Haiti Day 7
The day began early. The team was up by 6:30am and out the front gate by 7:30am. We walked up to the Respire Café for breakfast and then over to the stadium. The games began at 8ish. We watched championship games, handed out medals and trophies. We had 9 year old, 11 year old, 13 year old, 15 year old, 18 year old championship games along with a woman's game. The games were great. Unfortunately, Respire had only one champion out of all the categories but it was a wonderful day of friendship.
We fed every team, our security team and the Respire interns with a piece of chicken, black beans and rice. We also provided every team two bags of water before and during the games. The day was intensely hot. We were operating this tournament in 100+ degree heat! The younger teams took water breaks but the others played straight through. It was really an interesting day of conversation and little blessings. The short term mission team received a special treat from one of our ministry partners who showed up with some Haitian watermelon and mangos during the tournament. There is nothing like watermelon on a July 4th weekend. It really added a special spirit of celebration.
My God moment came after the girls soccer game. Just before handing the winning team their trophy, I reflected back to the first time the girls tried to play at New Life Children’s home and they were jeered. It was really heart warming to see a high level of woman’s soccer knowing none of these girls even played soccer a little more than three years ago. It was also amazing to hear the screams of support from the crowd. The shoot-out was was of the most exciting of them all. “Surreal” is the only word that fits tonight.
The days fly by. The work is hard. The days and nights are hot. However, the friendship is pure and memories are for ever. We finished the evening with a surprise party for our host (Adam), a talent show and a later night of conversation.
I love serving in this place.
Day two of the Respire soccer tournament. After the rare rain storm the night before is was hot and a lot mugger than usual, but of course nothing in Haiti stops because of the heat. After fresh pancakes for breakfast we made our way to the stadium where the tournament was. It was heart wrenching day as both the U15 and U11 teams lost, however I couldn’t have been more joyful to see how much of an impact these school teams have on the players and to know how well they knew God.
During the half time we setup a little mini game where we had the little guys kick a ball into the net and we recorded the speed with a radar gun. For each person that shot a ball got a piece of candy. I have never had so many people around me that were just swarming me for single piece of candy. I don't think there was a minute of today where I wasn't being begged at for a ball or candy or one of the multi-colored bracelets that we were giving out.
The tournament day ended around four and we went home to eat some dinner of chicken rice and beans. And we decided to go for some ice cream. The only problem was that we needed a ride and the driver didn't show up ‘till eight and vehicle of choice was a pickup with five seats to seat 14… So after a sketchy ride on the back of a pickup we walk into the first air conditioned building since Miami airport! I'm looking forward to the declared ‘kid’s night’ tonight. Should be a bunch of fun!
For many when they think of Haiti, they think of heat. For me, I always think of roosters. Everywhere I have ever stayed in Haiti seems to have its own population of the noisy creatures. The rooster crow always makes me think of the apostle Peter. After declaring his love to Jesus, Jesus told him that before the rooster crowed he would deny him three times. Peter did deny knowing Jesus and when the rooster crowed, Peter’s heart broke. He had indeed denied knowing the Lord. When I hear that sound, (which is 24/7 around here) I feel the conviction and heartbreak of knowing like Peter I have failed to fully acknowledge Christ in my life.
Today was the first day of the Respire soccer tournament. It was fun to cheer for a school and team we have all come to love. Respire Christian school and it's Love Plus One Medical Clinic are truly Christ’s light in the world. Watching Pastor Bob share the gospel and sharing gifts of Creole New Testament’s as well as a Gospel ball for each team(a soccer ball with the Gospels Good news, again written in Creole), has been a fun and easy way to share God’s truths.
It was hot today, there were roosters today, we are in Haiti after all. But tonight as the rooster crows I rejoice in my obedience today in sharing the Good News of Christ Jesus and I celebrate sharing it with a team of wonderful people who serve the same Lord and Savior.
Only in Haiti!
The following is an update from Chris Hanak from her recent trip to Paraguay:
Dear Praying Friends,
Thank you so much for praying for my trip to Paraguay. I am more and more convinced that prayer is one of the keys to making God's work possible. It's a wonderful cycle: He gives us the desire to pray, He hears our prayers and acts, then we are filled with joy as we see what He has done!
As I read the goals I had for the trip to Paraguay, I have to laugh: almost nothing happened as I thought it would! But it was a very productive trip in terms of lives impacted by Focus on the Heart.
The first surprise when I arrived was to discover that the mother of Dario, AFCI's Paraguay National Director, had just died and that he and his family had gone to Argentina for the funeral.
The second surprise was that I was not going to be able to meet with the leaders for training because 2 of the 5 were totally tied up with serious illness in the family: Marilin's father was in one hospital dying of cancer and Estela's husband was in the cardiac hospital in desperate need of a procedure that cost $10,000. I was able to spend time with both of them and see once again how connecting with the Lord at our point of need opens our hearts to receive His peace and joy in spite of the circumstances.
Although I was not able to meet with the group, I was able to spend time praying with Emi and with the other members of the team, Angelica and Ana. I also accompanied Emi on her weekly FOH schedule, meeting with groups in 3 different parts of the city of Asuncion (Paraguay's capital city).
Sunday afternoons she and Angelica meet with a group of young women in crisis. The girls share, Emi and Angelica listen, and they all pray together. Emi and Angelica are seeing love and trust grow in the group as they listen and share FOH principles in the group. They are doing this because the Bishop asked them to: he has seen the results of FOH in churches across the denomination and sees how what we teach makes women's lives different as they understand more and more of what it means to live each moment with the Lord.
Tuesdays she leads an ABC1 group in the Puerta Abierta Church. The assistant pastor, Zuni, is Emi's helper in the group (she was one of my students several years ago when I taught ABC's in the Methodist Bible Institute). Zuni has been seeing changes in the way women relate to each other in the church as a result of the course.
Wednesdays Emi leads a group at Dario's church (Principe de Paz) where they are about to begin Heart Freedom 1. Because I was there, the ladies wanted to have a time of sharing how Titus 2 and ABC's had made a difference in their lives. The assistant leader, Sunilda, shared that for many years she believed the problems in her marriage were her husband's fault, but that, gradually, because of what she learned about defenses in ABC2, she realized that she, also, needed to change. She has let the Lord work in her heart and is now seeing the changes in her husband that she had longed to see. A young woman was attending the group for the first time and, after hearing the testimonies, asked if she could continue to come.
Fridays Emi leads a Titus 2 group at the Central Church (where I used to pastor). They were talking about godly speech. One of the older women was overwhelmed with the memory of 2 people she had cursed as a young person, who had both died right afterwards. The group prayed for her and she was able to receive God's forgiveness after so many years of feeling guilty.
On Saturday, I taught a 3.5 hour class on The Theology of Missions at the Bible Institute and a 1 hour class on Genesis 1 and 2. There are many young people preparing themselves for service in the church through the training offered there.
Thank you so much for your prayers for Focus on the Heart ministry!
As 6 unlikely missionaries said YES to God, mighty things happened before, during, and after our trip to India and many relationships were formed and enriched. Going to India was a time of learning, growing, overcoming obstacles, seeing God’s provisions and personal transformation.
We began our trip with learning while being trained at a Regional Conference for the International Leadership Institute (ILI) which teaches, equips, and mobilizes leaders. This was a great opportunity to not only be equipped to do the ministry in India, but to grow together as the America and India team began their collaboration and unity as one large team.
We learned about patience as we sat on the plane ready to go, but were delayed three hours and needed de-iced prior to take off.
We arrived at Chennai at 3 am in the morning ready for a wonderful day of ministry. To our surprise, we were leaving the airport with only 5 of our 12 bags of luggage.
For a few moments, there was a sense of disappointment that we were missing 7 bags, but realized quickly God’s provisions and the filling of His sense of peace. Four of the team members did not have any clothes and 3 of the 4 ministry bags were missing. We quickly learned that 2 of the 5 bags we had were clothes that were being donated to the women of India and these items quickly became a beautiful commodity (well, at least for the women – now the guys still needed to find some clothing).
We were welcomed with such hospitality and love by each group we met. Whether it was with children, youth, women, pastors, churches, or orphanages, there was an instant love for one another and as we heard each other stories, that love became deeper.
The ILI Conference we were part of birthed more 10 Regional Conferences which will empower and mobilize other leaders throughout India.
We were blessed with 400 children and students for a Children’s Ministry after only expecting 40. God truly showed us what it means to multiply loaves and fishes and to trust in God through all things. The results of surrendering to the power of the Holy Spirit provided calm and a great sense of joy. The love we had for one another we had through song, dance, teaching, and fun was inspirational.
We were blessed again with loaves and fishes as we ran a Women’s Conference for what we thought would be for 40-60 and 140 women attended. There was such a huge connection spiritually and emotionally as we worshipped together, learned together, and encouraged one another.
The next week included lots of surrender and relationship building through preaching at local churches, teaching at a Pastor’s Conference, working with the most beautiful children at two orphanages, building relationships through distributing soy milk, and empowering women as they learned a new trade of sewing.
The ministry that we partner with in India is truly stemmed from a love for Christ. There is a sense of empowering and equipping that begins in relationship with one another. We had one of our team members say they truly found God in India.
There were many obstacles that took place, but through each one, God provided peace, calm, love, and provisions. Each person surrendered their expectations, preconceived notions, and fully trusted God each step of the way. Most importantly, some lifelong friendships and relationships were formed as we all learned from one another.
We are so excited about serving.
In our last sermon series Integrate, we were challenged to eat, pray, bless, and serve. This was not just a sermon series that we could hear one Sunday and forget about it. This was a sermon series intended to help equip us to love and connect with others.
Are you ready to give it a try?
We want to continue to use these simple, ordinary, practical ways to share our faith with our neighbors, co-workers, family, etc. So, we are taking the next month to get into a new rhythm of serving our community and neighbor.
Sometimes it is difficult to know where to start. Here's a card that can help:
We didn't forget the food.
In addition, October 4th, we are going to have a celebration potluck breakfast with worship.
Go grab your family, your friends, your small group, your ministry group and have fun with this. Maybe there is a neighbor that you know needs help. Maybe one of your small group members already serves at somewhere like Hesed House, Feed My Starving Children, a women’s shelter, etc. Join together and serve as a group.
•On the back of the card, there are a few limited spaces for a couple groups that planned something. You can serve with that group.
•We ask that you sign up online or turn in the card in the offering plate this week or when you know who you are serving.
Jambo from Kigoma, Tanzania. There is so much to tell about our trip thus far. Lowell and Claudia Wertz, and Joy in the Harvest ministry continues to be great stewards of all they are given. The ministry helps so many people physically and spiritually, it is hard to describe it all, but I am going to try. Our group (Bob Crosby, Jeanette Abrams, Kathy Abraham, Anand Abraham and myself -Steve Moga) have been involved in a number of ways since our arrival here on Saturday, July 12th. First off, we have helped serve food to about 300 streets kids, widows and elderly every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon (3pm here, 7am Chicago time) at Joy in the Harvest's Kimberly House pavilion. For many of the people, these are their only meals of the week. Each person gets a hot plate full of rice, beans and a banana, along with a cup of fresh water. There is always some singing, prayers and plenty of smiles. Lives are truly being changed. Twice (July 15th & July 19th) we have attended gatherings of a Widow's Group which was established by Joy in the Harvest's African Director, Mwenge. Both Kathy and Jeanette have shared their testimony with the ladies from Kigoma and Ujiji. The warm welcome our crew received each time was beyond humbling. We sang with them, prayed for them, and gave each a small gift of soap and rice to help them in their daily chores as the "untraditional" leaders of their families. We visited the nearby Destitute Camp, which Joy in the Harvest has recently been referring to as Camp Victory. About 50 people who are either blind, missing limbs or have leprosy live in a few sparse buildings located behind some warehouses next to the railroad tracks. In a society that relies so much on manual labor, those who cannot physically function, truly are the poorest of the poor. We each shared God's word with them and toured their compound. They were so grateful to us for just spending some time with them. We also have attended church services the last two Sunday's in the area. On the 13th we went to the UMC of Mwanga, the very first Methodist church in all of Tanzania which Mwenge's father established in the early 1990's. This past Sunday we went to the UMC of Kalalangabo which was built with the help of Joy in the Harvest. The church sits on top of a hill overlooking the fishing village of Kalalangabo. Each of us shared a little something with the congregation and Bob led a lively and entertaining version of "Deep and Wide." The Community Center that Wheatland Salem Church made possible is an impressive facility, and much bigger and better than any of us envisioned. We have enjoyed a Youth service and a Bible Study among all the missionaries from the area, in the Community Center's banquet room. There is a small library at one end, and Joy in the Harvest's recording studio and future radio station, Radio Joy, is on the second floor. The first week we were here, a group from Glenns Valley UMC near Indianapolis was helping make the first recordings ever in the studio as part of the inaugural Joy Choir Competition. A dozen area church choirs all were professionally recorded (many for the first time ever) for a future music CD and broadcast on Radio Joy. The talent was off the charts and we all enjoyed the praise and worship. Unfortunately the license for Radio Joy has still not been officially approved by the government, but preparations are in full swing. We have all been helping sort, categorize, and clean hundreds of Christian music CD's that have been donated to Joy in the Harvest. Jeanette and Kathy have been creating playlists, while Bob, Anand and I have been in charge of quality control (sort of). We have also been "ripping" the CD's, taking the music off the discs and capturing it digitally for the station's music library. In addition, with Kathy's guidance, we have been working with 15 to 20 Joy staff members as part of English classes from 9 to 11am. The more English the workers know, the more possibilities for advancement they have. They have been an eager group and thankful for the increased knowledge and skills. Bob has been having a tremendous time with an "advanced" group of about six guys, teaching them more technical words. Bob brought along a microscope and the crew has enjoyed analyzing all sorts of things. Anand has worked with several of the people in Joy's Computer School, and even helped diagnose and fix a few computers that were not running smoothly. Before our departure, Wheatland Salem youth helped put together 500 Fishing Kits (an idea which Paula Traviolia has done previously here in Tanzania). The kits included some hooks, some bobbers, some sinkers, about 100 feet of fishing line, and a simple trifold pamphlet essentially describing how Jesus loved fisherman. On Sunday afternoon (the 20th) we distributed the kits to several remote fishing villages along Lake Tanganyika. It was amazing how young and old dove into the water to retrieve the kits that were tossed out to them. As they have in the past (2004 & 2009), Lowell says their impact will reverberate up and down the lake for months. Some of the things we have seen are the Livingstone Monument in Ujiji, site of where Stanley found Livingstone supposedly uttering the famous line "Dr. Livingstone, I presume." This monument to the great Christian missionary from so long ago is surrounded by a mostly Muslim community, yet he is still revered and respected for his stance against slavery nearly 150 years ago. Nearby is the Trail of Tears, a gauntlet of massive mango trees that goes for miles and marks the path where captured slaves were marched from Ujiji (the collection point along Lake Tanganyika) across Tanzania to Bagamoyo, and then on to Zanzibar where the slave market for Asia and the Middle East was. Legend proclaims that the trees are the result of slaves spitting out the seeds from mangoes as they were forced across the country in chains. We have also visited the site on the hill overlooking Kigoma where Joy in the Harvest's radio tower will eventually stand. Radio Joy will have the capability to broadcast to approximately 1.6 million people in the surrounding area of Kigoma, north and south on Lake Tanganyika and inland as well. We have seen a few of God's great creations and the beautiful, hilly scenery of western Tanzania. Yesterday (July 22) we ventured 13 miles north up Lake Tanganyika and "enjoyed" a strenuous day of hiking at Gombe Stream National Park, the place where Jane Goodall did all her chimpanzee research. The rangers told us Jane was here just last week (she travels and speaks world wide 300 days a year) and is staying somewhere in Kigoma right now. During their trek Jeanette and Anand saw some chimps, one of the few remaining groups of wild chimpanzees left in the world. With our remaining days here we will be continuing to assist with English lessons, the radio projects, and even possibly recording some interviews and station I.D.'s for future use. Mwenge has also arranged for us to visit one of the last remaining refugee camps in Tanzania, consisting of refugees from the Congo civil war. Again we will be sharing the word with them, taking some bibles for distribution, and offering fellowship with other Christians half a world away. On behalf of our crew, asante sana na kwa heri (thank you very much and good bye)