Education Brings Advancement and Peace
Whew – what a last couple of weeks it has been. I hope this post finds you doing well and loving life wherever you may be. Everyone in Leveque and La Piste made it through the storms just fine, and the extra rain has actually done some good for the gardens in Leveque! All of the floods receded very quickly – most them pretty much receded after 1 day. While there was some damage to tent cities, and there are many who are picking up the pieces of their homes and businesses, most people had enough warning beforehand in order evacuate certain areas and have safely returned to rebuild and settle in again.
We are busy at work here trying to get children in Leveque registered for school, setting up for a fall series of agricultural seminars, and getting ready for the next move in and housing distribution for 20 families on Saturday September 8. It will be a busy fall as tensions in the community have turned to new friendships and learning opportunities, which means we are back on schedule cranking out houses and looking at a housing distribution each month, until all homes are done and there are no temporary houses left in the Leveque area, and no deaf families left living on the outskirts of the slum in Port au Prince.
In recent months we have experienced a beautiful change of heart in the leaders of the nearby communities – as you go about your prayers this week, please keep the men in the attached picture in your prayers – to my right is Karlens St. Gerard, Karlens works with me almost everyday in the community and is a talented interpreter as well as a talented teacher and coach in the community. The two young men to my left in the photo are Thimagene and Rosemond – we are very close now, but these are men who back in March were angrily in my face on a daily basis, causing trouble, inciting the community to riots, and uttering many of the most hurtful and hateful things I have heard in all of my travels around the world. Day in and day out for over 4 months, our conversations have slowly, slowly changed to very productive discussions regarding opportunities for the community as a whole to advance together – that the presence of the deaf community is a tremendous help to the community as the new solar lights, the clean water filtering system, the new church, and the upcoming school, as well as many education programs are all a direct result of the deaf community coming to live in Leveque. I am excited to report that Thimogene and Rosemond have caught the vision . . . of what this community means not only for them, but what it means for their country – they have caught the vision that together we all have a chance to make history in Haiti, to become a community that is truly a light for every other NGO or aid organization wanting to work in true development for displaced persons. Instead of anger, these two young men have been productively engaging in opportunities and supporting us as we attempt to provide those opportunities in education for everyone in the community. I prefer their firm handshakes and and “bro-hugs” over machetes in my face any day .
For Thimogene, Rosemond, and a half dozen other leaders, their greatest desire in education was an English course for adults in the community. As you have read on this blog, that course is still going very well and truly provided a foundation for our newfound friendship and work together. These young men reached out to me about 6 weeks ago for a conversation after class, starting the meeting by saying, “we have a very large problem . . . “ my first response was obviously, OH CRAP – things were moving forward so well, what has happened now? However, Thimogene stated, “we are all brothers and sisters because we are all Haitians, so we have a big problem because we cannot communicate with our deaf brothers and sisters. We need more classes for that . . . “ I think I would call that conversation “the win of the YEAR!!” How about that BOO-YEAH and AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The sign language classes continue to go well, and are held two evenings a week, taught by a deaf woman named Nadine. The class started out so large that they actually had to split up into two separate classes. What a great morning it was this morning as I was sitting in Mackenson’s home and Rosemond came in to sign “good morning, how are you?” I gave him one of the biggest high fives I have ever given . Again – it is so beautiful to sit with these men who several months ago were in my face as some of the angriest young men I have ever encountered – we now sit every single week for an official meeting, and cross paths often in our various educational offerings. This week we also started a new course in literacy in French for adults in the community. After English, basic literacy in French is the greatest desire for 70 adults within the community. Guess who agreed to volunteer to teach the courses twice a week if I agreed to fund all of the materials for the class . . . .? You guessed it – Rosemond, Thimogene, and Karlens. AMEN!!!!
The Haitian school year starts in October so we are now working to get all of the children registered for school. There are still many children in La Piste who will be waiting to start school when they move to Leveque, and there are still parents who are deciding not to send their children to school even though they have sponsorships and are only responsible for the uniforms and books – something that every family can cover. While that decision is discouraging to me, we will keep trying and doing our best to instill the importance of education to everyone within the community. Our adult classes in English, French Literacy, and Sign Language are going well. The adults in the community have remarked many times that they are happy to be advancing in some way. Many of these adults may be waiting for another year until their homes are finished and built, but the opportunity to pursue something worthwhile has been a great peacemaker within the community. We are always thinking of ways to expand and improve, and we are always engaging in discussion with the community leaders in order to continue progressing in education for all ages in Leveque. Basically with literacy and conversational courses in French, Sign Language, and English we have classes, languages, and opportunities flying all over the place – AMEN once again.
Church construction in Leveque is going well. The church congregation in the community has also been steadily growing in recent months which is great to see every week. I think the more people worship together, learn together, and engage in recreation together, the better chance we will have at a very close knit community that two years ago was just a large group of displaced persons with no history together. That will be really neat to see. Pastor William continues his incredible efforts in learning and encountering the Bible as he leads deaf church two evenings a week. I am excited to walk with him as he continues learning.
There is always a lot more going on – but I have something else to write about this evening. It has recently been decided that for many reasons, I should head back to the US for a time to regain my health, be refreshed and restored, and regain strength in order to truly be in this for the long haul. I will not go into many details, but it is definitely time for me to take a step back and to find some rest and healing around family and friends in the United States. I know that most missionaries reach this point at some time during their first few years of life and work in a country as dark and difficult as Haiti – I am incredibly thankful for all of the people I work with at the 410 Bridge, Frazer UMC, and Mission of Hope who did not question anything when I explained what I have been feeling and experiencing in recent months – every single person has clearly and beautifully supported a time to get to the US and regain my health.
Many people from those organizations have served abroad before and have been able to comment well on current needs. Life down here is often crazy, incredibly in your face, sometimes very violent, usually quite dark, often extremely unfriendly, and just overall extremely taxing – amidst all of that, you are conducting business in 2 or 3 languages not your own. There are those great points of light and hope and joy in this work, but that does not mean that everything else does not wear you down. We know that the war is already won!!! But there are many battles to fight – and man have we been fighting . . . All that means is that it is time to refresh, recharge, and get healthy so that worldview and perspective can shrug off that darkness in the strong pursuit of the joy and light that we know exists here.
The deaf community has become my family – and I look forward to a long future together pursuing sustainability and a flourishing life with them in Haiti. This is a community that is changing the history of this country – that is changing the course of deaf ministry and development work around the world, and that could be one of the coolest social reforms that Haiti has seen in decades. I hope to be here for pretty much all of that, and to be a leader in supporting the deaf community through all of that – for right now, that means I must step back for a time and allow the leadership council and ASDH (Association Sourds D’Ayiti – Association of the Deaf in Haiti) to rise to the occasion and be challenged in new ways. Me not being here may be just the thing the project needs to get to the next level . . . I would love nothing more than to come to that realization several months from now!
As you pray this week and over the coming month, please pray for healing, for restoration, for health, for a peaceful heart, and for wisdom and clarity as we work through some tough times, and continue to seek peace.
I will end this post with a prayer from my journals for the last week
“Lord we thank and praise you for challenges – Lord, amidst whatever challenges and darkness may be weighing heavily on our hearts, we know that you are stronger and can overcome anything. Lord, help us to focus on You – to focus on You for whatever period of refinement you have in store for us when we are brought to this place. God, as one leader takes a step back, give other leaders the opportunities to step forward. God, that as they encounter trials, challenges, and maybe make mistakes, you remind them that You are always with them. Lord, for whatever is heavy, whatever is dark, and whatever stands in the way of a heart fully surrendered to You, I pray today that Your light penetrate every corner and dark space. Lord, we do not wish to hide, we do not wish to cower, and we thank you for the opportunity to be humbled, and to come to a new understanding of You and Your work in our lives. Tonight Lord, I pray for peace, I pray for peaceful hearts and quiet minds. It is You who brings perfect peace, perfect healing, and everything that is Good for Your children. In Your name I pray. AMEN.”
Hoping to see some of you in the US while I am there. Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement and for so diligently following this blog. I will be sure to write A LOT while I am home as this is clearly meant to be a time of refinement and hard reflection. I will definitely look forward to the first blog post from back here in Haiti and several posts from the US!!
grace and peace,