Years ago, Water For Life introduced street lights to our little community. There were about four of them in town. They only lit up when WFL ran its big generator. It felt like a step forward.
Water For Life’s programs changed pretty regularly over the years. The street light project was not maintained, and only the poles remain.
Many people who were born in Pasbwadòm and the surrounding area are now living in France, America, Brazil, Chile, and other places. They put their resources together recently and created a project to provide streetlights throughout our community and neighboring communities. It took some time. The poles and lights are being installed little by little. They are solar powered, and they will dim when there is no action underneath them. When something moves, the do brighten the corner where they are planted.
I love the new lights. It really changes a community when light arrives. It make this community cozier somehow…more attractive as well. Lives are better for it. There is more safety.
In the 1990’s, I would walk to evening services at the local Baptist church. On the way home, we would see only candles and kerosene lamps in the houses we passed. No light bulbs…incandescent or fluorescent. Now, in 2021, many homes have a tiny solar panel, battery, and lights, or even a generator.
There are things that change the way you live. Water changes your life. It is fundamental. Pasbwadòm is certainly proof of that. Light changes your life as well.
It is no surprise that Jesus used water and light to help us understand who He is. He is Living Water. He is the Light of the world. I am able to appreciate that more than ever. I will continue to brighten this little corner with the Light of Jesus Christ.
FRUIT FROM THE "B" BAND
Here at ASAPH Teaching Ministry, we are proud of our brass band. We have performed in Okay, in Tigwav, and in many places in between. The band has been growing regularly since 2013 or so.
Over the years, we have said goodbye to members for various reasons. Some have left the country. Some have left town for higher education. One married and finds little time to play. Some have just lost interest.
This past year, four or five graduated as part of the same class. In two years, our first trumpet section went from six quality players down to one. At one time, we were getting close to thirty active members. This year, we had rehearsals where only six players showed up.
For the past several years, we have had a “B” band for players who are working their way up to be ready for the ASAPH Brass Band. Assistant Directors Teddy and Anemson often worked with that group. When the big band needed new members, we have somewhere to turn. I worked with members of the B band two times each week for the last two months. Eight of them have now passed auditions to play in the ASAPH Brass Band. That would never have been possible without the work of Teddy and Anemson the past couple of years.
We call ASAPH a music academy. It’s not a school. A school gives the picture of one teacher standing before his/her students. An academy, on the other hand, is a group of people who unite around a common love or interest. They learn from and teach each other. That happens all the time here at ASAPH.
I often leave the Teaching Center and find a guitar student sitting in my yard giving tips to a younger student. I often see young players getting together and making music spontaneously. That is an academy. That is ASAPH Teaching Ministry.
I have a poster on the wall showing two little puppies tucked into the same coffee cup. The caption reads : WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. That’s my philosophy. We must agree to get along, and help each other along. Read Romans 12 and 13. It’s God’s plan. It is a fruitful one.
IT'S A SAD, SAD SITUATION
No matter where you live or work, you run into sad situations. My community has plenty, and I am sure yours does, too. I’d like to share one with you. None of the names are real, but the story is.
Cal is a young musician here at Asaph. He is a regular at church and lives with his mom and other siblings. Cal has always been sweet, gentle, and polite. He can be funny as well. The other day he showed me a gesture, only for a second, that seemed so out of place for him. As he walked by me, he turned right at me and showed me claws and teeth like a ferocious lion. What struck me was the anger in his eyes. I had never seen that in him. I DO see that anger in the eyes of young men whose fathers walked out of their lives…and I hear it in the words they choose.
Cal’s father, Barry, was an upstanding church leader here at our local church for years. He, like so many other young men, decided to leave the country seeking a better life. Many young married men have left Haiti so that they can “provide” a better life for their wife and kids. A few actually do so. I thought that is what Barry was doing the last few years.
This week, I learned the ugly truth. Barry has a new wife in the country where he now lives. He has two children with his new wife. He stopped sending support to his wife and family here in Haiti. All of that is sad. But, there is more. Barry is a leader in the church where he now attends. I asked how that could be so, if he has two families. I was told the new church knows nothing of his family here in Haiti. It seems that to Barry, his first family has disappeared. He has moved on. Sweet, gentle, polite Cal has suffered one of the most traumatic situations a child can face, and I had no idea. They tell me that he refuses to talk to his father. Who can blame him? You see a kid smiling every day, and you assume his life is normal. Then you find out there is a burden he carries every minute of every day.
Eleven years ago, I drove the vehicle that took Barry and his wife to the hospital as little Cal came into this world. How can fathers just walk away from their sons like that ? How can they just turn their backs on their daughters ? How can the forget the wife they promised to love until death ? (I was there for that promise, too.) It’s just so sad.
I am glad I can be around Cal and help him to try to look beyond the brutal betrayal he has suffered as a young boy. It’s good to be here.
GROWING UP IN THE CHURCH
I am head of the Children’s Department at church. Along with a staff of five others, I lead the Sunday school program and other activities for kids. We divide our young folks into three categories: 3 to 6-year-olds, 7 to 10-year-olds, and 11 to 14-year-olds. The 11 to 14’s are called Light (Lumiere). I teach them every Sunday morning and host them for a Jr. Youth activity every Sunday afternoon. I also see many of them on Tuesdays for a Jr. Youth Worship Team activity. Many are band members and soccer team members as well. I see them a lot.
In our church, when a young person turns 15, they are free to leave Lumiere and join the Youth Group. Many are not ‘ready’ to do so right away. They continue in Lumiere for as long as they choose, with 18 being the absolute deadline. As such, we give them three years to make that leap out of childhood and into real Youth activities.
This month, we are helping 11 young people make that jump away from childhood. It is a powerful moment in some ways. I get to know the kids very well in the three or more years they spend in Lumiere. Many of them I have worked with since they were tiny. I remember the day some of them reached the age of 11 when they could finally be part of Lumiere. They come in with great big smiles. It’s a step toward adulthood. It’s growth. Now, several years later, they are looking more and more like adults. I send them on to the next step in their lives.
I love my job. I love getting to know the young girls and boys that are in our church. I love watching them turn into adults. It is a joy to see their personalities develop. I thank God for the opportunity to be here doing what I do.
GOD'S PROTECTION CAN HURT SOMETIMES
I work closely with a special young man here at ASAPH. I’ll call him Willis. Willis has made great strides developing himself as a musician. He plays in church services regularly. He plays a couple of instruments better than I can.
He has grown in faith and was baptized into membership in our local church. He is now deep into his teen years.
A young lady in the community caught the eye of Willis. I talk often with the young people around me about the subject of love, dating, etc. But it is almost always in general terms. I don’t often probe too much, and kids don’t offer up much information in general. I had discussed such things with Willis to some degree. (His father, as is so often the case, is not involved in his life very much.)
Willis declared his love for the young lady who caught his eye. She accepted. They would talk together on occasion, but only his mother knew about the young relationship. Late one evening (when Willis should have been in church) he was walking by her house on his way home. She called to him. He stopped, and they stood together in the dark talking. That’s when her mother appeared. The girl panicked. She didn’t want her mother to see them together. She told Willis to go hide in a dark corner of the house until her mom passed by. Well, that is where she discovered Willis…hiding in her house.
She screamed. She yelled bloody murder, as it were. There was a scandal. Young Willis was embarrassed and humiliated. He was innocent…to a degree. But his name was now fodder for conversations in the street.
I believe God allowed this huge embarrassment for Willis. He was headed to a place where disaster was a real possibility. Too many of the people Willis should have trusted knew nothing of his relationship with the young lady. It was a secret, and those secrets often turn into a sinful relationship. That is unlikely now. His eyes have been opened, and he has sought the help of many adults in regard to his relationships with the opposite sex.
God’s protection can hurt. Willis was in obvious pain for a few days. He agrees now that God used the apparent “bad thing” to protect him from something worse. God is good…even when it hurts.
I came to Haiti in 1992. I remember walking into the street with a globe. I wanted to show people the world. A school-teacher came by and held the globe…upside down. He couldn’t find Haiti. He was teaching third grade. The lady who was teaching reading and writing at that time was unable to write her own letter of application for the job. It’s not that the school was hiring the wrong people. These were the cream of the crop in many ways…at that time. Education in this town was rare. Many people considered a person with a 6th-grade education to be ‘finished’ with school. Few were the individuals who were able to leave town and attend high school classes.
That was almost thirty years ago now.
Last weekend I attended a meeting that was hosted by a young man who was probably an elementary student here in Pasbwadom when I arrived. He didn’t attend the school where I worked, so I don’t know him very well. I do remember his family, and I remember the children leaving town for higher education. This young man is now a clear thinking, clear speaking leader. As he led the meeting, I couldn’t help but think of so many meetings I had attended years ago that lacked this kind of leadership. It is no wonder organizations and groups in our area could never make much progress. There was nothing close to this kind of vision and communication in the leaders back then.
Today I sat down with a young man who is deep into his first year of college. He finished high school right here in Pasbwadom. He played in the brass band for years. He was sharing stories with me about a public speaking course he is attending. He shared his experience of being the “little fish” again after enjoying the status of “high school senior” last year. His vision is so much larger now. His standards have been raised. He is growing at an amazing rate…as so many freshmen in college do.
I am blessed to be able to see these things. So many teachers and missionaries do not have the chance to follow up with their students. I have witnessed dramatic changes in the lives of people. It is rewarding to see, and inspiring. I realize now that the young kids who are hanging out today here at the ASAPH Teaching Center will not yet finish high school before I am pretty old. I could say to myself : “I’ll never reap any benefits from helping these kids. I’ll never see who they turn out to be.” OR, I can say : “I want to do even better with this group than I did with the group that has gone by already.”
I am glad to have invested in the lives of the folks here in this community. They are special. They are deserving of blessings. Their road is a tough one. Here’s hoping my work has helped them to move forward down the road of life.
SPRING IS IN THE AIR
Where I grew up, “Spring is in the air” was a positive, hopeful expression. Snow was thawing. Flowers were blooming again.
Here in Haiti, Spring means a few things. No one really talks about it, because there is no snow to thaw and no new flowers to bloom. There are a few things that identify these months, though.
One, the heat returns. After a few months of downright reasonable temperatures, the days are getting hot again. Nights no longer require a sheet. More heat means more bugs. They are back, after a few months of…whatever they do when it’s cold (seventy degrees).
Two, days are getting longer. It’s not a big difference here closer to the equator, but days are a bit longer than they were a month ago. That is a big deal when much of ‘life’ stops after the sun goes down.
Three, this is the season of the three M’s. In Haiti, three M’s always come around together : May, Mangos, and Mosquitos. As we work our way toward May, excitement builds here in our community. Mango trees flowered weeks ago already, and each bloom is a sign that fruit is on the way. The fruit is now growing bigger each day. In another month, there will be free food available in the “saline” (flat area between here and the beach). Kids and adults will fill their bellies each afternoon with fresh mango. Life is better when your belly is full at least once each day.
Spring also means Easter. Here in rural Haiti, schools stop for Holy Week. People take time to remember the work our Savior did for us leading up to and including the cross. Life. Spring. Shortly after Easter, there is Flag Day…May 18th. It’s a big deal in Haiti…parades and programs. In a normal year, that day is like Memorial Day in that not much real education takes place in schools after that date. All ideas are fixed on summer vacation. This year will be different in that schools are months behind already.
Still, Spring is Spring. Another Caribbean summer is on the way.
Missionary in Haiti.