For all of you who have had the privilege and made the sacrifice to travel to Haiti with SMI, it is hard not to think of the kids and those we love there this holiday season. There are so many faces engraved in our minds, whether it is the children playing at Guitton, one of the children at Bon Repos, or one of the SMI workers like Samy or Charlie. These Haitians not only are blessed financially when we are there, but also through interaction with Americans who are sharing the love of Jesus. Relationships are very important to the Haitian people and a simple comment on a Facebook page means the world to them. We at SMI communicate with them on almost a daily basis and get the great privilege of returning often to express love and give help.
One challenge as a ministry is the weeks in between trips. Needs outside of those financed by sponsorships and designated giving arise on a regular basis. There are recurring expenses such as supplies for the mission house (sheets, towels, light bulbs, cleaning supplies, internet access, fuel for the generator) and vehicle expenses (fuel, maintenance, tags). There are also medical expenses especially with the children at Bon Repos, costs for gifts and parties at Christmas and for other occasions for the children at Guitton and Bon Repos, and continuous requests for special help feeding children, providing emergency relief and supporting the ministry of the local churches. Because of these needs, the financial burden of keeping the ministry moving forward is always a challenge. This holiday season we are asking our friends to consider a one-time gift to help bridge the gap from trip to trip so that we can continue to minister to the people of Haiti throughout the year.
Our goal this Christmas is $100,000. This is a lot of money for any one person or organization to give, but if every person who has been blessed by the Haitian people would give $100 to $1000 we would far surpass our goal and be in a position to look at additional facilities for Cepres, Kamitan or Royal and even be prepared for the doors that God has yet to open.
You can make a gift online at www.smihaiti.org or you can mail a check to SMI Haiti, 8327 Haggard Ct., Martinsville, IN 46151.
We also are offering an opportunity to share the vision of SMI with your friends and family who might invest in the ministry. If you would be interested in hosting a dessert fundraiser in your home please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Please prayerfully consider partnering with us as we continue to share the good news of Jesus.
Day 5 - Thursday, March 27
God plants a church (part 2)
Yesterday, I shared how on Wednesday morning, while we were passing out rice and beans and other things in a tiny village of Kamitan, the SMI President was successful in securing a lease for a tract of land there. SMI had been to Kamitan 5-6 times since the fall of 2013, and Pastor Alexandre Wolcking was
leading a bible study on Thursday nights under a mango tree, where about 10-12 believers met to encourage one another and share in God's truths.
The tent that the church at Guitton had been using prior to their building dedication was no longer needed in Guitton. With the progress being made on clearing off the land in Kamitan Wednesday afternoon, Frank sent a group of us to the church property Thursday morning to take the large tent down, and move it there.
About 15 of us walked to the church at Guitton, and Shane Clark led the group in taking down the large tent as if he had done it 100 times. We got it down fairly efficiently for all first-timers... It was a large heavy canvas (folded up, about the size of a large roof-top car luggage carrier), so we took two support poles and maneuvered them under the canvas and carried the canvas to the truck like we were caring the Arc of the Covenant across the Jordan River (we actually did carry it over the 2 foot wide aqueduct…).
With the tent in the back of the truck, the group walked back to the SMI house around 10:00. There was only room for a few guys to get in the back of the truck (the canvas took up nearly all the truck bed) and deliver the tent to the property at Kamitan. Some of our men and a couple of students delivered the tent and worked with 30+ Kamitan villagers to put the tent up. They reported to us that the Haitians were working hard to clear off the property and level it off in preparation for the tent. They said that after the tent had been spread out, and the poles laid out, that it almost worked perfectly for there to be one person there for each pole on the tent. They said the process was God-breathed, and that the people of Kamitan were taking ownership of the process.
Even though everyone wasn't able to go help put the tent up, we all felt like we were a small part of something amazing that God was doing. God was planting a church in a village in Haiti where a church didn't exist.
Thursday afternoon was our 'play day' at the beach. At around 1:00, the guys that went to Kamitan were returning, and we set out for the beach at Moulin Sur Mer. This was a former sugar cane plantation, and had the most manicured lawns that we saw in Haiti.
On the way back, Frank took a small group in the SMI truck to Kamitan, where they were now able to hold their Thursday night bible study under the tent. Several villagers brought chairs, and it looked like they had 12-15 people at the Thursday night service.
We were excited. We knew God was at work in Kamitan!
Day 6 - Friday, March 28
The original plan was to go back to the Bon Repos Orphanage all day on our last day; however, everyone in the group wanted to go see the tent that had been set up in Kamitan for the church there. We loaded up in the bus, and when we arrived, there were at least 20 Haitians out clearing the land and shoveling and spreading white rock that had been delivered to be the floor for the large open air tent.
We also were going to add and tighten the support straps around the tent. At the first opportunity when a Haitian dropped a shovel at the rock pile, I grabbed it, because I wanted to participate all I could. There were four of us, and we could fill the wheelbarrow fairly quickly.
Loading the wheelbarrow didn't take much skill, but the villagers with the rakes and shovels that were spreading it out on the floor were taking tremendous pride in their work. While the other men and older guys were going around tightening the straps around the tent, Frank asked all the students (and the Haitian children that were there) to collect rocks larger than softball size and they laid the rock around the outside to create a perimeter for the smaller rock. At first, I wondered where in the world they would find enough rocks that size, but rock is one thing that is not scarce in Haiti, and that whole job was completed in under 30 minutes.
Because some of the villagers had asked for one when we were there, Frank brought some Haitian Bibles. The lady who was the first believer in the area told our interpreter that she didn't read, but her children were in school, and she would have them read it to her regularly. The ones who got Bibles were so excited, and the line was longer than our supply.
After the rock perimeter was finished, we decided to break into our teams and canvas the village and let them know that church would be Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. The village was excited, and most everyone we talked to said that they would come. Pastor Alexandre from the church at Nanwòch had agreed to come over to Kamitan to lead the service. Frank told Pastor Alexandre that he was the Pastor of this church, until God brought someone else.
Before we left Kamitan, our group circled up with the Haitian workers, with Pastor Alexandre, and all the Haitians in the general area of the tent. We all grasped hands, and our youth pastor and Pastor Alexandre led a prayer of thanksgiving for all that God had allowed to happen the last 48 hours in Kamitan. I made it a point to hug the two Haitian men whose hand I held during the prayer. The vision of that circle praying under the edge of the tent is a memory that I hope I never forget.
I got to pray one on one with Pastor Alexandre that day before we left. I prayed that God would give him the strength to oversee two church bodies, and that God will make much of His saving name in the village of Kamitan.
We went back to the SMI House for lunch and then headed to the Orphanage at Bon Repos. The walls on the 2nd floor were almost completed, except on the very front wall. I went upstairs for a while to carry and hand out blocks to the skilled Haitians who were laying the block. I am not sure I helped a whole lot, but they let me help anyway.
I went back down to the first floor after an hour or so to play with the children. When I went down, two boys told me in broken English (they are residents of, and attend school at the Orphanage) that they were both 14 years old, and that their fathers were dead. We could hardly communicate, but we did sit together for another 30 minutes and we held hands a good bit of the time, and we sang Jesus Loves Me, and a few other songs that they had learned in English. After we sang, they asked me if I would be their father. Needless to say, that really melted my heart. I didn't want to confuse them, so I didn't really respond at that time, but I later thought "I can be your father today…"
It was difficult for us to leave the Orphanage, knowing we would leave for the airport the next morning. I firmly believe that if Haiti allowed it, some of the orphans would have been taken back to the US by several of our team members.
We had a 'share time' with the group back at the SMI Mission House every night between supper and bed time. Frank told us last night that we were really blessed because we were able to see the Lord do so many things this week. He said that he never knows what God is going to allow to happen each week, but there is no way he would have ever planned on his own for us to be a part of so many wonderful things. The week truly was a God thing.
First Baptist Church
Day 3 – Tuesday, March 25
Tuesday morning, the group went to the coastal village of Royal. Our bus driver Richie was our interpreter, and almost immediately after breaking up into groups, a village lady and Caroline G. seemed to be drawn together, and they began talking through Richie. Even before Caroline could get to the salvation bracelets that we had brought, the village lady told our interpreter that she wanted to know Jesus. Caroline walked her through the salvation bracelet, and the lady prayed to receive God's gift of salvation right in front of her house.
We talked to several people up and down the beach, and almost every group allowed us to walk through the salvation bracelets and to pray for them. We told them that SMI was hoping to start a church in their area and to be able to help bring hope and opportunity to the area. Many people asked us to pray for them to have the opportunity to work. Aside from the group bringing in fish and cleaning fish on the beach, there was very little opportunity for work in the area. It was also interesting that several women that appeared to be in the 18-25 age range wanted us to pray for them to be able to find a good man to be a husband.
After lunch, we packed rice and beans into small bags to hand out over the next two days. In the afternoon, we went to the Cepres School and community. There is a very large tent that they have church in. Before we went over to the school, we distributed rice, beans, candy and clothing items to the 8-10 homes on the property. Most of these people said that they were believers, and several of them asked us to pray for them because they were being persecuted (physically and spiritually). Each of the small homes (about the size of medium size bedroom in the US) had 5-10 people living in it.
The church hosted a Bible Study in the tent on Tuesday night, and our Student Pastor was asked to share through an interpreter. During this time, our students played with the kids from the area. They played soccer, climbed trees, did crafts and coloring books, among other things.
We had a great sharing time at night, and rejoiced over the salvation of the lady in Royal, and prayed that God would raise up a church there in His timing.
Day 4 – Wednesday, March 26
God plants a church (part 1)...
Wednesday morning, we went to a different small coastal village called Kamitan to hand out rice and beans and to bring other small gifts for the people. Kamitan did not have a church, but SMI had made 5-6 visits to Kamitan (starting last
fall), and the village now had a few believers. Pastor Alexandre Wolcking from the church at Nanwòch had recently started meeting on Thursday nights with a group of 10-12 believers in Kamitan under a mango tree.
SMI president, Frank Williams, stated somewhat nonchalantly as we pulled into an empty lot that this was the lot that they had been looking at acquiring for starting a church in Kamitan.
We visited several homes, distributing the food, a few pairs of flip flops, as well as some pretty colored loom bracelets. The bracelets went fast, as even the boys and men wanted to have one. The people there were very open to us praying for them, and they were familiar with SMI's hope to put a church there.
After about an hour of visiting the small huts, giving gifts and praying for people, Frank had located the lady who owned the property that SMI was interested in. After walking the boundaries of the property, the lady had agreed to lease the property to SMI. We were all excited and praising the Lord.
As we visited more houses for another hour or so, we were able to share with them that a church body would soon be meeting on the property where our bus would be parked. At that time, no one but the Lord knew how soon the body would start meeting there…
The people were excited about the church, and everyone let us pray for them and their needs. Similar to Royal, there was a lot of despair and lack of opportunity in this village. The people were desperate to get some of the rice and beans we were handing out. By that time, Frank was discussing moving the tent from the church at Guitton (that had their dedication service for their new building just the prior Sunday), and it appeared that God was moving quickly. We left before lunch to go back to the mission house. One group worked on projects around the mission house, while another group made popcorn for our afternoon project.
In the afternoon, our group walked to the church at Nanwòch. We walked through plantain fields, agriculture areas, and a dried up river bed on the way. We were going to show the Jesus Film in Haitian Creole to the kids at Nanwòch and in the surrounding area. We brought popcorn and candy. The kids were well behaved during the film, and although there was a good crowd, we had made a lot of extra popcorn. Midway through the movie, one or two of the kids went out the side door and immediately came back in the main (back)entrance to the church and grabbed more popcorn as they came in. Soon, entire rows were doing the same thing, and they thought that we didn't know what they were doing, but it was very cute, because they acted like they didn't know that we had the popcorn in the back…
While the movie was playing, Frank and some of the men from our group went back to Kamitan to check with the villagers who had agreed to help clear off the newly acquired property. They reported back to us that they were working hard to clear off and level the lot that SMI had leased, and that the entire community was excited that God was putting a church in their village.
I think that news solidified what was going to happen the next day. Stay tuned...
First Baptist Church
Day 1 - Sunday March 23
I normally am not a journaler, but was challenged to journal about our week in Haiti. This was my first trip to Haiti and the fourth trip for our youth group. My son Tyler went with the first group in 2011, and my sons Tanner and Trent went in 2013 (and this year).
I felt led to read Acts Chapter 1 for my morning quiet time that day. Although I have read it many times, a part of Acts 1:1 really jumped out at me. Luke said he was writing about all that Jesus had 'begun to do.' This struck me as odd initially, because at this time Jesus had already been crucified and resurrected. After thinking about it, I realized that believers today are simply called to continue the things that Jesus 'began to do.' That was what we came to do in Haiti - to continue in Jesus' work. Just as Jesus gave instruction to the apostles through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2), He instructs us through the Spirit as well.
Around 8:45 am we walked from the SMI House to the dedication and opening of the new church in Guitton. They previously met under a large tent. Last year on the same trip, the FBC team helped spread rock for the floor to be poured. One year later, we were there for the dedication. I did not know what to expect, but when we came upon the church, probably 200+ Haitians were dressed in their very best clothes. As it turned out, over 600 people attended(including pastors from other churches and some government dignitaries).
The service lasted for 3+ hours and God was glorified through music and through drama and through some speaking.
After church, we walked back to the SMI house, and many of our youth played with the neighborhood kids. The Haitian children at the church and playing at the school were so beautiful. As I looked into their joyful eyes as our kids played with them, the one thing that captured my mind was that "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world."
Late Sunday afternoon, we walked from the SMI house to the ocean, just a quarter mile or so away. Pastor Alexandre was baptizing four relatively new believers from his church at Nanwòch. In Haiti, they generally wait a few months before they baptize, just to make sure that they are fully committed to Christ (and not just making a decision for other reasons).
After attending a new church dedication and a baptism within 24 hours of arriving in Haiti, my week almost could have ended there. But believe it or not, the week got even better after that.
Day 2 - Monday March 24
On our 2nd day, we went to an orphanage in Bon Repos. One year ago, the facility was just a tent, along with a small, crude room for cooking (that probably looks like a Haiti kitchen looked 100 years ago), and very small bunk rooms where children slept. The conditions were not ideal.
One year later, the first floor of a new building is completed. This well-built
building is where the children now go to school and play during the day. In
addition to this large room, behind the back wall are three small rooms for the
Haitian director of the orphanage, the sons of the director, and a storage/supply room. There are about 65 kids at the orphanage now. The walls of the second floor were being built while we were there. The walls were almost halfway complete.
When we first arrived, we were met with open arms by beautiful children who wanted hugs and some individual attention. The small staff of the Orphanage simply isn't able to daily hold and hug and individually love on all the kids. With 65 of them and 35 of us, many people were holding two children in their arms or laps.
While it was fun to give love and sing songs with the kids, we had some work to do there, so our young men (and some of the older guys) helped carry several truckloads of blocks and mortar upstairs to the Haitian team upstairs laying the block walls. It seemed like just about every time we had them moved, the truck would come back with more block, or it would be time to carry mortar. We walked the blocks and buckets up the back stairs, until the Haitians showed us how to pass the bricks up the ladder.
We worked until lunch. The upstairs will have three bedrooms for the boys and two bedrooms for the girls and a play room. The conditions of these new rooms, when completed, will be 1000 times better than the very small rooms they are in right now. The entire sleeping quarters for all the kids now is probably smaller than two of the new rooms upstairs in the new building. SMI has a donor who has provided new bunk beds and furnishings for the building.
We got a lot of work done by lunch time, and we were mostly able to play with the kids after lunch, with a few more sporadic truck loads of block that needed to be moved upstairs. The kids simply didn't want us to put them down. One of the ideas we had while planning the trip was to take them something tangible and longer lasting than candy or coloring books. We decided to take them flip flops, and let them decorate with ribbons, stickers or magic markers (to write their names on them).
Many of the older kids were learning English at the Orphanage, and they knew some songs in English (Jesus Loves Me, Amazing Grace, etc.). The kids did not want us to let go of them all day. We took SMI's cotton candy machine, and even some of the neighborhood kids showed up for the cotton candy when it was time for that. We also took fingernail polish, which was a huge hit with all the kids (even the boys…)
The team members that went last year said that the countenance on the faces of those children was substantially better than it was when they stopped and played with them last year. I think the new building, learning more about Jesus, and the relationship with SMI has solidified in their minds that someone truly does love them and want them to succeed in life.
It was very difficult to leave the kids, but we knew we were going back later in the week, so we told them that we would see them later. As we drove off, I wondered if the kids would still be playing on a dirt floor in a tent if SMI hadn't partnered with this orphanage.
First Baptist Church
“A Game Changer”
Over the past 17 years I have had the privilege of taking thousands of people into Haiti. For many the experience was the first time on the mission field. For others, Haiti was one of many mission trips around the world. Either way, a statement heard often is, “Haiti is a game changer.” Though there are similarities with other third world countries, Haiti tends to make an everlasting impact on those who get to experience serving the Haitian people. At one time or another people experience something so impactful it literally changes their lives. “A game changer” is an experience that takes you from ordinary to extraordinary. I have had several game changing moments in my life, but the most recent and significant was the day I went to a little village called Bon Repos, Haiti. We went at the request of someone to visit an existing orphanage and against my own preferences. I showed up thinking, “Let’s make this quick.” I was met by a Haitian pastor and his wife in one of the dirtiest, least desirable areas and escorted to a make-shift tent. There was no grass and the two trees provided very little shade. As I entered the tent I saw 63 children sitting in perfect order and smiling up at me eager to break out in a song of greeting. When the children began to sing I experienced it – a game changer. Wow! I needed to know everything about the place – where did they come from, where did they sleep, how many had families? In life there are things that we would rather just not do. Going to this place in Haiti was definitely one of those things for me. But sometimes in those moments a game changer takes place. At the very least I needed to let the board of SMI know we needed to get some ongoing support for these children.
A few months passed by and during that time every trip to Haiti included a day trip to the Bon Repos orphanage. It has had the same impact on everyone. Every group has expressed a great desire to provide help. I researched the history and the land where they were living and found they had very little support and were leasing the property. Several SMI board members then met with the landlord to negotiate a long term lease that would allow us to build a new structure on the property to provide better sleeping conditions as well as a gathering place for meals, church, and indoor activities. So much for negotiating skills — we walked away buying the entire orphanage! We couldn’t help it; this was a game changer. SMI agreed to buy the property by faith and we have begun building a much needed facility. God is always faithful to complete what He starts, and there is no question God led us there and opened the door to loving these 63 children.
My wife recently went to Haiti with me, and as she sat in the hot sun at the orphanage with one child on her lap and others surrounding her, she never complained or asked them to get down. She just smiled and cried. A game changer. There is no way to convey the impact on the hundreds who have gone to this little undeveloped, dirty, undesirable area, but everyone agrees that we have to help these children. On September 8, SMI has to pay the balance on the purchase of the property in the amount of $7,000. The foundation of a two story 4,320 square foot facility is complete. The existing facility where the children as well as the pastor and his wife sleep is approximately 720 square feet! The overall project will cost approximately $100,000. SMI is asking you to pray and consider helping us complete this facility as well as partnering with us to continue to provide food, clothing and education for these precious children. Your prayers and financial support may or may not be a game changer for you, but I guarantee it will be a game changer for the children.
Frank Williams, President
The first baby has arrived! One of the mothers in the program gave birth to a baby boy on May 2.
Lack of adequate prenatal, delivery and neonatal care contributes to high levels of maternal and infant mortality in Haiti. Poor nutrition due to both lack of resources and lack of knowledge leads to low birthweight babies and malnourished children. This program addresses these problems by providing education and medical attention to expecting mothers and the newborns and intervention when issues first arise.
Eleven women are currently enrolled in the prenatal/infant care program which began in January. The women gather a minimum of once a month for a class on topics including how to care for oneself while pregnant, the importance of proper nutrition, fetal development, warning signs, and breastfeeding. The classes are taught by one of the Haitian nurses at the clinic in St. Ard. Each woman’s blood pressure and weight are checked monthly. They receive prenatal vitamins and see the doctor or nurse for more thorough exams three times during the pregnancy. They receive visits by the nurse in the first week after giving birth to ensure that the baby and mother are doing well and that there are no problems with breastfeeding. A “welcome baby” gift containing some baby necessities like onesies, lotion, soap, and blankets is given to each mother. After the babies are born, the mothers will have monthly meetings for an additional six months so that the health of the mother and the baby can be monitored and so they can receive instruction on infant care and child development.