Wednesday, March 24 (3 p.m. local time)
The Mission: Haiti team departing Gentilhomme today.
Dr. Steve made one last house call this morning, bringing the number of people he treated in the last 48 hours in Gentilhomme to more than 200. On the way back to the mission house, where our tents were located, we stopped to see some of the Climbing For Christ banana plants that are bearing fruit. In the next 5-6 months, the seedling plants we brought here in 2008 all will be producing bananas. It's always good to see the fruit of your labor, be it physical or spiritual.
Our banana plants are starting to produce fruit.
We broke camp and headed down Mon Boucar (Mountain of Fire) toward Soliette at 10 a.m. and then drove back to the Dominican border town of Jimani in record time. We dropped off Rosie on the way. She is staying with friends on the Haitian side of the border. The American members of the team will be heading back to the States on Thursday.
Tuesday, March 23 (6:30 p.m. local time)
Villagers wait to be examined by Dr. Steve and the team.
Rosie multi-tasks while translating dosage instructions for a young patient.
The church at Gentilhomme met at sunrise to sing and pray, then went behind the building to admire the water-filtration system. "The people were happy," Rosie said, translating for us. "They were killing themselves laughing." That means they like the latest blessing from the Lord – a device that will clean their drinking water and improve the health of the people.
Steve, with help from Lisa, Rosie and Erica, saw more than 140 patients, most with the same problems from a lack of food and water.
Josh and I hiked into the ravine behind the village to again survey the riverbed and mountain springs that are there. We are reworking our plan to install a system that will bring water up about 450 vertical feet to Gentilhomme. This will be Phase 2 of our water project.
The continued improvement of water, sanitation, nutrition, and health care will make life here more humane. We continued to address the spiritual needs in meetings with Pastor Tresin and in our visit tonight to Pastor Paul's small church at the bottom of the hill. There is always much work to be done.
Monday, March 22 (7 p.m. local time)
Our missionary Miguel had not ridden a bike in 10 years before taking a seat on the pedal-powered filtration system that Josh installed today in Gentilhomme.
"For the first time the people of Gentilhomme will have clean water for drinking," Miguel said as he pedaled.
The system is like a stationary bike, but with a purpose. It pulls water through a series of hoses and filters and produces purified water. Installing this system was a primary goal of this mission. The system, purchased from World Wide Water in New Zealand last October, was scheduled to be installed as part of Mission: Haiti in December. But shipping was delayed until February.
Josh installing the bicycle filter system by the cistern next to the church at Gentilhomme.
This water project is the first phase of bringing clean and accessible water to the people of Monte pou Kris. It was made possible by support from Josh's employer (Mortenson Construction) and my home church (Hope Lutheran in Rochester, N.Y.). Our thanks to them and especially to the God who made it possible.
While Josh is working on water needs here, the rest of our team (Steve, Lisa, Rosie and Erica) are addressing the physical health needs of the people. It was another day of setting up and holding a clinic. They feel blessed to be used as the hands and feet of the Great Physician.
Josh takes a spin on the pedal-powered filtration system installed today alongside the basin at the church at Gentilhomme.
Sunday, March 21 (10 p.m. local time)
We have arrived in Gentilhomme. It was a beautiful, starry night for a climb as we drove from Malasi to Soliette in the late afternoon and started up the mountain after dark. Pastor Tresin sent people from the village to meet us in the river bed and carry up all the parts for the water system. We'll begin putting it together on Monday. It's the end to a long, hard day, which covered the spiritual, mental and physical gamut. God has carried us through.
Sunday, March 21 (5:45 p.m. local time)
A baby died. She was 2 months old with burns on 24 percent of her body, including much of her face. A lamp had fallen on the bed where she was laying Friday night. The father brought her to us before most of the team woke up this morning. Her name was Gina.
Steve, Lisa and Juju worked on her for two hours. As they worked people started to stream into the church. Today was the dedication for the church at Malasi. It was bittersweet for us. The news of baby Gina's death was brought to us in the middle of worship. We were planning to take her with us and across the border to Jimani, and the clinic with which we partner. But she didn't make it.
As I shared with the hundreds that attended worship, life is full of trials (James 1:2-4). Especially life here, where the people endure earthquake, hurricanes, drought, hunger, thirst, and death. Death is a constant companion in a world of pain and suffering. But I told them we cling to a hope that promises an eternity without hardship and tears. We carry the joy of knowing Jesus, our resurrected Savior.
Death stole some of the happiness of being with brothers and sisters in Christ as we celebrated the new church. It was hard praying with the young mother and father ("babies having babies," Rosie said) as they faced the shock of losing a child. They are Christ followers. We pray for His strength as they endure this day and the days ahead.
But death cannot steal the joy we know in Jesus.
Pastor Vilcius (left) and Miguel seated underneath the new cross during the church's first Sunday worship service.
Sunday morning worship.
Saturday, March 20 (8 p.m. local time)
About two dozen pastors and leaders from 12 churches in 10 villages attended our monthly seminary, taught today at the new church at Malasi. Erica and Miguel provided instruction on baptism. Erica was struck by the irony that God's timing for us to come and work on the water system in Gentilhomme was the month when water baptism was being taught in the seminary. Pastor Vilcius gave thanks to God for answering his prayer for a new church by providing this little pink house of God.
"The people here are very happy," Miguel said. "New church. Beans. Fertilizer."
Erica teaching about baptism at Climbing For Christ's monthly seminary, held this month at the new church at Malasi.
Of course, as a result of building new churches (here and in Thoman, which will be finished by May) pastors from three other villages and churches that participate in the seminary requested affiliation with Climbing For Christ today. We have a process for this, starting with prayer and including our visits (first by Miguel and then by me) and ongoing seminary attendance.
Steve, Lisa and Rosie saw scores of patients throughout the day and for hours after dark. Miguel's niece, Juju, who was studying to be a nurse in Port-au-Prince before the earthquake destroyed her school and home and killed many friends, assisted during the clinic. Juju was with us here last May, too.
"We saw some interesting things," said Dr. Steve, who treated two people who'd had strokes, a woman with a goiter on her thyroid, many pregnant women, and several other nasty maladies.
We saw many familiar faces, including the boy who was treated for a broken wrist last December. He came to show his healed arm.
Steve doctoring at the Malasi clinic.
We also were blessed to see a woman from 2008 who was trapped in her mental anguish then from having lost four children. We prayed for her to be released from Satan's grip. Tonight she showed up, eight months pregnant and radiating God's glory. Erica, Rosie and I prayed for her, and the child God has given her.
It was a full day of serving the physical and spiritual needs of these people.
Friday, March 19 (10:30 p.m. local time)
Inside the new church at Malasi tonight.
The new church at Malasi is truly a light on a hill that cannot be hidden. It is fully wired and has a generator so it was lit up tonight when we arrived well after dark.
We left Jimani late after needing to partially disassemble the water system we will be installing in Gentilhomme. It looks like a stationary bike with hoses and filters attached. Josh prepared it for the trip across the border. After five months (it was purchased from World Wide Water in New Zealand last October) the system finally reached Haiti. The shipping to Hispaniola had been delayed and prompted us to plan this mission trip.
Josh packing up the water system at Miguel's house.
It took nearly two hours to cross the border. Traffic was heavy. Big trucks usually line the border road on Friday afternoon. Add to that the earthquake relief and workers still entering Haiti and you have an equation for gridlock.
The team (Josh, Miguel, Lisa, Steve, Erica and me) rode in our beloved "God truck," while many of our friends rode in our friend Janelle's big, open-bed truck. This large group, some coming for the monthly seminary tomorrow and others to celebrate the Malasi church dedication on Sunday, sang hymns and enjoyed the rough, five-hour ride. It rained overnight and this morning so the "road" (for lack of a better term) was not in the best of condition. But God granted us traveling mercies and we arrived safely. Even the woman who bounced out of the back of the truck was uninjured.
Friday, March 19 (11 a.m. local time)
Steve and Lisa presented Miguel and Pastor Blanco with a US$5,000 gift from their church (First United Methodist in Cañon City, Colo.) for the building of a new church in Jimani, Dominican Republic. The church at Jimani is part of the Climbing For Christ community of churches here in Hispaniola. We also have and are building churches in Gentilhomme, Malasi and Thoman, Haiti.
Steve and Lisa presenting Miguel and Pastor Blanco with $5,000 to build the church at Jimani.
This gift from Cañon City is a blessed example of the partnership between this ministry and the local church. God moved in His people, C4C members Steve and Lisa, to share what the Lord is doing through us here. It touched their church family in a way that led to them supporting the mission in prayer and giving. We rejoice in this moment as the body of Christ works together to serve the physical and spiritual needs in others. To God alone be the glory!
The church at Malasi — the newly constructed building (below) and the body of Christ — await the visit of our eighth short-term mission team.
The team is scheduled to reach Malasi on Friday, March 19. The monthly Climbing For Christ seminary, which attracts pastors and church leaders from up to a dozen villages, will be held there on Saturday. The new church building will be dedicated on Sunday. After that, the team will move on to Gentilhomme to work on the delayed water project. Water was on tap for the December 2009 mission, but a state-of-the-art pump purchased in October was not shipped from New Zealand to Hispaniola until February. In addition to working with the churches and installing a system designed to make clean water more accessible in a village where we have been ministering since 2005, health clinics will be held in Malasi and Gentilhomme. As always, our focus is on the cross and bringing glory to our Savior.