To our dear ones at home,
It seems impossible that it could be Thursday already! I had hoped that we could have written more this week. It has been so busy. The team of young Canadians has been serving in a wide variety of tasks. You would be amazed to watch them. Yesterday morning, they shared the responsibility for leading worship for the missionaries and the people assembled for different programs. A group of them led in singing, and four different teens each shared scripture and teaching with the very diverse people in the different programs. You see, around here, worship is a very important time every morning. After the missionaries worship, the staff begin arriving for work. The mission staff have a wide spectrum of educational levels and vocations, from cooks and orphanage workers, to doctors and nurses, cement mixers and tillers… But before they begin their day of work, songs of thanksgiving and praise to our God are sung, prayers for the safety and work of each, and the sharing of God’s word must be done. After that, the children who were once dying from second and third stage malnutrition, and come daily for meals… They and their caregivers have their devotions. There cannot be a noisier time of sharing the Word and singing any where on earth! And then, the team went down and led worship among the elderly people who live here in our senior’s residence. They love the singing, and usually begin dancing. It is so much fun, that it takes some discipline to get into the Work. And once the transition is made, something about their wisdom, life experience, and love for God, makes sharing the Word with them even more fun than the singing and dancing to hymns. This is what our young people did yesterday morning.
Hopefully Geoff got some photographs, because, I was off to Tortuga Island and could not go along with them. More about that later.
The young Canadian team has gone on hut to hut visitation and evangelism trips in St. Louis du nord. They have met many families in need in their homes. It has been a good opportunity for them to see how the people of this village live outside the mission walls. They even visited the prison and prayed for each of the prisoners and the guards. They took peanut butter sandwiches for the guards and the prisoners. In Haiti, prisoners receive no food while in prison. The photo to the left is of the team returning from the prison. You cannot see that it is 110 degrees farenheight. But you can see the gates of the mission Bible College, and the joy of the little children who live nearby to see them returning. Our young people are a real favourite among the children they have been ministering to.
Between all this missionary activity, they have done construction work in renovating the building which will house our special needs children. We used to call the special needs children’s program the Heaven’s Waiting Room, but Courtney, who cares for these dear children felt that the name did not adequately express the joy for life that these special children have. So now it is called the Miriam Center. The young Canadians helped sanding walls and carrying out broken cement walls, and many other tasks. And somehow, after all of that, they had enough energy to go out and have a sports camp style soccer game with the St. Louis du nord young people!
Those from Peterborough/Lindsay, and certainly those who help in loading the containers, may remember a white kidney shaped table we were given. We all stared at it quite a while. It sort of looked to us like those ‘designer’ institutional furniture pieces you see in hospital lobbies – things that take up more space than they should. We actually debated sending it to Haiti at all, not quite knowing what they would do with it. But when I prayed about it, it just seemed we should send it. Then, when we were loading the container, Georg said, ‘Why don’t we just send this, and let them deal with it in Haiti?’ So, that is just what we did. Then I forgot all about it.
Well, you can imagine what I will tell you next. The table was found in a furniture room by Courtney, the young lady responsible for all these special needs kids. And she just grabbed it. It has no hard corners for the spastic children to bang their faces on. And for the first time, some of our young physically handicapped children, are beginning to feed themselves. One young lady can only feed herself if she lies on the floor next to the table. But with this kidney shaped table, she is independently eating for the first time in her life.
I am attaching a photo of DenDen feeding himself. This is a very new skill. And the soup that they are devouring… it was some of the dehydrated vegetables that Ontario Christian Gleaners donated, and was shipped on May 20th. God is so good. It is wonderful to see the things He is doing with the work we have given Him. Courtney tells me that her special needs children could not even do these things before they began getting the milk products, the furniture they need to work with, and the extra nutrition we have been sending them. Now, they are not deteriorating, but enjoying life. I sat with her while she cried about one little girl we have who was not blind when she was little… but her handicaps made it too hard for her to get adequate nutrition on normal Haitian food, and she went blind. Courtney really believes she might not have if she had the milk earlier. Now she is learning to stand… when the new Miriam Center building is set up, Courtney promises we can take pictures for you of the wooden ‘stander’ and lots of other things we puzzled over in the warehouse. She and her children have found a new lease on life with all that old physio equipment. I will write more of them in the months to come. The Miriam Center now is a place of hope and joy for life, where before it was a fairly depressing place where children were crippled by disease. God is very good. I suspect my words do not express the tears that have sprouted from my eyes, attempting to explain the joy and the hope that you have all brought to those children.
Yesterday, I was privileged to go to the island of Tortuga, where we are hoping to build a church and from that facility begin a school, clinic, and nutrition program. I have worked in surgery, when many people from Tortuga have come in, very very thin. A team is there over the next few days doing house to house surveys to find out what the people eat, what the best sources of water are for their households, and how many children in each family go to any kind of school, and everything else we can find. We know that Tortuga is even poorer than here in the northwest mainland. The ground is a poor, rocky soil that requires a pick-axe to work. And though fruit trees grow there, they do not yield the volume that trees here with better soil do.
The real shock going over there, was that we had to be carried out to the sail boat! There is no dock. It was not the most exciting part of the trip, at all! We sailed, quite literally by a patchwork sail boat with a boy to bail water (praise God the mission provided us with life-jackets) the 17 km. across to Tortuga. Everyone there told me not to worry. We would not be carried on the other side. I thought they meant there was a dock there. O, me, the spoiled Canadian! It meant that the water was clean enough on Tortuga to wade to shore! I stepped out of the boat into water that was actually much warmer than my skin temperature!
A team of mission employees had come out before us, and had gotten a lady to cook for us, and an enclosed place for the team to sleep. I am including a photo of the amazing white sand beach, and the missionaries staring out to the little boat, and the boy who decided to float their mattresses in to shore for them. I call this photo, “Missionaries on the Shore of Tortuga.”
The Mayoral assistant and the Reeve (I am not sure I understood the Creole word they used for him, being the local municipal representative) came out to meet us, as well as the owner of the land where we plan to begin working, and Pastor Mike, who is the director of church planting at the mission. The Mayoral assistant welcomed us and said that his office hoped that we would feel that Tortuga Island was our home, and that we would find everyone most joyful to see us. We hiked out to the land being considered for the building. I say hiked, because of the rocks and thorn bushes in the unfinished road, and the donkeys (who bite if you get to close) coming home laden from market on the sand road. Once the land is worked, and the thorn bushes gone, it will be much easier. The place has a beautiful harbour as you can see.
I have sat through the night, day after day, praying and watching, while our doctors and nurses have fought for the lives of some very tiny, frail children from Tortuga. It is an answer to prayer for me to be able to do something about this someday. If we can keep those children alive who are dying, teach them to love God and respect each other, to read and write to know His Word… these will change Haiti. God hasten the day!
May our Lord keep you in His wonderful love. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for being there for us to come home to. Thank you for everything you are doing for some very precious lives you have not yet met. In His great love, Tina
July 9, 2009 – Rev. Tina Leslie