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July 5, 2012

Too Many Tiny Caskets

An afternoon walk down to the local “convenience store” quickly turned into an emotional stroll down memory lane.  As I approached the small open door of the local vender who sells frilly dresses and ice cold soft drinks I heard a band coming our way.  Today was not a holiday so it meant a funeral procession was about to come to the cemetery that was not more than twenty feet from where I stood making my purchase.  Out of respect I didn’t walk back up the road to the compound gate that the band was now passing.  Five minutes later they arrived across the street and began to stream back through the crypts to where they would lay their loved one to rest.  It was about this time that I looked in the bed of the pickup being used to carry the casket in the procession.  In the truck lay a small casket no more than three feet long.  My mind immediately rushed back to a funeral procession that I was a part of in 2002 in which we laid my three month old niece to rest after a brain tumor ended her short life.  A couple of motorcycles passed and my sunglasses concealed the emotions that flooded back as if it happened yesterday.  My thoughts quickly jumped ahead almost 10 years to this past November when I once again was part of a procession delivering a tiny casket to its final resting place.  This time it was not my brother’s family but the six year old daughter of a dear Haitian “brother in Christ.”  I remember saying, “This is the second time I have helped carry a tiny casket, and I sure hope it is the last!” (Picture of Bedenai Lazarre below)

Photo of 6 year old daughter of our Haitian Compound Manager
The sad truth about life here in Haiti is that tiny caskets are not that uncommon.  I’ve even heard a few people say that they would not name their newborn child for several months just in case it did not survive.  Heidi and I read before we arrived in Haiti that one out of every twelve children will die before they reach the age of five (86.7 out of every 1,000 live births).  The infant mortality rate is the number of deaths of infants under one year old per 1,000 live births, and is often used as an indicator of the level of health in a country.  The IMR for Haiti is 69.86.  Compare that with the USA’s IMR of 7.07.  That is too many tiny caskets!

The sight of that tiny casket then caused me to reflect on why I am here in Haiti ministering to what Matthew 25 calls “the least of these.”  One of our key verses is Psalm 82: 3 – 4 in which God instructs, “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.  Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”  Many of you reading this listened to our missionary presentation in which we said that God has called us to Haiti to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to do all that we can with what He has given us.

The ministry roles that Global Partners has called on us to do here in Haiti are La Gonave Station Manager (Greg), project manager on the new La Gonave Guesthouse & Ministry Center (Greg), team scheduler (Heidi), and assist the Haitian guesthouse manager (Heidi).  I have often viewed these roles as “jobs” that kept me busy from doing ministry up until a couple of months ago when I wrote a letter to teams that had stayed on our La Gonave Station and ministered from our compound to the entire island of La Gonave last year.  The following is an excerpt from that letter…

Here are a few highlights of 2011…
Teams Hosted – 32          Team members – 340
Team projects – new guesthouse/ministry center construction, numerous medical clinics across the island, a water distribution building, hundreds of latrines provided, two homes built for needy families, compound roofs sealed, mission employee homes remodeled, ministry to orphans, English classes taught, countless surgeries in the Wesleyan Hospital, boat repairs, mechanic work, depots organized, many painting projects, and the list could go on and on!
Teams have also given thousands of dollars for various projects on the compound, in the community around the compound, and across the island of La Gonave.  People in small villages across this island have been touched by your generosity in the Name of Jesus!  An old Christian song says, “Thank you for giving to the Lord.  I was a life that was changed.”  Whether it was a new home for “The Seashell Lady” and her four children or antibiotics given to a sick child in Fontina, lives have been changed in 2011 and you are the reason.  Thank you!!

Lemonaid Medical TeamI believe the Lord allowed me to see that He has Heidi and me in Haiti for this time to serve as facilitators for the ministry and work that is being done in His name on the island of La Gonave!  Do I sometimes go to the guesthouse at 9pm to plunge a clogged toilet?  Yes, but it was for a medical mission team that was gone for twelve hours for the third or fourth straight day doing medical clinics in remote villages on the island.  Does Heidi sometimes stay up until midnight answering e-mail questions from team leaders?  Yes, but they may be a surgical team that will perform life-saving operations in the OR at the Wesleyan Hospital or a team coming to Rebuild a church destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.  Do I sometimes spend way too much time traveling back and forth to Port-au-Prince for supplies?  Yes, but those supplies are being used to build the new hospital that is the only hospital to over 100,000 people living here on La Gonave.  Do I sometimes get weary of purchasing truck parts to keep our two dilapidated vehicles running on the rough and dirty roads?  Yes, but those vehicles have carried many teams up rocky, mountain roads to provide health care, medicine, and community health training all over this island.  Do we sometimes get tired of overseeing the construction of the new guesthouse?  Yes, but I hope you realize by now that it is not simply a guesthouse but a ministry center from which God is working across the entire island of La Gonave to transform the lives of the Haitian people both physically and spiritually.

One of our fellow missionaries is overseeing a community health evangelism program that is going into villages across the island and teaching them healthier standards of living such as water purification to prevent a large percentage of diseases, the necessity of latrines in fighting disease, and using Moringa trees to fight malnutrition.  They are also presenting the Gospel on a regular basis and have seen over 500 salvations in recent months.  I will try to highlight this incredible ministry next month in our newsletter.  God is working through the Wesleyan Hospital, the GP missionaries here on the ground, and through the wonderful teams that He brings to us!
The "Sea Shell Lady's" new home

Whether a new home (pictured here) for “The Seashell Lady” and her children who were living under a tarp, or a surgery on a little boy to remove a grapefruit size growth in his sinus cavity that protruded from his face, or the “beggar lady” living in a house made of rags in Trou Louis Jeune that went several weeks without treatment for a broken leg because nobody was taking care of her.  These are just aThe "Beggar Lady's" Housefew of the countless lives that have been touched over the last few months, and God has blessed Heidi and me to be here in Haiti to be a part of what He is doing.  All of us working together might just lower those mortality rates so we see fewer tiny caskets!

Thank YOU for giving financially to support our ministry in Haiti.  We cannot be here without your financial gifts, but we would not be here without the prayer support that goes up from each of you on a regular basis and our faithful God who has promised to never leave us or forsake us!  God is calling each of us to obedience, and His challenge is still before all of us to PRAY, GIVE, and GO!  What is he calling you to do?  Will you obey?

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