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haiti

Go to Haiti with Me in 2017

I’ve been going to Haiti a few times per year since 2010. With each trip my convictions are re-enforced:

  • The Holy Spirit is on the move in Haiti. When you go with a heart to serve, you are filled more than you can give. The church is exploding in growth as communities see the church in action.
  • A century of dependencies is being undone by building strategic partnerships that elevate the role of local church leadership.

I’ll cut right to the chase.

Next summer I’m headed back to the south western part of Haiti, the Les Cayes area, to expand on some of the ministry partnerships I’ve been part of the past several years.

As you may or may not know… that part of Southern Haiti was most effected by Hurricane Matthew and more recently horrible flooding. The small village I worked in 2 summers ago was completely devastated. Literally, anything not built out of concrete block was destroyed and even a lot of the stuff built from concrete was severely damaged. (A very small percentage of homes are built using concrete, so most of the homes were completely demolished)

So, as you might imagine I’m anxious to get back there, to continue what’s already been started but also help however I can.

This trip next summer will be working with families directly impacted by these natural disasters on behalf of the local church, simultaneously serving the needs of the community and building up the local church.

And I’d love to have you join me! My July 22-28 trip is currently half full. I’m looking for a total of 40 more people. My trip is operated by our long-time missions partner, Praying Pelican Missions. Your team will have it’s own trip, but each evening all of the various teams will come together to share stories, worship, and celebrate what God’s doing through our groups.

The cost is $695/per person not including air fare. That’ll cover food, transportation, housing, and ministry stuff.

If you want to learn more or register your group here’s the link.

If you’ve got questions about the trip that you want to talk to me about, drop me a line!

Categories
haiti

Let’s Lift Up Haitian Leaders

Megan and I just returned from a two-week trip to Haiti Tuesday night. In February, 2010 I left a country brought to it’s knees by a devastating earthquake with a simple promise: I’ll keep coming back until it’s clear I’m no longer needed. 

Since then I’ve seen the needs of Haitian churches adapt. Immediately after the quake the churches task focused on disaster relief– meeting the physical needs of the community, literally providing food and shelter to the displaced, caring for and protecting the orphaned and the widowed. As those needs were met the local church found opportunities to minister to the spiritual needs of the community, serving those who mourned the loss of family and those struggling with the lingering question: Why did I survive but not ____?

And now, with the earthquake in the rearview mirror and churches full as a culture embraced a church that truly works as Good News in the Neighborhood, the Haitian church is experiencing a new challenge.

Actually, it’s an old challenge.

Will Haitian church leadership stand on their own? Or will new dependencies on outside help re-emerge?

The reason we do short-term missions through Praying Pelican Missions the way we do– where we quite literally serve under the authority of local church leadership– isn’t because we can’t do everything. It’s because we want to strengthen the local church. We want to do short-term mission trips in a way that builds up… not builds dependencies.

The 2010 earthquake destroyed more than buildings, it also shook loose old habits, finally putting to rest something we refer to as the “White Savior Complex” where outsiders come and do stuff.

That’s where you and I come in

This is the heart of PPM missionaries Almando and Cassie Jean-Louis. They want to continually build into their staff and partner pastors– encouraging and empowering them– so that the work of PPM is never seen as outsiders bringing help we couldn’t do ourselves and is instead legitimate partnership.

Today I’m asking that you consider joining me in helping to raise about $9000. These monies will be used to gather, invest in, encourage, and build up two different groups of critical leaders– the staff that leads trips in Haiti and their partner pastor couples.

The staff retreat is about $3000. This will get the staff together one last time at the end of the summer to celebrate all that God has done through them over the summer, ending the season full of encouragement and leadership development.

The pastor retreat is about $6000. This will help gather all of the Haitian church partnership pastors, and their wives, for a couple of days. There they will cast vision for the continued development of the partnership, share best practices, pray together, and build up unity among them. When I talked to the pastor’s about this gathering the #1 thing they looked forward to about it was the unity… no where else in their lives are they able to reach across denominational lines and pray for one another, get to know one another. It’s truly a special and unique gathering.

Here’s How to Give

Both of these retreats are coming up quickly. I’d love it if you could help me make these happen with a gift in any amount.

Here’s the link to donate

Make sure to add a note to indicate that the funds are for the PPM Haiti Staff Retreat. If you want more information about the cost of these events or just want more information about them, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me through my blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Categories
haiti

Investing in Long-Term Relationships

At the chewy center of Praying Pelican Missions is the local church pastor.

Organizationally, they have a heartfelt desire to put the pastor’s vision for the church first and the needs of the visiting missionaries under that. So, whenever possible, short-term mission team stay with the pastor in his church or even at his house.

But who are these pastors? What are they like?

Over the past six years that I’ve been coming to Haiti I’ve had the glorious opportunity to meet with and hear from dozens of pastors.

Before you can understand the pastors you need to understand a little bit about the role of the church in Haitian culture.

Unlike in the United States, the government does not provide a safety net for the poor.

Some people, myself included, would like to see American churches more involved in the social welfare of our communities. But the reality is that programs like WIC and welfare make sure people don’t starve. All children under 18 years old have access to free public education. And in most states the poor have access to Medicaid, housing assistance, and other things which look people who need help.

In Haiti, this work largely falls to the local church. It’s not something they “should” do. It’s an expectation that the local church helps the poor in very practical ways. I’ve met pastors and church leaders who offer feeding programs, operate schools, run medical clinics, build and maintain sanitation systems, and last week a team spent time working on a local library. One of my favorite pastors, Pastor Jean Obed Delcy, I lovingly refer to as “the mayor” of his town.

So, when you meet with local pastors in Haiti, you automatically need to know they are heavily invested in both the ministry of their church as well as meeting the practical needs of their community.

Haitian pastors are mostly male, almost always fun-loving and full of smiles, warm and quick to welcome you with a hug, universally tired from long days, no-nonsense and ready to get down to business, well-trained– seminary is just the beginning of their training, and infinitely patient. Oh, I almost forgot, most of them are paid very little or unpaid altogether. So they do all of this for their church but often times have another business or job!

So who are these pastors? They are passionate men of God who work serve in harsh conditions all of their lives. What are they like? They are an inspiration. You can’t help but admire these men.

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with two pastors about their lives in ministry– specifically life in ministry with their spouses.

Meet Pastor Docteur and His Wife Jacqueline

A: Have you always lived in Hinche? Were you born here?

Pastor: We are mostly from the north part of the country. I was born in a small town. We now live in the central part but I’m from the north part. So my wife was from the same area. We went to primary school together. We used to go to the same church, a missionary church. So we grew up together. We used to share spiritual activities because we went to the same church, prayer groups, choirs, and things like this.

A: Tell me about your church. How did you get started in Hinche?

Pastor: This church was started in a small room, close to this building, (pointing to the building next door of a small radio station) and it was in 1983 that we started here. I got to study for your years at the Bible college but they gave us money for supplies. So when I got back in December 1986.

We started with the church in 1983, working with children. Now after a year the room was pretty full. So we bought the house down the road from the church and after some years the house downtown became pretty full. Then in 2001, we started wit this building of the current church. The Lord has blessed us very much.

A: What are some challenges that you face in Hinche? What are some difficulties?

Pastor: Some challenges. You know Haiti is a poor country? As pastor in this country. You know how it is. You don’t have to take care of just your family. You have to provide food for people in the community. You have to provide opportunities for the children to go to school. Like when school is ready to start, you will have a lot of people coming to the pastor and asking for money to pay for school fees. How can you help me? And I can’t even provide food for them… how can I provide for their education? Maybe in the United States it it is different. In Haiti, the pastor doesn’t have to only take care of the church spiritually, but also physically. You don’t have enough for your own family, but you also have to take care of everyone else. It’s a big challenge.

And some of the people they don’t even have a house. So this is a challenge. The church sometimes needs to provide a room for them to live. Actually, the church is trying to build a place for some of them to live. Even when some of them die you need to take care of them. It’s a lot of challenges.

A: How do the challenges of ministry impact your marriage?

Pastor: Sometime we are discouraged with the attitude of some of the christians from the church. You are trying to help them but they don’t understand what you are trying to do.

A: Did Madame Docteur see herself in ministry as a little girl? Did she always see this life for herself or was that something she did because of you?

[laughs are shared]

Pastor: Her father was a pastor. She used to work with her father, so she had some training before they got married, during her early age, for ministry because her father was the pastor.

A: How did you know you wanted to marry her?

Pastor: [he giggles, HUGE smiles] It’s a big and a good question. I know I was going to marry her. The first thing I did, I prayed to God, chose for me a girl who can be my wife. I think I received revelation from God to chose her. (Celine Dion’s “To Love You More” in the background… IT’S TOO GOOD!) Because I was a Christian and she was a Christian. Everything we would like to do, we knew we would go to God first.

To Jacqueline from Annie: How do you view your role in this ministry?

I always knew I would marry a pastor, that God would put a pastor on my path. I give myself to the ministry.

From my childhood, I had this heart for ministry.

A: Specifically, does she work with women and moms?

Pastor: She works wit the women, children, and she is involved with the men. She has a women and men’s singing group.

A: Do you have a place that you go to rest and recuperate in the ministry? Maybe home to visit family or just something you do in your marriage?

Pastor: That’s not happened often. Sometimes when we cannot do it when we would like to. More often what happens is that we go with friends and we can go to some place and spend some time out of the ministry, out of the house, and we can get rest.

A: It takes someone else to tell you to do it?

Pastor: Yes.

Meet Pastor Valcourt and his wife

A: I’m curious how long you have been married?

Pastor: December 23rd I am celebrating 20 years. Since then we have two girls and one boy.

A: How did you meet your wife?

Pastor: [laughing] I met with my wife at that time. She was one of my neighbors friends, he knew both of us. He invited me to go and visit a church and she was there.

She used to come visit her friend, who is my neighbor. When I went to visit her church I saw that she was very active, she had a lot of responsibilities, I saw that she had a lot of activities in the church. At that time I was also one of the leaders here in this church (Cote Plage) even though I was not yet a pastor. I saw in her someone that I can love and work together in that way.

Through my neighbor we became friends. So when I told her that I loved her, she was surprised, she didn’t have that in mind.

And then after that we realized that– I realized and she realized that God had made us as the perfect ones for each other.

A: Did you both grow up in church families?

Pastor: Yes. Her dad was the pastor. In my family, only my mother was a Christian but my dad was not. So when I got married, my mom was not a Christian, but then she became a Christian.

A: So, Madame Valcourt knew what she was getting into because she knew what the life of a pastor’s wife was?

Yes, she knew that. She always testified that her mom used to welcome all the missionaries who would come. So she was ready for that. Because the way we do ministry together, it’s like she was used to that in her family. You know, welcoming the missionaries and all that. I can confirm all that.

A: What are her gifts?

Pastor: She composes music, she leads worship, she can preach, she is a teacher for the children at the church, she used to teach kindergarten, she is a mom, she knows how cooks well, she studied culinary in school, as well she has her own school at Mariani where she teaches the youth how to cook. And she knows how to sew. She makes all the uniforms at the school. And she works in the social area and she also works in the special.

A: Madame Valcourt is an amazing woman!

Pastor: What are things you remember about the last pastor’s conference?

So the thing was… it was about unity! It was a vision for unity. We had all the denominations, even the Catholic priest, and we sat together and met together. We didn’t talk about our doctrines because that was not the goal of the conference. So we sat together, to feel the unity, and PPM always shows that unity works– just like when teams move like 200 cinder blocks together– that’s a symbol for how we can all work together on the same vision. So we took that moment to share our visions for our churches together. And now we have contacts with all of the pastors so we can stay connected with one another.

I had the honor to stand in that conference as the first beneficiary of PPM. I remember when they came in August 2010. For me, from that partnership, all the other churches can learn about how they can benefit from a relationship with PPM.

A: Why would it be a benefit to have the pastor’s wives attend the conference?

Pastor: After each conference, the past conferences we’ve had, I always share with my wife everything that happens, the theme and all of that. It would be a big benefit if my wife could ask questions. I don’t know if my wife will be in the same meetings as I am, but if she is at the conference she is going to benefit a lot and that would help me in my ministry.

In the same way I hang out with the other pastors, sharing my experiences, my wife would be able to do the same.

A: How often are you able to get away with your wife alone?

Pastor: [A long pause… HUGE smile. Really the smile tells it all.] Because of all of our responsibilities we don’t do that often. This is something that we are working on and trying to do that more often. But, you know, when we have some days off we try to take some time off. We try to make time at night to take time and talk. And with the kids, too. There is time we do that with other people, too. So what we do every day is that we always pray for the ministry together.

As I’m a musician and I can compose music, too. So when she has to compose music for the ladies sometimes we work together. So that’s a way we spend time together, working together to serve the church.

Expanding the Pastors Conference

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with Cassie Jean-Louis about my upcoming trip. She’s been praying about their upcoming Pastors Conference, where she and Almando gather together all of the PPM partner pastors for a couple days to pray and share vision for all that God is doing.

Cassie’s heart is to expand the purpose of this Pastors Conference to include their wives. In previous year, it’s been good, but they’ve squeezed 3 guys into hotel rooms… literally strangers sharing a bed. To do this, she is hoping to raise about $6000.

The Smile Says it All

As we were interviewing pastors and their wives, during each interview I made sure to ask when was the last time they’d been alone together. And, universally, they’d stare at each other and smile… you know… they smiled in that way a husband and wife smile at one another.

I’ve got a lot of friends in ministry. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re in ministry. And you know just how important it is to get away from the ringing phone and the people coming to the office and all of that. That’s why this Pastors Conference is so important. Yes, of course, it’s about getting PPM partner pastors away to share vision and strategy for the ministry to come. But it’s also about Almando and Cassie ministering to these pastor couples who are integral to the success of the ministry in Haiti.

Please consider helping me make the chewy center of PPM missions in Haiti, the pastors, just a little bit more sweet.

How to Give

You can donate at this link.

Make sure to add a note to indicate that the funds are for the PPM Haiti Staff Retreat. If you want more information about the cost of these events or just want more information about them, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me through my blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Categories
haiti

Genuine Partnerships Flow Through Local Leadership

Genuine partnerships. Long-term relationships. Sustainable ministry. 

Those are the three pillars of Praying Pelican Missions. Those aren’t marketing slogans. As I’ve seen over and over again those pillars are the secret sauce of what sets PPM apart from everyone else doing short-term missions. Hearing those values pour out of the mouth’s of staff and then seeing those lived out on the field each time I’m here… this is why, I believe, they’re the best at short-term missions. It’s so simple and difficult at the same time.

They don’t have values on a wall. They live them out every day.

Wrapping Up a Special Summer

I was here at about the same time last year. My trip last summer was great. But something is noticeably different in 2016.

At this point in the summer most of the trip leaders are in their final days. They’ve been welcoming teams and shepherding them through trips week-after-week since early June. Some of them are able to get away for a few days while others run from start to finish with little more than a day off to do their laundry, handle some paperwork, and get ready to welcome the next team.

It’d be totally understanding if they were a bit cranky. Since we’re friends I’d expect them to share daydreams with me about getting back to their daily lives. That’d be perfectly natural, right? Instead, every staffer seems to be dreading the end of the summer season.

Sure, they’d like to catch up on sleep. Sure, they’ve each got a few wounds to heal. But everyone I’ve hung out with over the past few days is sad to see this summer end. It’s been special. When Annie, Mel, and Anuel picked Megan and I up on Wednesday morning they were sleepy, it was 7 o’clock in the morning, but they were downright cheerful about our 4 hour drive up to Hinche. Later that night, when I first saw a veteran leader and full-time PPM staffer from Ohio named Lonnie, he first told me how dead tired he was after a week of ministry. Then, with his body melting steadily into his bunk, he proceeded to talk my ear off for an hour sharing stories of all that he’s seen God do on trips all summer.

He was ready to go home. But he was still holding onto the summer.

Local Leadership

This summer about 70% of the staff are Haitians. These highly skilled, highly trained, and highly motivated local leaders serve teams at every level. In some cases, the only American PPM staff serving on trips come along as assistant trip leaders, helping make sure everything translates across language and cultural barriers and posting a daily trip journal. Why? Because the national leaders have learned how to do everything. Haiti Operations Generalist Annie Schoessler shared with me, “I’ve almost worked myself out of a job and I love it.

One of the things I love about working alongside PPM is how fair they are as an organization to their staff. If you’re excellent at your job you can earn more responsibilities and opportunities regardless of nationality.

I want to introduce you to a couple of these amazing leaders who I had the chance to interview recently.

Meet Nadege

I first met Nadege in 2015. One quality that sticks out to me about her is how sensitive she is to the Holy Spirit as she works in ministry. For example, I was with her last summer as she lead a group of Americans around a community in south Haiti doing tree ministry. Tree ministry is a modification of door-to-door evangelism where teams go around the community meeting with neighbors on behalf of the church, offering to plant a tree in their yard, [deforestation is a major problem throughout Haiti] and asking community members if they’d like prayer.

As you can imagine, tree ministry puts a lot of pressure on the Haitian staff because they are trying to keep track of their group PLUS trying to translate conversations and prayers PLUS trying to make sure that the experience is a positive one for both the trip participants and community members alike. Our group did a lot of walking, lot of talking, and a lot of tree planting. While our energy faded in the withering heat hers increased. While we felt awkward meeting new people her disarming smile and straight-forward way opened up hearts and removed suspicion. She was tender and pastoral and inspiring.

You might think someone like that grew up in church or was a pastor’s kid. That’s not the case with Nadege. While she went to church off and on growing up she didn’t really get serious about her faith until her teenage years. When I asked her about her church life now her face lit up, she loves her church and goes year-round with some fellow PPM staff, in many ways they are her adoptive family.

Like lots of people her age she’s enjoying ministry while also pursuing her career. During the summer and during breaks she works with PPM, but otherwise she is studying to be a nurse.

Nadege is super positive so I had a hard time pulling out of her something that she finds hard or frustrating about her work leading trips. Finally, after some prodding, she shared how managing teams expectations is hard. Teams sometimes use language about bringing God to Haiti and it can be hard for them to wrap their minds around the fact that God is automatically active everywhere, all the time. Teams learn that they aren’t coming to bring God to Haiti but to encounter God outside of their own culture. When I asked her what she hopes teenagers will take home from their experience here, she paused for a long time to make sure she said it just right: “I hope teams go home with a vision to do what we’ve done here back home.”

Amen.

That’s my hope, too.

Over and over I’ve seen people come with a heart to give, postured to pour themselves out– but they go home filled up in a new way, having been ministered to as they serve. When they try to pour themselves out their cup is filled, overflowing. Like Nadege said, my hope is that they take that experience… that new thing they learned about serving God… and do it back home. In a week you can make an impact. But in a lifetime you can make a difference.

Meet James

James grew up as a church kid. Except for a time in his teenage years when he wanted to learn what like would be like outside of the church, James has always gone to church with his mother, brothers and sisters– being involved in all sorts of aspects of his church.

Today, after living for a while with his brothers on their own, one of his older brothers got married so he had to move back home with his mom. When he’s not working for PPM he’s working on his carpentry skills, there’s tons of building going on throughout Haiti and a skilled carpenter stays very busy.

A couple of years ago his brother Rudy, another PPM staff member, asked him to get involved leading trips. It took a little convincing but after his first summer he really fell in love with it. “The best part of working with PPM I get to use all of my gifts. For example, I play guitar, I love to talk, I have some leadership skills, I speak English, I try to make people comfortable by being funny. By being in a place where you can use all of these gifts is great.”

I asked him, “If you weren’t leading trip with PPM, what would you be doing?” With big smile he said, “Um, leading trips. I love it.”

Jokes. James is full of jokes.

When I asked him to describe more about what he likes in leading trips he said, “It’s getting to know new people, making new friends, and also seeing old friends come back– I love those reunions. I enjoy the challenge of getting to know people, each team is different, and them leaving at the end week wanting to come back and request me to lead their next trip. I also love working with the children in the communities.”

Why do kids come out of the woodwork here?

“It’s part of our culture. They enjoy people coming and meeting people. They want to try everything. They want to grab your phone and try the filters on Snapchat. They just want to have fun.”

That’s been my experience, too. Haitians love languages and learning about different cultures. There’s an inviting innocence to that which makes it fun and easy for everyone.

Is there something that drives you crazy about Americans?

“To be honest, the biggest thing is assuming things. I don’t find that a lot but I do find it sometimes. People get so caught up in what they think about our country that they aren’t even really here. If you are here to experience something, you need to be fully here, you can’t be thinking about home. You need to be open to experiencing the full potential of the trip. Another other thing that is hard is when teams think they are going to bring God down here. I don’t like when people think that they are bringing God here. Think about it… “Where isn’t God?” It’s OK to come here with some expectations. But the problem is when you are trying to live into your own expectations instead of what’s really happening. People are sometimes looking for moments that they expected, like “Haiti is a dirty country.” They are looking for that and sometimes that’s not true, so it becomes a distraction as they look for it. They get to the point where they so believe in their expectations that all they are looking for is to validate what they already thought. And that’s hard.

What are you hoping they take home?

“First of all– God. To know that He’s everywhere, that they need to rely on Him. Second of all, you should never judge a book by it’s cover. You have to read it first. I want them to come down here to find God, or maybe find him in a different way, and know that He is everywhere. I also want them to go home knowing that we are all the same. We are real people, we have feelings, the differences that we have are just cultural. God has placed us where we need to be because He knew where you needed to be. He loves us the same.

Investing and Celebrating Local Leaders

These are two example of PPM’s Haitian leaders. There’s an incredible team being built here with much to be celebrated.

But it’s not without it’s challenges. For example, at the beginning of the summer Praying Pelican Missions gathers it’s top leadership in the United States to build into the staff, to cast vision, and to share encouragement across all of the countries they work in. But because of the costs and visa situation it’s not been possible to get all of the Haitian staff who would normally be invited to those meetings.

But, like ministry often teaches us, when something comes up as a difficulty you end up seeing it as a opportunity. Full-time missionaries Almando and Cassie Jean-Louis are hoping to gather the Haitian staff this fall, to celebrate all God has done and continue building into their team as they look forward to fall 2016 trips and the 2017 season.

Their hope is to create a gathering of Haitian staff (and their spouses, kids) at a resort for 2 days for encouragement and celebration.

That’s where you and I come in. To do that we need to raise about $3000. (enough for 30 people) I hope you can join me in investing in the continued development of these leaders by pitching in to help make this retreat happen. Whether you and your team have been personally impacted by this team or whether you’re just learning about the ministry of PPM in Haiti for the first time, together we can help this hard-working team finish off their summer right.

Here’s the link to donate

Make sure to add a note to indicate that the funds are for the PPM Haiti Staff Retreat. If you want more information about the cost of these events or just want more information about them, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me through my blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Categories
haiti

In Haiti… For a While

IMG_8887Hi. My name is Adam McLane and I’m addicted to going to Haiti.

How many times have you been to Haiti?” That’s a question I hear quite frequently when I meet people on trips. “A lot” is my new response. I suppose I could go back and count, but it’s easier to just say that I’ve been here a lot.

This trip has two distinct parts and one special bonus.

The bonus is that Megan, my 15 year old daughter, is with me. This is her first mission trip and second time out of the country. That she’d even be willing to spend 14 days with me is enough… it’s so fun for me that she gets to meet a lot of my friends in Haiti and experience a whole bunch of new stuff. It makes a dad’s heart happy to share what he loves with his kids. I’ve been looking forward to it and so far she’s doing great.

IMG_8853The first part of the trip, from Wednesday until Monday, is being spent visiting with our missions partners in Haiti. We’ve been going around and visiting church leaders and Haitian staff, collecting stories that I’ll share here on the blog next week.

The second part of the trip, next Monday until we leave on August 9, Megan and I will be joining the high school team from our church. There we’ll work with our sister church in Carrefour, investing in the church’s ministry to youth.

From Then to Here

IMG_8875As I’ve shared on previous trips… things have shifted in Haiti. We are well past emergency relief after the 2010 earthquakes. At this point so much of the work being done is building up the local church, who often act as the social net for the poorest of the poor in each community. So far this week I’ve already had the opportunity to visit with social entrepreneurial non-profits, Papillon Enterprises and Haiti Made. These types of NGO’s are exciting and new– even two years ago they weren’t thriving like they are now. These are exciting to visit, doing very well, and are totally gorgeous (and tasty!) pit stops for visitors.

You can follow along to the more minute details of my trip on Twitter and Instagram.

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haiti

I Got Sick in Haiti But You Should Still Go

I was accidentally prophetic. In February I wrote a post called Zika and Haiti and Why You Should Still Go:

This is the great advantage of working with the local church in Haiti through Praying Pelican Missions. You will be the guest of local ministry leaders, people who are living with zika every day, who will go above and beyond to make sure that every detail of the trip is well thought out and safe for you. This extends far beyond mosquitos! Where you sleep, what you eat and drink, where we travel… all of these things are done in a way that manages the risk for you.

There’s no guarantee that you won’t get sick.

And you know what? I got sick with Zika [or something just like it.] I started feeling ill on my flight from Miami to San Diego last Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning I was feeling very sick. And by Wednesday afternoon I was so sick and delirious that Kristen made me go to Urgent Care. From there I spent Wednesday through Sunday recovering to the point I am now.

Did I have Zika? Was it something else? What was it? The truth is we’ll never know for certain because I wasn’t tested for anything because I’m not high risk for complications, only pregnant women are. I had most of the symptoms of it but among my symptoms are a bunch of other possibilities, all with the same treatment of rest and hydration. Frankly it doesn’t matter!

Getting Sick Isn’t the Point

Going is the Point. 

You could get sick with the flu at home. You could get food poisoning on a cruise. There will be places in the United States to contract Zika (or worse) soon enough. The simple fact is, for me, that getting sick on a mission trip bears no consideration from future involvement. I wasn’t thrilled with being sick, I certainly don’t recommend it as a way to lose weight, but all-in-all I’d rather go in obedience than accept the risks of disobedience.

We don’t do missions because we want to see the world or try new foods or experience new cultures or take risks.

We do missions work because God sends us to be His hands and feet.

About that Trip

17 ministers from 15 North American ministries spent last weekend visiting with church leaders in Southern Haiti.

Together we explored the possibility of ministry partnerships that may manifest itself as a short-term mission trip or even deeper, like a church-to-church partnership that conjoins two sister churches to walk together in common purpose, we even saw one team member returning feeling a call to begin a non-profit to help fund teachers in rural schools where teachers regularly work without payment of any kind. (The going wage for a professional, certified teacher is $125/month!)

The headline to this story isn’t that I got sick.

The headline is:

Six Years After the Earthquake God’s Mission to Redeem Haiti is Running Full Speed Ahead and You Are Invited!

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haiti

Zika and Haiti and Why You Should Still Go

In April I’m going with a group of youth workers from around the United States who are interested in bringing teams from their church to Haiti… but need to go check it out first.

Since that last post, the zika virus has become a front page news story. The impact of the virus itself, from what I understand, is relatively mild as far as viruses go. (Malaria is more common, dengue is more dangerous, chikungunya is more painful.) But the potential impact on unborn children has the potential to be absolutely devastating. There are governments encouraging families to not get pregnant if they live in an infected area, even the Pope weighed in this week, relaxing the Catholic Church’s strict prohibition on contraception: ” “On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one [Zika], such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.”

As of right now there is not a travel warning for Haiti related to the Zika Virus. But there is a Level 2 travel notice from the Centers for Disease Control providing travelers to infected areas with information on how to avoid contracting the  virus. These precautions get personal… sexual even… and that, I’m sure, is bringing about caution on traveling to anywhere that might be infected.

We Will Be Cautious

This is the great advantage of working with the local church in Haiti through Praying Pelican Missions. You will be the guest of local ministry leaders, people who are living with zika every day, who will go above and beyond to make sure that every detail of the trip is well thought out and safe for you. This extends far beyond mosquitos! Where you sleep, what you eat and drink, where we travel… all of these things are done in a way that manages the risk for you.

There’s no guarantee that you won’t get sick. But as someone who has been to Haiti a number of times I’m much more worried about a participant getting sick from dehydration than I am anything else. (Kidney failure is a big deal!)

We Must Go Because We Are Sent

When it comes to risk and the American fascination with risk abatement, I like to keep things in proper perspective. We don’t do missions work because we want to. We don’t do missions work to see stuff or to check off a box that says “been there, done that, got the t-shirt.” We do missions work because we are sent by God to be the hands and feet of Jesus. When we lift up the local church by providing encouragement (and empowerment) for a pastor’s vision we are also partnering with the God who is big enough to see the big picture, powerful enough to prevent harm, and wise enough to allow us to trust that His ways are much safer than our ways.

When I think about doing something risky in response to His calling, I think the risk is not going.

There’s still time to join the Haiti Vision Trip in April. Click here for more info

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haiti

Go to Haiti with me this April

I have remembered. 

The earthquake of January 12th, 2010 brought the world’s attention to Haiti. The Western world had become comfortable, casual even, in referring to Haiti as a place of political instability and extreme poverty. Phrases like the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere rolled off the tongue easily and most Americans had very little working knowledge of Haiti’s rich history, culture, and importance.

And yet the volume of destruction on January 12th kept the media’s attention much longer than a typical news cycle. With an estimated 100,000-150,000 killed, many more injured, hundreds of thousands displaced, and an entire nation impacted in some way, the world wanted to know what to do.

Governments responded.

Large NGOs responded.

And in February 2010, I joined a group of youth ministry bloggers on a trip to begin seeing how North American churches might respond.

Since that trip, tens of thousands of North American’s have gone to Haiti to do short-term missions work of one variety or another.

As I reflect back on that very first trip the thing that has stuck with me, the phrase I heard as much as any other, was: “Don’t forget about us.”

So I’m pleased to report that we’ve not forgotten. While I can’t speak for anyone other than my house we have remembered Haiti. 

Friends, the Haitian Church is Strong

IMG_1723.JPG

Much more has awoken in Haiti since January 12th, 2010.

In the immediate aftermath, in the hours, days, and weeks between the terrifying moments of the earthquake and when the emergency aid began to arrive from around the world, the church sprang to action.

Several Haitian pastors have told me that this was a seminal moment for them. The church in Haiti had largely been silent, meek even. It was active but under the radar. But when God’s people saw how He worked through them to meet the needs of the masses they were encouraged that they didn’t need to be quiet anymore. As I’ve written about over and over– when the walls crumbled thousands heard the call of Jesus on their life. Many gave their lives to Jesus because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And a Haitian culture who had long depended on voodoo priests and priestesses to keep them safe were quite aware that while the church took care of people, loved everyone, voodoo was largely silent.

Those forces combined to unleash what we see today. A strong, growing, and vibrant Haitian church.

Haiti is Beautiful

Just felt like sharing this moment with the people back home…

Posted by Mel Trollman on Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Over the past six years I’ve made several trip to Haiti. I’m there just enough to see the progress unfold. Mission work in 2010-2012 mainly focused on post-earthquake relief and restoration under the direction of the local church. Beginning in about 2013, short-term mission work shifted it’s efforts to helping local churches meet the needs of rapidly growing congregations. Churches grow and divide to plant more church, grow and divide, grow and divide, and so on.

And just like my trips to Haiti have witnessed this project I’ve had the opportunity to push further and further out from Port-au-Prince to see more and more of God’s work.

And everywhere I go I’m left with this reality: Haiti is beautiful.

The geography is beautiful.

The culture if beautiful.

The people are beautiful.

The language is beautiful.

The food is beautiful.

The church is beautiful.

I’m trying to tell you… it’s beautiful. 

Come With Me

As I’ve been involved in Haiti for the past six years I’ve met lots of church leaders who are intrigued, who feel a tug to get engaged with Haitian churches, but are just stuck in knowing what to do next.

That’s why I continue to put my time and energy into vision trips. I believe that partnering with Haitian churches will transform you, the people who go with you, and your entire church. (I’ve seen it over and over!)

But I also know that Haiti is a place you’ll probably need to visit for yourself before you can approach your church (or youth group parents) about going.

So that’s why I’m inviting you to come to Haiti with me on April 2nd-5th, 2016. Together we’ll travel to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to check out ministry opportunities. My friends at Praying Pelican Missions will handle all of the logistics.

Literally, your only responsibility will be:

  • Show up at the Port-au-prince airport on Saturday April 2nd around noon.
  • Come with a willing heart.

They’ll take care of your transportation, housing, and together we’ll spend four days visiting local churches and exploring what a short-term trip might look like for your church, young adults, youth group, or even a group of families.

Are you interested? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me an email or leave me a comment and let me know.

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haiti

Haiti is Beautiful

Forget this narrative:

Haiti is a dangerous, politically unstable, corrupt, and voodoo worshipping country. It’s the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, a virtual pit of foreign aid, and a place to be avoided.

That’s a pre-2010 narrative. That’s like saying you shouldn’t go to Tijuana because of gang violence. There’s truth in the claim but not context to validate that opinion.

There is a new narrative in Haiti that I want to ask you to consider: Haiti is beautiful

Last week, I made my 8th trip to Haiti since 2010. And in those trips I’ve actually never seen the pre-2010 narrative validated with my experiences.

“Haiti is Dangerous”IMG_2986

On the local level I’ve never heard of a violent crime against a Western visitor. I’ve heard of a few petty crimes like pickpocketing or even getting yelled at about something. But I can’t think of an incident where I experienced being “in danger” anywhere in Haiti.

For a North American visitor, particularly accompanied by a Haitian, Haiti is no more dangerous than where you live in the United States. (It’s probably safer)

I would counter the “Haiti is dangerous” narrative with “Haitians are generous.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve enjoyed the generosity of my Haitian friends… and even strangers. I have a terrible habit of setting things down and forgetting them. (Water bottles, backpacks, camera equipment, etc.) These things are always returned to me!

“Haiti is politically unstable”

IMG_2961Like other developing nations, Haiti has experienced military coups. Several times in its history the United States has sent troops or occupied parts of Haiti, really the U.S. has a weird history with Haiti. But it’s been 11 years since the last serious bout of instability.

Right now, the parliament in Haiti is dysfunctional but not unstable. Some elections didn’t happen on time, the majority of members of parliament had their terms expire, which left the parliament unable to operate properly for a period of time. But there are parliamentary elections coming very soon.

So unstable isn’t the right term– and definitely not dangerously so. I mean, have you seen the U.S. Congress lately? I’d say we’re equally dysfunctional.

Haiti is definitely different than the United States in the size and function of local government. Things we take for granted just don’t exist. But I wouldn’t label any of that as politically unstable, more like the local government is severely underdeveloped.

Rather than the “Haiti is political unstable” narrative I would challenge you to accept a new idea that “Haitians are hard working, industrious partners.” Yes, billions of dollars in foreign aid have been wasted at the government and agency level. But locally? A new breed of church-to-church partnership is strengthening the local church and meeting localized needs.

“Haiti is corrupt”

Pastor Jean Delcy - Photo by Sang Peiris
Pastor Jean Delcy – Photo by Sang Peiris

I’ve never seen evidence of this in my trips there as I’ve worked with church leaders.

Everyone in Haiti is aware that the vast majority of post-earthquake foreign aid never went to address the needs of the people. “Where is the money?” was a question asked by everyone. There have been protests and inquiries and all point to corruption. But, again, I would challenge you to look at the local level where you’ll see another story.

Instead of allowing the narrative of “Haiti is corrupt” I would encourage you to think about “Haitians encourage strong local leadership.” As we saw last week with Pastor Jean Delcy, a local leader has the ability to get things done with or without government aid by establishing healthy long-term relationships.

“Haiti is a voodoo worshipping country”

Yes, voodoo is an active religion in Haiti. Like other areas in the world it is somewhat syncretized with Catholicism. Whereas, in  the United States most Protestants would have no problem lumping Catholics together to say we’re together “Christians” this isn’t normally the case in Haiti.

Since the 2010 earthquake Protestant Christianity has seen a dramatic increase in Haiti whereas voodoo has taken a hit. So you can replace the “Haiti is a voodoo nation” narrative with a more accurate “Haitians know Christianity brings good news.” One pastor said that the earthquake provided a wake-up call to the Haitian church. They didn’t have to be shy, they just had to serve people and that’d open doors for the Gospel to spread. I find this correlation between acts of service as evangelism refreshing!

“Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere”

IMG_2964OK, this remains true. If you are talking about economic development Haiti is absolutely the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

As Americans we equate economic poverty to all kinds of poverty when that’s not the case. As if our “having it all” somehow addresses every deficiency.

A first time visitor is usually overcome by the visual signs of poverty. But as you get on the ground you realize something quite quickly– while Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, there is something here which reveals great wealth among the Haitian people.

I would encourage you to replace the “poorest nation” narrative with “Haitians are proud to be the first independent nation made up of former slaves.” In Haiti, I don’t see poor people. I see a proud people.

“Haiti is a place to be avoided”

Photo by Sang Peiris
Photo by Sang Peiris

When you combine all of these narratives most people seem to put it all together in a nose crinkling way, “Haiti is just a place to be avoided.”

Americans like things to be pretty simple. Most of us want to travel to places that make sense to us, that fit within our existing framework of understanding. This is why people go on cruises to other countries instead of just traveling to those countries. They want the illusion of having been somewhere without… you know… actually leaving a cruise-line owned compound where everyone speaks English and their all-inclusive wristband is a form of currency.

Haiti isn’t the microwaveable meal that a trip to Puerto Vallarta can be. You aren’t going to get a guide book and rental car and just figure it out. It’s more like the first time you tried sushi– you’ll need some help understanding what everything is and what you like. It’s full of juxtaposition. You’ll meet people who live in a home with a dirt floor but don’t have a spot of dirt on their clothing. You’ll spend a day volunteering to clean up a beach full of garbage, rancid seaweed, and human waste— then go 20 minutes down the road to discover the most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen in your life.

Haiti isn’t McDonald’s traveling. It’s harder than that. But there’s a richness to Haiti that you won’t find anywhere else. When you hang out with people who go back again and again you’ll discover that Haiti is kind of addictive. It reminds me of a local fisherman who started selling sea urchin ceviche at our farmers market a few years back. At first, he had to give it away because it was outside of our American palette. But when you tried it you discovered something. Sure, it’s a new flavor. But when you tried it you discovered a new delight.

I want to challenge you to reconsider the “Haiti is a place to be avoided” narrative with a new one: “Haiti is beautiful.

It’s time for you to see for yourself

If you follow this blog you already know I’ve got a deep love for Haiti and what God is doing in Haiti through His church. I want to invite you to consider going on your own or even taking a team of students or adults. I’ve invested tons of time and resources in vetting the ministry of Praying Pelican Missions and their work in Haiti. I know them, their leadership, and their philosophy well… which is why I recommend them.

If you want to know more about their work please fill out the form below. Also, feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment here. (My next open trip will be in April 2016. Join me!)

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haiti

The Remarriage of Physical to Spiritual Renewal

One of the great sins of Western short-term ministries is bringing our bad habits and presenting them somewhere else as healthy.

In the United States, the local church has largely recast itself as a place of spiritual renewal. The message of Jesus Christ in our cities and towns largely remains in the 6 inches between our ears. We preach about renewing our hearts, our minds, our relationships, our marriages, and investing in the spiritual lives of our children.

Yet we’ve largely abandoned our larger, more holistic mission whereby Jesus renews all things, bringing “Good News to the Neighborhood”. (John 1) Instead we allow and depend on the State or the individual to meet our physical needs to the point where we’ve forgotten that the churches greatest movements of growth in the early church were because we became known as the people who looked after the sick, the poor, the widows, and orphans. It wasn’t bold preaching that took the Gospel to the ends of the earth in less than 75 years, it was meeting the physical needs of others.

The North American church is seen as successful if a lot of people show up, they have a big staff, and a big building.

Allan helping a young lady make a bracelet
But that’s like saying the Cleveland Cavaliers had a great season. Sure, they won a lot of playoff games… but they came up short of winning the championship… just like our churches come up short today.

We’ve divorced our ministries from meeting physical needs to the point that when we go on short-term mission trips we place meeting spiritual needs above physical needs.

And just like in a divorce, both parties eventually carry on. Things might be different but they’re never the same.

What Marriage Looks Like

Pastor Mario and his wife Amelda are experiencing their first trip in Haiti. I have a feeling they will be back.
One of the great reminders and great teachings of visiting Haiti is seeing a church who is still married to the full work of Christ.

The other night Jean Delcy told us about his ministry here in the Les Cayes area. After a successful career in a camp ministry and some other things, he moved about 20 minutes west of the city to a rural village of a few hundred people along the sea to create a beautiful place for Haitian families to come.

American’s come to EdenHaiti and are instantly drawn to the sea. When I arrived there was a magnetic pull, I had to see it. You can hear the waves crashing as soon as you open the car door and our ears are finely tuned to connect to the sea.

PPM staffer Caroline hanging out with the little girls during our construction project
What Jean Delcy learned when he got here was that the needs of the people were great… and since he was seen as a person of means… the people of the village started coming to him for help. Sometimes it was a small request, like a ride to town, or other times it was a bigger request like a 2 AM hospital run with a mother in labor only to have her deliver a baby in his backseat.

But these are his neighbors and he knows he can’t just ignore their needs. As he lived here longer he recognized more of their more basic needs. Such as,

  • Though the local fisherman can catch a lot of shrimp– enough to support their families, when they catch a lot they are at the mercy of the local buyer’s prices since they can’t freeze their catch. And since the buyer knows they can’t store the catch he pays a terrible price. There’s an urgent need and a huge opportunity for the community to freeze and store their catch so they can sell at a better market price.
  • Jean Delcy has started a school for the children, but the community is largely unable to afford proper education for all the kids, which puts them at greater risks for other issues. There’s simply more need there than he can currently reach.
  • Family planning is a major problem. It’s not unusual for a young woman to have her first baby at 14 years old. The average woman in the community has 6 children in her lifetime. In this case, he can see the problem and knows it’s impact on his community but lacks the resources needed to help in a big way.
  • While there is access to clean water in the community, there is virtually no sanitation for human waste. He has built 3 latrines, which is a start, but there is need for at least 27 more to meet the basic needs of the community to keep human waste out of the water, beaches, and oceans.
  • The communities greatest asset for fishing revenue and even the possibility of long-term investment by way of tourism or a related industry (condos, etc) is the beach and coastal access. They don’t have a pier for larger boats and currently the community is using the beach as their town dump and community bathroom.
  • Lastly, Haitian culture looks down on this community because it’s next to the sea. Haitian traditionally “turn their back to the sea” and use it as their dump. The villagers are mocked by others because they smell like the sea. Pastor is helping his community members see that what their culture sees as a liability is an asset to the rest of the world… Westerners LOVE the sea, coastal access, etc.

Steve Miller helps with beach renewal
And then, about 18 months ago, the local community saw the need for a church. After trying unsuccessfully to convince a Les Cayes pastor to take on this community as a satellite or church plant (of sorts) the community recognized the obvious: Jean Delcy was already their pastor. He was caring for their physical needs and influencing the community for good to the point where it was obvious that he could also be their spiritual leader.

It’s Time for a Remarriage

A pastor is just a fancy church word for a shepherd. This illustration of the sheep and the shepherd is the most often used descriptor of the role of the church leader in the Bible. (If we want to divorce something, we ought to divorce ourselves from the idea that a pastor is a profession speaker or CEO… there’s simply no way to twist the New Testament enough to get to that mindset, though many are so deeply intwined in it they’ll defend their role to the death.)

And in our churches, beyond a shadow of a doubt, our pastors love their “sheep.” They care for their families, they teach the word of God, they create and foster programs to reach more people spiritually and a whole lot more. Sure, there are bad pastors out there. But the vast majority are amazing people trying their very best.

But… but… BUT… we can’t forget that a shepherd does more than love the sheep… he looks after their needs.

This is one thing that’s missing. Most of our churches don’t really look after the full needs of our flock, we care far more about spiritual neediness than we do physical neediness. Church leaders aren’t trained to even access a communities needs or the physical needs of people in their church because they have a false assumption that there are other entities already doing that.

The Best of Short-Term Missions

Let’s be frank. Over and over again I hear short term-mission maligned because it’s seen as some form of tourism. And I stand in full-acknowledgement that there are bad short-term mission trips out there. But you simply cannot toss out the baby with the bathwater in this instance because we have more to learn than to give.

Yes, we have stuff to give. But we, as a tribe of leaders, must get out of our own ethnocentricity to learn from the success of Jesus’ church elsewhere.

Learn More

This week I’m in Les Cayes, Haiti sharing stories from a mission trip. Want to learn more about Praying Pelican Missions’ work in Haiti or explore bringing a group? Fill out the form below.