Last March, as Corona virus panic gripped the developed world, Andy Stump was forced to make a last-minute decision about a concert that was scheduled for March 15th. The host church, Bethlehem United Methodist in Dallastown, had agreed to go ahead with the concert…calling it the final group activity before closing the church doors due to the virus. On the Friday before the concert, Andy decided to cancel. That Sunday morning, members who attended the morning service at Bethlehem blessed ASAPH Teaching Ministry with a very generous offering.
Since that day, March 15, there have been no official ASAPH fundraising activities. It has been more than a year now. Ministry, however, has continued. While Andy was stuck in PA, a few ASAPH activities were happening. When Andy returned in August, activities resumed slowly. By September, things were just about back to normal. The new year 2021 so far is what we call “Haitian normal”. There are threats of roadblocks…and real roadblocks. Prices have risen while the exchange rate has plummeted (making each dollar of support that ASAPH receives worth less than before). Life is tough, but not much different than it has been for the past 25 years.
In 2019, Andy (with ASAPH dollars) paid for a fiber-optic cable that brought the internet into his home. From anywhere in his yard, Andy could do a video call to anyone anywhere. The NATCOM company that hooked up the connection maintained if for about one year. In late November, the connection fell. Technicians urged patience while they worked to get it going - - “This weekend!” Now several months later, those technicians say the system may not be functional again.
Andy has gone back to paying a motorcycle taxi to take him to the highway every couple of weeks so that he can find a signal. Sometimes that works. Sometimes the whole day is in vain.
As a result of those communications issues, the one-year anniversary of the cancelled concert passed in silence.
Remember ASAPH this month. Our annual concerts are the mission’s biggest source of support. Without them, we rely on the memory of our regular sponsors. I take this opportunity to remind you about the work being done hear daily. Support as you are able. Thank you.
For years now, I have kind of divided my day into three parts. Each morning I sit and translate for another mission, or I sit and prepare materials for the work I do here. That is part one of my day…documents. Part two begins after lunch. Music students come by for lessons. I teach individuals and groups. I arrange for students to practice on ASAPH instruments. I lead rehearsals and meetings. That is part two…students. Part three of my day is the time I spend here at my house with the guys who are staying with me…right now three young men from 17 to 23. That is part three of my ministry day…family.
Over the years, I have noticed that God would always shine His light of encouragement in at least one of those parts. When translating was rough or discouraging, my lessons would be rewarding. When lessons were dry and seemingly hopeless, the guys at my house would lift me up. There were times when all three would be positive. Those days were great. Even the soap smelled better on those days.
Then, there are the days when not one of those phases seem to have any hope. Lately, I have been experiencing days on end of not much promise. It is part of ministry, I know. God has been faithful to me long enough for me to know He is working when I can’t see it. I find my time with Him to be more important and more meaningful during these periods. Here’s the situation…I share it with you so that you can pray for us :
Part 1) My translation work has suffered greatly because I have no internet. I clearly lost one job because of that. I can’t even say for sure how many others I have lost.
Part 2) The ASAPH Brass band, at one time 25 musicians, is now down to about 10 at a regular rehearsal. Many have finished school and left town for advanced studies. Some have just become distracted. We do have younger musicians in the pipeline, but the level of music we play will go backwards about three years when we integrate them. It’s sad that nothing good lasts very long in Haiti. The soccer team has weakened as well. Our coach is busy with university studies, and has very little time for the team. We haven’t played a match this year. Some of my afternoon activities are fresh and positive (youth worship team, girls choir…), but the Big Two (band and soccer) seem to be dying on the vine.
Part 3) The guys at my house have been a challenge lately. There are three of them. Two are brothers…each from different fathers. None of the 3 has had a father active in his life for longer than a year at a time. In my experience, these are the toughest kids to help. They have a chip on their shoulder, and resist help : “I don’t need anything from you.” They find it hard to trust God. I have worked closely with many such kids over the years. They often end up fairly balanced, but there are years when you feel the road will never straighten out for them. Right now, with the guys at my house, I am lucky if they say good-morning or good-bye…or hello. The two brothers seem to use their silence as punishment against me. I have dealt with this a bit before, but usually not when it is two against one.
I invite you, if you believe that God hears us, to pray for each of these three prongs of ministry here at ASAPH. I love translating (#1), in that it allows me to teach great truths to thousands of people, and I can do it from my office chair. I love teaching and training (#2) people. I have seen God use those activities to make His children grow. I love working with young men who have been abandoned by their fathers (#3). It is a tough row to hoe, as they say. I enjoy being a positive voice for them while they attempt to make sense of their own lives…in the hand of the Father who will never leave them.
Pray that God will continue to use me in each of these three areas.
When I was a new missionary here, I heard about an African word…Kasana. It means ‘sunlight’. I wrote a song for a kids choir about the passage in I John that talks about how God is light. The song was called KASANA, and it became the name of the group of singers…way back in 1994. Jean-Pierre was a member of that group. He remembers the song. He is now my landlord, a teacher, a husband, a father, and a church leader.
I recently began an all-girls choir. Boys are easy to gather here. Soccer will bring out 30 boys every afternoon. Girls are much closer to home. Because of that, boys more easily reap the benefits of team activity and band activity. (The ASAPH Brass Band only has one active girl.) SO, to reach girls, I decided to begin an all-girls choir.
We have been meeting every Wednesday afternoon at 4:30. I teach the songs (both music and the important messages they carry). I teach singing in 3 parts. I have prepared a drummer, bassist, and (almost) a keyboardist…all girls. I will be preparing a director from among the choir to lead the group in performances. We are getting close to being ready to sing in a service. The song the girls most enjoy is KASANA.
“Kasana! Kasana! The light of the sun! God is light. There is no darkness in God. If we say we are living with Him, but we live in darkness, then the truth is not in us. But if we live in light, as He is in light, then we will live together in harmony. Kasana!”
ANOTHER PROJECT DIES ON THE VINE, BUT HISTORY PROVES GOD IS WORKING
It may be pessimism, but I often say that good things don’t last long in Haiti. A coffee cup can do it’s job for 25 years in an old lady’s house in the USA, and then that cup lasts only two months in Haiti. A decoration can be beautiful for decades…in the USA. After a year in Haiti it is ugly. Teams come and go. Choirs come and go. Businesses come and go. Schools come and go. Churches come and go. It is a sad reality that good things tend not to last long here.
I have tried a few projects over the years to make money here in Haiti…for myself and/or for those around me. My chickens never laid eggs. (So, in a way, you could say my chicken project laid an egg.) My rabbits never had babies. My books never sold.
Last year I bought a freezer. I enjoy cold water, and frozen fruit blended into a smoothy. It is nice to be able to keep food as well, meat especially. My freezer is hooked up to an inverter, batteries, and solar panels. I bought the special inverter last year. It is less than one year old.
This year I decided to begin a tiny frozen meat project with WEC and his sister. I would store frozen chicken for her to sell in the street. Each night, any unsold meat came back to me, and I would freeze it up again. This project made money…both for me and for WEC’s sister. It made money until my inverter broke down. Now I need to run my generator to make the freezer freeze.
This week has been a discouraging week in many ways. My internet service is dead and gone. My inverter is fried. Ironically, I am working on a message for Sunday morning based on Psalms 77. Asaph was losing hope as he thought about himself. The number of I’s, me’s and my’s in the first verses of the psalm is telling. That kind of self-attention leads to doubt. Then, he decides to recount the works of his God, the things he knows God did. It is the perfect response to discouragement and doubt. I have made a point to go back into my journals from my early years in Haiti to see the hand of God again. He has been faithful to me, no doubt. We so easily forget the doors God opens for us. We so easily overlook the problems He fixed along the way. It’s good to look back and count blessings. It is a doubt-killing exercise.
God is faithful. Invertors aren’t.
Missionary in Haiti.