Friday, April 6, 2012

Return to Haiti

 I returned to Haiti this February. I had not been there since November 2010. I traveled there a total of three times in 2010. The first time was in February, about a month after the January 11 earthquake that devastated a country that was already besieged by death and poverty. Our team of four men went to Haiti intending to distribute a container of Kids Against Hunger food that Urbancrest and A Child’s Hope International had shipped. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, the shipments were held up in a Florida port. You can read about that trip online at the Cincinnati Enquirer website:

  Mick Lovely and I returned to Haiti in June 2010 for the same reason and with similar results, except that the Urbancrest container was now in Haiti but being held in customs. We could not get it released, therefore Mick & Wanda Lovely, Larry Bergeron, and I returned again in November when we were sure the containers (by this time there were five) had cleared Haiti customs and had been delivered to our distribution site. Those events were chronicled on this blog in a series entitled “Reflections from Haiti” and are still available to read.

  In the years and months after the January 11, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Urbancrest has been very active working with many ministry partners. In addition to the teams I have served with, we have sent teams from Urbancrest led by Wanda Lovely and Jeff & Deanne Clem to Brent Gambrell Ministries (BGM) and Lifeline ministries. We have also sent two Urbancrest mission interns, Matt Prichard and Sarah Bickers, to longer-term ministry with BGM and the Florida Baptist Convention’s “Rebuild Haiti” effort.

 More recently, Matt Prichard was deployed to Haiti as a long-term missionary with the Hands and Feet Project, serving in their orphanage in Jacmel. The Hands and Feet Project (HAF) is a ministry of the now disbanded Christian music group Audio Adrenaline. I left for Haiti on February 10, 2012 with the purpose of being an encouragement to Matt, seeing where he lived and worked, and assessing the situation to see how Urbancrest could become ministry partners with HAF. I also wanted to assess the feasibility of sending short-term mission teams to work in this location. Joining me were Jeff Clem, Sarah Bickers, and Sherry Ratliff (who was going on her first mission trip).  

  HAF has two orphanages in Haiti. Steve & Carrie Mulligan are the directors of the Jacmel orphanage. They have three children of their own which brings the total number of children to 70. The other American staff members working with them are two short-term helpers named Phoebe and Zach. Matt and one other young man are both there long-term. The ministry employs many Haitian nannies, cooks, and maintenance personnel.

  Jacmel is a beautiful city on the ocean in the south of Haiti. It has the beauty of the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. But, Jacmel was also hit hard by the earthquake and still bears the scars. The 67 children in the orphanage also bear many scars from the earthquake, although not all of their scars are visible to visitors.

 Our team arrived in the early evening on Saturday, toured the facilities, and was given an orientation as we settled in to the “big house.” You may remember the Audio Adrenaline song:

It's a big, big house with lots and lots of room
A big, big table with lots and lots of food
A big, big yard where we can play football
A big, big house. It’s my Father’s house

 That is what the team dorms are called. All the buildings are concrete and stucco. The “big house” was under construction to increase the number of beds from 16 to 24.

 On Sunday morning, the children were walked next door to the church for Sunday school. The church is a long hall with pews and chairs. When we arrived an hour later, it was packed with approximately 300 children and adults. After standing outside a few moments, a pew miraculously opened up near the front of the church. As we were being guided to our seats, I noticed that a group of children had been moved to the front and were sitting on the floor. As we sat down, I sarcastically whispered to ask Jeff Clem if it bothered him that we had taken the seats of those sweet children. He either didn’t hear me or it didn’t bother him because he was smiling as he sat comfortably down. But, in just a few minutes the children were all back! They each found a lap, a leg, or squeezed their little bodies in between us. They listened a little to what was going on, took naps, played with the Americans' shirt buttons, pulled on Sherry's long hair, or just played a little with each other. For the most part they were really very good during the nearly two hour service, although the little boy on my lap flipped Zach’s ear a couple of times, and a little girl managed to pee on me before it was over!

 The orphanage at Jacmel is a happy place. The children and workers are busy every day schooling, cleaning, being children, and caring for children. It is to the credit of the Mulligan’s, Matt, and the Haitian workers that the children are settled in and secure. Just a few months ago, seven armed men broke into the compound in the middle of the night and robbed them. This caused them to move the children to a sister orphanage over two hours away. The children lived there in crowded conditions while the facilities at Jacmel were fortified. The place is very secure now and has cameras, fences, and an armed guard.

 I spent a good bit of time with Matt and we talked through many of the problems and situations he had experienced while in Haiti that short time. As a team, we were able to be a blessing to the orphanage by painting their office, cleaning the storage depot, and unloading a couple of trucks for them. Sherry even learned to cook some Haitian food! Our desire in sending teams to Hands and Feet is to connect them with other ministries and those who need Christ. We are working toward that as we plan for our Urbancrest team to serve there in July.

  After we left Jacmel, we spent a couple of nights at the Florida Baptist Guest House in Port au Prince where Sarah Bickers served twice as an intern in the fall of 2010 and spring of 2012. I was encouraged for the first time in all my trips to Haiti to see that the largest tent cities had been dismantled and replaced with permanent homes. They look like brand new subdivisions with very small houses (12’X16” being the largest). One of the things that really blessed me was to see two Baptist church plants in the midst of these houses. I know that this is something that God is doing, and we as a church want to be involved. Haiti is slowly making progress.

 Pray for Haiti! Pray that we can have 24 team members go to Jacmel this July. That is all we can take, so sign up early. Pray for Jeff & Deanne Clem as they prepare and lead the team. Pray for the church plants in Port au Prince as we seek to find ways to partner with them. Pray especially for Matt and the Mulligans and those that work with them. Pray for the children. Pray that as the Gospel goes out through the ministry of Hands and Feet in Jacmel that lives will be transformed and souls saved.

I want to be your hands.
I want to be your feet
I'll go where you send me
I'II go where you send me
And l try, yeah I try
To touch the world like
You touched my life
And I find my way
To be your hands

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mark Your Calendars

April 3 - Faith Promise Stewardship Team Meeting @ 7:00pm in Room 202

April 4 - No Intern Class – Spring Break

April 14 - Short-term Mission Team Leader Training from 8:30am-3:00pm in Room 203/204
Contact Doss Estep at if you are interested in leading a short-term mission trip.

April 15 - Uganda Team Meeting @ 4:00pm in Room 206

April 15 - Local Missions report in the evening classes

April 22 - Hawaii Team Meeting @ 4:00 in Room 206

April 22 - Intern mission report in the evening classes

April 29 - Mission Staff Meeting from 5:00pm-7:00pm in Room 206

April 30–May 1 - Church Planting School in Columbus for UBC Church Planters