New Year 2018
As we start a new year, it is appropriate to extend my sincere gratitude to each person, whether a good friend or family member, for your love, support and commitment this past year. It is because of you, and your willingness to be used by God to pray, to give messages of encouragement and/or financial support that makes this journey possible. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to bring hope to these young people of Haiti. Together, we are working to alleviate poverty and provide education as these young men grow into adulthood and influence their community and the next generation.
Most of the guys have a part-time job with HandUp Global Goods (https://handupglobalgoods.org/) where they make beautiful jewelry, earn a wage and have medical benefits, something many people in Haiti lack. Time and time again, I am amazed how, with so little material possessions, they give things of great value from what they have. They give their time in so many ways. For example, but not limited to: praying for those who are hurting or sick; mentoring younger people in the community; teaching children currently living on the streets how to write and read; sharing their own personal testimonies of how Jesus changed their lives; giving food to those who have none; making people feel welcome and valued. I love how they remember where they came from and appreciate those who have helped them along the way. I love how they regularly visit the home that was started by Grangou (https://grangou.org/). This home allowed them to leave the streets and to have access to regular meals, education and medical care. They return to maintain relationships that were formed there and also to mentor the younger children.
We have been blessed to be able to encourage and support them in continuing their education and in starting their own small businesses, as well as getting to know them as individuals.
Public schools in Haiti are not free and the cost of tuition increases with each grade level attained. Students are required to purchase a school uniform (which typically changes from year to year, thereby minimizing the possibility of being able to pass the uniforms on or to wear them year after year.) Students are required to purchase books each school year and pay a fee each time a quiz or exam is given! In addition to providing assistance by hiring tutors and paying for some of their fees, we have started a year-long English school that is open to anyone in the general public over the age of 16. The English language is taught by accredited Haitian teachers who speak fluent English. This provides jobs for the teachers, administrative and custodial staff and gives a marketable advantage to any student who becomes proficient in English. The next session starts February 17th.
In regards to the boys’ businesses, they decided which businesses they wanted to start. (We did reject a few business plans. The one that comes to my mind the quickest is the guy who wanted to start selling gasoline from drums and had no place to safely store the fuel.) Sales businesses included selling trinkets, clothes, beverages, phones, retail and wholesale food. Service businesses included a couple of car wash locations, providing public transportation via motorcycles, pick-up trucks (tap taps) and private vehicles. Some of these businesses “failed” and some are still going today. Most of these businesses, although not all, were started with micro loans. With each of the businesses that failed, valuable lessons were learned by all.
The first tap-tap business, you may recall, was started by Patrick. He borrowed $5,000 US to purchase a pick-up truck and turned it into a “beautiful tap tap,” as he referred to it. He hired a friend of his to drive the tap tap. That friend still drives for Patrick today and has never had an accident! (Very impressive considering Port au Prince traffic.) Patrick created income for himself and his friend. This inspired Josue to do the same. Josue borrowed $5,000 US to purchase a pick-up and turn it into a tap tap. He hired a friend of his to drive the tap tap and that friend still drives for Josue today. Josue created income for himself and his friend. Now Max would like to do the same.
This is one way that investing in their lives makes a positive difference economically. And it does more than just that. It gives dignity to the person earning the income. It gives dignity to the person borrowing the funds as they are held accountable and are building for their future while helping others along the way. It provides a needed service to the community and an income to the driver and to the owner of the vehicle. It strengthens relationships and people earn respect for each other. It gives a person hope and confidence in their self and their future.
Aside from a few accidents, higher than anticipated service and repair work, along with a myriad of tickets (some deserved, others not), public transportation via motorcycle has turned out well overall. Not only does it allow for a service to be provided to the community, it has given the guys with motorcycles more time as they commute between work, school and home. It has been a source of transportation for family reunification trips and for transporting food, people and supplies. For the past fifty years or so, the Haitian culture, in general, has seen much given to them with little expected in return. For some of the guys, it has been a challenge to realize the difference between a loan and a gift… even with a signed contract. A strong bond of mutual respect has been formed with those who have transitioned to that understanding and have either paid off their loan or are in the process of doing so.
I did not realize how much poverty limits people and I probably still have much to learn. Most of these guys are from all parts of Haiti, having come to Port au Prince because it is the capital city. Once in Port au Prince, few people ever get outside of Port au Prince simply because they do not have the means to do so. I have met many people who have never been outside of Port au Prince! I remember when one boy chose to drive his motorcycle to northern Haiti (a distance of approximately 150 miles) to visit extended family over a weekend. It surprised everyone in the community but me. Numerous people from the neighborhood told me I should not let him go. When he was gone, several people told me I should have not let him go. The only viable reason anyone could give me was that the roads were not good. My response was that he was over 18 and could decide where he wanted to go. Of course, he returned safely. It warmed my heart to see other boys, over time, go in search of a parent, brother, sister or grandparents they had not seen for years. It was like it took one person to open the door of possibilities that gave the others the freedom to decide for themselves what they could and could not do. While it is not an everyday occurrence, it is not uncommon now to hear that someone went outside of Port au Prince to visit a friend or relative or to help with a cause.
The first time I went to Haiti by myself to visit these boys, we took a trip via public transportation to Fort Jacques to learn about their history. Fort Jacques is located about an hour outside of Port au Prince and was built after Haiti won its independence in 1804 from France. It offers a breath-taking view of Port au Prince and the bay. Haiti is rich in history, culture and natural beauty. Since most of these guys relocated to Port au Prince as young children from all parts of Haiti, we have been able to experience various parts of Haiti when we do our family reunification visits. This picture of a rapidly flowing river was taken on a family reunification visit this past fall to the northern part of Haiti, just outside of Plaisance. By the way, did you know that the physical size of Haiti is slightly smaller than that of Maryland?
Patrick and Herby founded Be The Change Haiti (https://www.facebook.com/BeTheChangeHaiti/) and continue to build relationships with children still living on the streets of Port ua Prince. They have gathered funds (their own and through donations) to send some of the children to school after spending hours with them, teaching them how to read and write. They have a monthly goal of feeding up to 100 street children a delicious meal with a drink while sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. In December, Be The Change Haiti, along with the founders of Grangou, had a Christmas party and 22 children accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior! I am pretty certain that HandUp Global Goods did some behind-the-scenes support of that Christmas party too. (Patrick is in the red shirt and Herby is on the far right of photo above with a few of the young people they serve.)
Marcial, Max and Mackenson (pictured below in order mentioned) work tirelessly to provide hope to 16 children in a village on the outskirts of Port au Prince called Canaan. These children weigh heavily on their hearts, especially on the heart of Max. Their employer, HandUp Global Goods, has put together an excellent video featuring Max and his desire to help. The video can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFHLItdc2gU On the weekends Max, Mackenson and Marcial can be found bringing food, providing activities and discipleship programs to these children. They invest their hard earned money and donations to provide a safe place for the children to live. Max would like to purchase a pick-up truck and turn it into a tap tap to generate income. The driver would be given a fair wage and the balance would go to helping to support Canaan Kids (or Timoun Kanaran as it is written in Creole.)
We are still praying about how to effectively and efficiently move forward on construction of our future home. Unfortunately it was not completed by the time our apartment lease expired. We were able to secure a small rental house with a different landlord for this coming year. The goal is to have the home construction completed and no longer pay rent; those funds can then be invested in the futures of these young men and their community.
You may or may not be aware that I underwent emergency surgery in Haiti on October 26, 2017. It was a grueling time, particularly for my family and friends in the States and also for those in Haiti, as I spent 12 days in a hospital in Port au Prince after my appendix and gallbladder were removed. I made it back to the States around Thanksgiving and spent 4 days in a hospital in Iowa on intravenous antibiotics. The biopsy results from Haiti were due back on November 28 but we actually received them in January! Most things in Haiti take longer than initially anticipated. Fortunately, the biopsy results reported everything exactly as the surgeon in Haiti originally stated… there was a massive infection due to a large gallstone and my body was doing the best it could to contain the infection and keep it from spreading. No evidence or mention of cancer cells as the doctors in the States were concerned would be found! Recovery has been slower than I had hoped but right on schedule for the open cholecystectomy that was done instead of the laparascopic cholecystectomy that may have been done if the surgery could have been done in the States. I do plan to return to Haiti in February, God willing. I am looking forward to seeing these young men face-to-face instead of only through the internet communication we have had since November. Going forward, I will be splitting my time between Haiti and the United States, working at a paying job while in the States to lessen the dependence on financial donations throughout the year.
Please pray for us and pray for how God wants you to be involved. Whether He is calling you to serve physically, financially, prayerfully or in some other way, please listen to that call and respond accordingly. Feel free to email me and share your thoughts and insights. I’d love to hear from you!
If you choose to participate financially and prefer to designate your gifts, you can indicate that when you give — “CONSTRUCTION” for home construction; “BE THE CHANGE HAITI” for the outreach with current street kids; “CANAAN KIDS” for the outreach to orphans in Canaan, Haiti, NewGES for New Generation English School, etc. If no designation is made, your donation will go toward my monthly goal of $1,800. Remember, your financial support is tax deductible and you will receive a receipt for tax purposes. Please choose to help in the way that works best for you.
Matthew 25:40 – “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.’”
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2. MAIL CHECKS TO –
World Outreach Ministries, Inc.
P.O. Box B
Marietta, GA 30061
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World Outreach Ministries, Inc.
(designate for Linda Martin #564)
P.O. Box B
Marietta, GA 30061