I have to say that more than anything in this trip thus far, I’ve most enjoyed getting to spend time with N.T. Wright, who insists we call him Tom. So I’m going to be calling him that in this blog, not because I’m trying to sound more familiar with him, but because that’s how I know him.
Everyone knows Tom Wright is a brilliant New Testament scholar. And it won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read his books or heard him preach that he has a great sense of humor and is quite witty in conversation. The thing that I can’t get over about Tom is how humble he is. Here he is, one of the leading authorities on scripture, a former Bishop of Durham (during which he lived in an actual castle and had a staff all similar to Downton Abbey) and yet I honestly feel like I could discuss almost anything with him and he would listen, engage, and respond. He’s been extremely generous to let me ask him questions and tell him about my life and my calling. Most encouraging for me personally, I’ve described my work at Frazer, he’s been nothing but affirming.
I could go on about Tom Wright, but he isn’t the only thing that’s been going on with this trip.
I want to give a brief shout out to Matt and Karen Williams and to Ryan Emfinger, whom I should’ve mentioned in an earlier entry for taking me to the airport, and taking care of my dog, Zeus, while I’m gone. Matt sent me a few pictures of Zeus that assured me he’s being well cared for in my absence.
Jerusalem is an incredible city and I didn’t mean to say by my last post that it is anything less for my impression of it. I only wanted to share my feelings. It’s funny how varied the different reactions that I got from my previous entry were. One friend even took it as a statement about the government here. I’m not talking about the politics, or anything other than my own surprise at how I didn’t feel welcome here, but as I thought about it – neither did Jesus, and I found a great deal of comfort in that thought.
We visited the Church of The Holy Sepulchre, the cathedral built on the supposed location of the Crucifixion – which I mentioned in my last entry. It is an interesting place in that it is very crowded with tourists from all faiths coming to see it. For me, I wasn’t impressed with it, and I don’t know that Jesus would want us toiling too much over the exact location of his death. After all, it was for this reason that God is said to have buried Moses himself, so that the Israelites wouldn’t return to that place to idolize it. The one thing I do enjoy about this is the idea that Rome, the most powerful empire that anyone at the time could even imagine, crucified a man and now their empire has long since fallen, but there is an enormous church built to worship the man they killed.
We also visited the garden tomb. While Tom Wright affirms that it is almost definitely not the actual location of the resurrection, it does give a reasonable facsimile of what the tomb may have looked like and is certainly located within the general area. There are many replica tombs around Jerusalem, but this one is based around an actual tomb that would have at least been from the same period as Jesus’ resurrection.
We also visited the Dome of the Rock on the temple mount. Ask me about it some time. The thoughts and politics of the situation are too sticky for me to post here.
We left Jerusalem a couple of days ago now, and I’m still processing all I saw and heard. It was a hard few days. The first day I logged seven miles of walking according to my phone and climbed the equivalent to almost 40 flights of stairs in the process. It was all quite taxing, but I’m sure there will be more grace poured out as God continues to work in this trip.
Yesterday we traveled to Nazareth along the bank of the Jordan river, past many major historical sites, stopping at two. We stopped at the Jordan River at one of the supposed locations of Jesus’ baptism by John.
See how small the Jordan river is this time of year? Directly across it is the country of Jordan. Also everywhere around it on the Israel side? Land mines. As if we needed another reason not to go wandering off into the desert.
We also stopped at Qumran, the location of a very old settlement where the dead sea scrolls were discovered in a cave.
There were several excavation sites around Qumran, some of which we could walk right into and look out over the dead sea. This was very interested as there weren’t many tourists around and the place felt really remote. (though the gift shop at the park entrance has a large section of dead sea-salt health and beauty products that are a little ridiculous.) The picture can’t really give you a clear idea of scale, but the space between me and the cave was a few hundred feet, and the mountains behind it were very far away. As we drove, Tom spoke in his distinguished brogue and said simply “It’s funny to imagine Jesus and his odd group of twelve making this journey on foot.” Before it was hard for me to picture any of this, but now It is hard to imagine them walking in the desert for several days to come from Galilee to Jerusalem, yet they and many others did.
Today we spent the day in a place called “Nazareth Village” a special place inside of Nazareth that is organized by a group of Christians to present an area that looks and runs similarly to the Nazareth of Jesus’ day. While they’re not claiming to be a Holy location, they do work hard to present what life might’ve been like for Jesus growing up in Nazareth by having several buildings built based on excavations in the area. They also have locals dress in period clothing and preform tasks that were common in that day, like herding sheep and baking unleavened bread. We shot a lot in this location as it was the most like the world Jesus lived in. While there they served us a traditional meal that had cabbage, lentil soup, bread, chicken, hummus, and several other awesome things that I’d have a hard time describing.
It was a long day of shooting, and the area is on a very steep hillside, making it a challenge to get cameras, lights, & all up and down, but the shots we got were pretty legit
While surveying the scene Tom commented that its entirely possible that Jesus as a boy might’ve sat in the shade of a tree much like this very olive tree and looked out across the valley south toward Judea knowing one day that his path would lead there.
Nazareth felt much more peaceful that Jerusalem. It is a compelling a thought that Jesus left this lovely, verdant place to traverse a desert and go to a hot bed of hostility knowing full well how it would end.
We’re currently staying in a hotel in Tiberius, a town named after the Emperor who was in power over Rome when Jesus was crucified. Funny to think that the average person in the west couldn’t call to mind his name today. He has a town named after him here because the Israelites were trying to show compliance and honor to their conquerors. Odd that now most people who would visit it are here to see the place where Jesus calmed the sea. I have to say it’s a beautiful place.
Tomorrow we have one more day of shooting in Israel that starts early and then we’ll fly out early the following morning for Athens, where we may be trading in chickens and cigarettes according to the news, so please say a prayer that it isn’t all too chaotic a time there. I hope to post again in a few days!
There’s a story in Haiti – we’re not sure it’s true, but it seems likely – that in 1804 the Voodoo leaders of the Haitian people sold Haiti to the Devil for 200 years. They were at war with France for their independence and it seemed like they had no way of winning since they were a tiny country in the Caribbean and France was a large military force, so the only way that their leaders knew to help was to make a deal with the Devil – to sell their nation to him to 200 years in exchange for victory against the French. Well, it worked. The French agreed to make a settlement and sell their financial interest in the land to the nation of Haiti.
If you’re not familiar with what happened in Haiti from 1804-2004 it is a bloody and horrific history. Scanning the wikipedia article on Haiti’s history will tell you there were multiple coups – resulting in the death of thousands of Haitians in pointless political power grabs. It ended in 2004 as the US assisted the Haitian president Aristide escape the country. By that time the Haitian people had been in a cycle characterized by a Miami School of Law Study as ‘a disturbing pattern.’ At that time the UN, with all it’s faults, came in and began to keep the peace in Haiti. A rumor began at this time that the Voodoo leaders were meeting again. They they were thinking about renewing their lease with the Devil – to save their nation from it’s unrest. Christian missionaries gathered and prayed – praying that they would not do this again and somehow they never did. Weather it was the obvious fact that they had been no better off with the Devil’s help or it was truly just the influence of the Holy Spirit, they did not hand Haiti back over to the Evil One. So for the first time in 200 years Haiti had the option of freeing itself from the tyranny of Satan.
However, men love darkness because their deeds are evil. The violence continued essentially until the infamous earthquake in 2010. The death toll is impossible to ascertain; numbers range from 50,000 – 300,000. In Haiti’s checkered history never has one event effected the nation to it’s core like this event did. As terrible as it was, it served as a wakeup call to the remaining Haitian people. Since then, they have elected a new president and over the past year he seems to have been working toward improving the living conditions of his people. It seems the healing of the Haitian people can finally begin. I see the earthquake as a natural evil that Satan would have used for ill, but God is using it for good. It is awesome, encouraging and humbling to think that we’re on the leading edge of an effort to take back the nation of Haiti for the glory of God.
Now, to return you to this trip to Haiti.
Friday morning we headed out to the Leveque deaf community one last time. The whole day was bittersweet since we knew we all had to leave the following morning. After meeting up with Mackenson, Kyle had some phone calls to make and we still had a few small details to finish on the house we were painting. DC and Woody worked on the house while Keri and Elizabeth met and talked with Bertheed, one of the deaf leaders, the only woman on the leadership council in the community.
I took the opportunity to walk around the new community taking pictures and video and relating to the members of the deaf community. Everyone I met recognized me from past trips and smiled and hugged me, asking if I was well. In turn I greeted them warmly and asked them if they knew that Jesus loved them. Many of them said “Thank you.” or a simple “Yes.”
After a few moments I realized I had no idea where the girls had gotten to, but it didn’t take long to find them. I just had to listen for the only house where there was talking – it was easy to find. When I got there, Keri and Elizabeth were talking to Bertheed about the Earthquake. She was expressing how much she didn’t understand the earthquake. She asked if God was angry with Haiti. Elizabeth and Keri assured her that God wasn’t angry at them, but that he was able to use the tragedy of the earthquake to bring them closer. She seemed relieved that we didn’t think God was angry with Haiti.
After the girls spent some time discussing life with Bertheed we walked over to where DC and woody were putting the final touches on the house we had been painting that week. Once they were finished we came back and spent the rest of the day fellowshipping in Mackenson’s house.
As we sat and talked, one of the deaf leaders commented that Kyle looked like he was sitting on throne. We looked over and Kyle laughed. He was sitting in a plastic deck chair. He instantly sat up and made a funny face. I signed “King Kyle” He signed “I am King Kyle! I am now in change Mackenson is out!” The deaf leaders were laughing really hard as he went on this comedic rant for a few moments. Kyle continued “I will make new rules!” Mackenson laughed and said “Just make those rules fair!” It wasn’t until Kyle said that he was going to take Mackenson’s dog, Luke, that Mackenson said “Woah – hold on there. You don’t get my dog.” apparently taking the Dog was just too far.
It’s funny to note that Mackenson’s Dog, Luke was not responsive to us whenever we tried to call him. He just sat there. Once when we were leaving the community and Mackenson was in the back of the truck with us luke came running after the truck. Mackenson simply held out his hand and after a moment Luke stopped and sat. The dog didn’t understand us because his master signs to him. I couldn’t help but have an ‘awww’ moment when I realized that the dog did recognize his master’s voice, it was just his hands through which that voice spoke.
We stopped at the same restaurant where we’d eaten all week. As we were trying to figure out who would pray (always a bit of a discussion before a meal on a mission trip) I just started signing a prayer. “God, thanks for this food. Amen.” Everybody signed ‘Amen.’ And kyle congratulated me on my first sign language prayer.
In the afternoon we walked up the hill to where the new church is going to be built soon. On the way there we got stopped by Kyle’s Haitian ‘mom.’ If you ever visit our Haitian deaf community – she is one that you’ll have to be sure to meet, she has such a sweet spirit and she vocalizes everything she says so loudly. She’s older, especially for a Haitian woman and spends much of her time giggling gleefully. Kyle told us that she was recently reunited with her sister who lives in the house next door. Her sister can hear and doesn’t know ASL, but they manage to communicate using home signs and lip reading. They’re both older and it was very sweet to hear that they are getting to spend their golden years together in such a beautiful community.
As we climbed the hill overlooking Leveque the team was filled with mixed emotion. None of us wanted the day to end, but when we reached the top it was time for one last prayer with the deaf leaders.
We had one more awesome time of prayer. Where we all prayed silently – those who knew sign language prayed ‘aloud.’ It’s so moving to see the expressive nature with which these deaf leaders pray. Seeing their fervor is stirring.
After the prayer there was a long period where we took photos. Photos of everyone with everyone else. Each deaf leader with each member of the team and then the deaf leaders and then the team and then the team with a few of the deaf leaders. Then the girls with Mackenson and William. Then the girls with just William. And a partridge in a pear tree. But it became evident we couldn’t put it off any longer; it was time to leave.
We headed back into Port Au Prince and arrived at New Life just before dark. Dinner was waiting for us – a delicious sort of meatballs and pasta. A few other teams were arriving to begin their trips even as we were preparing to leave. It was fun exchanging pleasantries and finding out what kind of work they were doing.
I had a conversation with a man named David who’s been working with an organization in Haiti for several decades. He was really impressed with the work we were doing. He affirmed the importance of moving the Haitian people toward sustainability. Moving them toward self-sufficience. He was impressed with how we were adamant that our ministry be to the leaders who in tern would minister to the rest of the community. It was encouraging to hear how impressed he was. David mentioned that there were many organizations who didn’t understand this principle. These NGOs do more harm than good as they just give handouts rather than woking to equip the people with the knowledge to elevate themselves for a lifetime. The affirmation was very encouraging.
Our team time in the evening was brief as we were all very tired, but we all were up and ready to go by 6:30 the next morning. As we waited for the truck to come and pick us up one last time Kyle went around the table and affirmed every member of the team – encouraging each one of us and talking about the areas in which he had seen us all grow during the week. We hopped on the truck and took our final ride to the airport. The ride was full of laughter. We were remembering all the good times we’d had that week.
When we got to the airport I had to separate from the group for most of the day as I was flying back by American Airlines while they flew back via Spirit Airlines. I’m told that they had some pretty fun times traversing the Caribbean, connecting in Ft. Lauderdale and finally landing in Atlanta. I had a few adventures of my own. My Miami layover was only an hour and a half long – which meant I had to go through passport control, baggage claim, customs, rechecking, security, and find my gate in a very short time. Remarkably I made it with time to spare. Ironically, despite my efforts to get to my connecting flight, the plane had a mechanical issue that took over an hour to resolve, so we didn’t end up flying out until almost 3:00.
On my flight from Miami I sat next to a Spanish woman. Not a Hispanic woman, but a woman who was actually from Spain. She only spoke spanish so naturally after being in Haiti all week I was delighted to finally have someone to talk to who I could really understand. I made conversation with her as best I could. She was very friendly and I even help the flight attendants understand what she wanted. When I got to Atlanta I originally had planned on picking up dinner, gassing up the car and picking up the others, but by the time I got out to the car I got a text from DC that they had just landed. So I locked the car and just walked back inside where I met the others as they entered the terminal.
Keri honored us with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem as we stepped outside. I’ve never been a part of a team that didn’t immediately all fall asleep as soon as they hit the car on the way back from the airport. No one fell asleep. We stopped for dinner and were undoubtedly the most obnoxiously loud group there. The last leg of the trip was spent singing, joking and laughing all the way back home to Montgomery. When we pulled up to the back parking lot of Frazer there was a group waiting for us and we were still laughing and singing and enjoying the camaraderie. DC closed us out with one last prayer and we called it a night. The trip was done.I’ve never been a part of a mission team that got as close as this one. It was nothing short of awesome.
I want to close with this: If you are a part of the Frazer family and if you are at all capable, you need to visit Haiti. I ran into someone this morning who I told needed to visit Haiti. He told me he wasn’t called there. I told him he needed to go regardless. I didn’t feel ‘called’ the first time I went. But that trip was enough to give the Holy Spirit a vocabulary in my life such that I was back three more times in less than a year. If I hadn’t gone that first time the help-portrait trip would never have happened in November and neither would the december trip where we brought them the photos.
If you have the desire and it feels impossible, God will make it possible. If you know you can do it and you’re not sure if you’re called. This is the call. You didn’t read this on accident. We have trips almost every month this year. In the meantime be praying. Pray for the deaf leaders. Pray for Kyle, our Missionary on the ground there. Pray for God’s will to be done in the nation of Haiti. Pray that what we’re doing today will have a ripple effect that will effect the whole world.
On wonderful wednesday morning after our devotional and breakfast at new life. Breakfast was an especially awesome rendition of french toast. I guess it was actually Creole toast. Creole toast is like french toast except you don’t conjugate the eggs. There was also an oatmeal that was easily the best tasting oatmeal I’ve ever had. I’d try to describe it, but it’s indescribable.
After breakfast we headed out to Leveque. The whole day was spent finishing painting the house that we started on our second day. We had to paint the first coat on one room and put the 2nd coat on the others. DC Cole, the trip’s leader was especially eager to finish the job we started. We not only put the first coat on the room we hadn’t started but at the end of the day we managed to put a second coat. As with the previous day we got to interact a great deal with the community.
One of the things that we’re seeing is that living among Haitians who can hear will be an adjustment for the deaf community. DC spoke with one of the Leveque residents who was baffled that we were talking with Mackenson and Alexis. This unfortunately is a common attitude, we’re hoping that we can help the members of the deaf community at Leveque elevate themselves in their society such that the others realize that they are equally capable. If they can do it there, we’re hopeful that they can do it across the entire nation of Haiti.
For lunch we headed to the same creole restaurant we went to in Cabaret the day before. This time as we walked in I noticed a chicken was walking around under our table. Later I would comment that I supposed he must be for lunch tomorrow. At least we know its fresh. I made the mistake of trying the hot sauce this time. It was as if my sinuses were a crowded theater and someone shouted ‘fire!’ But I accomplished what I wanted and that was to make my meal more of a challenge than it was the day before.
Wednesday I also tried put together a few sign phrases that I hadn’t before. After lunch when we were riding back to Leveque, Mackinson was asking some of us if we new deaf people before we got involved with the community in Haiti. We admitted that none of us had grown up around people who are deaf. I managed to sign to him, “But now, we have a big deaf family in Haiti.” And he smiled and signed ‘cool.’ When we got back later on William, the guy who sang-signed for us yesterday, showed up I told him that I want him to come to Frazer one day and sign for everyone there. He told me that I should learn to sing.
We painted until we ran out of paint. We had to stop for the day when they told us that they wouldn’t have more paint for us until friday. We had to leave one room half finished and stop for the day. We headed back to New Life for the evening.
After dinner, we engaged in a lengthy discussion on some future developments in the community. One of the recent changes was that the design of the church at Leveque has been adjusted by a leading architect who specializes in optimizing spaces for the people who are deaf. This means that the sight lines will be improved such that the members of the deaf community should be able to see their interpreter from almost anywhere in their new church home. The discussion was a great opportunity for the members of the team to get clarification on Frazer’s role and the hope that one day we’ll no longer be involved with the deaf community in Leveque, but rather we’ll be able to expand our scope here in Haiti and move onto other projects. After many great conversations we all headed to bed.
I should mention that Woody apparently talks in his sleep at that night DC caught him shouting angrily, “But I’m trying to serve God!” to someone in his dreams. Woody doesn’t remember what he was dreaming so we have no clue with whom he was arguing. But it was a funny event.
Thursday was a really cool day. We started off by visiting our friends at Rebuild Globally – an organization that is working to employ Haitians through creative means. They pay Haitians fair wages to make sandals out of trash – old tires and clothes. The sandals are actually excellent and we were able to see their efforts regarding planting a garden and starting a tilapia farm. It’s always cool and encouraging to see other groups and organizations succeeding at helping people move toward sustainability. It also is great because it gives us ideas as to ways we can help move our community (and future communities) toward sustainability as well.
After that we headed to Mission of Hope’s compound for a bit to drop some things off at Kyle’s new apartment. It gave us a chance to see their campus – not all of the team has yet and it’s a pretty cool place. Frazer hopes to learn as much as we can from MOH and organizations like them so that one day we might be able to do something similar. Kyle got to have a chat with a few MOH leaders while the rest of us looked around. In the afternoon we stopped by Wahoo bay partially to take a little break partially to celebrate Kyle’s birthday. Wahoo is a resort which has a restaurant and beach access. We all took a few moments to hop in the water which was as clear as if it had come out of the tap. The scene was absolutely stunning. Clear water, mountains and a beautiful afternoon sun setting just above us.
We headed back to town before the sun set and came back to New Life. The truck ride back was the longest contiguous ride yet. I took some footage of us riding back as we came into town.
We gave kyle a few more gifts and had some cupcakes (which I had managed to bring in my suitcase all the way from Montgomery’s Publix.) We made our plans for the next day – which were mainly to try and make an effort to just relate to the community members and really speak the gospel into their lives.
So as we go out today, I ask for prayers – prayers that we will be bold, clear and have the Holy Spirit’s words. I pray that the language barriers would not be a problem even as we speak to the hearing people in the community. Please pray that our last day with them would be mightily effective.
Bonju everyone! It is a beautiful morning here in Port Au Prince at the New Life Children’s home. I’m taking a pause to write a little bit about the jounry thus far.
This team’s trip actually started on saturday with a drive to Ft. Lauderdale to deliver a Land Rover and Frazer’s eldest church van to the port to be shipped over here via – well, ship – arriving later on next month. I was not with them during that leg of the journey which is unfortunate because it was by far one of the most interesting pre-trip trips so far. The key to the land rover included (as many modern keys do) a chip to inform the car that it was not being stolen when the ignition is cranked. Unfortunately this part of the key fell apart halfway down to their destination. The assembly broke off along with two tiny parts of said chip. Between the engineering genius of Woody Parramore and the mechanical expertise of DC Cole, after 40 minutes – and the generous donation of tinfoil from a local Dunkin Donuts – they were able to get the car up and running again.
In addition they had trouble finding a hotel to stay for the night on saturday and when they finally found a place with a vacancy it was truly only a single vacancy so Keri Ward and Elizabeth Beaird slept in the room while the guys slept in the church Van. Because of the broken key they had to first visit a Land Rover dealership before they could call it a night on sunday. Finally they made their way to Haiti on Monday morning where they met up with Kyle and visited the old deal camp first thing in the morning. I joined them that afternoon.
I had a very different Monday morning. Like the others I awoke at Dark:30 in the morning only my drive was to Atlanta to drop off the car that we would be riding home in on saturday from the airport. The day of travel was pretty smooth and I was very happy to find that everything I was bringing to Kyle indeed arrived safely in Port Au prince. This included about 10 books, two packages of coffee, three packages of coffee creamer, two drink cozies from the tipping point, several smaller odds and ends and (dah,dah, dah-dah) a laser printer with extra toner. Yes ladies and gentlemen Kyle can now print. You don’t realize how big a deal it is to have something as simple as a decent printer down here until you don’t have one.
I was expecting to ride to new life with Naz, the orphanage’s hired chauffeur, but as I battled my way through the crowd of haitians begging to take my luggage I was met by Keri and Kyle who brought me over to a small pickup truck – our chariot for the week. Woody, DC and Elizabeth were standing in the back ‘shouting’ my name sign as I approached. For those of you just joining our program my name sign, given to me by the deaf community in November is a ‘W’ signed over the stomach, I wish I could disagree with their assessment but every time I see a picture of myself I have to admit that it is my best feature ;-)
We rode back to New Life – the orphanage in whose guest house we’re staying this week and had dinner before discussing how tuesday would go.
Yesterday morning started with a devotional from Elizabeth – which naturally included scripture reminding us that ‘The deaf will hear and the blind will see.’ There is little doubt in the minds of those involved with this ministry that this scripture is being fulfilled right before our eyes. No, I’m not talking about deaf miraculously regaining their ability to hear. But without a doubt, this community of deaf people has heard the Gospel more clearly than many people with all five senses.
After breakfast here at New Life we hopped in the back of the truck for a ride out to the new community at Leveque. The ride takes about an hour total, but would take half that in the states. Traffic is terrible around Port Au Prince and the roads are worse, though half the Journey is made on one of the nicest roads in the country. The trunk we’re riding in isn’t exactly what we would consider a ‘full size’ in the states. Six people in the truck bed makes for a constant game of human Tetris as one person’s leg falls asleep and another person gets tired of standing. We get lots of interesting looks from the Haitians many of whom have no love of ‘Blanc’ or white people. But we arrived at the deaf community to cheers from our community members.
As we pulled up I was immediately greeted by several familiar faces who hugged me several times over. I was especially glad to see the community’s leader, Mackenson St. Louis. Right off the bat Kyle gathered up the interns from Mission of Hope who were facilitating another mission group from Minnesota. When we were all circled up Kyle prayed in sign language and Elizabeth interpreted while a Mission of Hope employee interpreted into Creole. Praying in three languages is always cool, but sign language is an especially beautiful language for prayer and praise. I have to mention to anyone who is reading – if you’re running camera for another church group and you see that another guy is taking video, it’s just common courtesy to stay out of each other’s shot. I’m talking to you, guy from Minnesota who thought the best vantage point was in-between the pray-er and interpreters. . . .anyway . . .
Embedding the video didn’t work but please click here to check out a video of Mackenson praying.
After we finished the prayer the group from Frazer followed Mackenson up the hill to the location where the new church is soon to start construction. We prayed over that location – Keri prayed in english and Mackenson prayed in sign. I neglected to mention that when I arrived at the Atlanta airport on Monday Virginia Thompson, our pastor’s wife, called me. She had just gotten back from Haiti for a weekend trip and told me that she had tried to take a large stone from the future location of the church on the hilltop, but because her luggage was all carry-on, she wasn’t allowed to bring the rock aboard the plane. She called to ask me make sure and bring her a stone back in my check luggage for her. So I took this moment to find a large rock for Virginia. So, Virginia – your rock is on it’s way.
One of the coolest parts of the day was when William, one of the deaf leaders who one day hopes to be one of Haiti’s first deaf pastors, invited us into his new house. For me it was special because I got to see where he had hung the photo that we had taken on him in November with the Help-Portrait group and delivered in December. Before we left he shared a song with us. He writes songs and performs them in such a powerfully expressive way you could almost swear you hear the way the music sounds in his head. It was nothing short of awesome in the true sense of the word.
After looking around the new community at Leveque we got to painting one of the houses in the new community. The houses are all painted on the outside already, but the inside is still gray concrete. Painting may not sound terribly practical, after all you can live without paint, but when you’re light source is entirely based on sunlight coming through window vents, it’s pretty amazing how much different light colored paint makes in making a room brighter. When we walked in the room seemed so dark, even with mid-morning light beaming straight into the room, but when we finished the first coat by the end of the day it was sup rising how much more light there was in the room simply created by paint that reflected the light around the room.
Our first few hours painting were pretty chaotic as the children in the community wanted to help paint too. In addition to the kids there were the six of us, several deaf adults and a few pieces of ‘furniture’ to work around. After we got most of the coat done we decided it was best to get the kids out and make sure we were actually providing them with a decent paint Job.
Our lunch was back in the town of Cabaret (which isn’t far away from Chicago – again, musical theater joke) The food in Haiti is always enjoyable – rice and beans, chicken and Coke with real cane sugar – that may not sound like a big deal, but to those who have had it – they know what I mean.
Back at the community we finished up the first coat of paint. The team began to sing praise songs together and them moved on to disney songs. Alexis, one of the guys in the deaf community, had his hearing aid in so he could hear us well enough to laugh at us and sign to Mackenson “They’re singing crazy.” We finished up with what paint we had and at the end of what felt like a too-short day we headed back to New-life. On the trip back Kyle bought us some sugar cane while we were stopped in traffic. Most of us enjoyed it as we continued our game of human tetris – standing up when we could no longer feel our backsides, sitting down when we got tired of getting hit in the face by bugs. I have to say, I love riding in the back of the truck it’s a bit of a rush when our driver pulls out to pass a big truck only to miss a head-on collision by ales than ten feet. This is normal driving in Haiti and somehow they don’t seem to have accidents. It’s pretty remarkable.
I’ve even included a video via my GoPro of riding on the back of the truck in Haiti – click here to see it.
When we got back to New Life, a delicious dinner was waiting for us. The evening was restful and included some good time to process the day. Keri Ward is the only member of the team to not have been here before and both Kyle and I remarked on how quiet she had been on our way back that evening. She said she was just trying to process it all. One by one we all went to bed.
That catches you up to this morning! I thank you all for your continued prayers. It is truly awesome to see the progress as the community has moved out to Leveque and continues to develop together. Even yesterday as we were talking one of the deaf people kept saying ‘We must be patient. We must trust god to protect us.’ Their faith is always inspiring.
At Frazer the volunteer year runs from February to January so I often think of my year beginning once the last production crew from the previous year has finished up. I don’t like to spend too much time blogging about me and my personal life, but I had a really awesome year in 2011 and I want to take one last look at it before I close its book.
In 2011 I had some really awesome opportunities. God moved me closer to Him and He introduced me to some great new friends, some powerful truths and He greatly enlarged my territory. I challenge you to read it and seek similar experiences in your own life that you would be blessed, be challenged and be encouraged to grow.
I just want to encourage you to take on things that are going to challenge you and encourage you. Take time to cultivate rich friendships with people who will pray you through things. Take a retreat and get to know God, better yet, to know His plan for you. Do things that are good for you. Waste less time with empty entertainment. Like John Wesley Said
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
Today was another incredible day here in Haiti. Before breakfast was served we got talking about a particular youtube video then we had to pause and let everyone watch it. You may have seen the “Teasing the Dog” video – it got us all laughing. I mention this because it turned into a major joke throughout at the day and if you want to get a feel for the jovial attitude that this team has you’ll want to watch it. After breakfast we met and had a devotional where we talked about the day. We had a great prayer time. Kyle said that Josh made his journal today when he prayed for a Hope that is ignorant of the odds against us here in our endeavors with the deaf culture. Between a full night’s rest, a good breakfast, some fervent prayer and a hearty laugh we all felt really energized for the day.
We started off the day with a long ride to Leveque just outside of Cabaret, which is close to Chicago, oddly enough – that’s a musical theater joke – Okay, it wasn’t close to Chicago, but it did take us about as long to drive there. It was interesting to see rural Haiti after spending a day in Port Au Prince. The n
eighborhoods are generally safer and this area has lots fertile land and several good schools that the children in the community could attend. Mission of Hope has already built a considerable number of homes in this area already. The people living in this area all have space for gardens and we met a few of the residents as we came to tour around.
We hiked around the property and saw where the deaf community will move – with the ocean just to the west and mountains to the east and plenty of room for gardening it’s a prime place for this relocation. We also saw the place for the new church that Frazer will be helping develop. I took the opportunity to take several video segments with Kyle explaining about where everything would be located. There will be basketball courts and a soccer field in addition to a new guest house for our future mission teams. I hope to have the video edited quickly and on the missions blog and transformation blog soon.
Billy Pope, a photographer with 15 years experience said that this has been the most fun that he’s had shooting photos. The spirit ofratitude is palpable as its mutual between the deaf community and our team as we all feel so blessed to be here, participating in such a fun act of service. The single most common sign we see everyday is ‘thank you.’ Every time we show them their photo they say thank you and we thank them for letting us take it. The proud mothers with their children all lined up, the young couples as well as the elderly all lined up – each eager to get their picture taken and so loving and thankful while we’re just as thankful for the opportunity.
There were a number of children who were very fascinated with my beard. They all would run up to me andclimb up on me and start tugging at my chin. At one point I was carrying four children around. They’re all so loving and eager for attention. Many of the teenagers were also around at this point and I started talking with them teaching them different english words. Kyle was working hard to get all the kids young and old to start calling me “Grizzly Beard” this was too difficult for the Haitian children, to say fortunately so he settled for calling me “Papa Bear.” At one point they were all surrounding me chanting “Papa Bear! Papa Bear!”
One of the coolest people that we’ve gotten know over the past few days is thewoman that Kyle calls his ‘Haitian Mom’ I wish all of you could hear her voice – in spite of being deaf, she’s quite vocal and she has the most infectious laugh. She treats the kids like she’s all of their grandmother -shooing them away when they’re misbehaving and giggling when they’re being silly.
Perhaps the coolest indicator of how close we’ve become is that some of us have scored name-signs with the community. Yesterday the several leaders argued over what mine should be – they finally settled on a ‘W’ over the stomach (a loving comment on my weight.) Diane also got one – a ‘D’ on the cheek. I spent some time trying to pick up new signs today while the photographers shot. Again, the eagerness and thankfulness of the people in the community is just astounding.
Here are a few photos from today from Billy
And a few from Nick
My personal favorite moment of the day was probably toward the end of the day when a little boy came into the doorway of the leader’s hut. I had been sitting with the sign language dictionary trying to learn new signs. I signed to him “Christ Loves You” and he smiled and said back in sign language “Thank you.”
And so I end saying to all of you – Christ loves you and thank you for your continued prayers. Tomorrow is our last full day so please pray that it will be all that it can be. So far the trip has been amazing.
We also spent some time discussing the current political climate in Haiti. The new president has recently declared that he wants to rebuild Haiti’s national army. This may not sound like a bad thing until you find out that it was the Army that was the cause of much of the political instability in Haiti until the 1990′s. Apparently one dictator would seize power then a few months later his general would move the army in, kill him and take his place, only to have his new general move in a few months later. This President is expected to order the UN peacekeeping forces to leave so that he can replace them with an Army, creating Jobs for Haitians. The problem with this is that the government can’t afford to build a force equivalent to that 13,000 UN troops that currently keep the peace here. Many Haitians don’t like the UN. At best they don’t think they do much; at worst they don’t think they should be here at all. So to say the least, Haiti’s situation needs prayer.
After stopping by a gas station to grab some water and snacks, we headed on to spend the rest of the day with the deaf community. My sign language had gotten good enough to make some conversation finally. As we finished out the photos we had come to find out that there was one couple that had recently had a baby and that she wasn’t ready to leave her house, so Billy, Josh and I headed over to their house and we caught a photo of them. It was one of the most precious photos that the team took.
We took time to interact with the community more. At one point I started dancing to some music with the kids and Josh told me that one of the community members signed “The fat guy can dance.” This is beginning to be a theme; maybe its time to lose some weight. I got into a conversation in the leaders hut about the percussionist Evelyn Glennie who is deaf. They talked about how she could feel the vibrations. After a few moments I started stoping out a rhythm on the floor and suddenly they all started stomping and tapping around the room. It was so much fun. I got into a tap-dancing competition with one of the guys. It was a blast.
We all told the community members that Jesus loves them and I was surprised at how shocked some of them were to hear this from us. The leadership council of the community took a photo together as well as Mackenson, the leader of the group. It was really cool to see the leadership take charge of organizing the group – settling disputes and making decisions. I learned the sign for ‘wise’ just so I could tell Mackenson how impressed I was with his decision making skills.
We finished with Nick and Billy walking around getting photos of a few of the children for future sponsorship profiles. Soon we’ll be offering people the opportunity to pay for a child’s schooling here in Haiti and they’ll be going to one of the top schools in the country- all very exciting. We were pretty tired at the end of the day. I don’t know that I have a reason for posting this picture other than the fact that it’s may favorite picture of Billy and Nick from this week. I think it looks like a buddy comedy movie poster.
If you can come up with a caption for this photo let me know – I can’t figure one out that is worthy of the awesomeness of this picture. In addition to this one (one of the only photos that I shot) Billy, Nick and Lori worked hard for us to total our three days to over 120 portraits between three days of shooting. But now the real work begins. They’ll have to edit through hundreds of different photos, picking out each household’s photos. We’ve been talking about having a special photo exhibition to raise the money to pay for the prints and possibly raise funds for future Haiti trips or Help Portrait events. Let me know if that sounds interesting to you and we’ll see if we can make it happen.
Click the thumbnail to see the full photo.Here are Nick’s
Over all this trip has been amazing and we’re already talking about our next Help Portrait event and many of us are excited to get back to Haiti again soon. I’ve got some sign language to work on – as many of the deaf people told me. (And apparently some weight to lose) But I’ve never had this much fun on a mission trip. I really feel that we conveyed the love of Christ to these people, even just in taking these photos and talking with them. I felt so fortunate to have been a part of this trip. At the end of the day I asked Mackenson what he would like to say to Frazer on video and the thrust of it was that this team was helpful and he’s glad that Frazer is involved with the community.
We head for the airport first thing tomorrow, so pray for safe travels! We’re excited to get these photos printed and framed! Thanks for everyone who has been reading. If you read this I’m telling you that you should come to Haiti. Whatever obstacle is in your way God is bigger. Learn some sign language, get here and love on these people.
To God be the glory.
-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.
butch said we had to be up at 4:00 in the morning, my response was “No, silly 4:00 is in the afternoon!” Photo by Lori Mercer
I write to you at the end of a very long day. We started today at 3:00am (for us) and flew out of Ft. Lauderdale. We got to the airport really early but took some time to review our sign language and Creole. The flight was good. We arrived around 10am and made our way to the New Life Children’s home where most of Frazer’s teams stay on our trips here. The compound includes a guest house, church, garden and orphanage. It’s walled and there’s an armed guard at the gate. There is no better place for mission teams to stay at Port Au Prince.
Kyle met us in the airport and we were escorted from there by our Haitian police friend who is lovingly referred to as “Mr.T.” Once we got to New Life we sat down and Kyle told us a little about how things were going to go. He told us that the leadership of the deaf community volunteered to organize the people in the community to be ready to have the photos taken.
When we arrived at the community we were quickly mobbed by all of the children who absolutely love Kyle. As soon as the car from 410 drove up children came running out of the huts to meet him. Many people are surprised to find out that even though the adults in the community are deaf, most of the children are hearing. It’s very common for this to happen, but especially in Haiti where much of the deafness comes as the result of illness rather than condition from birth. The children in the community love to sing. Kyle plays guitar for them and goes through the few praise songs that he knows – often translating them into Creole. One of the coolest moments of the day was hearing all these Haitian children singing at the top of their lungs ‘Wi Jezi, wi Jezi, wi Jezi…’ – the chorus from ‘Trading my Sorrows.”
We got to hear from several members of the leadership council most of whom are very young and all seem like very smart, determined people. Mackenson St.Louise is one of the leaders and he is determined that the community learn English as well as French, Creole and Proper American Sign Language. In an effort to help in their endeavors we delivered to them several books that help teach proper sign language. They wasted no time as soon as we were done they they all took one of the books and set down to read them. It was awesome to watch them as they devoured the books – each of them was trying out the signs depicted in the books and then showing the others.
Josh Brewer, our wonderful translator was there to translate several amazing stories as the leadership council each shared where they were during the earth quake and how they came to the deaf community. You can hear more about Mackinson’s awesome story on kyle’s blog.
The team and the members of the deaf community were fast friends as they were all telling us stories and asking us questions. Many of them sat with us as we all hand-spelled our names and made what conversation we could. It was an enormous blessing. We took a tour of the community were we saw that a number of the people there have already started their own micro enterprise – artisans hocking their wares, other people selling other kinds of goods – there’s even a local pub.
Let the Photos Begin
Finally we started taking photos. God really provided for us in a cool way when it came time for us to decide where we were going to shoot. Since the first meeting we had been wondering were we were going to stage the photos, originally thinking that we’d try taking them totally outside in front of the T-houses you see in the above picture. But when we got there we found out that just in the past few weeks a new tent had been donated by UMCOR (woot! woot! UMC represent!). The tent was the perfect size and opacity; It provided a great back drop with a neutral white and wonderful diffused light that allowed the photographers to set up a single flash and take pictures that look exactly as if they’d been taken in in a studio.
It didn’t take long for word to get around the camp and soon Billy, Lori and Nick had their hands full with families wanting their photos taken together. Diane was busy taking names so that we were sure to match up the photos with the correct households when we return with the framed photos in December. I acted as a light stand for much of the afternoon. Butch was doing crowd control and Josh was in the middle the whole time, making sure that everyone was understood. I wish I could tell you how amazing it was to take photos of these people and show it to them. Though none of them speak english – and many of them don’t speak at all – we could all see the joy in their faces as they each saw a photo of themselves. All of them were very thankful. It was funny to see the number of things that are universal – the awe of an elderly couple looking into each others’ eyes in one photo, teenagers refusing to smile in a family picture and the fact the everyone feels joy knowing that they’re worth photographing.
Here are a few of the photos from today – all three photographers contributed a great deal today. These three photos were taken by Billy Pope. You can see the larger image by clicking on them. Keep in mind these were all taken in the same tent in the deaf community.
for more photos by Nick, you can visit his blog
End of the day
Tonight we had the blessing of joining the children at the New Life Center for their evening devotional. Though the whole thing was in creole, I was still struck by the sincerity of their faith and the universality of our God. As the team leader I was asked to stand up and tell the kids who we were so I explained through a translator what we were doing and introduced the team. After the devotional each one of the children approached each one of us to wish us ‘good night’ or ‘god bless’ in english. It was a really cool experience.
over all it was a really good day – we’re all excited to get back out there tomorrow, but the whole team is really tired. Even as I finish writing this a little after 9, I’m the last one awake. Thanks for your continued prayers – we’ve been feeling them! God is doing a great work here!