I met a young man named Kendet years ago. He was a third-grader at the time. He was living with a family that I visited often. At some point, that family asked him to leave. It happens that way about 80% of the time in Haiti. Families will gladly help a little boy, but are not interested in helping the boy when he turns into a teenager.
Kendet called me around Christmas time. He then came from the city of Cayes to my place for a visit. He has finished school and is a leader in his church. He was planning a youth camp for the Mardis Gras vacation. It worked out for his youth group to spend their days in the National School of Flammands…about 2 miles west of my house. Kendet invited me to present a two-hour session for the youth campers. I enjoy the chance to meet Haitian kids from other areas, and I have learned a few ways to capture their attention. I think the session went pretty well.
The questions that they had for me after the session showed some clever thinking. They had heard the subject I presented and were working to tackle it, each in his/her own way. City kids often have serious advantages over rural kids here in Haiti...better teachers, more equipment in the classroom, and parents who are more educated. I had them work in groups to answer a few questions. Their answers were all good.
After I taught, the young men in the group hosted me in their room. It was a just a classroom…with benches and blackboards. However, they had transformed it. Each time this youth group goes to a camp, the girl’s room and the guy’s room are involved in a competition for the neatness and attractiveness of their sleeping quarters. These young men did what most Haitian people do when sleeping away from home : They brought bed coverings (like you’d find on a bed in a hotel), and they used them as their mattress on the cement floor. BUT, in the morning, they used those same quilts to cover the school benches. It was amazing! They looked like upholstered furniture. I couldn’t help but be impressed with their creativity, their cooperation, their planning, their ingenuity, and their attention to detail. It was like I had stepped into a hotel lobby.
People are amazing. I love working here in Haiti. The potential that people have is remarkable. It encourages me every time I meet new people and learn to know them. God has made a wonderful world. I wish everyone would see more of the world than their own little space.
I bought a tent several years ago. About twice each year we go camping somewhere on the beach. Thanks to Bethlehem United Methodist Church and their youth yard sale, I now have 5 tents. Over the Christmas holiday, we had planned a trip, but it never happened. We rescheduled for the 3 days of Mardis Gras vacation that Haiti always observes. On Monday morning, I worked most of the morning. At noon, I visited a youth group from Cayes that was spending the Mardis Gras vacation in our area for a youth camp. I taught a 2-hour session in which I encouraged them consider that the best way they can prepare for their own future is to fix their eyes on God (His word, His creation), and then fix their eyes on others (service). In the evening we gathered our gear, loaded up the wagon, and headed to the beach. We set up under the lights of my Honda generator.
We don’t always travel with the generator, but it does give an extra feeling of safety when you can see the space around you all night long. A favorite part of beach camping for me is waking up early (not too hard to do…the soft beach sand turns to asphalt at about 2:00am). As light moves into the environment, fishermen head out to do their jobs. The peaceful, easy feeling out on the beach is remarkable. Another day is being born. Waves lap. Birds sing. Crickets settle down. Trees stand still. Live begins again. The sky is like a theatrical show. At some point the sun appears like a special guest whose entrance has been built up over time. In an hour or so, it will be hot again. But for a brief period, Haiti is all beauty and no heat.
Without thinking of the connection to the American holiday, I packed several doughnuts (that a neighborhood lady sells from time to time) for Monday night and Tuesday morning. There were 3 left for breakfast on Tuesday…for three guys. I enjoyed mine before I even realized I was eating a doughnut on the day before Lent, like so many other people.
The guys at my house brought me food at noon. Eating at the beach makes a regular meal great. I then rode a cycle back to my house in order to watch a big soccer game on TV…in which the team I had hoped would win was beaten soundly. That has been a theme lately for the games I choose to watch. Immediately after that, I walked quickly back to the beach wondering if our tents and my generator were disturbed while we were away for a few hours. They were not. Everything was as we left it. The guys with me agreed that they would be shocked if ever they heard that Andy had something stolen from him in Pasbwadòm. I live in a community that appreciates me.
Tuesday evening was hotdog night. We ate…too many. As always we roasted them on an open fire of coconut leaves and other twigs. Even the sandy ones were tasty.
Wednesday morning was another glorious beach morning. I wrote a song about Haiti the other week. One line in the song is : “Ayiti! Chak jou mwen lakay ou pou tande pipirit chante, mwen santi nanm mwen beni.” (Haiti! Every day that I get to hear your morning birds sing, I feel blessed.)
On Sunday morning, I got up before 6:00am. I arrived at the church to find a group of people already headed to the beach. Five young people and one adult were about to be baptized.
As we left town on foot headed south to the ocean, the sunlight of a new day was enough for us to easily see our way. But, the sun had not yet peaked above the trees on the eastern horizon.
The six baptism candidates had trusted their lives to Christ at some point recently. A new day was dawning for them, but the public declaration of faith was still ahead...just ahead now.
As the ground under our feet turned from rich soil to sand, the sun was beginning to appear in all of its glory. By the time I walked out onto the beach and looked east, the whole sky was glorious with light. The dawn had given way to day.
Six people were baptized as the sun began its trek across the sky. Their lives in Christ had just begun. It is a new life, a new day. The new day had actually begun earlier, but this was a dramatic and key event. The sun was now visible. Their commitment to Christ was now public and clear. They died with Christ and rose again with Him.
I am humbled by every baptism I attend here in Haiti. It is a blessing to see people profess faith by receiving baptism.
May God bless each of them...all day long.
We used to play horse-shoes here. The heavy pieces of iron are still in the shed. The game would catch fire from time to time, and then dwindle away.
While at home in 2020, the Craig Kenney family taught me to play cornhole. I had a pair of old plywood shutters that are the size of a cornhole board…roughly. Craig’s family sent me a set of beanbags this Fall. When they arrived, I cut holes in my shutters, and we have been enjoying the game ever since.
Band practices and other meetings now begin with a quick game while we wait for the people who are late. During Christmas break, one relaxed morning the guys at my house agreed to play for serious consequences…losers wash the dishes. I won that game.
It is a joyful event each time a new player tries to hit the boards. Bean bags fly high across the yard or drop way short. Sometimes they head right into innocent bystanders. It always brings giggles and real fun.
Games are an important part of life. Haiti lacks games. In Haiti people play soccer, dominoes, and cards. Soccer is mostly for boys and men. Dominoes and cards are often associated with gambling or with work-capable people who waste their days playing games. So, there aren’t many choices for a family that wants to play together.
Here’s hoping more people in this country learn to love games.
Many missionaries spend a year or maybe a few years on the mission field. Then they return home. They may have occasion to visit the work they engaged in, but at that point it is like trying to return to an old dream. So many parts have moved that nothing seems to make much sense.
On the other hand, a long-term missionary (who is stable in a single location) is blessed with the ability to see lives changing and follow those changes over a lifetime.
I have been responsible for the children’s department at our church for many years. I have both pictures and memories of children from 20 years ago who are now adults working in the community. Emilson is one of those.
Emilson would visit our children’s programs in church. He was not an official «child of our church.» He would visit regularly though. Nor was he a student at the school I administrated. But Emilson was often present for our special activities. I have photos of him speaking into the microphone as a young boy. He was part of an annual Christmas program.
Emilson is very smart. He finished school easily and has studied education and has completed some intense French studies. He is now teaching in a local school.
Emilson played soccer, but never on a team. He was one of those players who was valuable for comic relief. People loved when he played. He was all laughter and smiles, but would shock people with great plays from time to time as well. He lived in the community as a joyful kid. One of his nicknames was “Reggea”, and another was “Candy.”
Last night Emilson preached the message on night #1 of a twenty-one night series of services. When he preaches, the room is silent. People love him, and respect him. They trust him. He is not a powerful leader. He is not an ambitious man. He is still pretty much a quiet kid. But the community knows his story. They listen to him. They appreciate him. Emilson preaches meekly, but powerfully at the same time. I can’t help but wonder if it is similar to how Jesus taught. His sentences are carefully constructed and so often land right on target.
The church service went overtime last night as God moved in the room. God was using Emilson’s message. As he held the mic and preached the Good News, I couldn’t help but remember that photo of a boy reciting some little passage as part of a Christmas program so many years ago.
That is the joy of being in ministry a long time. I am getting older. I am blessed to be able to look back and see the hand of God in the lives of people I know well. I wouldn’t trade my place for anything.
Patricia Riodin attended the Help-From-Above School in Pasbwadòm where I administrated for so many years. She attended with all her brothers and sisters. The Riodin family was always a key family in the local church. They are my neighbors. I walk by their house every day that I leave mine.
Only a few years ago, the ASAPH Brass Band played for Patricia’s wedding. She had often struggled with some health issues. In 2020 she was pregnant and prepared for her first child. She died after giving birth to a baby girl.
A few days later, the ASAPH Brass Band played for her funeral. It was a difficult thing to do for all of us. We felt that we have not been a band long enough to have played for both the wedding and funeral of any person.
Patricia’s brothers and sisters spoke so eloquently about her short life. They shared stories about her faith in Jesus Christ, and her commitment to Him. Her sisters stood and sang a song that Patricia sang often…Just As I Am. Her older sister spoke of a ‘strength’ that God gave her to be able to do such a difficult thing.
Patricia had learned and appreciated several songs that I wrote and taught to the church. I wrote a song for her wedding. Her brother began his speech with a worship song that I wrote, and that they had sung together in a singing group years ago. It was both a happy and sad moment for me. The song talks about loving God more than anything in this life…more than friends, more than wealth, more than fun, more than anything. It is a gutsy thing for a person to say out loud. Patricia had sung those words many times. Her brother sang them at her funeral, and I was happy to say the same words with him in my heart. I was sad that we wouldn’t hear Patricia sing again on this side of life.
Every funeral reminds us of how fragile life is down here. I hope you don’t love anything more than you love Jesus Christ. Life and death both make sense in Him, and in Him alone.
I love pine trees. I always dreamed of living in the mountains with pine trees all around me. That never happened. On December 7th, I went on a mission with several friends to bring a single pine tree into my yard.
WEC know of my interest in pine trees, and happened upon a ten-foot pine tree in Cayes that was going to be chopped down in order to clean the side of a road. He asked the owner if he could take the tree. The owner agreed. Trees like this one would cost $1000 H if you purchased it from a nursery.
WEC dug up the tree with help from a fellow agronomist. We rented a truck and headed to Cayes on a Monday morning. With the roots, the tree was as long as the vehicle, so it took us quite some time to actually figure out how we could haul it. We wrapped it with sheets. By God’s grace, the tailgate was a working tail gate so that we could extend the roots out the back. We tied the tip of the tree to the grill of the pick-up and made the long careful drive to Pasbwadòm.
That evening after band practice, some guys in the band helped put the tree in the ground. We carefully stood it up, secured it, gave it some fertilizer and water, and stood back to admire it. It’s a beautiful addition to the blue sky and white clouds that are visible from my front porch.
I love the tree. For several days, I sat on the porch for my morning devotions and spent more time looking at the tree than I did the Bible on my lap. It seems to be doing well after almost one month. No signs of dryness or stress.
Coconut trees and palm trees are beautiful, it’s true. I love them, and have one in my front yard. The pine tree is unique, however. For this American kid, it was a special part of the quiet 2020 Christmas season here at ASAPH.
Pine trees are ever green. They are reliable and never change. God is like that. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love never changes.
AAF (Asaph Academy of Football) Loses A Match To A Small Rival
AAF lost a game in December. It doesn’t happen often. The AAF soccer team made one of its longer trips last Fall…to La Colline. There, the team played on a field they had never seen, they played against a very strong team, and they won. In December, AAF hosted a small team from close by, a team from up in the mountains north of Pasbwadòm. The game was played on AAF’s home field.
In Haiti, there’s a saying about how any team can beat any team on any given day. They say : « The ball is round. You don’t know where it’ll go. » That is the beauty of sports. That is why you play games.
On Sunday December 6th, AAF took the field with every intention of logging another win. It did not happen. The Bassin Caiman team played well from the start. There were few shots on goal. For the second half, the AAF coach replaced the younger goalie with the team’s first-string goalie. Minutes later there was a breakaway, and Bassin Caiman put the ball in the net. It was a great goal. AAF tried to equalize. At one point, it was the goal post that kept it from happening. The final whistle blew, and AAF had lost.
Losses are important. Losses are good. Our team is struggling to stick together after losses. It happened in the summer of 2019. After a win, we are tight. After a loss, there is a wide distance that creeps in among the team members. The players on the team have learned to win. We are working with them on how to lose. It is all part of the big “game” we call life.
The ASAPH Brass Band performed on December 13th, 18th, 19th, 23rd, 26th, 27th and 28th. They played in Tiguave, Cayes, Aquin, Labaleine, Vieux-Bourg and locally. Included were a banquet, two weddings, a funeral, two concerts, and a graduation parade and ceremony.
The schedule was so tight that we ended up being late for one engagement on the 19th, and we ended up missing that one completely. The members of the band were faithful to the end, and gave fine performances on all occasions, except for one (see Strange Wedding).
In Labaleine, the folks attending the concert so appreciated our closing tune that they asked us to play it again…which we did. It is a great song recorded by the group ALABANZA. The name of the song is Se Lavi (That’s Life). It begins with a slow introduction, continues with lively verses and a chorus, then has a key change, a sax solo, and a reprise of the chorus. We follow that same form when we perform the song. A key phrase from the song is : “That’s life. No one can take it without the permission of He who created it. That’s life. Let’s celebrate He who created it. Let’s work together to protect it. That’s life!”
We have a new dog. Her name is Zoe, but I’ve been calling her Cyclone because she leaves the yard in more disarray than hurricane Matthew did a few years back. She chews. She drags and drops. She hides. The thing you would most want her to avoid, she puts first on her list.
I was taking a bucket bath in the back yard one night. I put my glasses on a bucket next to a spongey thing we use for scrubbing. The cyclone loves to run away with the scrubby thing every chance she gets. I had my eye on it all during my bath. Without my glasses, I could see her close to the scrubby thing, but she never grabbed it.
I finished dressing and went to put on my glasses. They were missing, and I heard a crunching sound coming from close by. It was the dog. It was my glasses. What in the world would possess a dog to chew on glasses ?
She also drug music folders out of room where they were arranged on the floor, and she scattered the music in the yard, tearing a few sheets. She pulls towels down off of the line, and scatters our sandals in various corners of the yard.
The cyclone is calmer lately. That’s how storms go, I guess. They never last forever. For that, I am thankful.
Missionary in Haiti.