Home for the Holidays!

We are anxiously preparing for our trip back to Indiana on Dec. 10th.  Many of you may know we have a nice family renting our home until theirs is built.  Thanks to some wonderful friends, family, and church family, we will have plenty of shelter and comfort the entire five weeks we are home.  Our official address is still 730 S. 25 W. Winamac, and we continue to get mail delivered there.  However, we have discontinued our home telephone number (946-6025), so we will be available only by our cell phones, which remain the same as before:  574-225-1045 (Sara) and 765-490-0837 (Dennis).

We will not only visit our kids, parents and siblings, but we will welcome Baby Kale Fenchak into the family some time around Christmas (due date is Christmas Day)!  Andrea and John are awaiting his arrival in Indy.

It’s interesting and very different to observe Christmas in Haiti.  We see very few “signs of the season”, although the hotel where we stay did put up a Christmas tree and a few lights this past week.  While it may seem a little lacking as far as our traditional, American “Christmas spirit” goes, in many ways it seems closer and more real to the first Christmas 2000 years ago.  In a very poor land where the people have no means to commercialize or sensationalize, it’s like the simple stage is set for the amazing miracle of God coming to earth!  We pray that against the backdrop of the long, dark nights of Haiti, this truth will once again burst forth in all its brilliance:  Jesus is Christmas and He is the reason for celebrating!

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible while we are back. We also look forward to sharing more about the ministry here in our next update.  It will be coming soon.  Thank you so much all for your love and prayers.

Merry Christmas!

Jwaye Nwèl!

Dennis and Sara

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More Light Is Always Good!

Just yesterday Sara found a desk lamp to help her read the small print on the package inserts in the clinic’s  pharmacy.  For those of us in the second half of our lives, more light is always good!

A few weeks ago we did a medical/eye clinic in a nearby area, and we immediately noticed that the usual number of people were not present when we arrived.  I asked one of our Haitian translators about that, and he told me that most people were either in the cemeteries celebrating the dead… or fasting.  My friend explained that the evil people were practicing voodoo as part of the Haitian holiday called “All Souls Day”, or “The Day of the Dead”.  At the same time, the Christians and some moral people were fasting in prayer.  Quite a contrast!  (My friend defined “moral” people as those who try to live upright, decent lives, but don’t have Christ – 1 John 5:11, 12)  We had a slow day in the clinic, so our conversation continued…

I asked my friend what percentage of people he thought were in each group.  He estimated that currently about 60% of Haitians practice voodoo, 20% practice Christianity, and 20% are moral.  He said if you go back 30 years or more, the percentages would have been closer to 80% voodoo, 10% Christian, and 10% moral.  I asked him what he thinks is responsible for the change over the past 25-30 years.  He answered by saying “more light”.   He went on to explain that more kids are going to school today, and this has helped to open the minds of the younger generation, and given them more light to see that the darkness of the past doesn’t have to control them.  An ‘enlightenment’ of sorts has been slowly emerging that gives new vision and new possibilities to those who are willing to consider them.  He also said the advancement and light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has exposed evil and contributed to these encouraging changes.  Evil is slowly retreating to specific locations, and is not as prevalent everywhere as it used to be.  Many evil families now have a Christian or two in the family.  And even those areas that have been most evil and dark now have churches that are shining Light.

As I listened to my friend’s evaluation of the past 30 years, I was encouraged to hear about the changes taking place in our area of Haiti.  While it sometimes seems as though the gospel is not advancing as quickly as we would like, it’s always good to hear about the differences more Light is making!

One of Satan’s biggest schemes is to “blind the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4).  It’s our greatest desire and prayer that God will continue to shine more Light in this land so that more and more people will see the glory and beauty of Christ!  For once you really see Him, you’re never the same… you’re forever changed!  “Seeing Him is believing Him!”

Mountain Reflections

Another week has flown by.  I only know it has been a week because it was time to refill my “pill box” again! (Yes, even a pharmacist can be that forgetful to need one of those.)

I think back on the week with thankfulness for what God showed me – a lot about myself and my selfish nature, a lot of His beautiful creation, a lot about how His Word applies to my life and situations – in short, a lot about how much He loves me.

Isaac is gone, the winds and the sea are once again calm, the sky is blue, the rain infrequent.  But the destruction “he” left behind is apparent in many places.  There are still missing roofs; some have been replaced with discarded tarps, boxes, or small pieces of tin.  Others have nothing – the houses collapsed and pieces blew or were washed away. There are a few signs of rebuilding or repair – not many because there is no insurance, disaster relief funds, and most of the time, no family income.

A walk up the mountain yesterday showed Dennis and me some breath-taking scenery – yet extreme need.  We passed by one family that was taking shelter from the mid-day sun under a makeshift roof barely supported by small tree limbs – more victims of the storm.  It was one of those times where just a year ago, I might have grabbed my camera to show the folks back home an example of “having nothing”.  Even though we were on a “public” path, I was overcome by the feeling that we had invaded their privacy.  A brief greeting was all I could manage.

This path led to an area at the top of the mountain where many Haitians go to pray.  Our guide was Adelsie, who lives nearby and works at the Mission.  After visiting her home on the mountainside, where she treated us to coffee and bananas, she took us further up the mountain to this place of prayer.  She said up to one hundred people may gather every day to pray in the early morning and again in the evening.  The structure is new since Isaac passed through (see picture).  Local Haitians erected small tree branches and wove a new covering from palm leaves.  “It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night,”  Psalm 92: 1-2

We had never been up this mountain this far. Even though it was mostly rock and small brush, it was beautiful.  Turning around, we could see parts of Haiti’s shoreline that we had only seen from an airplane. We felt so blessed to be there and gave God our thanks in that special prayer place.

“For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.  The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.  Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.”  Psalm 95:3-7

A Haitian Church Mission Trip

One of our Haitian ministry guys recently told me about his church’s mission trip July 26-30, 2012.  They went to another area of Haiti, and it was so encouraging.  I apologize for this being so long, but I hope it touches your heart like it did mine.

My friend’s small church is located in downtown Montrouis.  Their trip would take them to Miragoane, a city along the coast in the southern hemisphere about 110 miles away (about 60 miles west of Port au Prince).  Thirty-three members of the church wanted to go on this trip.  It was estimated that the costs for the bus they needed to rent, gas, food, etc. would total $1,000 US.  Each member of the church was asked to give $30 each, but only four were able to give $19.  Then the nine church leaders tried to pay for four others as well as themselves.  But, that couldn’t be done either.  The pastor thought they should abandon the trip idea, but my friend said “No”!  He asked the other eight leaders in the church to join him for an evening in worship and prayer – asking God to provide the money.  “Do you believe God can give us the money we need?”  he asked them.  They said they did, but it was questionable whether they really believed it.  His fellow leaders thought he was a little crazy, but to that my friend replied “That’s not a lot for our God!”

Well, the nine leaders spent four hours one evening worshipping, praying, dancing to God.  After that, my friend called a friend of his in the US, and asked him for $1,000.  The gentleman in the US promised to pray about it and call back.  When he called back, he said he could send $400.  But, he later called back and said he could only send $200.  My friend said, “OK, no problem”.  My friend continued to believe that all 33 would be able to go, and that God would provide.  My friend then went to his bank and withdrew 99% of his money – about $132.  (He left a dollar or so in the account so the bank wouldn’t close his account.)

After further prayer and ‘brainstorming’, they discovered that a US team that had visited the church earlier in the year had left $120, and that was still saved away.  My friend also received $50 from a couple other friends in Haiti.  In addition, the church received a bag of rice from someone in the community.  Slowly, God was providing for their needs.

By faith, the 33 people boarded the rented bus at 6 am on July 26th and arrived at Miragoave around 12:30 pm that day.  They were exhausted from the long drive on rough roads, so they rested and spent the night at the church there.  Early the next morning, the 33 ‘missionaries’ divided up into three groups of eleven each.  They hiked up into the mountains to visit each house one at a time.  They were surprised to find out how far apart each house was.  They often had to hike several hundred yards up and down the mountainsides to reach the next home.

My friend shared how they talked to various people – some who had no interest in talking with them about Jesus, and others that were willing to listen.  Some were already Christians, and gladly welcomed them into their homes and celebrated their common faith in Jesus.  One particular gentleman had no interest in talking about Jesus.  Then, a very sweet lady from LaGonave, who was one of the 33 and who overflowed with her love for Jesus, began to talk to him.  Slowly he began to listen and take to heart what she shared.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit in this sweet woman, this gentleman ended up accepting Jesus as his personal Savior.  He immediately wanted to know where he needed to go to church.

Another man they talked to told them he was ready to die, but he didn’t want to die without Jesus.  It was very clear that God had prepared his heart for what the mission team was going to share with him, and he gladly trusted Jesus as his Savior.  It was a great time of rejoicing for everyone.   At another home they stopped lived a local voodoo priest and his wife.  The voodoo priest was 76 years old, and told them, “I know Jesus, but I don’t need him.  I’ve lived all my life without him.  Why would I need him now?  Satan is my savior.”  His wife was also very prideful, and said the same thing.

Another man really wanted to receive Jesus, but said he couldn’t because of a scar from a cow that attacked him.  The mission team kept asking him why not, but he could only say that he couldn’t.  At another house, only the woman was home.  She was a Christian, and asked the team to pray for her unsaved husband.  After fellowshipping and praying together, they left and went on down the mountain.  They came across a man along the path who said he would be willing to talk to them.  They had no idea who this man was, but went with him to his house.  Unknown to all, this was the same house they had just visited and prayed with the woman for her unsaved husband.  After talking with him, he received Christ.  What a wonderful time the team and wife had in praising God for His immediate answer to their prayers!

The three teams spent all of Friday and Saturday (July 27 and 28) going house to house in the mountains.  They visited around 250 people in about 150 homes.  All together, 18 people received Christ as Savior, and 15 were restored in their faith.  Most people were very kind, including those that didn’t receive Christ.  On Sunday, they worshipped with the local church, and had a baptismal service that afternoon where six people were baptized.  As part of their ministry, they were even able to give extra rice and food to people in need, and gave money for a sick man to go to the local hospital ($12.50).

So what initially appeared to be insufficient funds for the trip, turned out to be enough – in fact, with enough to share!  They returned Monday morning (July 30), and rejoiced in the wonderful time they had in sharing the gospel and seeing God work so powerfully among their fellow people.  Already the church is planning their next mission trip to the north coast of Haiti in the Cap Haitian area.  Perhaps that is an opportunity God is giving you to participate in what He’s doing in and through these dear people!

August 9. 2012 Update:  My friend’s US friend called and said he was going to be able to send the other $200 that he originally thought he could send.  This will allow my friend to restore his own personal bank account, and put the remainder toward the next trip!  God is so good.

A Day of Blessings!

Dennis got a call in the morning: our car was ready to be released!! He went with Dago and Simeon to St. Marc and started the waiting game. They were done by early afternoon and Dago negotiated such a (surprisingly) great price for us. Once again, we are so blessed to have him on the ministry team. Dago is also was the one who loaned us his personal car to use the five weeks we were here without transportation. Simeon helped us with the unloading of the stuff we had packed inside the car. If we didn’t have him, we would’ve definitely hurt ourselves getting it all up to our second floor room! All the Haitian guys on our team have such hearts to serve. Everything we packed into the car was there and intact! Nothing even appeared to have been opened inside our Toyota 4Runner! I read Hebrews 6:20 in the ESV Bible: “where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf…” Made me laugh out loud! 🙂

And – the Hattens arrived just a couple hours later! We had a great catch-up time over supper with Dr. Tom, Carolyn, Jacob and Anna. We look forward to working together and seeing what God has planned for us all.

Projecting New Light

Bethel Bible Church bought us a projector to use in Haiti with money donated through this summer’s VBS.  After working through a few “challenges” here, we were finally able to use the projector at yesterday morning’s worship service.  What a blessing.  Thank you VBS kids, workers, and parents for your generosity!

Greetings Once Again from Haiti

Greetings once again from Haiti!  We’ve been back almost two weeks now, and we’re pretty much ‘re-settled’ in most ways.  It was so great to see family and friends while we were home.  And now, it’s good to re-connect with our friends and ministry partners here.  God continues to bless us, hold us close, and show us new things about Himself and serving Him every day!  We are so grateful.

As we reflect on our first couple of weeks back in Haiti, two situations probably stand out in our minds the most.  The first one began a couple of weeks ago when one of the younger gals in the feeding program at the fish house died.  This was not something that came as a total surprise, as she had been battling repeated illnesses for the past six months.  Nonetheless, it’s so tragic when such a young life with two precious children is gone from this earth.  The gospel had been shared with her many times, but we never knew for sure how she responded.  Her funeral was the day we flew in to Haiti (July 11).  Her two kids – an 8 year-old girl (Sherley) and a 3 year-old boy (Climako) – are living at the mission right now, and both of these dear children test HIV positive.  Along with one of our ministry guys, we took the kids to the HIV/STD clinic here in Montrouis last week.  We’re trying to get the necessary tests to evaluate their status, and begin appropriate treatment.  We’re not sure how long they’ll be living at the orphanage.  We took them back this morning for their very critical CD4 blood test.  Please pray for these dear children.  Here is a picture we took last week of Sherley and Climako:

The other experience occurred last Saturday morning when we met with eight refugee families and interviewed them for completion of paperwork that we hope will lead to four duplexes being built for them by a Finnish group.  Following the earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, a local Haitian believer named Gary was able to find temporary shelter for 200 of the earthquake survivors who had migrated to Montrouis.  These people had lost their homes, all their earthly belongings, and at least one spouse or parent in the earthquake, and had no where to live.  After the temporary refugee camp was closed about a year ago due to an outbreak of cholera, fifteen families remained who had not been able to find housing.  At that time, Dr. Kerry rented houses for all those that needed housing.  He also provided food and school sponsorships for the children as best he could.  Of the fifteen families, eight families have been selected as most needy.  They are the ones we met with and are applying for this special housing opportunity.  The needs are so apparent, and the resources limited.  One of these ‘families’ is a really beautiful set of brothers who lost both parents in the quake.  Please pray for the housing needs of these very needy refugee families.  Here is a picture of one of the families we met with: 

As we live in a world so full of tragedy and ‘uncertainty’, we are comforted by the truth that our King reigns, and His kingdom will never end.  In our church here, we’ve been talking about the supremacy and all-sufficiency of our Savior in the book of Hebrews.  Hebrews 1:11, 12 proclaims about Jesus: “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  You will roll them up like a robe… But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”  Regardless of the needs and challenges we face on this earth, we who are children of the King have nothing but victory and glory to look forward to when someday we behold face to face the One who is “full of grace and truth”!  He is the all-glorious One we love to serve; to Him be all glory!

Be sure to check out the updated pictures of the new clinic building on the “New Clinic Building Under Construction” post.  And, again, thank you for your prayers and support.  Sara is doing much better with her hip and back pain.  We love you and appreciate you so much.

Your partners in ‘Advancing God’s Kingdom in Haiti’,

Dennis and Sara