My Help Portrait Trip to Haiti Day 0

The Team: Billy Pope – photographer, Josh Brewer – interpreter, Lori Mercer – photographer, Diane Klaaren – Assistant, Myself, Butch McPherson – director of missions, Nick Drollette – Photographer

As some of you know Frazer, my church and place of employment is currently partnered with 410 Bridge to help house, educate and disciple the deaf community of Haiti. We’re also now working with Mission of Hope which miraculously helped us find land free of charge for the deaf community in exchange for our partnership with them to provide spiritual development for an entire community of Haitians, both Deaf and hearing. You might be interested in reading the posts from my first trip to Haiti to hear were we were back in april, and then check out this video to hear the most recent update from Kyle Reschke, our missionary on the ground.

This is my second trip to Haiti and my first Help Portrait event – What is Help portrait you ask? Well you can visit their website for more detailed information or you can simply check out this graphic:

And this is what we’re going to do for the Haitian Deaf community. Frazer’s November mission team to Haiti will arrive in Port Au Prince tomorrow morning. We’ve got three pro photographers and myself (an enthusiastic hobbyist) as well as a couple of people to assist and an interpreter for the deaf. We’re going to take high quality portraits of each family in the community and return in december to give them their photos, matted and framed as a christmas gift from Frazer. It’ll be the first picture they’ll have to hang in their new homes. Many of these people have had photographs taken of them, but they’ve never had a portrait of their family that they could keep. For some of them it may be the first photo of themselves they ever owned. But more than the photos we just want to love of the deaf community. Relationship building is always the number one goal of these trips and we’re hoping that through those relationships we’ll see more and more people in Haiti – deaf and hearing – come to know Christ.

Today we traveled to florida and took a few moments to get to know each other and talk about how we’re going to be working as a team over the next few days. It’s a tall order to get high-quality portraits for over 150 families over the next three days, but I believe this group is up to the challenge. So far our team has really enjoyed hanging out – just check out their Facebook pages for some of the fun pictures from today’s day of travel.

We’re all very excited about tomorrow and the team is very appreciative of the support we’ve been shown on Facebook today – lots of people are praying for us and that is a huge encouragement. We’re hoping that more than giving them great portraits that we’ll get a good opportunity to relate to the community. You can be praying for us in several ways: That the language barrier isn’t a barrier, that we’re able to use our time there wisely and that the weather holds out so that we can get portraits of the whole community.

Further reading:

-You might be interested in reading the posts from my first trip to Haiti

-You can always visit Frazer’s Mission Blog and Transformation Blog to read about the progress of this and other projects.

-To get closest to the action visit kyleinhaiti.com to hear from Kyle Reschke, a good friend of mine, and Frazer’s missionary in the field in the deaf community.

Thanks for your prayers and if the internet connection cooperates I hope to be writing you tomorrow evening as well.

Catalyst 2011

Catalyst is always a major inspiration to me – in fact last year’s Catalyst was the inspiration for me starting this blog. Every year that I go to this, my favorite Christian leadership conference – I’m challenged, encouraged, refreshed and very much inspired.

So this year, like last year I thought I’d tell you about some of my favorite moments of this past year. In no order whatsoever, here are a few of my favorite moments from this year’s Catalyst Atlanta event.

– The first few moments of the conference were filled with crowd participation – my personal favorite of which was the LED lights that we were all given that everyone was wearing like rings. It was really cool to see 13,000 twinkling lights all around the arena as people participated in worship by lighting their LEDs and raising their hands in the air.

– Katie Davis, a 22 year old young woman who, after high school left for Uganda and now has adopted 13 Ugandan children. She’s released a book Kisses from Katie that was on sale at Catalyst. Her genuine, enthusiastic faith was plain for all to see and very inspiring.

– Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS and one of the people who inspire me about whom I did an entry a few months back. I bought his new book Start Something that Matters. Need I say more?

– Tripp and Tyler had numerous funny videos that I hope to post here later. There was ‘God Bods’ a christian aerobics video a video uncovering the secret of how Andy Stanley gets so much done (he has a twin named RAndy) – but my favorite was probably a parody video called “TIMS” displaying the TOMS one for one model applied to smoothie machines – for every $600 smoothie machine you buy TIMS will give one to a child in need… it was pretty hilarious.

– Juda Smith asking the question “Since when is Jesus not enough?” – he preached great sermon – he’s a young pastor of a church called ‘The City Church” which, btw, has hands down the coolest website of any church I’ve seen. (I heart minimalism)

– The “Present Tents” area, which was a single tent in the corner of the Arena and at the beginning of the conference two pseudo-randomly selected guys were given the opportunity to have free Catalyst tickets for life as long as they stayed present in the area directly surrounding the tent for the whole two days. It had food, sleeping bags and even a toilet for them – they got the tickets.

– Jeff Foxworthy coming out to talk about his involvement with a ministry in Atlanta that caters to people who are substance addicted.

-David Kinnaman coming by to talk about the latest research on young adults and their thoughts on the church – more details in his books Unchristian and You Lost Me copies of which were available at the conference – the research sounds like it might be helpful to anyone trying to reach 18-35 year olds – so, hopefully – anyone in the church.

– A representative from 58 – a movement that is working towards the eradication of extreme poverty globally; a goal they seem to be making significant progress in. They shared a fact that was quite surprising: In 1981 global extreme poverty was at 52% – over half of the world wasn’t able to afford their basic needs. Today that number is 26% – half of what it was 20 years ago; if our generation keeps pace then it is possible for us to eliminate extreme poverty globally. For more information on 58 visit their website.

– Getting to see people from my church who are involved in a powerful ministry, Inner City Evangelism –  as they too were inspired by Catalyst the same way I am every year. It was a huge blessing to be able to share this event with them.

– Well I debated mentioning this, but it was such a huge blessing that I don’t know how I could not say something about it. Every year at catalyst the vendors have give-aways to promote their products – Books, discipleship resources, services to churches and families, etc.- This year, like the year before, many of them were giving out iPads and also like last year I entered several of those drawings. I didn’t expect to win anything which is why I was shocked when Zondervan contacted me via email to ask if I would come to their booth to claim my shiny new iPad 2! I was so shocked I couldn’t believe it. I thanked God for trusting me with this blessing and I only hope that I can use it for whatever creative projects He has in mind for me over the coming year. Such a huge surprise and a wonderful blessing!

This list just scratches the surface – there are many more wonder tales to tell of Catalyst 2011 – but alas, they will have to wait for now. I hope all of you consider taking the time to attend a Catalyst event – I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that they are life-changing. If I see you around maybe we can talk more about all the moments I was challenged, made to laugh, awed and inspired at this year’s Catalyst.

Haiti Trip: Day 3

Today  marked the last full day here in Haiti, it started very early as Patrick, Butch, Michael and myself went out to take a look at one of the places were looking to possibly relocate the Deaf community. The land looks like a really good option, though nothing is certain yet.

 

The trip out and back to the land was a short drive, but a long trip because of Haiti’s traffic and poor roads – this is the single biggest challenge to anyone patience, though our team has never showed a sign of frustration toward it. I got to sit and talk with a young man named James. James is going to college and majoring in computer science. He speaks English really well and taught me several Creole words including the word for sweet, which is pronounced something like “doose” which is also used the same way it is in the States – to express that something is especially cool. Kyle Reschke and I have adopted the word for expressing our approval at something.

When we reunited with the rest of the group at the deaf camp we were excited to find that they’d made a great deal of progress on the Census. As soon as we got there Tara interpreted for a young man who wants to be a preacher. He said he reads the Bible but he doesn’t understand it all and he wants to be educated – it was a powerful testimony.

 

Anne Louise and Kaylee were hard at work in the deaf camp painting the faces of the children. The kids in the camp are so cute and they’ll walk up to anyone and just hold their hand or beckon you to pick them up. Several of the kids were ver fascinated by my equipment. Something that was funny to me was that even the youngest of them wanted to see every picture I took of them on the back of my camera. It reminded me of my nieces and nephews who did the same before they could form sentences.

The kids are so affectionate and trusting, its hard to leave them, but with the census completed and a thorough ‘orvwa’ said to all we climbed back onto our bus and left the deaf camp. As we were leaving a deaf man came up to the side of the bus and signed to robin. “I need a Laptop, a TV, anything. I’m married. I’m bored.” We couldn’t help but be a little entertained from the young man laying it out there. This did eventually turn into a real discussion of ways we could encourage community building and even entertainment within the deaf community.

 

In the afternoon we visited a church where we discovered they have a considerable ministry to the deaf already in place. This Baptist church would be considered a small to medium building in the road in the States, but here its one of the larger churches in the area. Walking into the church there was a sense of calm. Butch commented “It feels like Frazer.” We sat in their sanctuary and met their pastors then we went out into their courtyard and played basketball with some of the teenagers at the church. We met a few deaf folks that don’t live in the camp. Its exciting to meet future partners in ministry here.

Last night we enjoyed dinner here at the children’s home one last time and sat down with our team plus Margret and Tara and debriefed. It was clear that everyone was excited about the possibilities moving forward; moving the community, building them homes, getting them clean water, educating them, building them as a community, giving them fun things to do and building  them a church.

There is much more a could tell you, but I have to get packed. I’ll see many of you soon. Thanks for the prayers!

Haiti Trip: Day 2

Bonswa everyone! It has been a busy day here. It started with breakfast at the guest house. There was delicious mango that was (as with most of the food) grown right here on the compound. After thinking the kitchen staff, we drove to the deaf camp to take a census of the residents.

In order to take the census more quickly we split into two teams, each had one person who could interpret for the deaf and one person who could interpret for Creole. The Deaf camp has made considerable improvement over the last time we sent a team. They now have what are called “T-houses” – T for temporary. The houses are made of plywood and have tin roofs but have no bathrooms or water of any kind. They do have porches which is where they spend most of their free time.

 

The Census was mainly to find out if the community was interested in relocating and overwhelmingly they responded in the positive. During this time I walked around with my HVX200 video camera and a D90 still camera. I was surprised that everyone who saw me smiled – many beckoned me over to take their picture. I was shocked by how interested they were in being photographed. This reminded me of of some interesting charities I heard about at Catalyst last year that take photos of people in marginalized communities so that those people can have a photo of themselves and their family. So I’m contemplating a photography mission trip in the near future.

While the situation was much better than it was last time (largely thanks to the IFRC who built the T-houses) it is far from what most americans would consider livable. They have to walk to another part of the camp to take a shower, they have to walk even further to use the toilet. Parts of the camp have very tall grass still, which means misquotes and malaria.

 

Robin Pass, who was worried at first that she would have trouble communicating with the deaf, served as one of our interpreters. She was surprised to find out that the deaf here in Haiti are very similar to those in Alabama. Possibly the biggest difference is that when they sign they are mouthing Creole. Robin and Tara speak english while they sign. Both Tara and Robin say that the Haitians do sign with a Creole “accent” while Robin signs with a southern “accent” and Tara signs with a New York “accent.” It made me wonder if there are any deaf people who do impersonations of each other.

In the afternoon we took a drive around down town Port Au Prince.

If you have heard that Haiti has not progressed since the earth quake and didn’t believe it, here is photo proof. What you see here was actually a government building that housed several government agencies. It still lies in total ruin. As we drove past the first time I couldn’t process what I was seeing fast enough to take a picture – this was from the second time we passed it. We also visited St. V
incent’s, a school for the handicapped that had to be relocated after the earthquake. They teach deaf, blind and otherwise handicapped children. Robin signed with some teenagers there and remarked on how much they were like American teens; they were coy with their signing at first, blocking her view – (whispering, if you will) but they eventually warmed up to us. When we asked about school they all said they were done with school for the day and they didn’t want to talk about school

things. We took a picture of our entire team including Tara, Ronald and Margaret from 410 Bridge and several of the kids at St. Vincent’s.

The young man in the wheel chair told Robin that his parents abandoned him because he was deaf and lame and therefore ‘useless.’ Robin wouldn’t let him go until he finally said “I now understand that I am important.” He and all the kids at the school really enjoyed having their pictures taken.

We continued through Port Au Prince where we continued to see more devastation.


These piles of rubble are everywhere throughout the city – combined with trash and (sorry if this is too graphic) even human waste. Perhaps the greatest indicator of the condition of the country was what they call the palace. This is their White House and in the wake of the disaster it looks like a strong wind could blow it over.

Could you imagine our white house looking like this? The dome is cracked and fallen forward. It looks like a scene from the movie Independence Day after the aliens have attacked. Could you imagine living in a country that couldn’t organize enough to repair it’s president’s house?

When we finally got back and had dinner we met with a woman named Georgia who is part German part Haitian. She works with the deaf community. This was very helpful in learning about all the players in the situation.

  1. “Friends of Deaf Haiti” – an organization that got the community to the location its in today and with the help of a french diplomat and an American. These people advise the community and are trusted as the leaders. 410 bridge is working on building their and our relationship with them
  2. 410 Bridge – the mission organization with which we’ve partnered. Most well known for their work in Africa, they specialize in building self-suffecient communities based off of micro-enterprising.
  3. Frazer – Us, the church that wants to preach the gospel, educate and build church for the people in the deaf community as well as answer any medical needs they have and assist in their becoming independent.
  4. The IFRC – International Federation of the Red Cross (not the same as the American Red Cross) this group oversees the land that the camp is on – they want to move in blind and paraplegic Haitians.
  5. Other smaller players – We’ve run into a few other smaller groups that also want to get involved in way way or another – not all of them are looking to collaborate in their efforts.

So the short version is – we need prayer to be sure that all entities can come together to help this community as best we can.

Haiti Trip: Day 1

As some of you know, I have the honor of accompanying a few folks from Frazer on a Mission cultivation trip in Port Au Prince, Haiti. While our church has taken many trips to Haiti for different purposes, this is the second in a series toward a long-term goal of growing and developing relationships with a deaf community here (here because I’m in La Plaine as I type this.) We’re hoping to help them over the next several years, build housing, develop education and most of all show and tell them about the love of Jesus Christ.

Already the trip has been quite amazing – after a long journey that started at 3 am we arrived in Haiti this afternoon and made contact with Tara, a young woman here who is working with the deaf community. Tara introduced us to Ronald and Tompi who are both Haitian men that are also employed by 410 bridge. The team that came late last year for the vision trip had met Ronald at that time. He speaks english well and all three of the 410 staff here are obviously passionate about their work here.

We were escorted by a policeman to a children’s home that has a very impressive walled compound here. We’re staying in the guest house – we had a great meal here – most of the food was grown right here on the compound, its the only way to be sure its clean enough to eat fresh.

 

John Paul’s Story

After dinner here we were introduced to Pastor John Paul. Now, I’m going to try to tell his story in brief because its amazing, I might not have all the details exactly right. John Paul was born in Haiti. When he was young he went to a revival where a missionary called him down and said he wanted to pay for him to go to the US and be educated, go to seminary and return to Haiti to preach. He agreed because he wanted to go to the US.

The man was true to his word and got John Paul to live with a family in the states where he finished high school and went to seminary. The missionary showed up at his graduation and John Paul didn’t even know who he was, the man gave him $1000 and told him to go back to Haiti and preach the word. John Paul thanked him and stayed in the states. He got an electrical engineering degree. He got married He got a job. He had kids. He lost a job and got a better one. All the while he had a dream in which he said he saw ‘a man’ who said to him “When are you going to go back to Haiti?” All the while he was getting wealthier and more comfortable. One day when he was taking his kids on a vacation in a brand new car when the car lost control – perfectly good weather, first time driving the brand new car and he lost control of it – he nearly drove it off of a bridge when it suddenly stopped.

That night he had the dream again and this time the man said “I could’ve killed you today. Go to Haiti or I will kill you and send someone else.” He was awakened by his wife who said she had a dream in which a man told her that He would’ve killed them because her husband hadn’t come back to Haiti. This was particularly miraculous because in all their time together he’d refused to tell her how he got to the US or anything about his life in Haiti. She asked him “What kind of deal have you made?” and he told her. They agreed he needed to go to Haiti. He came back here eight years ago.

This is all the short version, believe it or not, but today he has a children’s home with 60+ kids and a church with 2,000 members. He told several miraculous stories, but possibly the most amazing was about the day of the earthquake here. He had a meeting with his staff that day because he was tired of the Kids getting dinner late because it wasn’t ready. He told them if they didn’t eat earlier that day that he would fire them all. He even stopped through halfway through the day and reminded them. In the afternoon he felt unusually tired and so he went home early – so he wasn’t there to be sure that they got food on time.

When he got home the earthquake hit and by the time he got back to the shelter he saw that everything was flattened, including the place where they ate their meals. He began to cry and shout, looking for everyone when someone came and found him. “Pastor!” he said “They are all alright… The food was’t ready!” As it turns out the staff had worked hard to get the kids there on time and they weren’t ready. All of the children and his staff survived.

The earthquake’s effects are unimaginable; tent cities as far as the eye can see in some parts of the city. John Paul’s congregation lost over 200 people to the Earthquake, so much prayer is still needed – Imagine one pastor having to comfort 200 grieving families.

There is much more

It is clear there is much to be done here and I could write for hours just on today, but I hope that I’ll be able to get some good footage tomorrow and perhaps tell you more about it tomorrow night. Prayers are appreciated. To God be the glory!