A TEST QUESTION SHINES LIGHT ON THE EDUCATION PROBLEM IN HAITI
My music students are school students. We talk about geometry and geography sometimes…especially around exam times. Today a young man brought me one of his exams. He lost a point on the exam for a True/False question. He argued his case…before both the teacher and the principal, and he apparently lost. This is the sad situation :
The teacher wanted to test the students to see if they knew the surface area of a certain country. The question the teacher wanted to ask was basically this :
TRUE or FALSE : The surface area of Such-and-such is 500,000 km2. ______________
As such, the correct answer would be TRUE. But, the teacher was negligent, and the question appeared this way :
TRUE or FALSE : The surface area of Such-and-such is 500.000 km. ______________
Note that the second version does not use square kilometers, but kilometers. You cannot express surface area in kilometers. It must be square kilometers. That little fact makes the question false. The student in question wisely chose FALSE. It is with profound sadness that I tell you that his answer was marked wrong. He pled his case, and both teacher and principal (apparently) refused to admit he was correct. They reportedly mentioned the fact that the equipment used to prepare the exam couldn’t produce the km2 symbol…or something about a typing error.
This means that they wanted the student to interpret what he saw, and to devine what the teacher MEANT, and not react to what actually appeared on the page. I am beside myself as I think about a student trying to figure out what lesson he will take from this. “My teachers are not logical.” “My teachers are impossible to please.” “Logic is not good for me.” “Logic gets me in trouble.”
Many people say education in Haiti messes people up more than it fixes them. I don’t think I would go that far. But there is no substitute for truth. I used to scold students for writing poorly and then saying : “You know what I meant.” To hear that from a teacher is…deflating.
THE OLD GUY IN THE WORSHIP BAND
OLD GUY IN THE WORSHIP BAND
Back in 2011, I began a concerted effort to teach people to play musical instruments used in worship services. Many of those first students were young adults, and many are no longer in Haiti.
Along the way, I began working with younger players. Some kids who began on trumpet showed enough talent and ability that I started them on guitar and/or bass. They are now playing better than I am able to play. One young boy who longed to play keyboard would sit beside me during services and watch me play. He’s currently getting ready to take his second keyboard exam.
Last night I attended an evening worship service where I played trumpet. The drummer, the percussionist, the bassist, the guitarist, and the keyboardist were all students of ASAPH Teaching Ministry. They learned to play here. They got really good here. During the service, I had time to sit and watch. I listened to them playing, and I shared smiles with them from time to time.
Imagine if no one had bothered to discover the talent that was right there under the surface of these kids! Imagine if they had grown up only dreaming about playing instruments! They could have spent their whole lives not knowing how to hold a guitar, let alone how to make it lead people in worship. They could have spent their whole lives not knowing how to get a bass line out of four strings. Their talents could have been dormant for a lifetime. That did not happen.
Every church service at the MICEVA church is blessed with music because of the work ASAPH Teaching Ministry is doing here in Pasbwadòm. It is a blessing. To all who make it happen month after month, the old guy in the worship band says thank you.
OBSERVATIONS FROM LIFE IN A COMMUNITY (2021)
Every ministry has it’s own unique situation. I love mine. I am part of a community that has seen me so often they don’t really see me anymore. That is not to say they do not appreciate me. Just yesterday I received a monetary gift from the parents of a music student. People often take time to let me know how I have been helpful to them. But, I am not the “missionary” who attracts greetings and special care. That time came and went long ago.
If you are a school teacher, you have students who come to you. You see them as students. That is how you know them. You seldom get to see them as a son, or as a daughter. You almost never see them as a big brother or sister. Here, in this community, I get to see those things. It is a powerful thing to see a teenage student who borders on being prideful when you see him alone, and then he stops to care for his little brother, or bows his head in the presence of his mom. It is a more complete picture of the student.
Many of the people with whom I work in the church here were my students years ago. I saw them then as one uniform in a classroom. They grew, developed, and changed. Many of them I saw turn into teachers. Then they turned into wives or husbands. Now I sit and watch as they attend church with their eyes constantly seeking control of their children. That is life. I find it a glorious thing to observe.
ASAPH Teaching Ministry has a group of young leaders who are doing ministry. Here are a few (first names only).
WEC, who lived for 9 months in Wisconsin, is preparing to finish his university studies and work with me in ministry in Pasbwadom. He is overflowing with agricultural plans and projects that his time at college has prepared him to realize. I look forward to having him in our community teaching people what he has learned.
Jude is ASAPH's soccer coach...a life coach for many many boys and young men. He is also finishing up his university degree. He motivates and inspires individuals. He is passionate about teamwork. He longs to see young people who commit to following Jesus Christ.
Stephanie is a young lady who is working her way toward her high school diploma. She committed her life to Christ early in her teenage years, and is a talented worship leader. She played trombone in the ASAPH Brass Band for years. Stephanie is now a leader for the brand new all-girls choir. She is a coach, and also working toward being able to direct the choir.
Boaz is an artist, doing amazing pencil drawings. Boaz is a poet, writing and presenting texts that have made him a popular young man. He learned to play saxophone this year. He teaches drawing classes at ASAPH Teaching Center.
Anemson is a fine musician, and still very young. He plays trumpet, trombone, tuba, drums, guitar, bass and keyboard. He is a key member of our church worship band...faithful and talented.
All of these young people came through the Water-For-Life school where I administrated for many years. They are living for Jesus. I am happy to be beside them now in ministry.
Makenndy is a young man who works hard. He's strong. He's reliable. He is leading ASAPH's Bible Recitation program.
Teddy moved into our town several years ago. He is assistant director of the ASAPH Brass Band. He teaches young players. He leads the band while I am away. He is a trusted voice for young people, and a fine example.
TOGETHER, all of these people are lights in the community of Pasbwadom. They are workers in the Kingdom of God. Because of ASAPH supporters here in the USA, I am able to encourage them, orient them, and equip them in their ministries.
Several years ago,.AAF was invited to participate in an all-day soccer tournament in Fondeblan. AAF won that first tournament. The next summer, we hosted it and won again. Then in 2019 we invited back to Fondeblan where we were eliminated early in the competition. In 2021, coach Jude decided to replicate the tournament with all local teams...Basen Kayiman, Flaman, Laborye, Labaleine, and AAF.
An incredible amount of work took place...led by team captains, players, and friends of the team. The field was enclosed with tin and coconut branches. The goals were repaired. Nets were installed. Shaded areas were constructed for each team. Food was purchased and prepared. It is a major undertaking to host 6 teams and their fans for 8 or 9 hours.
I followed bits of pieces of news from my vantage point here in PA. Our team tied in their first two games. It was enough to advance in to the knock-out round. That is when I lost contact. Later that evening a message came in from Coach Jude : "AAF Chanpyon".
In an apparent nail-biter, Labaleine and AAF remained tied after regulation time. From all accounts it was a well-played and respectful game. A tie in a final match means penalty kicks to determine the winner. AAF was able to score on all five penalty kicks, and Labaleine missed only 1 of 5. It was enough. AAF was champion for the 3rd time in 4 tournaments.
The Labaleine player who missed his shot is a good friend of the guys at my house. I look forward to seeing him and encouraging him.
Hats off to : Jude, WEC, Jean-Pierre, Boaz, Shelterline, Madam Emmanuel and so many others who made it all possible.
THIS...is Asaph Teaching Ministry.
I was privileged to spend a weekend in Ohio, in and around Holmes county. Many Water For Life missionary friends live there. It was great to reconnect with them. Happy memories we share from serving together in Haiti!
Breakfast and lunch at AMISH COUNTRY DONUTS was a terrific delight. Aaron Yoder has built up a great menu and a great atmosphere at his little restaurant. I have always enjoyed the food pictures on Facebook. Now, I can say I've eaten there...twice. I left with a vanilla malted milk shake. Wow!
I was also able to speak at Berean Community Church on Sunday morning with Pastor Steve Lapp. It was encouraging to see them pray with their students as the school year begins, much as we do in our church in Haiti.
On Monday I participated in a meeting with some people doing great work in Haiti through Christian Aid Ministries. We are moving ahead on a project to write three textbooks that will teach the Bible to 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. It will continue the series we finished a few years ago for grades 1 to 6.
It was a blessing to travel, visit, learn, and plan. To God be the glory.
We, humans, are lazy and slow...sometimes. I am like that. I was tasked with preparing the plan for a worship service that the Jr. Youth team would lead. It's hard to do. You have to choose things that can work. I pieced together a series of songs, a sketch, a bit of a film, and a message.
Without my knowing, the church was experiencing some verbal attacks from our community at the time. Members of the church felt exposed and discouraged. I didn't really understand much of that.
Without thinking, I had prepared a sketch with the kids based on Ezekiel 27...the dry bones story. I chose it because it allowed us to use the BOOMWHACKERS that I had purchased and had yet to use effectively. In the sketch, though, I did write one line about how God will work among us when we gather IN HIS NAME. That doesn't mean just sitting on the same bench, but really being unified IN HIS NAME.
Without thinking, I also included a video that I had been hoping to use ever since late winter. I finally found a way to stick it into my message for the service. The video was a nature film showing a herd of caribou being attacked by a wolf. The wolf panics the herd, then isolates one young caribou, then runs it out of energy and leaps onto its back. The moral of the story is that unity is key when the enemy is attacking the group. Isolation leads to death.
After the service, days later, I was told that the two different lessons were powerful for many people in the congregation that morning...with the same lesson : we must stick together now!
God prepared those lessons. I thought I did. Teaching is always more effective when God does the work.
May He continue to use both you and me !
I often play keyboard in our local church for worship services. We rehearse on Saturday evenings. On Sunday, the service flows according to the song leader. Usually we stay on track in general, but with some variation. Sometimes we go quite a different direction. Thankfully, the worship musicians are adept at following the leader. That is the fruit if the work ASAPH does with young musicians.
On a recent Sunday morning, we had our list of songs. The service was moving along. The leader, a young lady who played in the ASAPH Brass Band at one point, left the written program and moved into a song called YOU ARE ENOUGH FOR ME. It was not on the program. It is a song that I wrote and taught to the church years ago. The song (like so many of my songs) will lie dormant for months or years, then they tend to bubble up for no apparent reason.
In that service, the worship took a different direction as that song began. You may know what I am talking about if you worship regularly. Worship services can be coasting along with not much energy, than at the beginning of a new song, the energy increases dramatically. It seems the song speaks to most people in the congregation all at once. People stand. People sing out. People move.
That happened as we sang YOU ARE ENOUGH FOR ME. The worship transformed. It is a meaningful thing for me. Worship songs I have written come from my own personal experience with God, my own time in His presence. When someone else seems to share that experience, it is a powerful moment.
I love those moments in a worship service. I love when the Holy Spirit moves in a congregation. I love seeing God work in people.
Here's hoping that you are worshiping Almighty God. May He move in you and those around you as you submit to Him in worship.
God is good. Give thanks.
Many mornings, I am sitting at my computer translating. Christian Aid Ministries is a Mennonite mission that is active in Haiti. They pay ASAPH Teaching Ministry to translate documents from English into Haitian Creole. Some of the projects I have translated over the years include : pastor training materials, magazine articles, agricultural materials, and other smaller projects.
Several years ago I worked with CAM to actually write a series of books that are being used in primary schools across Haiti. They gave me a skeleton plan for six books, one for each grade from grade 1 to grade 6. My job was to write the individual lessons and evaluation materials, plus a teacher's guide for each book. Those six books are printed and in the hands of Haitian students.
CAM is now planning to continue the project for three more grades, 7 to 9. I look forward to writing those lessons in the near future. It's one way that I can teach from home. :)
Recently, we finished a book called FARMING GOD's WAY. That book is now in print and being distributed in Haiti.
Last year during the Covid lockdowns, I spent long days translating a book called RESTORING THE SOIL. It is a fascinating list of plants that can be used to turn bad soils into fertile soils once again. I learned a ton of information about beans! The book's author spent years working in Africa. The subject matter is ideal for Haitian farmers who wrestle with so many of the same issues as African farmers. In 2021, I spent time going over that translation once again. The book is now about to be laid out and printed for distribution. It is a project that I believe will help farmers all over Haiti to make their gardens more profitable long term. That is exciting. Haiti depends on small farmers. Small farmers depend on the soil. Restoring the depleted soils of Haiti will be a huge step toward food security in the years ahead.
It is good to be part of powerful projects. I love doing my little part in big projects...being one little link in a great chain.
It is teaching. It is big scale. It is one part of ASAPH Teaching Ministry.
Back In The USA
Haiti is struggling through a bad time...again. Elections are overdue, and the whole subject is surrounded with confusion. Meanwhile, kidnappings have become almost commonplace in the capitol city. Plus, gangs have taken over parts of Port-au-Prince allowing no traffic to pass through. All of that means that leaving the country requires a flight into Port-au-Prince avoiding the roads.
I flew on June 19th. Everything was easy and smooth.
With the USA fighting its way out of a pandemic, there is no appetite for helping a country that has been in crisis mode regularly over the years. Haiti fatigue means that there is no realistic hope for any country to get involved in Haiti's crisis. Haiti will have to get things straight on its own. It's probably a good thing in the long run. For now, life in the country is as tricky and depressing as ever.
With all of that being said, life goes in the countryside pretty much as normal. Prices are high. Supplies can be low. Gas disappears pretty regularly lately...for days at a time. All of that adds to the stress people endure each day. Still, people live peacefully and free in almost all of rural Haiti.
Freedom is a subject of interest for a person who spends months in rural Haiti and then months in the USA. In many ways, life in Haiti is full of freedom. There are no covid games being played. The government is not involved in the lives of people. Churches meet and worship. Concerts happen. People interact without thinking. That is how we all lived since last Fall. Then, I flew home to the USA. I struggle with the vastly different freedom. It's true we are free to eat better here. We are free to work. We are free to attain material wealth. But daily freedoms are slipping away rapidly.
Imagine a man selling his wallet, without realizing his credit cards are still in it. Tragedy is giving away something you love and need without realizing that you are doing it. I am afraid that Western civilization is engaged in tragic behavior these days. We are smiling while selling treasures that we will search for at some point. They may be gone forever.
Back in the USA.
Missionary in Haiti.