Therefore Having Gone

Therefore Having Gone

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Update February 21

An Update and a Plea

First the update: "Mwen la."

"I'm here." This is one of the standard Creole responses when asked "How are you?" and it is my current status.  Our kids left a week ago for Indiana. Melissa left five days ago. (It all seems much longer to me!) I stayed behind to tend the crowd of puppies and to monitor the situation in hopes I might be of use to Cowman as soon as life normalizes. (Besides, I knew that back in the States I would find all the half-price Valentine's Day candy had already been stripped from the counters. At least the good stuff.)

Because of the absence of fuel and the presence of sometimes violent protests in the streets, school has not been in session for two weeks and two days now. Fuel has started flowing again recently, but rumor is that protests will flare again tomorrow. Until then, it is unclear if things are back to "normal" or if we're just getting started on a "new normal". 

So we are waiting to see what tomorrow brings before we start recalling missionary teachers who evacuated. We have at least four teachers and our principal in the States, another teacher in the Dominican Republic and at least one other in Turks and Caicos. It will take a few days to regather everyone.

We are encouraged that many parents are desirous of us re-opening the school on Monday, assuming the streets are quiet tomorrow. So Melissa is currently considering what it might look like for us to open with a possible quarter or more of the teaching staff missing. For the junior and senior high, it will mean just myself and Mr. Jeffney for grades 7 to 12. It might be a tall order, but I am certainly well-rested at this point and open to any challenge if it means minimizing further loss of instructional time. As always, prayers are appreciated!

Now for a Plea:

Back on Valentine's Day, after getting our four kids safely to the airport early in the morning, Melissa and I met with any teachers who were able to travel safely to Cowman in order to discuss the school's situation, to pray, and to prepare grade level appropriate learning packets that parents could pick up at their leisure. We had a window of power at the school from 10 am to 2 pm and the photocopiers were going non-stop. The way the staff united that day, motivated by a sincere desire to serve our students and parents, was a wonder to behold!




In the course of that morning, because of the unpredictability of this present crisis and the steep rise in food prices, Melissa, as Director, offered to release payroll before the end of the month to any worker who desired it. 

EVERYBODY desired it.


Melissa knew it was the right thing to do – the only thing that could be done – but it meant a near complete depletion of Cowman’s account at a time when the influx of March tuition payments is anything but certain. In fact, electricity and other bills may mean we are already in the red here in February. 

IF the smoke clears and IF we are able to resume classes before February ends or as March begins, how many of our families will be able to make tuition payments? Businesses have been closed and prices for necessities have skyrocketed. Many families were already behind at the start of February.

Melissa is very concerned that Cowman will not be able to pay current bills or full salaries in March and the thought tears us up. And so we are reaching out for help. Your contribution to Cowman, through OMS, can put a stop to the downward spiral of this weakening economy … at least at the feet of the 50 dear Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ who work alongside us day by day for a better future for Haiti, all to the glory of God.

Would you prayerfully consider giving to Cowman in order to maintain some predictability for our staff in the midst of Haiti's crisis? OMS makes it easy to give at https://www.onemissionsociety.org/give/cowman-international-school .

Thank you for your prayers and all the support you show our family and the Cowman International School family!


P.S. In the best of all possible scenarios – which we certainly pray for – any excess funds from what is given to Cowman will be used to continue the construction of sorely-needed new classroom space (which has been largely sidelined by budget constraints the past six months). 






Monday, January 21, 2019

IN THE WORDS OF JAMES BROWN ...

"I feel GOOD ... I knew that I would."

I never confided in anyone except Melissa, but over the last six months a fear began to take hold in my mind that I might be experiencing honest-to-goodness depression: I was tired ALL THE TIME. I just wanted to sleep. I would doze at my school desk after my lunch and then sleep away half of my prep period. Furthermore, I had to force myself to do things - even things that should have been very enjoyable. And I was gaining weight: about ten pounds over the course of six weeks. (Between Thanksgiving and Christmas ... so I was holding out hope that it was normal.) I felt BLAH emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Maybe I needed counseling. Or even medication.

Then Christmas break came and the only thing to excite me was the prospect of daily naps in my own bed. I can't pinpoint the genesis of my turning point except to say that Samuel (at 14) was impressing me with his willpower. He had given up extra sugar some time last spring after studying some of the effects in his health class with Mrs. Erika at Cowman. He no longer drank sodas of any kind and typically passed on candy. When I asked him how he managed to generate the willpower, especially around Christmas, he replied that he didn't need willpower. He had simply discovered that sugar made him feel bad. So he avoided it.

Thus, I decided that I should do a little experiment on my own body ... AFTER Christmas. (Sugar cookies are a particular weakness.)

So one day early in the new year, I gave up any sugar outside of fresh fruits. Colas, cakes, cookies, candy, and even granola bars were off limits each day from morning until after dinner.

I'm telling you, I could hardly believe how much better I felt. Instantaneously. No more nap times at school and my head felt clear again. With such dramatic results, I decided to spend a week avoiding sugar 24/7 and found I was no longer achy when I got out of bed in the morning. Now I am waking up before my 5:00 alarm even has the chance to sound - feeding the dogs, turning on the generator, starting the coffee, working out for a half hour, and still having time for prayer and Scripture before making breakfast.

Going forward, I plan to indulge my sweet tooth OCCASIONALLY on the weekends but continue to avoid processed sugar during the work week. And as Samuel testified, it isn't really requiring extra willpower because I can't imagine going backwards to how I felt before.

God willing, I will be updating the blog more often again now.

In other news, here are a couple of other big developments in our lives right now:

1) Ginger had her babies on January 2nd. SEVEN puppies. The whole family witnessed the miracle of birth - in all its grossness. Fortunately, Ginger has proven to be a good mother and all the puppies are flourishing. They double in size each day while we are at school. Their eyes are now open and they are starting to find their legs. Before long, their box won't contain them, but for now, they are more joy than work for us.



2) On a sadder note, all of Haiti is struggling under a fuel shortage - both gas and diesel are available only sporadically. Our local gas station looked like this all day:


If a gas station here DOES receive a shipment, the tightly packed lines of cars, motorcycles and pedestrians lugging red cans fan out a hundred feet in all directions from the pumps. I've done some reading on the circumstances behind the shortage and, like most things here, it's complicated. I suppose it could be fixed soon (band-aid style) or it could stretch on and reignite recent tensions.

We were able to secure two-weeks worth of diesel fuel yesterday for our generator at home, so we are no longer concerned about losing use of fans, fridges and freezers anytime soon, but Cowman's electricity comes from Radio 4VEH's generator next door and there's no guarantee it has fuel stockpiled to any degree. Nor is it clear how soon some parents might find it difficult to get their students to school each day. The local electric company, EDH, has been producing even less power than normal recently and will likely diminish their output even further. Cell service and internet providers are also dependent on diesel for generators to continue operation. And food prices are bound to go up since so much of what's available here locally is driven to Cap Haitien from the Dominican Republic.

In short, there's potential for a lot of inconvenience, fear and suffering. We appreciate so much the prayers lifted on behalf of our family, friends, the school and all of Haiti. 

3) This coming week is Finals Week for our high school students. We hope the fuel shortage won't add to the pressure of these end-of-semester tests. I am certain our three oldest, Caleb, Hannah, and Samuel, would appreciate your prayers for them and their classmates.

Coming up: Early in February our 6th grade through 12th grade students will be getting away from school for a four day spiritual retreat at a campground on the beach just north of Port-au-Prince. We are so excited about this opportunity and look forward to seeing what the Lord does in our lives during this time.


I will close with some pictures from my run yesterday morning. You can surely see why I want to maintain the energy necessary to get out and about in this gorgeous neighborhood:









Tuesday, November 13, 2018

THE GREAT OUTDOORS


Soon I will post some updated photos of the house and the progress we've made in transforming it into a home for our family.

In the meantime, it occurred to me that I haven't posted many photos of the GROUNDS around the house. When things got stirred up last spring on the OMS campus where we had lived for five years (with the threat of imminent eviction of the mission) and we decided proactively to move towards more secure living space, we literally moved to higher ground. 

Those who have been to Haiti will not be surprised by the beauty of our new surroundings - Haiti is a gorgeous corner of God's amazing Creation - but we are doubly blessed to now live on this particularly beautiful property.

It was a BIG part of what sold us on this move.

Here are a few photos from an early morning walk around the grounds this past weekend - just me, my phone and my coffee mug. And Ginger.

Here's the drive looking downhill from beside our house.


Just a bit further on. Ginger turning around to see why I stopped on our walk.



This view, looking across the plains toward the Citadel on a distant mountaintop, changes from day to day and even hour to hour, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. 


Now turned around and heading back up towards the house...


The mountain continues to climb upward back behind the house.


Here's the corner of the side yard. This stone wall is Caleb's favorite new place to practice guitar.


There's a lot of construction back behind the property.



The turtle pond in the front yard of the house.


A stand of bamboo in front of the house. 


In the center are the doors that lead into the living room porch.


A closer view of the turtle pond, home to 11 or 12 turtles that enjoy eating stale Cheerios.


Front doors from another angle.


And here's the courtyard on the back side of the house, just outside the kitchen.


The back doors leading into the kitchen. The blue propane tank feeds our stove on the other side of the window.


I can hardly wait to get a bit more settled in. Maybe in the not so distant future, I will have the energy to spend a quiet Saturday morning landscaping or the leisure time to spend a Sunday afternoon swinging in a hammock. 

Right now ... well, we don't even have hot water flowing yet. There's plenty of work inside to keep us busy still. In the meantime, we are satisfied with the frequent glimpses of God's majesty during our coming and going. What a place to live! 

(But don't take my word for it. Come see for yourself ...)


"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."  Romans 1:20



Monday, November 5, 2018

WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN

Tonight Caleb and I are a bit shaken up, but I am praising God for what DIDN'T happen.

A bit of background: There's nothing bad in our tap water that we know of, but simply out of desire to play it safe, we don't drink from our faucets. Instead, we have a water cooler. So every few days I have to make a trip to a local shop just down the road with all our empty five gallon jugs to refill them with filtered water. 


Today, after school, I asked Caleb to accompany me to help carry the jugs. The shop is on the main road - a very busy and sometimes chaotic road - up a very steep driveway above the sidewalk and then a small flight of stairs. 

Today, we had six bottles and as I turned from placing filled bottle #3 into the back of the pick-up, I saw Caleb walking filled bottle #4 down the steps. When he got to the driveway, the bottle slipped out of his hands and hit the ground hard. In that first moment, I think Caleb was horrified that the lid popped off and water was pouring out and Dad was undoubtedly going to be upset over the waste and any damage to the bottle. 

But then we both realized something much worse was happening. That bottle quickly rolled down the driveway, picking up speed as it went, headed toward the road and in a perfect position to blindside traffic by popping out from behind my parked truck. There was no way I could reach it in time and even if I had, it would have simply swept my legs out from under me and kept going. 

As I moved helplessly toward the bottle, in my peripheral vision I saw a motorcycle quickly approaching in exactly the wrong spot and the wrong speed. Before I could call out a warning, the rolling water bottle suddenly appeared in his path and that driver struck it head on, instantly sending him and his passenger tumbling onto the pavement, the motorcycle, on its side, sliding fifteen feet to a full stop in the road just in front of them. Caleb and I were horrified.

The two men were stunned, of course, and Caleb and I ran to help them out of the road before worse things could happen. We walked each to the curb and then a passerby and I moved the bike out of the path of traffic. 

Fortunately, the victims were not seriously injured and the motorcycle was not badly damaged. Better yet, the two guys seemed to be men of good will and were not wanting to make a scene or milk the accident for profit. After stretching their arms and legs and searching themselves for injuries, they stood to their feet hesitantly and assessed the motorcycle. When the driver quietly asked for a not-outrageous sum of money to fix the motorcycle, I was glad to hand them a bit more than requested. 

In retrospect, I can't help imagining what would have happened if another vehicle had been directly behind those two men when the water bottle rolled into traffic. Truly, the accident could have been horrific. I cannot even fathom how either Caleb or I could have coped with causing great pain - even unintentionally - to anyone in our adopted home, this country already so full of grief and suffering. Many lives could have been altered in that moment.

So tonight I am praising God for what didn't happen, for his protection over me and my family and the strangers on the street. And I am praising God that we work and live in an atmosphere thick with your prayers. There is truly no doubt in my mind that they make a tremendous difference. 

And speaking of prayer, please say an extra one tonight for our tender-hearted young man. Caleb kept it together as we dealt with the aftermath of the accident, but when we got back into our truck, he couldn't hold back the tears. And I couldn't blame him. I wanted to cry, too. I am so thankful that Caleb is not carrying to his bed tonight the weight and guilt of an unexpected and irreversible tragedy. Thank you, Jesus, from the very bottom of this father's heart.



P.S. I would be remiss if I didn't share this particular fact that speaks volumes about my son's character: After dinner, Caleb found me and quietly and privately offered a handful of money to replace what I had given the two men. I reminded him that it was purely an accident and that HE was MY responsibility at least until he turns 18. The money was NOTHING compared to what that trip to get water COULD have cost us and others. 

Later, I spent some time grading some student essays on Dickens' Great Expectations and Caleb did some homework. Praise God for ordinary, boring, school nights like tonight ultimately turned out to be.


Psalm 5:11 - 
"But let all who take refuge in you be glad; 
let them ever sing for joy. 
Spread your protection over them, 
that those who love your name may rejoice in you."

Sunday, October 28, 2018

HARVEST FESTIVAL 2018

After an unintentionally long hiatus from blogging, I needed a photo-heavy post to ease myself back into the routine. Cowman's second annual Harvest Festival yesterday more than satisfies that need.

A bit of background on the motivation behind the event: Our parents are always seeking fun, kid-friendly events while, unfortunately, living in a place with extremely limited options for family entertainment.

(There's the beach.)

Cowman, on the other side, is very interested in serving not just our students, but the whole family. Strong, healthy families are a priority for us. Thus, the Harvest Festival was born to be a win/win situation. (Not to mention, also a fundraiser for our continuing construction needs.)

Below are a few pictures from the evening. I'll insert some brief explanations where necessary.

Let's start with Mr. James and Caleb DuPree. Mr. James is dressed, apparently, as an adult - a role that is a stretch for him. Caleb is dressed as a 50s greaser. Not so much a stretch.


Caleb and his sister Julie are from North Carolina and have been staying with us and working at Cowman for the past two months. They have been a huge help and blessing to us and the school. They're with us until Thanksgiving. Here's Julie as Cinderella and Hannah as Ariel.


Mr. Love and Ms. Eve grilled hundreds of hotdogs in the course of the evening.


We had more parent involvement than ever with this event. They helped with set up, running games, and clean up.


Here's Dr. Rodney heading up bingo in the library.


I think that's one of our new math teachers, Mr. Jeffney, behind the mask. 


We've been blessed to have our next door neighbor, Janeen, helping out in Cowman's administrative offices a few hours each week. Here she is doing "trunk-or-treat" as Belle from "Beauty and the Beast".


You can't tell from this photo, but even the teenagers had a good time...




Parts of the evening looked like this:


Melissa put a lot of work into organizing and emceeing the event. She should have dressed up as the Energizer Bunny. Here she is with Mrs. Z who is back in the country for a short visit. We sure do miss having her around on a regular basis. 





Bradley and Ruysdael, a good team in the classroom.



Some of you know "Baby" Sammy's story. For Harvest Festival, he dressed up like a pastor!


An intense game of giant Kerplunk.








Sarah dressed as Mal, from the Disney Descendants movie. Here she is with her buddy Emarlie.


Close up of Hannah. What a beauty she has turned into!


A very special family. Mrs. Erika teaches health for us as she and her husband wait out the adoption process for their two cuties.


Hannah and Maxiane. This is our entire Junior class this year!


Brandon and Samuel


Mr. Love finally met his match on the basketball court.




Olivier is a freshman this year. Unbelievable.




Another shot of Sarah. Looking way too mature.





A father son shot. Matt has been a huge help in getting our house into shape - especially the kitchen. His oldest son, Silas, is in the 7th grade this year. 



This young lady may have a future in modeling!




The mask isn't enough to hide the ketchup on Sam's face. ;-)


Which leaves me with one last photo, and I think I saved the best for last. Cowman is blessed this year to have a part-time music teacher. We have known Enoch for years through English Bible Fellowship and we are thrilled to have such a talented, godly man join our staff. His son came dressed as a Haitian tour guide. What a cutie!


Things are starting to settle down a bit - for me - so I plan to posting here again on a more regular basis. For Melissa ... things are far from settling. Tonight she is waist-deep in a five page research paper due at midnight for her Master's class. Tomorrow, she was going to have a "day off" while a visitor led an entire day of teacher training (no students tomorrow). BUT then our visitor emailed at 5:00 this morning to say a medical emergency was going to prevent her trip. 

Stresses such as these tend to pile up and there's no real break coming for Melissa until Christmas (if then!). Please keep especially her in your prayers whenever Cowman or our family come to mind. Thank you and God bless you!