Your Name is Mighty in Power

Jeremiah 10_6

Our days and nights in Haiti are filled with all kinds of sounds. There are few quiet moments in our community. I don’t know if we will ever get used to the strains of American pop music in the early hours of the morning. Some visitors to Haiti don’t enjoy waking to the roosters crowing beneath their windows, but we hardly notice them anymore.

However, there has been one sound recently that I hope we never get used to. I hope it always evokes a response in us.

In the days leading up to Easter and the days following Easter, the streets of Haiti are filled with Rara bands. I’m not an expert but if you look this up on the Internet, a lot of articles make the bands sound innocent as if Rara Music is just another cultural part of Haiti. Voudoo Priests and Priestesses lead the bands through the streets, often blocking traffic, sometimes stopping at homes, always invoking spirits. The groups carry Voudoo flags and play a very repetitive rhythm with drums and a type of trumpet. There is often the cracking of a whip. We’ve been told the groups are celebrating the death of Jesus but they also sometimes make political statements.

As we went about our activities over the Easter season, we came across lots of the Rara bands. There was no joy that I could see. The relentless rhythm and frenzied dancing contributed to a darkness that seemed to permeate the area. Whenever we met up with one of these marches we had the choice to turn around and find another route or slowly make our way through the crowd. No matter which option we chose, I always spoke the name of Jesus.

I may not be an expert, but I do know the people in Haiti are often held in fear by the threat of Voudoo. I know there is power in the name of Jesus to break that fear.

My prayer is that the light found through Jesus will expose the darkness. I claim the truth of Jeremiah 10:6. There is power in the name of Jesus.

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How did you spend your Friday night?

Evacuation Bag

We all have routines when we head out on errands. Keys? Phone? Money? Shopping List? Because we live on an island, we often need to travel to the mainland to pick up supplies that can’t be purchased here. It’s a 90 minute boat ride and then a 90 minute ride in a truck just to get to Port au Prince. We have our routine.

Wallet? Phone? Charger? Overnight bag? Keys to truck on  mainland? Passport?

It’s difficult to make the trip in one day but it can be done. However, it’s always good to be prepared for an overnight stay.

With the postponement of the presidential election runoffs and the February 7, 2016 constitutionally imposed deadline for choosing a new president approaching, it is obvious that the Churchills in Haiti need to add another item to their routine.

Tonight I stayed home from “Movie Night” at the new WISH library, and made sure our evacuation bag was thorough and up to date. Up to this point, we have left most of the items behind when we have gone on short trips. Those important items will now go with us anytime we head off the island. Life Documents? Laptop? Chargers? Comfort items for the kids?

We aren’t living in fear, but we do want to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. Please continue to pray with us that there will be peace and not violence as the government transitions and as the February 7th date quickly draws near.

 

Culture and Language

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One of the most important jobs we have right now as we continue to settle into our new home is to learn the culture and the language. Every day we face situations that are different from anything we’ve ever had to deal with before. Understanding the culture and language can help us navigate our world.

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To get a better handle on the language, we spent the first week in January in Port au Prince in intensive language lessons. We also took the opportunity while we were there to visit some of the national monuments and see some local sights.

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We spent some time at the National Museum which is small but well done and a great way to learn the history of Haiti.

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It’s difficult to get away because there never seems to be a lack of work to do, but as wise and more experienced missionaries say, “The work was here before you came and it will be here after you leave.” I’m thankful we had this time as a family to explore and learn more about the beautiful country of Haiti.

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We were blessed to spend a couple of nights at the missionary guest house in Port au Prince. The view from the roof is stunning and we had a great time fellowshipping with the Selden family and the Gilles family.

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All 4 of us spent six hours each day in Creole lessons and I’ve got to say that Peter and Gaëlle did so well. They already know a lot of vocabulary because of their background and their French. The 3 French speakers just need a little practice. And a little correction. Our instructors were amazed at the vocabulary the kids already have.

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For most of the week, we drove up the mountain to the Baptist Mission where we stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment. The temperatures are quite a bit cooler and we all felt relaxed at the end of each day. The kids played with some fun loving missionary kids and so were able to expend lots of energy running around and being crazy.

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On Saturday we headed back to our little island with a package in hand from friends in Nova Scotia. You can see Gaëlle’s delight as she loves her candy. A sweet treat and a great way to end our week.

2016 Word of the Year

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Since 2015 was a year unlike any other, I’m not quite sure how it can be topped. But I’m more than willing to try. My word for 2015 was JOY. With all that was going on in our lives, all of the change and transition, I knew I needed to keep a sense of JOY. Not just for my sake, but also for the entire family. I wasn’t perfect and there were moments that I allowed heaviness to prevail. But I can also look back over the past year to all of those moments where life was filled with JOY.

Now as I choose my word for 2016 I’ve been going back and forth between a couple of words. But I’ve finally settled on one. PEACE.

There were many times of uncertainty during the past year as Robin and I left jobs, left our home church, left friends and family, sold our house and gave away almost all of our belongings. Even now in our new job, home, and country, there are times when it feels a bit heavy and the uncertainty can get us down.

Honestly, I think now that we are here, the uncertainty is even greater. We are still getting established and there are still so many things we don’t know. We had so many dreams and ideas before we came. We still have so many dreams and ideas; ideas we would like to try and ministries we would like to see grow. But we are not completely sure how our ministry here in Haiti should look. We are not completely sure how to prioritize our time and energy.

As we continue to learn more about the culture and the people, we want to get it right. But we don’t want to be paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. As we grow in our roles here, we want to honour God and honour the people around us.

So, as we seek what God wants for us and our family, we also want to seek God’s peace.

Which leads to my word for 2016…. PEACE.

Slice of Life – Food

Food is such a huge part of a culture and a community. Living in Haiti means not just eating foods that are new to us, it also means shopping for food in ways that are different.

Different isn’t bad… it’s just not what we are used to and it definitely adds to our adventure. And one of the biggest adventures is driving one hour up a rocky mountainous road to the Palma Market. Just when I think we are crazy to be driving up here, I see an overloaded truck with wobbly wheels that is somehow driving up and I know this is possible especially with a rugged vehicle. I would make the trip up here when we want fresh meat.

Palma Market

Otherwise, I would shop at the market just around the corner from us. It has plenty of variety for local produce and also quite a few vendors who sell assorted housewares. It is helpful to have a large bag and a handy husband who doesn’t mind carrying the load. It is also helpful to be willing to barter. I know the vendors are laughing at me as I leave, but for the most part, the prices are excellent and I would rather not even barter but just pay their price. But I try.

Local Market

It is such a treat to have fruit that is vine ripened. It is necessary to wash all the produce thoroughly with a bleach solution and to carefully pick through the beans. But so far, I have been pleased with what is available locally.

As far as canned goods and non-perishables, there are a few vendors in town who carry a small selection. The store I go to the most is called “The Orange & Green” store. I’m sure you can see why.

Orange & Green Store

I can buy groceries such as powdered milk, margarine, canned peas, and also shampoo and soap. No need to barter here. Just pay the price.

Lobsters

It doesn’t happen often, but when we want lobsters, we wait for the fisherman to come to our door. Many of the cooks here make a nice lobster soup and it is worth the wait.

It’s great to have these local options but there are items that make a trip to Port au Prince worth it. There are plenty of choices there including mid size grocery stores. The prices are steep and I put back a few items because I just couldn’t pay the price.

PAP stores

But with our coolers in hand, we can stock up on some supplies for a few months. Port au Prince also offers some home and furniture stores. Again, the prices are fairly steep but it was fun to see the eclectic selection.

Ice Cream

On a final note, I would never pay the price for Häagen-Daas ice cream in Canada. But we called it lunch and throughly enjoyed our indulgence.

A New Normal

The parking lot of donkeys outside the market.

The parking lot of donkeys outside the market.

So, how are we doing? Well, I think things are going well. We’re settling in and getting used to our new normal. Honestly, it hasn’t been hard and it hasn’t been easy. It just is.

And what does that look like? I’ll start with the critter adjustments.

ANTS. For some reason it is a challenge to stay ahead of the ants in the house. So our new normal is me reminding the rest of the family to wipe off the counter immediately. Put all food away immediately. Don’t let any grape jelly flick off your knife or the ants will come marching in one by one until they are swarming all over the tiny speck of jelly.

MISQUITOS. Peter has not had a single bite and has not put on any bug spray. I’m a tad jealous. I douse myself with repellent at least 3 times a day and I get bitten ALL THE TIME. I’m hoping to find something that works for me SOON.

LIZARDS – Gaelle is not happy to wake up and find a cute little lizard staring at her. Today Peter came to the rescue and removed the zandolit (ironically one of the few words she remembers in Creole). I’m trying to encourage her to just ignore them. She’s working on it.

TRANSPORTATION – It is a challenge to get around here. It’s easy to walk to local markets and stores and we are blessed that WISH has suitable vehicles to go over the rough terrain. This week I tried my hand at driving. There is a larger market up in the hills and it takes about an hour to slowly drive there. So this week I went for it. An ATV was behind me and I had a fellow missionary next to me encouraging me over the rough spots. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and relief when that morning was over.

A different kind of mule.

A different kind of mule.

BEAUTY – I can’t get over the intense blues and greens and browns that are all around me. The natural beauty is stunning and I so appreciate the gorgeous display. I wish I could adequately capture those moments and hold onto them for the rough times ahead.

The kids remember Haitian food fondly and were happy when Madame Foglas made griot.

The kids remember Haitian food fondly and were happy when Madame Foglas made griot.

9:00 PM – This has become an important hour in our house. Again, we are so thankful for consistent and reliable electricity, but at 9:00 pm each evening, the system switches to an invertor for our electricity. If we forget and open the refrigerator after 9:00 pm, then the refrigerator shuts off and our food doesn’t stay cold. So… note to self, plan ahead.

HEAT – So far Gaelle is the only one who seems to mind the heat. It has been hot and a cold shower at night feels sooooo good. But we are kind of surprised at how well we are doing with the heat and Gaelle seems to be doing better.

With any new season in life, there are adjustments. That’s the reality for all of us no matter where we live or what we do. For many of us September is a month of change as kids move onto college or new schools and after a summer of rest, a lot of programs start back up. Please know that we love seeing how you all are doing and we are so thankful that as we make our transition to our new normal, we know that so many of you are doing the exact same thing. We are not alone. We feel your prayers and your love.

That Was Then… This is Now

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THAT WAS THEN…

Dr. HC & Ella Sanders—Alice & Helen Sterritt—Earl & Doris Conley

Isaac & Ida Kierstead—Eric & Nina Haywood—Dr. Storer & Wilma Emmett

THIS IS NOW…

Dr. Bob & Brenda Bagley—Alicia Robertson—Robin White

Allan & Sheri Stevens—The Nune Family— Robin & Beth

Sunday morning was an experience that will be forever in our hearts and minds as we head to Haiti. The Mullen family are well known and loved in the Atlantic District for their musical talents. They just happen to be cousins of Robin and huge encouragers to us. Dan had the great idea of putting together 30 pianos in the Beulah Tabernacle in a program highlighting hymns of faith interspersed with stories of missionaries past and present. This was a celebration of Global Partners missions and missionaries. And what a celebration it was.

When we walked into the tabernacle Sunday morning, the air was full of anticipation and energy. 30 pianos. 30 pianists. 1 organ. 1 organist. 4 worship leaders. 500 people. 1 song leader. 1 music director. 1 narrator.

Dwight & Carol Mullen drove up from Kansas and were busy all week helping Dan move and tune all 30 pianos. Dan put in more hours than I can even imagine to pull this off. Edie Mullen has been going to Guinea, Africa for the past 10 years and her passion and love for missions was evident in her voice as she narrated the program. But she wasn’t the only one with emotion. As we sang the beloved hymn, “Jesus Saves”, our tears started flowing and I don’t know if they stopped the entire morning.

We have heard the joyful sound:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land,
Climb the steeps and cross the waves;
Onward!—’tis our Lord’s command;
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

I just can’t begin to convey our appreciation and love for the Atlantic District for their support of Global Partners, for missions, and for us. Sunday was such a highlight for us and was so much better than I could have ever imagined. Thank you Dan for your vision and hard work. Thank you to Peter Moore for your friendly ear, wise counsel and unbelievably inspiring prose. Thank you to all of our partners who have walked through this past year with us. We are so thankful for your faithfulness

House For Sale – SOLD

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We have been asking for prayer for the past 4 months for the sale of our house. There have been times that we have been totally confident and trusting in God’s timing. But honestly, there were moments when we started to wonder just what God’s timing was going to look like and those little seeds of doubt started to sprout. But thank you all so much for your faithfulness  and for joining with us in prayer. We are thrilled to announce that God’s time is NOW. Our house has sold and the closing date is August 12. Please continue to pray with us as we take care of all of the little details that come with the sale of a house. Thank you.

A 5 Year Growth Plan

May 19, 2015 --- January 27, 2010

May 19, 2015 — January 27, 2010

Adoption is a huge part of our family narrative. For those who don’t know, we began the adoption process formally in 2005. Most international adoptions are painfully slow and ours was no exception. Even though our adoption was not complete, the earthquake was the catalyst for Peter and Gaëlle to come to Canada and join our family. January 27, 2010 is a day I will never forget. Robin and I were waiting in Ottawa while some amazing men and women from all walks of life were assisting our children with this life changing event. You can see from their faces that the journey to the airport in Port au Prince was fun and exciting when it could have been frightening and overwhelming. We will probably never know the depth of their emotion as they left Haiti that day. But we do know our lives were forever changed and Peter and Gaëlle have brought more joy to our family than we could ever have imagined.

May 19, 2015 was another pivotal moment in our families’ life. We were blessed to be in Haiti for the Caribe Atlantic Area Missionary retreat. Not only was it a great time of learning and sharing and playing, but it was the first time Gaëlle has been back to Haiti since the earthquake. I felt privileged to witness this milestone as Peter and Gaëlle both stepped foot on Haitian soil together. Quite a few changes in them both but their smiles still shine.