So often, things happen that appear to have been planned, but they really weren't...at least not by me.
In reference to actual students, I will use initials only.
OJ has been around here a lot. His older brother is a fine trumpeter in the brass band. OJ was never quite as quick. But he was persistent. He longed to play keyboard, then glockenspiel, then trombone, then drums, but he never made much progress in any of them.
He pestered my to borrow a keyboard. I was reluctant. BUT, I did, and it has helped very much. He now plays fairly relaxed. (He was so choppy at first.)
RC hounded me about playing guitar. I would show him little things from time to time. He had started on trombone. The sound was never good, so we tried tuba. He did great. He learned to hear bass lines. He is now playing electric bass quite well.
MP was a natural drummer. He can do about everything....if he shows up. He tends to be absent.
OJ, RC, and MP are all under 16. They are playing together already as a kind of worship band. It's early. They have a lot to learn. But I have never had kids this young playing together as church musicians. We will pray with them and for them. We will teach them. That is what we do here at ASAPH.
A musical group should always be ready. You never know when an invitation will appear. Last Monday our band rehearsed...poorly. Few members and little energy. We had nothing on our calendar. On Tuesday I received an invitation to play in the town of Ti Goave (2 hours from here) on Friday evening. It was a great opportunity! We jumped at it.
On Thursday evening we had a special rehearsal. It was well attended, and it was full of energy. We got our program ready and made plans to travel.
On Friday at 3:00 sharp, the bus appeared. It was smaller than I remembered. By God's grace, there were only 20 members approved to travel (4 were eliminated due to past absences). We barely fit into the bus with our drums and horns. Off we went.
We arrived on time and were shown a back stairway to the banquet hall where the people of SALT (a Christian finance program) were having an employee banquet. We quietly set up on the stage and prepared to play.
We played our traditional opening song complete with our credo, and then our 'biggest hit' My Life Is Not An Accident. From there we continued with 2 classics, Battle Hymn (a regular evangelical song down here) and Great Is Thy Faithfulness. The rest of the program included our versions of contemporary Christian songs and classics plus a Haitian favorite, Haiti Cheri!
The ceiling was low, and the room was live, as they say. Our band played great. They were professional in every way.
Our hosts were incredibly gracious providing us with more food than we have ever seen for a performance. Meat, bottled juice, rice, salads, and more. They also covered the cost of our transportation and made a generous contribution to our band as well.
It was a win win situation. We have been longing to play further away from our little area, and this was a big step.
God has been faithful to the ASAPH Brass Band. He gave us the instruments, the music, the musicians, the supplies, and people who choose to listen. To God Be The Glory!
Goats are a problem in my yard from time to time. Neighbors have goats. They come into my yard looking for food. My flowers are food. So I run after goats from time to time. Most often, they get away. If I am able to catch one, I'll tape its horns or legs with duck tape so that the owner knows he was at my place.
Yesterday I was rehearsing the band. I stepped outside, score in hand, to get something from my house. I saw a goat wandering deeper and deeper into my yard. I walked slowly behind him. He didn't run, so I kept closing in. He headed right where I wanted him to head...into the most secure isolated corner of the yard. I had him!
As he ran up against the fence, I grabbed back leg number one. He leapt up, but went nowhere. I grabbed back leg number two. Then I got a front leg. My music score was still in hand as well.
As I lifted him upside down and began carrying him, something seemed wrong. He was easy to catch. And there was a smell. I looked down at my upside down goat. He was looking up at me. Goats are not dogs. Their faces are...almost demonic. Horns. Weird eyes. This goat had a bloody mouth. He had apparently had a battle with some cactus days earlier. There was blood. There was stench of rotting flesh. And there was no bleating. The thing just looked at me...bloody and grotesque. A horror movie in my hands.
The smell and the sight make me wince as I type this right now. I may have bad dreams about this goat. That face. That smell.
He bled on my music score. I had to trash that.
Next time I run after a goat, I plan on getting a good look first. I don't want any more scary goat stories. I'd prefer the tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago instead....to quote a song.
I'm gonna go wash my hands again right now.
Another year has come and gone. The sun comes up each day. People wake up and go back to sleep. Food is cooked and eaten. Lessons are learned...or not learned. Time marches on.
I spent part of the day on December 31 talking to kids about what their biggest moment was in 2019. Most couldn't come up with much. Some mentioned advancing in school. Some just made a joke or two.
Haiti's 2019 was dominated by "Peyi Lock" or a nationwide lock-down by anti-government protestors. It affected the life of every Haitian. One image that symbolized the year was also a yellow five-gallon jug. They became popular for everyone who owned a car or motorcycle. Gas stations were closed for months, but gas was available in the streets...in five-gallon jugs.
Life has a way of marching on. People who were with us aren't there anymore. New people may enter our lives, but it seems like more leave...especially as you get older.
I am fascinated by the cycle of life. When I was younger, youth seemed to be everything. But youth goes away. If that is all there is, you are in trouble. We each get one chance at childhood, one chance at youth, one chance at adulthood, and one chance at old age. Some don't even get all of those chances.
That is the biological reality, but I thank God that "life" is more than this body. I am thankful that He designed life the be so much more than childhood, youth, adulthood and old age.
The life of Jesus and His promises to those who believe in Him are abundant life...real life.
I plan to live in 2020.
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." -- Jesus Christ
I agreed to provide lighting for the annual evening soccer games in the street. I met with the planners and we shared ideas about how the activity should be a family friendly one that involves all kinds of people in town.
On the first night, I set up the lights and waited. Things started about an hour late. I was upset, because it was a school night, and we were keeping kids from studying. Not a good start.
By the third night, things were happening on time. Members of the ASAPH Brass Band had decided to open a temporary restaurant during the soccer games. We bought supplies and delegated responsibilities. On Saturday December 21st we started selling food...fried bananas, sausages, chicken, etc. I sat and watched this group of young people in their ASAPH shirts being great hosts. They were happy together and worked together. I sat and thought about the beginnings of the group six years ago or so. They were children then. Many are finishing high school this year. A good number have finished already. Changes are coming as more and more members will leave town to pursue their life paths. I am so proud of them as a group. They have developed relationships that I believe will last.
I love my job. More and more I get chances to sit back and watch things. It is a rewarding experience for me. I am encouraged by the growth, the maturity, the stability that I see in young people I have had the pleasure to be around as they grew and learned.
Right now I am getting involved with a group of kids in our church. Many are in 4th grade. They are exciting, motivated, and funny. I can only imagine what they will be in ten or twenty years!
To God be the glory!!
Music exams here at ASAPH happen from time to time. I have printed two levels of exams for trumpet, trombone, tuba, drums, plus other instruments and some music theory. It's kind of a way to measure who has made it past the 'beginner' stage and is able to play with other musicians. Kids work at varying rates, and we don't really teach the test, and so, from time to time a student will ask about the exam.
This week a young man asked to take the glockenspiel test. He's been playing the instrumetn off and on for some time. He drifts between drums, keyboard, and the glockenspiel. I have often encouraged him to concentrate on one. It's funny how you can hear kids play, and you think to yourself : "There isn't much hope here. This won't go far." Then weeks go by, or months, and the same kid seems to blossom. That is what happened to this young man.
He did great on the glockenspiel test. He has also begun playing for worship services on certain songs on Children's Sundays.
A great part of my job is being witness to that kind of development. I have learned over and over to allow students to be weak, but to offer advice and encouragement while they are struggling.
Another young man was struggling with trombone. The sound was...not pleasant. He seemed to have musical ability, but the sound made it hard to listen to him. We switched him to tuba. The sound isn't great, but much more acceptable, and his sense of musicianship has blossomed. He loves playing blues bass lines on his tuba. He has found a place to blossom.
This week several of my beginner trumpet players made it to that step where they can play songs on trumpet. While we were working, a young drummer was there. He said, "I'll play for them." That made it more fun. Then the glockenspiel player showed up and said he could play chords on piano for the young trumpeters. Soon about seven young people were making real music together. It's a beautiful thing to see happen. That is what we do here...here at Asaph Teaching Ministry.
Translating is the art of taking information in one language and transferring it into another language. I translate for two groups...Christian Aid Ministries and Agriplus.
Projects with C.A.M. are pretty straight Biblical topics. There is a periodical or two and some other projects from time to time. I've also written 6 books with CAM...Bible books for grades 1 to 6. That major project is now finished.
I have enjoyed getting into agricultural subjects with Agriplus. The things I have translated have convicted me that farming is an essential area of work for any missionary, which is to say we can't neglect agriculture if we minister in an agricultural community. It is a fascinating subject. There are Biblical ways of farming, and non-Biblical. There are techniques that prepare for a better tomorrow, and techniques that squander tomorrow. I am glad to be addressing those ideas, though I am not out in a field doing anything. I hope these documents will clearly bring better techniques into use all of the island.
I consider each document I translate to be one way that I teach. I can teach people all over Haiti through one 4th grade book, or one magazine article. I am grateful to CAM and Agriplus for investing in Haitian literature. It is neat how God can use a guy with no 'backing' to translate a document for a mission with great reach in order to get messages into tiny corners of an island. God is good.
Every mission has a budget. ASAPH's budget has grown a bit from the very first years until now. This year we didn't maintain growth or even stay level. SO, we are making plans to adapt to that reality.
It's always hard to eliminate. We've added some great projects these last few years. The most recent additions are obviously the first to go. In this case, we are looking at eliminating our annual summer band camp which is a significant amount of money. The band members are able to cover a portion, but the major part falls to ASAPH. We are looking at being unable to swing it this year.
The soccer camp we've had twice now is also at risk of not happening. As well, ASAPH has been able to help many students cover some education costs lately...from preschool students to college students. We've had to cut that budget in half almost.
ASAPH is already frugal with expenses. Our monthly food bill will remain the same in spite of pretty drastic inflation. By God's grace our transportation costs will go down a bit since we have a place in town to transfer funds now....no motorcycle trips to the highway each month.
SO, we trust God. He has provided, and we know He will provide. We aren't going to force any one project to happen no matter what. We share this info with all of our supporters, and invite you to share it as well.
Thanks for your support of this ministry!
I translate. I receive documents in English and I translate them into Haitian Creole. I do that for Christian Aid Ministries and other groups that contact me with projects. They distribute. They do what they choose to do with the documents. One of the things I did a few years ago was translate a neat book about being a soldier of Christ. Each lesson had some teaching about a Biblical point, and then a story about an imaginary family that dealt with the very issue of the lesson. Good stuff. We made the family into a typical Haitian family, and I really enjoyed translating the lessons. While I do that, I always image people reading the texts. I do all I can to take the beautiful meanings and teachings in the original English and deliver them to any Haitian who would pick up the document to read. It takes some doing. I remember translating a lesson about a bird that dives into the ocean and has to judge the angle in order to not miss the fish...refraction. The fish isn't where he appears to be, but God created the bird with the ability to figure that all out and get the fish anyway. It takes some work to get those kinds of ideas into a Haitian reader's mind. I remember working on that lesson.
Now, probably five years later, I am involved in a Jr. Youth activity where a gentleman from out-of-town comes to teach our kids every week. He is using the book I translated! On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day (just a regular Thursday here), I sat and watched him teach the lesson. It worked! The translation allowed him to successfully teach the points that were in the English lesson! It was a brand new experience for me as a translator.
I was left to think of teachers all over Haiti holding books, magazines, and documents that I have translated while they teach a group of people. I have always loved translating. I do so even more now that I have witnessed a translation in action.
I am glad Christian Aid Ministries, Agri-plus, and other organizations interested in education people in Haiti.
I am thankful to be able to be part of a chain that delivers quality teaching materials into the hands of real people here in Haiti.
It is always good to be back in PBO. Life here is like anywhere else in many ways. There are all kinds of people here, like where you are. People are dealing with all kinds of events and situations. I am always happy to be a part of this community.
A lady in our town has been paralyzed from the waist down. A hospital could find nothing wrong. She came home and cried for her 3 sons and husband who need her. She visited another hospital in Port and still knows nothing. Meanwhile, a man who lived in our town years ago has spend 9 years in prison. He was tangled up in guns and threats. In prison, he trusted his life to Christ. People say he is filled with reformed ideas nowadays. He is out...got out this week unexpectedly. Smiles adorned his family, though he has decided to NOT live in PBO anymore.
Church groups and other groups are adapting to a new reality here. Teenagers used to be free from 1:00 in the afternoon until tomorrow morning. School days were short, and choirs, teams, and groups were easy to organize. Nowadays, schools don't send kids home until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. It makes a huge difference. Kids come out of school hungry and tired. They need a recovery time before they even think about attending a rehearsal or practice. Lots of groups are affected. ASAPH's Brass Band rehearses with about 1/2 of its members. The soccer team attendance is down. We'll adapt eventually. That's life.
Christmas vacation is usually a long break here. School sometimes close up around the 19th of Dec. and don't fire up again until mid-January. Not so this year! With so much missed time already, we hear some schools in the cities will close up December 24th and reopen on January 6th. That is almost USA-like. Not at all normal for here. But, that's life.
I consider it a privilege to go through daily life with the people around me. I try to be a light in any way that I can. Kids here lack involved parents. Teachers are often remote and busy. I am happy to have every conversation with every person who drops by. Pray that I will remain available to all who need a bit of help.
Missionary in Haiti.