Therefore Having Gone

Therefore Having Gone

Saturday, October 5, 2019

MOTHER HUCHELOUP

My World Literature students are reading Victor Hugo's classic, Les Miserables, even while, day after day, school has been canceled. At 800 pages (abridged!), it has been a good book for our lengthy involuntary recess.

I have had abundant time over the past 3 weeks to reread it myself. The other day I came across a passage that really resonated with me in relation to Haiti's current condition. 

It's in the latter part of the book as the barricades are going up in a few neighborhoods across Paris. Marius' revolutionary friends have chosen an ideal spot to take their stand right outside a tavern owned by one Mother Hucheloup, who herself has been complaining about the current government after being fined outrageously for shaking a rug into the street and for allowing a flower pot to drop to the sidewalk from an upper window. 

Now the young men, in taking their stand against this repressive government, are stripping her business of tables and chairs to heap upon their makeshift barricade, and she stands by horrified.

When she objects to this destruction of her livelihood, the men respond, "Well, Mother Hucheloup, we are avenging you."

Hugo concludes his commentary on her plight this way:

Mother Hucheloup, in this reparation which they were making her, did not seem to understand her advantage very well. She was satisfied after the manner of that Arab woman who, having received a blow from her husband, went to complain to her father, crying for vengeance and saying: "Father, you owe my husband affront for affront." The father asked: "Upon which cheek did you receive the blow?" "Upon the left cheek." The father struck the right cheek, and said: "Now you are satisfied. Go and tell your husband that he has struck my daughter, but that I have struck his wife." 

The average Haitian these days can relate to Mother Hucheloup. 


UPDATE:

We have been out of school for 3 consecutive weeks now. Some fuel came into town yesterday, but it is unclear whether it will be enough to ease the civil unrest. MAYBE we will be able to go back to school on Monday. In the meantime, the upper grades have been conducting lessons on Google Classrooms, but not all students have internet. Even our internet service at home has been more Off than On these past couple of days. (The towers require fuel to continue to operate!)

The whole country is still on edge and leaders are starting to throw around phrases like "coup d'├ętat" and "civil war". We don't know if the coming week will bring a cooling trend or intensified heat. Forces in opposition to the president are intent on pushing this country to the breaking point. I don't know if they will succeed, but IF THEY DO, there could be widespread chaos. AND it will come without warning. 

And so Melissa and I agonized last weekend over what to do with Hannah, Samuel and Sarah. We are not in danger, but we are all stir crazy and feeling helpless. We had already planned to send Samuel and Hannah back to Indiana mid-October for ACT/PSAT testing and college visits, but Melissa could not bring herself to actually book any tickets: If an evacuation was ordered in the meantime, we would be left holding a bill for useless airline tickets. 

Meanwhile, Melissa was scheduled to leave last Tuesday for a conference on school accreditation held in Panama City, Panama. (She's gone right now until tomorrow afternoon.) It occurred to us that with school on hold indefinitely, with more reliable internet in Indiana, and with all the uncertainty on the ground here, that it might be wise to send the kids early, flying out with Melissa last Tuesday as she made the first leg of her trip through Miami. (Sarah wasn't originally scheduled to go to Indiana in October, but she was more than happy to tag along with her older siblings with this revised plan.) 

I'm sure some folks might criticize us for this move, but the grandmas, at least, are unanimous in proclaiming this "a very wise move". The plan is for Melissa to join them for a week or so later in October in order to participate in college visits (and to see Caleb, whom we are missing terribly). And then, God willing, life is back to "normal" here by late October and they can all return. 


PRAISES:

  • Melissa has had a fantastic and useful few days at the conference - great information and a much needed change of pace.
  • We were able to gather today
    for a noontime cookout at the seminary. With gas and diesel being so tight and the threat of roadblocks being a constant, none of us here on the hillside have ventured very far from home for three weeks now. It was GOOD and brought a sense of normalcy to my week.
  • While Melissa and the kids are
    gone, our landlord (and friend!), Karl, is having our roof repaired. Recent evening rains have brought a welcome break from the heat, but each storm has sent us scrambling for towels and buckets. 
  • Caleb drove from Wabash College yesterday to celebrate Samuel's 16th birthday with him and Hannah and Sarah and other family and friends. Even though Melissa and I couldn't be there, Samuel undoubtedly had a memorable birthday. 
  • People here on the hillside and other teachers seem to be relatively healthy at the moment. I am unaware of any new cases of dengue fever over the past week or so. We pray it has played itself out for now!

PRAYER REQUESTS:

  • We are really hoping that we will  be able to have class on Monday. Even if we only get a day or two in, it would be incredibly helpful to touch base with all the students. Of course, our hope is that Monday would be the first day of a return to regular classes. We hear, though, that many of the local Haitian schools are not yet planning to hold classes this week. (Most Haitian schools have not even had a chance to start their new school year! The demonstrations were intentionally planned for the start day of school. Fortunately, we launched in mid-August and so we had several weeks under our belt by the time protests interrupted our calendar.)
  • Fuel came to Cap-Haitien yesterday, resulting in enormous lines in which people waited 4, 6, and even 12 hours for a few gallons. But most stations were empty again today. There are rumors (SO MANY RUMORS RIGHT NOW!) that more fuel is coming soon. Sometimes the fuel comes into Port-au-Prince but then the tankers are hindered by barricades and threats of violence from making the 6 hour trip north to us. 
  • The economy has taken a serious hit with all the unrest. I read the other day that the inflation rate is officially 19%. Undoubtedly, many parents will be struggling to make tuition. And if tuition falls off, the school's ability to pay the staff might be called into question. Please pray for God's provision and guidance in these difficult circumstances. 
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Thanks, as always, for your prayers and support. Remember, if you would like to support our work in Haiti financially, the best place to start is our TeachBeyond Page

Thursday, September 19, 2019

A THURSDAY UPDATE

But first, a word TO our sponsors. ;-) I'd like to remind folks that our family has switched (almost) our sponsoring agency from OMS to TeachBeyond. If you are one of our ministry partners who HAS ALREADY switched your giving to TeachBeyond, thank you so much! If you are one of our ministry partners still INTENDING to switch, we'd be so very grateful if you'd take a few moments to visit OUR TEACHBEYOND PAGE to make it happen before the end of September. (AND if you've never given before but feel moved to help in this time of transition, that would also be a great blessing!)

Now, the update:

I won't pretend this has been a smooth start to a new school year. It has been ROUGH in more ways than one. On the bright side, it has made us more dependent on the Lord than ever before!

This seemed an appropriate verse to put on our kitchen sign this past week.

First, the amount of illness in our household and all around us has been unprecedented. In past years, we've survived chikungunya and zika and they were definitely ugly, but right now dengue fever is making the rounds and hitting MANY very hard. Dengue involves high fevers, body aches, headaches, loss of appetite, and a rash - all lasting for at least a week, followed by another week of very slow recovery, in fits and spurts. Melissa and I have both had it in recent weeks and are mostly recovered. Fortunately, I was returning to life by the time Melissa started her downward slide! Right now Samuel is in his 5th day and is feeling pretty miserable. Please pray for his recovery and that Hannah and Sarah would be spared.

Our new family next door, the Teichmers, suffered through dengue in July and have battled it AGAIN in recent weeks. Please say an extra prayer for them - they have been troopers but Satan has done all in his power to take them out of commission just as they are getting started. Several other teachers have also battled dengue or are currently under its spell.

With so many teachers on the sidelines, it hasn't been ALL bad that we've already missed FIVE days of class due to unrest in the streets and the fuel shortage. Nevertheless, it has been extremely frustrating and sad to be kept apart and yet, again, it keeps us in prayer. We take nothing for granted.

On the bright side, our staff has been proactive this year in setting up some contingency plans for making the most out of missed school days. The younger grades have had pre-made packets to keep the kids progressing while the teachers of older students have been posting assignments and interacting with students on Google Classrooms. This online education stuff has been a steep learning curve for students and teachers alike, and it's far from perfect, especially since some of our students don't have internet connections at home (or even dependable electricity, for that matter), but it keeps the days from feeling like a complete loss on the whole anyway.

The streets were quiet today, so we will restart classes again tomorrow, God willing. (Last minute update: this evening Melissa is hearing rumors of renewed protests tomorrow, so now we are in doubt again! Please pray wisdom for her as she is the one who has to make the final call.) 

The political conditions causing the protests in the streets have not altered, so life won't return to "normal" anytime soon. There are rumors of fuel flowing now in Port-au-Prince, but none has come north yet as far as we know. Also, politicians have announced a coming price hike on diesel and that may reignite tempers when it becomes a reality. Protestors have shut down nearly all traffic movement through most waking hours this past week, burning tires in the streets and throwing rocks and bottles at any motorist brave enough or foolish enough to try to get through.

I feel the need to repeat what we often say to friends and family members back in the States: our safety is not at risk through all of this. When the streets heat up, we pretty much stay home and out of the way. Our hearts ache, though, for friends and co-workers and the MILLIONS of innocents across this island who suffer ever deepening hardship while political figures battle for wealth and power.

Furthermore, as draining as these circumstances are, they do ultimately deepen our resolve to keep at the work God has called us to do here. This nation NEEDS a new generation of Godly leaders with acute problem-solving skills to step up and THOSE are the students we see every day - when school is in session! - at Cap-Haitien Christian School. God bless them - they'll undoubtedly see many difficult days ahead...

A couple of Praises:

1)  On Monday, as street protests began, most of the teachers were still able to gather at the school for a training day. We were blessed to have Helen Vaughan, PhD., with us from TeachBeyond to share about transformational education and cooperative learning. She was a trooper and a true encouragement to Melissa, myself, and the whole staff, coming all the way from North Carolina to spend the weekend with us.


The streets were quiet on Sunday, so we used Helen's visit as an excuse to visit a pool at the Christophe Hotel downtown. I can't tell you how sweet it was to forget about the HEAT for a few hours.


Sarah always has a lot of fun with the Teichmer kids.
Afterwards, we all sat down to Boukanye pizzas, courtesy of Helen and TeachBeyond.



2) Just as we and our little community of teachers on the hillside reached our last two days of fuel and starting to get a bit nervous, OMS Haiti lent us some extra diesel to keep the generator running here. We now have at least an extra 8 to 10 days of fuel to keep the lights and fans on and the water flowing and the refrigerators running. We anticipate being able to buy more diesel at a station before this new reserve runs dry.

3) Caleb seems to be doing well with his transition to college life and that is a great comfort to us. Please pray that he would continue to find and build solid friendships with classmates and especially some like-hearted believers to stand by his side.

We thank God for you and for all who lift us and Haiti in prayer on a regular basis and who make it financially possible for us to be here. We are eternally grateful!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

THE HARDEST DAY

This has been a difficult week -

A week ago, I was bringing Caleb and Sarah back to Indiana from a whirlwind trip to Philadelphia for Kacie and Mikken's wedding. Melissa, freshly returned to Haiti a few days earlier due to Director responsibilities, was facing one setback after another, both at the house and at school. Sarah and I had six hours in Indiana to repack and say goodbyes before Grandma Trudy took us to the airport at 4:00 am Monday morning. Samuel and Hannah, old enough now to fly on their own, stayed behind to finish up summer jobs and take another stab at the SAT. As for Caleb … well, I continue in denial even as I compose this next sentence: Caleb stayed behind to start his college career.

So by Monday afternoon, half the family was in Haiti, thoroughly exhausted both physically and emotionally. These transitions under even the best circumstances are not ever EASY.

We came back to dear friends and coworkers … and spoiled food, rats and electrical issues at home and a second floor construction project at school which was not as far along as we had hoped for. Most of our attention and energy this week has gone toward readying the junior high and high school classrooms even as ten construction workers are finishing plastering, painting, tiling and hanging doors. They have done beautiful work, but every shelf, desk, chair, and book now needed to be wiped down and returned to its proper place. And this involved a lot of stepping over and around each other.

EVERYTHING had been jumbled in the science lab:



A portion of the books returned to my room, ready for wipe down and sorting: (Time consuming work, but just LOOK at that beautiful new floor!)


And all my effort and that of many other teachers and cleaning staff was done in heat that produces a sweat at 8:00 am from just walking up the steps.

The outside of the building was finally getting plastered and painted, too. I'll share some before and after pics soon.



We thank the Lord for good friends who helped us around our house and fed us when we didn't have the energy to cook our own meals. 

Anyway, it was a tough week overall and I was bracing myself for yesterday to be the hardest. 

Yesterday was Caleb's first day at Wabash College … and Melissa and I weren't there to drop him off and kiss him goodbye and tell him it's normal to be a bit anxious and to reassure him that he'll make some great friends and make a final trip to Wal-Mart and … all of that parental stuff.

We're so thankful that my brother Spencer and his wife were there in our stead along with Grandma Trudy and Samuel and Hannah. Caleb was well-supported, no doubt about that. But Melissa and I wanted it to be US supporting him. 

So, yeah, this is a little self-pity post. 

Over the past six years we've missed numerous births, graduations, and weddings and felt the pain each time. I know some people thought it was a bit extravagant for Caleb, Sarah, and I to go to Philly last weekend, but we have made a point of getting to these events if at all possible - and it tore Melissa up not to be with us. With our school calendar this year starting earlier than ever (in an attempt to get closer to the standard 180 days and to finish first semester by Christmas), she wasn't able to stay in the States long enough to enjoy the wedding, and neither of us could stay to catch Caleb's first day. 

By Friday night, I was in full self-pity mode, anticipating spending the next day moping about Caleb.  But in the end, there wasn't much space to mope and last night when my head hit the pillow, I was thankful for the busyness and all the unexpected laughs of the day. 

My Saturday started at 3:17 am when the generator started sputtering and I realized I had neglected to add enough fuel the night before. When I returned to the house, I surprised a rat and Ginger and I spent the next ten minutes trying to track him and kill him as he scurried around the kitchen. (Ginger and I were both too slow.) After that, I was too wired to fall back to sleep, but I laid in bed for a while, intermittently praying for Caleb and trying to will myself back to sleep.

Eventually I got out of bed, brewed myself some coffee, caught up on Twitter, and made some banana muffins which, in time, attracted Kristen and Janeen from their respective apartments next door. (I am getting the impression that while this August has brought a rougher than desired start at school, our little mountainside community is starting to develop in very positive ways and I am hopeful.)

By mid-morning, Melissa was off to school to check on construction progress. (Workers were replacing numerous wooden doors with metal ones. The wood had been repeatedly swelling and warping in this humidity.) I stayed home to do a few last minute chores in the two lower apartments because they were due to be filled later in the day. The first apartment was readied for our good and extremely helpful friend, Kelly, for this next week. The second for a new Cap-Haitien Christian School staff member, Austin, who will be staying much longer … God willing! 

By 1:00, Melissa, Sarah and I were huddled around a laptop in the kitchen where the internet signal is strongest, in order to watch the opening ceremony for the new freshman class on livestream from Wabash College. For nearly 200 years, the school has used the hand bell of the first professor to "ring in" each class. Of course, the president has some remarks to make and one of the deans described the make up of this new class - telling how many were valedictorians, how many are legacies, etc. Haiti even got a shoutout since it was mentioned that one of the new students  … WE know WHO … served as a missionary there! (The details got mangled a bit, but still... pretty cool.) 



The whole time, the three of us scanned the faces in the crowd hoping to catch a glimpse of Caleb. Sarah let out a whoop when the camera finally pointed his direction about halfway through. How did he look so young and so mature at the same time?

Soon the ceremony ended and for a moment we watched the crowds exit the Wabash chapel. And then the feed went abruptly blank. No lingering goodbyes for us! I decided to go take a nap, and I slept HARD. 

When I woke up, Austin and Kelly had arrived from the airport and there were introductions all around, and dinner, and dessert, and tons of laughter and unhurried conversations around the table. Zenobia (returning 5th grade teacher), Kristen (returning math teacher), Janeen (office and finances), and Kelly and Austin and Melissa and Sarah and I really seemed to enjoy some genuine fellowship. 

(Now the only ones missing are the Teichmers. They are currently recovering from Dengue Fever in Florida, with plans to return on Tuesday.) 

Our day ended with a quick video call from Caleb as he walked across campus. All was well and he was heading to bed. 

After the call ended, Melissa went to the hall closet to put away some sandwich baggies Kelly had brought. Next thing I knew Melissa was screaming and Ginger and I were tracking TWO separate rats. No rats were injured in the incident, unfortunately, but I did slide on the tile floor in the girls' room during the chase and fell on my behind. Ginger was the only witness. 

It was a much better day than I had expected.

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Please pray for Caleb … and us. It's going to be weird not having him here this year.

Please pray for the Teichmers' full recovery and safe return.

Please pray for our students and teachers as we start a new school year on Tuesday. 





A few pics of our young MAN:

Looking sharp at the wedding last weekend...


With Sarah at Independence Hall in Philly...


Running through a fountain in Philly...

Back in June, Melissa and I with Caleb on the edge of Wabash College.

Monday, August 5, 2019

A SWITCH TO TEACHBEYOND

August 5, 2019 
“We are called to be ‘Yes, Lord!’ people.”  

David Durance, President of TeachBeyond, gave this reminder on a cool mid-June evening concluding a weeklong orientation a few weeks ago at Wheaton College in Illinois. Melissa and I were among 70 teachers reaffirming our “Yes” to serve in Haiti

If you haven’t heard yet, after 8 years with One Mission Society (2 years of prep followed by 6 years on the field in Haiti), our family is making the switch to an alternate mission organization called TeachBeyond.  When Melissa, as Director of Cowman School, was first introduced to TeachBeyond about 18 months ago, she was excited because she had found a missionary sending organization which could mobilize new teachers for our school very quickly. The more we interacted with the folks at TeachBeyond, the more impressed we became with the entire operation. TeachBeyond backs teachers in 55 countries around the world, working with them in a collaborative role - rather than as a long-distance supervisor - offering training, administrative support, and educational expertise along the way. 

We will always be grateful to OMS for introducing us to Haiti and giving us a meaningful place to serve the Lord among “the least of these”, and, to be absolutely clear, this move is not motivated by any particular dissatisfaction with OMS, but rather a recognition that TeachBeyond is a better fit for our present ministry in Haiti, both for the school and for our family.  

WHAT WON’T CHANGE as we join TeachBeyond:     (God willing!)

Our Jobs: Melissa’s role as Director of Cap-Haitien Christian School (formerly “Cowman”) and my role as high school English teacher there will not change. Our Living Space: Our family moved off the OMS grounds over a year ago when OMS Haiti as a whole was being threatened with eviction. At that time, we began to rent a house from a third party just down the road, so our living space will not change either.  Our Friendship with OMS: We anticipate interacting, working, and praying with OMS friends and colleagues on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Opportunities for Visitors: Short term mission teams and individuals sent via OMS (and its “Men for Missions” program) will still be more than welcome to serve at the school for a day, a week, or even longer. 

WHAT WILL CHANGE 
  
Means of Contacting Us: Our email and physical addresses will change a bit: 
Steve: sgross@teachbeyond.org 
Melissa: mgross@teachbeyond.org 

Our Physical Address for Mail and Packages delivered by                        Missionary Flights International changes just a bit:

3170 Airmans Drive 
Unit #1162-CAPCM 
Fort Pierce, FL 34946 

The Route of Financial Support from our Ministry Partners: First, thank you, thank you, thank you! We humbly ask those who support us financially either monthly or periodically to now do so through TeachBeyond at give.teachbeyond.org/support/steve-and-melissa-gross/There are many options easily accessible on this website, including electronic fund transfers. It will be necessary to stop any automatic payments going through OMS in the next few weeks. (You can call OMS at 317-888-3333Funds given in our name through OMS will continue to reach us for a limited time (a month or two), but eventually later gifts will simply be absorbed into OMS’ operational fund.
  
When Melissa and I started ministry at Cowman (Now called “Cap-Haitien Christian School”), our “long range” goal was to see the first graduating senior class from a school which had traditionally ended service around 6th grade AND (more importantly) to make sure these graduates would be “college ready”.  Two months ago, our son, Caleb, and two Haitian classmates (Bryan and Keren) became the first to earn a high school diploma from Cowman/CHCS.  Caleb will start at Wabash College in Indiana in just a few weeks. Bryan starts at the University of Akron in Ohio and Keren starts at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania this month as well! 

We hardly had time to truly celebrate this milestone for the school. There is so much work yet to be done – and much bigger graduating classes on their way in the coming years! We are so grateful for the prayer and financial support we have received over the past six years from family members, friends and even complete strangers. We are so grateful for ongoing prayer and support as we head back to Haiti in the next few days to start a new school year and face currently unforeseen challenges AND joys!  

In Christ and for His Kingdom, 
Steve and Melissa Gross 


(P.S. Melissa and I financially supported a couple of our school’s new TeachBeyond teachers this past year and can testify firsthand that the TeachBeyond website is extremely user-friendly, fast, and convenient. Also, we have appreciated the fact that TeachBeyond makes it a practice to NOT send frequent appeals for other projects by email or snail mail. Any email and/or home address shared with TeachBeyond will be used only for communication regarding our ministry and to send your year-end receipts for financial gifts.)