Tag Archives: travel

A Vet Clinic to Remember a Giant

A group shot at the end of the day of everyone who participated in the vet clinic.

A group shot at the end of the day of everyone who participated in the vet clinic.

There are some people who seem larger than life itself.  Somehow these special individuals are able to fit more into one lifetime than many of us could in several.  Sometimes it’s their zeal for life or pure genius or professional accomplishments.  For Dr. Keith Flanagan, who was known as “Dr. Keith” to many, it was the way he tirelessly spent himself for others over the course of his 26 years of service in Haiti.

I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Keith.  He passed away suddenly a year ago when Martha and I were new to Haiti and still meeting people.  I wish I had.  However we have had the joy of getting to know his wife Jan who is still in Haiti and attends our church.

Dr. Keith served in Haiti with Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) which is a sister organization to World Concern.  CVM sends out veterinary professionals to serve in the U.S. and beyond.  Dr. Keith was a vet and was involved in everything from helping the government do vaccination campaigns to training folks in rural areas to become vet agents.

Hold on!  Cows don't like shots either.

Hold on! Cows don’t like shots either.

This past week marked the one year anniversary since Dr. Keith’s death.  To celebrate his life, a vet clinic was organized by the other CVM missionaries in Haiti and Haitian friends who were impacted by him.  Martha and I had the opportunity to travel with the group and document what we saw through photo, video, and interviews so Dr. Keith’s family and the CVM family could remember this special day.

Our good friend and CVM missionary, Rhoda, also participated in the vet clinic.  Here, she and Martha stop for a photo.

Our good friend and CVM missionary, Rhoda, also participated in the vet clinic. Here, she and Martha stop for a photo.

People in the village of Cabaye, one of the three villages part of the vet clinic, gather with their animals.

People in the village of Cabaye, one of the three villages part of the vet clinic, gather with their animals.

The clinic was held in three villages surrounding the town of La Chapelle, a three hour drive from Port-au-Prince.  This was an area that Dr. Keith invested in heavily during his ministry in Haiti.  Around 40 people, many of them community vet agents who were trained by Dr. Keith, came and volunteered their time for the day.  Three groups were formed (one for each village) and a cooler with vaccines and other medicines was given to each group.

Vaccines and medicines iced and ready to go.

Vaccines and medicines iced and ready to go.

Driving from La Chapelle to Cabaye.

Driving from La Chapelle to Cabaye.

We went out with one of the three groups and met all kinds of people who knew Dr. Keith.  One elderly man we met named Julien is a vet agent and was trained by Dr. Keith in 1990.  He remembered three separate trainings, each nine days long, that Dr. Keith gave on taking care of pigs, cattle and horses.  Julien still earns an income from his work as a vet agent, giving vaccines and doing castrations.

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It was really surreal to run into this man named Julien in a tiny village in rural Haiti and hear him say that because of Dr. Keith’s investment in him over 20 years ago, he’s still able to care for his animals and provide for his family by taking care of others’.  After speaking to a number of people like Julien throughout the day, it was clear that Dr. Keith had a significant impact on many people’s lives.

Wiltherne, a godchild of Dr. Keith and vet agent, doing great work!

Wiltherne, a vet agent trained by Dr. Keith, doing great work!

Dr. Keith was obviously a skilled veterinarian and a true professional.  It’s also obvious that he took genuine interest in people and sincerely loved them like Jesus would, whatever their story or background.  Both his skill and heart for others made him an effective vessel for Christ in Haiti for many years.

A time of reflection and sharing after lunch.

A time of reflection and sharing after lunch.

Here’s a short overview video Martha made of our day in La Chapelle.

 

On The Road in Haiti: A Week In Review

The first week of November Martha and I had the opportunity to host a lovely couple named Adam and Wendy from California and a colleague from Seattle named Dave.  Adam’s family has been involved with World Concern for over 30 years and although Adam had traveled with World Concern previously, this was Wendy’s first trip.

This was Martha and I’s first donor trip to help coordinate since moving to Haiti so we were excited but a bit anxious as well to see how everything turned out.  Well I’m happy to report that other than one flat tire and a little motion sickness on my end, the trip was smooth and without any hiccups.  Our colleagues are diligent and gracious, which we were reminded of constantly throughout the week.

Here is a look at our five day trip together stretching from Les Cayes to Jacmel and then back to Port-au-Prince.  As always, photos were taken by my talented wife.

Tuesday
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Our day started with a presentation of all World Concern current activities in southern Haiti given by our staff in Les Cayes.

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We visited Morency, near Les Cayes where Adam’s family helped build this water well in 1998.

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Just up the road from the water well in Morency is this primary school which World Concern also built in 1998.  The school is currently a partner in our Hope to Kids program which provides goats and husbandry training to students so they can generate income and pay for school.

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Here students line up with their goats so Bernard (pictured far left), the Hope to Kids project coordinator, can give vitamin and deworming shots.  Most of the goats do not like the shot at all and afterwards jump around frantically, which the kids get a kick out of.

Wednesday

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What a good looking group!  West of Les Cayes World Concern leases a few acres of land that is used as an ‘outdoor classroom’ where our staff hold trainings for local farmers.  We had the opportunity to visit the farm and speak with staff, farmers and interns from a couple local agronomy universities.  The tractor you see above is one that is used to provide plowing services for farmers.

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Last month southern Haiti received a lot of rain…too much rain in fact.  You can see that there was some flooding at the farm when we visited.  The staff were draining the field and focusing on their raised beds.

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To thank the World Concern staff in Les Cayes for all their hard work and to enjoy some fellowship, we shared a delicious meal at Gelee beach.  This small restaurant is owned and run by a World Concern microcredit client which is awesome.  Rolande, the owner, has been a client since 1998.  We were happy to support her business and eat her delicious food!

Thursday

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Thursday morning we drove from Les Cayes to Jacmel.  We took Route National 2 which is well paved and provides some spectacular views as you zigzag up and over the mountains.

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Once reaching Jacmel and meeting up with Marseille, World Concern’s project coordinator in south east Haiti, we drove to the community of Lavaneau just outside the city.  Here World Concern helped a local organization rebuild their irrigation canal after it was destroyed by hurricanes in 2008.  The local organization is 22 years old and works on a variety of projects in their community.  In this photo we’re speaking with the president of the organization and other members.

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In addition to the construction of a new irrigation canal, World Concern supported the local organization in Lavaneau to build four water fountains like this one which we visited.

Friday

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Friday morning we drove to the village of Figue, high up in the mountains east of Jacmel. This is the inside of the church in Figue that was rebuilt following Hurricane Sandy last year. The congregation did an awesome job painting the church and making it beautiful.

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World Concern also helped Figue build a new water system which brings water from a source in the mountains to this water fountain.  You can read more about World Concern’s work in Figue by clicking here.

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Haitians are very generous and the folks in Figue were no exception.  Here’s the remnants of the coconut that we enjoyed during our visited.  A guy will take a machete and with precision cut off the top so a small hole is exposed; perfect for drinking the cool contents.

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Friday afternoon we drove back to Port-au-Prince.  This was the leg of the trip where I got pretty motion sick.  As we drove through and around and up and over the mountains from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince I was sitting in the back with the luggage.  The Dramamine I took apparently didn’t do its job.  Adam was nice enough to swap seats on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.  In the photo above you can see one of the many taptaps (the public bus in Haiti) we encountered upon reaching the capital.

Saturday

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Adam, Wendy and Dave flew out Saturday evening so we had all day to explore some of Port-au-Prince together.  Here is a panoramic shot Martha took of the city from a popular lookout.

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Before heading to the airport we stopped for a late lunch.

It was a fantastic week.  Adam and Wendy were able to see firsthand how God is using World Concern to serve and equip communities in Haiti.  It was an honor to introduce them to this amazing country.

An empty downtown, crowded tap taps and sleeping police: Sights on a road trip across Haiti

The beautiful southern coast of Haiti near Aquin along Route National 2.

Four o’clock in the morning is early even for a morning person like me.  Yet last week this is precisely the time of day I found myself crawling out of bed and into our car.  Martha and I do not usually get up this early.  But on this particular day we were headed to the city of Les Cayes which is located in southern Haiti and needed to be there by 8:30am.  The trip can take over four hours, depending on the traffic or blokis, hence the 4am wake up.

World Concern has been working with small scale farmers near Les Cayes for over 15 years providing training, seeds and tractor services.  We last visited Les Cayes in June and you can read about three gentleman we met then in a previous blog post by clicking here.  Our purpose in traveling to Les Cayes on this occasion was to document an organic compost training for farmers and agronomy students from local universities.  More later in a separate post on this training specifically.

This was our fifth trip outside of Port-au-Prince for World Concern since arriving in Haiti nine months ago.  After four trips we have figured out travel essentials versus what can be left behind.  Sunscreen is always a must.  We’ve made the mistake of forgetting this precious item before only to pay for it for the next two weeks.  On a personal note, it is especially sad that I have recently needed to start applying sunscreen to the (little) bald spot on my head.  Forgetting that has proved disastrous as well.  I often opt for a hat nowadays.

A notepad but also several pens are also at the top of the list because pens seem to disappear when meetings, road trips, hotel rooms and farm visits are involved.  We used to always carry a small English-Creole dictionary but found that it was a bit impractical to pull out a book and look up a word mid-conversation.  I often feel like an 8 year old when speaking Creole but we are improving slowly so this last trip we left the dictionary at home and did fine.

I always insist on bringing my Leatherman knife which Martha doesn’t feel as attached to (shocking I know!).  Maybe it’s a guy thing but I just feel so much more prepared for whatever may happen when I bring my knife along.  Of course it is not only a knife.  It is a can opener, filer, screwdriver, pair of scissors, and saw.  And it fits in my pocket!  Definitely a must.

Lastly, pre-charged batteries.  It’s amazing how fast Martha flies through battery packs when she is using her camera for 8+ straight hours.

The night before we left was busy as we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast and iced coffee for the road.  Martha was kind enough to iron a couple things because despite often being in very rural areas when we travel, a pressed shirt is nearly always expected.  Haitians are very clean and great care is taken to look nice.  I dress nicer in Haiti than I ever did in Seattle for most occasions.  Okay, Seattle is a bad comparison because jeans and a REI button up with UV protection is considered business casual but you get the idea.  Since we would only be gone for one night we shared a small backpack and easily fit in our clothes for the next two days.  Martha’s camera bag and stand were set by the door.  Extra water was thrown in the car and the gas tank was filled.  We were ready.

As we drove through Port-au-Prince in the pre-dawn twilight the city was uncharacteristically quiet.  Streets that are usually bustling with cars, public buses or tap taps, and street vendors were almost completely vacant.  It felt like we could have been the only ones in the city at that moment.  We passed the Champs de Mars plaza and the National Palace or at least where it once proudly stood pre-quake.  It was damaged badly and eventually torn down with the help of Sean Penn’s charity in 2012.

The wind kicked up dust in front of us as we continued on which made the car’s headlights appear dimmer, only adding to the eeriness of driving through an empty downtown Port-au-Prince.

With no blokis we quickly found on our way out of downtown and onto Route National 2, heading west.  We passed the city of Léogâne which was closest to the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake.  Next came Grand Goâve and Petit-Goâve.  Interestingly, the road only gets better on Route National 2 the farther you head west from Port-au-Prince.  By the time you reach Grand Goâve the road becomes consistently smooth.  In fact, Route National 2 is one of the best stretches of road in Haiti (at least that I’ve been on).

At this point the sky was showing hints of light which we were both thankful for.  With little street lighting, especially outside Port-au-Prince, driving in the dark can be a chore.  Pot holes and speed bumps are extra hidden so we found ourselves consistently praying that we did not blow a tire.  In Creole speed bumps are called polis kouche—literally, ‘lying down police.’  It was explained to me that it’s called that because the speed bump is like a policeman sleeping in the road forcing you to slow down.  I love it!  The Creole language never ceases to amuse and amaze.  Thankfully the car did great through the entire trip and we would make it Les Cayes safely and san pwoblem.

Although the sun was still rising, Route National 2 became increasingly busier as we kept driving west.  Men and women, although mostly women, waited on the roadside for the next tap tap to pass.  If one did, you would see all hands go up and begin waving in unison signaling to the driver that they wanted a ride.  Often the passengers were carrying totes, bags, produce, or even chairs that are accompanying them on their journey.   Buses and tap taps in Haiti are often painted vibrant colors and it is not uncommon to find Justin Beiber or Lionel Messi’s face plastered on the side.  They are also notoriously filled to the brim with everything you can imagine—people, goats, charcoal, clothes, and produce to name a few.

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There’s always room for more.

Not in an overwhelming way like in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, but the smaller cities and villages we passed were certainly teeming with life and activity as a new day began.  I have found Haitians to be proactive and industrious people.  I would confidently say the vast majority of Haitians I have met are not waiting for a handout despite what I hear from the occasional visitor or in the news.  They are busy and proactive, trying to make a life for themselves and provide for their families despite living in a country where ‘getting ahead’ is only possible for a privileged few.

I am always confused when someone makes a comment about the lack of work ethic or ambition of Haitians.  I completely disagree.  A few months ago we met a woman who lives near the city of Port-de-Paix in northwest Haiti who works seven days a week frying food and selling it on the street to earn enough money so her kids can eat and go to school.  She is always up before dawn and rarely takes a single day off because if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.  This woman is not waiting for a handout.  The people we passed who were obviously busy getting ready for a new day reminded me of this woman and once again I was impressed by the diligence and fortitude of many people in Haiti.

We eventually reached the port town of Miragoâne.  At this point, Route National 2 veers inland taking you south and west across what I would call “the panhandle” of Haiti.  If you are familiar with Oklahoma or Texas you will know exactly what I mean.  Leaving Miragoâne you definitely feel like you are in a rural area.  There are a series of small villages on this nearly 50 kilometer stretch from Miragoâne to the small seaside town of Aquin on the southern coast but that is about it.

The contrast between the busyness and density of Port-au-Prince and the open space and vistas nearly everywhere else outside the capital still amaze me.  I am not really a city person.  I almost always prefer smaller towns and the countryside.  Therefore getting outside of Port-au-Prince is like a breath of fresh air.  The Haitian countryside is absolutely beautiful and the area between Miragoâne and Aquin is no exception.  Soon, the sun was peeking over the mountains giving us quite the show.  This part of the country has a decent amount of tree cover remaining which only added to the beauty.  The car had to work harder as we climbed then descended the numerous hills and mountain passes.

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This is where, as a driver, you get lots of experience passing and getting passed by vehicles of all shapes and sizes.  There is no real concept of leaving room between cars in Haiti.  It is one of the things about driving in Haiti that I am still trying to get used to.  In the U.S. we generally like our space when driving and expect other drivers to give that to us.  There is almost a sacredness with the small area around our rear bumpers.  You know what I mean.  In your rear view mirror you notice car closing in pretty quickly and that isn’t necessarily bad.  But then the car keeps coming.  As it gets closer and approaches that invisible sacred line of “that is way too close to my bumper man” the driver’s blood pressure quickly rises and even the nicest of people can turn into absolute tyrants.  Ever heard of a “brake check” or better yet used it?

So in Haiti I’m training myself to think not so much about what is happening behind me and instead focus on what’s ahead.  When another car is passing you they will often get right on your bumper and then move slightly into the opposite lane to see if there is room to pass.  Even the smallest gap in traffic is often enough.  As the car picks up speed and flies passed you, the driver will honk multiple times which basically means “I’m coming so get out of my way.”  Martha and I are learning quickly.  Martha learned to drive in the Philippines so she definitely uses her experience from there in Haiti.  I tend to be a more aggressive driver than Martha but together we’re a nice team, whoever is driving.

You know you are getting close to the southern coast when you descend and descend and keep descending.  As you approach Aquin, out of nowhere, the Caribbean Sea reveals itself.  It is a real surprise; and an awesome one at that.  The sun was now shining brightly which gave the sea an incredible blue hue.  I finally decided to pull out the coffee at this point.  I had resisted for the first couple hours of the drive out of fear of an 11am caffeine crash instead of the more bearable 3pm one.  Thanks to my well insulated mug, there were still a couple chunks of ice remaining which was refreshing.

From here Route National 2 hugs the coast for the most part for another 55 kilometers before reaching Les Cayes.  Although Les Cayes feels quite small compared to Port-au-Prince and has considerably less traffic, entering the bustling city reminded me that I was not on a rural mountain road anymore and I needed to pay attention.  The World Concern staff had moved offices in the couple weeks prior so Martha acted as my navigator as I dodged motorcycles and mules and street vendors.

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The new office! A local artist hand painted the World Concern sign.

We eventually found the office on a well paved and charming street in the heart of “downtown.”  Only the guard, Gino, was there when we arrived.  As we waited for the others I reflected on our journey that morning.  It was only shortly after 8am but it felt like noon.  I was certainly awake and ready for the day right then.  I was excited to see the World Concern staff in Les Cayes again and also the whole idea of an organic compost training sounded fascinating.  Mostly I was thankful for an uneventful and generally pleasant drive from Port-au-Prince; our first outside the city since moving to Haiti.

I like long distance drives because there is so much to see and observe.  Haiti is a small country with a largely homogenous culture but driving the four hours from Port-au-Prince to Les Cayes reminded me that it is also a place of contrasts.  Landscape, population density, wealth, tree cover, road quality and even fruit varieties are different depending on where you are at.  One thing is for sure.  I am looking forward to my next road trip in Haiti.

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A couple of our fun loving and exceptional colleagues in Les Cayes.

Contrasts – Beauty & Injustice

In Haiti I am finding there are contrasts.  On one hand you see natural and human beauty, life, color, intrigue, laughter, and hope.  On the other is disparity, injustice, limited resources, and struggle.  The impression I get is that life is both precious and wonderful but also difficult and full of challenges.

I hope in this post, and in anything I write, to show both sides and provide accurate, honest observations.  If I focus primarily on the immense poverty, that is indeed real, I am not telling the complete story.  Likewise if I speak only of the moments of roaring laughter (also very real), and success and good times, then I am obviously living outside of reality.  If you hear tension in my words, that is okay; it is there.  As Martha and I adjust to living in a new culture and learning a new language, we are also adjusting to having the responsibility to communicate most truthfully what life is like here for the Haitians we are fortunate enough to meet.  As you can imagine this is a process that we are working out each day.

It is a great journey to be on because we are constantly learning new and interesting things.  I want to grow in my ability to accurately present the contrast (both sides) of life I see in Haiti so the best and most honest portrayal of Haitians can emerge.  They deserve it.  I share all this with you just to provide some insight into our process of becoming better and more well rounded storytellers.  Thanks for listening.

Office Sign_SE Haiti DRR1Martha and I returned recently from a trip to southeast Haiti that I think shows this contrast.  Haiti has ten Departments (think States or Provinces), the South East Department being one.  In the southeast, World Concern is meeting the needs of people through disaster response, disaster preparedness, and micro-credit.  We joined Bunet, World Concern’s Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinator, on this trip to see how we are providing clean water and preparing communities for future disasters.

I want to share with you about the commune (think collection of small communities) of Grand Gosier.  Grand Gosier is a rather isolated commune, near the sea and near the Dominican Republic border.  One reason it is so isolated is because of the poor condition of the road that leads to it.  From Jacmel, the big city in southeast Haiti, you must travel approximately 84 kilometers east to reach Grand Gosier.

Those 84 kilometers took us over four hours.  While rock crawling at a snails pace can be exhausting, the views are stunning.  This is one contrast I noticed on the trip–you have poor infrastructure yet stunning natural beauty.

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Once we arrived in Grand Gosier, we caught up with Pierre; the coordinator for the project in this commune.  He explained that the water system for the area, which includes new piping and water collection points, had been damaged by a storm in 2007.  Since then those not fortunate to live close to the water source have been forced to spend a lot of time and energy walking to reach water.  Even while we were visiting with Pierre, children and women walked past us carrying water.  All kinds of jugs, bottles, and containers are used to transport water.  Occasionally we saw someone guiding a donkey, loaded down with water, but the majority of people were walking.  It was early afternoon, and limited cloud cover meant it was a hot and dusty journey for them.  Soon, those long journey’s will not be necessary.  Once finished, the project will provide nine water collection points throughout the commune which will shorten the walk to water for many.

Women on their way home stop to watch the on-going water system work.

Women on their way home stop to watch the water system construction.

The long walk.

The long walk

As we were listening to Pierre speak about the project, I wondered what precautions were being taken to ensure that this time the water system will be more resilient against the next storm.  Unfortunately, hurricanes and heavy storms are all too common in southeast Haiti.  Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy in 2012 are the most recent reminders of the devastation such storms can cause.  Combined these two storms killed 87 and affected 205,623 people.  We cannot stop the rains and winds from coming, however we can be sure that communities are prepared as best as possible.

New metal pipes looking shiny in the sun.

New metal pipes looking shiny in the sun.

Pierre explained that the prior water system had used PVC for the piping, but his team is working to replace all the PVC with metal.  Though a seemingly small step, using metal  will be a huge step towards increasing the system’s and the community’s resiliency.

 

 

Girls fill up their containers with water at the community's lone water source.  Soon water from this source will be transported through pipes to other water points making collecting water easier on these girls.

Girls fill up their containers with water at the community’s lone water source. Soon water from this source will be transported through pipes to other water points making collecting water easier on these girls.

There is another contrast I saw.  It is dry season right now and therefore you have the land which at times looks tired and thirsty, yet you also have a water source waiting to be released and delivered to people throughout Grand Gosier.  When the repairs and construction are completed, this water system will provide clean water to people whatever storm or dry spell comes their way.

There is more I want to share from our trip to Grand Gosier and also someone I want to introduce, but I will close for now before this turns into a book.  Stay tuned for more about how World Concern is impacting lives in southeast Haiti.

 

Haiti bound!

It was the end of December last year when Martha and I, after much prayer and consideration, decided to accept a position to serve with World Concern in Haiti.  We said yes not knowing when we would leave for Haiti but ready to begin the journey.  Well, one year later, Martha and I are excited to share with you that we have booked tickets and will be arriving in Haiti on January 18!  This would not be possible without the prayers and on going support of many people.  Thank you very much for your faith, time, resources, encouragement, and passion.

It seems like this past year went quickly, however I remember many days feeling very slow.  We spent this year traveling, reading, praying, studying, training, preparing, and waiting.  With all of those things came joys, tears, laughter, excitement, and frustrations.  It was a unique and diverse year to be certain.  Looking back, Martha and I are most of all simply thankful.  God has been terribly good to us and taken care of all of our needs along the way.  We have learned a lot about ourselves, each other, and of course the beautiful nation of Haiti.  Amidst the beauty, there remains many needs.  Martha and I hope not to fix things but work alongside our Haitian colleagues and partners to foster transformation both physically and spiritually.  Thank you again for helping us do just this.  Merry Christmas to each of you!

Stay tuned as we continue to share with you about this journey we are on to serve the most  vulnerable.  Haiti, here we come!

Hope you enjoy some pictures from our trip to Haiti in June.  We are thankful to serve and walk alongside some incredible people.

 

Giving Thanks

We said we weren’t going to think about all our “lasts” leading up to leaving for Haiti.  The last time to eat here, the last time to see them, and it goes on and on.  I suppose we just wanted as natural of a transition to our new life in Haiti as possible.  Despite trying to avoid this, I found myself a couple days ago as we sat around the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day, thinking just that.  I allowed the thought to stay because I realized I wasn’t sad at all when I realized that this will be our last Thanksgiving with family for awhile, it actually made me smile.  I smiled because I felt so grateful for that moment.  I (Austin) have not spent Thanksgiving with my family for several years.  So being able to be in Oklahoma on Thanksgiving, with Martha, and surrounded by incredible people that we love, definitely made me smile.  That moment on Thanksgiving Day put an exclamation point on an encouraging couple weeks where we have been constantly reminded of God’s faithfulness.

Here are some highlights…

Successfully packing up/giving away/selling our stuff, cleaning our apartment, and saying goodbyes to Seattle friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completely our 2,600 miles cross country journey and arriving in Oklahoma in one piece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing some incredible friends on our road trip

Learning that our monthly support has continued to increase in the month of November (closing in on 90%!)

Receiving Martha’s new passport safely in the mail

Having an awesome family in Oklahoma that would receive us with open arms and allow us to live with them

Arriving just in time for Thanksgiving, eating great food, enjoying family traditions, and being reunited with distant relatives and friends

A full house!

 

 

 

 

 

Wouldn’t be a family holiday without some friendly competition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God has been so good to us lately.  Of course there are always bumps along the way, but we have been reminded recently of how faithful God is despite our own shortcomings and the craziness of life.  How are you seeing God work in your life recently?  We would love to hear!

Moving on

Martha and I are officially not Seattle residents anymore.  It feels funny to even type that!  Yesterday, we began our 2,600-mile trek across the country to Oklahoma.   As we drove through the city, got on the highway, and watched the buildings become more and more faint, memories of our past two years in Seattle came streaming back…

Getting married at a beautiful park on a sunny (thankfully) spring day
Finding a church home at Bethany Community
Walks to Sunset Hill Park
Coffee, coffee, coffee!
Learning to be content
Making lifelong friends
Understanding my desperate need for Jesus
Stumbling across this really cool organization called World Concern

And it goes on and on.  Although we will miss many things about this city, the fondest memories are of course those that involve people.  God has been faithful in many ways during this season of our lives, but especially so in giving us wonderful new friends.  There is a certain unexplainable joy we as humans get from being in honest, fun, vulnerable, spirit led community with other people.  We are really going to miss those people that God has put in our lives in Seattle!  Thank you (you know who you are!) to all of you who have poured into Martha and I for the past two years.  Thank you for your humility, accountability, wisdom, joy, generosity, and hospitality.  We have seen Christ in you; so thank you for sharing life with us.

As I reflect on all the great relationships God gave us in Seattle, I am reminded of how relational the gospel really is.  God is intimately invested and engaged in this world and for some reason has chosen to use humanity to complete his story of redemption.  We were made for relationship.  Jesus’ life and ministry are testimony to the relational nature of God.

We are definitely sad to leave behind some wonderful people in Seattle.  However we wait eagerly and in anticipation for the friends we will make in Haiti.  Aside from the work we will do to help the World Concern team in Haiti serve the poor, we really see building relationships as a foundational element of our ministry.  We expect to be blessed by others in Haiti and in turn we want to empower, edify, encourage, and live life with others.

Pray with us in advance for the people we will meet in Haiti, whether that is a fellow staff member, neighbors, or those World Concern is serving.   Martha and I are thankful for our time in Seattle and excited about what lies ahead.  Thank you for your friendship and partnership in serving the poor and building Christ centered lasting relationships in Haiti.

Faith of a farmer

I must say, it is nice to be home.  As you may know, Martha and I are fresh off a four week traveling adventure throughout the midwest.  We thoroughly enjoyed the time we had making new friends and re-connecting with old ones, but there is something comforting about being home.  As we have been settling in and doing lots of laundry, I have been doing some reflecting on our travels.  I won’t bore you with all of my thoughts, but I wanted to share something I learned while Martha and I were visiting her grandfather’s farm in southwestern Iowa.

I learned that farmers have a lot of faith.  Don’t worry, this was not the first time I had this realization, it just stuck for some reason on this trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was fun being with Martha’s family as they told stories about farm life.  As a city kid, I find the farm a foreign but intriguing place.  The open spaces just scream adventure to me.  I heard that as a farmer you have to be diligent and hard working, but at the end of the day there are some things you can’t control.  How much rain and sun come at any given time is not up to you.  You are forced to focus on the work you can accomplish and give the rest to God.  What an awesome life lesson.

As our discussion about farm life continued, I couldn’t help but think of the farmers we’ve met in Haiti and the kind of faith they too must possess.  They also are hard working and diligent but in a similar way there are things in their life that cannot be controlled.  I mulled on this for a bit, and then thought about how honored I am to be a part of an organization that walks alongside farmers in Haiti.

As an organization we try to partner with farmers to achieve success in the areas they can control, while encouraging them along the way when they face challenges in areas of life they cannot control.  What does this look like?  In southwestern Haiti World Concern operates an agricultural training center where we teach area farmers about developing a quality seed and increasing yield.  At another community in the south, we helped rebuild a water canal which now provides steady irrigation to local farmers.  Our desire is to provide the resources and encouragement individuals and communities need to thrive, both physically and spiritually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you may know, Martha and I have recently made the decision to quit our day jobs and focus on preparing for service in Haiti full time.  So this lesson of faith made me think about our brothers and sisters in Haiti but also about this season of life we find ourselves in.  There are certain things Martha and I can be doing now that will prepare us well for our time in Haiti.  However, there are some things that are simply out of our hands!  We have to trust that God is in control and that He will provide for all our needs.  Haiti is such a beautiful place with so much going for it.  We see lots of potential for growth and lasting change, and we can’t wait to return.

 

Colorado – Auction for Haiti

After a great week in Michigan, Martha and I flew to Colorado for my family reunion.  Although only a handful of my extended relatives live in Colorado, it has become a favorite gathering place for us.  We spent three days with nearly 60 relatives at YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park.  Mountain biking, volleyball, and horseshoes made for a fun and active weekend.  The common theme throughout the weekend was remembering our family’s heritage.  It was awesome to hear stories of how God has guided our family through the generations.  Martha and I are certainly blessed to have wonderful family heritage on both sides of our families.

 

 

 

 

 

One highlight from the Snowbarger family reunion was the “Auction for Haiti!”  After hearing about our work in Haiti, the cousins who were responsible for planning this year’s reunion decided to include a charity auction in the weekend’s activities to benefit our ministry.  Through this support raising process God has surprised us in so many ways, and this act of generosity over the weekend is a perfect example.  There were dozens of items donated by family members and the auction was a tremendous success.  The money raised will go a long ways in allowing Martha and I to serve in Haiti for the next two years.  We are so grateful for everyone’s interest in our ministry and participation in the auction.  Martha and I are very encouraged to see how our family doesn’t just listen to the word but they do what it says.  Thank you to all of you for your partnership in bringing lasting hope and positive change to Haiti.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The auction did not only support a great cause, it was also a lot of fun.  Someone called it “hilarious generosity.”  I like that.  What a wonderful way to celebrate our family’s heritage.  For those of you who were not with us this weekend, here’s a look at one of the talented auctioneers in action!

 

Transformation

Martha and I have spent the last week in beautiful Ludington Michigan.  Much of Martha’s family, including her parents, are in Ludington this summer so it was a good time to visit.  We have been talking a lot about Haiti and World Concern as well.  As we share with others about our work, we often talk about transformation.  According to dictionary.com, to transform is to “change in condition, nature, or character.”  By definition, transformation involves a change.  The reason we talk about transformation so much is because we believe in change!  We see opportunities in Haiti for lives to be changed and transformed.  We desire people and communities to move from a place of despair and stagnancy, to a place of hope and abundance.

This theme of transformation continues to follow us.  Martha and I were at Cornerstone Baptist church yesterday, here in Ludington.  We always enjoy coming to Michigan and reconnecting with friends at Cornerstone.  The service begins and we sing some fun songs, which were led by the kids.  Nothing like beginning Sunday morning by waving your arms and jumping around!  Then the Pastor gets on stage and begins talking about transformation, of all things.  He was explaining how God is all about transformation and desires to see us become a new creation.  How awesome!  We were encouraged to see how our friends here in Michigan are also working towards transforming their community.

Definitions are often boring and may use words that you’ve never heard of to define a word you’re trying to understand.  Why do they do that?  Anyway, as I was doing some research on the word transformation, I found a definition that I both understood and really liked.  I learned that transformation has a different definition in the context of theater.

Theater – a seemingly miraculous change in the appearance of scenery or actors in view of the audience.

How beautiful.  Something miraculous is certainly involved in transformation.  We know this in our own lives.  As we grow up and become adults and mature, we change.  With God’s help, we get rid of the things that once hindered us and embrace the person we have become.

This is also true for individuals and communities in Haiti.  A better life is possible.  An improved living situation or successful crop or growing business is a welcomed change and can put people on the path towards complete transformation.   Practically, World Concern is participating in transformation by:

  • Providing education to kids
  • Training and equipping farmers
  • Providing entrepreneurs with small loans to start a business
  • Supporting those with HIV/AIDS
  • Rebuilding communities following natural disasters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for joining us in working towards positive change in Haiti!