Thursday, October 29, 2015

His Love Reaches Beyond Nowhere--Part 1




Pastor Woogy is one of the first pastors who led a missions trip to Haiti back in 2010. Even after Woogy moved to a different church, he still committed to continue bringing groups to Haiti. Different than many other pastors who have committed to come back to the same church every year, Pastor Woogy’s heart is to serve in as many different locations as possible and to reach those who have not yet been reached. 
Pastor Woogy

After his second trip to Jacmel in 2014, serving with a church near the city, Woogy expressed the desire to reach out to a different community and it was my responsibility as the Haiti Ministry Coordinator to find him a new location to serve in the summer of 2015. Pastor Benose, one of our contacts, told me about a sister church of his main church in Gressier that is located in a community near Jacmel called Mabiale. I gathered as much information as possible about the church and shared it with Woogy. Both Woogy and I were pumped to explore that new location. Part of my job is to visit any location where we want to bring a group with Praying Pelican Missions in order to provide an overview of the location and the church to the group prior to their trip. That provides peace of mind for me as a local leader and to the pastor who is bringing a group to Haiti. 

So, in April of this year, one month before my wife was due with our second child, I visited the community with the pastor.  I had to decide whether we would bring a group there in July or not. Pastor Woogy and I have built a brotherly relationship over the years, so as I got back from visiting with the pastor, this is what I wrote to him. 

Good morning brother,


 I don't know if you saw my Facebook post about my drive through a river... did you? I went to la Grosseline on Thursday to assess the area and was really surprised at how different it is from what I anticipated.
Do you see a road?
It took me 1:30 driving 23KM or about 15 Miles and the whole time through a rocky river. I crossed the same river 35 times . The pastor was my guide and I had to ask him to point to the road for me from time to time so I could find my way, because I could not see a road in front of me but rocks and a path that looks like a vehicle drove there the year before. I finally got there and I made it because I had the 4x4 option on my truck, otherwise, I would not have made it. The ministry opportunity up there is endless. It was refreshing for me to see and be reminded that the Gospel goes further than our imagination. 

With that being the one and only way to get there, I have some concerns that I honestly want to share with you and have your say. 

On said "road"
-The road is rougher than what any American can ever imagine. I never thought of it being so rough as a local.
-It would not be ideal to travel there after a long day traveling from the States.
-We would need a solid vehicle, not even my truck, to transport 10+ people plus luggage up there.
-We would have to have every single thing we need up there at once (water, food, snacks, medicines etc) because driving that road twice in a week would be hard on a driver and worse on a vehicle.
-If we have a medical emergency that needs immediate assistance, God alone would be the rescue. 
-If a hurricane breaks while we are up there, we would have to find our way across the mountains to get to the city and that would probably be 3-4 hours walk. 
-Pastor's priority is to rebuild the church and I am afraid that $300 will not be able to do much due to the hardship of getting anything up there.
-There would not be a working bathroom for us to us. We would have latrines. 
-We would have to swim in the river like the locals and call that our shower.
-We would have to sleep in tents. Camping style.

I am not telling you to back  out from going to that community but If you feel like this set up doesn't fit you and your crew, I am more than willing to find you a different place that suits you better. 

Thanks Woogy! I look forward to chatting with you soon. Hangout calls work great and they are free :)


I literally could not believe that I drove my truck the whole way. On one of the crossings, I got stuck and I

was scared for my life, had I not had 4 wheel drive, I would have to be towed out. I personally did not feel comfortable taking a group to that place and did not give the pastor any hope that we would come back. But one thing that struck me is the fact that, in spite of the remoteness and the difficulty of getting there, there was a church and a people that is seeking the Lord there. Pastor introduced me to an elderly woman that has been serving the church since 1986. I would feel guilty to just tell pastor Woogy that we can not go there because of the logistics, so I let him to decide. I loved that he did not just back out, but told me that he would talk to his team about it and pray about it before making a final decision. 


One of our major concerns was flooding. The only way to get to the community was the river and during
hurricane season, when that river is raging, it is more than anyone can imagine. It gets as wide as 150 meters between the two mountains and people from one side of the mountain can spend over a month without being able to go to the other side. It brings to the ocean whatever it finds on its path. July is one of those months when we can get unexpected heavy rainfalls, so I would not take any chance unless it was 100% Woogy’s will to take a team there. 

In order to be prepared, I sent a plan B to Woogy to take the trip to a different location, still across that same river but a lot closer to the city of Jacmel and with the possibility of getting across the river by a brand new bridge that was being built around that same time. After considering the options in prayer, Woogy decided to go with the plan B. The team came in July and it was a great trip where many were blessed. 

Woogy still expressed the desire to go the community beyond nowhere. I told him that unless he comes with me and see if for himself, I would not feel comfortable to take a group there. After chatting with his senior pastor, Woogy planned to come on a scouting trip along with his friend Scott at the end of September.


Part 2 will be posted next week, but here is a little taste of what is to come:
I remember asking Pastor Woogy if he sees any value in taking a trip to the village and his response to me was a question: "Is there a church that has people there?" I asked him just to make sure that is comfortable making that trip back, not just himself and a Scott, but with a group of 15-20 people. But yes, why would we not go since we are called to go to the corners of the earth to spread the Good News of the Gospel. 

In the meantime, check out what Woogy's teams have done while serving the Lord here in Haiti with us in previous years.

College Crew Serving in 2015
Construction Crew in 2014
Students Serving in 2013
Sports Ministry Focus in 2012
Calvary's First Jacmel Trip in 2011

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Ultimate Missions Packing Guide--Family Pack

This is my family. We are missionaries in Haiti. If you are thinking about bringing your family to serve on a mission trip with my family, the task of packing for this God-glorifying and life-changing adventure may seem a little daunting to say the least. Let me tell you, sometimes, even for me--we go on mission trips together when my husband leads teams--it is. But it doesn't have to be! Although young children like mine are welcome on mission trips, most parents bringing their kids are not thinking about diapers and wipes and how to do bath time when sleeping in tents in a community, so I will skip over that stuff and jump right into what will help you.  

Think about what you want to bring back home and how you want it to get there. This will help you to pack things in a way that you won't have exploding bags and have to unpack and repack every day of the trip. For example, put all your bedding, towels, little fans, air mattresses, and maybe some toiletries in one bag, so when you arrive and set up "camp" for the week, you will already have a bag empty that you can use for collecting laundry all week long. At the end of the week, the bag(s) that had your clean clothes in it(them) will be available for you to pack up camp or for you to leave behind. 


Think about where you will be sleeping. If guys will be with guys and girls with girls, make sure you pack all the guy stuff in one bag and all your girl stuff in the other bag. If you have more of one gender than the other, offset the unbalanced suitcase with shoes, toiletries, or things that are easily transferred to the other gender. 

Think about what you want to leave behind. Having kids on a mission trip isn't always easy, but one thing I have found that will help is having things that you will leave behind for your kids to play with with the kids in the community or with the rest of your team. These things may be jump ropes, bubbles, frisbees, balls, crayons and paper, or chalk. The ideas really are endless. You won't want your child to bring his or her favorite toy with and leave it behind, so get some new things. Your child will love it and so will the kids in the community. Keep in mind to tell your child before you arrive that they will have to give the toys to the pastor in the community, not the kids they will be playing with so the pastor can bring them out for all the kids to share when there are events at the church for kids.

Think about the weight of it all. Most airlines allow (when you are traveling internationally) 1 free checked bag that weighs 50 pounds or less and a carry on plus a personal item (such as a backpack) per person.  This means that you have some weight to work with, but not a ton!  My advice is check as much as you can without being charged extra.  When you are traveling with a family, the less you have to juggle, the better. We try to get away with no carry on bags if possible and then just backpacks.  If you have too much to fit in just your first checked bag per person, use the carry on allowances before paying for that second checked bag. 

Think about sharing things to cut back on weight and space used. Shoes, jeans, toiletries, and air mattresses can get pretty heavy, so think about ways you can cut down on the heavy things. Obviously, you will need the air mattresses, but you can cut down on some of the other things. Shoes are a tough one as each person will likely have to have 3 pairs of shoes: work shoes, church shoes, and sandals or flip flops. When you are traveling, wear the heaviest/bulkiest pair of shoes you have to save on space and weight. If you have space and weight to spare, wear flip flops--it makes going through security so much easier. Toiletries can be shared, so for your family I would recommend bringing generic shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and toothpaste that you all can use.  This little tip saves so much space!

Think about what you will be doing and how much you should bring. For me and my family, I know that when we go on a mission trip together, we will be getting dirty, we will be playing hard/working hard, we will have to represent Christ well with whatever we are wearing. For example, if you have a day planned where you will have school ministry right away in the morning, construction until around 2, kids ministry from 3-5, and a prayer service that night, I would make sure that each member of my family has 3 outfits for the day: 1 for school ministry and kids ministry, one for construction, and one for the church service. (The goal here is to make sure to change the little ones quickly after the school ministry time so they don't get the outfit dirty for kids ministry.)  

Typically, for a week long trip when you don't have access to laundry, I would recommend bringing at least 2.5 sets of clothing per day that you will be serving.  That goes for mom and dad too!  One thing that would help to stay organized and think through your packing process is separate the clothes into labeled with name and day of the week gallon sized zip lock bags or the roll out packing or storage bags. Each person would then, on the Monday of the trip, select their Monday baggie with the appropriate clothing. Pack an extra "emergency" baggie of clothing just in case. If the day-by-day method is too much, do it by ministry type such as "construction," "kids," "church," etc.  If you are planning to be serving for a longer period of time, the most I would pack per person is enough for 1.5 to 2 weeks as you will likely have a chance to do laundry from time to time.


video
Think about the airport and travelling with your family. I was really worried the first time we traveled internationally with two kids instead of just one, but I found that giving Bityah something useful to do--like pushing the empty stroller or rolling her own carry on bag--made it much easier. She is a runner, so these things slowed her down and helped her wear off the excess energy she had from sitting in the plane for so long. In the plane, she had books and snacks and I downloaded one movie for her to watch. She is two now, but she felt that she was responsible for making sure everyone was buckled up around her. Keeping kids busy while traveling is tough, but can be done. I highly recommend giving them as much time to walk as possible when they are not on the plane to get them tired out so they won't be as antsy. Things like books, paint with water, magic markers and activity sets, and the always popular tablet are available everywhere and don't take much space.

Focus on the mission. A lot goes into a mission trip. So much good comes out! Packing may be crazy, but while you are organizing and shuffling things around and going through the checklist of things to bring one last time take a minute and pray over the stuff. Pray over the lives that will be touched by your children while they are wearing those clothes. Pray over the feet that will be in those shoes as they are walking into the church. Pray over fans and air mattresses that will give your family rest so they can continue serving the next day. Pray over it. Pray while you pack. Once you are done, you will have a great mission trip serving the Lord with your family.

Praying Pelican Missions' staff members are giving away lots of packing tips for people serving on mission trips. You can find out What Not to Pack and what to wear when you are on a mission trip in The Good Ole USA. There will be more to come in the coming weeks and you should also check out The Ultimate Mission Trip Style Guide. Hope you find some of these helpful!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Through the Eyes of a Child


With teams coming and going fairly often around here, Bityah and Oved have joined us on semi-regular airport runs. Yesterday, we spent the day out bringing a small team who has been visiting their partnership church in southern Haiti from our house to the airport with some stops on the way there and on the way back.  Every couple of hours throughout the day, I took a picture of either what Bityah was doing or what she was seeing, so you could see what her day looks like today. Remember, this isn't our normal routine, but it was our day yesterday.

Bityah woke up as normal and got to choose from two outfits to wear. This is the one she chose because she absolutely loves Minnie Mouse! After a little play time, it was time to hit the road with the team. Typically, B would enjoy a yogurt while breakfast is being prepared and then eat with the rest of the family, but this time, we went to a local cafe!  Apple sauce, egg wrap, and a yummy MangoLime smoothie from Haiti Made Cafe.  Such a great breakfast at a sweet little cafe.  (For more information on Haiti Made, click HERE)   Bityah played "naps" while the rest of us took some time to visit with the Haiti Made crew and each other.


We were back on the road and, this time, we were heading to Carrefour to pay a visit to Sister Mona at Good Shepherd Orphanage. She calls the kiddos Baby B and Baby O. As we arrived, "Nona?" could be heard from the back seat. Just like that, B was ready to get out and run! And she did.

We didn't have much time at Good Shepherd as the team had to get to the airport, but it was good to get out and run. Then, it was more road time!  Let's be honest, sometimes the road is packed with cars and it is a "stop-and-go" situation, or there is plenty of room. Going through downtown Port-au-Prince (unless it is VERY early or VERY late), it is more often than not the "stop-and-go" situation. So, this is what we saw yesterday.

                   

Bityah loved this little mustang!
Post-Mustang face
 After dropping the team off at the airport, we stopped to have lunch at a nearby hotel. Bityah had tomatoes, cucumbers, and french fries.  Since we don't get across town all that often, we decided to make the most out of our trip and go shopping for some supplies. We stopped at a brand new store and were surprised at the variety inside and the reasonable prices. B found this car and really wanted to take it home with her. It was tough to leave the store without it. Two more stops before we could head home: the hardware store and the grocery store. Three stores and three different carts, one was a car cart. We visit that store more often than the others so B knew as we were pulling into the parking lot that she was going to get to ride in the car cart.  "Beep! Beep!" she yelled over and over.  So exciting to get to ride in the car cart for a while--made her forget the little red mustang in the other store that she wanted so badly.
Bityah is pointing out the "M" for me at the hardware store.

Next thing you know, it is 5:00 and we still have a long drive ahead of us. A snack of yogurt in the truck and then it was nap time. Nap time until we got to Carrefour and had to pick up a fridge for one of our neighbors. Then it was time to patiently wait and sit until we got home. It is tough to sit and wait so long--especially when you are 2!

It was dark when we got home, but B was ready to play and run. I think she thought she could go all night, but she was all tired out in 30 minutes and ready for bed.


Here are some other things Bityah experienced or saw throughout the day:
Taking care of little brother.
Fun with Sister Mona
Daddy tying wood to the the top of the truck.
Colorful Taptaps are "Pretty"
 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bus Mission Day

God put in our hearts the idea for the bus mission as we were on our way for our annual staff mission trip. Without hesitation, knowing that is it for the Kingdom’s sake, we chose a date right away and shared it with our staff. They unanimously agreed to follow through with us. This is how we decided to do it: we would pay Elie, our transportation coordinator, whatever he would make for the day so we could give whoever gets on the bus a free ride along with a cold water bag.

Friday, September 18th was the day.  Thursday evening we gathered together to make a little plan and pray over the mission. Friday morning, we hit the road at 4:30 to meet our bus at one of the bus stations in downtown. Our bus was 3rd in line and was empty when we arrived at the station. We hopped on the bus as if we were passengers with our secret in our hearts and spread  in the seats from front to the back. There were 8 of us plus the driver and his doorman who were also ready for the mission. It wasn't long after we got on the bus that it filled up with three people in each seat. We were crowded with people who were off to the industrial park to work. These are people who get paid the minimum wage, which is less than eight dollars a day.

A couple minutes after we departed, one of us stood up, greeted everybody and started sharing the Word. About halfway to the factory, people started asking where the collector was. Typically, the door man would come along each seat with a little bucket to collect 15 Gourdes from everybody. That way, once they get to point B they could just jump off the bus and run to the factory because if they arrived late they would be sent back home like school students, so they would automatically lose a day of work. People started getting frustrated and confused until our member announced that the ride was free. Then people were more confused and still could not believe it. Many of them pulled out their exact change so they could just throw it to the driver on their way out. But again, our member stated that “because we receive the free gift of salvation through Christ, our Savior, we also decided to give the gift of a free ride to whoever gets on the bus today. Just like all you need to do is invite Jesus into your heart to have eternal life, all you need to do is get on the bus and you get a free ride from the station to the factory. It is all paid for by the Blood of Jesus, all you need to do is accept it.” Then we started seeing smiles and hearing “oh, thank you!” and “God bless you” and the calm reigned on the bus until we arrived in front of the factory. Our first run was finished.

On our way back to downtown from the factory area, we loaded very fast with kids going to school in downtown from the North and East side of the city along with adults going to work. The moment the door closed, as one of our members was about to stand up to share the word, a lady started presenting the Gospel, very straightforward, with no intention of communication. We could tell that she has done it before and everyone said amen. So, after she was done and grabbed a seat, I stood up and said that I would echo her as I shared some verses and some other key reasons why now is forever the perfect time to come to the Lord. I also asked everyone who was already a Christian to raise their hands, which they did. As we were sitting in traffic for a while, we asked our fellow Christians to join us in worship, so the bus turned into a little church for a while with everybody singing. During that ride, a woman agreed with us to pray with her to introduce her to the Lord. To God be all the glory!

As we were going and stopping in traffic, the silence on the bus got a little awkward, so I stood up and asked if anybody had any questions for us that is related to the Gospel. Boy...what was I thinking? It started pretty good with an elderly man asking about religion and a man asked about the Sabbath day. I tried to avoid the discussion but it exploded with another guy who claimed to not believe in the Bible or in Christ Jesus, but, instead, in Emmanuel or in  a God who created the universe but instead in a God who found the earth with darkness all over it and created the light. Another man, who claimed to have been baptized since 2004, stated that we can not claim to know Christ because we are not told about his childhood, what school he went to, the name of his girlfriend and so forth. He added that the reason why someone studies theology is to make a business. As we are told by the Word of God, all those discussions are vain, so we stepped out and simply listened. In the end, we received some words of encouragement from our fellow Christians.

Then came our third trip back to North side of the city, there were not many people going to the that direction because most people merge to the city where most of the activities are taking place but slowly people kept coming in and this time, the only one girl staff that came with us shared. From the time, I noticed that we were not repeating each other. Not that it would be a problem to say the exact same thing, because we had a different set of people on each ride. But God blessed each and everyone of us with a different way to approach the message which is “Salvation in Christ alone”. His love for us, His free gift, His heart’s desire, His mercy, His Present, His prize for us etc. During that ride, one of us stood up and prayed over the day for all the people on the bus, asking God to bless, guide, and protect those who were going to school, to college, to work and whatever they were going to do. Once again, they found it very appreciative of the message and the free ride they were given. Everyone said thank you as they exited the bus.

On our way back which was our fourth trip, we loaded a cooler that we brought along with us with iced water bags. After presented the Gospel, we announced that the ride was free just like our salvation is free and the also told everyone that they are welcome to grab a water on their way out. We took the opportunity to tell them the importance of drinking water---a natural medication that the Lord blesses us with for free---as we were sweating a lot in the scorching heat. We also encouraged our fellow Christians to pray for the local authorities instead of acting like the ones who are burning tires in their minds towards the authorities. We referred to Paul’s teaching in Timothy. Besides that, we encouraged them to not litter either because we know that Christ would not do that if He were on earth today. 

On that ride, a group of elder ladies in uniform who looked like they came from a church activity of some sort hopped on the bus and as we were sharing, we could see them nodding and loving what we were doing. As we were getting close to the end of the ride, a man who looked like he was in his mid 40s stood up and started to bless us and encourage us for what we were doing. He was amazed that we were a group of young man who chose to do that for the Lord (It is in fact a command from the Lord for us to go). But nowadays, many young men--even those who are in church--are being conformed to the world and are ashamed of Christ. He took his time to tell us that we were doing and amazing thing and hope that the Lord keeps us and guards us and continues to use us to do His work. It was such an encouragement to us! We felt like God was approving the day and we were ready to continue doing it with more passion and energy as we were getting physically tired. 

We were also very thankful for the determination of the driver and his doorman. We witness that if they were to collect money from the passengers, they would make a lot because the bus was full on every single one of the 6 trips we made. I personally thought that they would make 7500 Gourdes which is a good day for a public transportation day, but they were very happy to tell the passengers that the ride was free as some of them would hand money to them anyways, not fully believing that the ride was free. Some people still stood up with their money in their hands for a while even after they got off  the bus. It was interesting to see, just like some people still think they have to pay a price for their salvation. Christ did pay it all!

We can say that that mission was a double-edged-sword. The reason is because, we did something new to both Christians and non-Christians that were on the bus. Sharing the Gospel on a bus is not something new. Over the last decade, people have been using bus rides as a market place. That was my least favorite thing to experience on a bus ride when I was in college. Some random individual would get on at departure after the bus gets fully loaded and would start using the Name of Christ as a bait to beg for money. On many occasions, they break people’s hearts with their cunning and get their way around. I have seen the same person and heard the exact same words a number of times. Some other individuals would use the same trick to sell their products. But for us, it was different. When people noticed that we came to give, not only the Gospel, but a free ride, some good social and health advice along with a cool pack of water, both parties were amazed. We heard some saying that:

  • They are going to share the story with their pastor
  • Only Christians are like that
  • There are good Haitians

….and we believe that all those people will share with their families and friends what they experienced on the bus.

On our last ride, we met a gentleman whose name is Jean Gardy. He sat right next to me so I asked him if he understood the message that was given and he said no because he got on the bus after the message. So, I shared the message with him and asked him what he thought. He replied that if he told me that he would convert, he would be a liar and would not be able to keep up because of the area where he lives (a ghetto) and the lifestyle he is living. He confessed to me that he is drinking, and smoking and is satisfying his flesh with multiple partners. He said that he understands the importance of salvation through Christ and would make the decision if God asks him to do so in a vision (a dream). Jean Gardy told me that when he goes to bed he says to God that his body is in his hands in case he doesn’t wake up. He also mentioned that he has some family members who started walking with Christ but gave up because of the hardship they are facing. I told Jean Gardy that I would pray for him and that I hope to see him in heaven.
The Bus Mission Day crew--minus 2.


We ended the day sharing what we personally experienced as we ate some good pizzas that my wonderful wife, Cassie Jean Louis, made for us.

We continue to pray that the seeds planted that day would grow and that people would come to know the Lord through this Bus Mission Day. Please, pray with us!

--Almando