Communiqué #099

Communiqué #099
TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
OCTOBER 7, 2012

Have you ever found yourself in a spiritual drought, in a place where you really, really needed a “Jesus Jolt?” That is the place that I found myself this morning and in the several days that preceded this morning. Even though I had been faithful in my early morning devotions, no scripture, no devotional thought, no words from songs that I sang were penetrating my spiritual drought. This morning’s readings brought comfort from words that I had heard since I was a little child. Psalm 118:24 reads “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” I remember with fondness that while growing up, the preacher at our church recited these words almost every single Sunday morning. I have since learned that these words are not just for Sunday mornings, but for every day of the week and today was a day that I needed to hear those words once again. The next verse came from I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your cares on Him, for He careth for you!” Ahhh! Another flood of fond memories came rushing to the forefront of my mind. When I was a child, my parents used to have a small ceramic plaque mounted on our living room wall with this verse embossed on it. I cannot count the number of times that I must have read that plaque when I was little. It brought comfort then and it brings me comfort today. It was the verse that today would speak to me deep in my soul!

I haven’t felt very close to God in church lately and today I wanted to go to a place where I could get some of that feel back! I have found from my time spent in Haiti that I feel closest to God in churches that are in very poor communities. When all the luxuries are washed away, the people worshiping in these churches seem to have a special connection to God. On this day, I wanted to feel that connection again. Léon and I had attended this church together before and I felt a calling, a need really, to attend this particular church on this particular day. The church is in one of the poorest ‘burbs of LesCayes. It is located at the ocean’s edge, literally in the midst of a muddy, smelly pig sty. This is where God dwells!

As we drove up to the front of the church, I felt somewhat embarrassed that we were the only people with a car. There were a few motorcycles, but most people had arrived on foot. On the outside of the church were a throng of sparsely-clothed children, with red-tinged hair, staring at me the white stranger. It only took a smile in their direction to get a smile and a little jump of glee in return from those who ventured to look directly into my face!

Most of the worshipers were already inside singing, as we found an open space on the crude wooden benches that double as school benches during the week. A gentle breeze brought a mixture of the smell of urine and pig excrement through the window openings that were partially covered by iron sheets for protection from any driving rain. The skeleton of the church structure is made of concrete in its unique state of incompleteness, but it is one of only a few churches in the area that has been proudly built from the meager funds that the congregation members themselves have been able to scrape together to make this House of Worship a reality. No missionary funds, no white people handouts, just a striving together to build something that was important to them to do with the work and resources of their own hands. For the most part, the women worshipers sit on one side of the church with a head covering to show their reverence to God. The men sit on the other side of the church. As someone leads the prayer from the pulpit, every individual prays aloud the thoughts that they need to cry out to God about. Many kneel on their knees on the dusty, damp and pebbly concrete floor, not caring if they soil the only beautiful dress or Sunday suit that they may own. Singing is loud and joyful and a real communion with the Lord they have come to worship. Today the Lord’s Supper was served. It is customary in this church that all those who wish to confess their sins go to the altar and wash each others’ feet before partaking of communion. They kneel around the communion table, once again on the concrete floor, and receive the blessings of this Holy Meal.

Propped up in a child-size lawn chair, in the back of the church was a small, almost 3 year old girl. On the day of the 2010 earthquake, her mother was six months pregnant for her. The mother was injured and the choice was made to do a C-Section to save the unborn baby. Without any neonatal care, this child survived. She cannot sit, cannot stand and cannot walk but yet, someone still cares enough to dress her in a pretty dress and bring her to church to worship with everyone else! And to think … God cares that much about all of us! We are all so precious in His sight!

Often when there are visitors in church, the visitors are asked to come forward to share some words with the congregation. Today was no exception. Léon and I were asked to come forward. With a duct-taped microphone that squeaked and squawked and finally faded out completely, Léon began by sharing words with the worshipers. Usually I am not good with these kinds of impromptu requests, but it seems that when it came my turn to speak that God had already provided me with the verses that He would have me use that day. I shared with them Psalm 118:24, but my focus was on I Peter 5:7 for I knew that the cares of these people were very, very great. Their cares are not for the luxuries of life, but the bare necessities. I asked them if today they had a burden about not having enough food to eat, or feeling lonely, or having a son or daughter that did not love Jesus, or if they were not feeling loved??? I reminded them to cast their cares upon Jesus, because He. Cares. For. You! Sometimes a simple reminder like that is what will get us through another day, armed with the strength that only God can give. The service was long and it was chock-full of songs and praising and praying. When it came time for the sermon to be delivered, the pastor simply said that the message had already been delivered … we were to cast our cares on Him! Hmmm! Guess I preached my first-ever sermon!

Thank you God for caring about little ole me! Thank you for “watering me down” in my state of spiritual drought! Thank you for allowing my drought to serve as a way to bring encouragement to others!

Nora Léon
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………

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Communiqué #098

 

Hunger is Not Just a Word

 

I marvel at the many ways God works in my life!  He knows just what I need, just when I need it.  After living in Haiti for a number of years it is easy to stop seeing what continues to be right there in front of me.  The stark realities can become commonplace and can be easily overlooked or gone unnoticed.  I needed a reminder of why I came to live and work in Haiti in the first place.  A recent Sunday was the day that God chose for my reminder.  Amazingly, He chose to remind me not once, but twice!  It must be that He really wanted me to remember that hunger is not just a word!  The facts I would face would not be pleasant ones, but were ones that I needed to be reminded of nonetheless.

 

After church, I had a meeting with a young man that I had met 6 years ago when he was dealing with an acute medical problem.  Some of you have met and know Ricardo.  When I first met him, he was 16 years old and had a tumor that had been growing on this leg for over 9 years.  It was enormous!  His mother was (and still is) a very poor widow who had no way to pay for the medical care her son needed.  The tumor had grown so large that Ricardo could not attend school, could not wear pants and could barely walk.  God blessed him with several people who made it possible for him to travel to the USA to have his tumor removed.  Following the surgery, he was informed that the disease that he had was not curable and that his tumor would grow back.  Nonetheless, Ricardo returned to Haiti and was able to enroll in school, where as a teenager he would begin 1st grade.

 

Five years have passed and indeed his tumor has grown during those years.  Ricardo finds himself in a lot of pain and wishing his tumor did not exist.  Many times he does not come to school.  Many days he does not eat because his mother does not have money to purchase food or her trips to the ocean do not result in finding enough fish to adequately feed her family.  Ricardo is told that he needs to take his medication with food, but with no food available he struggles with taking his pills.  He says he is lonely and depressed.  He has few friends and has no activities to fill his day.  He does not know how much longer he can continue to live with his mother.  He is a hardship to his mother as she tries to feed herself, her daughter, a grandchild and Ricardo.  But, alas, he has nowhere to go that gives him any better options.  He hopes for a miracle and a chance to return to the USA to receive better medical care.

 

I had asked him to meet with me, as the difficult conversation that I needed to have with him was better spoken face-to-face.  Ricardo calls me fairly often to ask for money for doctor’s visits and medications.  I needed to tell him that because Caribbean Children’s Foundation is for children, he no longer qualifies for financial assistance through our medical program.  I had to further explain to him that I do not have personal funds for every time that he contacts me with a financial need.  I was dreading having to bring him this news, but was amazed by his response.  He said that first of all he wanted to thank me!  He said that without my intervention most likely he would not be alive today.  He said he understood.   What a humbling response to what I had just said to him.  It saddened me to know that there was no easy or long term solution to Ricardo’s situation or the situation of his family.  It reminded me that his family is just one of many families in Haiti that face this hunger crisis every day.

 

I departed for home with a heavy heart and my mind racing as how I could possibly help Ricardo in the future.

 

It seems that God wanted to etch this hunger dilemma even deeper in my mind, as I visited yet another family in crisis.

 

Later in the day, I would visit the home of an 8 year old boy that I would be interviewing prior to him be admitted to Grace Orphanage.  Léon and I would be talking to the family members to be sure that they fully understand what it meant to turn their brother over to us.  I wanted to obtain a family history that could be passed on to a prospective adoptive family, in the event an adoption was ever an option for this boy.

 

We drove to the poor community where the family lives.  To reach the family home, we needed to walk through a narrow, wet alley to reach the home wedged upon many other homes in this maze of buildings.  The mother of the family had died when Wenshel (the 8 year old boy) was five years old.  The father had died two months prior to our visit, leaving an 18 year old half-sister and three sisters, ranging in ages from thirteen to sixteen.    We spoke to them about what we could offer their little brother when he came to the orphanage.  He would have food to eat every day.  He would provide him with clothes.  He would be able to go to school.  We needed to inform them that turning their brother over to us essentially meant that he was now “ours.”  We needed to be sure they were all in agreement with this decision.  We answered any questions they posed and the decision was made that they did want Wenshel to enter the orphanage.

 

Wenshel with his sisters!

Feeling like we had done something essential for this family, I felt a sense of satisfaction that we had helped this family in a significant way.  Those feelings came to a screeching halt, when they asked one last question.  After explaining that they had not had any food to eat since their father’s death, except for plates of food that caring neighbors sometimes brought to them, they asked, “…but what can you do for us?”   There it was again … the stark reality that right here in front of me was yet another family that woke up every morning not knowing if they would have any food to eat on each new day.

 

What is the answer to this difficult, difficult reality???   Certainly a gift of one bag of rice is not a long term solution.  Even one bag of rice every week is not enough.  And what about all the other families who are facing this same situation every day of their lives???  What is God expecting of me???  What is God expecting of you????

 

I do not have the answers.  My heart is heavy, as I am praying for God’s guidance.  I am praying for these hungry families.  I glean some comfort in knowing that heaven is a place where there will be no more hunger.  Until then … I will continue to try to make a difference one child at a time.  I will continue to ask others to help!

 

What a glorious day it will be when Christians gather at the throne of Jesus where this world’s sufferings will no longer exist and hunger will be no more!

 

 

Nora Léon                        

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic             Until next time, God willing …………

 

 

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Communiqué #097

Communiqué #097

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

JULY 20,2012

 

 

The Beauty of a Compliment

 

Many evenings, when the stifling heat and the blaring noises of the city have taken its toll, Léon and I retreat to a small park on the ocean’s edge.  It is there that brisk breezes bring a reprieve to our bodies and souls.

 

Recently, on one particular evening, we sat on a short, wide wall surrounding the park.  I sat with my back against a square pillar where I happened to be invisible to people coming to the park from the left.  It was not until four little girls were right next to me that they noticed that I was there.  Instantly, the word “blan” (white) escaped from one little girl’s mouth.  All four little girls just stopped and stared!  They lingered and looked for longer than I expected.  The three younger girls eventually scampered off, finally turning to wait for their friend who was still lingering.  Having had enough of a gaze, she decided to join her friends.  As she ran up to them, I overheard her say in a very expressive voice, “She is beautiful!”     I looked at Léon and together we shared a delightful laugh.  You see, my days of youth are gone, but in this little girl’s eyes she saw beauty regardless of my age or actual physical characteristics!  For that very moment, this little girl had paid me a wonderful compliment, without even speaking the words directly to me!  I will treasure this memory in my heart!

 

Our encounter with the little girls was not over.  They could not resist coming back yet one more time to see the white lady.  This time we had a little conversation with them, while they satisfied the irresistible urge to touch me.   We learned that they were a very long walk away from their homes for little girls six years old and younger.  We were relieved to learn that they were actually there with an adult who was selling food to the cement workers at the wharf.  At least they were within running distance to an adult and not on the streets totally on their own as many times is the case.  The girls took turns admiring different things about me.   They told me I had a beautiful dress and beautiful earrings and beautiful long nail-polished fingernails.  My fingernails were a major attraction.  They touched them, they smelled them, and they tugged on them to see if they were real.  Attention was then diverted to my hair as three of them climbed on the wall and had excited conversations while they played with my soft hair that is so unlike their own.  It was not until Léon told them they had touched enough, that they moved onto other parts of interest.  I really thought I was going to get a free ear-cleaning as the oldest carefully inspected my ears.  The girls examined everything with expressions of “Oohs!” and “Ahhs!”   As uncomfortable as this situation would have been for some people, I was awash of the pure pleasure of watching these little girls’ innocent enjoyment.   I was the actual benefactor!

 

This simple event reminded me of how uplifting a simple compliment can be!  I need to practice giving compliments more often!  Little 6 year olds can be great teachers!  Thank you little lady!

 

 

Nora Léon                        

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic             Until next time, God willing …………

 

 

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Communiqué #096

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY to the PEOPLE of HAITI
JULY 6, 2012

R E F L E C T I O N S

Things that make me smile!
▪Fresh-out-of-the-oven bakery rolls purchased at a row of four vendors each vying to be the one who makes the sale this time!
▪Putting an airline ticket from Detroit to Port-au-Prince on hold for $302 and finding the price dropped to $164 the next day when the final purchase was made!
▪Watching a 16 year old color in a coloring book with the excitement of a preschooler!
▪Ice cold Coca-Cola in glass bottles, made with sugar cane!
▪Babies in little or no tattered clothing that run up to me with innocent grins!
▪Children delighting in the flying of homemade kites!
▪Observing someone’s first encounter with a door knob or first ride in a car!
▪Eating CheeCo (cheese curls) purchased from a little wooden aqua-painted box, sold by people on the side of the road for the US equivalent of $.12 a bag
▪The joy of Haitian worshipers who are totally lost to the worries of their everyday lives
▪The contentment of an adult man riding a bicycle who has never known any other form of transportation
▪The first lick of a mango lollipop
▪The cheerful bantering among street vendors as they work side-by-side in the hot sun for only pennies a day
▪The flamboyant tree when it is in full bloom
▪The toothless grin of the “hat man”
▪The taste of passion fruit juice
▪The shrieks of fear when Haitians encounter a frog!
▪The memory of a 103 year old Cuban man living in Haiti who liked to call me “Senorita!” and would sometimes ask me to marry him
▪A book to read for pleasure that is written in English!
▪Listening to the Haitian people sing while they work!

Things that make me sigh!
▪Ants, termites, mice, mosquitoes, spiders & roaches! (Not sure you want to know the details!)
▪Neighborhood noises that begin long before I am ready to get out of bed!
▪Internet that is about as reliable as a broken crutch

Things that I just learned about!
▪A snack of boiled goat skin served from a basin carried on the heads of merchant women roaming the streets!
▪An epidemic of distemper in the canine population of LesCayes
▪A free annual dose of medication available in Haiti for the prevention of filariasis
▪Blinblin is used to make a medication to treat a variety of illnesses
▪Sea cucumbers are harvested from the ocean in Haiti to be served as a delicacy in Japan

blinblin

Sea Cucumbers

Things I miss about the USA (when in Haiti)!
▪Getting a daily phone call from my daughter!
▪Being with my growing-up-too-fast grandsons!
▪The change of seasons!
▪Celebrating America’s holidays
▪Having a girlfriend who understands!
▪Soft, 2-ply toilet tissue
▪Chocolate!

Things I miss about Haiti (when in the USA)!
▪Never having to wear a coat!
▪The breath-taking beauty of Ile-a-Vache!
▪Children (and sometimes adults) calling me “Manmi Nora”
▪My husband, when he is in Haiti and I am not!
▪The call of a Haitian crow that each time reminds me of Ile-a-Vache!
▪The shore of the ocean – the waves, the rugged handmade boats, the thoughts of a fisherman’s life, the cool breeze, the prospect of finding sea glass, the people-watching
▪Fresh mangoes and bananas and abriko and kachiman and kénēpe
▪The vast array of brilliant stars on a no-electricity night

Abriko

Nora Léon
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic     Until next time, God willing …………

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Communiqué #095

Communiqué #095
TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
June 12, 2012

The song had a particularly upbeat tune. The members of the choir were belting out the words with joy on their faces, a sway in their step and hands clapping to the beat! Near the end of the song, the congregation would join in with the handclapping as the choir left their position in the front of the church and headed back to their seats in the pews.

Music has a way of helping to forget one’s miseries!  Miseries are many in the country of Haiti, but a reprieve is often found in church in the form of singing and fellowship and the truths of God’s Word. As I watched the faces of each choir member, I reflected on some of the personal stories of misery that I knew had been a part of the lives of those who were lost in the love of the words of the song they were singing. I knew that one of the choir members had lost a young twin daughter to a sudden, short illness and later was hit by a motorcycle which threatened her ability to ever be able to walk again. Another thought was of a man who had been promoted from selling stalks of sugar cane out of a wheelbarrow by the side of the road to selling hotdogs from a push cart. He had nursed his son back to health after he was attacked with a machete that narrowly missed piercing his eye. A couple in the choir had mourned the loss of a long-awaited daughter at the age of one day. Another couple, this one very elderly, had lost a daughter who was the mother of a small child. The grandparents were left to raise the toddler as best they could on their meager income, until an orphanage and later an adoption from that orphanage provided a home for their granddaughter. A very poor mother had contracted AIDS from her unfaithful husband and had passed the disease to her daughter. Yet another woman had been displaced from Port-au-Prince during the earthquake and had come to learn of this church while living in the tent city that had housed refugees in the soccer field next to the church. A young father had been born with two thumbs on his right hand (a condition quickly remedied with surgery in the USA). To provide for his family, he eeks out a living by selling toothpaste and shampoo from a wheelbarrow parked in the sun at the public market, while his wife hand washes clothes at a nearby orphanage. Their two lovely children have smiles that reflect the beautiful smiles that almost always radiate from their parents’ faces. A grandmother sings boldly and with joy, even though her aging husband is suffering with severe dementia!

Perhaps the choir in your church is not all that different from this choir. If the truth be told, each member of every choir has sorrows and sufferings in their lives too. What a great Lord we have, when He can provide for us a respite from our worries through a song that offers words of hope and joy and tells of the everlasting life that will be free of daily troubles. We can all look forward to the day that all of our sorrows will only be a distant memory, where each of our days, every one of our moments will be filled with the joys that we will experience in Heaven. There, our joys will be like none others that we have ever experienced and they will be e-v-e-r-l-a-s-t-i-n-g! Now that is certainly something to sing about!

Nora Léon
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic               Until next time, God willing …………

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Communiqué #094

Communiqué #094

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

June 2012

I’ve had a very exciting find this month!   I am always searching for ways to explain life in Haiti to those to whom I speak to in the USA.  I especially like to bring items to show children, perhaps a Sunday School class, about what life is like here.   While sitting at the beach one hot and humid evening, trying to catch a brisk breeze at the ocean’s shore, I noticed a man that I had seen one time before.  He was riding a bicycle near the wharf.  Next to his bike he was pushing a homemade toy that had a long handle on it, making it easy to run the toy along the ground right next to him and his bicycle.  The first time that I saw this young man I could tell that he had a unique item at his side, but I had not had the opportunity to speak to him.  I was so excited to see him again!  As he came closer to us, I asked Léon to ask him how much he would sell the toy for.  I really did not expect that he had made it to sell, but to my surprise that is exactly what he had done.  He explained that he used his imagination to make the toy and with the money that he received from selling the various items, he purchased more parts for another toy and he paid his school tuition.  He dreamed that one day he could teach children to make toys like he makes.  What interested me most in his toy was that it was made from bits of this and bits of that.  This man is a true recycler, whether he realizes it or not! Ingenuity was clearly evident as this particular toy had a finely-dressed man with moving legs that made two wheels turn on a devise similar to a bicycle.  The artist went into great detail about how he made every part and he explained that the flag flying from the handlebars could be interchanged with a flag of one’s choice.  In no way was the man boasting of his creativity, but he was simply taking pleasure in what he had been able to create.  What a treasure his creation is to me!  I cannot wait to see what his next invention will be.  He told us he makes airplanes and a variety of other moveable toys.  Now that we have his telephone number, we are sure to cross paths again.  I have found a secure way to package the fragile item for transport to the USA for display at my next set of speaking engagements.   I often bring Haitian art items to sell at my speaking engagements, but I most forewarn you, I do not think this particular one will be for sale!

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Part of the work that I do here in Haiti is assisting families to find proper medical care for their critically ill children.    The cases that come to me are ones that typically cannot be treated in Haiti as there is a lack of proper medical equipment and/or a lack of expertise for complex or delicate conditions.

There had been a long period of time where no new cases were coming my way.  I did not really understand why, until it dawned on me that people no longer knew if I even lived in Haiti anymore.  All they knew was that after the earthquake I was no longer living where they were accustomed to finding me.  Apparently, word-of-mouth is now spreading the news that indeed I still do live in Haiti.  People now seem to be beginning to know where it is that I live.   I have seen several cases in the last few weeks.

Over the years, it seemed that the number of children with hydrocephalic conditions was on the decline, but alas, I have seen two new cases in just the last few weeks.  I am encouraged that the children with this condition are being brought to me at a younger age (rather than being two or three years old) as their chances of survival improve the earlier the cases are treated.   While talking with the families, I find it interesting to see what old wives’ tales are passed from person-to-person.   Here, most babies with hydrocephalus can be seen with a tightly wrapped head covering, as it is believed that if the head is wrapped tightly enough it will not grow any larger.   One of the children came with a gauze padding over his soft-spot.  The family had been afraid the skin was too thin and the area would start to bleed, so gauze was their way of protecting this area of the head.

Each new medical case presents its challenges.  Will a doctor be found to help?  Will there be donations to cover the cost of the care?  Will this child’s life be saved at a time when the parents come with such hope for getting help in time?  How will the family react when the desired outcome is just not going to take place?   For these concerns and others, I ask for your prayers for these children and their extended families.  Only our mighty Healer has each child’s future all figured out!   I am humbled that He has seen fit to choose me to be an advocate for these precious little ones!   May He open hearts!  May He open the doors for the care of these special children!

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Nora Léon                        

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic            Until next time, God willing …………

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COMMUNIQUE 93

Communiqué #093

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

April 2012

 

Education and the ability to attend school is such an everyday part of the heartbeat of Haiti.  There is no guarantee that your child will be able to go to school.  Unless you are one of the fortunate few who is now enrolled in a new program that was started by Haitian President Martelly where your child is able to attend school for free, you must have the ability to pay tuition, buy school books and purchase a uniform in order for your child to make a shadow in the doorway of a local school.

Schools classrooms range from clean and painted rooms to shabby and dark portions of rooms to no building whatsoever, perhaps just a crude bench under the shade of a mango tree.

This month, I visited a small school in one of the poorest districts of Les Cayes.  On Sunday, the structure (about the size of an American living room) serves as a church.  Monday through Friday it houses three clusters of hand hewn school benches, each with a makeshift blackboard propped against the wall.  On the day that I visited there was a torrential rain.  It was easy to see why the benches were crowded into their unique locations, as it was a way of avoiding the drips coming from the leaky roof.

On duty this particular day was one teacher.  We were told that there was no longer a salary available for the other teacher.  About 40 students made up one class.  These were the youngest students.  The older students made up two more classes – one with 6 students and the other with 4 students.  The older students were given a blackboard assignment, while the teacher worked in the far corner of the room with the younger students.

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The room, although it had two single naked light bulbs strung on bare wires suspended from the ceiling, was not illuminated.  Either there was no city power or there was no money to pay the electric bill.  If not for the few open-cement block windows, the room would have been even darker than it was on this particularly gloomy rainy day.

It was a wonderful surprise to see that this meager school did have a feeding program.  Each child was instructed to go outside and wash their hands in a tub of water before they could eat their food.  Following a prayer, each child was served a generous helping of beans and rice.  Some of the children had forgotten to bring their bowls and/or their spoons.  These children could be seen using a borrowed bowl or eating with their fingers.  When the meal was finished the children collected the bowls and some children took advantage of the pouring rain to rinse their hands at the open doorway.

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Few school books were in sight.  Fewer pencils and fewer tablets of paper were present.  In the corner, a small table held the tiny school bell, a strap used for discipline and the schedule for classes.

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Just outside the doors of the school were a myriad of children. Some of them peered through the doorway as they were passing by.  Some stood near their homes listening to the sounds coming from the school. These children obviously did not have money to pay tuition fees and thus, were left to yearn for an education.

This visit reminded me that when you think you have seen the poorest school of all you only need to visit another school and you will find yet another one that is even poorer.  It also reminded me how much education is valued.  The building structure (or lack of one) does not deter a parent from trying to give an education to their child.  The only thing that deters them is the lack of funds to send their child to some sort of educational facility.  Oh that each child could go to school!  Oh that each child could have a school with enough teachers, enough supplies and receive a quality education!  These things are only dreams to so many children in Haiti!

If you are reading this and in the past have become one of the donors to Caribbean Children’s Foundation for the education of a child … THANK YOU!   If you are searching for a way to help, know that your money will be well spent in helping give a Haitian child get a chance at life through education!  Education in Haiti is not a given …. it is a PRIVILEGE!

Nora Léon                        

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic         Until next time. God willing …………

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COMMUNIQUE 92

Communiqué #092

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

January 19, 2012

 

 

Springing from the depths of poverty are inventive ways of making a dollar or two.  On more than one occasion, I have observed ways just how creative Haitians can be.  Much of what they have chosen to do would be beneath the dignity of someone who has not faced the day-to-day challenges of finding ways to keep your family alive.  But when starvation is a cruel reality, no task is beneath one’s dignity.

Huge freight ships from Venezuela bring large loads of cement into the waters of the Caribbean Sea near LesCayes.  The ships are too large to dock at the wharf.  They remain off-shore, while 50 lb bags of cement are hand transferred to smaller boats that will bring the commodity to the wharf where it will either be transported in trucks to the business district or purchased at the wharf to be shipped to other places in Haiti.

The wharf is a place busy with activity. While the bags of cement await their final destination, they are exposed to theft and possible ruin during a rain storm.  In the handling of the bags, many bags split open and their contents spill onto the surface of the concrete wharf.  Strong winds will blow spilled cement dust into the sea and swirl the remaining powder at the feet of its handlers.  Bags left in the elements sometimes harden into a rock-like material that is considered useless by most!

When all the transport trucks, the pickup trucks, and the human-pulled carts leave the scene, this is when the persons scavenging for a way to feed their families move in!   They will find discarded and torn cement sacks or burlap sacks and begin the tedious process of filling the sacks with cement dust.  The wharf surface is meticulously swept for every morsel of useable cement.  Each hardened clump of cement is banged together with another cement clump in hopes of loosening any salvageable cement.  The process is long and tedious in the baking sun of the Caribbean.  Work will continue until there is no more sun to see the task at hand.  Those performing this task will become totally caked with cement dust.  Their hair turns grey.  Their skin is coated and their clothes are covered.  Their eyelashes are laden.  Their nostrils are filled with dust that hardens with the moisture of their breath.  Only their eyes glisten with their normal color, peeping out from their ghost-like appearance.  Bathing, after the task is done, most certainly results in the hardening of the cement dust making the residue even harder to remove.  All this is done for the mere pennies that it earns.

It saddens my heart when I hear people who do not know Haiti declare that its people are lazy.  This is so far from the truth.  I see Haitians as people who work hard given the opportunity to do so.  I see them as people who make the best of the harshest of circumstances.  I see them as people who do not wallow in despair but prosper in hope!  I see them as an example to follow!

 

Nora Léon                        

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic         Until next time. God willing …………

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COMMUNIQUE 91

Communiqué #091

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

December 18, 2011

GRACE … unmerited favor!   At least that is one of the meanings that I found spelled out in the 1961 version of the New College Standard Dictionary that I have in my possession!  Oh, but GRACE is so much more than that!

Part of the work that I do in Haiti is under the umbrella of GRACE Ministries, a Haitian non-profit organization working solely on the tiny impoverished island of Ile-a-Vache.  Time and time again, we have seen the grace of God at work in this underdeveloped area – a place with no clean drinking water, no electricity, no roads, no hospital and meager incomes from primitive forms of farming and fishing.

Most recently, God’s grace was evidenced with the November 20th opening of GRACE Orphanage.  Six boys, ranging in age from 8 to 16 now call the orphanage home!  The structure in which they live is crude (two unfinished classrooms on the second floor of GRACE School).  Cement rubble litters the floors, that have a zigzag of electrical wire nestled in plastic pipe awaiting the final pouring of the cement floor surface.  Rough cement block walls are crying for a smoother stucco surface, which can eventually be painted in colorful shades.  A toilet yearns for running water while the boys listen to instructions as to how a toilet is actually used, having only knowledge of the use of an outdoor latrine or nearby bush for nature’s business.   Windows and doors are in a half-state of completion.  The best luxury of all is the bunk beds, each complete with a thick mattress and blankets to ward off the December chill that is felt by the Haitian people when temperatures fall into the 70s.

You may ask, how does such a hodge podge of a home, show God’s grace?

Following the earthquake of January 2010, Ile-a-Vache saw a flood of children appearing in the homes of next-of-kin.  These children had lost parents in the earthquake and were sent to their only known family members, some of whom they had never met.  On an island where families struggle to feed their own children, these children came with physical and emotional needs and added financial stress to the families they came to live with.  The community cried out, “Please open an orphanage”.   Our only response was that everyone needed to pray for God to open doors, as we had no funding for an orphanage.

And then … by the grace of God, in January 2011, the idea of “Bless the Orphans Resale Shop” was born!    When one woman listened to God’s calling to make GRACE Orphanage a reality, the idea blossomed into a non-profit business.  People donate items for the shop, scores of volunteers run the shop and mission-minded shoppers purchase the variety of items offered at this boutique-style store!   All of the proceeds go to GRACE Orphanage!  Because of the dedication of all of these people … Bless the Orphans is indeed blessing the orphans of GRACE Orphanage with a place to call home!    What a wonderful, gracious God we have!

God’s grace did not stop there!    Before we even dared to dream the dream of constructing an orphanage building, we received a call that a group of people wanted to make the orphanage building “their mission”.  By the end of November 2011, ground was broke for the foundation of the building that this team will come to work on in January 2012!

But by the grace of God … what marvelous things He can do!!!

As you go about the holiday season and are thinking of all the things that you can be grateful for, please include a word of thanks for GRACE Orphanage!   Please keep Mommy Yèyèt (caregiver & spiritual mentor to the boys) in your prayers.  Reserve some extra prayer time for Judlin, Gladimy, Jean Louis, Micaël, Maxon and Max – our six precious boys!  May God continue to be gracious to them throughout their lifetime!

Perhaps you are struggling with issues of your own.   I plead with you to lay it at the feet of God.  He has enough graciousness for all who seek Him!

If you are ever in the Jenison, Michigan area (near Grand Rapids MI)

please come shop at “Bless the Orphans”.

They are located at 668 Chicago Drive, Jenison MI  49428   (10-6 Mon-Sat)  616.457.2310

Nora Léon                        

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic    Until next time. God willing …………

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COMMUNIQUE 90

Communiqué #090

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

As written on October 19, 2011

 

 

Oblivious to everyone around her, she squats on her haunches almost touching the ground with her derrière.   The sorting of pebbles is her everyday task.  Each pebble is carefully examined and placed in a discarded can or bowl.  Sometimes the sorting occurs in the middle of the busy street.  Sometimes it occurs on the shoulder of the road or in the midst of a torrential rain.  A long ago habit, most likely taught by her mother, remains in her memory.  A bath is important.  After having a bowel movement along the edge of a driveway, the bathing ritual begins.  Soiled clothes are removed and an unwanted container is used to scoop water from a drainage ditch along the congested street.  Water is poured on her head and various parts of her body, as she vigorously uses her hands to scrub away the dirt and grime.  Passersby glance at her and then keep on walking.  Soon dry clothes are produced from a plastic bag and the soiled clothes are stuffed in a crack of a nearby wall.  Her thirst is quenched from the same dirty water where she has defecated and bathed.  To the local people she is known as “the crazy lady.”  To me she is an interesting reminder of harsh life in Haiti, but a life where someone has cared enough to supply her with changes of clothes and an occasional morsel of food.  It reminds me that God cares for the sparrow and God cares for a woman such as this.  As strange as it may seem, I find her life rather interesting.  So unlike the rest of us, this human being has a life free of worry!  She is totally content in her own little world.  Hmm!  A lesson I need to keep learning – being content and not worrying!

 

I certainly have not been content the last several days.  For over a week, due to installation of new electrical wires in our area, we have had no electricity and no running water.  I soon tired of not having internet access, or lights, or refrigeration, or electric fans.  Bathing out of a bucket and toting water to flush the toilet also became very old.  Stacks of laundry piled up for fear any of the reserve water we had would be used up too quickly.  Barrels were placed under the downspouts and out in the rain to collect what water so we could wash our hair and rinse off the dirty dishes.  I used to call these types of events “Haitian adventures.”  Now, I am not as quick to think of them that way.  I am convinced that we still would be without power if it was not the fact that Léon was home when he saw the electrical workers go past our house.  Grabbing our “paid” electrical bill, he ran down the street after them.  He convinced the workers to come back to our house and reconnect our power.  They were only restoring power to those customers who had paid their utility bill.  I have to tell you, when the electricity was restored, I forced Léon and his brother into doing a little celebratory dance with me!  As of this writing, we are still without running water.  The celebration was only a half of one!  The real rejoicing will occur when all of us can take much needed showers!

Power restored after 7 days

I do try to force myself to look at these events with a better attitude.  After all, when Jesus was on this earth there was no such thing as electricity or running water.  Why should I complain?  For that matter, when my parents were toddlers they too did not have electricity or running water in their homes.  May God give me the ability to be content in whatever state I am in!

 

May God bless your day with a new appreciation for the conveniences that we have all come accustomed to taking for granted!

 

 

Nora Léon                        

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic     Until next time. God willing …………

 

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