When I first came to Haiti in 1992, a US dollar was worth about 5 or 7 Haitian dollars. That rate increased over the years. In early 2020 we were getting up to 23 Haitian dollars for each US dollar. With no real warning, the exchange rate fell during the month of September. In the space of a few weeks, the exchange rate has settled at about $11 Haitian dollars for each US dollar.
I won't try to explain the how or why of this change. I don't understand it, even after reading and listening to people who try to explain it. "They" said that prices would be coming down so that everything works out. Well, no so much.
The price of motorcycles has dropped dramatically. That's true, and it's good news if you are in the market for a bike. The price of some food items has lowered a bit, but not by 50%. Everything else (transportation, supplies, communication...) has remained the same.
What this means is that the money I have each month will now go about half as far as it used to go. In October, in spite of some serious cutting back, our food money ran out around my birthday on the 23rd. The money that I pay people who do work for me, the money I spend on transportation and fuel, the money I spend on almost everything else has remained the same. When I fill out my monthly report, the US dollars needed to cover the costs is about double.
We made it through October okay. I am now looking into November. I don't yet see any real chance for things to improve.
I plan to limp as best we can through the remaining months of 2020. After that, if things don't change, we may need to consider some serious changes in the ministry here. ASAPH is not the only mission affected. Many organizations who function on exchanged US dollars are in a bind at this point. I am hoping things will change.
On some days, about 30 or 40 people come through the ASAPH Teaching Center. There are rehearsals, meetings, and lessons. All of those things require equipment and materials. That means there is lots of stuff in one room. After weeks of work, things are often a mess.
For a few days in October, I had three students help me empty the room, clean and arrange everything. We installed new shelving. We hung new pictures. It's all about creating an inspiring educational setting. I believe the more organized a space is, the more good things will happen there.
For now, there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. It feels good.
I was invited to teach a Youth group in Vyebou (at the "highway") about whatever I wanted..."something interesting and different", they said. I chose to talk about space.
Psalm 19 says that the heavens declare the glory of God. I decided to help the young people understand what they see up in the sky at night. We set up a solar system in the church and compared planets. We saw how small the earth is compared to Jupiter...who has 79 moons!! We learned that each evening we can see Mars in the eastern sky...clear as a bell.
Then, we talked about the stars. To drive from Aquin to Cayes (a trip everyone here understands), you would spend 1 hour in a vehicle. In order to cross the diameter of the moon, you'd spend 3 days in that vehicle. To span the diameter of the earth ? 10 days. If you wanted to span the diameter of the sun, you'd be in that vehicle driving for 33 years!!! THAT's BIG!!!
The sun is pretty small star. To span the diameter of Rigel, another star, you would have to drive your vehicle all day and night for about 200 years.
SO, the heavens do declare the GLORY of God.
But, John 3:16 doesn't tell us that God so loved those stars. Or those planets. Or those moons. He loved you and me. That's powerful. He so loved us that He gave His only Son to take our sins away and give us life with Him forever. We are tiny, but God loves us big.
I think of that when I see the stars...those tiny lights we overlook. They are busy declaring the glory of God. Jesus declares His love.
Years ago, we used to show movies on Sunday evenings in the church...Narnia movies, other Christian films. I would often translate or at least explain parts. Then French versions became available. But, somewhere along the way, the church movies stopped.
Many people in our town have TV's now. A few have satellite connections. So, people are used to watching DVD movies or TV movies at a friend's house. Plus, people have smart phones that allow them to watch videos on You Tube.
So, when the church planned a movie night, I figured it would not be very popular. With movies being everywhere, the thrill would be gone, I thought. Then, it was raining an hour before the film was to begin.
I went to set up the laptop and TV anyway, and I found there were people there WAITING for the movie. People aren't EARLY to church activities here...or to anything. By the time the movie was set to begin, the church was filled pretty nicely...with kids, young people, and adults. Many had seen the movie before...an African film about a pastor whose wife is over-taken by demons...for a while.
I was shocked at the popularity. There is something about being in a room with 100 people and seeing a movie - - the group giggles - - the group surprise. The funny comments were entertaining as well.
Maybe someday it will happen in the USA again...movie theaters full of people being entertained together. Let's hope so. But, let's hope the movies are better than they used to be. :)
Late in 2019, here at ASAPH, I began several groups of trumpet players and trombone players. They were grouped according to age. There were several 7th and 8th graders, and then a bunch of 4th and 5th graders.
Progress with the younger kids has been slow. They are moving ahead, but it takes more time for them to be in control of the instrument. I believe they will be strong in time.
Many of the 7th and 8th graders have been making great strides lately. I work with them 2 times each week. We learn scales and do a ton of imitation playing. Then we add reading rhythms, and finally reading the written notes on a staff. When they become independent enough to read easy songs and hold on to their own part, we can begin to put together a group of players that will play four parts. We call that Brass Band "C". It's an exciting step. (They are behind the "B" band that rehearses twice weekly. The "B" band is behind the ASAPH Brass Band that plays in public.)
Today we reached that exciting level with a group of six players. When I presented a four-part song and divided them up, they seemed uncomfortable. As we learned the parts one by one, they seemed more relaxed. When we put them all together, they loved it. They were making music, and I think we made several brass band fanatics at the same time. Once they taste the thrill of making music together, the motivation is there. It's a beautiful thing to watch.
Here at ASAPH, Teddy and Anemson are helping musicians along the path to being able to play in a band. Each time we do that, another life is improved. THANK YOU, Asaph supporter, for making this ministry possible.
Last September, the band decided to lead a worship service in the local church as a way to celebrate our birthday. In September of 2013, the band was born (see video on the video page). Last year's anniversary service was a big celebration with special music and a 'first-time' preacher from among the band members.
This year, coming out of Covid-19, the program was smaller. We were able to play music to accompany worship, and two band members prepared a special Bible reading. This year another young band member brought the message. It was well-prepared, well-presented and well-received. The young man is a pastor's kid, so that helps.
Young players are key to the band these days. Several of our older (20's) players are busy with life and exams nowadays. Our newer younger players are holding down the parts just fine. They are indeed stronger and more independent than their older counterparts, but less experienced.
The brass band recognizes that our mission is not our own. We are blessed with equipment. We are blessed with talent. We are blessed with songs, musicians to play them, and people who choose to listen to us. It's a blessing to play the songs of salvation....for a service, a concert, a parade, or anywhere that anyone might invite us. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever."
On Sunday the 27th, the ASAPH ACADEMY OF FOOTBALL (soccer) traveled to the valley community of Lacolline for an away soccer game. Our coach, Jude, had set up the game with a friend of his who directs a school in that community. It's a community much bigger than our own. Jude knows the director well and knows that he shares our commitment to building tomorrow's leaders. We are always careful to arrange games with teams that are under good supervision.
Sunday's experience was a delight. We arrived early and greeted our opponents. Their leader addressed both teams together detailing the importance of sportsmanship. A crowd gathered, the players warmed up, and the referees appeared. It's always as scary situation when you are in another community and about to go head to head on a soccer field.
Our kids did fantastic. The other team was a bit bigger than our kids. We are used to that. Under some serious stress, they handled the ball well and controlled the game. It all came down to one corner kick. Two of our players combined on the corner kick to get the ball into the air in front of the goal. Our 2nd tallest defender had his head in the right place and there was no chance of missing the net half-empty in front of him. No question about that goal as he followed it all the way into the back of the net.
Our primary goal is always good behavior, good citizenship. Our kids achieved that at almost 100% that day. The other team was a great example as well...helping our kids up off the dirt. It was a good day for Haiti. Two teams struggled against each other with honor.
AAF is a great tool, and we are using it to build tomorrow's leaders. Our tiny kids are becoming serious players. Our serious players are becoming captains. Our captains are becoming coaches. Growth. Glory to God.
Missionary in Haiti.