A.A.F. Soccer...A New Generation
Kids just keep growing, that is one thing we can count on. AAF (Asaph Academy of Football) began several years ago as a project for boys age 11 to 17. As time went by, the kids we knew so well grew older and older. This year, after some struggles, we have successfully arranged the team into two different categories...AAF SENIOR and AAF JUNOIR.
AAF Senior is composed of players (18 and older) who agree to ASAPH's code of conduct, who pass a written exam on the 17 FIFA laws that govern soccer, and who also pass a written exam on the biblical meaning of manhood. That team is currently coached by WEC. They are part of ASAPH, but take much of the responsibility for their own group.
AAF Junior is composed of a new group of younger players (11 to 17). They meet each Tuesday afternoon at the ASAPH Teaching Center for biblical devotions, study of the 17 FIFA laws of soccer, and other group building and training activities. On Wednesday, they train on the soccer field. I administrate the Junior team, but they are led by four young men who grew up in the AAF program. J.W. is teaching the 17 FIFA laws. P.L.L. is responsible for warm-ups and physical training. B.W. will coach the team (line-ups, positions, strategy...). C.S. is the chaplain of the team. He will teach the biblical devotions while I am not there, and he will watch over the players...paying attention to their church lives, their academic lives, their family lives, and their spiritual lives.
This is an exciting step. Coach Jude and I did those things for the older group. They are now doing the same thing (with my direction) for the younger group.
Growth has always been something that captures my attention. It fascinates me. A small boy participates in a program looking up to the people who stand before him. In the blink of an eye, he stands as tall as his teachers. Thank God for every student who turns around to see the next generation coming along behind him !
Baptist School Chapel Services
Back in the WFL days, one of the things I enjoyed most was Friday morning chapel services in the school. The entire student body would gather in the church, as well as the teaching staff. I led the programs with practical demonstrations and messages about everything from litter to love. We played games. We sang. We learned together. Many good programs and projects came out of those sessions.
Jude Medoit was a primary school student at the time. He attended chapel services. Later he became the head coach of Asaph’s soccer team. This year Jude is the Head Principal at the Baptist school down the road. He invited me to “do chapel” as we did it years ago. I agreed. It has become the highlight of my week.
So far, we have focused on math. I used “magic” math tricks to capture their attention. We have done practical demonstrations of measuring distance, weight, and volume. We have done fractions. Jude also asked me to teach a hand-writing course for 8th and 9th grade...a critical need as students are about to take state exams. I have enjoyed inspiring those students to look again at how they write.
In 1992, the Baptist school was “the” school in our area. Almost every educated person I met was a product of that school. Over the years, the institution fell victim to some bad management and financial trickery. Last year was a dramatic low point for the school, and Jude took the job knowing he is basically starting the school from scratch in many ways. The road is long. His job is heavy. Pray for him. He may be the agent God uses to bless this town with another institution that He can use to change lives.
The school is unable to pay bills. There are deep currents that move against almost every pastor that serves the church and school. Still, innocent children are there seeking education. It is a joy to be a small light in their week. God uses chapel services to call kids! I know that. :)
TOUGH DAYS IN HAITI
There is no hiding the fact that things are tough in Haiti nowadays. The only thing flourishing in Haiti is the gangs. Violence, kidnapping and other direct influence from the gangs remains a Port-au-Prince thing, but the entire country is hostage in many ways. Many items we all use are no longer available, or they are unreasonably priced. I tried to acquire a big water tank, but learned that the trucks bringing them from Port have not been able to do so for some number of months. Photocopies used to be dirt cheap. That is no longer the case. The little six-page books I used to make without thinking now require planning and a budget.
People are losing weight. I saw it last December when I flew back. It is not dramatic...yet. People used to address hunger with cheap cookies from the DR, cheese curls, and the like. Those items are dramatically high priced now. They aren’t selling, because people don’t have that much money for snacks. Soft drinks used to be part of the daily diet here. Not any more. The cheapest way to fill you belly these days is plain bread and water. I add real ocean salt to make the bread into a soft pretzel, and I add sugar to make it into cake. Spaghetti (no sauce) is a second option. The people who make food for me used to do a great job of including vegetables. When I mention that now, they say : “Too expensive.”
Life goes on. Schools are working. I am sure absenteeism is up and test scores are down. But at least they are functioning. Band and choir activities here at ASAPH have really suffered in January and February.
As much as ever, Haiti needs the light of the Gospel. Christians are the salt, the light that society needs more and more. The local church here just had 21 straight days of evening services...worship and preaching. It was well attended, and many people worked long hours to make it all happen every day for three weeks. A church auction near the end raised an eye-opening amount of money from right here in the community. God is faithful. And He is good all the time!
I set a travel date of September 9th. Prices are better if you purchase tickets a few weeks out. But, then you don’t know what will be happening in the country on the day you travel. As always, I chose a date pretty much randomly.
As inflation continues to pummel the people of Haiti, general strikes have popped up. A general strike in Haiti is when “people” announce a date of no travel or business. It’s crazy. They are mad at “life” and the “government”, but they strike in a way that only disrupts innocent people trying to get by one day at a time.
A big general strike was announced for September 7th. Sometimes the announcement is bigger than the actual strike, as people pay no attention to it. This was not the case for September 7th. Across Haiti, roads were blocked and businesses shuttered. In my thinking, a strike on the 7th might mean the 9th is good for travel. That’s when we learned the strike would last three days. The “leaders” of the strike announced that on Saturday the 10th people could go about their business again, but for three days the country would shut down...by force. Individuals and groups across Haiti responded and roads were blocked.
Strikes are work-day events, sometimes. Groups of men will man the barricades beginning at 8:00 a.m. or so. By afternoon, they are letting some vehicles pass through. The evenings can be open...if you drive carefully through tight spaces. The next morning, if you go very early, you can drive through barricades (trees across the street, telephone poles knocked down, rocks, blocks, beds, vehicles, etc.) without much trouble. No one is there to enforce the blockade. As the sun gets warm, the men show up and the barriers come alive again.
In most cases, the drivers who arrive at a functioning roadblock will approach on foot and state their case. The men in charge will listen. You can tell they want to help the driver, but they have to “do their job” and block the road. A vehicle with a sick person will often get a pass...not always though. I heard of a man who lost his pregnant wife and child at a roadblock...waiting to get through. Arguments often ensue as individuals disagree on who should pass through.
The night before my flight out, my personal feeling led me to conclude I had about a 70% chance of not making it to the airport in Cayes for my Friday flights. I was prepared to not even try. Then, the driver (working for someone else) wrote to me and said he was taking off for Cayes at 5:30 am. I agreed to go with him. We made it to the highway and began encountering the debris from the day before. We drove through or around probably 20 small obstructions that had space for a vehicle to penetrate.
We continued, and I was feeling good about making it to Cayes. We were about ¾ of the way to the airport in Cayes when came upon the first real roadblock that was manned. About 7 vehicles were already lined up. Drivers were negotiating. Blockade leaders were arguing. One guy would drag a log into place. Another guy would drag it away. Motorcycles were coming and going through a tiny space. People of foot came through without any problem at all. (They would have to arrange transportation on the other side.)
We sat and wrestled with what to do. The vehicle was not going to go through. That was clear. I could cross on foot. WEC was with me. He arranged for J.J., a mutual friend (former student) who lives in Cayes to come and meet us on the other side of the barricade. As we debated and delayed, the early morning hours drifted by. Finally, I decided to walk with WEC and J.J. through the blockade. A white guy going through a blockade is noticed by everyone. Most people just watch you closely to see what you are doing. Some make comments. For many minutes I was ready to turn around. I decided to move ahead and trust the hearts of Haitians.
We walked without any issues past the blockade to J.J.’s motorcycle. We hopped on, and WEC went back to the vehicle. J.J. drove us through several roadblocks that had special provisions for cycles only. When angry roadblockers mentioned the “white guy”, J.J. said I was a doctor on the way to help people. I’m sure they didn’t believe it, but it gave enough of a pause for us to keep going.
Roadblocks are a chance for wannabe leaders to take the stage. That is my fear as a foreigner coming through a roadblock. Might you be an occasion for some thug to make a name for himself? Getting through a barricade requires a delicate balance of bravado, gentleness, jokes, and determination. Pushing too hard can attract undue attention. Backing away makes thugs twice as brave. Going about your business with a funny line in your pocket always loaded and ready to fire seems to be the best way to handle the tension.
Some places people helped us. Some places guys hassled us. One angry man demanded we not pass. He was holding a tiny Coca-cola bottle. When J.J. said we need to go through, he was upset. He attempted to smash the bottle on the pavement in front of J.J.’s front tire. Twice he tried. The tiny bottle didn’t break. He lifted it up and looked at it as if to say, “What in the world?” The atmosphere ticked a few degrees cooler at that moment. His attempt to make a violent statement turned into quiet giggles. We drove on through.
At one roadblock, I got off the cycle and helped two men push their cycle up a steep bank so that we could keep moving as well. At another roadblock, we received counsel to follow a path through gardens and come out on the other side of the roadblock. We did. We managed to not get lost, other than one jaunt into someone’s front yard.
After too many close calls, we finally arrived at the airport. Mine was an 8:45 flight. My telephone said it was now 8:49. When we entered the airport, the plane was taxiing away. Thankfully, I had scheduled an early flight. They booked me on the later flight without any charge or hassle. It was mostly empty, I’m sure due to the roadblocks.
God is faithful. I don’t feel nearly as comfortable moving around in Haiti as I did years ago. Some lines were crossed I think when the gang in Port held 17 missionaries for ransom.
I do have strong proof once more that Haitian people are in general compassionate and helpful to each other and especially to strangers. It only takes one person, though, to change the atmosphere. By God’s grace, I had a string of people close to me who made it all happen that day. And we were blessed by the compassion of rank strangers over and over.
I continue to feel called to minister in Haiti. People are leaving, escaping (if I may use the term) as often as possible. I used to discourage people from leaving. I don’t do that anymore. I do encourage people to pray and seek God’s plan. His is the best...by far.
Since I’ve been home, the bad news has continued. I remember that moment in the street when I decided to continue my plight to the airport. The decision surprised even me. But, had I turned around and gone home to change my ticket for a week later, I would be stuck in Haiti. The airport in Port is cancelling flights because staff cannot make it to the airport for work. That is a dramatic escalation. Another week of strikes has begun as well. The man “in charge” of Haiti since the assassination traveled to the USA, and then came back to Haiti. His first act was to raise gas prices. I can’t imagine a more inflammatory act.
Pray for Haitians. They are trapped in a situation that is dire. Hope is nearly gone. Young people are looking at tomorrow with only gloom. These are the times that try men’s souls, and help people to realize they NEED Jesus Christ. There is no other Way. There is no Hope outside of Him.
Life in the developing world is not like life here in the USA. Here's one example...
Morgues are in competition with each other for 'jobs'. That means this : Whenever someone dies, each morgue wants to get that job. To get the job, you gotta be there first.
In our area, morgues have launched a program where they reward the first person who calls them in the event of a death. It might be a family member, a neighbor, or a passer-by. If they hear about a death, they'll send the hearse out quickly. If they get the job, the caller gets a reward.
It makes for incredibly awkward situations. Our town experienced one last year...
A lady was sick, and not doing well at all. People from the church were called to pray with her. While they were praying for healing, a hearse was circling in the area. They saw the hearse. They found out it was there for a 'job'. One problem, the lady did not die that day. She lived for weeks after that.
Apparently a neighbor was looking for the reward for being the first to call the morgue, and he jumped the gun slightly.
Life in the developing world!
On A Moment's Notice...
Funerals in Haiti happen quickly sometimes. Morgues are expensive, and families often choose to 'get the body in the ground' the same day or maybe tomorrow.
That means funeral bands have to be ready to go. You can get a call this morning about a funeral this afternoon. No time for rehearsing.
On Sunday April 24th, members of the ASAPH Brass Band played for a funeral up in the mountains east of Pasbwadom. They tell me it went quite well.
The ASAPH Brass Band has decided to not play for funerals as a group. Members of the group are free to organize themselves and take those kinds of jobs...for money.
By God's grace, the band is overflowing with musicians who can do the job on a moment's notice.
Inflation is a real problem here in Haiti lately. Food prices are dramatically higher than they have been over the years. Gas was rare for most of 2021, and prices shot up. Gas is now pretty easy to find, but prices seem to only go higher.
I remember when $100 Haitian dollars was a big deal. A family could eat for days with that much money in their hands. Nowadays, I send $100 into the street for an evening snack, and there is no change.
School students used to eat and drink with five or six dollars during recess. Now ten dollars can't even buy a drink.
I remember sending people to market with a few hundred dollars, but that would not even be enough to justify a trip to the market at this point. One thousand dollars is just a minimum amount to start buying bags of rice and gallons of oil.
Back in the day, I could go to the local street-restaurant in town with $100 in my pocket and buy food for myself, a few young men at my house, and a guest or two. Cooked food was $15 per plate. That same price can only buy a cold drink nowadays. The plate of food is $40 or $50.
With my money coming from outside, I "see" the change in prices more than I "feel" the change. People all over Haiti feel the change in their stomachs. It is real. Their income is limited, or even dwindling in some cases. Their ability to purchase food is diminished greatly. I am dealing with more 'hunger' issues now than I have in decades, it seems.
With the situation in Europe, thinks are most assuredly going to get worse. We are working on ways to conserve money. We are making plans to produce food. Food security is a real concern for all of the developing world, and ASAPH is trying to catch up a bit with the growing need right here.
THANKS FOR SUPPORTING this important ministry in one tiny community of Haiti !
What could be more appetizing than visiting the tropics in July! There’s heat. There’s heat. And, there’s the chance of a hurricane.
So, book your tickets now to spend a week with us here at ASAPH celebrating God’s faithfulness over the past ten years!
But, please only come in spirit. We are unable to host you. We are unable to guarantee safety as you travel here either. And food is tight. So, maybe send us a wish…and pray for the big celebration as we work toward it. THANKS!
In July, ASAPH Teaching Ministry will be celebrating! It was on July 17th, 2012 that this ministry officially launched. As we come up on 10 years, we are taken aback by God’s faithfulness. So many things have happened that were never part of ‘our’ plan. It feels pretty good when you know the Person in charge is omniscient. It really takes away the burdens. 😊
ASAPH is active in 10 different areas:
1) Perhaps the most public part of the ministry here is the ASAPH Brass Band. We’ve traveled further than any other part of the ministry and have been more active. In 2012, a brass band was nowhere in my brain. To God be the glory.
2) In second place is the ASAPH soccer team (AAF). We’ve participated in four tournaments and have been crowned champion for three, though that is not our primary goal. We are helping boys to become men according to God’s definition.
3) A new and exciting part of ASAPH is agriculture. WEC (Courtois Erntz) and I are planning many activities that will address food security issues here in our community. Education will be the priority as we incorporate new ideas and techniques in working the land God has put under our feet.
4) The girl's choir (Association of Young Women’s Voices) is also new. It has been through a few ups and downs, but we are working to make it a ministry almost parallel to the soccer team…meaning we are hoping to set up coaching relationships among young ladies in our community.
5) Art (pencil drawing) is another ministry that came to us along the way. Two young artists attended a two-say seminar in Port-au-Prince. They have now made a dozen artist-students of their own.
6) Academics were a major part of my first 20 years in Haiti. I am excited as we move into 2022 in that we are making plans to restore many of the academic activities I had incorporated during my years as school administer. We hope to do them on an interscholastic level.
7) ASAPH has always been a helping hand to students who are paying for another year of education. Tuition is our main focus, but we’ve helped students to cover other expenses as well, making more education a possibility for them.
8) As an English speaker, I have often been able to help people do better in English. English clubs and English classes have been part of the ministry here off and on for years. With WEC, we hope to make it a more stable part of the ministry.
9) A favorite part of the ministry for me is worship music. Here at ASAPH we are preparing the best church musicians in our area. Kids are growing up playing instruments and using those instruments to praise Almighty God.
10) At the foundation of all of these activities is the Word of God. I preach and teach every chance I get. I teach Sunday School every Sunday morning. The ASAPH Bible Program is a structured memorization program that rewards participants for memorizing God’s word.
With these 10 areas in mind, the are using the following logo to symbolize the 10 years of ministry:
Church conferences bring out messages of all kinds. There are those that are prepared, and those that are not. There are those that are emotional, and those that are not. This week, a white-haired, gentle pastor shared a story that left us rolling in the aisles, but that made his point beautifully at the same time.
The pastor was speaking about how Christians are held to a higher standard (rightly so) in this society. “Eyes are on us, and we need to be aware.” He also wanted to touch the hypocrisy that happens as people watch Christians and hold them to higher standards…not seeing their own faults at all.
In every society there are taboos. Haiti has its own set of taboos. Here, you don’t whistle around adults. You don’t eat in front of people, like in the street. You don’t look at people who sitting somewhere eating. You don’t go shirtless in public. You can bathe in front of people with only skimpy wet underwear, but you don’t disrobe completely to take a bath unless you are in your own yard.
So, the pastor spoke of having led a service for a church not in his hometown. After church, a lady of the church gave him some bread and coconut candy…a typical snack. He was on his way home on foot, and came to a creek. There, he noticed both a man and a lady bathing without any clothes. That is a serious taboo. When they looked up and saw the pastor crossing the creek chewing on his bread and coconut candy, he heard them say : “Well look at that! A pastor eating in the street!”
The world can be naked in public and still be taken aback by bread in the mouth of a Christian. Here’s hoping that you are not the person in the stream…fully exposed and taking shots at people who are serving the Creator.
Missionary in Haiti.