Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Just Landed in Omaha

It's 11:30pm!


What do you get when you have a group of 34 Nebraskans who really like one another, have spent the week together in a life-shaping environment, have been sleep-deprived and are traveling together through airports ALL DAY?

Let me just say this, I feel bad for the other people on this last plane between Dallas and Omaha. Man, are we a loud bunch! :-)

Landed in Dallas

We just landed in Dallas. We fly out of Dallas in about an hour and a half and should be to Omaha by 11:30pm.

Just Landed in Miami

We board our Dallas flight in about an hour. It's about 4:30pm Miami time.

Coming Home ... Leaving Port-au-Prince

Katie Loos, Ben Loos, Kristine Fry, Carla Pisel-Nixon, Rob Hemmer

Driving in Haiti

One of my favorite things about driving in Haiti is that sometimes the oncoming traffic is in the same lane as the one you are driving in. This is taken from the front seat of our SUV.  I'm in the passenger seat if you are concerned about me driving and blogging under the circumstances :-)

Tanya and Tanya

Tanya met a "Tanya" at Ebenezer.

Some of the Ebenezer Kiddos

Seeing Some of My Buddies Again

These guys remember you. They were saying, "Mike!" We were here for four days in early Feb.

Carrie and Renise

It might have only been a thirty-minute stop, but it was worth it. Carrie Davidson is hugging Renise. Renise is the little 13yr. old girl who had a baby recently. Renise's story was documented on 60 minutes on March 21st: Lost Children of Haiti Video.  Carrie spent a week in January following the earthquake and a week earlier this month at Ebenezer.  The kids absolutely love her.

Selling Bread on the Streets of PaP

Driving through Port-au-Prince

Here are some of the tent cities in PaP. Jerry and Patria Rector, Carrie Davidson, Tanya Hsu and I left early for the airport to go to the Ebenezer orphanage of The Global Orphan Project in Croix Des Bouquets. We wanted to see the kids as Carrie and I have been there since the earthquake and Jerry and Patria are very involved with The Nebraska Global Orphan Project.

If you want to see the 60 minutes piece on Ebenezer and the story of Pastor Moise Vaval, here it is: Lost Children of Haiti Video.  We are meeting Moise in a few minutes.

We just dropped off Frank Maiorana at the airport and now our Haitian friend Marcel Baptiste is taking us to Ebenezer. We will meet up with the other 29 of us at the airport to catch our 12:15pm AA flight back home. We will see many of you soon!


God broke many of us yesterday. It's not that we "broke" or that we sought our own brokenness, but that God broke us. I've now been to Haiti six times. I was here three weeks following the earthquake, ... but I've never seen a team broken quite like this, broken by God, ... ultimately the work of our Loving Heavenly Father.

In this post, I'm going to share some marvelous things we witnessed yesterday. The hard things we experienced yesterday take me to a place of silence for now, so I will not share of those things yet, but the marvelous things ...

First, we saw the man again who had placed his faith in Christ yesterday AND we saw his two daughters: they were looking much better, even walking around! They looked 100% better. Praise the Lord. The girls simply needed food, hadn't eaten in a long time, but the girls ate our Cliff and Luna bars. This family lives right by the GCA property. The man has just placed his faith in Christ: I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of his profession of faith. He even said to our team, "my wife is not yet ready to be a Christian, but I am". Pray for this man. I don't know his name, but pray for the Word of God to take deep root in this man. Some of our locals will have a chance to study the Scriptures with him.

There is a secondary and amazing storyline developing with the former witch doctor who received Christ on Thursday. The man has two sons. Caitlin Baker met the first boy last Wednesday night. She had no idea who he was, but she noticed a hardness to the kid. He was cold and joyless. The boy's father received Christ on Thursday. Caitlin saw the boy again on Saturday and noticed a visible change in the boy: he was smiling and tender. His heart simply seemed lighter and more full. Caitlin then made the connection that Jesus' Kingdom had come to the boy's house, that this same boy she was intrigued with a few days earlier was actually the son of the former witch doctor.

I also said there was a second son. After worship on Sunday, we ended up on a long hike through the countryside of Mirebalais. It was hot, but also breathtakingly beautiful, but I had one primary concern. Was my wife Tanya doing OK? Tanya had scoliosis surgery when she was a girl and in recent years she's lived with a lot of chronic pain. Was she OK as the hike turned out to be a long one. I was in the middle of the pack on a narrow trail. Remember, we have 34 people, plus a number of Haitians walking with us. In a word, I got split up from Tanya. Tanya ended up near the end of the pack, except for Rob Hemmer who basically decided to carry up the rear and watch after Tanya ... the Lord bless Rob Hemmer. So I'm on pins and needles waiting at the top of the hill, watching Tanya come to the end of the hike, wondering if every step is excruciatingly painful. She's tough as nails though, so I also know she won't complain, but I know she lives in constant pain. As she is walking up the hill, she is doing so arm-in-arm with a Haitian boy who has bowed legs and possibly cerebral palsy. Tanya has a smile on her face. I ask, "is your leg OK (it's her right leg that gives her fits)?" She smiles (not a forced, but a relaxed smile) and says, "my leg feels fine, but my buddy's legs are really hurting him right now". The boy and Tanya had been helping each other walk up the hill. It's the first time in the last five years I can remember that Tanya was walking with someone who could truly understand her leg pain, and it was a Haitian boy (it's 5am right now, Ben Loos and Craig Moore are sound asleep in our darkened room, and I'm blubbering like a baby right now). Tanya saw the boy again yesterday and she lit up like Clark Griswold's house on Christmas day. I also learned yesterday that this boy is the other son of the former witchdoctor who gave his life to Jesus on Thursday.

Here is the picture of Tanya walking with the boy and Rob Hemmer behind her:


I'm broken friends. A lot of us are broken because of the things we've seen, but God is with us.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Boy on a Pony with Supplies

The boy in red must be thinking, "look at my cool bike!" and the boy on the pony, "but I'm on a pony!"

"Thank You for Saving My Sister's Life"

This woman came to our clinic today to say "thank you." Her sister was seen by our team on Saturday. Her sister was three months pregnant and had not eaten in a week. We put her on an IV and then brought her to the Mirebalais hospital.

Pictured are Dr. Dorthea Jacobsen and RN Deb Knight with the woman's sister. Dorthea and Deb were the woman's primary caretakers. The woman said to our team, "My sister would be dead if it wasn't for you all. Thank you for saving my sister's life." Deb Knight is crying.

Kids in Line for Balloons

Chickens in the Clinic

Ben and Renee Welstead

Gene Summerlin, Tim Scheel and Bryan Becker

"Manning" the UA and blood glucose table. It's great to see Bryan again, after he was feeling sick on Saturday.

Getting Set Up for Clinic One Last Time

Processing Conversion ... How Can You Know?

Last night, I got into multiple conversations with various people on the day we had yesterday and it was a mixed bag. In my last post, I had mentioned that the events of yesterday were too much to process, and I was right! So I'll keep working at it :-)

Some were rejoicing in the witch doctor and his neighbor's new professions of faith. Others were a bit more skeptical. Of course, there is always the possibility that the witch doctor saw the money that was coming in at the GCA property and said, "it's a great time to be a Christian".

What about the second man? What really bothered a lot of the team members was that his girls looked sick and emaciated, while the man and his wife looked somewhat vigorous. Why? Has there been abuse? Is food being withheld from the girls? We left a lot of protein bars and water with the man and when we left, one of our team members said with a fierceness in her tone, "he better damn well give that food and water to the girls" (instead of consume it himself or sell it on the open market). Not only were the words of this team member appropriate, but they reflected the heart of Jesus when he gave a fierce warning to anyone who would dare to cause little ones to stumble.

So all this puts us in a tough spot emotionally. Do we rejoice in this man's profession of faith in Christ? Or do we let the questions around his girls' health bring suspicion and a demand that clear answers come forth. In a word, can we celebrate this man's profession of faith, if we suspect he has not been caring for his children (or even worse, has been abusing them)?

Let me start with this man and then next I'll share thoughts about the former witch doctor. Let's begin by looking at some foundational truths at the core of Christianity.

1) God is merciful and saves sinners.

2) God is just and destroys sinners.

Miroslav Wolf and his family suffered greatly in the Balkans in the 80s. Wolf once wrote that it takes the quiet of a suburban home in the West to embrace the notion that "God does not judge," or that He is a God of mercy but not of justice. Wolf wrote that; however, in lands sun-soaked in the innocent blood of men, women and children, where injustice often seems to get the final word, belief in a God who "does not judge," invariably dies.

3) We always rejoice when people confess faith in Jesus Christ.

4) We always "wait" for the fruit of Christ to emerge from a genuine conversion experience.

5) We also "work" for that fruit as well through discipleship and pushing people into accountable community.

We can be so individualistic in our emphasis on "receiving Jesus into our hearts," yet so much of Scripture would have us believe that you cannot receive Jesus the Head without coming into connection with the Church His Body ... no "wafflehouse Christianity" here (don't get me wrong, I like waffles :-)).

So with the man and his girls, We MUST celebrate that he has confessed the name of the Lord Jesus! That is an awesome thing. There is power in the name of Jesus! Yet, we must also move into this man's life with questions of accountability ... what does it mean now that you have given your life to Christ? what are your new priorities NOW in relationship to caring for your family and others? How will you now enter a life of ongoing repentance and daily trust in your Savior who has made you His? What needs to stop TODAY? And what needs to start? At Grace Chapel, membership vow #3 kind of sums it up, "in reliance on the grace of the Holy Spirit, do you promise to live in a way that is consistent with a follower of Jesus Christ?"

So one of our Haitian brothers Gie will do follow-up with the man in a couple of days. He will begin to study the Bible with the man. You see, ultimately only God knows the heart; yet, we sometimes forget in our rather narrow and cloistered world that God is in the supernatural business of delivering people who are in complete bondage to sin. He takes those living in darkness and brings them into His wonderful light. God is merciful and saves sinners.

However, if this man is truly perpetuating abuse on his girls and he refuses to repent of it, after having confessed Christ, then woe to this man. He will be punished eternally by a Fierce and Holy God who does not tolerate the abuse of children and the defenseless. God is just and destroys sinners.

What about the witch doctor guy? Again, ultimately we don't know a person's heart, but have we become so calloused that we can't celebrate a man who says, "I am now free because of Jesus!"? Nobody likes to be duped or have the wool pulled over their eyes, but isn't cynicism ultimately a way of seeking to maintain control, ... when we are not in control?

I imagine in the NT Church, the supernatural activity of the Spirit must have come at the apostles so quickly, that only later would they be able to look back and say, "wow, really, ... Jesus is truly building His church like He promised He would".

The witch doctor guy tore down all his VooDoo relics. Understand this is no small thing as VooDoo is BIG business in Haiti. Maybe the man saw dollar signs with GCA and made a business decision in the middle of a "down economy" (times are rough in Haiti, the demands for curses and spells are down right now :-)). I don't know. But he professed faith in Christ! He professed faith in Christ! He professed faith in Christ! Doesn't that make us want to leap for joy? Christian, rejoice that the name of Christ is passing over this man's lips!

Now the hard and arduous work of discipleship begins. But remember it is the Lord who wills and works, bringing all things under His sovereign purpose.

It was a wild day yesterday ... still processing. Thanks for listening. Keep praying please! Today is our last day. We come home tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reflections on Today, The Lord's Day

Wow. What a day. Where do I even begin? We worshipped with the Haitians. Awesome. I got to preach out of Psalm 8: a privilege as it always is in Haiti when I get to preach. We walked through the countryside of Mirebalais. Awesome. We went to the home of a man who was a witch doctor as recently as Thursday this last week. We saw the VooDoo flags flying earlier this week since his home is right by the GCA property. Today all his VooDoo ritual stuff had been torn down. God did an awesome thing ... see 1Peter 2:9,10 (I kept thinking about this verse when I was listening to this man). This was unbelievably awesome. I saw a sign in Jayhawk colors that said, "Kansas Team, Welcome to Boyer, Welcome Home". That was wild and awesome in its own way. We walked to the home of another man who said he wanted to give his life to Christ and we prayed with him, only to see his girls were not doing well. This was very hard to see and a lot of questions arose in our heads as to why these girls were not doing well.

It's been way too much to process, but I'll try a little to do so ... walking around in Haiti is so different from walking around in the States. I've always described coming to Haiti as "stepping into the world of the New Testament". The things we experience here are a far cry from our bland-brand of Post Enlightenment rationalism where we have placed an unbridled trust in our own faculties to make judgments about ultimate reality, ... yet we still find ourselves living quiet lives of desperation with so much brokenness and loss around us. In our fierce autonomy, we reject divine revelation as having any significance or relevance for our lives. I know some of you reading this back home think that the humanitarian stuff we do is good, but all this Jesus talk starts getting a little hokey. Maybe. Or maybe rather in our finitude, our judgments are rather skewed like an efficient saw cutting with great precision, yet pointed in the wrong direction (Cornelius Van Til). Think about it. What if God is present in a world He made and enters our world through flesh and blood, gives Himself a name, and then offers new life and hope to all who call upon Him? Hokey? Maybe, ... or, ... maybe not? Just think about it, OK? Peace be with you.

Gene with some of the PaP Students

Tent Communities Where PaP Students are Living

Our translators were University students from PaP who left after the devastation of the Jan 12th earthquakes. There are around 130 students who have come to Mirebalais. Here is where they are living currently.

Tanya Hsu and Rob Hemmer Walking with Haitian Kids

Haitian Cow

Not quite like Nebraska cows.

Former Witch Doctor with Bible in Hand


As quickly as we prayed over this man and his family, rejoicing over the power of God, as quickly did we learn his daughters are sick and had not drank or eaten in a long time. Our docs looked at the girls and we unloaded our protein bars and bottles of water. We will have one of the local Haitian brothers come check up on them in a few days.

Another Man Wants to Receive Christ

Our crew is walking to another man's house, a man who just said he wants to receive Christ. We make house calls!

You Are Not Going to Believe This

We're at the former witch doctor's house and we look at the building next door and there is a sign in Jayhawk colors saying "Kansas Team, Welcome to Boyer, You are Home". Boyer is the part of Mirebalais we are in. Is God in this place or what???!!!

A Haitian Witch Doctor who Gave His Life to Christ Three Days Ago

This man is giving his testimony of the spells and curses he used to put on people. On Thursday, he gave his life to Christ, tore down his Voodoo flags, and said "I quit!"

He testifies before our group, "I've asked Christ into my life and now I am free!"

He says he wants to invite as many fellow witch doctors as possible to give their lives to Jesus!

Team Foto Following Worship

Some Kids on The Streets of Mirebalais

We walked around for a little while following worship.

Haitian "Homeless Shelter"

Ben Welstead showing his camera to some of the kids at this homeless shelter.

Kneeling in Prayer as a Congregation

Worshipping at New Jerusalem

The Haitians put us in front and give us a place of honor, so we end up "looking at each other" during worship.

Humbled, Proud and Doing the Hokey Pokey

I've been to Haiti six times now. Our church has been a part of three other trips that I was not a part of as well. Yet with all our Haiti experience, we've never taken a group as large as this one: 34 people. When planning for a trip of this size, there were a lot of "moving parts".

Yet the biggest "part" I prayed and wondered about was the humanness of this trip. What happens when you put 34 people in a pressure-packed, dusty, humid and less than ideal environment? What happens when they engage poverty on an entirely different level than anything most of us have ever seen? What happens when they get hungry and feel their "systems" to be a little off (Bryan Becker was sick yesterday and Dorthea Jacobsen not great ... Dorthea was feeling better after taking it easy on breakfast and Bryan Becker able to join us by dinnertime. Both are doing better, though I write this early, early Sunday morning and we could use prayers for how the group will be feeling today after another long, hard day yesterday).

What happens when you take 34 individual personalities to Haiti? Well ... I can tell you what has happened after four days of being in Haiti: servanthood, open arms of love, embrace and service in the name of Jesus. Everyone back home should be humbled and proud to be associated with these 34 Nebraskans serving in Haiti right now. Through this entire week, I have not heard one word of complaint, only joyful sacrifice and work for Jesus, for one another and for the Haitian people. There is so much JOY among your friends and family members who are here. When you take the midwestern work ethic and combine it with the powerful work of the Holy Spirit where the people know the work is not about them, you end up getting this wonderful explosion of service and love that flows from the glorious Gospel of Christ. Thank you for your prayers ... they are working.

We had a wonderful dinner last night where many of the students from PaP, who have been serving as translators, joined us. There was a lot of laughter, dancing and fun. The evening closed with Paula Baker leading 50 people in doing the "Hokey Pokey". Have a great day of worship! We are really looking forward to worshipping with the Haitians today.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Taking Break After Full Day of Clinic

Bottom four: Rob Hemmer, Al Halls, Dave Paulus and Craig Moore

Successful Day So Far

Thank you for all who have prayed for us. It has been a great day and any fear of a difficult situation has been relieved entirely. Our people have been great in organizing and getting a very efficient system in place.

Let me if I can explain the process. First, Rob Hemmer who is a former military guy does crowd control explaining through a translator that everyone needs to remain seated until their number is called. Ben Welstead helps with the crowds as well.  Secondly, our nurses (Susan Hays, Jami Fulwider, Patria Rector and Carrie Davidson) do "intake" meeting with patients and recording their symptoms, etc. Thirdly, Katie Loos, Renee Welstead and Tanya Hsu, our runners, make sure patients get to the proper station. Some need to see a doctor (Jerry Rector, Dave Paulus, Al Halls or Dorthea Jacobsen). If they need to see the docs, Stephanie Gohl and Karen Sayer stay with the patients until a doc is ready to see them. Yet others are taken to the vitamin and Ibuprofen station (Jane Vander Broek and Shirley Moore). For those who need pharmeceuticals, they see Craig Moore (pharmacist) and Jami Pickering (pharm tech). For those with back or leg issues, they see Chiropractor Doug Vander Broek. Gene Summerlin and Tim Scheel run urine analysis and blood glucose tests. Deb Knight is a "mobile" RN currently caring for a pregnant woman three months along who says she hasn't eaten in a week: we have this woman on IV. Ben Loos and I fill whatever need is there ... weighing kids, measuring heights, praying over people and I blog! All our docs, nurses and workers pray with patients as they feel led. Everyone else runs VBS or helps where needed.

 By the way, all this is taking place under one big giant mango tree.

Buckets of Water

This is a picture of the Haitians carrying 5 gallon buckets of water. The distance is about one mile. They bring the water to pour into a cistern and the water is used to mix with gravel to make concrete. The concrete is then used to build the Guest House. Ideally the well would have been dug first, but the process has been a bit slow... our well digger started with a metal camping plate and dug about 70 ft. But now he needs a jack hammer and is searching all over PaP for one.

Me Taking a Picture of Gene Summerlin Taking a Picture of Me Blogging

Katie Loos with 11-Day-Old Baby

Pharmacist Craig Moore and His Lovely Assistant Shirley

Cardboard Sun Umbrellas ...

While patients wait in the scorching Caribbean sun, cardboard umbrellas are held over them for shade

My Bride and Me

No comments on the shirt ... Northern Iowa got beat last night!

On Your Marks ... Get Set ...

VBS Crew ... Awesome Bananas Setting Up

Setting Up Clinic Under the Mango Tree at the GCA Property

Team Stewed Awesome (medical team one)

Now we have three teams all with the name "awesome" in them: 1) Team Flippin' Awesome (medical team two); 2) Awesome Bananas (nonmedical team); 3) Team Stewed Awesome (medical team one).

Getting Ready for Today ... Prayer Warriors ... You Are Needed Again

Today will be a very interesting day as we move our clinic from the New Jerusalem site to the GCA property site where the Guest House is being built. The reason it will be interesting is because there is little shade and no walls or natural barriers to organize people around. Haitians will wait all day to see a doctor or receive food; however, if they see food running out or that they are not going to see a doctor, the situation can get tense. We will use ropes, our PaP students and our 34 Nebraska people to maintain clinic in as orderly a manner as possible, but I would ask for your prayers here since the property is "wide-open".

Friends and family back home who are a little anxious we are down here: "cast your anxiety on the Lord because He cares for us" (1Pet. 5:17). Because our work in Haiti has never been about "us," we've had to trust in the Lord's provision every time we have come down here since 2004, and He has always been a marvelous Provider. The Lord God Almighty is being exalted through your loved ones, so find immense, even eternal comfort in that.

Pray for hydration and shade for work. Pray for clinic to go in as orderly a fashion as possible. Finally, pray for the people who come directly from the community and not through our church networks, for those who don't know Christ, to hear and see the Gospel. Thank you!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Reflections on Friday

Our teams all worked extremely hard in some fairly rigorous conditions. I know this might sound hard to believe, but it was a good thing we had 26 people on our two medical teams because we needed everyone of them today. I don't have the exact count on patients, but we saw 175 yesterday and it would not surprise me if we served 2-3xs that number today. We actually had to "close" the doors today. You just can't see everyone. Remember that Mirebalais has 150,000 refugees from PaP and that their "normal" population has great needs as well.

If I had a prayer request for today it would be for a 12 yr. old boy we met today named Jean. Jean said he lives on the streets. We asked if he has parents and he said his father dropped him off at his grandmother's in Mirebalais, but that his grandmother doesn't let him stay with her or "wash his clothes." We will try to track the situation, but this sort of situation is not uncommon in Haiti since many parents and grandparents have so many more children than they can care for, so they put their own out on the streets. Because the orphanage is not yet built at the GCA property, we cannot yet commit to Jean. The situation is also complicated by the fact that Jean has a father and grandmother, neither of whom will give him a place to live. And yet Jean says he still goes over to his grandmother's and she still takes him to church ... go figure. If we can stay in contact with Jean, and we can get the orphanage built, we can at least guarantee food for the guy. If you want to help expedite the process of the GCA orphanage being built, contact GCA at www.gcanet.org .

Thank you for all who prayed today!

Long Hard Day

This has been a long hard day for all our people, especially medical personnel. We have been seeing patients all day in extremely hot and humid conditions. We're still seeing patients. Our nonmedical people are serving as runners and crowd control. Prayers are appreciated for endurance, strength and hydration. Thank you!

Pastor Ben Loos Holding the Baby His Wife Katie was Holding

RN Deb Knight and Renee Welstead Working with Kids

RN Susan Hays and Gene Summerlin Communicating with Mother and Baby

Katie Loos Holding Baby

Daphnika Temp 98!

I praise God for your prayers! We were concerned for D yesterday! Today she is "sweating" normally like the rest of us!

Stephanie Gohl and Jane Vander Broek Counting Multivitamins and Ibuprofen

Bryan Becker and Tim Scheel Manning the Lab

Urine tests and blood sugar tests here!

Grace Bogner Playing "Double This That"

Rob Hemmer Helping with Bubbles

Caitlin Baker Watching as Kids Blow Bubbles