There aren't a ton of brass bands in Haiti, but they do exist. Funeral parlors usually have a brass band available to them. Salvation Army congregations often have a brass band as well. But the ASAPH Brass Band is unique in that we like to play arrangements of popular Christian songs...songs that people are hearing on the radio.
One such song was LAVI MWEN PA YON AKSIDAN. I don't remember how it was introduced to me, but I arranged it for our band to play. It was a favorite everywhere we played it. The song was written and performed by Fisher Raymond, a Haitian pastor and singer. The lyrics boldly claim that our lives are not an accident...we are God's plan. No hair can fall without His approval! It is a powerful message for people living each day in desperate poverty.
The ASAPH Brass Band chose to play that song when we attended that annual Baptist Convention years ago. It was our 5 minutes of fame, recorded by professional cameras and microphones.
Fisher Raymond apparently viewed the video at some point. He contacted a member of the band, and invited the group to play his song at a special anniversary service he will be attending in the mountain community of Fondeblan. That event was scheduled for November 26th. Rain changed their plans, however. The new date is in December.
The ASAPH Brass Band is preparing the original song as well as a brand new song that I arranged for the occasion, a second song written and recorded by Fisher Raymond.
This is an exciting opportunity. We hope the new date works, and that we are afforded the opportunity to bless a composer/artist by interpreting his own song.
The new song talks about God's eyes being on every little part of Haiti. His eye is indeed on a little community we call Pasbwadom ! God is good !
Look for these on YOU TUBE :
Fisher Raymond - Lavi Mwen Pa Yon Aksidan
Lavi mwen pa yon aksidan " Fisher Raymond" ( music évangélique Haïtenne 2023 ) Haitian Gospel - YouTube
Fisher Raymond - Je Bondye Sou Ou
Ayiti Je Bondye Sou Ou "Fisher Raymond" (Official video 2023) Music Chrétiens - YouTube
When I designed the ASAPH Teaching Center (12 years ago), it never dawned on me that we should have an official office space. I built my own office into my bedroom area...the 16' x 16' cement room that also serves as hurricane shelter. As the ministry has grown and more and more leaders are "working" here at ASAPH, it became clear we should have an office space.
In December, Jason Stoltzfus (from Lancaster) installed a plywood wall right down the middle of my cement room. Now ASAPH has a front porch and a tiny office. The back of the room will still serve as my own office and bedroom.
Each afternoon, activities begin around 2:00 and continue until 5:00 or so...rehearsals, lessons, meetings, etc. Each activity has a leader, but there is now also an adult in the office as a resource for both leaders and students.
WEC is serving as ASAPH's Administrative Assistant...backing me up in every role I play in Haiti. WEC's wife Shelterline (who studied administration in college) is serving as ASAPH's Administrative Secretary...taking care of many financial tasks, personnel tasks, and record keeping.
As we move in to 2024, we will equip the new office space and develop it as a headquarters for the ministry. The Teaching Center will be available for...teaching.
These improvements can only happen with support from people like you! Thanks for being involved in ASAPH Teaching Ministry.
This summer, we began a new program at ASAPH - - a leadership training program. We gathered all of the young people who are teaching music, the soccer coaches, the committee members and anyone else in charge of an activity, and we studied leadership.
It was a great beginning, and it was well received. We are studying the book of Nehemiah, a great resource for leaders. We also discuss leadership qualities we love and hate.
We also take a moment to organize and arrange things so that the ministry has a definite structure.
Asaph, in the Bible, was a Levite. He was a musician, and taught God's message as a prophet. He also left a bunch of descendants, either offspring or students. They continued the work that he learned from King David...for generations.
The new ASAPH leadership training courses will prepare a new generation of Asaph's. To God be the glory.
It's a question I often get when I share picture and stories from Haiti. It is easy to list the problems and give detailed examples that are both amusing and touching.
It's easy also to envision little things that might help someone or some group for a certain amount of time.
Out in the country, we enjoy relative peace. The capital city is a combat zone most days. We have none of that. Our rural community by the ocean is calm and quiet. But, the unrest in the city does effect us. Everyone has relatives in Port-au-Prince. Supplies come from Port-au-Prince. Official documents and errands require a trip to that city. So, when that city is shut down, life is paralyzed in little ways no matter what part of the island you inhabit.
No real progress can take place until there is some amount of peace and stability in the capital city. Haiti hasn't even talked about elections since the assassination in July a couple of years ago.
Can yet another international intervention help ? Not likely. Would any other country be likely to intervene? Not likely at all. Would Haitians accept an international force? Probably not.
There seems to be no route forward. We wait and pray, I guess. We live as best we can with what we have been delt.
Imagine this situation being the situation of...not your friend...but of your nation and every single person you know well.
Haiti is akin to hopelessness.
Still, the light of the Gospel remains. We are only down here for a short time. For some of us, it is an easy period. For some, it is turmoil.
Either way, may we remember that eternity is coming. That...for many...is a source of hope.
It’s May, and it’s raining. May is the reliable month for rain in Haiti. October sometimes gets us wet. December also. Hurricanes sometimes douse us with water as well in the late summer and early fall, but May is almost always good for rain.
We have had a few rainy evenings this month already, and a few morning showers. We had a downpour or two along the way as well. A soccer game was rained out. We had not, however, enjoyed a day of rain…until today. It is Saturday afternoon, and we have not seen blue sky today.
Rain changes Haiti. It changes the people. People smile and giggle more easily when it is raining, especially in the countryside. They smile because forcing food from the ground is easier when it rains. Life slows down (even more) during rainy days. School stops. Services stop. Without raincoats and cars, and with roads that become mud, people move around much less.
Rain changes plants also. Grass is already growing where there was nothing. Trees are a different color. Haiti can be a lush place…when it rains.
Rain changes transportation, too. You don’t want to have a medical emergency when roads are muddy. A hospital trip can become a nightmare. Motorcycles become even more dangerous than normal. Vehicles without 4-wheel-drive are risky on dirt roads in the rain…especially mountain roads. Bikes are set aside for the most part as well.
We are thankful for rain, as we are thankful for sunshine. God’s plan is both good and glorious.
Haiti has long been the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Since 1992, I have seen “poverty” up close. But, for most of those years, people here in our community were able to piece together a few things and build a bit of a life. Parents who did not finish school, were able to push their kids through school. Families who lived in a thatched hut were able to build a two-room cement home. Well, that was the first thirty years.
Since 2020 and a little bit before, Haiti has spiraled into a dark place. With the capital city paralyzed by gangs, the countryside is peaceful but unable to acquire supplies. Fuel prices have been high enough to reduce availability of supplies as well. The $20 that bought a full meal just a few years ago can’t even buy a chicken leg now.
Diets have changed here in our town. People who ate one good meal a day, are now only getting that meal every few days. Meat has always been a bit of a luxury. Instead of real meat, people were eating questionable varieties of salami and other ground meat. Now, that is out of reach. Fruits and vegetables are pricy, and they have become another diet casualty. People are filling their bellies instead of eating meals. Bread and water have become a way to temporarily fill a belly. Fried flour in diverse forms is what is keeping people upright. Evenings provide fried bananas, if you have money to purchase them.
This is not a diet for the future. I was able to bring vitamins along when I came back this time. I don’t know if they are helping, but I hope they are able to fill a void to some degree for a few people.
I, like you, see hunger and want to help…quickly. There is not a lot we can do, though, in this situation. Money is only a band-aid that doesn’t even stick for more that few minutes. Planting is a part of the solution. Haiti needs to feed itself. Prayer is key. God can change hearts and minds…and societies. Pray for Haiti.
Matthew is 11. He was walking home from a well when a young motorcycle driver hit him. The accident happened in February. His leg suffered a compound fracture. Doctors operated to save the leg…after 2 days of waiting. He spent 40 days or so in the hospital. The steel rods weren't removed until July.
He missed weeks of school, in a year already shortened by political tensions. His mother is not in the country. I don’t know who his father is. The lady who took him in a couple of years ago spent weeks living at the hospital with him. His brother spent weeks beside him in the hospital as well. The family of the motorcyclist has contributed. The local church has contributed. ASAPH contributed greatly to cover the operation and hospital bills.
Matthew was at the May 1st Agriculture program. He is slowly getting involved in Pasbwadòm life again. We are still praying for the leg…always suspecting infection. So far, the signs are good.
Life in Haiti is tough. Accidents accentuate the difficulty of life. Food is hard to find. Every little task (bathing, going to the market, buying a shirt…) is a complete production.
We are thankful to God for the leg being saved. Matthew’s quality of life is dependant on a healthy leg. Interestingly, Matthew suffered from breathing issues since birth, and since his stay in the hospital, those symptoms have disappeared.
God uses events in our lives to do things He wants to do in us, around us, and through us. Amen.
“AGRICULTURE AND WORK” DAY
May 1st is a national holiday here in Haiti. It is one of many holidays that usually is nothing more that a day with no school. In cities, there a public programs and fairs. In the smaller communities, there is usually nothing.
This year, ASAPH hosted an afternoon program in which we invited 7 different speakers to address environmental issues plus farming and other food-production issues. The ASAPH brass band provided a musical break after each session. The ASAPH girls choir sang three songs with the band.
We took advantage of this occasion to have the very first performance of the ASAPH GRAND CHOIR! The sopranos and altos from the girls choir were joined by tenors from the ASAPH brass band and basses from the ASAPH soccer team. We sang a song about…food!
The theme of the day was : Let’s plant so we can eat.
A highlight of the program was when we honored 11 local farmers who put food in our bellies all year long. We encouraged them with certificates showing our appreciation for what they do. It is a group of people who seldom get recognized. Then, we honored five or six laborers who make a living hoeing and cleaning gardens for the farmers. We honored them with some things that will make their jobs a bit easier. The crowd applauded robustly for this group of people that we almost always see in work clothes. On this day they were dressed up and looking pretty sharp.
Pasbwadòm is an agricultural community. Like so many across the planet, we are a community in which school children always say they want to be doctors, nurses, and lawyers. So few dream of working the land. ASAPH is working to change that.
The agriculture program here at ASAPH is young, but we are making strides in the right direction.
Asaph’s soccer team played three matches in April. We lost, we tied, and we won. Each result had it’s own lessons. In May, the team began hosting a 6-on-6 no-goalie tournament with smaller than normal goals. There are 8 teams, most of which are composed of AAF players, with two teams invited from outside AAF.
We talk so often with our young men about sportsmanship and respect for opponents and the officials. It is a constant theme for AAF. We hold them to high standards. So it was with some degree of shock that I learned two AAF players were given red cards in a game…and it was a game in which they did not play.
It appears these players were arguing with fellow fans during a game…while still in uniform from their own match. They say they shouted at their fellow fans. The referee heard them and gave both of them red cards, which he has the right to do if he feels their behavior was not respectful.
Here at ASAPH we embrace cases of bad behavior as a chance to dig deep and learn life lessons. I sat down with WEC, another team leader, and the two red-carded players. They told their side of the story in which they appeared to be only guilty of passion and not disrespect. They asked for the decision to be reversed. They are both longtime AAF players. They both love the team and work hard to make it better. We heard their position. We talked about the need for decisions of referees to be final and respected by all, and the importance of controlling passion. In the end, after many examples and suggestions, the red cards were upheld along with all of the punishment that goes with a red card in our tournament rules. Their team will play the next game with two players unavailable. We hear a third player will be out of town for the upcoming game, forcing them to play the entire game at a disadvantage and with no chance of substitution.
Despite the severe consequences, both players have been fully engaged since the punishment began. We are working to restore them without removing even a smidgen of the punishment they deserve. When they pay the price for their actions, they will be better men. That is what AAF is all about.
Will their attitude remain positive? Will they lash out? We don’t know. If they do, we will be there to love them more, to hold their hands, and to administer punishment that they deserve. 😊 That’s how you build character.
An academy is a group of people who gather around a common love. Here at ASAPH, we have a music academy. My students are teaching beginners.
B.J. is teaching her second group of beginners on trumpet, sharing her love for music.
E.M. is teaching her first group of beginners on trumpet.
N.B. is teaching trumpet beginners as well.
P.S. is teaching several trombone students.
A.M. is teaching solfege (music theory).
R.C. is leading the "B" band in practices.
O.J. is teaching keyboard and leading small music ensembles.
T.M. is teaching music (recorder) in schools around the area.
I meet with these "young maestros" from time to time equipping them with the tools they need to grow as young teachers. They are developing leadership skills that will be useful in whatever they decide to pursue in life.
ASAPH sponsors make these programs possible...providing instruments, stands, chairs, written music, visual aids, and a clean, safe work environment. Music happens almost every afternoon here at ASAPH. Without you, we'd be whistling.
Missionary in Haiti.