2016 was a difficult year for Faith and me. There had been a growing sense in our minds during the last half of 2015 that our time here in Haiti probably needed to be coming to an end. Because of some health issues, age and the fact that we knew we soon wouldn't have people to "hold the fort" if we needed to leave quickly we just felt it was time to start seriously considering a timeframe for our departure. There was just one problem. We didn't have any people to take our place.
God has been very good to bring us key people over the years to help us at times when we really needed that help but none of them ever felt that they were sent here to prepare to take our place. Truly, we had never gotten any closer to having replacements in 20 years than we were at day one. That had not been a pressing problem over the years since we didn't have any plans to leave but in recent years it had grown to be a serious concern. Now, at the beginning of 2016, it was almost a crisis. When you have waited so long for God to do a certain thing and the need of that thing has grown to be an immediate need and still there is no supplying of that need it can be a difficult time.
I decided in early 2016 that it was unlikely that we could physically continue doing what we are doing for more than two more years. I also realized that if some people (say, a family) in the States were to commit that very day to come be our replacements, that the time needed for them to raise financial support, close out their affairs in the States, move to Haiti, learn the language and culture and then learn the things needed to step into our shoes would realistically take at least two years. In other words, if we were to be able to leave by the end of 2017 we needed to have some people in the works NOW and there were no such people to be found. Also, there was the knowledge that if the people didn't arrive with a strong sense of having been given this work by God to do, (a "calling," if you will), that they likely wouldn't stay for the long haul.
After much discussion Faith and I decided to write the IMF board of directors and give notice of our intention to leave at the end of 2017. We also recommended that the board of directors consider turning the hospital over to the Haitian Department of Health or come up with an alternate plan that would include us leaving at the end of 2017. At a meeting in June of last year, IMF authorized us to enter into talks with the Haitian Department of Health about the logistics of them taking over the hospital. We were aware of the fact that nobody locally was going to be in favor of this idea and that the best we could hope for was quiet acceptance of what isn't liked, and at worst . . . well, it's enough to say that in Haiti "the worst" can be really unpleasant. I don't know that it was the worst but it was bad and for several months our lives were about as stressed as they have ever been. Literally nobody in Haiti was in favor of this plan and I could only support it because God had given us a peace about leaving and this was the only option available that afforded us a way to do that. Many times I said to God, "You have all the resources in the world at your disposal, if you wanted something different than this, I am supposing you would have brought it to our attention." He brought nothing to our attention except that everyone was upset about "the plan". This continued until the 1st of December. As I said, 2016 was a difficult year for us.
On the last day of November, we received a message from an American missionary couple in Haiti. They had heard about our work and that we were leaving. They had known about it for several months. They wanted to know what the status of the plans for the future of the work was. They were interested. We had never met these folks. Really, had never heard of them but I did know a person who knew them well so I called him and asked him what he could tell me about them. He said without hesitation, "Of all the people I know in Haiti (and he knows a lot of people) there isn't anyone I know who would be better suited to take your place than them." I asked why he would say that and we spent the next 20 minutes or so talking about Matt and Sarah Rideout.
After I finished talking to this friend I hung up the phone and wept uncontrollably for probably 10 minutes. Now keep in mind that I still hadn't even talked to them on the phone or corresponded by email or anything. I was angry with myself for letting my emotions run away based on so little but I just couldn't help myself. Hope is a very emotional thing and this was the first time that there had been any evidence that there was reason to hope. I called Matt and we talked, which led, a couple of days later, to us visiting them and their kids in their home, which led to them asking if they could come visit us for a week to see the work and the area, which led to them making a commitment to move to Bombardopolis and join us in this work and prepare to take over the management of it in November, which led to them moving here to Bombardopolis on Monday of last week, January 30. As I sit here writing this the people who will be continuing this work are across the yard from me living here on the compound and all of this has happened in TWO MONTHS!
God is so amazing. I will not be so foolish (and dishonest) as to tell you that I knew God was going to do something like this, nor so arrogant as to say He had any obligation to do it. But I will tell you this, we have a God who is capable of doing anything He wants to do. As the Haitians are prone to say, "Bon Dieu gwo, li fe sa li vle." Which means, "God is big, He does what he wants." Faith and I are so thankful that this is what he wanted to do. Please be in prayer for Faith, myself, Betsy, Matt, Sarah and their kids that this time of transition will go well. Pray for them as they absorb all that this new situation and life will mean for their family.
Thank you to all of you who stand with us in this important work,
Steve, Faith, Betsy, Matt, Sarah and the kids
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