Mission: Haiti 2007
Reported by GARY FALLESEN
President/Chief Climbing Officer of Climbing For Christ
Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007 (11:30 p.m. ET)
The team has returned to the United States. Praise God for safe travel. Safe but not without incident, of course. We had our sixth and seventh flat tires of the trip. No. 6 came on the mini-bus transporting us from Jimani to Santo Domingo as subtropical storm Olga was soaking the island. The boy who changed the tire for us broke off two lug nuts so we drove nearly 200 kilometers with 2½ lug nuts holding on the right front tire. There was plenty of prayer holding it, though! While we were limping along, we passed the pickup truck carrying all our duffle bags. It was stopped for a tire change, too. “Seven,” Jim said about the number of tires we blew out. “The biblical number of completeness.” To be sure. We look at it as another sign that we completed what the Lord intended for this mission. Check back for more on this in our Final Trip Report.
Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007 (4:45 p.m. ET)
We are back in the Dominican border town of Jimani after 8½ hours of travel. After hiking down from Gentilhomme on a different ridge, we reached the riverbed below, where flooding was causing tap-tap problems. We visited the church in Thoman, where about 100 people worship and they hold a school for 54 children. Thoman’s church is in a public building where the congregation often gets thrown out by those who practice voodoo. Pastor Liten wants to build a new church, which is why he came to us for help.
We then began a long drive on the rough roads. It normally takes 2½ hours to get across the border, but today it took nearly seven hours as our truck had two blowouts and only one spare. We needed to take another tap-tap to get across the border and back to Jimani. Gilbert returned with us to continue living with Miguel and his family in Jimani. Before we left, the team — which is an incredible group of Christian servants — prayed for Gentilhomme and the work the Lord is doing throughout this part of the Chaine de la Selle mountains.
The laundry list of work to be done is long and will require much prayer, discernment and planning. We know now that our No. 1 priority is putting together a medical mission to return to Gentilhomme and Malasi. It is our hope other brothers and sisters in Christ will desire to serve here.
Monday, Dec. 10, 2007 (9:15 p.m. ET)
The first day of the seminary ended with a discussion on what the Bible is. Pastor Dan summarized the day by saying, “God has called you for important work. We must not serve as a pastor or leader to gain something for ourselves — or money or power. We serve for Jesus and for the people.” Amen.
We visited Santane and her family. Santane, the crippled girl we have prayed for since April 2006, has gotten bigger since we saw her the last time (in April of this year). We prayed for her again and decided on a medical course of action. The Tuesday after the next seminary, in January, Pastor Paul (her grandfather) will take Santane with Miguel to the clinic in Jimani. Prayerfully this will be the beginning of fixing her crippled leg. To the glory of God.
(1:45 p.m. ET)
After watching the sunrise this morning, Nick, Jim, Derek, Sarah and I went to visit the village cemetery. Pastor Tresin told us no one has died in one month. That’s a good thing.
After breakfast, the Climbing for Christ seminary began with seven pastors and 18 church leaders from five villages attending. Among the pastors are Miguel (Jimani), Tresin (Gentilhomme), Paul (Gentilhomme; he is Santane’s grandfather), Verite (Malasi), “Italians” young and old (Soliette), and Liten (Thoman). After the introductions of our pastors (Dan, Derek and Erica), Dan asked why a seminary was important. Pastor Tresin said: “To learn what we do not know.” Dan said we were here to teach leadership in the church. He then told a Haitian proverb by Dan: “If you go for a walk and people follow, you are a leader. If you go for a walk and no one follows, it is just a walk.”
Our pastors then posed the first of 10 questions that they came up with for the seminary: “Who is God?” The Haitian pastors and leaders were given time to discuss this among themselves and then share with everyone. Our pastors then provided instruction. After 2½ hours and one question, the seminary took a lunch break. The first question after lunch: “What is the Bible?” This discussion will probably last the rest of the afternoon. The seminary will continue on the second Monday of every month, with Miguel teaching material that has been provided by our pastors.
Meanwhile, inside the church at school, our team became the teachers after the morning recess. Nick taught about the world and the solar system. He told the students about the planets and the stars that God placed in the sky. Then he told them the story about a star that shone over Bethlehem. He told the Christmas story, which was translated by Sarah (who said it was the most “real” of all the times she has heard the story) and acted out by Karen (as Mary), Joe (as Joseph), Arny (as the angel Gabriel and a wise man), and Jim and me as shepherds and wise men. Nick told the children how God sent the baby (Jesus, the Savior) as a gift. We then gave each of the children a gift (crayons, pencils, bubbles, bouncy balls and hair ties). There were about 90 students in all. As school ended we gave each of the children a pill for worms. We sent them home happy and healthier.
Sunday, Dec. 9, 2007 (5:15 p.m. ET)
Our day of worship began with Dan praying us through the Beatitudes. The church from Belville sang and marched in front of the church for two hours before the service began. There was a procession into church; we were paraded in last. When it came time for us to talk, I spoke about what God sent us to do: grow relationships, teach sanitation, study water, work with teachers and students, mentor pastors, and show the love of Christ. I then gave a short message telling how Nick has felt the presence of Christ as he watched the sun rise Thursday morning. I told them this made me happy because I have also felt God’s presence in my visits here. Jesus is here! The evil one has no hold on these people. I told them there is no place for voodoo in their lives. And that there will be revival in Haiti. Each of the team members then spoke. (Thanks to Sarah for translating everything for us during the service!)
Jim talked about building your house on the Rock (Matthew 7:21-24), told a farming story (Matthew 13:3-9), and encouraged the church to guard its heart (Proverbs 4:23).
Nick said wisdom is the most important thing. The Bible is the source of all wisdom. He encouraged the people to be in the Word.
Dan emphasized that there is only one God. People should worship only one God. And only one God is worthy of our worship (Mark 12:28-31). He said love God and love your neighbor.
Joseph said he was happy to see that the church extends beyond borders and languages.
Arny talked about grace.
Karen shared Paul’s wish for the church to increase in love for one another.
Derek, who stood with his wife Karen in front of the church, told brothers in Christ to “love your wives.” He said women should respect their husbands. He talked about how we are all citizens of heaven. “We have a beautiful future in Jesus. Spend your days on earth worshiping Jesus. He is our only ticket to heaven.”
Erica said all people were created to worship one true God. She said to the villages on the hillsides of Haiti: “You are the light of the world.”
Miguel spoke briefly, the church took communion, we had an opportunity to pray for three babies who were presented to the church as well as for two people who were sick. Throw in several songs and you have a 3 3/4-hour worship.
After church, Sarah, Jim and I attended the Gentilhomme Development Association meeting where we learned that they are working on a project to bring light to the village. They also have identified reforestation as something that is vitally necessary for this area. They do not need help with the lights, but have asked for our assistance on the reforestation. We also shared with them all of the things we are working on with the church here. From sanitation, water, school, helping pastors to finding out about the medical needs and helping with health care in Gentilhomme.
As I speak, the team is putting together about 100 Christmas gifts of crayons, pencils, bubbles, bouncy balls, and hair ties for the school children to be handed out tomorrow. It has been a blessed day.
Sarah teaching about arborloos (“abalou” in Creole) and other toilets.
Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007 (10 p.m. ET)
Nick’s devotional, “Greatness is defined by heaven,” started our day. He shared from Matthew 20:20. “...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve...” Nick suggested that the greatest member of this mission team is the cousin of Miguel’s wife, who has come to help cook, wash, and serve the team so we can do the work He has for us.
Sarah finished our two-day sanitation seminar by introducing three possible toilets: the latrine, arborloo, and dry toilet. The people discussed the pros and cons of each, and then voted on which would work best for Gentilhomme. The majority chose the arborloo. It was determined a committee would be formed in the village to gain a consensus of the community.
Our three pastors (Dan, Derek and Erica) began preparing with Miguel for our “seminary Monday.” We are expecting 20 or so pastors and church leaders.
Nick and Jim went with me to visit Pastor Tresin’s house, which was damaged by tropical storm Noel. It was humbling to see the small, dirty space in which Pastor, his wife and their seven children sleep. In the U.S., it would be used by one dairy cow. We prayed for the pastor and his family. He said it would cost only $300 US to rebuild his home. We asked for God’s provision, while asking that his heart would remain with Jesus alone.
Nick then met with Miguel and the two teachers to go over what he has observed about what is being taught and how. Nick emphasized building a student base and character; knowledge will then bear fruit (2 Peter 1:5).
Before our education meeting ended, and the rest of the team returned from bathing in the river, the village was invaded by churches from Malasi and Belville. Their arrival led to an evening of worship, including what we lovingly refer to as “Haitian Idol.” Anyone can sign up to sing, and many among the 225 or so attending worship did. Even now, after three hours of worship, they are still singing. They may be well into the night.
The church at Malasi.
Friday, Dec. 7, 2007 (10:30 p.m. ET)
We had an excellent devotion by Erica and prayer with the team to start the day. Actually, the day began even earlier with Nick and Derek star gazing through the telescope that Nick brought for the school. Arny was better this morning after being under the weather last night. He credits healing prayers. He shared Psalm 86 with me. Then after breakfast, I left the team and made a speedy descent with Pastor Tresin into the searing valley heat of Soliette. Miguel was waiting for me in the hot sun. We rode his motorbike 28 kilometers on very, very rough road. It’s actually the rocky river bed. We passed through a beautiful national forest — all pine trees offering shade and coolness.
After reaching Gros Cheval, the “moto” (as Miguel pronounces it) broke. A wire to the battery snapped. We fixed it. But climbing to Malasi, it broke again. “Why is it so hard to serve the Lord?” I asked Miguel. He answered me by singing a Creole song that went something like this: “When we get moments as this, we ask why we need to suffer to follow Jesus while other people live easy in their sin?” Because those in sin and ease will live hard for eternity and we will be in paradise. Our hope is to take as many people as we can with us.
After being on the road and then hiking up to Malasi for about four hours, we finally reached our destination. A school that he began last month was in session with 55 children and one teacher. We spoke to the teacher about his needs for the school and then met Pastor Verite and discussed what Malasi needs in general and what Climbing For Christ might be able to provide. “Malasi needs many things,” Pastor Verite said. To which I replied, “Haiti needs many things.” We all laughed. After meeting with the pastor and looking around the village, Miguel and I began our trip back to Gentilhomme.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Sarah was teaching 55 people about sanitation for five hours. The findings confirmed what we thought: people poop and pee wherever they want in Gentilhomme. The team helped Sarah teach the ways people get sick from poor sanitation. On Saturday, the people will choose what toilet system they think works best for them. The plan is for Climbing For Christ to work with SOIL and Sarah to bring sanitation to Gentilhomme.
In the evening the team worshipped, sang and played with people from the village, including doing the Hokey Pokey together in Creole. Miguel and I returned from our trip, climbing back up the mountain in the dark, in time to see this amusing spectacle. Nick then closed this wonderful display of fellowship in prayer, speaking about loving one another and living in unity.
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007 (10 p.m. ET)
We worshipped with the church tonight and after church we worshipped some more as the body of Christ — singing songs in English and Creole. We sang joyfully to the Lord, for it is fitting to praise Him. (Psalm 33:1)
Days in the mission field are like the topography of Haiti — hills and ravines. From a hug from a smiling Gilbert to seeing a nine- or ten-year-old boy with one crippled leg who hikes 3 or 4 miles over the mountains using a stick to get to school each day.
The team played with the children and adults all afternoon, and our water crew returned from the river with water samples to test. Tomorrow, Miguel and I go up the mountains to Malasi, while Sarah teaches the first of a two-day seminar on sanitation with the help of the other team members. There will also be teaching and playing with school children. And, always, plenty of praying. As Pastor Dan shared during our prayer time at the end of the day: “We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” (Psalm 33:22)
Gilbert's uncle said they thought Gilbert would die when he broke his leg this past summer. They had prepared his grave. No one would go in the room where he was for 29 days because of the smell of his rotting leg. Sarah asked Gilbert if he suffered. He smiled and answered softly, “Oui.” When the people carried him to Soliette they thought he would not come back. “He is Lazarus,” Miguel said, referring to his rising from the dead. An act of God. Gilbert is very much alive and happy. We know the Lord has a special plan for his life.
I prayed with Jim, Nick and Joe for Pastor Tresin's sister-in-law, who has been suffering blinding headaches. Pain and suffering are a way of life in Haiti. But there is great joy here as well.
Jim, Sarah, Derek and Joe returned to the river to begin testing water, while Nick observed the school. The school day began as usual with the children singing the Haitian national anthem. The students then heard a Bible story and one class recited the alphabet, while the more advanced students studied math. During the 35-minute recess Dan taught the children Duck Duck Goose, and Karen and Erica jumped rope with the girls. The students then returned to class when one of the teachers rang a bell, and now they are doing reading. Another school day in Gentilhomme. Another blessing from God.
Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007 (9:30 p.m. ET)
We walked down to the river — an extremely steep 400-vertical-foot descent and ascent that the people make three times a day to get water. Jim, Joe and Sarah were starting to look at ways to get water from the river to the village. With Miguel's help, we have many good ideas.
We spent several hours today in conversations — with each other, with Miguel, and with the people of Gentilhomme. That special feeling of God and work is being experienced. Thank you, Jesus.
(12 noon ET)
It's Columbus Day here. This was the day Christopher Columbus came to Haiti, so there is no school.
Gilbert arrived at about 10 a.m. saying, “Bon jour, bon jour!” to everyone. He says he was happy to be home. When asked about his birthday he said he did not know when it was. We think he is 14 years old, but he is very small for his age. Gilbert said he is small because life is hard here and there isn't much to eat.
Most of the team slept well last night. It was hard for all of us to get here. At one point during our travels, Miguel and I were praying together, and we were able to get past that obstacle. Miguel cried out, “He heard us!” Our prayers were answered and we all arrived here safely despite Satan's obstacles. We know that if God is for us, nothing can be against us.
(12:15 a.m. ET)
Miguel and I arrived in Gentilhomme a few minutes ago. It was a long day, dealing with vehicle problems, border problems and a river where a road once was. As Pastor Italian said in Soliette, "It is being made difficult to glorify God." Gilbert came with us to Soliette and stayed there overnight because of our late arrival. He will return to Gentilhomme in the morning, and I will file a longer dispatch about today.
Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007 ( 4 p.m. ET)
We delivered the team to Thoman, where the nine members took a tap-tap to Soliette. Miguel and I just returned to Jimani on the Dominican side of the border to load the truck with several hundred pounds of school supplies, clothing and gifts for the people in Gentilhomme. Satan tried his best to deter us from getting there, as we had two flat tires on the road to Thoman and other obstacles to face. But we have a much bigger God who will overcome all things.
(1 a.m. ET)
Our welcome to Jimani was a worship at Miguel’s church near his home. We greeted our brothers and sisters in Christ and sang a hymn with the words, “I am happy because Jesus loves me.” One who knows the love of God is Gilbert Lendor. We got to worship with our 14-year-old friend, who was saved from voodoo’s grip and certain death by the Father’s presence in Climbing For Christ. Gilbert has one leg; his left was amputated after a bad break and one month of no medical care. He uses crutches, and later today he will return to Gentilhomme for the first time since he was saved when we go for our week-long visit in the Chain de la Selle mountains.
Monday, Dec. 3, 2007 (10:15 p.m. ET)
The team arrived at our hotel in Jimani after the usual mission travel (flat tire/overheated engine) episode. We are heading next to Miguel's home to meet Gilbert Lendor.
(3:15 p.m. ET)
The entire team arrived safely in Santo Domingo this afternoon. They were met by Miguel Guante, and immediately began the journey to the border town of Jimani. More to come later this evening.
Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007 (7 p.m. ET)
We half-joke about the weather that usually greets a Climbing For Christ event. Some recent examples: Climbing For Christ Philippines was hosting a cancer climb Nov. 24-25 before a typhoon that had passed and was on its way to Vietnam reversed course and came back to the Philippines. A winter camping clinic to be held in Minnesota this weekend was snowed out. So it's no surprise that most of the Mission: Haiti team flying from Denver to New York City was delayed four hours by bad weather in the East. The same weather awaits those of us in the East who will attempt to travel on Monday. But we are “convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Nor will anything be able to keep us from sharing this love of Christ with those in Haiti. The mission begins.
“And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
— Isaiah 40:5 (NIV)
Brian “Arny” Arnold, Rochester, N.Y.; Sarah Brownell, Rochester, N.Y.; Joe Cisneros, Centennial, Colo.; Jim Doenges, Littleton, Colo.; Gary Fallesen, Hilton, N.Y.; Pastor Dan Freng, Littleton, Colo.; Pastor Derek Fullerton, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Karen Fullerton, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Miguel Rubén Guante, Jimani, Dominican Republic; Nick Stevens, Loveland, Colo., and Pastor Erica Zeiler, Littleton, Colo.
Learn more about the team on the TEAM BIOS page.
Support the work the Lord is doing through us in Haiti — through prayer and financial giving. Send your tax-deductible donation to:
Climbing For Christ, Inc.
c/o Mission: Haiti
P.O. Box 16290
Rochester, N.Y. 14616-0290