"There are no more chains on my wrists but they are still chains in my mind."
Wednesday, June 21, 2023
I was talking with one of our friends about our work in Haiti. He was asking what changes had or were taking place that were making a difference in the people we have been working with.
He knew many changes were easily seen but wondered what deeper changes had occurred. I wanted to share some of the amazing changes and some stories we have seen with you.
Many people entering new cultures prefer to do things themselves how they are used to or know how to do them. It is a less frustrating way to accomplish something. Doing it yourself is an easier way to get something done how you want it done and quickly. An example would be teaching your child how to clean a bathroom or balance a bank account. It is way faster to just do it for them. But it does not teach them life skills. We felt strongly that we were to come alongside the people of Haiti and help them to help themselves. To us, this meant to explain, model, teach and impart. It also meant not just having Haitians be workers but leaders. It meant helping them discover their skills and giftings. It meant changing how they think and see life.
A simple example of this is problem-solving. In school growing up I used to hate story problems in math. I see the value of them now. Haitian education does not include any type of problem-solving skills. Subjects are taught through lectures and rote memory. There is no reason for a government that is trying to oppress a population to teach people problem-solving skills. They do not want people to think out of the box. When I realized this we started implementing real-life situation story problems into our schools.
Early on as we were finishing our Children’s Village I asked one of the women who had been helping with the children, what they wanted to do in the village. She did not understand, so I said as an example, she could be a nanny, a cook, or a worship leader. She said to just tell her what she was supposed to do, she did not understand the concept of having a choice. Having a voice was new to her. So one of the things we model and teach is that women and children have value.
Some of the things that were frustrating in the beginning were easier to understand as we learned more about the culture. An example of this is why you would put oil in your car, gas makes it go. Oil costs money and doesn’t make the car run unless you understand how an engine works. Cars were mostly owned by the wealthy or foreigners when we first were in Haiti. Eventually, tap-taps and moto’s became more available and things changed.
Another area we experienced changed thinking needing to happen was in business principles among the poorer people. You may remember my telling the story of Kalano and his wife, Francesca. Kalano and his wife started asking questions about our family and our faith in Jesus. Mike answered the questions as they came and then one day he asked if they were interested in Jesus, why they did not go to church. Their answer was a common one, "everyone says we cannot go because we do not have any clothes nice enough for church". Mike told them that they could come to any of the churches in our ministry, no matter what clothes they had on.
They shared that they each had a child from another relationship and that their youngest child was both of theirs. We assured them that God was a God of forgiveness and acceptance. They shared that they struggled to find jobs and that they felt their lives were a mess. Over the next day or two they decide that they wanted to give their lives to Jesus. Mike shared the life-giving gospel message with them. They accepted Christ into their lives and asked if they could go to church with us. They went with us the next Sunday and loved it. They came forward for prayer, and the healing started.
The next thing they asked was if they could get married so that they would be right with God. They also started reading the bible. This is huge, as Kalano was not educated and could not read or write other than sign his name. But in his hunger and passion to know God more, God in his mercy allowed Kalano to read and understand the bible. He still couldn’t read anything else.
God had also given Kalano a passion to learn and a sense of business. A little while later, Kalano asked if he could open the boutique that came with our house. It has been closed since we moved into the house. It was a room about 6 feet by 8 feet. There were two 500-gallon water tanks above the room, set up for a purified water business that had a window opening to the street to sell through. We decided to take a risk and invest in them to start a business selling food items, toiletries, and purified water. We taught them basic business principles, each evening they brought the money to us and we put it in different envelopes, for savings, reinvestment in products, and salary. After He and his wife had been running the shop for a month we gave them the envelope for their salary and Kalano said he could not take charity after all we had done for him. When we explained that he had earned it, this was their salary he started to cry with joy and unbelief. They were the first we taught business principles to, this is now done on a larger scale.
Minds are changed, which changes lives, which changes communities, which will change nations.
When a people group is living a survival lifestyle, their focus rightly so, becomes living day-to-day, not long-term focused or big picture focused. So trying to get people to understand dreams and visions and how to get there is a foreign concept. It takes meeting their initial needs and then showing, teaching along with experiencing new things to help someone even entertain the possibilities that life holds.
When we first started ministering in Haiti Mike would hold pastors’ conferences and many would come, but we did not see fruit. We did not understand that they saw the conferences as a form of entertainment and status. They did not understand what was being shared was meant to be applied and taught in their churches. So we stopped holding the conferences for a few years. Mike gathered 12 men and met with them, he taught them, modeled servanthood to them, refused to sit on stage in places of honor, and walked with them doing life together. One afternoon about three years into this time one of the men, Kael, came running to see Mike, you may remember reading about him in a prayer partner. Kael endeared himself to Mike early on in the ministry by being the one running to him and saying, "Pastor Mike, I can't believe that I have lived this long without understanding all that Jesus has done for me and that He wants to have a personal relationship with me, WITH ME; CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!" Kael was one of the first pastors to get it. He greatly helped the others to understand that truth. Not long after that Mike began holding pastors’ conferences again, and the fruit was and has been incredible.
We as first-world people versus third-world people mostly US, Canadian, and French have modeled over history that we come and give relief, we have the money and the resources, we are the givers, and the poor and needy are supposed to receive. This is an important first emergency response, but we need to move on from there. We need to help with rehabilitation and community development. When we continue in this relief stage it creates dependence and not independence. It takes away self-worth and identity. It does not create people who understand they have an identity, gifts, skills, and talents that are God-given.
We have been witness to the people we have invested in being transformed. We believe that following what Christ modeled to us, investing in a small group well is the most effective way to change a life, a family, a community, and a nation.
This fall we are hoping to open our school for pastors and leaders. We believe it will be another step in transforming the minds of pastors and leaders. It will be a bible school, but one that also teaches their identity in Christ, how to be in God’s presence, and how to hear Him. How to learn, understand and walk in their God-given giftings. Also, how to exhort, encourage and build each other up. The second year will build on this and will also teach leadership skills.
These are some of the deeper amazing changes we have been blessed to be a part of and we believe will change the people of Haiti. We are so thankful you have come alongside us and helped the people of Haiti.