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Reflections on prayer and a car wash

day of prayer - praying

Praying as a staff at the World Concern Haiti office.

After having spent three days in southern Haiti last week, Martha and I hurried back to Port-au-Prince for World Concern’s annual global day of prayer on Thursday.  This was our first time to participate in this day and we were glad that we got to.  In the busyness of work and life it is so refreshing to spend an entire day with colleagues praying, singing and hanging out.  The purpose of the day was to give thanksgiving for the previous fiscal year (ours ends in June), pray for the upcoming one, and also pray for the people we work with.

We began the day with a combination of scripture reading, prayer, singing, testimonies from staff about the past year, and more prayer.  When we sing together, someone almost always brings print outs of the lyrics which I’m grateful for since my French is subpar.  Oh and another interesting tidbit is that most singing in church in Haiti is in French not Creole and in most churches in Port-au-Prince French is used in the sermons as well.  Anyway, I recognize some of the tunes but there are also other songs that are completely new to me.  Haitians sing loud and proud.  Their voices together are strong and resounding. Sometimes I try and sing along but other times it is nice to just listen.  Here is a little video from our day of prayer last week while we were singing to give you an idea.

[vimeo 69688867]
See what I mean?!  It’s really incredible to be surrounded by all that powerful singing.

The second part of our day, we visited a church nearby that has a cool ministry for street kids.  This was a chance to hear about how one church is reaching out to people in their neighborhood and pray for them.  The pastor of the church was there, along with about 15 kids that he is working with.

If you have spent any time in Port-au-Prince and have driven around, you have likely had a young guy come up to your car when stopped and ‘offer’ to give it a wipe down.  By ‘offer’ I actually mean they just start doing it and if you don’t wave them off repeatedly, you better have some money nearby.  These are the kids that the pastor at this church saw frequently on the street outside his church.  Some of these kids have parents, some don’t, some have a place to stay, and some are just on their own.  Before they met the pastor, most were not attending school and they spent their days dodging traffic trying to earn some money wiping down cars at intersections.

So the pastor, wanting to know these kids situation better, decided to get to know them.  This was in 2009.  At first, they didn’t want anything to do with him because they thought he was trying to take advantage of them or something.  After three months of talking to them, a few agreed to come in the church and chat.  The pastor said it helped that he usually had some food to share with them.  Over time the pastor built a relationship with about 15 of these kids and they began to trust him more.  He gave them food when he could, talked to them and told them about the Bible.  But he also had an idea of how to get them in school and at the same time give them an opportunity to earn money—a car wash.  He pitched his idea to the kids.

“I will help you start a car wash which each of you can work at.  With the money earned together, we’ll pay for everyone’s school and whatever is left will be split among you.”

The kids agreed and the work of setting up a car wash began.  At first it was a very small thing but the pastor eventually got the local magistrate to donate a piece of land and he found funding to build a building on the property and purchase the needed materials like a power washer, soap, cloths, water, etc.  Now the car wash is a fully functioning business, all of the 15 or so kids he originally began working with are in school, and they each are paid a wage for their work.  During the school year, the kids work on the weekends in shifts.  The car wash has plenty of room for growth but right now it is meeting the needs of the kids as originally envisioned.

To hear firsthand from several of these kids about the difference they see in their lives both spiritually and economically now compared with four years ago is amazing.  After meeting them at the church and hearing their stories, some of the World Concern staff members stood up to share a bit of encouragement with the kids.  After that someone from World Concern prayed for the church and the kids, and one of the kids prayed for World Concern.  Then we all ate lunch together and afterwards walked over to the car wash to see this thing for ourselves.  It was attractive from the outside and the property was well kept after walking through the gate.  There was one concrete ramp built for cars to drive up and a couple power washers nearby.  Inside the small building on the property was a shop selling beverages and random car accessories.

day of prayer - church

At the church praying with the pastor and kids.

Ourselves and the staff made our way back to the office and gathered again in the conference room.  Then we went around in a circle and each person shared about something from the day.  It was so encouraging!  We closed the day with more prayer for the church and those kids, then some of the staff members started discussing how we as a staff we could continue to bless and encourage those kids.  Not sure what they will come up with but it was certainly an impactful day for everyone.

Personally, there were three things that I took away from this day.

  1. Both personal and collective spiritual health is so important.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in work and everything else that goes on and forget my own spiritual life.  I realize (frequently) my need for Christ however I struggle to consistently set aside time and energy to pursue my relationship with him.  A colleague here in Haiti recently said, “We work out our bodies and eat and brush our teeth and everything but we also need to take care of our soul!”  Couldn’t have said it better.  Likewise, we cannot neglect the spiritual health of the community.  I’m thankful that each morning the World Concern staff gathers for a quick prayer together.  No better way to start the day.  I think it’s powerful when a group of people are working toward the same goal and all agree that God must be at the center.  This day of prayer was a good investment in the spiritual health of the staff here.
  2. I need to be intentional with people and persistent like the pastor was in pursuit of those kids.  It took three months for the pastor to get the kids to even talk to him.  What if he had given up after one or two?  I admire his relentlessness and want to also be more intentional.
  3. Haitian led interventions are here and are working; you just have to look for them.  There is so much more to Haiti than a rough history, poorly spent aid dollars, lots of missionaries, and poverty.  But if you are not familiar with Haiti and rely on the news for your information, it is no wonder this is what you would believe.  Unfortunately these kids’ story may never make it on CNN but what is happening in the lives of those 15 young people tells a different story than what you typically hear from the media.  This is encouraging and should be celebrated.  This story shows us that even with limited resources and no outside help initially, a sustainable Haitian led ministry is possible and can succeed.  We (the church, international community, foreigners, NGOs) should do everything possible to support these types of interventions without getting in the way.  Easier said than done of course but we must have that vision and start somewhere.

Friends, meetings, dinner parties – a week in review

This has been a full, yet fantastic week.  Martha and I are doing a pretty good job of balancing our day jobs with making preparations for Haiti, raising support, and touching up on some skills.  Some days are longer than others, but all in all we’re growing more affirmed in our future ministry and have been given all the strength we need to ‘keep on keeping on.’  I wanted to share a couple highlights from this past week with the hope of letting you see what our lives are like doing this time leading up to our departure for Haiti.

Martha and I have applied to receive support from our church here in Seattle.  This week we had our first ‘interview’ with some members from the mission committee.  It was encouraging to hear about the vision the church has regarding missions and how our work with World Concern fits into that.  Following some good conversation, we had the opportunity to pray together.  This was another reminder of how blessed we are to be a part of a solid community of believers.  The next step in this process is to make a presentation of our work to the entire committee in the near future.  Looking forward to that.

As you may or may not know, Martha and I have begun learning French.  We are using a software called “Tell Me More.”  We decided to go with a software option versus a class or tutor because of the low cost and flexibility.  In general we are pleased so far with the program and since we both enjoy language it has been fun.  The majority of Haitians only speak Creole.  Why then are we learning French?  Our Haitian supervisors and colleagues at the headquarter office in Seattle agreed that having a basic understanding of French would be helpful for the transition to learning Creole.  Additionally, some things like government documents in Haiti are often in French, so it will be valuable to understand the language for that reason.  Eventually we will focus exclusively on learning Creole with the end goal of becoming fluent.  We want to invest in our Haitian coworkers and neighbors, as well as do our best to share accurate and in depth stories of what World Concern is doing in Haiti, so really knowing the language is essential for us.  In addition to using the “Tell Me More” language software to learn French, we have been listening to French music and watching French movies.  This week we watched a French film called “The Class.”  It follows a classroom in urban Paris that consists of a diverse group of lower class students and highlights the issues they face.  Slow moving at times but I really recommend it.  We’re hoping simply hearing the language will help us pick it up quicker.  We’ll see!

One of our goals prior to arriving in Haiti is to really be present each day and build strong relationships with people here.  A way we are attempting to do this and at the same time tell more people about our future work is through dinner or dessert nights.  These informal, laid back events may be hosted at the home of a close friend or anywhere else that a friend of ours allows us ‘into their circle.’  Our friends Andrew and Tessa invited us to join their small group this week for dinner and to talk about what we are up to.  It was really fun meeting new people, hearing their stories, and sharing ours.  If this sounds like something you would be interested in hosting for us let us know!

So this was our week.  We are always amazed at the people God puts in our lives and how he provides for us.  Pressing forward in anticipation for what He has next.  Happy Easter:)

Oh and it was my (Austin) birthday this week!  How could I forget?  I think 26 is going to be a good one.