Saturday, December 20, 2014
Two Important Births
Hi from Haiti,
If you have been following the news, you know that Haiti has been a powder keg politically for the past few weeks and more is expected. The current president Martelly has been doing a great job, rooting out corruption and putting Haiti back on track. As expected, the old guard, the corrupt gang of criminals that controlled Haiti forever, is striking back hard. They forced our Prime Minister to resign this past Sunday and want the President out. Old guard vs. new guard.
The old guard is demonstrating in the streets every day. On January 12 the terms of the entire government expire except the president because we have not had elections in three years. When this happens our president can rule by decree, or he becomes king. The opposition is not happy with this. Pray for Haiti.
This Christmas season of course we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This story never gets old and is so precious.
Today, December 20, I celebrate an anniversary of another child. One year ago, December 20, a little 4-year-old boy, abandoned, abused and neglected was handed to me, to take care of for 4 days. I took this little boy named Dickie, just for the 4 days.
It was clear the first few hours that this little boy had never been loved, and never bonded with anyone. His mother left when he was born, his dad dumped him on the family in the village and he was raised by whomever was home that day, left unattended, unloved.
Dickie and I quickly bonded. After those 4 days I knew he was mine, but really wasn't sure I was up to it and wanted what was best for him. Taking him to raise at 4 is a 15-year commitment, as far as him in my home. That puts me at 73.
I consulted with one of the leading orphan care experts in the world, and shared my heart. Her words were this: "Tom, you keep this little boy, every day you have him and love him will advance his brain growth and stability." I said, you know I'm at the age I could die any day. She said, "every day he is with you will be good, you take him." I did just that.
One year is completed and it has been one of the best years of my life. This little boy is so happy, so balanced, so loved and so stable. I have loved seeing how love, security and a solid home has changed his life. The world is his playground. He loves people, and loves his poppy. Recently someone attacked me pretty good, questioning why I took him in, being single and at my age. I should have dumped him somewhere else. That was a very hurting comment but when God gives directive, and I seek wise counsel, I know the right thing to do. I'll choose God everytime.
Many of you have met Dickie and seen the joy and the life in him. God has given me many things to be pleased about in 17 years about the ministry here. If I hadn't helped start another mission, if I had not personally led hundreds to the Lord, if I hadn't raised so many kids, started a school, or been Jesus to thousands, this one boy would have been worth my entire 17 years here.
After about a year someone asked me to explain Haiti. I said it's like getting up, going out for 8 hours, getting hit over the head with a baseball bat the whole time, coming home to sleep, then doing the same thing the next day.
Haiti is still a tough place, the attacks come from about 23 different directions. They say the average missionary lasts 6 months, few more than 2 years. I am thankful God has granted me the ability to "survive" all these years.
The past 5 months have had its own severe challenges financially. Our Haiti budget has been short over $25,000. Taking this much money out of a set budget has hurt ministry, and sadly affected the level of investment we make in these people. Please join me in prayer and if you have any ideas, or would like to help, we need to do much better in funding to keep things not only going, but to keep growing.
While 95 percent of missionaries are in the states this time of year from Haiti, I am thrilled to be here, with the family God has given me. It will be my 17th straight Christmas here. I am looking forward to a huge 2015 where we continue to share the gospel, make disciples and be a change agent for Christian principles.
I have church tomorrow but other than that I'm on vacation until January 2. Still have to manage ministry and properties but no official programs will be running. I'm looking forward to the break. Shadrach, Reggie and Reynaldo will be here for Christmas, good to have the boys back.
Thanks again for all you have done, praying and giving and sharing our ministry with others.
- Haiti's political situation
- JiHM finances
- Spiritual growth for 2015
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Today is Thankgiving
Pastor Jean's sons
Wow, so much has happened since the last time we chatted. Life and ministry keeps me pretty busy so I apologize for NOT getting updates to you. I do thank you for your daily prayers and donations to keep this ministry going.
One important prayer request is finances. Donations to our mission have been down about 25% for 4 months running. This has caused a tremendous hurt in the daily lives of those we minister to and stunted the ministry we are currently involved with. I know many people give year-end gifts, so if you are able to do this, it would greatly help. We have been $22,000 short on the ministry side of things here in Haiti. That is huge and affects our effectiveness so much.
About a month ago, our pastor's wife became sick. We took her to the general hospital downtown where she spent a week. Ended up she had kidney failure. She began to take dialysis.
Two weeks ago I got a call from the pastor that his wife was sick and not doing well. We rushed to his house and took her to the hospital, but she passed away en route.
We are all very sad for the loss of Matilda Roberts. She leaves 3 young boys (pictured above) with our pastor to raise.
The day after she passed I was at the house. In Haiti everyone comes to the home, and a steady stream of people were coming to mourn. I saw the 3 young boys sitting there, 12, 10 and 8 years old. I saw the pain these boys were in, just sitting watching everyone cry. I asked the pastor if I could have them the next day and he loved that idea so I took them to town with me and just spent the day letting them be boys and enjoy traveling and eating a nice lunch.
Pray for our Pastor Jean and his 3 boys as they journey on without mom.
I was blessed for the first time in 17 years to be in the USA for Thanksgiving. My granddaughter had to go in the hospital for some important tests and so I went so I could hospital-sit while mom and dad were at work and such. The tests showed she did not have epilepsy and it is a sleep disorder they can easily control. Praise God. That was Monday thru Wednesday, so I stayed for Thanksgiving and had a wonderful time watching my Lions win and eating a fantastic meal with the Jeantys. I returned home the next morning.
Grace Emmanuel School is about to complete it's first half at Christmas Break. We have had a great year in our new school. Our old office for our principal and staff was a small room that was dark. Our new office is huge, they all have desks, it's well lit and they enjoy it so much. I enjoy hanging out and watching the goings on. They even gave me an honorary desk in the corner, lol. Jamie Curtis, our school liaison, is doing great.
Victory Bible church continues to grow. We have super Saturday once a month where our staff and 60+ church folks go visiting, then come back and share a meal and worship together. A great day and paying off with lots of visitors. I saw two little boys, Dona and Kikki, ages 12 and 14. They used to be part of our prime time program but drifted off. I invited them to youth group and they were so excited to be back. The past three weeks their dad has come to church. So how cool is that?
Speaking of youth group, we started youth group three weeks ago in a very unique way. I just invited 15 kids, and they came. We had a ball getting to know them, playing games and giving a lesson. Week two we had 24 and this past week 30. I wanted to grow slow so we could get to know them. We don't announce, just word of mouth. I expect to have a couple hundred by spring. Pray for this every Friday, 4-6 pm.
Our Lighthouse Children's home is doing fantastic under the leadership of Lauren Neal and our caregivers, Jony and Richena Louis. The 10 children are growing up so fast. They are healthy, happy, safe, and being grounded in God's work. Pray for these young people and our staff.
Of course my home, the Beacon, is still here. I have 16 young men and a 5 year old. We are coming to a transition period where probably in the next year we will have the number down to less than 10. Still have 15 years left with Dickie so pray God sustains me that long. Then I retire and work at the Detroit Rescue mission, go see my Tigers play and finish out life, how great does that sound?
I'm very proud of these young men and the journey they have been on, not always easy, not always fun, but they are running their race. Pray for them.
|Tito helps with the turkeys|
Yes, today is Thanksgiving. Since I was in the states, I moved ours to today, December 3. The boys are very excited and we will have 2 turkeys, and all the trimmings, just like you. Always a favorite of the boys. Missionaries and Lighthouse kids will be there and boys that have moved on, so probably over 50 will celebrate the day with us. Happy Thanksgiving.
That's all for now. Thank you very much for your ongoing love, support and finances. Please pray for the financial end of this, we need some big blessings this month to get back on track.
May God bless you as you continue to be Jesus in your neck of the woods.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
The First Night
16 years ago today, October 26, 1998, I moved to Haiti, partly in tribute to this day being the day my folks were married in 1946. I remember that first night and what it was like to be in a strange country, bugs, heat, no electricity, and the unknown future I faced.
As I was thinking of my first night, I began to think of the many "first nights" that this ministry has been able to give to others.
1999: I brought a little 3-year-old home, with a fever of 107.8 degrees. That first night I spent cooling his body with icy towels. I remember holding him under a cold shower, and his trusting eyes looking into mine. Today, that little boy, Shadrach, is a junior in college, with scores in the mid 90s.
2000: I heard about a homeless 13-year-old orphan. As a missionary I thought I should check this out. I found the boy, and brought him home. That first night I remember how happy he was to finally have a home. I raised this boy for the next 10 years. Two days ago, after spending a year working in Brazil, Manel came home, grown up, mature. I'm looking forward to what God has for him.
|Can you pick out Shadrach and Manel in this photo from 2002?|
2008: I was visiting an orphanage. A very poor orphanage, no food or water, the kids sick with worms, scabies, and fevers. God laid it on my heart to bring two little boys home. Jony and Peterson, age 2 and 4. On the way home I stopped at the grocery store and let them carry a loaf of bread, and a bottle of water. (They carried that bread and water for days until they realized there would be more food.) That night Jony cried all night, Peterson was sick, and it was horrible. I wondered what was going through their heads. The next night, they lay down, went to sleep, in a deep peaceful way, having a real home for the first time ever.
January 4, 2010: While visiting a village and doing a kids club, we saw some bullies hitting a little blind boy in the face. One of our team rescued him and I took him to meet his mom. Normally she kept him locked in a room, by himself all day, because he was blind. He snuck out because he heard us singing. I asked if I could get him checked out at an eye doctor. At that moment, she gave him to me, told me to please keep him, and raise him. We took Jovens home that day, knowing I would never be bringing him back. The mom didn't want him and children with disabilities in Haiti are treated very cruelly.
One week later, the great earthquake happened. I later found out that the room Jovens would have been locked in, fell down, and he probably would have died. God knew and saved this precious little boy's life. That first night he slept in my room on a mattress on the floor. I remember waking up the next day and he had touched everything in the room, experimenting with everything I owned, with a smile a mile wide. We are proud to care for Jovens. He is so happy.
|Kimberly at school before the earthquake|
January 11, 2010: An earthquake hit Haiti, and over 200,000 people were killed. Included in that number was the mother of two of our Grace Emmanuel school students. Their mom actually worked for the school in the kitchen. When I heard of her death, we went to the house. There stood her two young children, Bony, 10, and Kimberly, 8. They were emotionless, now homeless (when someone dies in Haiti, the landlord takes immediate possession of their house) and very subdued, as you can imagine.
I asked them if they wanted to come live with me, they nodded their heads yes. They each had a garbage bag with a couple things in it, and they came home with us.
That first night, Linda, our board chair, spent time with Kimberly, and I with Bony, making them feel at home, making them feel loved, and giving them the assurance of a permanent home.
December 20, 2013: A little 4-year-old boy was given to me, asked if I could keep him for 3 days. His mom had abandoned him at birth. He was being raised by "the village," abandoned, abused, and neglected. He had never bonded with anyone. When he came with me, he was like a little zombie. That first night he had a bad fever and he just clung to me, looking into my eyes, wondering what lie ahead. 10 months later, he is a vibrant, loving, hope-filled, life-filled little boy, still clinging to me.
October 17, one week ago: I took in an 18-year-old young man named Orison. He never knew his mom, and his dad wants nothing to do with him. When he came to us homeless a few months ago, I let him stay at our mission, with our guard. That was tough for him. This past week I brought him to my house. I watched him closely as for the first time in his life, he had a home, he had a bedroom, his own bed, fan and brothers. He is fitting in well now, filled with hope, and life.
God has used us in many different ways here in Haiti. A school of 275 students, a church of over 400 this past Sunday, many conversions and baptisms. We have built homes, done evangelism, given out Bibles, clothes, medical clinics and much more.
I think what excites me the most in the 16 years is being able to give these special "first nights" to over 40 young people. Thank you for the part you have played in giving a home to so many, a new life, new direction, for allowing me to be dad and mentor to so many. 16 years in the book, and I have a 5-year-old, so looks like at least 16 more are in the plans.
A special thanks to those of you, and you know who you are, who have been with me since day one, in 1998. For those of you who have joined this team, thank you so much, on behalf of the 40 we've given first nights, our school kids, our church and the many we have invested in, thank you.
May God bless you as you are Jesus where you live, work and play.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
The Tears of a Child
I've tried to think what would be the toughest age level to be in Haiti.
The elderly, for the most part, are not taken care of. Many days you see people in their 70s and 80s searching for firewood or doing some other task, so they can be included in the nightly meal. I've discovered many lying in a hut, on a cardboard box, thirsty and nearly starving to death. And when they are sick, nobody is there for them. So hard to end your life with nobody caring for you or about you.
The mothers who are raising the kids, in some cases, the fathers. Not enough work for 85% of Haitians. Picture this: not a drop of food or drink in your house, no bank account, no money in your pocket. You have kids. You get up in the morning and have to go make enough money so maybe everyone can eat that night. Some days you do, most days you don't. Think of the pressure.
The teens have it tough, in many cases out on their own at age 13 or 14, especially the boys. The good thing is they are resourceful, and can get around and normally find someone who will share food if they don't eat at home.
Then I come to the children. In Haiti, most parents think they are being good parents if they do the following:
1) feed their child everyday
2) keep them alive
3) get them in school
That's it. What's missing?
No nurturing, no encouragement, no bonding, no bedtime stories, no playing with the kids, no hugs, no saying "I love you," no TLC when a tumble happens, no band-aids for boo-boos. No birthday presents or special days.
The children that receive the above, they are the lucky ones. Many children don't eat, aren't kept safe and don't get an education. Tears are a part of a child's life, and that is sad.
We are thrilled God has given us 25 kids to care for in the Lighthouse and Beacon. I know 25 out of the thousands in Haiti is a small number, and maybe you think we are not making a real difference. Well, to our 25 and 275 at school, we are making a real difference, as we work to provide the love and nurturing these kids so badly need.
Thank you for helping us wipe away the tears and give hope to these precious young folks. We are making a difference, through Christ who gives us strength.
May God bless you,
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
A new season has begun
|No longer under tents - the third grade classroom at Grace Emmanuel School|
Hi from Haiti,
Summer is gone, fall is here and with fall brings a new season, new challenges, and many new opportunities.
September 15th was a very exciting day for us as we moved into our NEW school at Grace Emmanuel School. As you are aware, we just completed 6 new classrooms (with 9 more to be completed this coming year). The classrooms are large enough to partition for this year, so nearly all the classrooms can meet in the new buildings (with two still meeting in the wooden classrooms).
We had an exciting day starting with the flag raising and Haitian national anthem, then chapel where several of us spoke and the teachers were introduced, then a little parade from the lower property to the school in the upper property. What a thrill to lead the kids up, and then have a ribbon cutting. Then the kids were off to their classes, teachers and students very excited about the newness of it all, and to be done with the tents. Thanks to all of you who contributed to the wall, equipment, and books.
This new season also marks a new idea at Victory Bible Church. This coming Saturday, the 27th, we will be meeting with 70 members from our church. We are calling this Super Saturday and will start at 9:30 am and be done at 5 pm. Our 12 leaders chose 58 of our most faithful church members and invited them to be a part of this day.
We will start with a time of prayer, worship, and training on evangelism. We'll have a cookout at noon, then we will split up into teams and visit the surrounding villages with a strategy. The purpose will be to meet, greet, invite, pray, share.......whatever God leads us to do. For most of these folks, it is their first time doing ministry. We are very excited about their involvement in reaching their people for Christ.
We also have our Prime Time Boys and Power Girls mentoring programs starting up, as well as youth group. Many chances to be Jesus in Haiti.
|Dickie in his uniform|
I didn't want a 4-year-old and even sought professional advice from people who work with kids full time. The advice was, "take him."
I did, and what a joy.
This little boy is in kindergarten and loving it. Everyday he comes out and says "School was awesome."
When days are long, troubles big, and discouragements frequent, there is always a little boy who just loves his poppy, and you know what? That always kind of makes everything okay.
Dickie told me the other day, "I think God made you for me."
I replied "Yes, He did, and guess what? He made you for me."
Please pray for our dedicated staff at our school and church as well as Beacon and Lighthouse. We face many challenges everyday but that is what ministry is all about. Ministering to people.
So we plug on, living, loving, being Jesus to these wonderful folks God has called us to. Thank you for your part in so many ways.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Fall update from Haiti
A group from California was here in August to run the Haitian Hustle with the Beacon boys
Seems like I always start out by apologizing for not writing much but this will be the last apology, I'm going back to my weekly updates. I hope they will not bore you but encourage and excite you as you hear stories of lives changed and a difference made. What we are doing really is making a difference. I will start with getting you caught up with news you may or may not have heard:
Partnership: This past year we entered into a partnership with Back2Back Ministries, please visit their website back2back.org, fantastic ministry. We are sharing a guest house with them. They use the house for two weeks a month for groups and we get two weeks. Their family, the Fudges, live upstairs along with our two missionaries.
Speaking of our two missionaries: Lauren Neal (left) is one of our missionaries, working with the Lighthouse. Jamie Curtis (right) has been here two months and is working with our school, Grace Emmanuel. They are two wonderful young ladies. Please add them to your prayer list.
Sad goodbye: Nate and Kristi Bucher who served so well with JiHM for two years have left Haiti and are back in Minnesota. We are so grateful for the blood, sweat and tears, and love, they poured into the people here. They both will still be connected and assisting JiHM stateside. A huge thanks!
Points of Light:
A) Victory Bible church: We have struggled during the past year or so finding our way and moving forward in a way I know we can. However we have a good plan in place and are excited about the future. We have put together a 65-person team from our church, and will be meeting monthly for an all day of training, lunch and going out and doing ministry together. We are excited about including so many of our folks in actual ministry, besides our staff.
B) Grace Emmanuel School: As you probably know, we will be starting in our NEW school and are so excited. Wish you could each be here for opening ceremonies as we dedicate what God has given us. One exciting aspect of our school is Jamie who just moved here will be working hard to connect our 280 school kids and families with our church. What a great mission field we have coming to our mission every day. We will send lots of pictures of the first day and all the new rooms filled with kids. Thanks for your prayers and support to make this happen.
|Kimberly, Lovely and Adriano|
C) Lighthouse: Lauren is doing a great job with these 10 youngsters. They are all busy getting ready for school.xt Monday.
D) Beacon: This is the name given to my home and the 13 young men I have living here. Three are getting ready to leave for college, one working on going to Brazil to work, 8 in high school and Tyson who is our full-time maintenance man. I'm very pleased with the growth of these young men and the direction they all are headed. Thanks to all of you who have invested so much.
Those are our four main Points of Light. We have lots of outreach that is done through the church and visiting churches but these are the points we work on full- time.
Financial: I have done ministry for 200 months in Haiti and every month we have made enough funds to continue. This past month, August, was the first we did not. August is always slow but this year was really down. We have a certain number we need to reach to maintain, and grow our ministry. When that number is not reached, obviously we go backwards and we go into survival mode. I didn't come to Haiti just to survive, I came to thrive for God. Please pray about how you can help with the financial side of things. We don't need millions and we don't need one or two people to do it all, we just need YOU doing what you can. We were about $6,000 short in August for our budget. We can't afford that for September. Please pray how God would have you involved in this part of the ministry. Thanks in advance.
Closing: Dickie, my 5-year-old, is doing really well. He is growing and so happy. He goes to kindergarten this year. Problem is he knows English better than Creole, lol.
Today he brought me a bottle of cough syrup from the bathroom with a big smile. He said "I like this stuff." I asked why. He said "When I come here you give me this every night and I got better." He remembered that first week 9 months ago when he was so sick and the medicine was a good memory.
We have a group here from Holly Hills, Florida, doing awesome. A group from Pathway in Fort Wayne comes Saturday. Next week I have a visiting evangelist from the Dominican Republic coming for a week, then a group coming the end of September. Always busy, and we love it. Thanks again for your prayers and support.
Friday, July 25, 2014
A Trail Left Behind
The other day I was hot and tired and a tad discouraged. Then I was talking to Jony and we started talking about "past staff" and people we worked with. Here was what we talked about:
- Bebe, young man I mentored and spent countless days in my home, was on my first leadership team, is now on his own, running an orphanage and doing adoptions
- Fondi, who was our first school director, runs his own mission and was on that first leadership team
- Jean Jacque, on the first leadership team I trained, now working full time at another mission
- Roger, a young man I mentored, and he became our pastor. He now works full time for Samaritan's Purse ministry, from that first team.
- Haslom, one of my boys going to school and working full time at a church in Real Vega, Dominican Republic
- Richard, young man I mentored, on first ministry team, now running an orphanage for another missionary, and serving as its Bible teacher
- Iselande, on that first leadership team, 15 years ago, our food director and women's ministry director
- Frisner, from my first youth group, now our administrator
- Duivert, from my first youth group, one of our pastors now
- Wesley Altimae, from first leadership team, our former worship leader, currently a pastor of a church
- Jean Bernard, from first ministry team, working full time with another mission
- Marco, first leadership team, married my daughter, raising 4 kids, involved in a church in Fort Myers, Florida
- Tony, brought him into our orphanage, became part of my family, taught him English, now graduated college, selling real estate in Dallas
- Richena, from youth group, married Jony
- Jony, became my son 15 years ago, was on that first leadership team, now runs our children's home
And these are just a few. Many more are making their mark for the Savior. This conversation lifted my spirits knowing that WOW, we really have made a difference in these 16 years. The Bible talks about our Fruit. Well, the above is just a few examples of that fruit, and God's blessing on this ministry.
Than I saw a thread of a conversation from my pre-Haiti days. I worked with inner city kids for years and am friends with dozens from the ministry in Fort Wayne in the early 90's. One of the young men mentioned our basketball. Then all were chiming in on Tom picking them up after school everyday, and the tournaments and all the fun we had. Several said I was the only dad they ever had. They are all following Christ, involved in church and raising families. More fruit that God has allowed me to be a part of.
I tell you this to encourage you, if you have been faithful, if you have been Jesus to people, they are out there, even if we forget or don't know. People you have invested your lives into, are investing in others. That is a great encouragement.
To those of you who have supported JiHM since the beginning, for all of you who sacrifice your hard-earned funds to make this ministry happen, that list above should make you smile. It doesn't matter if someone works for us or not, if they are doing God's work, that is what matters. My prayer is that I can continue to send emails like this, of lives changed. Every month we add new names to this list, who in turn are adding new names to "God's list" and that is what matters.
Thank you for your continued faithful support. I do have a request, if anyone is sitting on money, and doesn't know what to do with it, or you want to make an investment, we could use your help. Our finances are tight. Please pray about supporting JiHM and helping us to continue to make lists, like the one above.
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