Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity.
- Micah 5:2
Dan, Sharon, Dr. Leandre, Faith, Betsy and Steve
Christmas Greetings to you,
As we humbly reflect on the coming in the flesh of Jesus, whose origin is "from eternity", we can't escape the realization that in His eternal being He has no end as well as no beginning. He invites us into an eternity without end as well, indeed it is for this that He came to earth in human form; so that He could pay the price for our sinfulness, so that we can be forever forgiven. We realize that He is God and we are not, that He loves us so much that He gave His life so He could spend forever with us, starting today. He calls us to be generous with the new life He gives us, including with our resources. God gifts us with the talent and ability to help, encourages us to help, then promises us eternal rewards for doing it. It is a sweet deal that we are crazy to pass up. Let's all look for ways to help the least of these this year, we will be glad we did. (Matthew 25:31 ff).
There is a lot of news this month, let's get to it.
Premature Infant Rescue
By Betsy Rennells
This month we have had the joy of taking care of a preemie baby girl. Her mom had been at a spring doing laundry and ended up delivering on the road home! She came to us on November 16th weighing 3 lb 10 oz. This little girl's complexion was very red so we named her Scarlet. She is such a sweetie, so laid back and easy to care for. We have enjoyed loving on and snuggling her. Hey, it's a tough job but somebody's got to do it! As of Thursday, she is up to 4 lb 8 oz. Her mom has been coming every other day to nurse her and spend time with her. She should be able to go home soon.
8 December update from Faith: Scarlet is going home today at 5 lb 1 oz to be with her mom, dad and 2-year-old brother.
Sweet Scarlet. Hard to catch her with her eyes open. She was a good sleeper, often preferring sleep over her bottle.
Betsy loving on Scarlet
A weigh in at 4 lb 3oz - she was gaining an ounce per day.
The Food Tree Project
The remainder of the updates were written by Curt & Tricia Meadows
Before our visit, Steve ordered, and had shipped to our home, two screens for the shade house extension. This extension will make it possible to get more food bearing trees into the community. We arrived in Bombardopolis on a Tuesday afternoon, and first thing Wednesday morning, Steve, Dan, and Curt were installing one of the screens on the section that Steve had ready and waiting. First, they wrapped chicken wire along the vertical part of the addition and then hoisted the screen in place over the roof portion of the structure. By lunch, it was complete, except that the chicken wire was a tad shy of reaching the brick wall along the base of the shade house. It just needed one layer of bricks to rectify the problem, which Steve and Mono took care of the next day.
Steve, Dan & Curt prepare to install the screen you see in the foreground
Attaching the screen to the frame
Unfortunately, the quality of the new screens was not as good as that of the existing screen. Another case of "they just don't make them like they used to." And the new screens allow more light through, which may actually end up being beneficial. Steve anticipates positioning the younger seedlings under the stronger shade of the existing section and then transitioning them to the new section to acclimate them to stronger light before they go to their new homes. The second screen that we brought will be stored for future needs.
Oh, and please pray about a fungus that has hit the mango seedlings. Steve sprayed them with a solution he received just before we arrived and the hope was that it would take effect quickly so that the remainder of the mango seedlings will be spared. The treatment was showing signs of success before we left but time will tell if this is the case.
Mango seelings sprayed and moved to their new digs
Garage Roof Replacement
The three-day project of putting a new roof on the garage began on Monday, 24 November. They removed the old, rusted tin roof and its wood understructure and replaced it with new finished steel roofing sections and trusses, making it stonger and termite proof. The process began with removing most of the contents of the garage, along with the materials stored under the garage overhang along one side, to areas where they could go through it. Heavy items like the guttering extruder and spools of guttering material stayed put. A few hours of work and it was cleared for construction.
Clearing things out
Curt, Mono and Austrel removing the old tin sections
After removing the old roof, they did some masonry work on the back wall of the garage and welded trusses across the expanse of the garage in preparation for the new roof. From an observers viewpoint, it all went quickly and smoothly. Of course, Steve's months of thought and preparation had nothing to do with that.
Steve directing Mono about the masonry work on the back wall
Mono in his element
The group (Steve, Dan, Curt, Mono and Austrel) worked well together and the metal framework and new, shining, white roofing sections were up in no time. There's no doubt a time-lapse movie would have revealed the swarm of activity, especially of spiderman Mono, who scrambled across the roof with ease. Unfortunately, not enough good roofing material was available so there is a small section that will be installed at a later date to complete the project. Otherwise, it looks great!
Steve welding along the overhang, which is the clothes washing area
Curt and Dan attaching the new roofing sections
During the construction time, the yard looked like they were ready for a big neighborhood sale. Of course, we should not have been surprised to see a woman pick up a pile of wood that had been the roof trusses, trusses that we would have put at the street for trash pickup, and carry them off to use. The sections of old and rusted tin went thankfully into the hands of locals who had use for them. News spreads quickly and there were more folks in want than there were roofing sections. As Sharon pointed out, it's that case of junk and treasure.
The Cistern Project
Our visit in Bombarde began with three days of cistern-related events:
- Wednesday, November 19:
You may recall the 40-cistern project that began in July of this year and was funded through MINUSTAH (we know this organization as the U.N.). MINUSTAH has a set of requirements that have to be met as part of the grant contract. One is that each of the 40 cisterns must have a sign with "Finance par MINUSTAH", or "Financed by the U.N.", along with unique, identifying numbers. We spent the afternoon with Dan, going house-to-house painting numbers on the cisterns using stencils and blue paint. Curt used a GPS to mark the location of each of the cisterns.
It was our first full day in Bombarde and it was a great way to get reacquainted with being back in Haiti. At the gate of each property, Dan would call out, "Lonè" (translated as "Honor"), to let them know we were there and waited for the customary response, "Respè" (translated as "Respect"), before entering. Kids gathered and people were curious but no one had any problem with our coming onto their property. The most excited reaction came from a lady who was insistent that we sit and have some coffee. As we didn't have time, she gave us some hard wrapped candies to take with us.
One house especially sticks in my mind. The woman of this home and her cute daughter greeted us. As we walked towards the back of the house, we noticed how neat and orderly things were, and then there, around the base of the cistern, was a row of plants, each in a large metal can. It made it look so nice. It was such a surprise as you rarely see a home without trash scattered around. You could tell she took great pride in keeping her home. When we returned home, Curt loaded the GPS information into a program that allowed him to print maps with the cisterns marked on it.
(Unfortunately, we didn't use our camera on this trip since it would probably have ended up as blue as our hands.)
- Thursday, November 20:
MINUSTAH held a special gathering in Bombarde that they referred to as an "Inaugural" meeting for the purpose of celebrating the completion of the 40-cistern project. They invited Dan, the cistern crew and the cistern recipients. It was not the best day to have it as Thursday is market day in Bombarde and most are there buying and/or selling, however, there was a decent showing for the event. Curt went, also. There were speeches and presentations, followed by Dan, Curt and the cistern crew leading the MINUSTAH representatives on a tour of several of the cisterns. They considered it a big success, for which everyone was thankful. Dan also presented them, to their surprise, with the GPS-located cistern map and a file with the GPS information.
They were very pleased with the results of the project, so much so that they encouraged Dan to submit another application for a grant to build more cisterns in 2015. We won't go into the details but there was no doubt in our collective minds that God had lined things up. There are two other sources of cistern funding for next year and the timing looks like it will work swimmingly. The total count for cisterns built this year is 98, and it looks like next year could be on track to build as many, or could we hope for possibly more. Go, Lord! What an impact on the lives of the women and children in this area! We know you've heard Dan say this over and over but one just can't say it enough. Water is one of our most basic needs, one that we need for so many details of our daily lives, and one which we can't live very long without. Try to imagine the time and strength is takes to lug containers of water from a local source to their homes, often multiple times each day. We don't think we really can.
- Friday, November 21:
Today was an exciting day for us. We left with Dan at 8:30am in order to make the trek down one hill/mountain (we never know what to call them because, coming from Florida, anything with more than 20 feet of elevation seems like a mountain, but for folks around here, I'm sure they would refer to it as a hill) and up another to meet Filia, the cistern crew foreman. The purpose of the rendezvous was to choose 20 homes in the Felsable area to receive cisterns during the next cistern project (funded by a private donor), to begin in February.
Dan determines the level of the roof line while Curt lends his support
Curt marks the house location with a GPS
Filia had done some previous legwork so he had a good idea of which homes were in the most need. It was a little disappointing at first as no one was at home at the first several homes we came to. However, the neighbors were quick to try to reach them or stand in their stead. Following that, most were at home. In each case, after verifying that the roof of the home was large enough to fill a cistern adequately and determining the proposed location, Dan and Curt would measure it for guttering lengths while Filia would explain to the homeowner the requirements for building a cistern: specific amounts of sand, gravel and water they have to acquire in advance, as well as coffee and meals for the crew on the construction days. It's interesting to see the reactions. Although Haitians are often subdued in their responses, some show much excitement and gratitude, but all nod in acknowledgement and agree to the instructions.
After everyone is in agreement, there's a bit of paperwork
Measuring guttering length
And, not surprisingly, it is a wide variety of folks and homes. There were the women with several children, often with a grandmother. There was the gentleman sewing school uniforms under the shade of some nearby trees. There was the home situated in the middle of a piece of land completely covered in crops. (But not like crops as we know it. In fact, you could easily miss it and think that it was just plants that had grown up in the yard.) There was the newly built home with vibrant colors. There was the old home with flowering trees and plants. And there was the disappointed woman, who was told that her thatched-roof home would not allow for a cistern.
Measuring, marking and explaining
The newest and most colorful of the homes selected
And always there were the children, who showed up to see what was going on. At one house, there were three, pretty young girls who were excited to have their photo taken, one of which was even more excited when Tricia let her take a couple of photos. There was also the detour to a school to look at a piece of PVC pipe that was leaking. The timing was such that as we entered the school grounds, the bell sounded and all the kids, dressed in their yellow uniforms, streamed out of the schoolrooms, many of which congregated around us. As we left so did they, and many of them followed us until we turned off the main path to visit another house.
A mass of yellow
Whatever it takes to figure it out
Again, Curt took the GPS and marked each house that would be receiving a cistern. When he looked at the data, it showed that we had walked a total of 6.8 miles, a similar distance to our trek to mark the 40 MINUSTAH-funded cisterns two days prior. Nothing like giving our Florida, lowland legs a workout.
A B.A.D. Weekend
We were so grateful to be here and to be part of a special weekend. Steve, Faith, Dan and Sharon had lined things up for a fun-filled two days of showing IMF's appreciation of Betsy's commitment, dedication and hard work here in Haiti. True to his military background, chock full of acronyms, Curt couldn't resist the urge to come up with one for the big occasion: B.A.D. = Betsy Appreciation Day weekend. So we had a B.A.D. time at the beach in Mole St. Nicolas on Saturday, which included swimming in the beautiful blue waters and enjoying a B.A.D. fish lunch. Saturday evening, we watched a B.A.D. movie, called Anne of Green Gables. It was a surprise for Betsy, as she had been reading and enjoying this series of books recently. She was SO excited when the movie started playing, and we all enjoyed watching her reactions throughout the showing. Then for Sunday's B.A.D. main meal after church, we had a special B.A.D. pork roast with potatoes, carrots and gravy. This is a big deal here since meat is expensive and these vegetables are scarce. The B.A.D. finale was a B.A.D. dessert trifle with layers of chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, Dream Whip, and bits of Butterfingers. It was a wonderful way to show Betsy how much she is loved and appreciated, and she was overjoyed by it all. Betsy is a treasure, with her wonderful smile and infectious laugh, and is a tremendous help to everyone here. She has a good command of Kreole, and the hospital staff, and for that matter, all the Haitians she comes in contact with, love her. She truly deserved her B.A.D. weekend.
(Wouldn't you know it, our camera refused to cooperate during our beach trip. Ugh! It's hard to describe how beautiful the beach is so we won't try. Maybe, Lord willing, we'll capture it on a future trip.)
A Few Things
Sorry but we tend to be more long winded than you're used to, probably precipitated by the fact that it all seems so different, interesting and out of the ordinary to us.
Hopefully, you don't mind indulging us as we share an amusing story about transporting the sunshade screens mentioned previously. They were light but bulky so we decided to put them in space saver bags to make them more compact and to allow us to add heavy items to each of the two large duffle bags we would carry them in. We placed cans of chicken and salmon, jars of peanut butter, and such into the folds of the screen to protect them from damage. Per instructions, we drew the air out with a vacuum cleaner, and called the packing a success. So the Bible says that pride comes before the fall.
Since we were taking an early flight out of Miami to Port, we flew into Miami the day before. As we stood waiting to retrieve our luggage in the baggage claim area, we saw this bag covered in layers of plastic wrap. It looked like the contents had exploded out of the bag. Yep, it was one of our sunshade screen-carrying duffle bags and TSA apparently had a concern about the cans and jars so ingeniously tucked away, and, equally apparent, they didn't have a vaccuum cleaner handy to reassemble it. The solution was to push what they could back in and, unable to zip it up, just contained it all with plastic wrap. Oh well, it seemed like a great idea at the time. We borrowed the hotel vacuum cleaner that evening and, hoping to prevent a TSA repeat the next day, we put the jars and cans in the duffle bag but outside the space saver bag. We did our best to protect them but when we arrived in Bombarde there was the strong smell of peanut butter emanating from our luggage. Yep, we had to wash peanut butter out of the bag and off the contents. Another lesson learned.
Unfortunately, some illnesses descended on many of the folks during Thanksgiving (it was going around), which prevented us from joining a big gathering of missionaries at George and Carol Ann Truelove's home in Mare Rouge. It was a disappointment to have to miss it but we made the best of it at home in Bombarde. Agape Flights, through which IMF receives their mail, has a special Thanksgiving program of delivering turkeys and food items for the fixin's to the missionaries in Haiti. A wonderful individual donated money so that IMF could partake. We were all thankful for the delicious turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and all those dishes you associate with a Thanksgiving meal, along with several pies and a cake. Everyone pitched in and it was a true feast. And if you've never had a sour cream and raisin pie, you should try it!
A moist, golden brown bird
A bounty for which we were truly thankful
Speaking of cooking, we want to thank Faith for the wonderful meals she prepared. Tisoer, the cook there for several decades, makes four lunches each week, but Faith makes the other lunches and all the dinners happen, including the famous Thursday pizza night. It's hard to do justice to a description of how she enters the kitchen and in a flurry of utensils, pots, and elbows, produces a delicious meal with the limited and simple ingredients she has available to her. It's impressive.
Thank you, Steve, Faith, Dan, Sharon and Betsy for all you do. You are a wonderful group of varied personalities, talents and gifts. We so appreciate what you did for two visitors who took of your time and space and energy. We had a blast!
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas,
Curt & Tricia
Happy Birthday, Jesus!
Wait, there's more
Steve using his neat method to water the cabbages
Faith at Command Central
Faith and Scarlet
Dan, always has an eye out for a great photo op
The bright girl who used our camera to take some photos
One of the photos she took - not bad - no comment about the photo's subject
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