Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wrapping Up 2015, and Looking Ahead

As we are approaching the end of this amazing year of adventure here in Haiti, we are feeling truly blessed by God. The last year or so has had its ups and downs, but as many Haitians say, “Se la vi” from the French saying that means “That’s life”.   And isn’t that the way life is and has been from the beginning?  No matter who you are, where you are from, or your financial status, there will be good days and bad days. However, as Christians, we have the hope of eternal life that we believe has come to us by the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ that raises us above the highs and lows of life. Looking forward to celebrating another of many Christmases that help us focus on the sacrificial coming of the King of Kings in the humble form of a baby boy in a lowly manger. Thank God He came to us, because there was no way we could ever work, or scheme, or connive our way to Him!! In John 5:24, Jesus himself says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has passed over from death to life.” What a perfectly powerful, but simple promise!!

Another promise that I love, is “And we know all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” ( Romans 8:28 KJV ).  Notice that it doesn’t say “all things will be good”, but this promise has a good ending. It is what we look forward to and it is why we can continue to work even when things are not going as we planned or hoped!!!  We both love where we are in the village of Simon with all the crazy Haitian life going on around us; but, honestly, some days it is too much. We know, however, as we go from day to day learning more about the people with their culture and language, we will appreciate this time even more when we are able to communicate well and interact naturally. The “old timers” keep telling us to “Hang in there. It will come and it will be so much fun when it does!” I truly believe God has called us to live here; I also believe the promises of the “old timers”; and, I realize that if we keep our focus on what God wants us to do, taking it one day at a time, we will find our way here in Haiti.

Children, many of them, walking to and from school!
Amidst all this pondering thought about how blessed we are to be here, I have the strong realization that a huge portion of that blessing comes by way of so many of our family, friends, and coworkers for the Kingdom of God in the US and around the world. We are so thankful for all the consistent prayers offered in our behalf before the Throne of God!! We know we could not survive here without that! We are also amazed and thankful for the financial support that has grown by God’s urging folks to see our needs (almost without our asking), and that is, in and of itself, a huge blessing! Please continue to be as faithful as we finish 2015 and look forward to the opportunities and challenges of the coming new year.

Speaking of opportunities, God has given us the time to travel back to the States the last two weeks of this year. We will spend a few days in Gainesville, Florida to take care of some routine medical appointments, and to catch up with some of our friends and supporters there. Then, we will go north to the D.C. area and to Pennsylvania to spend the Christmas with family and check on Laura’s mom and dad. They have been struggling with many health issues over recent months. We will return to Haiti in early January and hit the ground running. Joel will go out with the first church team that will come shortly after we get back, and Laura will jump right back in there too.  In fact, there will only be a couple of weeks in the time up to early July that will not be devoted to church teams coming to relate to their sister churches. Then, we will be on “home assignment” during the months of July and August. This will  give us some time to recharge our spiritual and physical “batteries”. We are looking ahead to more time for reconnecting with family, friends, and churches that have been so instrumental in helping us to serve our Lord here in Haiti.
Once again, we say “thank you so much” to all of you who are supporting us in prayer and financially! We also want to wish everyone a very “Blessed Christmas, and a Spirit-filled New Year”! In the words of Tiny Tim from the classic, A Christmas Carol, “God bless us everyone”.

Bon Fèt Nwèl ak Bondye beni nou!
(Merry Christmas and God bless you!)

Joel and Laura Sutton
Reciprocal Ministries International


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

It's a year and another season!

September 5 meant that we've lived in Haiti a full year! It's hard to believe that much time has passed and yet we've experienced and learned so much.  Joel is now driving in Haiti and sometimes drives teams here and there.  I haven't driven anything except our four-wheeler and the truck on the mission center.  We both can speak SOME Creole and can understand a little, as long as people aren't talking too fast.  Pray for us because the ability to communicate in Creole is key to our ministry here.  We can negotiate the stores and even talk and greet our neighbors some.

Surprising Leah in Aurora, OH

When we signed our contract with RMI, we asked that we could go to the US (the States) about every six months to see my parents, Leland and Lettie Bond. They are now 90 years old and want to see us and know that we aren't on the other side of the world. So, this summer, we took our two weeks vacation to make a whirlwind trip to the States, visiting children and family we missed on our December trip.  It was important to visit Joel's two brothers who are in poor health.  It was important to see Mom and Dad and it was important to visit our children in Ohio and family in Pennsylvania and the DC area.  Along the way, we were blessed with the opportunity to visit friends and family in supporting churches and to be at the worship service in the retirement home where Mom and Dad live.

The happy couple before the wedding vows

As soon as we returned to Haiti, we plunged into team activities and lots of work at RMI.
But, the highlight was attending the wedding of Perguens and Xphania Hyppolite.  What a beautiful wedding at the RMI Retreat Center! And, the different wedding traditions were a blessing to see.

Water filter dedication

So, what has been going on in the ministry.  Where can we start?  Only two sister church teams have been here since we last wrote, but this is the slower time of the year.  We've also had three special project teams during that
period.  Joel and I were actively involved in all but two of these teams.  Joel continues to work hard with maintenance, thankful for the help of Daniel Nunemaker and others. Daniel is the oldest son of our new missionary family.

Home that was replaced

One team built a home while another member of the team worked with our Haitian staff, teaching English grammar.  She teaches English as a second language at a college in the US.  A member of their church in the United States donated a goat to a young Haitian child to provide future income. Another team financed and installed a water filter system at a sister church here. This water system  provides 5000 gallons of fresh, drinkable water daily to the church and to neighbors in the community.

Creekside team ready to fly back to Florid

Practicing chest compressions in CPR
The special projects team from our Florida church flew into our local airport on a private plane. Their purpose was to interview sponsored children, their families, their teachers, the church pastor and deacons and to understand the life of the sponsored children. Two members of the team hiked two hours one-way up a mountain to visit a sponsored child with his family. The highlight for me was to see sponsored children talk with their sponsors back in the United States using an international phone call.  Another purpose of the trip was to discuss the specifics of the new school/church building project at the church and to determine the extent to which they could help.

I had the opportunity to plan and teach a first aid and health information class for our Haiti office. I felt back at home talking about high blood pressure, heart attacks, bandaging, and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).  I was so thankful for a colleague, Janella Zimmerman, from the Bonne Fin hospital community who taught the majority of the course.

Les Cayes Botanical Gardens

We have time to relax at beautiful locations like the Les Cayes Botanical Gardens and the ocean at Port Salut!

The roar of the waves on the tail of Hurricane Joaquin
It has continued to be hot and humid, but we are thankful for rain that is almost falling an hour or two every day.  Of course, rain brings mosquitos and bugs, as well as increased humidity.  But, we need the rain and we are thankful that bites have not been a major problem.  We are also thankful for our missionary community, our wonderful Haitian neighbors, and for good health!  God is great!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

And now it's summer.....

  It is so much quieter now at Citi Lumiere.  Many of the missionaries have left for the summer.  They've gone for vacation, to visit family and friends, and to gain further support for themselves and their organizations.  True!  They are missing the humid and hot summer, but it is also a time when activities slow down for all organizations.  It is our first summer here in Haiti and we're glad to be here even in the heat!

Arne, Priscilla, Olivia, and Lilia Clemm

In June, we finally moved into our new home in Simon.  We live on the second floor and another missionary family from Germany live on the first floor.  We are so thankful for the US Church work teams, some of our own RMI staff, an electrician and plumber who helped us get the house ready for us.  Several volunteers helped Joel with the painting.  A big thanks to everyone!

Batteries for backup to city power
We are learning how to adjust to differences in everyday life like using generators, monitoring inverters with batteries,  having inconsistent city power, and chlorinating our drinking water. One day, I came home to the batteries boiling! It's a challenge, but we're learning!  Compared to missionaries in other countries and early missionaries in Haiti, our life is easy!

We are amazed at the differences in the culture of the mission center and the village where we now live.  It's much noisier, but there is varied and beautiful music along with many interesting people.  We experience beautiful smiles each time we smile and greet with a "Bon jou. Koman ou ye? (Good day.  How are you?).  Blessed experiences like our older neighbor who thinks it's her responsibility to take care of me.  She covered my four-wheeler with a sheet so I wouldn't get burned by the hot seat from the sun and walked me across the street (one lane dirt) so I wouldn't get hit by a motorcycle.  Joel had a lady stop him twice to quote scripture and to pray with him. He calls her his "angel." A merchant in the street market GAVE me 10 bananas and said it was a gift.  These people are blessing us daily!

Building a home in a very mountainous place.

Several work teams that have been an invaluable help to Joel and to RMI.  Their projects have included building homes and doing projects at our Simon house and at the RMI retreat center at Zanglais.

Work team helping at the retreat center

I've transitioned into responsibilities more in line with my educational and experience background.  I'm developing an education program for our staff than has health care, cultural knowledge and awareness, computer and language skills, basic driving and auto maintenance, leadership, and spiritual growth.  NO!  I'm not teaching all of the modules! I'm also involved in a directing a small research study with the purpose of  measuring outcomes of our child sponsorship program, Hope for Kids.  Who would believe that I would come to Haiti to do research?

Our field director, his two children and the Nunemaker family
  We just welcomed our new RMI missionary family, Lee and Tina Nunemaker with their four boys, to our Haiti RMI family.  It's really exciting as they bring even more talents to the mission here.  They are living in our "old" home.  Pray for them, too, as they transition into Haitian culture.

  Joel and I are so thankful to be here and to experience daily what God has in store for us.  We still are struggling with our Creole, but are much better than nine months ago!  At least, we can talk with our Haitian neighbors and staff in Creole, however slow and incorrect it is!  Creole is the key to our work here with the Haitian community.  Real knowledge of the love of Christ and His saving power is limited even though there is a lot of "church."

  We need your continued prayers and support for our work here.  We are supported at a little over 50%.  We need your help!  Please consider donating toward our mission here by clicking on the button at the side of this page or writing a check to either Reciprocal Ministries International or The Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

It's Coming Along, But We Need Your Help!

Street view of house with two apartments.
RMI is renting this home for us since mission center housing at Citi Lumiere is really tight. The end of May, we will move from our current temporary home, the former RMI Guest House and office, to our home in the village of Simon.  This will allow our new missionaries, the Nunemaker family to move into our current house with their four children later this summer. The house is large with four bedrooms, much too large for two people. It also provides the children more interaction with other missionary children at the mission center. 

Steps to our apartment upstairs.

Street view to the right from the house.

We are excited about the move into the village.  It will provide us a much greater opportunity to get to know our neighbors, learn about Haitian culture and language, and spread Christ's word.

Living room

Although work is moving along, there is much more to be done to make it live-in ready before the end of May. There is still electric and plumbing to be finished, propane gas lines installed, painting to be finished, bathroom fixtures to be added, and doors be completed.

From living room to entry hall

All of those take lots of money, especially in Haiti. We need to quickly raise $5000 to complete the work in time for us to move in.

Would you consider making a donation so we can complete this important project?  The following opportunities are available:

$2,000  windows
$1,000  doors
$1,000  kitchen
$    500  plumbing
$    500  electric

If these items are beyond your reach, please consider a contribution of $50 or more for these expenses.  No amount is too small.

Please feel free to call the RMI office (239-368-8390) if you have questions about the project or how to donate.  You may also contact Joel through his e-mail at for more specifics about the project.

To donate, you may either write a check, payable to RMI and a notation on the check to designate the funds to Simon Home.  Please mail your check no later than May 22nd .  You can also donate online at

Joel and I thank you so much!

Reciprocal Ministries International, Inc.
5475 Lee St. Suite 301
Lehigh Acres, FL  339

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

We're in full swing - a busy spring!

Welcoming a Sister Church

In January, we were full-fledged RMI missionaries, no longer in orientation. By the first of February, we no longer had Creole classes.

Joel's building a house in the Homes for Haiti program

Joel is in full swing, working on the maintenance of buildings and projects at the five RMI buildings. He's also been with RMI staff and Sister Church teams building houses through the Homes for Haiti program.

School Children greet the Sister Church team

For the present time, I am busy coordinating Sister Church incoming teams. January to April are the busiest months for team visits.

Both of us are now go out with Sister Church teams, taking turns with other RMI missionaries. It means we are away from home for nearly a week, sometimes two, but we enjoy the opportunity to help team members understand the culture and to minister with their Haitian sister church.

Her home - One of the cooks at Zanglais

A greeting from RMI in Creole!

A little interruption in our daily routine was the Missionary Retreat north of Port-au-Prince. It was a beautiful place accented with exceptionally meaningful educational presentations. However, we had to cut the trip short when I had to go to the University of Florida hospital for a tropical foot infection.
Kaliko Beach Resort
It was NO FUN to be on the receiving end of hospital care, but the doctors and staff were outstanding. A special thanks goes to Dr. Mike Lauzardo, a friend, elder in the Creekside Church. It was his recommendation that we return to Gainesville. He helped us at every step, including picking us up and the airport and getting us through the emergency room in record breaking time.  The end of the story - I'm fine and have a fading little bug in the skin of both my feet.

Nael - our "KoKoye Boy"

The work with RMI does not replace the importance of relationships with missionaries, staff, and Haitians in our neighborhood.  We were so happy to still have our young "kokoye," boy. He's doing odd jobs for us, paying for school and saving for an electronic tablet. His friend Danny often helps him and his older brother stops by to talk about school.

Joanne Waliszek and Courtney Westcott, Teachers

We were so blessed to have Joanne Waliszek stay with us the month of January.  She was a substitute teacher at the Citi Lumiere Christian School, teaching 3rd grade.

A service at the MEBSH Convention

The BIG event in our mission and Simon
neighborhood was the MEBSH (loosely translated - Missionary Baptist Churches of Southern Haiti) Annual Convention.  Over 10,000 people crowded into our small village. There were people everywhere! Stands selling food, clothes, shoes, books and Bibles on both sides of the dirt road!

There is no such word as "bored" in our lives. Now, we hope to soon be moving into the apartment in Simon.  It will give us a greater opportunity to witness and fellowship to our Haitian neighbors.

Continue to pray for our mission here, our health, and our family.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Busy Holiday Season

A quick trip to the "States!"

Yes, we've only been in Haiti a little over three months and off we go to the United States!  It was precipitated by my doctor saying, " I'll write your prescriptions for the year IF you have your annual physical. I'll accept the six month lab work from Haiti."  Well, my annual physical was due in January. So, we flew to Gainesville using our return trip tickets which we had to buy when we came to Haiti. Not only did we see some great friends in Florida, but I saw my primary care doctor and opthomologist - all in less that two days!
Pappy Joel with six of our grandchildren.

It also provided a way to see family, so off to PA and DC to visit family. We were excited that we were able to see my folks, sister and family, loved ones in the Salemville churches, three of our children and NINE of our grandchildren!  Yeah!  Not bad for  a seven day trip.

Guest House in Port-au-Prince

Our flight came into Port-au-Prince too late for our driver to pick us up and drive back to Les Cayes. So, we had the new experience of staying at a guest house in "Port."  It was beautiful and delightful!

It was Christmas Eve when we returned home to a RMI Missionary Family together at the Thompson's. Christmas Day brought a wonderful get together with the missionary family at Citi Lumiere and a concert at the Simon MEBSH church.  It was a beautiful time to celebrate our Savior's birth.
Christmas at our house, 2014