Tag Archives: prayer

Chicken-what?

It is quiet at our Port-au-Prince office this week.  Office doors are shut and lights are turned off.  There is less chatter coming from the cafeteria at lunch time.  No, people are not on vacation.  Unfortunately several are out sick with a mosquito-borne virus called Chikungunya.  Oh and that’s not a typo.  The first few times I said it, it came out sounding more like chicken-something.

Everyone is talking about Chikungunya.  Over the past two weeks it seems I have not gone a couple hours without having a conversation about it.  The Chikungunya first arrived in the Caribbean in late 2013 and has quickly spread throughout the region.  The first cases in Haiti were reported in early May.

The virus causes joint pain, rash and fever but is not fatal.  One friend (who is young) told me the pain was so bad in his joints it made him feel like an old man!  Some people have been calling the virus kraze zo which means “broken bones” in Kreyol.

Quite literally, people are dropping like flies.  I can think of 10 co-workers who have had Chikungunya in the past two weeks and many people in our church community have gotten it too.  Apparently this kind of virus spreads very fast.  It doesn’t help that we’re in the middle of rainy season here in Haiti which means there are lots of places for mosquitos to make babies.

So far Martha and I have been spared.  We’ve been using mosquito repellent and candles in our house to ward off the little villains but it is hard not to get bit even with all these precautions.

It’s tough to see something like this hit Haiti.  One thing I’ve learned here is how important good health is for the poor.  Many people work in the informal sector meaning they do not have a salary or guaranteed income, much less health insurance or sick days.  If you are a subsistent farmer or a day laborer, you will not get paid or eat if you do not work.  So being sick can prevent you from earning an income, providing for your family, and taking care of your kids.

The CDC has produced some fact sheets in English and Kreyol which are helpful.  We emailed the Kreyol version to our co-workers and also posted it on our message board in the office.

Please join us in prayer for healing and protection for our co-workers, their families, and for the thousands of others affected throughout the country.

Here’s a couple recent news articles about Chikungunya if you’re interested:

Mosquito-Borne Breaking Bone Disease Spreads in Haiti – NPR
As Haiti awaits confirmation, a quickly spread mosquito-borne virus in Caribbean sparks concern – Miami Herald

 

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.

Finding community

One of the first things I noticed about the World Concern staff in Haiti is the sense of community that is felt in the office. Whether praying together, sharing a meal, or just joking around, the staff here are close. It has been a joy to witness this so far and we’ve felt welcomed into the ‘family’ here.
Assimilating (or attempting to) into a new culture always has its’ challenges. I remember even when Martha and I first moved to Seattle almost three years ago now, how different things were from other places I had lived in the States. As I eventually learned, people in Seattle do not prefer to honk while driving, use umbrellas, or drink ‘corporate’ coffee. Who would’ve known?! You don’t expect to have to go through a period of adjustment when moving to a new city in your own country but it happens. Anyway one good thing about figuring out a new place is that you get to observe and just take everything in. It has been during this ‘observation phase’ that I’ve noticed the closeness of the staff here, which is a great thing.

Martha and I got to see more of this last week when we took part in a special luncheon for about fifteen of our health staff.

Since 2009 World Concern, working with local and other NGO partners, has had the opportunity to serve people living with HIV/AIDS in the Port-au-Prince area. In Haiti, if you have HIV/AIDS you face significant stigmatization and discrimination. This population is marginalized. While area hospitals are able to provide medicines and other clinical services to people living with HIV/AIDS, there are often limited resources available to meet their non-clinical needs. This is the gap that this project filled. At seven different centers throughout the city, thousands of people including children who live with HIV/AIDS received psycho-social support through the project. This happened through support groups where people are able to discuss their challenges, vocational training, HIV/AIDS education, assistance with school fees, and creative programs for kids. These activities help give people self-confidence, provide them with tangible skills so they can earn an income, and help them see that they are valued and important.

This luncheon was a time for the staff to just be together and reflect on the project. An especially meaningful moment was when everyone took turns going around the table and saying a thank you or encouraging word to each person. I am still far from fluent in Creole but I felt like I didn’t have to know exactly what was being said. In the air was a sense of belonging and togetherness that was so refreshing. As I was taking everything in and trying to follow the conversation, I thought of the sense of community I have felt among the staff so far and how this luncheon was definitely a highlight in that regard.

CHAMP Lunch1

Once each person had shared and we had finished a delicious lunch, everyone gathered around to end in prayer. Myself and two others were asked to pray. I’ve found this to be a funny experience to be asked to pray in a group, mainly because of the language. It’s really an honor to be asked to pray I think, especially at a special event like this but I always get nervous. Do I struggle through a prayer in Creole and sound like a 8 year old or pray in English even though only three people in the room can understand me? This time I decided to give it a try in Creole. Thankfully out of the three I was the last to go which gave me plenty of time to search my brain for all the ‘Christianese’ words I know in Creole and craft my prayer. Eventually it was my turn and although I still felt a little intimated, I went for it. To my surprise, I made it all the way through without stuttering or having or a complete brain fart! Learning how to get out of your comfort zone and just try things even if you look or sound ridiculous is a good skill to have in Haiti I’m learning.

This past week I was reminded that there is great community here within World Concern and I’m thankful to be a part of it.

CHAMP Lunch12

CHAMP Lunch3

Question of the day…

How strong is your desire to make their language and cultural way of being yours?

This question is one of many I have been asked this past week and a half at Mission Training International (MTI) in Colorado.  Martha and I are here for a three-week cross-cultural course, which aims to provide practical skills for adjusting to life and ministry in a new culture.  We are being challenged, encouraged, and convicted.  I feel like the Lord is using this time to prune many of my branches.

I am beginning to see how my way of thinking, over eagerness, and proud heart can be an obstacle to understanding and integrating into Haitian culture.  This past week we have discussed stress, lifestyle choices, conflict, spiritual rest and vitality, and value awareness to name a few topics.  Each topic has opened my eyes to areas where I can grow and where I have strengths.  There are many things I could share with you, however as I was thinking about how to summarize our training at MTI so far, one sentence came to mind; I am learning how to die to what I want or think is best.

A good spot for reflection along a nearby trail

As I consider what it means to exit my culture and enter another, I see more and more clearly my need for God.  If He is not guiding this personal transformation, then I will eventually falter.  I may survive for a time, but I cannot thrive in my ministry if I am not willing to cling to His goodness and truth.

How strong is my desire to make the Haitian language and cultural way of being mine?  It is strong.  Martha and I have received this call to serve the poor in Haiti.  I am living into my passion! It is very strong.  However, it may not be strong enough.  That is, if I try to carry out this mission on my own.

One of our instructors this week said, “The key for successful personal relationships and ministry is to understand and accept others as having a viewpoint that is as worthy of consideration as yours.”

What a powerful statement!  This requires putting aside my own ambition.  This requires dying.

The idea of dying to oneself is not only for missionaries or cross-cultural workers.  It is for anyone who is on the journey of following Jesus.  We are reminded frequently at MTI that what you do now at home will likely carry over to our time serving overseas.  If I am struggling with anger, my anger will not magically go away as soon as I get off the plane in Haiti!  This simply shows that how we carry ourselves now truly matters and is a good indicator of where our heart is.  Therefore, I challenge you to think about how you are doing in this area of saying no to yourself and yes to the call of service and integration and mutual understanding.  We are all missionaries; we are just asked to go to different places.

Lots of eating and laughing together

I am so thankful for this place and to be challenged in these ways now.

Beautiful mountains nearby

Martha and I are having an awesome week.  Aside from the good teaching, we are having so much fun getting to know the 30 plus other participants in our course.  The fellowship is rich and genuine.  We are grateful to see how God is equipping and sending out many people to serve and love others all over the world.  Plus, we are in a beautiful place!

Pray for us this week that we will be able to process and unpack all that we are hearing.  Thank you for your generosity, prayers, and partnership.

 

We’re looking for partners!

Happy spring everyone!  Here in Seattle, we are getting our first consistent bits of sunshine and ‘warm’ weather.  This is the time when Seattleites, including us, come out of hibernation and begin spending a lot of time outdoors.  There are plenty of reasons for us to be excited, and not just because of the beautiful weather.

One reason we are excited is that in the month of March, Martha and I received our detailed budget outlining all of our financial needs before arriving in Haiti and during our two years there.  There may be slight changes to our budget, however we want to share this information with you now to help you better understand what our financial needs are and what this money is being used for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Communications Liaisons, Martha and I will be highlighting stories of hope and partnering with Haitians in building a stronger tomorrow.  To do this we need committed partners who are interested in being a part of relationship building and transformational work.  Please prayerfully consider how you may be able to join us in working with and for the Haitian people.  Thank you to all of you who have sent encouraging emails and notes.  We have had such a wonderful response since we began sharing our story and vision.  As always, we would love to hear from you.  Regarding finances, if you have questions about our budget or would like to hear more in detail please do not hesitate to contact us.

World Concern in Haiti is transforming lives by serving in the areas of disaster relief, microcredit, education, food security, HIV/AIDS prevention, and support for AIDS orphans.

In addition to our financial needs, we also have a big need for prayer partners.  We recognize that by our own strength we can only go so far.  However, whenever people gather together in prayer and in agreement, what cannot happen?  Therefore, please consider committing to praying for Martha and I for the next two years.  Martha and I pray each Monday evening together for guidance, humility, our supporters and Haiti.  If you feel led, you may join us in prayer at that time wherever you are!

Please pray now for:

  • Perseverance as we balance working our day jobs and making all the necessary preparations for our future ministry
  • New supporters who are interested in our work and what God is doing in Haiti
  • Haiti and our future colleagues, that they may receive all that they need to continue their work

 We realize these are big requests!  Therefore, in return for your partnership we will commit to:

  • Serve in Haiti with World Concern for a period of two years
  • Provide you with updates on our lives and the work of World Concern in Haiti, and how your contribution is making a difference
  • Use our resources wisely and be good stewards—this includes our time, money, skills, all of it

We hope all is well with you!

Blessings,

Austin & Martha Snowbarger

 

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