This Little Light of Mine

"To whom much is given, much is required"


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Fighting Hunger in Haiti

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Imagine with me!  Just 1 meal a day, what would you choose to eat if you could only have just 1 meal.  Add to that, what if you have less than $2 to feed you and your family.  What would you purchase at the grocery store that would fill up hungry tummies for a whole day.  If you are like me, you can’t imagine because we are not forced to contemplate that kind of a life.

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Those in Haiti face that each and every day.  Those who are fortunate make $2.50 a day but many do not.  They go from person to person to see what might been gleaned from those who have food.  So very hungry.

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That is the reason why funds are collected from the donation/sale of fresh bread at the Columbia SDA Church.  Also why a few dollars each month are set aside from the sponsorship money so that we can give just a little relief to those family we serve.

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Our last food distribution was in October.  As you can see, they received bags of dry food such as beans, rice, macaroni, corn and a bottle of oil.  It’s not much but it helps a little and they are so very grateful!

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Over and over, they bow and hold out their hand in thanksgiving for the food.  They want you to know how very much they appreciate your thoughtfulness.  Most of all, they pray for you and ask blessings upon you!

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Bulls in the Garden

2012-10-22-03-58-56“You gotta see this”! my husband exclaimed as he enticed me toward the back of the house. And there they were, 2 big, black bulls crudely yoked together, tethered to a plow and to Bonhomme who was guiding them down the short rows of the new garden plot.

The use of the bulls seemed radical to me because the garden plot was really pretty small. But they were effective and for Dos-Palais that is what they use to till their gardens. But those were way up on the surrounding hills, not in the backyard. What spectacle!

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It was exciting to finally see our special gift of 2 drip watering systems finally being opened and plans studied in preparation for the new garden. Anticipation was building and a few local “gardeners”, I would call them business gardeners for they grow their crops to send to market in Port-au-Prince, came to watch. They heard by word of mouth that a new concept was in the works and they were on hand to witness this new idea.

In Haiti, the dry season was fast approaching and fresh produce would soon become scarce. Life will become stressful and food hard to find save purchasing supplies in town. Maybe this idea of a garden close to the house will smooth the transition of seasons especially for those living so close to the poverty line.

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The bulls and Bonhomme finished up tilling the garden and the men got to work making rows and stretching out hoses. Bonhomme quickly used his machete to make the stand for the 5 gallon bucket. It really came together pretty fast.

Wissel produced his heirloom vegetable seeds from his luggage, seeds that were especially purchased for the project. Soon the seeds were in the ground and watered. Then Hurricane Sandy arrived.

The instructions included information on how to make raised beds so that tropical storms would not wash away the seeds or plants. Would it work?

Several days went by before we could return to check on the status of the garden so it was with great anticipation that we headed to Dos Palais for our last visit before returning to the US.

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We were thrilled to see the first sprouts of a very promising garden and a very happy Bonhomme. The heavy rain did not disturb the sprouting seeds. It worked like the instructions said it would.

How exciting that such an inexpensive unit could make such a difference in the lives of this small town. $14 for each unit was all it took to make a possible change in the diet and nutrition of a family.

After tilling the new garden, the bulls were staked by the outhouse for a few hours which made me think twice about heading out that way for a visit. I’m sure they were docile but for a city gal, I wasn’t taking any chances.

This fun little project was so inexpensive to purchase but made such a big difference to the people in Haiti. It is our hope to send a tub full of “garden potential” soon.


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Trusting Eyes

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I believe in a God who puts a burden on our hearts to have compassion on those who struggle with less than we, in the United States, are blessed with.  If I am blessed with more , then it’s my commission from God’s word to I reach down to those who need it most.    But  I also “need”!  There is that word we constantly rely on, “need”   I need……to pay overdue bills, or the old car needs to be replaced.  All worthy needs.  But where does God come in?

I think He comes in when we lay before Him those needs with a trusting heart and ask  for guidance to fulfill those needs and still allow us the extra to support those in need.  After all, that is His exact promise. . . And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIT)

Tragedies of life, as well as necessities just plain get in the way of good intentions.  No wonder the thought of giving up a commitment to continue sponsorship of  a child in Haiti  would cross our mind.  It has crossed my mind a time or two but then one day I stepped back and tried to see the big picture.   “Is it God’s way or my way?” I asked myself.

It’s hard to trust because we have all experienced failure from those close to us and maybe in our perception, God.  I don’t want to say that God fails us but sometimes His ways are not our ways thus we are quick to say it’s a failure.

Have you ever stepped out in faith, much like the Priests carrying the Ark of God  stepped into the river and there before them, something wonderful happened, the waters parted.  They walked forth on dry ground.

There are times when I’m tempted to not send a sponsorship check but then my mind sees the little sweet face before me with those trusting eyes, wanting nothing more than to know that I will help them go to school.  Those trusting eyes betray the hope of becoming the breadwinners for their future families and not be doomed to life as they know it.

Those trusting eyes!  Yes they are looking to you so wouldn’t it make sense that you  should be looking with trusting eyes toward your Heavenly Father?

My hope is  that you would consider those “trusting eyes” when times get tough.  If  there comes a time when your needs have become so great that you have no recourse but to give up sponsoring a child, I hope you would let us know in advance so we can work on finding a replacement sponsor. When those needs are resolved, we will rejoice with you and hope you will again sponsor a child with us.

After all, those sweet “trusting eyes” deserve our best.

 

 

 


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Unexpected Blessings

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I tallied the total again and was horrified!  What seemed to cost $475 for the last food distribution was going to cost us more than double!  How can that be? 

Haiti, as is the case with many impoverished nations, has a very unstable economy.  The currency exchange rates change on a moment to moment basis.   Nothing is sure until the product leaves their hands and touches our hands.   In my mind, I asked “. . . but why does it always have to go against us?”  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if things got cheaper?  I guess the world doesn’t understand that concept. 

Brokenhearted, I turned to Facebook where I vented my frustration and prayerful plea. . . . and someone was listening!   

Terry Loss, an Upper Columbia Academy schoolmate answered.  He boldly restated my plea into “they need” and “what are we going to do about it”.  Terry even threw out a matching funds plea and the money began to come in. The total donated money came to just over $1,000 which more than covered the needed amount of my food order.   The Bible tells us in Luke that when we give, God will give back more than we can handle.  

In Loscalabos (30 miles from Dos-Palais) Wissel parked the truck outside the little grocery store to pick up the food.  Most of it was there except the beans we needed were not.   The shopkeeper headed out to all the other little vendors in the town and gathered what they had in their shops to fill our order.  And yes, we had just enough money. 

We held our breath as 1,388 pounds of dry food and 15 gallons of oil was loaded into the truck.  Each corner and pothole on the drive to Dos-Palais was equally exciting but we made it.   

Food Distribution Day held excitement for those in the village.  Gratefully they accepted their bags of beans, rice, corn, pasta and a bottle of oil.  All were much needed supplies for the families.  Thank you to each and everyone of you!  Your giving heart meant so much to those people.  Not only did you help people in need but you touched my heart as well! 

And Terry, a special thank you to you, my friend, for listening to the underlying plea I sent out on Facebook that day!  You made a difference in the world because you saw a need and helped others to see the need as well!    Bless you.

 


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“Even the Least of These” are Precious

Child selling goods on the streets of Port-au-Prince.

Child selling goods on the streets of Port-au-Prince.

Note:  This story comes from Wissel Joseph, Founder and President, “Children for a New Haiti”.  It is the mission of CNH to provide an education, food and medical care for the children of Dos-Palais, Haiti.  Your inquiries and help with this important task is welcome.

The rain was relentless. It came down in heavy sheets defying anyone to try and stay dry. I huddled with my brother, Jerry, in the back of the tarp covered pickup truck as we waited for more passengers who were preparing like us to head to  Port-au-Prince. Even with the tarp, we were still getting wet.

The streets of Lascahobas were deserted so it was alarming to see one very wet little girl hesitantly approach us. Her hair was matted by the rain and her clothes hung on her thin frame offering very little protection. I could plainly see how thin she was.

“Please, would you like to buy a pitcher?” In her eyes, I could see the pain, desperation and despair that living with so little provided her as well as many of the people of Haiti. In reply I asked how old she was and like a knife to my heart, she replied “10”. That is the age of my own daughter and the scene played again in my mind but with my daughter, Wishie’s face. I could not imagine that I could be so desperate that I would insist that my children not come home until the last pitcher was sold, even in the heavy rain.

With a compassionate heart I reached into my pocket for the last remaining dollars, actually a fist full of $2 bills that a Columbia, MO sponsor gave me to give out to those I came across that needed a hand up. I thrust them into her hands, she smiled and began to walk away. But then she stopped, turned and asked “How much is this in Haitian money?” It came to about $20.00US and my brother, Jerry was quick to convert the amount into Haitian Gourdes for her.

Life is difficult for most people in Haiti. For some it is unbearably difficult with some mothers and children who beg for scraps to survive even to the point of death. It makes my heart ache knowing that I could have been like that little girl because I, too, am Haitian. I wish I could have had the chance to ask her name or even visit her family. I cannot get over my connection with this little girl, she tears at my heart.

Although I may never see her again, I will continue to look for her on my next trip. I hope and pray I will have a second chance to make a difference in her life. But if not, her face will ever be before me as I seek to serve those less fortunate.

There are many in Haiti that live the life of poverty. Educating the children can make such a huge difference in breaking that cycle. Won’t you join me in making sure that “even the least of these” have a chance for a better life.


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Grandpa’s Hands

"Grandpa's Hands" Richard Smith, Artist

“Grandpa’s Hands”
Richard Smith, Artist

 

Ever wonder if people in impoverished countries feel the same hurts and emotions that we do? I see the anguish on TV of those suffering in other countries but then I sometimes brush it off as: “Well, they deal with that all the time so they know what to expect.” Very callous of me, isn’t it!

Visiting other countries gives me that personal contact that lets me see that the same blood flows through their veins and their hearts break just as much as mine and no matter how often life treats them badly, the feelings and emotions are the same as mine. I may not understand their language and customs enough to realize how deeply they feel in their hearts but personal witness breaks down the barriers.

One of my favorite moments of learning to see with new eyes occurred during my last trip to Haiti. Exciting things were happening in back of Grandpa’s house and everyone wanted to watch as the bulls pulled the plow through the ground in preparation for a new vegetable garden. We all watched the progress with excitement.

Off to the side sat Grandpa with baby Jefferson. His tender work worn hands rested lightly upon the grandchild entrusted in his care. It was a casual touch but reassuring to the child that he was safe and warned at the same time to not move closer to the action. The emotion prompted me to lift my camera.

Later, I shared my picture with my brother-in-law, Dick. Dick is a painter and the emotion portrayed by grandpa’s hands also caught his eye and he began to sketch. Oil paints were arranged on his pallet and he began to, and continued to, apply the paint to the canvas even after my visit ended and I headed back to the Mid-West.

Several weeks later, I received the painting in the mail. Grandpa’s Hands! In looking at the painting, all the memories I experienced in that moment rushed back. The sound of the plow churning through the field, the soft lilting voices lifted in laughter and conversation all around me. Hopeful looks towards the new vegetable garden for the coming season. And the kind, caring hands of a man so much like you and me.

The people of Haiti live and love as we do, with open hearts and courage in the face of huge challenges, and while our customs differ, our hearts all care the same, our hopes for better futures remain fixed firmly on our children. No, in the end we aren’t all that different and that knowledge makes me cherish the love and laughter of our lives even more.


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Update on the story “Pattie’s Gift”

I often wonder what happens to the people in the stories we write about in Haiti.  It’s one thing to reach out and touch the lives of those in need, even boldly giving them advice on how to do better in providing food for the family with the gifts we give.  But do we expect to see progress or dare hope that their future has been changed for the better after our encounter?  Of course we do.

We know that not all gifts produce the desired hope for the future that we wanted for them but when they do, we rejoice!

Here are the updates on the families that were featured in the story, “Pattie’s Gift”.

 

20130312 0206 gp HaitiThe Joly family update:

Yvette has changed so much from the last time we visited her.  When I took a picture of her in October she looked hard and depressed.  At that time she had very little to feed her family and life was very bleak. 

What a difference  a few months have made.    When Wissel walked to her house, she exclaimed “I knew that you would not come to Dos-Palais without coming to see me!”.  She looks happy, less stressed and much more hopeful.  She used her money to purchase a goat and also some items to sell from home or in the market such as spaghetti, coffee, bread, sugar and flour.  Sometimes she travels to the Dominican Republic to purchase items to sell. 

What a relief to see Yvette’s life change because of a gift from Pattie.

 

The Anger family update:20130312 0247 gp Haiti

Wissel stopped by the Anger family just to check on them to see how they were doing since October when we shared Pattie’s gift with them.  Of course they remembered Wissel.  The husband is blind but after Christianna explained who Wissel was, he was most pleased to finally meet again.

With the money, they paid off the debt in town they had incurred during the time when they had no food and was able to again purchase food for the children.  They purchased a hen and a rooster.  Wissel encouraged them to take good care of the chickens because they will give them eggs to eat and the extra chickens they can sell.  It would make more sense to purchase chickens from her for other families in the community when we return on the next trip. 

As goodbyes were said, they especially wanted to send greetings to the “Blancs” (whites) which was Joe and I!  But most of all to tell Pattie how grateful they are for her kindness.

If you have been surprised that a gift of $50 can make such a huge difference to a family in Haiti, we encourage you to seek out ways to give a hand up to those in need.  Helping families through “Children for a New Haiti” would be delighted to connect you with a family that desperately needs your help.   You may contact us at http://childrenforanewhaiti.org/