Sunday, December 7, 2014

An update from Joel

We have definitely arrived at our Haiti Home!

    Yes, we are alive and well, and we are definitely in Haiti!  Thanks be to God who is our rock, our provider, and our sustainer.  We have been able to get "snippits" of information out via this blog, FaceBook, and other personal contacts.  We also realize our broader audience of supporters probably want to know sa k ap pase avek nou? (What is happening with you?)

RMI Retreat Center at Zanglais
     First, let me say that moving to a foreign country requires a substantial transition time even if you've visited there several times before. We have settled in fairly well for the most part; but, even after almost three months, we are aware of how little we now know or understand about the culture and language of Haiti.  We also understand more than ever the importance of becoming conversant in the language here. In spite of the fact that we both have made some cultural "booboos," everyone has been great at giving us an extra measure of grace. This makes us even more committed than ever to learning Haitian Creole well and to understanding the culture through that process - with the Lord's help of course!

   Secondly, taking on new jobs adds another layer of stress. My primary focus is facilities maintenance for FIVE different buildings/properties that are used in the RMI ministry, as well as serving as a missionary host to sister church teams visiting Haiti. My two greatest hindrances so far has been health issues and my dying old desktop computer. After a round of shingles affecting my right arm from shoulder to thumb, a severe case of gastro-intestinal misery, followed by a super high fever from a respiratory infection slowed my adjustment here.  Well, we are happy to say I'm "back in the saddle" and feeling stronger every day. The ailing computer didn't fare as well and eventually had to be replaced; but, the problem is solved and I'm making progress in that area, too!

Behind the church at Morency
Pastor's Home at Abricot

A little water in Desriveaux!

I've had the opportunity to go out with two church teams visiting their sister churches, and work with another team here in Simon on a house that will eventually be our home.  It will have two apartments and we'll live upstairs.  For one of the two trips, I went with Rob Thompson to Abricot, Haiti just for the weekend to see the sister church there . The visiting sister church from the US was there throughout the week engaged in their project. The second visit with the sister church team was to Desriveaux, Haiti where I spent the entire time with the team.  Their projects included evangelism and bringing water filters and food to families there. It rained the entire week so we were soaked along with being blessed.  Laura said there was NO rain in Les Cayes! It even rained on me during the night!

Grinding Coffee the Old Fashion Way

 Laura's area of service has changed rather dramatically from what she had expected; but, God has prepared her for this role, too. They did tell us in missionary training that being flexible is the most important characteristic of a good missionary!  Well, her flexibility is really being stretched, no pun intended!  She needed to step into a position in RMI that was left vacant when another young lady recently left. Laura will be primarily responsible for coordinating sister church teams and projects coming to Haiti to visit with their Haitian sister church.  She is responsible for communication and making sure the teams have everything in order when they come down. It's primarily a computer-based job right now, but God prepared her for this task with her years in a lot of computer work in higher education. It's a huge task for someone as new to the organization as we are, but she is working hard to "get up to speed." Thanks to Rob Thompson, the Field Director for being a great resource.  She will still be developing protocols and helping to coordinate health care/medical sister church teams, but other parts of her healthcare role are on hold.

Didine - What a great cook, "tutor," and help!

Overall, in spite of the normal pitfalls and roadblocks that occur in life, we are very excited and happy to be here, convinced more than ever that we are where God wants us to be! We feel at home. We serve an amazing God who blesses us every day. He not only points us in the direction we need to go, but makes it possible for us to get there!   Major blessings are that we have great folks from different nationalities to work with; we have an amazing Haitian cook (who doubles as a Creole teacher!); we have a wonderful Haitian pastor who is our official Creole tutor; there is a young American woman living behind us, who has become like another daughter to us; and, we have many other blessings too numerous to mention.

  Please continue to pray for our health and stamina, as well as our ability to learn Creole. Pray, too, for the situation surrounding the house where we will eventually live and share with the young German couple and their two little girls.

 Finally, what can we say, but THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for all your prayers and financial support! We are truly humbled and greatly blessed by all that God has done through you all.  We can say with Isaiah 12: 2-4. "Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Beautiful Experiences as Relationships grow

Soon after we came, we were struck by the sounds at our house and the beauty of the people of Haiti.  As we go to work by walking, riding the "moto" or four-wheeler or sometimes a truck, we are greeted by a huge smile and "Bonjou!"  At the office, the Haitian staff greet us with a smile, handshake, and "Bonjou. Koman-ou ye?" (Good morning.  How are you?) We are learning to respond with a variety of phrases, but always return the greeting.  It is considered polite.

We are so thankful for the warmth shown us by all the staff with their patience and helpfulness with our hesitant, incorrect, attempts at Kreyol. (the Haitian way to spell Creole which is French).  They just smile and correct us.  Along with that, we have Kreyol lessons three mornings a week with a Haitian pastor whose English is great.  After two months, he softly responds when we say, "Oh!  I forget that word!" And finally, is our wonderful cook and housekeeper, Didine.  She is amazing in the work she does with just a few hours a day.  She may make bread, have 12:00 dinner ready, AND mop all the floors and clean the bathrooms before we come home to eat at noon.  As we sit to eat, she always joins us, prays with us, and helps us with our Kreyol. She speaks a little English, but has won us over with her Haitian dishes.

We love to walk to work or church rather than ride our "moto" (four-wheeler). I wrote on Facebook, but will repeat an experience I had recently.  It was dusk and I was walking home from the weekly (missionary) Ladies Tea.  I met an older man along the road and said the customary greeting "Bonswa (Good evening). Koumon-ou ye?" He responded, talking so fast I didn't understand except I knew a lot of what he was saying was in French.  I said that I didn't understand, that I spoke on a little Kreyol.  His response was so beautiful.  He raised his hands to heaven, looked up and said "Papa Seye pou ou ak pou mwen." God, our Lord is for you and for me.  Then, I said good night and God bless you (in Kreyol). He responded the same and went on his way pushing a wheelbarrow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A lot is happening!

Over TWO months since we left Gainesville and arrived in Haiti!  It seems like yesterday, yet so much as happened! We are beginning to get some grasp on our responsibilities here, at least for now. A little more about that later!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

We finally are in Haiti!

It's hard to believe we are here!

I  think that we both could say that these last five or six weeks have been a whirlwind!  So much is happening in our lives, arriving where we KNOW that God wants us to be on September 5!  We can't believe to thank all our great supporters, family, friends, can churches in Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Florida for helping to get us here!

Our flight left Gainesville at 7:30, but we arrived at the airport a little after 5:30 with extra bags and close to the allotted weight on EACH piece.  Whew! Christine Burgett drove us to the airport (Thanks, Christine!) and we were surprised to see Fernanda, one of our international friends, there to say farewell as well as Don Forrester, our dear brother from Creekside.  Once we got on the plane, we knew it was real!

On our way to our new home with Greg and Star Harvie!

Port-au-Prince airport, drastically improved from my last trip, with earthquake damage almost all replaced!  Although the line through immigration took quite a while, everyone was there to help.  And then, we stepped out into the hot, bright sun and saw fellow RMI Missionaries Greg and Star Harvie!  We were on our way to the Citi Lumiere mission center in Les Cayes, and our new home!

All our belongings in ONE room!

We were SO thankful to accept their invitation to stay with them a week or so while we got "our" house ready to live in.  This was recently an office, so needed a wall knocked out, some painting, and A LOT of moving boxes and furniture around!

We stayed in this house before when it was a guest house, so we were very familiar with being there.  It is such a blessing to be here. It's a 10 minute walk to the RMI office, has a lot of privacy, and is really large!  But being so large (4 bedrooms) means that it is too big for just two people.

Living space is at a premium at Citi Lumiere, the mission center for several agencies. So, in the spring, it will become the home of a family of six.  We'll be moving to our permanent home in the village of Simon, probably a 15 minute walk (but up or downhill) from the office.  We'll talk more about it as the time gets closer to living there.

We've really enjoyed this season's crop of avocados from the tree in the yard! We probably still have 5 or more in the refrigerator!

Our present transportation around Citi Lumiere!
The LARGE back porch with lots of breezes and beautiful sunrises!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Saying "Good-bye" for now .....

In Alexandria, VA at Glen and Michele's

The LONG Trip.......

Whew!  Forty-five hundred miles and almost 5 weeks, 12 states and Washington, DC twice.  The trip We were so blessed to go up the east coast from Florida to D.C. to visit cousins there, (Glen and Michele) then to Pennsylvania to visit my (Laura's) parents, sister (Linda and family), and present our mission at the two churches. there
Then, off to near Cleveland to see our daughter, Leah, and her housemate, Denise.  They had to work almost all of the few days we were there, but we got to run some errands and drop off the U-Haul trailer and the "family" heirloom furniture and some personal items not going to Haiti (Thanks for keeping them for us!). The only problem was that I finally realized the scope of this move.  As we got ready to leave, I started sobbing because I was leaving my mantel clock made by my great-grandfather.  Poor Joel, he just held me!  Then, it was over and I've totally been excited and full of anticipation for what was doing in our lives! PTL!
From Conference, we continued to be so thankful to spend time with  the rest of almost all of our children and grandchildren in Dayton, OH (Seth's family), St. Clairsville, OH (Jarrod's family except Katie), Clint's family (Cameron, WV), and Garreth's family (Bonnie and the children in Morgantown, WV while she finished her employment commitment and Garreth in Silver Spring, MD) and Jill's family in Alexandria, VA.  We were so glad to spend time with Jesse and his family in July when we went to Lehigh Acres, FL to ship our things to Haiti! 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

We're REALLY, REALLY going!

We have dates!!!!!

After talking with the Reciprocal Ministries offices in the US (at Lehigh Acres, FL) and the Field Director in Haiti, we have dates to ship our things to Haiti and to be leave for Haiti the first week of September!

Our house is for sale!

I love our  house and our neighbors.  I really hate to leave them, but leave them we must! So, the house went on the market!

Shipping our things to Haiti - July 15!

Talk about FAST gear!  Everything going to Haiti had to be packed and ready to go!  It seemed like the spring and months of sorting and packing crawled by day after day.  Then, it was like we'll never be ready!  BUT, we were!

Transferring our furniture and boxes from the U-Haul to the shipping container.
So, we loaded everything on a 20 foot U-Haul with a LOT of help with young people from Creekside Community Church, neighbors Dean and Lauren, friend Doug, and Joel's long-time teaching colleague, Mike. We couldn't have done it without them!

Why a 20 foot U-Haul?! Because that was the space we had on a shipping container!
Joel and Dan Shoemaker, President of RMI, celebrating our things being loaded!

Of course, this means we have an almost empty house without furniture.  There are few items left that will either be stored or in the care of family

And on the way to Haiti!
And there goes the 1947 Jeep!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

So, Retirement Begins......

December 20, 2013 - Laura's last day at the University of Florida

Retirement (actually just leaving one place of employment for another) seemed to be far away and then RUSH upon me! All of a sudden there was so much to do!!  Finishing classes, grades, processing paperwork, trying to get retirement savings in place, and saying good-bye to so many friends.  I even had to dump years of lectures, papers, even a paper copy of my dissertation and all the research articles supporting it.  Don't worry, I have electronic copy of almost all of them!
My Retirement Luncheon

I was so thankful for my wonderful colleagues at the College and at Shands University Hospital (Shands Health System at Gainesville) for the fantastic good-byes.  It was sad to leave.

The most wonderful result was NO WORK OVER THE HOLIDAYS, preparing for the next semester.  I think that was the first time in more than 20 years!  So what a relaxing Christmas this year!

June 5, 2014 - Joel's last day at Littlewood Elementary School

Oh!  I wish I had pictures and audio to describe the wonderful send-off Littlewood gave Joel!  They had a catered lunch and a time of sharing their thoughts about Joel!  It was a blessing. Joel and all the other teachers and staff had a hard time saying "good-bye." What was so unusual was that Joel was able to constantly give testimony to his Christian faith at a public school!  Praise God!

Monday, March 31, 2014

And Our Move Begins!!!!

Closer and Closer!

We are getting closer to have the "go-ahead" from Reciprocal Ministries to move to the Haiti mission center in Les Cayes.  There is SOOO much to do!  Joel has the major responsibility of getting our house ready to sell and finding a home for his 1947 Jeep, some equipment, and all the things in his garage workshop.  The last steps are selling his pick-up truck and trailer.  

My responsibility is sorting, sorting, sorting! How do you decide to get rid of years of "things" or decide to ship them to Haiti, leave them with family, or put them in storage.  Always important is knowing that taking things to Haiti means NOT bringing them back! It wasn't easy!  We decided to take most of our furniture since most was old! And, what do you buy to take!  We had to keep in mind that most items, even coffee pots, are much more expensive in Haiti and there is less selection.

Then, pack, sort, pack sort!!! And we thought going to work was a hard job!!!