Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reflections of Haiti - Part Two

“I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” Psalm 140:12
Our team visited Haiti with the purpose of distributing the four 40’ containers of Kid’s Against Hunger food that had finally arrived. Each container held roughly 300,000 Kid’s Against Hunger meals along with other supplies such as clothing, diapers, and medical items. My personal objective was to assess the ministries we partner with and to see what Urbancrest will be doing in future ministry there. It sounds simple enough, but it doesn't take being there very long before the reality hits that Haiti is totally broken.

For too long, Haiti has been used by corrupt politicians, other governments, and even so-called "Christian ministries" to pad their pockets. My mailbox is full of “Help Haiti!” donation envelopes. But, unless you are giving to a long-established ministry, or better yet a church, you have no idea how your money will be spent. The whole system in Haiti seems to be run on bribes or “tips.” Americans who travel to Haiti often seem to understand the system and adjust to the demands for “more.” But for me, after three trips, it just got old. What I did determine was that we can’t “fix” Haiti.

The earthquake only multiplied the misery and poverty that has been present in Haiti for decades. Though thousands of homes have been built, there are still over 1.3 million people living in tents that have no way of helping themselves. Unemployment is at 85%. It is estimated that there could be as many as 500,000 orphans there. No one is sure of the numbers due to the earthquake, but there are as many starving and helpless adults as there are children. Many of the children are orphaned from AIDS, the earthquake, and other devastation. Many will have one or both parents living who are either unable or unwilling to care for them. Therefore, the children are the ones that we will put our focus on in Haiti. My reflections of Haiti are mirrored in a few of the places we visited and the heroes that work there.

Haiti Children's Home
Tracy Snyder sent word asking if we could check on the Haiti Children’s Home (HCH) in Mirebalais. We traveled the gravel road there late in the afternoon. It was about a two hour journey from Port au Prince. We were told they were nearly out of food and several of the children had cholera. It was nearly dark when we arrived there, but with the help of our Haitian friends we were able to find this place tucked back on the banks of the river that is now carrying cholera to all of Haiti. The house had been damaged in the earthquake and a Dominican Republic team came in and built a make-shift orphanage out of plywood. I am not sure how it withstood hurricane Tomas, but it was there and full of children.

HCH is a ministry founded by Patricia & Melinda Smith to care for malnourished, premature, and abandoned children in Haiti. Many of these children are special needs children and it was told to me that because of their condition they will sometimes be left along the roadway. At the time of our visit, both of the Smiths were in the U.S. This mother/daughter team had returned to the U.S. so that the pregnant daughter could have her child, but the cholera outbreak was not allowing her to return at this time. Shay Hellmann and another young lady who had arrived in June were directing the ministry and the 30 Haitian workers who care for the children. This was a huge job, and it looked to me like “mission impossible.” But, they were handling it with God’s care and control.

This little fellow pictured is a picture of Haiti to me. You can see him in the walker, so little. Although he looks about six months old, we were told that he is four years old. Being underdeveloped and malnourished must have been an anomaly to the voodoo priest. They decided to worship their God of hate and fear by “passing him over the fire.” I am not sure what that phrase means exactly, but it left him burned and traumatized, and left me very angry. Yet, the heroes at the Haiti Children’s Home love and care for these children, fighting cholera and finding food wherever they can. We left them over 2,000 meals and about 5,000 doses of doxycycline. They are there today still working and caring for those children just because Jesus does. Please pray for them.

Ebenezer Church and Orphanage
Some Urbancrest members who went on the medical mission trip were at Ebenezer church last April. We discovered their church made of straw matting when we were there last February, and at that time they were caring for 23 children. The house they were staying in had only one-side roofed. The pastor, his wife, and their three children lived in the house with all the children sleeping on the floor. We had worked hard to find food for them (remembers ours didn’t arrive until early November). Although every team that went in after us took them food and medicine and we prayed for them a lot, we could not do anything else for them. Resources and food just did not get released. But, God was not counting on us. He had a totally different plan for Ebenezer.

You will see from the pictures that when we arrived almost everything we had dreamed of and prayed for, God had already accomplished there. The sponsor organization, Feed My Sheep, and Tom Sparks and his good church in Jacksonville, Florida had built a brand new church/school. The house has been expanded to house a boy’s dormitory, and a new girl's dormitory is now being built. The children (there are now 45) looked healthy and happy in their new environment. God is always working and caring for His little ones. Continue to pray for Pastor Renauld and his dear wife as they work to provide everyday for these little children.

New Mission Link (Dr. Bernard)

Last August, our team of twenty stayed at the Bethel Guest House. This is also the Haitian headquarters for Brent Gambrell Ministries and is where Urbancrest's mission intern Matt Prichard served last summer. It is the best that Haiti has to offer children. Dr. Bernard is a gracious man and loves the Lord. The Crèche houses 90 children from infants to age six that are all able to be adopted. New Mission Link facilitates the adoptions to the U.S. Over the years, they average about 50 adoptions per year. They also have orphanages for older children. Dr Bernard’s ministry is a credit to the Lord and His love for the children. The Bethel Guest House is a wonderful ministry that is a blessing to see and visit. It was great to get Larry connected with Dr. Bernard.

We visited several other orphanages and ministries during out time in Haiti. Although the conditions at each place vary, there is one thing that is true for all of them: We can’t feed and clothe all those in great need. We can’t fix the government or the culture. But, we can pack food and medical supplies and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to those we touch. The Lord Jesus can fix it and will--in His time, Haiti will glorify God.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reflections of Haiti - Part One

The most recent team from Urbancrest that headed to Haiti was in response to the arrival of the containers of food that had finally been released by the customs officials of Haiti. Urbancrest partnered with Larry Bergeron of A Child’s Hope International to pack Kid’s Against Hunger food that was shipped to Haiti in response to the January 2010 earthquake. Our first shipment left Cincinnati on February 1st and went through Jacksonville, Fl. to Haiti.

Though we were assured that the shipment of nearly 300,000 Kids Against Hunger meals, baby formula, canvas, and many other critical supplies would arrive in Haiti within a few weeks, that one shipment was not released for a long eight and a half months. Though every effort was made at great expense by Mission Harvest and Urbancrest, the government system in Haiti and other events caused this unfortunate situation. In the interim, Larry shipped 4 more containers and three of those had arrived. With these shipments now in country and available, it was time to go distribute this great amount of food and supplies. My personal reason for making the trip was to help in the distribution as well as to also assess the situation and ministries that we support or otherwise partner with. In addition to the food and other supplies, we were able to carry in over 30,000 doses of the antibiotic doxycycline which is greatly needed to fight the cholera epidemic that has now come to Haiti. Much of that was donated by the Warren County Health Department.

This was my third trip to Haiti since the earthquake. The rest of the team included Larry Bergeron of A Child’s Hope International, and Mick & Wanda Lovely who are the directors of Urbancrest Disaster Relief. This was the sixth trip with Urbancrest members involved. We have had 2 of our interns, Matt Prichard and Sarah Bickers, serve in Haiti for 6 to 12 weeks. Urbancrest has had a strong presence in Haiti, with nearly 30 people making the journey to serve the Lord in Haiti over the last 10 months.

Larry arranged for us to lodge at the guest house at Mission Lifeline in Arcahaie, Haiti. Their US headquarters is in Clay City, Kentucky. We were hosted by Donald & Pat Curtis. Pat is a great cook and they both went out of their way to see to our every need.

The Mission Lifeline compound is huge. In addition to two guest houses, there is a church, school, medical clinic, and a very large kitchen where a crew of cooks prepare 3,500 meals every day to feed children who would otherwise go hungry. Mission Lifeline also has several storage facilities that are used to house the food and other supplies. In addition to the meals prepared and distributed to orphanages in the area, they also load dry rice or Kids Against Hunger meals onto mules and distribute the food to orphanages in the mountains. The pictures below are of the Mission Lifeline compound and one of mules bringing food to these orphanages.

Much of our time at Mission Lifeline was spent loading the vehicles of various mission organizations as they came to pick up the food that Larry had allocated to them. Despite the lie that was propagated on Facebook, I really did do manual labor every day! We actually moved a full container load by hand into dump trucks, box trucks, tap taps, and whatever else was brought to haul the food to the ministry locations.

It is my intention to write several more blog posts about Haiti. In the meantime, please continue to keep the Haitian people in your prayers. We have returned home to the United States, but they are still there. This has been a traumatic year for them, as reflected in this Haitian artist's rendering of the earthquake.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Haiti Mission Team Update

We just got back an hour or so ago from Port au Prince. We went to Ebenezer this morning to talk with the pastor there and Richard at Feed My Sheep. We were able to take them more food and find out more about their work and who is helping them. They have a new church and are still seeing buildings go up.

This afternoon we took some supplies to Dr. Bernard's orphanage and I was able to introduce Larry to him. As we were leaving town, I got a text from Diane that told us there were riots going on in downtown Port au Prince. We were able to steer clear of the area and make it back safely. We came pretty close to them, and at one point were following a UN vehicle with soldiers in full riot gear (see picture below). After we got back to the guest house, we learned that at least 2 people were killed. Haiti is becoming unsafe.

We will leave for the airport in the morning at 6:30am and fly out at 9:55am if all goes well. Please pray that we are able to make it to the airport on time, and that there are no delays due to closed roads. We should fly into Cincinnati via Ft. Lauderdale at about 6:30pm.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Haiti Mission Team Update

Today we visited the Ebenezer church and orphanage. There has been a lot of building going on and there are new dormitory rooms and a new church that is being used for a school. They now have 45 orphans. We will take them food on Thursday. After we returned to Lifeline, we waited for ministries to come for their food allotment. Most were late and therefore we loaded the last truck after dark. One young man came seeking food for an orphanage on the west end of the island where the hurricane was the worst. Larry is going to find someone to go and see how they can best be helped. But, while he was here the young man was able to taste the Bread of Life and he prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior!

Tomorrow we have several people coming before 10am for food. After that, we will travel to Port au Prince to visit a couple of sites. Please pray for the timing on all of this. Our time is short here and we have a lot to do. We need things to work smoothly tomorrow, and since this is Haiti, we are asking for a miracle.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Haiti Mission Team Update

We are at Lifeline in Archaie. Everyone is doing very well-- tired, of course, but healthy. The weather here is pleasant. They have not had rain since Tomas left. They had 3 days of blinding rain but the tents are still standing. The Curtis' are praising God for the lifesaving suitcases full of doxycycline. Deaths are mounting and water is still dirty for many. Brent Gambrell Ministries just got here with a dump truck and a school bus full of young, healthy bodies to sort and load supplies to go to Dr. Bernard's orphanages.

We will probably go to Ebenezer tomorrow. So far, the plans for the week have not 'hiccupped'...but it's early...and this is Haiti. God is good. His word for today is Isaiah 42:3. Jesus is in control!

Keep praying for our team: Doss, Larry, Mick & Wanda

Friday, November 5, 2010

Salongo! Salongo!

“Salongo! Salongo! Why do you not answer when I call you?”

The young pastor calling me was smiling as he touched my elbow to gain my attention. It was the second morning that our Urbancrest team was ministering on Buvuma Island in Uganda. Charles Fry and I were teaching at the Buvuma Island Pastor Training School that George Smith had founded. The day before, the pastors had given me an African name, Salongo. I was not quite familiar with it yet. According to the pastors, the name meant “twins” because I brought teams to them and, as they explained, it meant double blessing or “double trouble.”

Well, it was true that I brought volunteer mission teams. This was my fourteenth team to Uganda and there were fourteen of us currently on Buvuma Island. Eight of the fourteen were returning for their fourth, fifth, or sixth year. Three were remaining in Uganda to work for an additional two months.

Buvuma Island is a chain of islands on Lake Victoria. It is remote and primitive. There are no roads, no electricity, and no resort hotels. It is estimated that 50,000 souls live there tucked away from the rest of the world and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our IMB missionaries George & Geraldine Smith are doing an awesome work there and have planted over twenty churches and started 5 schools.

Our teams go there to teach pastors and layman. We also teach women and children and help school teachers develop their abilities. Most of our volunteers are just everyday folks that sit in a pew on Sunday and go to the Sunday school class. But, they are following Jesus and He has given them a great passion to bring glory to His name.

Our purpose at Urbancrest is just that: to bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus and to make His name famous. For that reason, we send mission teams numerous places around the globe each year. Every year Urbancrest carries that name from Lebanon to Haiti, Argentina, Africa, and many places in between. There is a place for everyone to serve. You can go! When you go, God WILL use you to glorify His name.

In 2011, we have more than 15 trips planned. See the list below and begin now to pray. Begin the process of getting your passport if you do not have one already. Information meetings will be announced very soon. Some trips are starting to train now. Both Israel and Cuba are now forming and need you to go.

“If God desires every knee to bow to Jesus and every tongue to confess him, so should we. We should be ‘jealous’ (as Scripture sometimes puts it) for the honour of his name — troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed, and all the time anxious and determined that it shall be given the honour and glory which are due to it. The highest of all missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission (important as that is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing (strong as that incentive is, especially when we contemplate the wrath of God) but rather zeal — burning and passionate zeal – for the glory of Jesus Christ. … Before this supreme goal of the Christian mission, all unworthy motives wither and die.” --John Stott

Urbancrest Baptist Church Mission Trips 2011
Cuba ~ February 19-26, Team Leader: Doss Estep
Israel ~ February 12-26, Team Leaders: Mike & Darlys Bullock
Haiti ~ March TBD, Team Leader: Mick Lovely
Hawaii ~ March 24 - April 1, Team Leader: Shawn Peoples
Haiti ~ April TBD, Team Leader: Wanda Lovely
Appalachia ~ June TBD, Team Leader: TBD
Key West, Florida ~ June 2-9, Team Leader: Dave Bickers
Uganda ~ June 29 - July 16, Team Leaders: Doss Estep & Diane Lynch
Ukraine ~ July 10-17, Team Leader: Bob Grimshaw
Eastern Kentucky ~ July TBD, Team Leaders: Paul & Janet Boroff
Argentina ~ August TBD, Team Leader: TBD
Summer IMPACT West Central Association ~ July TBD, Team Leader: TBD
Haiti ~ August TBD, Team Leaders: Jeff & Deanne Clem
Uruguay ~ November TBD, Team Leader: David Coppedge

For more information please contact Doss Estep at 513.932.4405 or by email at destep@urbancrest.org.

You-Turn Mission Trips with Joe Veal 2011
Malawi, Africa ~ February 1-15, April 25 to May 9, July 18 to August 1, August 2-16, August 8-22, October 31 to November 14

Haiti ~ June 24-30

Dominican Republic ~ December 2-9

For more information about You-Turn trips, please contact Joe Veal at