Monday, November 17, 2008

Back from Haiti

We just returned from Haiti. We had an amazing week traveling to seven orphanages, seeing around 500-700 children.  We were able to provide medical attention at 5 of the 7 orphanages.  So that we understand the great need for medical missions trips, these orphans see doctors maybe once every year or two (I emphasize maybe), and they see doctors only when medical missions teams come through their villages.

From my perspective, our team of 14 accomplished an incredibly significant task, giving to these little ones medical attention.  While we may only take our own children 1-2xs a year for “well-child” checks, I think the main difference here is that these children are not “well” but severely malnourished and starved for affection and attention (averages are that about 4 women provide care for every 150 children in these orphanages).

I was very proud to be associated with a Grace Chapel medical team that provided not only a knowledgeable and skilled group of providers but also poured out love onto these children kissing them, hugging them, playing with them, singing with them and bringing so much joy to them (and they to us) for a 2-3 hour period.  It seems like such a small effort, but for these children, this kind of effort means everything and is of the greatest significance to our Father in heaven (see Psa. 68:5ff. and especially v. 5).   

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Grace Chapel Medical Team

Tomorrow, Nov. 7th, Grace Chapel sends a fourteen person medical team to Haiti. Pray for our work in Haiti that we would be a blessing to our friends and that we would go in the posture of servants and learners. Our fourteen team members are as follows:

Rich Kacere
Matt Jacobsen
Ann Seacrest
Meg Robison
Bryan Becker
Chad Hall
Amy Geraets
Craig Moore
Elijah Knight
Mike Callen
Jason Schafer
Carla Pisel-Nixon
Gene Summerlin
Mike Hsu

Thursday, October 16, 2008

16,000 lbs. of Clothes

16,000 lbs. of clothes went out from the Peoples City Mission in Lincoln at 10am this morning and the shipment is now headed to our friends in Haiti!

An article from KOLN as well as a news clip on the project is available under "Haiti Related Links."

Oct. 15th Press Release on Clothing Project

For Immediate Release
October 15, 2008

LINCOLN, Neb. – Beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday, October 16, a semi-truck full of children’s clothing will begin a journey from Lincoln to a Haitian orphanage. Lincoln’s Grace Chapel is leading an effort to help children left homeless after four deadly hurricanes ravaged the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere earlier this year. Crete Carrier Corporation will pack a semi-truck with clothing donated by the Peoples City Mission then transported to Kansas City then on to Miami where they will be loaded on a cargo ship bound for Haiti. The clothes will be loaded Thursday at 10 a.m. at the People’s City Mission Distribution Center, 2101 N Street.

Backgrounder:

Grace Chapel has been sending missions teams to Haiti for the past 4 years, most recently in August right before the first of four deadly hurricanes swept through the country. The storms left Haiti, which was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a death toll in excess of 800 and swept away the homes and possessions of thousands. The Peoples City Mission offered to donate a semi-truck load of clothes to bring to the Haitian orphanages that the team would be serving.

The problem, however, was the cost of getting the clothes shipped from Lincoln to Haiti. The initial estimate of shipping costs exceeded $10,000. C3 Missions International offered to provide half of a shipping container they were loading with relief supplies destined for Haiti. Crete Carrier then agreed to donate the trucking to get the clothes from Lincoln to the shipping container in Kansas City.

The Grace Chapel medical team will be leaving for Haiti on November 7th and consists of 14 members including doctors, nurses, medical students, assistants and a pharmacist. Tax-deductible donations to help cover the expenses of sending a medical team to Haiti can be made to Grace Chapel.

For more information please contact:

Grace Chapel Missions Team - Mike Hsu, 484-8555 ext. 202, mikehsu@gracepca.com

Peoples City Mission - Tom Barber, 475-1303 ext. 108, tbarber@peoplescitymission.org

Crete Carrier - Brent Brown, Operations Manager, 475-9521, bbrown@cretecarrier.com

C3 Missions International - Mike Fox, (816) 550-5990, mikefox@c3missions.org

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sharon St. Germain Update (Sept. 24th)






Networking-Thank You

We cannot begin to say "Thank you" to so many who have been networking to help us get the needed help to Haiti. We have brothers and sisters in the DR who coordinated flying in bags of rice to the Les Cayes Airport; brothers and sisters in Columbia, SC partnering with PCA and non-PCA churches in SC and NC to drive down an 18-wheeler truck of donated items; brothers and sisters in Boca Raton, Ft. Lauderdale, S. Miami, FL planning to do their own container; and the list goes on and on.

There are two containers currently on the El Shaddai Presbyterian Church property. The word is that we may need to order another.

Gonaives

Yesterday, the ESMI team visited Gonaives again. The water has receded in most areas. However, the entrance into the city from the south still has a huge lake. After Hurricane Jeanne in 2004, the lake that was formed in this same area took over 12 months to dry out. The current lake is about three times bigger. There is no telling how long this new lake will take.

What the people are now contending with is the mud. Lots of it. And everywhere! Mountains, hills, piles of mud are left to clear. Then there are the flies. Swarms of huge green flies. And then, there were the funerals. These are a sad reminder of the effects of the hurricanes. The smell is also there. The citizens of Gonaives are totally dependent on help from the outside. There is nothing and no one in their city to help them. This is the story for most of Haiti. We are happy to see a couple organizations focusing on giving clean drinking water to the people.

God's willing, in a few weeks we should have about 4 containers with clothing and medicine to distribute to the people. Thank you again for all that you are doing to make this possible.

Southern Haiti

The water at Miraguane has now risen higher than 5ft. This is the lake that was formed separating the road from Port-au-Prince to the South. Last week we took a chance in our rental when it was about 4-5ft. Now it is impossible to cross. You have to rent a boat/canoe to take you on the other side. This is how we have to get food supplies to the south.

Yesterday, Louis and a team drove further south from Port Salut. They found several villages that were totally destroyed by the hurricanes. Some villages in Port-a-Piment coastal area were totally washed away. He knows that when he returns, he will find many orphaned children. The cities around the southern coast such as Les Irois, Aux Coyeaux, Chardonierre, suffered great damage. These are cities dependent on the land and livestock. Land and livestock are no more. You won't hear about these cities and villages on the local radio station or on TV. There is no way to get to these places unless you have a very good vehicle. Some areas, have only motorcycle access; others, by boat only. Louis and the team are out today again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sharon St. Germain Update (Sept. 17th)

It's hard to believe but it has been fifteen days since Gonaives and the island of Haiti suffered the onslaught of Hurricane Gustav.

First Impression:

Driving into Gonaives last Thursday and Friday (Sept.11-12), I was amazed to see the people going about their daily routine as if nothing had happened. But this is what I could see on the outside. There were merchants selling a little of this and that. People were entering their homes cleaning the feet of mud that had now settled in their home. The word that came to mind to describe these dear people was "resilience." They have to move on with life. They have to do what they can.

Saturday morning (Sept.13) was a different story. As we drove into Gonaives with the medical team, there were hundreds of people walking into the city. When asked what was happening, they said they came to get food. There were a few with bags of rice but most of the people were walking back empty handed. The need was still there.

The Medical Team in Gonaives:

The medical team wanted to ensure that the children at the Gonaives Mission Site orphanage were fine. Not only were our children there but there were many from the community wanting to see the doctors. After leaving the Gonaives Mission Site, the medical team went into another area and saw several more patients. The third stop was in a slum area called Raboteau. In this area the water level was still high. I cannot describe to you the emotions of the medical team but it was expressed in their tears and sobs as they saw adults and children suffering from pneumonia, high fever, stomach pain, diarrhea, etc., all a result of the flood. It was obvious that significant help hadn't reached that community. Arrangements are being made to get more food into that area. This is just one of several areas that is still in desperate need...two weeks after the flooding.

The team wanted to visit the Gonaives General Hospital. They were shocked at what remained of the hospital. Windows and doors were wide open exposing the feet high of mud that had gathered in every room. The hospital had lost everything. I leave you to imagine what will happen later to the very sick in Gonaives. The medical team hopes to return in two weeks.

Taking Photos of the Plight in Gonaives:

In the city of Soleil, the water is still knee high and even higher in some areas. It was difficult after awhile to take any more photos. I felt almost as if I were robbing the people of their dignity. This is just what they had to do to survive. I saw people making their homes on the roof, waiting for the water below to recede; a pregnant woman taking a bath on the main road, a gentle man sorting through clothes in the mud; and an old man dressed in a child's shirt, khaki pants, and white girl's shoes a size smaller than his feet. I saw people using their toes to grip their sandals on their feet as they walked through the slippery mud.

Journeying to the South:

On Sunday, Sept 14, we started our journey south from Gonaives to Les Cayes. We had heard that the south was cut off because of the high waters in Miraguane. The only way across was on a canoe. We were in a rental and made the daring venture across. With the vehicle turned off, we made our way to the roof of the car with our luggage. Eight men were hired to push the vehicle across the 3/4 mile of water. The flood rains from Gustave had made a lake of 4 feet high water and in some spots as high as 5 feet. The hired men made their way across, pushing the vehcile while one was in the front feeling with his feet the raod underneath.

Returning the same way yesterday morning (Sept.16) was different. This time no vehicles were allowed to cross the waters because 3 huge trucks were stuck. They dared to venture in the night, after 6:00pm, and two people lost their lives. The only way to get back home was to hire a boat to take us across and then a bus to take us into Port-au-Prince. The rental would have to be left on the south side and returned later. As we were waiting for our boat, a tractor came by and was able to pull one of the trucks out. We boarded our boat and began making our way across. As we came on the north side, we saw DouDou, yes DouDou, with several hired men pushing the rental across.

Because of this difficulty in Miraguane, all the cities to the south are slowly feeling the effects of not having enough food and gas. A container of food donated for the south is to arrive this Saturday. Pray for protection as this is done because the atmosphere at Miraguane is, shall I say, nothing short of chaos. (Photos below)

What's Next?

We will still continue to give food to the communities in need, both in the north and the south. This will have to be done for awhile.

Thanks to several of you who are planning to send containers of clothes for the people. Please don't forget to send new or gently worn clothing. Complete list on ESMI website- www.ESMIHOME.org

A container will be at El Shaddai Presbyterian Church from Sept. 22-29. The address:

El Shaddai Presbyterian Church
11303 NE 13th Avenue
Miami, FL 33161

At all the mission sites, there are repairs to be done. Some are major such as the bridge to the Cambry orphanage that was destroyed. At Gonaives, all the cement bought to finish the church and the school were washed away in the flood waters. School opens on October 1, so ESMI staff is working hard to have the construction men back on site to finish the second floor of the Gonaives school.

Much to pray about with us. Thanks for all your support.

Please send funds to:

MNA
1700 North Brown Road, Suite 101
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
Memo: Haiti Disaster Relief

Thanks to brother Frantz who is updating our website with all the latest info. www.ESMIHOME.org

Photo Story below:

Flood waters in Soleil, Gonaives, 2 weeks after Hurricane Gustav.


The massive force of the flood waters toppled cars, broke down strong concrete walls, washed away gas stations, moved a 40 ft. container to the top of another vehicle.


Thanks to Spanish River Church in Boca Raton, FL who partnered in the construction of this church on the Gonaives Mission Site. This area remained dry as it is situated on higher ground. However, most of the cement bought to complete the work was washed away.

The Gonaives Mission Site is an unusual one for ESMI in that it was started because of the many left orphaned after Hurricane Jeanne in 2004. When the south could not provide a home for the older orphaned children, the promise was made to build a home for them in Gonaives. This promise was made possible with C3 Mission. Now there are 250 orphans onsite. We anticipate that another home will be built for 300 children left as orphans from this flood. By God's grace, this will be their home church.


This is the lake formed by the flood waters at Miraguane in the south. Via ground transportation, there is no other way to get to the south. Here we are, on Sunday, on top of the roof of the rental. One man is in the front directing the others how to push the vehicle. Be in prayer this Saturday as we try to send a container of food to the south.


This was taken yesterday morning, Sept 16, trying to cross Miraguane. In the middle, there is the white rental being pushed across with DouDou at the wheel. To the back of the rental are the two trucks stuck in the water. A tractor was able to remove the third.


Medical team visit the kids on Saturday, Sep.13, at the Gonaives Mission Site


Dr. Jim with one of the patients from the community around the orphanage.


Children and adults waiting to be seen at the Gonaives Mission Site.


This lady trying not to get her skirt wet as the vehicles pass.


Food being prepared at the Gonaives Mission Site for the orphans.


Here's a blind lady with her granddaughter taking refuge in the Fox's Clinic on the Gonaives Mission Site. This is just one of many families who are there at night. During the day, they go out to clean their mud-filled home, or to look for food, or to do what they have to do to survive.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sharon St. Germain Update (Sept. 13th)

DouDou is out of the hospital. Thanks for your prayers. When we talked with him today he said he was ready to return to work. We told him to go home and REST. We know DouDou doesn't know the meaning of the word but pray that he will be wise and do just that.

The medical team was unable to go to Gonaives because the helicopter had mechanical problems. We will meet the team in the city of Mont-Huit. This is where they'll have to change vehicle because the bridge is lopsided due to the flood waters damaging one of the beams.

The flood waters have receded in the cities heading to Gonaives, but not so for the said city. This is what it looks like as we enter. The people try to "skip" the water as vehicles pass.The 25 pastors who were waiting for the food and clothing yesterday to be distributed.

The pastors receiving the food for their community. Note the pastor in the far left. He walked through miles of water to get there. You can see the water level on his T-shirt. He almost lost his wife and children in the flood waters. This pastor is living on the roof of another church and there are 50 kids just in his community that are sick. He hopes he can cross the deep water with the kids tomorrow.

The team met another pastor on Saturday who was literally shaking, traumatized by the experience. Today, we learned that he died.

Rice, beans, and oil given to the pastor and his community. Food was also given to a community of 3000 people who had lost everything.

Pray for tomorrow as the medical team begins to work. Today there were about 800 kids waiting to be seen. Pray that it doesn't rain. It has been a long day and there is too much to digest.

God's blessings to you all.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Every Home is a Shelter













This AP article by Jonathan M. Katz on Gonaives ran in the Lincoln Journal Star in the "Nation/World" section today. You can see it by looking at the right column under "Haiti Related Links"

St. Germain Update (Sept. 12th)

Please be in prayer  for DouDou.  On Wednesday he became ill and was hospitalized.  Madame DouDou is with him.  Those of you who know DouDou, whose name is really Jean-Milou Pierre, know how special he is to us at ESMI.  He's a good brother in the Lord and a wonderful servant of the Lord.  Please, please keep him in your prayers. 

I, Sharon, am here with Dony in Haiti.  I flew in yesterday.  We began our journey to Gonaives immediately. I met 25 of the 145 ESMI works with in training.  One was pastor, whose only training has been with ESMI teachers, has a 500 member congregation.  He and the others were so happy to receive the food, funds, and clothes carried into Gonaives.  Several of the pastors had to walk through miles of knee-high water to meet us.  Some were bare-footed.  Time was spent in prayer before the distribution.  This morning, several of them will meet the food truck in one city, load it on, and take it back to Gonaives, distribute it among themselves and then head into their communities.  With the need being so great the other days, they weren't able to get much of the supplies.

Today's Plan-"Si Bondye Vle"

The Haitian Christians, whenever talking about plans for the future, will always, yes always use this expression at the beginning or end of their thought, "si Bondye vle."  This literally means, "if God wants," or "if God will permit." 

So, "si Bondye vle"

1.  Be abe to provide quickly in mattress for 300 more orphans in Gonaives

2. Get a few food supplies for the medical team arriving this morning. The Hoberson "Hotel" in the city of Gonaives has graciously opened rooms for this team only. 

3.  Team will fly to Gonaives via US Army chopper, we will go via ground and meet them with the car.

4.  Begin seeing children at Gonaives orphanage and then those in the community.  One pastor mentioned yesterday that he has many children in his community that are sick but he has no way of bring them because the water is still too high.

5.  Work in Gonaives until Sunday evening and drive back

Please keep this weekend in your prayer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Wet Poverty is Worse than Dry Poverty"

Dr. Paul Farmer writes:

"After 25 years spent working in Haiti and having grown up in Florida, I can honestly say that I have never seen anything as painful as what I just witnessed in Gona├»ves—except in that very same city, four years ago. Again, you know that 2004 was an especially brutal year, . . . the coup in Haiti and what would become Hurricane Jeanne."

To see the complete article, see weblink to the right (I believe the date of the article should be Sept. 9th, not Aug. 9th).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gonaives Food Distribution





Here are some pictures of people and children in line for food. In one of the pictures, our good friend DouDou (yellow shirt and on cell phone) is coordinating the distribution efforts.

Funds are still needed:

ESMI
c/o Haiti Hurricane Relief
13651 S. Biscayne River Drive
Miami, FL 33161

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

13,000 lbs of Food to Gonaives

Today, C3Missions and ESMI in partnership with Cross International and Mission of Hope brought and distributed 13,000 lbs. of food to Gonaives. The food got there through a combination of trucks and human workers transporting the food where bridges were washed out. The goal is to get 68,000 lbs. of food to Gonaives this week. Are these amazing people or what? Keep sending funds (see link to the right)- they will help with the purchase of food.

Grace Chapel Medical Team

Grace Chapel is sending a medical team to Haiti Nov. 7-14. These plans have been in place for nearly a year now. The medical items spoken of in the post below is something we will work on gathering as a team. If you are connected to the medical field in any way and desire to have a copy of that list to gather needed medicines and supplies, e-mail Mike Hsu at mike@gracepca.com.

St. Germain Update - Helicopters on the Move!

Praise God the helicopters from the DR (Domincan Republic) were able to do what was intended on Saturday. The first flight in saw thousands of people waiting at the missions site for the much needed food and water. One helicopter was able to make 3 trips.

Today's plan, by God's grace, is to unpack a couple trucks that are already there and then to see how much more food and water can be brought in via ground transportation.

The people are already having huge bumps on their skins and swollen feet from being in the water. Attached is a list that was put together by Dr. Roberts, Christ Covenant, NC, after seeing patients from the Gonaives area from Hurricane Jean in 2004. Some are over-the counter meds that you can begin to collect.

Clothing is also needed which many of you are already collecting.

We will let you know when we have secured a shipping container to send the clothes and medicines to Haiti. Until then, would you please continue to collect these items and store them at your facilities? As you can imagine, we have only limited space for storage right now.

Thank you again for praying for the people in Haiti and partnering with us in meeting such an urgent need. Funds are still very much needed to help many find housing and just to get some basic necessities after losing everything. Please consider sending your donations to:

ESMI
c/o Haiti Hurricane Relief
13651 S. Biscayne River Drive
Miami, FL 33161

Monday, September 8, 2008

Update from Sharon St. Germain (Sept. 8th)

1.To a new battle,
Jesus is calling us,
And here we are faithful
Ready to follow Your step
Lead us to the battles
We are your soldiers

Refrain
Arm our arms, arm our hearts
And we will be
More than conquerors

2. Arm us, O Lord
With faith, with boldness
With strength, with wisdom
With love, and with zeal
Embrace us, Lord
With one invincible ardor

At 11:00am yesterday morning, many Haitian churches across the US gathered for worship with an even more somber spirit. El Shaddai, Miami, was one of them. The above French hymn (translated, of course) was the opening song. The congregational reading was taken from 1 John 3. How very appropriate the opening song seemed. Sometimes we forget that the battle is really a spiritual one and so we forget to pray along that end. God has a mighty army to fight the battle and has equipped that army, the Church. Then the Scripture reading reminded us of the God's love and how we, as His children, should show His love. Praise God for His Holy Word.

After the tempo of the music died and the singing voices silenced, sobs were heard, even from those leading the worship. There were tears for their beloved Haiti. As poor as it is, it's home. Then there were the sobs for loved ones that they haven't heard from since Tuesday. Where are they? Are they OK, dear Lord? And probably thoughts like, "Will my boss give me time off? If I go I may lose my job and then how do I support the rest of the family in Haiti?" Or, "How can I find more money to send to my family? I already sent what I had last week."

Latest from Haiti:

Widly, the 12-year-old boy found walking in the streets of Gonaives, was left with other family members in Lester. Dony and DouDou never made it to the south. Two dear brothers, Mike and Joe, from C3 Missions, flew in via DR, to do the coordination of the food with Mission of Hope. They all stayed Saturday night there on that mission's complex which is on the outskirts north of Port-au-Prince. Hurricane Ike caused more damage. In a city near Cabaret, about an hour away, flood waters came through and about 30 people died that night in that city alone.

Yesterday, efforts were made once again to get to Gonaives with 5000 pounds of military food and purified water. Hired men loaded the food on the bus, took it as far as they could go in front of a damaged bridge. Another group of hired men took the food off and put it on a truck on the other side of the bridge, and then the drive into Gonaives began. Then they came to a road blocked by vehicles. No one was allowed to pass that point. Relief effort would once again be delayed. However, on the way, they were many who had left Gonaives in search for food. Food supply and water was given to them.

This morning, the team is at the airport waiting for the two helicopters from the DR to arrive. With bridges broken down, roads damaged, they will try this one more time.

In your prayer time, remember also the spiritual warfare that is going on. Pray also for the other ministries that will try to get into Gonaives.

The services at El Shaddai ended with the preaching of the word from Psalm 29 given by Rev. Bresile St. Germain, Dony and Louis' father. Here is how that Psalm ends with verses 10 and 11-

" The Lord sits enthroned over the the flood; the LORD is enthroned as king forever. The LORD gives strength to His people; the LORD blesses His people with peace."

To God be the glory!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ike Destroys Last Bridge to Gonaives - Sept. 7

"Ike blasts Turks and Caicos, floods Haiti again"
By MIKE MELIA Associated Press Writer
Sunday, September 7, 2008

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) -- Ike ripped off roofs, swept away boats and collapsed a bridge on the last road into a flooded Haitian city on Sunday as it roared over the southern Bahamas as a ferocious Category 4 hurricane. The Florida Keys evacuated and Cuba prepared for a direct hit.

Five adults and five children drowned in their homes or were swept to their deaths as Ike's driving rains hit Haiti, raising that country's death toll to 262 from four tropical storms in recent weeks. It was too early to know of deaths on other islands where Ike's most powerful winds were still blowing Sunday morning.

With downpours from Ike topping flooding from Hanna, Gustav and Fay, officials said they had no choice but to open an overflowing dam, inundating more homes and possibly causing lasting damage to Haiti's "rice bowl," a farming area whose revival is key to rescuing the starving country.

Ike's eye hit the Bahamas' Great Inagua island, where screaming winds threatened to peel plywood from the windows of a church sheltering about 50 people, shelter manager Janice McKinney said.

"Oh my God, I can't describe it," McKinney said, adding that the pastor led everyone in prayer while the winds howled.

Some of the strongest winds hit the low-lying British territory of Turks and Caicos, where Premier Michael Misick said more than 80 percent of the homes were destroyed, fishermen lost boats and people who didn't take refuge in shelters were cowering in closets and under stairwells, "just holding on for life."

"They got hit really, really bad," Misick said. "A lot of people have lost their houses, and we will have to see what we can do to accommodate them."

At 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), Ike's eye was just east of Great Inagua Island in the southeastern Bahamas, with maximum sustained winds of 135 mph (215 kph). It was moving west at 13 mph (21 kph) and was expected to remain a major hurricane as it approaches eastern Cuba, still about 130 miles (205 km) away.

"All we can do is hunker down and pray," reserve police officer Henry Nixon said from a shelter on Great Inagua where about 85 people huddled around a radio.

Great Inagua, closer to Haiti than to the Bahamian capital of Nassau, is the southernmost island in the Bahamas archipelago. It has tens of thousands of pink West Indian flamingos -- the world's largest breeding colony -- and about 1,000 people. Both populations took shelter -- the pink flamingos gathered under mangrove trees ahead of the storm.

"They know what to do. They always find the sheltered areas," Nixon said Sunday as Ike blew shingles off rooftops.

Rain drove in horizontal sheets and wind tore through roofs across the Turks and Caicos, which has little natural protection from an expected storm surge of up to 18 feet (5.5 meters).

In South Caicos, a fishing-dependent island of 1,500 people, most homes were damaged, the airport was under water, power will be out for weeks, and every single boat was swept away despite being towed ashore for safety, Minister of Natural Resorces Piper Hanchell said.

Tourism chairman Wayne Garland was text-messaging with two people in Grand Turk during the height of the storm. "They were literally in their bathroom because their roofs were gone," he said. "Eventually they were rescued."

In Providenciales, there was flooding, roof damage and downed power lines but no injuries, he said.

"Fortunately, we were able to evacuate most of the people in low-lying areas to shelters, so thankfully I don't expect to have any injuries. We'll keep our fingers crossed that that's the case," Garland said as he left to assess the damage.

Ike's pelting rains couldn't have come at a worse time for Haiti. The Mirebalais bridge collapsed in the floods, cutting off the last land route into Gonaives, Agriculture Minister Joanas Gay told state-run Radio Nationale. Half the homes in Gonaives, Haiti's fourth-largest city, were already under water.

Gay warned residents in the surrounding Artibonite valley to evacuate immediately because an overflowing dam would have to be opened on Sunday, sending more water into the Gonaives floodplain. And in Gonaives itself, the waters were rising even as aid groups struggled to reach people with little or no access to food or water for days.

Heavy rains also pelted the Dominican Republic, Haiti's neighbor on the island of Hispaniola, where about 4,000 people were evacuated from northern coastal towns.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center projected Ike's eye would strike Cuba's northern coast Sunday night and possibly hit Havana, the capital of 2 million people with many vulnerable old buildings, by Monday night.

Cuba evacuated mountainous and coastal regions of Holguin province, and about 200 foreign tourists were brought out from the northern Santa Lucia beach resort. Workers rushed to protect coffee plants and other crops and organized food and cooking-oil distribution efforts.

At the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in southeast Cuba, all ferries were secured and beaches were off limits. The military said cells containing the detainees -- about 255 men suspected of links to the Taliban and al-Qaida -- are hurricane-proof.

"People have been forewarned for a day," Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Lamb said. "It's starting to get breezy."

Once Ike leaves Cuba, forecasters said the storm might swipe at the Florida Keys before moving into the Gulf of Mexico. Where it goes from there was harder to predict, leaving millions from Florida to Mexico wondering where it will eventually strike.

"These storms have a mind of their own," Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said. Tourists were ordered out of the Keys on Saturday, and residents began evacuating Sunday, starting with the southernmost islands, along the narrow highway to the mainland.

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal set up a task force to prepare for more possible havoc only days after an historic, life-saving evacuation of more than 2 million people from Hurricane Gustav.

"Our citizens are weary and they're tired and they have spent a lot of money evacuating," worried New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. "It will be very difficult to move the kind of numbers out of this city that we moved during Gustav."

Off Mexico's Pacific coast, Tropical Storm Lowell was moving away from land.

------

Associated Press writers Mike Melia in Nassau, Bahamas; Jonathan Katz in Gonaives, Haiti; and Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Update from Sharon St. Germain (Sept. 6th)

The latest from Haiti.

Haiti airports are now closed due to the tropical storm warning. Hurricane Ike is expected to bring more rain to northern Haiti; this of course includes Gonaives. Only one helicopter was able to leave the DR before the warning was given. But once it landed, there were other issues with the government not wanting the food to be boarded. And then came the closure of the airport.

Dony and DouDou got to Gonaives at about 3:00pm yesterday. A rented truck filled with water, followed them into the city. The people were happy for the water but were also looking for food which we hope would have come today. Since the helicopters were being held up, the next plan was to return to Port-au-Prince, rent several trucks to drive the food back to Gonaives. But then the weather began to change. So he and DouDou used whatever funds they had and bought all the food they could find in Gonaives, gave these to several church leaders along with funds and began the journey back to the south.

When asked how was the situation there, Dony's response was to think of the worst that you can, and then think Gonaives. He was driving through 2 feet of water in the city. Some people were cleaning whatever was remaining of their home and at the same time standing in knee deep water. As he returns to Les Cayes in the south, he has a passenger. He is a 12 year-old boy named Widly. Widly was walking in the streets all by himself. When asked why, he said because he had lost his family. He took Dony and DouDou to what remained of his home. Widly says that he has other family in Lester and so they will drive him there to find them.

Tuesday night as the rain came pouring down, a pregnant lady sought refuge on the second floor with the 250 orphans. There she gave birth to her child. Another 200 were in the medical clinic and are still there as they have no where to go. Meanwhile, yesterday in Les Cayes, Louis was giving out food and funds to people in the community who had lost everything. Why give them funds if you give them the food such as rice and beans? Well, they now need to buy the charcoal to cook, oil to cook, the pot to cook, etc.

This effort cannot be done alone. We are thankful for ministry partners such as C3 Missions who are doing the food coordination at this time and another partner who have opened there warehouse for us to take food supply to the people in Gonaives. However, due to the change in weather and the expectations of more rain from Hurricane Ike, Monday will be the return date to Gonaives.

Have a blessed Lord's day tomorrow.

Attached is a photo Dony took on the way to Gonaives.

Reuters Report

06 Sep 2008 01:11:17 GMT
Source: Reuters

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Haitian police found 495 corpses when muddy floodwaters began to recede on Friday from the port city of Gonaives following days of heavy rain from Tropical Storm Hanna, the town's police commissioner said on Friday.

"The weather is calm now and we are discovering more bodies. We have found 495 bodies so far and there are 13 people missing," commissioner Ernst Dorfeuille told Reuters.

"The smell of the dead is very unpleasant in Gonaives. The death toll could be even higher." (Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva, Editing by Michael Christie and Todd Eastham)

Friday, September 5, 2008

C3 Missions : Haiti Update (Sept. 5th pm)

Here's the situation: the kids in the south have endured much but seem to be safe.
 
Gonaives is a mess.  BUT, the 250 orphans in our children's village are ok.  In fact, the water has receded in the village such that the grounds of the children once discarded in this country will become a staging ground for a large relief effort tomorrow (Saturday).  Through the help of Ed Barber, one of C3's key players in Atlanta, we secured 2 helicopters on Friday.  Dony and Louis and 140 pastors they've trained have set the children's village as a staging ground for (a) relief to our children in Gonaives - 400 of them; and (b) relief to the 300,000 in Gonaives suffering so miserably.  It's brutal.  Right now, I think it's fair to say that the most miserable place on earth for a human being to "live" is Gonaives, Haiti.  We've secured a huge supply of food and water.  Virtually the entire population of Gonaives have gone without food and water for over 2 days.  We'll start running about 2,000 lbs. of food and water every hour tomorrow.  I figure we'll be able to get in 14,000 lbs. plus before dark, God willing.  That will shore up our kids and provide sustaining, life saving relief for thousands others.  The biggest threat to this effort is that the people there are so desperate that they rioting is a real possibility.  These people aren't animals.  They're just hungry.  They have children to feed.  What in the heck would you do if you saw a shot at a meal in that situation?  You get that point.  It's our understanding that the local police and U.N. will secure the perimeter of the children's village to allow us to stage the relief effort.  A top gov't official will be working with us in this relief effort, and we're hoping that seeing what a little weenie organization like C3 can do frustrated by inaction will motivate other "emergency responders" to get off their butts and get some food and water in there.
 
Time and circumstances permitting, we'll fly to the south just to check on all of our kids there and take them a load of food. No guarantees.  We'll just have to see what happens.
 
Thanks to El Shaddai.  Dony and Louis have mobilized an army for this relief effort.  Their local leadership inspires. . . .

Gonaives







Update from Sharon St. Germain (Sept. 5th)

Brothers and Sisters, we continue to thank you for your prayers.

This is the latest from Dony. All the calls he has made to the people in Gonaives, they have expressed their hunger for food and thirst for water. They told him they are so hungry and thirsty that they do not know what to do with themselves. We are thankful to our C3 Missions partner who gave Dony the go ahead to secure helicopters from the Domincan Republic and purchase the food for the people. Dony and DouDou are now in Port-au-Prince. They will buy as much water as they can and begin the drive through the mountains to enter Gonaives. They are also arranging the food transportation from Port-au-Prince to Gonaives on the helicopters.

You know when people haven't eaten for several days, their patience is very limited. Security will be needed as the helicopters will make about 10 trips with food and water. We are also trying to arrange for the UN and the police in Gonaives to provide security. The helicopters will land on the ESMI Gonaives Mission Site. Those of you who have been there have seen the open field in front of the 2-story building. The distribution will be to the 145 leaders who are in training with ESMI and with other pastors in the area. We are expecting a total of 200 people.

So pray for tomorrow's distribution of food (Saturday Sept. 6th) and all the planning that must be done today (Sept. 5th) for tomorrow.

You've been wondering how you can help. Right now, we need funds. Funds that will cover the cost to purchase the needed food and water. This we will do for awhile until others can get to the people.

Please send checks to:

ESMI
c/o Haiti-Hanna Disaster Relief (write in check memo. line)
13651 S. Biscayne River Drive
Miami, FL 33161

Thanks for your prayers and support. God's peace to all.

Pastor Dony Coordinating One-Day Relief Effort

Taken from the C3Missions Newsletter:

Today's update (Sept. 4th) by necessity must be brief.  We know much less than what we do not know. What we do know is that all of the children in Port-au-Prince and in the south are safe. We also know that the situation in Gonaives is worsening by the minute. We have secured water purification kits that will provide one million litters of drinkable water. We are struggling to get this aid, food and other supplies into Gonaives. To help remedy this situation, we are flying Dony St. Germain by helicopter into Gonaives tomorrow (Friday) to coordinate relief efforts from within.

We understand that there may be a one day window of opportunity to get aid into Gonaives before the onset of Hurricane Ike.  Tomorrow is that day.  And tomorrow is the day that we are targeting for a significant push for relief when we have Dony inside of the children's village to help identify creative ways by which we can deliver relief.

Please continue to pray with us.
 
Faithfully yours,
Joe Knittig
Executive Director, C3 Missions

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Gonaives - BBC Video Under "Related Links"

Pray that Hurricanes Ike and Josephine will be averted from Haiti.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hurricane Relief Options : Haitian and Stateside

OPTION #1 : Pastor Dony St. Germain needs funds to provide food and water directly to the people of Gonaives, Haiti who have been devastated by the hurricanes. The people have not eaten for several days. Dony and his friend DouDou are being airlifted into Gonaives to distribute food and water to 145 community leaders who in turn will distribute supplies to the people. Please send checks to:

El Shaddai Ministries International (ESMI)
c/o Haiti-Hanna Disaster Relief (write in check memo line)
13651 S. Biscayne River Drive
Miami, FL 33161


OPTION #2 : Relief for Haitian Orphans in Gonaives

C3Missions is a partnership ministry with El Shaddai Ministries International (ESMI). Grace Chapel has been involved with ESMI for going on five years now, sent a team to Haiti in August and is preparing a second team to go in November. C3’s work goes directly to feeding and caring for the 250 ESMI orphans in the northern city of Gonaives. To read about the relief fund as well as give to the relief effort, press the web addresses to the right under "related links."

Otherwise checks can be mailed to:

C3 Missions International
c/o C3 Haiti Relief Fund (write in check memo line)
3000 NW 50th Street
Kansas City, MO 64150

For additional donation options, see the webpage to your right under "related links."


OPTION #3 : Stateside Relief in the Wake of Gustav

Brian McKeon of New City Fellowship Church, an urban PCA church in Chattanooga, TN (see weblink to the right), is taking a team to offer immediate help with tarps, food, water, removing debris, etc., but will also be assessing the situation to know what further teams should be sent. Much of what Brian will do is assess what is already being done in the area (by the Red Cross, FEMA, other churches, etc.) and how his teams can and should fit in.

Brian’s contact information is bmckeon@newcityfellowship.com. Otherwise you can contact Tabitha Kapic, friend of Mike and Tanya Hsu’s and member of New City Fellowship Church, at tabitha.kapic@covenant.edu.

Otherwise checks can be mailed to:

New City Fellowship
c/o Brian McKeon- Gustav Disaster Response (write in check memo line)
2424 East Third Street
Chattanooga, TN 37404

Update on Gonaives (2)

Thank you for your prayers.

Here is an update from Dony St. Germain as of Wednesday, September 3rd, 12:30pm:

Thank you so much for your prayers for the people in Haiti. The latest update is that the rain has stopped and the water is receding. Praise the Lord. Pray with us as we begin to assess and see how we can minister to the saints in both the northern and southern Haiti. Thank you once again for your prayer support.

Update on Gonaives (1)

Friends, here is an update from Dony St. Germain (received 8:30pm the evening of Sept. 2nd). Remember that 3000 Haitians died in Hurricane Jean in 2004. Dony comments that some think Hanna is worse:

Hurricane Hannah continues to sit over Haiti causing unbelievable flooding. Those in Gonaives, who went through Hurricane Jean, think this is worse. The orphans in Gonaives are still safe on the second floor. The orphans in Cayes are waiting out the storm in the church as the waters have entered their orphanages. We are believing that all the other orphans are safe but no word as yet. Radio stations in Haiti are asking for prayers because never have they seen such flooding.

As the night begins to fall, forecasters show Hannah barely making any move until early tomorrow. People who have sought higher ground can find no way down and they are left there to wonder what will happen next. There are no helicopters to rescue them. We count on your prayers for God's protection for our people.

Below are photos that Louis took around Les Cayes. The third photo may be familiar to those who have been to Haiti. This is the bridge that leads from the main road over to the Cambry Missions.

Also Dou Dou has made it safely back to Cayes. We Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pray for Gonaives!!!

Just received from friends Dony and Sharon St. Germain:

Continue to pray, dear friends, as the rain has been pouring all across Haiti, and the DR (Dominican Republic), since last night.

Louis was able to get through to us and said he has never seen so much water in all his years in Haiti. He is asked that we keep them in prayer. He tried to go to Cambry, where we have a ministry site, but even there the bridge to go across was impassable.

We contacted MTW missionary in Gonaives, and he too asked for prayer. He's on the second floor of his home with his wife and 3 boys as the water is on the first floor.

Our dear friend, DouDou, made it to St. Marc. He had to swim through some areas as he tried to leave Gonaives. He is on his way to Les Cayes but there is flooding everywhere.

Thank you for your prayers.

Gustav Relief and Prayer for Gonaives, Haiti

I'm sure you've been keeping up with another crazy hurricane season. I present you with two opportunities, one for giving and one for praying. The first is, if you would like to donate to relief efforts for damage done by Hurricane Gustav, remember my friends Kelly and Tabitha Kapic? I posted earlier about Tabitha's cancer? The Kapics' church in Chattanooga (www.newcityfellowship.com) is a large urban church and has a staff person named Brian McKewon who does disaster relief. See Tabitha's note below if you want to give directly to the efforts.

The second opportunity is for you to pray for our friends in Haiti, especially in the northern city of Gonaives. Pray for our dear friend DouDou as well as the orphans up north. Haitian Pastor Dony St. Germain e-mails:

"Thanks so much for your prayers as Hurricane Fay and Gustav passed over Haiti. Everyone that we know of is well. Lots of road were flooded over and made impassable, but everyone we believe is safe. However, we just received a call from DouDou (Pierre/Peter) that Gonaives is already under floodwater due to Hurricane Hannah. Many people are evacuating Gonaives, including DouDou who was up there visiting the work. You may remember the 2004 flood due to Hurricane Jean that brought the seawaters in that washed away over 3000 people. Pray that this is not repeated and that God will keep our dear friend, DouDou, and all the people safe. The Gonaives orphans are all on the second floor. Pray that Hannah will move away quickly. Forecast shows it sitting over Haiti and moving only at two miles."

Regarding Gustav relief, here's the note from Tabitha:

Dear friends and family,

Kelly and I have donated to the hurricane Gustav response this morning and are asking you to pray and consider doing the same. $50, $100, $200 - all of these amounts are very helpful.

Below is an email from friend and fellow church member, Brian McKeon. Brian coordinates disaster response for our church and has worked on several recent disasters like the Iowa floods, Katrina, the earthquake in Peru and the Tsunami. Our family has become more and more drawn to helping in these situations.

Money donated is tax deductible through our church and will be used for disaster response and rehabilitation. Please do consider if you can commit to a gift today through this or some other organization. If you are in a position to give, please do the following:

E-mail (Tabitha.Kapic@covenant.edu) with the amount you are sending so that I can communicate this to Brian. He is planning the trip and buying supplies. Knowing what he has to work would be very helpful. Alternately, you can contact Brian directly (bmckeon@newcityfellowship.com) or just send something in without contacting anyone. It will get to the right place.

Make your check payable to "New City Fellowship" and write "Disaster Response" on the memo line.

Mail your check to:
New City Fellowship
c/o Brian McKewon (Gustav Disaster Response)
2424 East Third Street
Chattanooga, TN 37404

Brian will be taking the first assessment team down tomorrow (Sept. 2nd) or Wednesday (Sept. 3rd). This team will provide immediate help with tarps, food, water, removing debris, etc., but will also be assessing the situation to know what further teams should be sent. Brian is very good at determining what is already being done in a situation (by the Red Cross, FEMA, other churches, etc.) and how his teams can and should fit in.

I want to thank you for even considering this. I know you all give to other things so please don't feel any pressure, Relief work has got my heart and I just appreciate you listening. Please do pray for those in Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and our country being affected by this storm and the one right behind it. Thank you so much!

Warmest thanks,
Tabitha & Kelly

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Tribute to Dr. Ed Clowney and "The Politics of the Kingdom"

For good or for ill, the single most influential article on my thinking regarding the question of where a Christian is to stand in relationship to the political arena, would have to be "The Politics of the Kingdom" written by Edmund P. Clowney in the "Westminster Theological Journal" in the Spring of 1979.

Dr. Clowney was my spiritual grandfather, not in that I knew him personally but in that he trained a number of my seminary professors. Dr. Clowney passed away in March of 2005 at the age of eighty-seven. My seminary professor Richard Pratt made the comment publicly that Dr. Clowney was one of the two most influential professors on a generation of Westminster-trained students (if you are interested, Cornelius Van Til was the other). In 1929, Westminster seminary formed in response to the compromising of evangelical standards in the mainline Presbyterian church's flagship seminary, Princeton. A number of my professors, along with Ben Loos' (we attended the same seminary separated by about ten years), trained under Dr. Clowney.

Perhaps the greatest contribution Dr. Clowney made to all of us was his skill in what we now refer to as "redemptive preaching." If you have been to Grace Chapel for any length of time, there is an underlying principle to all of our sermons and that principle is that "God is always the hero-redeemer of the story." So for example, if you ever leave Grace Chapel saying, "look at how courageous Joshua was . . . be like Joshua," then shame on the pastoral staff. In the OT, Joshua was meant to point us to someone greater who would come and achieve for us an eternal conquest and place of eternal rest (Heb. 4:8). Or if you ever leave Grace Chapel lifting up Moses as a hero, then shame on us for so misleading you! The point of the New Testament is that Jesus is a better Moses than Moses (Heb. 3:3)! We mean for you to leave Grace Chapel every week holding the hand of Jesus Christ . . . and no one else- that is redemptive preaching. Thank you Dr. Clowney for teaching us how to preach in such an intensely Cross/Christ-centered manner.

I had the joy of meeting Dr. Clowney once back in 1995. Primarily, I remember how kind he was. Dr. Clowney asked not only my name but about my name, how to pronounce it in Mandarin. And I remember Dr. Clowney mulling over the pronunciation for what seemed like an eternity. I think he wanted to get my name not just as "shoe" but with the proper pronunciation in its native tongue. I was struck with how interested Dr. Clowney seemed to be in this lowly first-year twenty-four year old seminary student.

Regarding Dr. Clowney's 1979 article, while it was never designed to be a thorough treatment on political theory from a Christian perspective, one cannot help but leave the article feeling a sense of awe regarding the high task of Jesus' Church to bear witness in the world and to do so in a way that represents the distinctive nature of Her ideals as members of an other-worldly Kingdom. Dr. Clowney insisted that we must be responsible citizens in this world but do so in a way that would not accommodate too readily to the power structures of the world.

If there is one sentence in the 1979 article that summarizes his thesis, it would be this:

"To the politics of human power the cross is foolishness."

. . . I guess we are two months away from election day and the DNC is going strong currently. Christians should be engaged in the political process as responsible citizens of this country. Yet, we must put a significant amount of restraint in the hopes we place in the political process for our hope is not in the power structures of this world. I leave you with more of Dr. Clowney's article:

"The church is organized for these ends: the worship of God, the nurture and growth of God's people, and the bearing of witness to the world. For each of these ministries the church is endued with gifts of the Spirit by the exalted Christ. First, the Word of God must be ministered to these ends: Christ enables every Christian to confess his name before men and exhort his bretheren in the truth. So, too, Christ grants gifts of order to discipline the church in love. The pilgrim church must also minister mercy, caring for the poor and the distressed among the brethren, and as God grants opportunity, to all men.

Christ has not promised to make us wise in world politics, skillful in technology, or talented in the arts. Love of the Lord brings fruitful living in all his creation. But Christians live as stewards, respecting the priorities of the kingdom. The Christian labors, not to amass wealth but to have to give to the needy; the man who has everything lives only to give it to the Lord in faithful stewardship. He lives as possessing nothing. The man who has nothing is a child of the King, possessing everything. Christ's redemption does not improve our efficiency in worldly living. It is the purchase of the King who claims us for himself and his program. . . ."

A tribute to Dr. Edmund P. Clowney and his article are available in my list of "related links."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Claiborne, Poverty and Rest, part II.

Especially being an election year, I've been thinking a lot about the role of government in relationship to addressing poverty. A few weeks back, my good friend Ben Davy challenged me with the thought that it was not primarily the role of the government to relieve poverty. I still have a lot of reading to do on the matter but intuitively I think I understand the dangers of a welfare state where those in need become entirely dependent on the assistance of the state for their sustenance.

Kuyper explains it in this way:

"As for . . . state aid-namely, the distribution of money- it is certain that such intervention is not excluded in Israel's lawgiving, but there it is held to a minimum. Therefore I say that, unless you wish to undermine the position of the laboring class and destroy its natural resilience, the material assistance of the state should be confined to an absolute minimum" (p. 72).

I think Kuyper's point is twofold: 1) that it is not the responsibility of the state primarily to give out material assistance and also that 2) the state is called to uphold fair labor laws so that anyone who wants to work and is willing to do so can in fact do so.

But then the question still remains, who carries the responsibility for addressing poverty? Kuyper helps us in two ways here:

1) he says that we have to be careful that we do not create inordinate lust in the poor with the vision that they might "have what we have," that the Apostle Paul says if we have food and clothing we will be content with that (1 Tim. 6:6-8). So inevitably, this first point turns back on the "haves," to measure our sense of contentment with our material things in light of possessing eternal treasures (and to repent accordingly of our own need to learn gratitude, joy and contentment, things often present in larger measure among those with less, the so-called "have nots"). This first point comes home to me every time I travel to Haiti and see how much I have yet to learn from my Haitian friends.

2) to learn generosity and love of the brethren:

"But at least in the circle of those who confess the Lord, I pray that you will allow a more perfect love to drive out all such fear (Kuyper is speaking here about the fear of losing your wealth should you choose to be generous to the suffering). For those who are diverted by fear for their money box have no place marching in the ranks with us. This is holy ground, and he who would walk on it must first loosen the sandals of his egotism. The only sound permitted here is the stirring and eloquent voice of the merciful Samaritan whispering in our ears. There is suffering round about you, and those who suffer are your brothers, sharers of your nature, your own flesh and blood. You might have been in their place and they in your more pleasant position. The gospel speaks to you of a Redeemer who, although he was rich, became poor for your sake so he might make you rich" (p. 76).

Perhaps the point here is to be more courageous with our generosity? that in light of much suffering all around us among brothers and sisters, we should allow perfect love to cast out fear and step out in love.

Claiborne, Poverty and Rest, part I.

I don't know if you had a chance to read my brief 07.09.08 post about Claiborne's book, "Irresistible Revolution," but the short of it is that in that post I said I was "sorting some things out" regarding the content of the book. I'm still sorting. I'm now working through a short reader written by Abraham Kuyper called "The Problem of Poverty." Kuyper was Prime Minister of the Netherlands at the turn of the 19th century and though living a few centuries later, very much a student of Reformer John Calvin. One of Kuyper's key contributions to Christendom was imploring followers of Christ to move beyond merely a privatized "me and Jesus" kind of faith and allow our faith to impact and overflow to "all of life." No wonder Kuyper was very interested in how the impact of faith in Christ, while inclusive of, nonetheless moved beyond "soul-saving" to "community and society rebuilding" (more my summary of Kuyper's thoughts than his own statements).

In the beginning of his address, I was impacted by one of Kuyper's statements connecting the pursuit of wealth to a basic "soul-weariness" (and remember Kuyper is writing over 100 years ago and from the Netherlands, but let's see how relevant his words seem to us today here in the U.S.):

"Standing before the agonizing distress of these times, a distress which at every point is related to the very essence of error and sin, our eye should not be allowed, nor should it be able, to turn away from Christ the Consoler, who assuredly addresses our violently disturbed century with the persistent call of his divine compassion: 'Come to me, wealthiest century in history, which is so deathly weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'"

Church, let's pray for one another. For me personally, I don't know if it is the pursuit of wealth that makes me so weary (I am in vocational ministry, right?), but nonetheless it is the pursuit of certain things the world says I should be seeking after (comfort, safety and security to name a few) that puts my soul in complacency jeopardy.

I was talking to Tanya the other day about the notion of "danger" (I brought up the subject) and of course the topic came up because I am now riding a motorcycle (have about 1200 miles on it this summer). In light of the many warnings and expressions of concern that have come my way as a result of riding a motorcycle, perhaps this is a little too self-justifying, but I said to Tanya, "riding a motorcycle is no more dangerous than living in the suburbs and standing to lose your soul" (if you live in the suburbs, so do I, so don't feel too judged here). By the way, did you hear Ben Loos' Aug. 10th sermon, "The Fight"? Wasn't it really good? especially in the way it addressed some of these things?

Well, I'm kind of all over the place in this post, but remember what I said in the 07.09.08 post? Claiborne's book did something to me, and I'm still trying to sort it out. If I seem a little confused in this post, . . . blame it on Shane Claiborne.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Margin and Rest (cont.)

"Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves."

-Psa. 127:1,2 (NIV)


"I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber."

-Blaise Pascal


"But the saints who have separated their bodies to God have resources not at the disposal of the ordinary person running on fumes and promises, where so many of us find ourselves today. We have to learn how to get where those resources are and to take our bodies into the rest of God."

-Dallas Willard

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Margin and Rest

The preaching sabbatical is almost coming to an end (first Sunday in September, we will be back to Grace Chapel!). Despite my sabbatical from preaching, I think one thing I continue to look for in life is some general margin. This has come to mind because I have been on a preaching sabbatical for three months and one of the more common comments that has been made to me through notes and e-mails has been, "I hope you are finding some time to rest and relax during your sabbatical."

I know this has been what I was supposed to do. Unfortunately, I have not been very good at resting and relaxing. Let me qualify this with a few statements: 1) we have taken trips galore this summer, something we would have never been able to do without a sabbatical (trips to MN, CO, TN, FL to name a few places) and 2) it has been very refreshing to get out and see other churches, what God is doing in those churches as well as be reminded of what it's like to be a "newcomer" in a church setting; 3) last week, my parents took us on a Disney cruise as a "last event of the summer" sort of thing.

All these things listed above were incredible blessings and things for which we are so grateful, but restful and relaxing they have not been! Being in the Bahamas was great fun, but chasing a three and four-year old around the ocean, while fun, was not relaxing.

I don't know all that I will have learned from my sabbatical- I think a great deal; however, I think the art of "relaxing" and being refreshed will be less a product of circumstance and more a matter of the heart. As originally planned, I have been off to Schuyler a few times this summer to retreat on Thursdays. However, how many times have I been in a hurry to get back to check e-mail and get things done and how often have these things occupied my heart and mind while on my "day retreat."

Lord have mercy. I think finding margin in my life and truly resting ultimately will come from a life that is growing and maturing in faith, faith in the Lord who gives us rest (Matt. 11:28), that He sees rest as inherently good (remember the seventh day creation thing?) and that building margin in our lives and recognizing our need for it as representative not of someone who is unproductive, rather as someone who recognizes the finitude of her humanity and is OK with living within its bounds (isn't there something here about "letting God be God"?).

All that to say, the blog postings have been infrequent as of late. I know- life has gotten kind of crazy as of late. I hope to post some more before the sabbatical is over but am not decided if I will continue thereafter.

Well gotta run . . . and check my e-mail.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The First Five Minutes Before and Following

Years ago in seminary, in one of my church-planting classes, it was said that a newcomer will decide whether to return to your church on the basis of the first five minutes before the worship service and the first five minutes immediately following. I heard that statement almost eleven years ago, and I never fully understood it . . . until now.

You see, I have not been truly a newcomer to a church since 1995. I was hired by Zion Church in 1998 so that doesn't count and then I was part of the launch of Grace Chapel in 2000, so that doesn't count either. The last time I was truly a newcomer to a church was back in 1995 when Tanya and I started attending St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fl.

But what this summer has afforded us is the opportunity to be newcomers to churches many times over. Before this summer is over, I will have had the opportunity to attend at least twenty different churches, most of them being in Lincoln. So let me tell you about our experience this last Sunday. After figuring out parking (which was across the street from the church building itself) and after finding our way to the worship hall through one of two doors we had to pick (we picked correctly. whew!), we then walked into the foyer amidst many people chatting away, clearly most familiar with one another.

We made it through the awkward stage of getting through the foyer with all these chatty people, none of whom we knew and figured out how to get our two boys (ages three and four) to the nursery. And then as we walked toward the worship hall, the greeter hit a home run with us! He stepped forward, put his hand out and said enthusiastically, "Hi, I'm Craig! Welcome to such and such church. We're glad you are here!" Truth be told, in many of the churches we have visited this summer, either we have been greeted by someone with a countenance better suited for being a bouncer at a bar or we were not greeted at all!!! We then entered the worship hall, bulletin in hand, and sat down in time for Sunday worship to kick off. The first five minutes before the service went off without a hitch! The music was good. The message was filled with the passionate preaching of my good friend who pastors the church. The church had a very authentic sense about it, very much an outward-focused, outreach-minded place with a sweetness about it.

I walked up to my pastor friend immediately following the service and Tanya went off to grab our boys. I hugged my friend and began telling him how much we appreciated being there and how blessed we were and how everyone did such a great job of welcoming us. My friend was excited to hear the good news about his church. Soon, my friend turned to greet some of his members.

And then it happened . . . I see my wife returning with our boys from the nursery. She's fighting back tears. I ask, "what's wrong honey?"

Tanya responds, "the nursery lost Calvin (our three-year old)." "What?" "They lost Calvin." "What?" You see what had happened was that Tanya had gone to the nursery to pick up the boys and she could only find Isaac (our four-year old). While she was frantically searching for Calvin, the two nursery workers were occupied with other concerns, not paying much attention to this frantic mother and finally Tanya blurted out, "Where's Calvin?" Immediate answer by the one nursery worker who actually responded: "uh . . . uh . . . uh . . . I don't know." "You don't know where my son is?" "uh . . . uh . . . uh . . . maybe he went upstairs to children's church with the older kids?" "You don't know where my three- year old son is? Maybe he went upstairs with the older kids? Where's upstairs and how do I get there?!"

Tanya went upstairs and, sure enough, there was our three-year old with the older kids in Children's Church.

The first five minutes following the service impacted our day and left an impression regarding our church experience far more so than the music (sorry Crystal and Gina), far more than the preaching (sorry Ben L. and me), far more so than the quality of coffee (sorry so many of you at Grace Chapel).

Would we have returned to that church if we were trying to find a church home? I don't know. After being a minister for ten years and very much a "friendly" to the church, I hope we would have had the maturity at least to address the difficulty of the situation with someone in leadership and see if there wasn't something we could do to make that church a better place (apart from whether we would have come to call that place home or not). In fact, Tanya was so upset she wanted to say something right there and then. I told her that she needed to calm down a bit and promised that I'd call my pastor friend this week and tell him what had happened. I know he would want to know. Plus, being a churchman, I understand we take a lot of things for granted in the church. I'm sure the people at that church assumed everyone was just "family" and that if a kid wanders here or there, that it's a bit like losing sight of your child at a family reunion, that he's going to be OK either way. How eye-opening it has been to step away from Grace Chapel for the summer to get a "fresh set of eyes."

If you are an established person at Grace Chapel, how cognoscente are you of the significance of the first five minutes before the service [seeking out new faces (by the way, at GC newcomers are often the ones sitting in the worship hall before the service, regulars usually roll in more casually), serving as a friendly and intentional greeter, helping a new mother find her way to the nursery, etc.] and the significance of the first five minutes following a service (looking to reach out and say "hi" to a new face, praying with someone in need, helping to ensure that new people know about the Geneva House, coffee, where their kids are going to be as they return from Children's Church, etc.).

Remember, the first five minutes before and after a church service will shape much of the impression with which a newcomer leaves Grace Chapel that day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Elfland

" . . . we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door."

-G.K. Chesterton in "The Ethics of Elfland"

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Upside-Down Kingdom, PART III. (Back to Servanthood)

To return from my digression about cigars, laundry and women's ordination in Part II., some of these ideas about servanthood came home for me this last week when we spent a number of days in TN/GA with Kelly and Tabitha Kapic, dear friends from our seminary days. Timed with my sabbatical, we planned a trip months and months ago. Recently, Tabitha was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and needed to have major surgery- as of right now the surgery seems to have "gotten" all the cancer. While in TN/GA, Tabitha was recovering from the emotional and physical trauma of her operation and being a victim of cancer, tired and without much energy. We had great conversation with our friends but then a portion of our time was spent mowing the lawn, trimming bushes, watching their two little children, doing some laundry and unpacking some bags from a recent trip their kids had been on while mom underwent surgery.

I go back twenty years and cringe to think about how an unregenerate Mike Hsu would have thought about the value of a week like this last one. I get into that devil of a man's thoughts and they go something like this: "I could have done yard work and watched kids back home. Why did we pay for airline tickets to do that?" Romans 3:10-12, "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.'” By the grace of God, I am growing to hate that old guy who used to be me.

As I mowed my friends' lawn and trimmed their bushes (and listened to Pavarotti on my Ipod- splendid!), my heart was filled with so much happiness and joy because I knew in a small way my friends would be blessed whether in Kelly coming home from work and seeing clean lines in his yard or Tabitha being less concerned that the yard had "slid" for a few weeks (cancer does consume a lot of energy and attention and take you away from regular routines, you know?) I loved every minute of being able to serve my friends in very small ways. I cry almost thinking about it- remember, this is a guy who isn't very good at serving. Thank you Jesus.

To follow some thoughts from Part II., I know I’m a pastor-elder with “authority in the church.” But the really good stuff in God’s economy/Kingdom is serving someone else’s agenda. I don’t think in a redeemed Kingdom-hierarchy, apart from office and function, that ANYONE is ever truly kept from the “good stuff.” You know what I'm saying? Kinda?

I love Hebrews 5:7-9: "During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."

It's interesting to me that in the first part of those verses, Jesus was heard by God because of His "reverent submission." In other words, though being equal with God He sought after inequality, to become "less than God by doing His will." In the second part, Jesus is described as Himself "learning obedience from what He suffered," that Jesus perfectly laid down His life for us but that He "learned to do so" as well. I wonder if the marvel in these verses is that before His incarnation, Jesus, the eternal God of the universe, second person of the Godhead, never had occasion, opportunity or reason to submit Himself to anyone or anything. After all, He was the pre-existent God from all eternity right?! that now in the accomplishing of the Father's perfect will, Jesus was traversing new terrain, that even Jesus had to learn submission and obedience to the will of the Father?!

My friends, forgive me if I have offended any of you in this three-part series. I love the people of Grace Chapel. I don't want to offend. Know that this conversation remains an open one among the leadership of Grace Chapel. So let me close this lengthy series by saying this- in my own life here are the things I truly want to learn: to delight in submission, obedience, embracing inequality and true servanthood. In mowing my friends' lawn (it was a huge lawn by the way!), I had one of those aha moments, that I was created for this, that my life only made sense insofar as it was being poured out for others, not seeking to take it up instead laying it down. Jesus once talked about someone losing his life for His sake and as a result, finding it. I've been a follower of Jesus Christ for almost twenty years. I think I'm beginning to find my life. If anyone, man or woman, wants my vocational call, go for it (really)! However, I would rather be less than all women and most men. So let me have it. Really. The Kingdom privilege is all mine.

The Upside-Down Kingdom, PART II. (Women’s Ordination, Laundry and Cigars Again)

There is much talk these days about equality in the church, . . . and here's another confession if you didn't already know it (this time about the Presbyterian Church in America) . . . our denomination does not ordain women as pastors and elders. Understandably so, to many this is an abhorrent notion reeking of inequality and injustice. Yet, I wonder if it would be so abhorrent if we (men and women alike) really understood the Gospel as being about One who did not seek equality, instead "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant . . . ." I'm a man (and a master of the obvious), and you might think that these things are easy for a man to say. Nietzsche probably would have called this kind of reasoning something along the lines of a teaching purported by those in power to keep people down and subservient. Yet if we really understood the Gospel and the nature of the upside-down Kingdom, wouldn't we all be striving for INEQUALITY? Would those who have the opportunity/role, whatever you want to call it, of submission and service be among those most envied in that world and held up high on a pedestal, rather than those with "authority" and "decision-making power"? As I tell BOTH partners in my many premarriage sessions, in the Kingdom of God EVERYONE is trying to go low, so should both husband and wife in the marriage relationship.

Look, I know the reason this way of thinking may seem outrageous is because we live in a fallen world tainted with injustice, corruption, abuse of power and love of self above love of neighbor. Yet, what if the "entire world" operated in this way where the higher up you go on the totem pole of power and authority, the greater servant you become? Isn't this the Kingdom we are to: 1) pray for in the Lord's Prayer and 2) work at realizing in our marriages, churches and eventually the world? Is it really a terrible world where EVERYONE is seeking to be less equal in privilege, function and prestige to the next guy? and instead where EVERYONE is seeking to uplift, uphold and bring out the best in EVERYONE ELSE (Matt. 20:26)?

C.S. Lewis once said that democracy where all functions and offices are virtually open to all people (at least in theory), is necessary because corruption and sin are present in the world. Yet imagine a world where corruption and sin are being put off and the "world order" being restored where the guy on top is the greatest servant among us. Kind of sounds like a Kingdom where the King is the greatest servant doesn't it? Sound familiar? And what if that world had a certain creational pattern in marriage and in the church that was being restored where, while the husband might be the "Head" in marriage and the church elders might be male in nature, yet Christlikeness was being formed in and among the people of those institutions, that to have authority simply meant "the right to serve the very best interests of those whom one might seek to lead"? This kind of world envisioned is radical, I know. It is so far outside the plausibility construct of those of us who our entire lives have breathed the air of democratic ideals. Can I ask you to consider that perhaps a superior notion rests on the assumption of a world order where a redeemed hierarchy exists alongside Christ-like ideals (we do refer to the vision of this kind of world as a "Kingdom" after all, don't we?). Will you at least consider it as food for thought?

Many of these thoughts have pressed in on me over the years now having been an ordained PCA pastor for ten years. I've been asked a lot over the years if I believe men are more qualified than women to be pastors. Let me just say for the record, that among men and women alike in the church, I believe myself to be the LEAST QUALIFIED to be a teaching elder, i.e. pastor. Why so? Because as head pastor, while I am called to be the greatest servant in my congregation, truth of the matter is that serving others above myself does not come naturally for me (remember my original confession in Part I.?). Yet the amazing thing is that in this arena called the Church, where the Kingdom of God is meant to manifest itself, even Mike Hsu is growing in putting on Christ and putting off sin (did you hear that?! even Mike Hsu is growing! Do you believe in miracles?). After a mere almost twenty years as a Christian, I am beginning to learn how to be a servant.

I've never viewed "having authority" in the church as a "neat thing" or a great opportunity to wield power or a "right to which I am entitled." Rather I've spent countless hours feeling so overwhelmed and broken over the responsibility of being an "undershepherd" over God's flock. No offense my many women friends at Grace Chapel, many of whom I know are pro-women's ordination, but if I told all my women friends in the world that they would never ever have to . . . (fill in the blank with the most feared or despised thing one would just as well never do) how would they/you feel? So for example, what if I came home one day and said to my wife Tanya, "honey from now on you must never ever do another load of laundry again." Would Tanya's first inclination be to appeal to inequality and injustice? Or would it be gladly to give over the function of laundry for ever and ever? I dare say that being an elder in Christ's church is not too far off from laundry as a most inglorious task! Really, there is a sense to me that any gender can have it if they want it, but upon seeing what it is, to account for peoples’ souls and pour over them in prayer with worry and concern, who REALLY, I mean REALLY wants it?

Pardon the really bad illustration, but here goes . . . though not having had one for a long time, I love a really good cigar. You know the cigar that everyone wants right? A Cuban cigar! But why? Because no one can have it (at least until the embargo is lifted). Truth of the matter is that most of the time anymore Cuban cigars aren't that good at all! As far as I'm concerned the best cigar in the world is a Nicaraguan Padron 1964 anniversario edition, see what I'm saying? Maybe the best “functions” in the church really are everything but pastor-elder work, see what I’m saying? This is weird thinking to us, but not because it is weird thinking in itself! It is weird thinking because we are weird. We live in a weird world where pastors are often made to be stars with prestige, power, accolades (and sometimes fame). But maybe in a nonweird world (the Kingdom?), the call of pastor-elder is truly a most inglorious and humble task . . . like laundry?!