Sunday, April 22, 2012

Haiti Trip Journal: Post 2

Feb 19, 2012

Today was an amazing day! We woke up a little before 6:30 and had breakfast, then dressed in "our Sunday best" and drove to the orphanage to meet the kids for the first time. There were lots of kids there, all behind a big gate.  It was a bit nerve wracking seeing them there and wondering how in the world we'd connect with the.  They let out the girls first to meet us.

A beautiful little Haitian girl (maybe 8 or 9) came over and claimed me - holding on tight. Next the boys were released and two came over and jockeyed for position with the little girl. With all of them clinging tightly and my arms around them we started walking towards the church.

Me, Verline, Mardoche, and Jimmy.

Dave and Keith with their boys (I think Dave had 5!), walking to church.

The girl eventually disappeared (ceding the battle to the boys) and I began to feel the frustration of not being able to communicate with them. I wish I knew Creole! One of the boys kept tapping me on my neck and I though "Uh oh, maybe I nicked myself shaving?" But when they kept doing it one of them did the same thing to himself and said "Tony." Aha, he wants to know my name! After introductions were made I started using French which is close to Creole. Suddenly we could communicate!

This began a game of us pointing to things and saying their name in their language (and I did the same). Old words of French long forgotten came back to me and were were able to share some words and laugh. Very cool. I whistled and they whistled too. The 15 minute walk to the church was great. This was our first actual walk around Haiti and the road we walked down had trees, fields, houses, and goats. Fruit trees and palms trees were everywhere. I felt thankful for being able to be close to nature with such fine companions. Exploring down the road was great and got me excited.

The Haitian church we arrived at was wonderful - a church of about 200 people with windows and doors wide open letting in the breezes (which were much appreciated - it was hot in there!). We were welcomed and given a seat in the front. It was about a 2 hour service and very loud! The orphans got to sit to us close to the front and we listened to some amazing singing. One interesting thing that was different was one man who seemed to be something like a cantor. He swayed, danced, exclaimed loudly and basically modeled exuberant worship.  Never saw anything like that before but in the context it seemed to work!  After the service we were invited to stay and given bottles of coke to drink.
Paul amongst the kids at the church
Since it was Sunday, we went to A Samaritan's Purse compound about half an hour away called Jack's Beach.  SP has been renting this "resort" from the owners and used it as a base for staff, heavy machinery, etc.  It was a very beautiful place and while the swimming was great I would have loved to have just hung out there a little more on my own - I felt the desire to spend some time reading, praying, and worshiping - a desire that often hits me when I'm in a beautiful outside locale.  Interestingly, the site felt a lot like "The Others" camp from the TV show "Lost."

Eating Lunch at Jack's Beach
Keith, first time swimming in the ocean

Kelly and Scott, well, no idea what they are doing here actually but definitely an amusing picture.

A beautiful beach in one of the most poverty struck nations in the world.  Even here God's beauty can still be seen sometimes.

We then went for supper to an outdoor local Haitian restaurant and the food was delicious - chicken, avacado, rice, and the spiciest coleslaw I have ever eaten!  It was great to be eating my chicken and seeing the restaurant's live chickens running around outside as well.  Eating in the open air suits me.

Simple but absolutely delicious Haitian fare.
Our team waiting for our food.  We invited one of our security guys (McKenzie) to come with us.

After we finally returned to our house, Judd lead us in our nightly round of "highs and lows."  I really admire this man - Gad has really used him in some amazing ways.  After our sharing time Judd shares inspirational stories his life in a humble way that really makes you think.  Tonight I was thinking about this week and wondering "What can I do here? How can God use me when there are such big needs and I have such limited skills?"  I wish I had more construction abilities (OK, any) or even Keith's computer skills.  Now that I'm finally here I feel a bit of anxiety about what it will be like to begin our actual work.  I'm praying God will be able to use me for his glory somehow - and that I'll be open to whatever comes my way.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Haiti Trip Journal: Post 1

These are some of the highlights of the trip to Haiti that I went on about a month ago. With a few additions/subtractions these are pretty verbatim accounts from my journal that I kept while in Haiti. Sorry its taken me awhile to get to this!

Feb 18, 2012

My day actually began on the 17th when at 2:30 we left Winnipeg to fly to Chicago.

The Team at the Winnipeg Airport (click to enlarge photos btw)

Although I could tell there was a little nervousness on our team, there was much excitement as well. From Chicago we flew to Miami where we were supposed to stay in a nearby hotel for a few hours before returning to the airport. But somehow the hotel lost our reservation and so we bravely decided to stay overnight in the airport. Great idea - just like in the movies (or Amazing Race)! Yeah, not quite. Turns out there was no comfortable seating - so we had tried sleeping in an outside garden/park on some benches.

The outside park (palm trees in the background)

(Not as comfortable as it looks!)

I slept a little but the sound of planes, the cool temperatures and humidity convinced me after an hour or so to try a carpeted area inside the airport. Alas, it was freezing cold with the AC and there were extremely loud announcements every 5-10 minutes - welcoming us to Miami or telling us about the perils of leaving our bags unattended. Keith got very ill this night and I was worried for him and prayed for him during our sleepless vigil. Thanks to God he perked up around 4:30am.

Inside the airport - pretending to sleep.

Our flight to Haiti was uneventful and I was struck at both the natural beauty and poverty that were noticeable as we circled the island. Landing went well but baggage retrieval was interesting; they just throw everything into an open area and everyone searches madly for their stuff! Luckily after a few minutes we all found everything. Then, before leaving the customs area we got a strict warning from Dan; “Don’t let anyone touch your bags. Put your backpacks on in front of you, take valuables out of your packets, and look for the Samaritan’s Purse people.” Yikes, suddenly it got serious but as Keith says “It’s go time!” So we walked out and were immediately accosted by people wanting to help us - for a fee. I was OK since I was the last guy out - but I still ended up giving some pushy guys a few bucks.

For their our SP guy, a Haitian named Roosevelt took us on what was the scariest (so far) vehicle ride of my life! We careened through the streets of Port Au Prince honking, accelerating towards people on the street (including children!), swerving, and barely missing people. Motorcycles, taxis, trucks, etc came within inches of us repeatedly! People crossed the street or walked between the stream of vehicles yet no one was struck. Along the way we saw evidence of the devastation of the earthquake 2 years ago as well as the poverty of the people. Tents for houses, shanty towns, and miles of hole in the wall business went by us for hours. After while I felt overwhelmed with it all and then mostly numb - so much poverty.

Tent houses and shacks, with familiar Samaritan's Purse tarps.

The President's house didn't do well in the quake

Imagine this was your "temporary housing" - for over two years!

Finally we made it to the town of Leogane and the walled SP house which was to be our home. Interestingly it was guarded by not one but three Haitian guards - each carried a shotgun, handcuffs, or other assorted weaponry. Our house leaders were Jed and Peggy, a great couple from Minnesota who had previously been in Ecuador for 20 years. These people immediately made us feel at home. I had a quick nap and then took a spiral staircase to the roof where we had a beautiful view of the huge trees (in this area they have some) and mountains in the distance. Because of security, we can’t just go out and explore so I felt sad about that but I did get to enjoy watching our neighbors on each side of us. Both had their houses destroyed in the quake. Apparently 80% of the houses in this area were destroyed or severely damaged 2 years ago.

Me finding what was to be one of my favorite places in Haiti (the roof of our house)

Although we are in pretty good spirits I also felt a feeling of helplessness as I was watching a little boy over at the neighbors house. We were up on the roof smiling and trying to talk to him down below. We were all enjoying this when eventually this smiling boy made gestures like “please give me something.” Boom - poverty shows its face. And the thing is - you really want to give them something (lots of things) - but it’s not that easy. If you do it can have some real negative effects on you, the family, and Samaritan’s Purse. It’s tough to come in as rich North American’s and feel like just giving someone something can be so strangely complicated. I wonder as I go to bed that night, if we can’t even give something to this poor boy, how can we do something meaningful here in Haiti? Luckily I didn’t have to ponder it long as I had only had an hour or so of sleep the night before and quickly succumbed to my fatigue. Note: If you are worried how you'll sleep in a foreign country just go sleepless the night before - you sleep the following night like a baby!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Haiti Update (and Prayer Requests)

On Friday afternoon I'm heading to Haiti! Thanks to those of you who have been praying for me and supporting me through your encouragement, donations, and advice. Good news; or team has managed to raise all of our needed support (something we are so very thankful for) and now we are just getting everything ready to go! Jobina was remarking on my preparation - essentially none - and how different our modes of packing are. For her, packing and preparing is half the trip. For me, packing is done half an hour before you go! I'm not exactly feeling nervous about going - but I do occasionally feel a little unsettled about it as I'm not sure what to expect. Today I found out that we might be able to do an Operation Christmas Child shoebox distribution - that would be extremely cool!

So if you'd like to, please feel free to pray for me. Here are 10 prayer requests for the 10 day's I'll be gone.

Day 1. Safe and efficient travels for me and the team (there and back).
Day 2. Quick adjustment to the new surroundings, culture, and climate.
Day 3. A heart for the people and a desire to share Christ's love with everyone we meet.
Day 4. Unity of spirit as we work on our major project (rebuilding the orphanage).
Day 5. Strength and health (especially my back, protection from disease, etc)
Day 6. That we can do the Shoebox distribution!
Day 7. A love and broken heart for the people of Haiti.
Day 8. Spiritual growth and closeness with God.
Day 9. Courage to do whatever God leads us to.
Day 10. That we come back changed, on fire, and ready to reconnect with our jobs and families.

I think we'll also have a blog going though I'm not sure how often we'll update. The web page is:

Sunday, February 5, 2012


We had a really amazing lady present in our church today. Her name is Marie Enns and she is a lifelong missionary in Cambodia. I've always been interested in Cambodia - it was the first place I tried going overseas and although the trip fell through I've always felt an affinity with it. Marie has a huge ministry there ministering to hundreds - taking in families devastated by AIDS, receiving children who've been abandoned, rescuing women (and sadly) children from the sex trade, helping the elderly, and so many other things. This woman was amazing - her love for the people, Jesus, and life is contagious. She is an extremely competent and faithful woman - the kind who is rare and inspiring. Kind of a Mennonite version of Mother Theresa.

Check out Marie's website here.

Anyway, Marie said something today that kind of blew my mind. She was talking about the problem of AID's in the population and how quickly it spread. She said this:

"100% of Cambodian men use prostitutes."

I was completely shocked. Could this be true (or even close)? It seems unbelievable. But apparently widespread acceptance of prostitution is a part of the culture. I did some research and apparently over 30% of 13 year old boys have slept with a prostitute and 90% of Cambodian men in university use prostitutes A few other quotes:

"Cambodian men are quite ready to admit that they seek the favours of prostitutes, even though they may be married and have two or three girlfriends on the side. It has become very much a part of life. For many Cambodian men, giving his friend a treat means taking him to a brothel. Men who decline such favours are looked upon as unusual, even abnormal."

Leela Barrock, "'Golden Flowers' a Thriving Trade," Business Times (Malaysia), Oct. 14, 1996

"...[L]ocal demand for prostitutes is estimated to contribute between 49 to 70 per cent of the demand for commercial sex in Cambodia. A 'high demand for virgins from Cambodian men fuelling the flow of underage girls into Cambodia's sex trade' was also cited as a concern...

There is a persistent belief among Cambodian men that sleeping with a virgin has rejuvenating powers and can even cure HIV/Aids."

"Locals Fuelling Child Prostitution," Straits Times (Singapore)/Agence France-Presse (AFP), Oct. 7, 2010

(Worldwide prostitution stats: click to enlarge)

As both a Christian and a counselor I cannot imagine how terrible the results are of such evil. An entire country where the vast majority of men use prostitutes? The mental, spiritual, physical, and relations effect on the people (men, women, and especially children) is unfathomable. Marie mentioned the children and women she met having "dead eyes" and I believe it. It is common in Cambodia for families to sell their daughters into sexual slavery and for men to sexually exploit women and children. It makes me ill to think of this but this is the shocking reality.

The work of people like Marie Enns is just a drop in the bucket, but for every woman or child that she rescues from a life of exploitation and hopelessness she is literally saving them from death. Besides protection, her ministry offers healing, hope in Christ, and love. My hope is someday to see her ministry in Cambodia with my own eyes and get involved. In the meantime I ask you to pray for the people of Cambodia who live in such darkness and ask God to raise up more Marie's to go and make a difference.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: Real Marriage - The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together

Book Review: Real Marriage - The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll

Disclosure: Occasionally I get access to books through a few different publishers who are willing to give you a free copy of a book for review. I haven't seen any that looked interesting for awhile until I saw this one on the list and the title intrigued me. A few days later and my advance reader's copy arrived new and shiny. . .

Real Marriage is not your average Christian marriage book. It strikes me as being radically authentic in a genre that is more so then most. Most books attempt to be authentic, but when the pastor and wife of one of North America's largest churches discusses their marriage failings in striking detail, you can't help but be impressed by their courage to share. Especially in the sexual department. I don't believe I've ever read a more vulnerable, exposing book on marriage. This frankness is applied to difficult topics in a way that is both jarring and refreshing.

The book felt a bit rough as well. I's so used to the spit and polish of self-help psychology books that I've recently been reading, that I was a bit turned off at first. Don't get me wrong, the authors are both great communicators, I think that the editor of this book stayed her hand more then is usual.

The authors approach marriage in a unique, Bible-centered, traditional, and explicit way. The first part of the book talks about marriage, the second about sex, and the third about what they call the "last day." In the same way that the couple is not afraid to share about their own intimate life, they share about the importance of love and submission. They also tackle sexual topics that have affected their own relationship including porn, sexual abuse, selfishness, etc. They include a great Q & A on sexual acts within marriage that ask 3 questions to each topic (modeled on Paul's thoughts to the Corinthians); is it lawful, is it helpful, is enslaving? Interesting that while the couple is traditional in their ideas of how men and women are supposed to relate, they are far from traditional on what they think is acceptable in married bedrooms! There is also great chapter on the topic of friendship in marriage ("Friends With Benefits") which I found unique and probably worth the price of the book. The last section is a unique exercise - reverse engineering your marriage to make it healthy and glorifying to God.

I liked this book overall - would be a great one to read with a spouse (can't really imagine reading it in a group setting, unless you know those people very well!). While it misses the research breadth of a therapist and the polish of a professional author, the book seems quite practical. I'm sure some would find it's understanding of roles difficult to swallow, and I didn't agree with everything they wrote, yet I believe the book has much to offer. I give it 4 ninja stars out of 5. Anyone else out there read it?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ten Guys & 10 Days in Haiti

So this is kind of exciting: On February 17th I'm going to Haiti with a Samaritan's Purse Haiti workteam. It is an all guy group from my church and we're going to an area of great needs where we will do things like help build an orphanage, love the people, and basically just grow God's kingdom in whatever way we can.

I don't want to sensationalize that I'm going and I really don't want to sound super spiritual. I just want to be real about it so here's my attempt.

There is a great guy in my church, Dan who along with his family have done mission work in many countries. Jobina went to Ecuador to visit these folks and do ministry with them this past spring and had an amazing experience. So when Dan said he was leading a trip to Haiti I thought about it for awhile and came up with a nice long list lot of reasons why it couldn't work for me. But I just wasn't at peace. I decided to take a step of faith and say yes . . . and now I have to get some shots.

Me and Mission's trips have never worked out - I never even thought about one until I went to Bible College. There I got the missions bug but every time I've tried to go on one something didn't work out. Once I tried to sign up for a trip to Cambodia, but the team fell apart. Another time I tried to do a summer with Child Evangelism Fellowship, but for some reason after aggressively recruiting me, they just ignored my application. Perhaps it was because God wanted me at summer camp (which is where I went after these failed attempts)? Either way I've never gone on one until now.

Haiti is still deep in recovery from the terrible earthquake that struck in 2010. 220,000 people died, 300,000+ people were injured, and 1.5 million people became homeless. Samaritan's purse has done some great work there and we are honored to join them. If this sounds interesting to you and you'd like to partner with me and the team there's a few ways:

1. Please pray for me! Send me and email (or keep watching this blog) and I'll post some specifics that we'd love to have covered in prayer.

2. Come to our party! We're having an Information and Fundraiser Dessert Evening at my church on January 21st (7pm at Cornerstone Alliance Church in Winnipeg). We'll tell you all about the trip and there will be amazing desserts and auction (there will be a silent auction too). It would be great if you could attend or if you'd like to donate something for the auction that would be most appreciated. Please let me know by Jan 15th if you'd like to go and we'll reserve a place for you.

3. Share your wisdom! If you've been on a short term mission trip and you have some wise words or advice to share about going on one, please do. I can use all the help I can get (seriously).

Thanks for reading this and I wish you a great day,

P.S. A video with more info about what's happened in Haiti and what God is doing there:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I'm Back...

Happy New Year to you! If in the past you've been a regular reader of this blog you may have noticed that things have (ahem) been a little quiet around here for awhile. Somehow I lost my taste for this kind of thing. Partially it was the increase in my workload at Riverbend, I simply didn't have as much free time on my hands. But it was also because I felt humbled in several areas of my life and didn't feel the same about putting things out there. As days of no blogging stretched into weeks I began to get reflective on what was holding be back.

It's weird, but after not posting for awhile, I felt . . . strange whenever I would consider it. As I perused my past posts I started to not like the kind of person I was sounding like in my posts. "The tone is key" I always say to my marriage counselling clients and when I listened to the tone of many of my posts I didn't like it very much. Too much that sounded like arrogance and not enough like humility. I decided I needed to take a break long enough to leave my old expectations and ways of interacting in a blog behind. So I went cold turkey.

I'm not sure what's changed (or even if it's enough) but I now feel a little more freedom when I think about it. It's a new year, a great time for new starts. So now I'd like to slowly wade back into the blogging waters, but do so with a little more self-awareness. I guess we'll see what happens . . .