Everyone said my time here would fly by. Back in October I thought they were crazy, now I guess they were right. Two weeks from today I'll be heading back to the States to begin a new season of life. I'm very excited about what the new season has in store for Becca and I as we begin our lives together. At the same time, I'm sad to see this season drawing to a close. I've been reading through the Psalms in the mornings lately and I was in Psalm 23 this morning. I remember back in August, as I was paying one last visit to CIU I spent some time seeking the Lord down by the prayer towers asking Him to prepare me for what I was about to do here in Haiti. He directed my attention to Psalm 23 and seemed to give me this sense that it was His word for me as I was preparing to leave. This morning, as I'm nearing the end of this season, I was able to look at that again and realize that particular Psalm really summarizes well what I've experienced this past 10 months. God has been faithful to me here and God has allowed me to do things that I never thought I'd have the opportunity to do. He's a good God and there is nothing more exciting than a life of service to Him.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
So far this has been a month of traveling. Two weekends ago now we took a group of 40 students out to Zanglais, Haiti for a weekend youth retreat. This has been an annual event for the youth for a few years now and as the time grew closer, they were pumped. Zanglais is on the southern coast of the country, close to the city of Les Cayes and right on the Caribbean Sea.
Getting there was an adventure in itself. We had two flatbed trucks that had been converted into "people carriers" and each of them held just over 20 people comfortably. Comfortable of course is a relative term here when it comes to transportation. We met at noon at Quisqueya Christian School, prayed, loaded up and hit the road. I drove the lead truck with one of our youth leaders riding shotgun so she could show me the way and Tim Banks followed in the CSI truck. I was a little concerned about driving such a big truck with so many people in it through downtown PAP as we made our way out to Route National #2 but we met little traffic and before we knew it we were through Carrefour with nothing but open road in front of us. At first the road was beautiful. It was paved, it had decent shoulders and it even had a dividing line running down the middle of it. I was thinking, man, if it's like this the whole way this drive will be cake. Well it wasn't long before we were driving through a river because the bridge was washed out. The pavement didn't last the whole trip either and we spent many miles dodging potholes and unmarked "speed bumps." I will say though that we drove through the most beautiful parts of Haiti that I've ever seen. We drove through lush green rainforest type stuff and climbed a beautiful mountain range that gave us a beautiful view of the sea as we descended. Finally after five hours of bouncing over Haitian roads we arrived at the guest house in Zanglais just in time for a great meal.
Everyone spent some time getting settled in their rooms and then we had an evening session where the speakers and all of us leaders shared our stories.
We had overbooked ourselves slightly at the guesthouse because so many students wanted to come and that meant that Rod, Tim and I had to camp out in the back of the trucks. This actually proved to be pretty nice. We backed the trucks up to the edge of this cliff/overlook type place and set up camp there. It was wonderful laying in bed at night looking out over the Caribbean Sea and hearing the waves hit the shore. There was also a great breeze coming off the sea that kept us cool and kept the mosquitoes away. I slept great.
Saturday and Sunday were spent hanging out, spending time at the beach across the street, playing games and having two sessions a day with our speakers.
The theme for the weekend was "Vox Dei" which means "Voice of God." We had two guys fly in from Austin, Texas to come and share with us: Zach and Jonathan and they did a wonderful job connecting with the kids.
Of course, as is the case anytime you get a bunch of teens together, there was some minor pranking going on during the night. Thankfully, no one was hurt and we managed to get the one guy that was stuck on the flag pole down safely using the guard's machete. You gotta love teens. Like any good leaders, Rod and I slept through the whole thing.
We finished the weekend off Sunday night with a bonfire and the students spent some time sharing some of the things God had taught them and also encouraging and affirming each other. It was a great end to a great weekend with an amazing group of students.
The next day we got up, had some breakfast, hung around for a bit in the morning and packed up. After lunch, we hit the road and made it back to Port-au-Prince sometime around 6:30pm.
Rod and I ended up having a house full that night as some of the kids parents couldn't drive into the city after dark due to restrictions their mission has put on them. We were all pretty tired though and it wasn't long before our living room was filled with guys stretched out where ever they could, sound asleep.
It's been such a blessing for me to be able to get to know these kids over this past year. They are really some of the greatest kids I've ever met. It is going to be so exciting to see what God does with each of them as they pursue His plan for their lives!
I remember thinking, as I was driving over the top of a mountain on the way to Zanglais and this beautiful view of the ocean came into view, I remember thinking: 'all I had to do was say "Yes."' I was thinking, here I am, in Haiti, driving through some of the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen, in this big truck with 20 of the most amazing kids I've ever met in the back of it and 20 more in the truck behind me, bringing them to a place where they're going to have a blast together and make memories that will stay with them the rest of their lives! I was thinking, what am I doing here? Is this really my life, or am I gonna wake up in a minute? How did I ever get to do stuff like this? The answer is: all I said was "Yes." All I did was agree to allow God to lead my life in whatever direction He wanted to. I'm only 26 and this is what He's decided to do so far - I can't wait to see what's next.
I know people think that agreeing to follow Jesus means you're signing up for a life of restrictions and a life that is boring, but I gotta beg to differ. Jesus wasn't kidding when He said that He came so that we might have abundant life.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Becca received a call today from Dallas Theological Seminary saying that I've been accepted into their Masters of Theology program. We also heard a week or so ago that I've been accepted into the Masters of Divinity program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Those are the two seminaries I applied to so now that we know we're in, it's decision making time. Please pray for us as we seek wisdom from God as to where He would have us to go in the fall. Also, pray that the Lord would provide tuition money for us and a teaching position for Becca in the place that we end up. This will be a faith venture for us so it will be interesting to see how God provides what we need.
Rod, Jenny and I are busy planning a Youth Retreat for the weekend after next. It should be cool. We have a speaker flying in from Austin, TX and we'll be heading out to a guest house near Cayes, Haiti on the Caribbean Sea. We've been trying to come up with some activites for the students to have available in between sessions. I stumbled across this idea this afternoon, what do you think?
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I've been thinking quite a bit today about the fact that my time here is winding down. I hopped in the car this afternoon and made my way over the bumpy streets full of trash to go and visit Maxime and his kids. I got stopped at a checkpoint along the way but luckily I was driving a car with it's papers in order this time. The cop was nice enough and let me pass without a hassle after he sneezed on my licence. I couldn't believe it, he actually took my licence and used it to block the stuff that was coming out of his nose as he sneezed. Oh well, that's what Purell is for right?
Anyway, as I was driving I had this feeling that I had to soak up everything I was seeing along the way because before long I'm going to be out of here. This year has been quite a year. Haiti is a part of me now more than ever before and it has shaped me over these past 8 months. I was thinking as I was driving about the fact that I'm scheduled to speak in Danville July 8th. How can I even begin to share this? How can I funnel this down into three points of a sermon? At this point I don't even know where to begin. Luckily, I've got some time.
It was good to be with Maxime again. His kids are very cute, after 8 months they have finally warmed up to me and love to share their toys with me when I get there. Maxime refuses to let me leave his store empty handed and today was no different. He slipped a box of soda in my car as I was leaving.
We've got a busy week coming this week. We have a team from good old South Carolina here this week to do a VBS at the Chapel for one of the local schools. Thursday morning Pastor Karl and I are heading over to the Ambassadors Residence for a meeting with her. Thursday afternoon I have a dentist appointment. I'm due for some time with a dentist and since it's about half the cost here I thought I'd give it a shot. Then Friday morning I'll be speaking during Chapel at Quisqueya Christian School. This week promises to be a week full of fun and I'm soaking it all up while I can.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
One of the first adjustments I had to deal with when I first arrived here back in August was how I was going to be called. Now I've been called alot of things before. Probably the most annoying is when people switch the first letters of my first and last names and second would be the whole Skywalker thing. I still have not seen those movies by the way. Anyway, my first day on the job I was introduced as Pastor Luke to the workers at the chapel. When I tried correcting Pastor Karl and told them to call me Luke he said "No, here you're Pastor Luke, you have to let people call you that, that is who you are." For awhile it was very uncomfortable for me and I would always be correcting people but gradually I've grown accustomed to it. Now, when I hear someone call "Pastor" I instinctively look to see what they want. This has been a year of changes for me.
In the neighborhood where the Chapel campus is located, we have a man named Monsieur Mosey. Mosey is an ex-Haitian Army leader and lives across the street from the Chapel. He also serves as the self-appointed mayor for our neighborhood. This turns out to be pretty helpful when people try to set things up in the neighborhood that don't belong.
A couple of months ago I was driving somewhere, I can't remember where, and I saw Mosey and the chapel guard, Milo, standing on a corner waiting for a tap-tap. I stopped, rolled my window down and asked Milo if they wanted a ride. He immediately started opening the door to hop in without telling Mosey what was going on. After a few seconds Mosey turns around with a puzzled look on his face trying to figure out what Milo was doing and whose car he was getting into. Finally, we met eyes and he exclaims "Oh, c'est Ti Pas, bon," then he hopped into the blazer and we made our way up the hill. Suddenly, I realized what he'd just said. "Pas" is short for "Pasteur" or "Pastor." "Ti" has a few functions in creole but the most common is as an adjective that you put in front of a noun to indicate a small size. For example: "Ti Moun" means "little person" literally, and is the word for "child." So, "Oh, c'est Ti Pas, bon" means "Oh, it's Little Pastor, good." Now, after I translated this in my head what I should have done is left it right there, but, it was kinda funny so I shared it with Karl and Ann later on that day. Since then the name has kinda stuck. I call Karl "Gwo Pas" which means "Big Pastor" or sometimes "Granmoun Pas" which means "Old Pastor" and he calls me Ti Pas.
While Dad and Ian were here we went for a short trip up to Ft. Jacques to help build some benches for a church up there. While there, a couple of people dropped the Ti Pas name within earshot of a couple of the Haitian Pastors we were working with. They though it was pretty funny and got a good, hearty Haitian laugh out of it.
A few weeks later, four Pastors from that same church came down the mountain to the Chapel to use our baptismal to baptize several of their people. When they arrived Karl and I went out to meet them and they jumped out of their cars and, with smiles on their faces exclaimed "Bonswa Ti Pas!" "Bonswa Gwo Pas!" It seemed that I made the mistake of thinking what happened on the mountain stayed on the mountain, but they remembered and again had a good, hearty Haitian laugh with us.
So, I've adjusted again. Some people here call me Luke, some call me Pastor or Pastor Luke and a growing number of people call me Ti Pas. I told Karl, when I have a church in the future I'm going to have that name made into a sign for my office door.
I will say, it's much better than Puke Lerkins.
Good Night all.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Several years ago, I don't know how many maybe 20 or more, a group of US Marines who were serving here in Haiti got together and said they'd like to form a little Sunday School where they could meet together and study the Bible in their heart language, English. That was the beginning of what is now Quisqueya Chapel. Today we have an average of 300 people coming together on Sunday mornings to worship in English. What started as a small Sunday School class is now a full fledged church that supports missionaries across the world, employs seven people (five Haitians and two Americans), has an active Youth Program with about 50 students, and has helped bring unity to the many different flavors of missionaries that have served in the country over the years.
A couple of months ago Pastor Karl was called to a meeting with one of the UN commanders at the base down by the airport to discuss the possibility of beginning to have a service in Spanish for UN personnel to attend. There are over 200 countries represented here in Haiti right now by people working with the UN. The majority of the UN personnel are Spanish speaking.
Yesterday the first Spanish speaking service was held at the chapel. At about noontime a big white truck with the black UN letters on the door pulled into the Chapel parking lot and unloaded about 60 UN soldiers and personnel. Behind them was a smaller SUV carrying the commander, his three bodyguards and their machine guns. I stayed through the service with Marc. Although I couldn't understand much of what was going on I was moved to see these soldiers finally able to worship in their heart language. They seemed refreshed and like they really enjoyed the opportunity, several of them were moved to tears.
I don't know what will come of this. For now they will continue coming on Sunday afternoons and will get various speakers to fill the pulpit.
Things aren't easy here for the UN. Many of the Haitians ridicule them when they patrol the streets and shoot at them when they go in places like Cite Soleil. When I talk to people on the street they say that MINUSTAH (the french acronym for the UN mission here) is just a bunch of tourists who have come to impregnate our women. Now there has been some of that going on, but Haiti is enjoying relative peace now and that has come because of what the UN has done.
So, a ministry like this has been needed for quite some time.
Pray for the leaders: Juan and Juan Carlos who have worked hard to make this happen, pray that the Lord will really take this ministry and grow it so that more of the Spanish speaking troops can hear the message and then carry it back to their own countries.
I'll try to keep this updated as things progress.