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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.

“Saved to serve people”

Berlin Jean Photo1-SMALL

On a recent visit to the commune of Port-de-Paix in northern Haiti, we had the opportunity to speak with Berlin Jean.  Berlin is currently working for World Concern as Shelter Manager for a disaster risk reduction project in the Port-de-Paix area.  He is a civil engineer by trade, 30 years old, and a lot of fun to be around.  Berlin is the kind of person that others gravitate towards.  The earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas on January 12 2010, also shook up Berlin’s life.  He graciously sat down with us and discussed how, as he puts it, “Jesus saved him to serve people.”  Berlin also shared with us about his current work with World Concern and how it is impacting communities in northern Haiti.

Austin: So January 12, 2010.  How did you start the day?  Do you remember what the morning was like?

Berlin: I remember.  I had a course, a class to teach in Delmas (a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince).  A course of physics.  And after teaching, I have the course at 12pm, when I finish there was a building, a university, in the same place as the college.  And I go to the fifth floor to work with some students you know.  And after some time, it seems there was someone that told me to go out.  It seems there was someone who told me, who asked me to go out and leave the building.  I feel something.

A: No one spoke to you?

B: No, no one.  I feel something would happen.  I told them, tomorrow, because I want to leave.  So I go out.  When I was arriving in the yard of the school, I was talking to my friends you know and after leaving the gate of the school I felt something…I felt something.  I didn’t understand because it was for the first time in Haiti we will have something like this.

A: What were you thinking when it first was shaking?

B: I didn’t understand.  I closed my eyes, I didn’t understand.  And after opening my eyes I didn’t see the school.  I said, “Oh my God what happened?”  And at the same time I saw all of my friends who were in the same class with me and everybody was dead.  I can say only me, only me was there…was still alive, only me.

A: How do you explain the feeling you had to leave the building?  Do you think its’ from God or is it something that just came to your mind?

[vimeo 58994100]
B: I know one of the reasons we have a lot of people died in Haiti is because of the bad manner of construction in Haiti.

As an engineer for example, I find a possibility to teach people, to train people; to say to them that when you construct you have to use the good materials, the good sand, because if something else will happens, I can’t say we will not have any victims but we will have less victims.  This is one of the ways I can serve people.

A: What project are you working on now? 

B: The title of my project is CIDRR, its Community Initiatives for Disaster Risk Reduction.  But there is three parts in this project.  There is water, sanitation and hygiene.  And there is shelter.  And protection of environment.  But me, I am working as manager for shelter.

A: What does this project hope to achieve for the people of Port-de-Paix?

B: Yes, you know the first time I come to Port-de-Paix I saw Port-de-Paix is very very very vulnerable.  You will visit the areas.  You will see how it is very very…for me it is the most vulnerable area in Haiti.

A: What makes it vulnerable?

B: You can see there is mountains around us okay.  Now, the people construct at the top of the mountain and it is bad construction.  They don’t really take, how can I say that, use good materials and so forth you know.

Now I have to visit the community shelters because if there is a storm the population leaves their house to come to the shelter; if the shelter is not good is not nothing.  And I will train the masons, okay I will train them to construct good houses and if there is one day something happen like an earthquake and the shelters have to resist okay.

A: How does World Concern in this project involve the community?  Do you speak to the community about what is needed?

B: Yes, yes.  We have a lot of meetings with the community. We have meetings too with the local authority.  You know we have a lot of meetings.

And we encourage them to participate, to give participation when we are working for them too.  For example in some community we find out about toilet and latrine.  But we won’t come and do the latrine for the people.  They can dig.  Yeah, they have to participate.

A: Have you been able to share your story with other people?

B: This story? Oh yes. Because for me it a very very interesting story.  You know, maybe if someone didn’t believe in God, after hearing this story he would say that “Oh maybe there is really a God.”  My story can help people to save themself.

A: For someone that has never been to Haiti, what would you want people to know about this place, about your country?  What would you share with them?

B: I hear that people say, “Please don’t come in Haiti because Haiti is a bad country.  There are a lot of insecurity, for example, in Haiti.  There are problems in Haiti. Haiti is a dirty country.  Haiti bad country.”  Me, I say to them, “No, no, no.”  The Haitian people is a good, good, very good people.

…I have to say that Haiti have some magnificent places.  Yes, Haiti is a very, very, very good country.  And I encourage people to come and to see if Haiti is a bad country.

A: Your story is giving people hope and encouragement about Haiti and what World Concern is doing here.  Thank you for sharing.

B: Me, I thank you. It’s for me to thank you and to thank World Concern too because in the name of all Haitian people, in the name of all my team, in the name of all employees of World Concern in Haiti, we thanks World Concern very much because it help.  Thank you, thank you very much.  May God bless World Concern, because I love World Concern.

Jekob – World Concern Video

Musician Jekob recently teamed up with World Concern to put together this new video.  Great to see talented artists like Jekob use their influence and leverage to bring awareness to the issue of global poverty.  There are even a couple shots in the video from World Concern’s work in Haiti.  Can you pick them out?

Martha and I will have the opportunity to document World Concern’s work in Haiti, using words, photos, and video.  The poor in Haiti deserve to be heard.  We hope to provide an avenue for them to share their story.  If you are interested in joining our team and helping us communicate stories of hope and transformation, consider making a gift to our ministry!

For more videos from World Concern check out their YouTube channel.

Life renewed

As we left the southern city of Jacmel, we began climbing and making the jeep work harder than it had before.  The road quickly narrowed and remained that way as we worked our way further into the mountains.  This was day three of our short but affirming trip to Haiti in June.

It was early enough in the day where I was enjoying the adventure of the bumpy road.  Fifteen hours later, the driving was still adventurous but much less enjoyable for some reason (it turned out to be a long day)!  I learned early on in this trip that when we as an organization say we go to the hard places, it ins’t a joke.  Our group was visiting a community called Lavaneau , where World Concern had recently helped repair of water canal which had been damaged in a heavy storm four years earlier.  This canal carried water from a mountain source directly to the community and was the only source of water for the people in Lavaneau .  As we approached our destination, I noticed the dense vegetation and green landscape.  This is not a sight you expect to see in Haiti, where it is estimated that 98% of all land is deforested.  I was already feeling encouraged.

Jean Metelus describing what the canal has done for his community

We arrived in Lavaneau and were soon greeted by Jean Metelus, the President of the local community organization.  I enjoyed talking with this man.  He was serious, but welcoming.  He appeared to be well respected in the community and knew the World Concern staff members by name.  Jean explained that since the storm four years ago damaged the community’s water canal, they were forced to rely on inconsistent rainfall for all of their water needs.  This includes irrigation, cleaning, bathing, washing, cooking, drinking.  I was shocked.  Although I am new to Haiti, I know that rain is precious and not something people in rural areas see enough of.  Not having access to a consistent water source keeps a community from growing and thriving, and that is the situation people in Lavanneau found themselves in.

World Concern staff sat down with the community of Lavaneau and began discussing what needs they had.  It was clear that repairing the water canal was a main priority for many in the community.  As the project came to life, it was the people of Lavaneau who provided the input and manual labor needed to make the new water canal a reality.  World Concern provided the resources and the technical assistance, but the community owned this project.  This is how, together, we can change lives.  It was a powerful moment for me, to see how World Concern truly does operate with the community’s needs and desires in mind.

Now that the canal is finished and water is flowing in Lavaneau , life is returning.

“You may not have been here to see what it was like in our community before,” said Jean, “but now we have green land everywhere.”

“People are able to grow crops like beans and peppers, and now life is back.”

I was right to feel encouraged upon approaching Lavanneau .  The hard work and diligence of the people in Lavanneau partnered with the humility and talent of the World Concern staff resulted in a transformed community.

[vimeo 48599543]

Water is life.

 

 

 

 

 

I love this stuff! Learning about the canal from World Concern staff members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maurice Moises, a farmer in Lavaneau next to the canal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new crop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Humanitarian Day

Today, you may or may not know, is World Humanitarian Day.  This annual global celebration is meant to “recognize those who face danger and adversity to help others.”  Essentially, it is the ‘Labor Day’ of the humanitarian world, for our U.S. American friends.  It is a day of remembrance and action.

The World Humanitarian Day site says it like this:

We honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and we pay tribute to those who continue to help people around the world, regardless of who they are and where they are.
Every day we see and hear images and stories of pain and suffering in our own neighborhoods and in countries far away. But we also find acts of kindness, great and small. World Humanitarian Day is a global celebration of people helping people.

This day is an invitation for people from all religious, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds to not simply remember those that have labored for others, but to become someone who is laboring for others.

Especially as people of faith, it is important to be involved and engaged, both locally and globally.  This is how the world will know who we belong to right?

Jesus himself said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

I do not want to sound too idealistic and persuade you that what happens on World Humanitarian Day will change your community and our world for good.  That is simply not true.  However, I do want to applaud the attempt at togetherness that is associated with a day like this and challenge you take action.  World Humanitarian Day is also an opportunity for advocacy and education.  You know Martha and I care deeply for Haiti; the first black republic in the world and the second country to achieve independence in all the Americas (aah see, education).  This is a nation that faces numerous challenges, but is also a nation that bursts with vibrancy and potential.

World Concern is an organization that is interested in tapping into this potential.  We, as an organization, seek to empower individuals and partner with local communities in Haiti to encourage transformation.  One way we do this is by providing microloans to small business owners and entrepreneurs like Rolande (pictured left).  We were able to meet Rolande and hear her story of how the microloan she received from World Concern has allowed her to expand her business and meet her family’s needs.

 

 

Martha and I are honored to participate in this work of transformation, and we invite you to join us.

We have seen how World Humanitarian Day is about remembering those that serve, becoming educated, and committing to doing something for others.  So in this spirit, I want to suggest ways that you can become involved in our work in Haiti on World Humanitarian Day:

  1. Get educated!  Watch a video and read an article below
  2. Post the link to our blog on your facebook or twitter page
  3. Partner with Martha and I in Haiti by making either a one-time or monthly gift to our ministry

“Solving the Tap-Tap Puzzle” – A FRONTLINE/Planet Money Special Report
A look at the colorful public buses that you find around Haiti

“Wasn’t Meant to Be” – Nu Look
Music from the well known compas band Nu Look

Powering Lights and Progress in Haiti – Haiti Rewired
An article about Haiti’s energy and electricity challenges

Seeing Beauty in Haiti – World Concern blog
A look at post-quake Haiti and World Concern’s work in building shelters

 

Capturing transformation

Check out this new video from World Concern!  Photography and video are wonderful tools to use when telling a story.  Our hope is to use multimedia to better communicate with you about the ongoing and enriching work of World Concern in Haiti.  Martha and I are excited to introduce you to the vibrant and hopeful Haiti we have come to know.  Thank you for your partnership in transforming communities in Haiti.

Note: Props to the great communication team at World Concern for creating this video

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!