in need of hope.

Our group prayed with her and encouraged her to attend church. Later that night some of the ladies in our group started brainstorming. How can we help her start a business? Our group spoke with her and others to assess their skill sets and determine their natural resources. The group is now trying to develop a business plan to help her and other ladies craft jewelry that can be marketed here in the US and that will provide a sustainable source of income for her so that she can be freed from the trap of prostitution.

Please pray with us that this plan can be brought together quickly and that there will be jewelry makers willing to travel to Haiti to teach their craft to this lady and others who need a skill.

UPDATE: As I was writing this story I got a message from Pierre and Lori with Give Us Hope Mission that the lady has given her life to Christ! Unbeknownst to us, the lady was a voodoo leader with 5,000 followers and had planned to kill members of the community through voodoo prior to us visiting her. They planned to go Christmas night and we visited her at noon on Christmas day.

After we shared the love of Christ she said that she had a burning joy in her heart and felt that she should go to church. While there she gave her life to Christ and asked to have all of her voodoo idols burned. This is significant because being a voodoo leader is a source of income because people come to you for healing and willingly pay for the voodoo services.

Please join with us to pray for this lady. Pray for her to find a source of income while the group develops the jewelry business plan. Pray for her to grow in the faith.

Pray for our group to gather the needed supplies and that people with jewelry making skills would be willing to travel to Montrouis, Haiti to teach these women how to make the crafts that can provide a sustainable income for their home.

If you want to help please contact Pierre and Lori at Give Us Hope Mission!

The lady asked the pastor to burn her voodoo idols!

The lady asked the pastor to burn her voodoo idols!

Is Vocational Education Possible in Haiti?

I became an agriculture teacher after finishing college, getting married and moving back to the region that I grew up in. Becoming an ag teacher had never been on my radar throughout college but seemed to be the best way to use my skill set once I moved back to our rural corner of the world. I am and have always been PASSIONATE about vocational education. We need a world that works. I see kids everyday that could benefit from developing a skill in school that can provide them with income after graduation. I see kids willing to work and learn that are waiting anxiously for someone to teach them.

…and I saw the very same thing in Haiti and it

broke.

my.

heart.

 

The Haitian people are the most hardworking and loving people I have ever met. They are also some of the poorest people I have ever met. Eighty percent of the population lives in poverty and more than 40% are unemployed.

Let me stress this point, the people of Haiti desperately WANT TO WORK however without a viable skill set there is not much opportunity in this underdeveloped nation.

So the ag teacher in me wants to know—how can we fix this?

We have willing students and they have opportunities to use their potential skills to make their lives better but they have no teacher. How are we going to fix this?

We need people like you and me that are willing to share our knowledge of mechanics, welding, carpentry, agriculture, EVEN JEWELRY MAKING with the people of Haiti. We need people willing to give of their time to develop a skill set in those that are DESPERATELY HUNGRY not only for food but for knowledge.

I am a firm believer that education is the answer to poverty. We have willing students. Who will be the willing teachers?

I am asking for guidance–I know I have movers and shakers that read this blog and I know I have people who are just as passionate about vocational education as I am out there reading along. How can we get vocational leaders, colleges and workers involved in the development of skill sets for the Haitian people? Some of these skills, like stick welding, can be taught in a few short months. How can we get organizations involved in “teaching these people to fish” rather than doing the “American thing” and giving them a handout. How can we motivate others to give them a “hand-up” instead?

Now it’s your turn, I want to hear from you in the comment section! 🙂 If you are willing to help or if you know of an organization, school or company that may be willing to help train Haitians in vocational skills please let me know! I would love to see mechanic, agriculture or welding students doing a semester of teaching in Haiti just like other majors do overseas.

Stepping off the soap box and putting on my work gloves,

Jillian

Welders at work in Montrouis, Haiti

Welders at work in Montrouis, Haiti

A carpenter's shop in Montrouis. Everything is made by hand--no power tools!

A carpenter’s shop in Montrouis. Everything is made by hand–no power tools!

Workers preparing the ground for a western style plumbing system at Life Connection School.

Workers preparing the ground for a western style plumbing system at Life Connection School.

Men turning land by hand in  preparation to double crop a plantain orchard.

Men turning land by hand in preparation to double crop a plantain orchard.

Builders constructing a church in L'Artibonite, Haiti.

Builders constructing a church in L’Artibonite, Haiti.

 

The mortar mixer's feet. How many of us would be willing to work barefoot?

The mortar mixer’s feet. How many of us would be willing to work barefoot?

Girls in the mountain village above Arcahaie, Haiti that came in from the bean field to see what was happening at the church.

Girls in the mountain village above Arcahaie, Haiti that came in from the bean field to see what was happening at the church.

 

 

 

 

 

Island Time

I first learned about “island time” when I was in high school on a mission trip to the Florida Keys. We were sharing the gospel with Spring Breakers on the strip at night but also had several service projects during the day… service projects that never started on time.

Little did I know that that mission trip would prepare me for my next one 9 years later.

One of the biggest adjustments our team had while in Haiti was just learning to go with the flow. Here in the states we are slaves to the clock. We must be here by this time, finish this project by this date, cook 30 minute meals so that we can use the most of the precious minutes we were given. We read books about time management. Heck, you can even put time management on a resume. However, in Haiti time is relative. If you don’t finish today, you can always finish tomorrow. Some of this may be due to the fact that most of the population is not employed because their economy is still considered underdeveloped, however I saw many, many people doing what really makes a difference–they were serving others, spending time with their families, and teaching their children.

Now, please don’t interpret this as the folks of Haiti don’t want to work. They are some of the hardest working people I know and DESPERATELY want to work so that they can provide for their families. However the lack of opportunities and the troubled government hinders job development.

My point is that how often do we as Americans stop to genuinely see about our neighbors? How often do we spend time in the word? Or do we instead choose to indulge in the latest entertainment? (I’m guilty–I counted my DVDs Sunday and was ashamed at how much money we had spent on mindless entertainment. We could have provided livestock and rice to several families in Haiti.)

My hope is that the Lord continually helps me to use my time well. I also ask that you join with us in praying for a vehicle for the mission in Haiti. This will help us be independent when in the country. Some of our time issues last week were due to us waiting on a truck or driver.

Stay tuned for more updates!
Jillian

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PS–I’m not sure how they got this bull and the sows in or out of this truck. Next time, we’ll be talking about agriculture in Haiti!

Sunday in Haiti

Americans don’t know how to do church.

I mean we are pretty darn good about showing up, singing, sleeping through a sermon and hitting up the local Sunday buffet on the way home, but we often miss the point of church.

Church is not about you.

We attended our first church service in Montrouis, Haiti last week. We heard the singing before we saw the church. When we walked in there were people praising and worshipping God with all of their might. It did not matter if you could sing or not, no one went for the “pretty version” of the song either–everyone sang along with all they had. It was so loud you though they were magnifying the sound somehow but it was pure, unadultered worship.

It was dumbfounded when I realized what they were singing in Creole. It was “Count Your Many Blessings.”

I was ashamed. I had been complaining just a day earlier about something that didn’t suit me with our house. We needed to fix this or that. I didn’t like this pillow because all the fluff had gone to one side. I hated our showerhead because it pelted me with water rather than “falling softly like rain.” I was a fool.

These folks walked quite a distance to come to church. Some came hungry. Some came in the only pair of shoes they owned. Some came alone because they were orphans. Some came in spite of ridicule from family. Some came because they had no where else to go. However, all came because they loved Jesus. You could see it on EVERY FACE. They had faith that could move mountains and bring forth miracles. (And it did).

I learned a valuable lesson about myself and other Americans that day. We have gotten so good at depending on ourselves that we honestly believe we don’t need God. We may not say that out loud of course, but our actions speak otherwise.

This week Jared and I both had our faith tested, strengthened and tested again.

The most beautiful thing I saw was on Monday. It wasn’t the beauty of the nature around us or the kid’s smiles… it was the brokenness and faithfulness of those that asked us to pray for them to be healed of ailments. They came with unbound faith that was not held down by a doctor’s diagnosis or a voodoo preacher’s curse, it was a childlike faith in the power of the name of JESUS. I could do nothing but tremble, whisper and cry as I prayed for healing over men with hurt backs, women with blind eyes and people with AIDS. I was ashamed of my lack of faith and strengthened by theirs.

Please pray with me for the people of Montrouis, L’artibonite and Arcahaie, Haiti. Pray for those that are sick. Pray for those without income to support their families. Pray for those without food. Pray for those who need freedom from the chains of voodoo. Pray for Haiti.

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