A Trip Update by Darwin Covington

Haiti Deaf Academy Board Member shares trip update, showing all of us how much one determined man can accomplish and how lucky we are to have him in a leadership role.

July 16, 2017

Hi All,

We returned last night from our trip to Haiti:

Here are a few highlights:

I went with a list and hoped that amidst the usual need to be flexible, I would be able to accomplish everything.

LIST: Take new pictures of all our children with a thank you to sponsors

Share with the children news and pictures from sponsors

Have children sponsored by DCH write letters

Meet with labor attorney in Port Au Prince

Follow up with DGI in regards to land dispute

Go to Bank and take care of some business

Look over facilities/generator etc.

Observe Interns in action

In home visit for Christelle

For those not familiar with the ministry, names mentioned in the journal:

Keith and Meredith Henderson, our wonderful new on site missionary couple

Marco- HDA accountant

Cathy Jones- HDA board member and Hearing Health expert for us

Nikki- Extraordinary HDA volunteer

Kathryn- HDA founder and Executive Director\

Deb- My wonderful wife

July 6th travel day

July 7th: Hugs at the gate!! It is always great to arrive at HDA and be met with all the hugs from the students and staff. The usual reminder that everyone remembers your sign name and shares theirs with you.  I watched the interns swing into action and begin working with the children. The theme this year is geography. They use a large flat map and then bend it into a circle to show the earth is round.  The staff and the children learned a lot.  I think I would have too had I sat with them 🙂

I discovered the electrical in the kitchen/dining area had never been corrected since wrongly installed. As God would have it, he had me take just the right electrical tools and supplies.  I had just the right things.  I took all the lights and outlets out and corrected the way things were wired and reassembled everything. I followed the wire back to the panel and corrected the way they had it hooked into the panel and then for the magical/scary moment I turned the breaker back on. NO SPARKS/FLASHES/TRIPPED BREAKERS! Always a good thing.  After turning on the light switch and testing all the outlets a celebration was in order!! I decided to hang a much needed fan also to move some air (it’s not air conditioning). It always pays to make the cooks happy if you know what I mean 🙂

July 8th: The plan was to treat the kids to a day at the beach. It takes a lot of planning to take all the kids and staff to the beach. Transportation, food prepared ahead of time, supervisors, etc. The staff gathered everything up and headed out with the kids, while a few of us stayed back at the HDA to take care of a few things.

A Rotary Club from Canada is giving us a grant for food storage.  They are providing funds for a refrigerator, freezer, solar panels, batteries, inverter and the labor to install everything. Keith and I met with Cathy to discuss details and make sure we can do everything on our end to make sure this is a success.  Keith and I climbed onto the roof and examined our current solar panels and discussed placement of the new. We now need to get performa’s from vendors and line up everything.  This will be a real blessing.  We will be building new shelves and getting clear food storage containers too. Progress!

Cathy’s Audiology team was at the home evaluating children and treating some of ours. Some parents traveled long distances to have their children tested, in hopes that we will accept them into our program. Children needing medicated drops, ear wax removed, etc. are tended to. The children of Haiti are so blessed to have this care. Deb & I then escorted the kids who had been held back for ear treatment to the beach to join the rest of the children. Seeing the staff stand guard in the water and watch over the kids is impressive.  Melanie is a real Momma bear and protects her cubs at all times!

The water was warm and fun was had by all.

July 9th: A Day of Rest. We waited for Patrick our Tap Tap driver (he had tire trouble) then went to Leveque for Worship with our Deaf children and the Deaf community. It was so good to see our Deaf brothers and sisters in Christ again… life is so hard in Haiti for these lovely people.

One of the Pastors is getting married on the 22nd! I wish I could be there for that after witnessing the excitement of another Haitian wedding, during which the wedding party actually danced down the aisle… so cool.

It was GREAT to see Sophonie (former HDA student) & Jacques Wilson (another of our pastors) and their new baby during this visit. Sophonie is back to work as a seamstress, a skill she learned while in vocational training with us, thanks to our donor’s support for our sewing program!

This was an extra hot day of no breeze. One of our Interns became overheated and we quickly worked to get her cooled down and back to our guest house. Everyone swings into action when something like this happens and we were all happy to see her feeling better.

July 10th: This was a long day.  Meredith, Marco and I headed to Port Au Prince. Our first stop was at a lawyer’s office where we followed up on some e-mail conversations about employment regulations.  We are making sure our staff contracts are compliant with Haitian law. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, finding a place in PAP is the first challenge and understanding Haitian labor law is quite another. The color gray pretty much describes much of it.

After the pursuit for legal advice, we were all famished so we stopped at a local restaurant and got a bite to eat before our second adventure of the day, which was going to the DGI (land boss) department in Haiti.  It is kind of like going to one of our government offices really. Kind of comical really. So upon arrival we walk through a crowd where there is a metal detector that you are funneled through (which doesn’t even work). Marco and Meredith are ahead of me and they were not even given a second look. The guard decided to have a little fun with me. He wanted to see my belt, and then my gun (which I did not have one). He wanted to look through my backpack… curious, I think! Finally, he decided a pat down was in order.  By this time Meredith discovered I was no longer following so she and Marco came back.  Marco (Haitian) asked him what he was doing.  His reply was comical. He said “Well, when I go to America they do this to me so I just wanted to do it to him”.  We all laughed, including him.

Success is defined slowly in Haiti so time will tell if our DGI visit there was successful.  Pray for God’s leading in this matter. We want to grow where the Lord plants us so if not this land then wherever He wants us.

While our day was spent in PAP, our team was busy at the house teaching, sorting, discovering and formulating a plan.

July 11th: A plan with excitement! Yesterday, Keith, Nikki and Deb discovered totes and suitcases full of clothes, shoes, underwear, etc., that have been donated. It was a sad moment but a teaching moment as well. Deb & I have discovered as Foster Parents the hoarder mentality that people in distressed times develop. Life in Haiti is extremely hard to say the least and as a result of this stress, many of them have this same mentality. So sad to see. The staff were gathered and the teaching began. It was explained to them that God was providing for these children and God’s well does not run dry!  When these supplies are gone God will supply more and more and more! Tears flow now as I think of the hearts of these well meaning but extremely poor people. God is good! Never doubt it! He will provide!

So an exciting plan was developed.  The children were first taken to their rooms where they looked through their clothes and decided which ones were in bad shape or too small. At the next stop, Nikki asked them if she could buy their old clothes from them with pretend money. She then asked if it was OK for us to sew them and pass them down to other kids.  I thought this was genius.

The teams then set up stations (tables) where the kids could come, answer geology questions and purchase new clothing/shoes with their new fake money.  This was teaching them geography and money management, too. They were so excited!

I spent the day videoing and picture taking and working on my list then lastly, I had to go to the bank.  I first was taken down the street where there was a whole in the wall business that took my photo for the bank documents. It is amazing to me that whatever you need in Haiti is just around some corner hidden is some shop. Crazy. Then Marco & I hopped on the back of a motorcycle taxi and raced to the bank.

July 12th:  This morning Deb & I were focused on finishing our picture taking and documentation for child sponsors. Another simple task which isn’t so simple sometimes but today… Success!

I helped kitchen staff prepare and feed snacks to the children. I love jumping in and serving along side the staff while joking around with them, too. It’s noon now and time for something my heart has been longing for… A home visit to one of our kids.  Christelle’s mom moved to Brazil and left her and her brother with an Aunt. Christelle wasn’t sent to summer school so she has been at home, pretty much in isolation.  She is a natural leader and I have always bonded with her.

So off we head. We turn off Hwy 1 onto what could hardly be considered a road. We wind around stopping to ask villagers where “BeBe” was, the somewhat derogatory term Haitians use for deaf. We park and walk between houses and winding through alleys. Tin hut against tin hut and cement houses mixed it. We are lead by a little child and stopped in front of a cement house.  We stopped and the child ran down an alley.  Soon Christelle came around the corner at the end of the alley, spotted us, threw open her arms and ran up the alley and into our arms.  We had a long embrace then sat down on the front step and spent a long time playing hide the rock and enjoying one another. She seemed so happy to see us. She has nobody in her village who can sign with her. We took some pictures and then had to depart. My heart was full.

LAST DAY ALREADY! I finished up shop talk with Kathryn, Marco, and the Henderson’s. Keith and I looked at our broken generator in hopes that we could perform magic. A funeral was held instead. It is definitely dead. Soon we hope to have a new one in its place.  I spent the remainder of the morning hanging with the kids and the staff and helping again serve snacks, etc.  Good-byes were easier this time knowing that I will be back again in October.

Off to the airport but God was not done yet.  Deb & I like to wear our Haiti Deaf Academy shirts on travel days.  There were two Deaf individuals who saw our shirts at the PAP airport and wanted to know more. We visited for a time. We were on the same flight to Atlanta. Samuel & Virginia were a delight. Samuel had a fast turn around in Atlanta to catch his next flight so this was our moment to visit in this chance meeting. Another lady saw our shirts and ask if we knew the Imslands.  “Why, yes” I said, “We were just at their house this morning!”  She was as well and had left a couple of hours before we arrived.

Another connection was made as we talked about ministries. God was not done yet! So we boarded our flight and headed home marveling at all God had allowed us to be a part of on this trip. When we landed in Atlanta who do you think was there to meet us?  Samuel had gotten on-line and changed his flight to a later flight and wanted to have dinner with us.  Customs was a breeze, the airport was like empty… We sailed through baggage pickup and rendezvous with Samuel for dinner.  Long story shortened… this is the beginning of something good and I can’t wait to see how Virginia & Samuel are apart of it.  They are real advocates for the Deaf as are we.  They long to see opportunities for the Deaf children of Haiti. Skills taught and real help given.  Noticing those who may have the ability to advance beyond the academic limitations of Haiti and empowering them.  Again, all I can say is God is Good.

Blessings

Darwin Covington

Sponsorship Coordinator

 

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Calling all teachers, leaders and everyone else!!!

Calling all teachers, leaders and others for Holiday Wreath Craft!

Allow us to teach your students, groups etc. about some wonderful deaf and hard of hearing children and help us raise funds for the Haiti Deaf Academy. We will also send you video greetings of our students and ask you to send some to us!

Here is the plan:Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 12.24.34 PM

September 2017– Schedule one of our US based Haiti Deaf Academy representatives to visit your class for an opportunity to learn about deafness and the lives of the Haitian kids, or receive a video if a representative is not available in your area.

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October 2017– Each participating class/group will purchase a wreath mold from any hobby store, along with 300 pins. Kids and interested faculty or group members will begin bringing in dollar bills to “pin” to the wreath.

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December 2017– Your wreath will hopefully be  full and your very special donation can be made to Haiti Deaf Academy operations fund.

For more information, please contact Margaret Spratlin.    margaret@haitideafacademy.com

Pictured are Atlanta third graders and their teacher displaying their full wreath!

Cake Anyone?

Working in the Titanyen/Cabaret area, we have noticed there is nowhere to purchase cakes, also, very few people own ovens and are unable to make their own. But, the locals do enjoy having cakes for special events, birthdays etc.

Martine, Ruth, Dacheca and Wislene have expressed an interest in learning how to bake cakes to sell to a local market to make them available to the local Haitian community. The girls had a great time measuring, mixing, baking and frosting. They started with an all chocolate cake then went on to a white cake with chocolate frosting. Are you getting hungry yet?? The last cake they made before I headed home, was a white cake with cream cheese frosting. I think I have gained 10 pounds on this trip just test tasting each cake as they practiced getting them just right and ready to sell.

The ladies have started by using mixes and canned frosting that teams have graciously brought from the US. We already have a sustainability plan in place with one of our long term missionaries, Jodie Fuller, who will come back to Haiti the summer of 2017 and teach the ladies (who hopefully are experts by then with the cake mixes) how to make cakes from scratch. We are excited to see this program grow and expand in the next few years as the community gets to taste their delightful treats!

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Educated, Encouraged, Employed and Empowered

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As is often the case when good things happen, many hands were involved a recent success story for the Haiti Deaf Academy (HDA). A church member in Texas, an adoption story in Illinois and a woodworking company in Haiti. What did they all have in common? A desire to help. What did they do? They walked the walk by calling, e-mailing, networking and pushing forward to connect people that would lead to a dream come true for four deaf Haitian young men.

img_1581The four in our story were involved in the HDA vocational training program, with two as carpentry instructors and two as their students. Through the various connections, this group (plus a few others) were invited to attend a two-week workshop offered by Maxima, an innovative woodworking company with a presence in Port-au-Prince. Maxima not only offers top quality carpentry, but they have a desire to truly help end the vicious cycle of poverty in Haiti by training and hiring unemployed Haitians.

At the end of the workshop, the Maxima management team was impressed with the deaf men and decided to fill a few job openings with deaf employees. With a sign language interpreter involved for the first few weeks or so, Maxima believed these men had not only a solid foundation of skills, but more importantly, the willingness to learn.

In October, Clotaire, Benedick,  Mirguerle and Geovanny, along with Kathryn Montoya, ourimg_1584 Executive Director, along as an interpreter, headed to PAP for their first ever job interviews. Making sure they would not be late, Clotaire and Benedick arrived an hour early. Such fine young men!

The interviews went well and Clotaire and Mirguerle were offered woodworking jobs, which will enable them to hone their skills, benefiting from the great training and top of the line materials and equipment used by Maxima. Geovanny and Benedick are waiting for some temporary construction jobs for the building of replacement housing after Hurricane Matthew. Hopefully, those jobs will lead to permanent employment.

All four know that this is an opportunity for them to prove that “Deaf can do” as they frequently say. They will be held accountable just like all of the other Maxima employees, arriving on time, being willing to learn, producing good products and working well with their fellow employees.

This is a fulfillment of a dream for the Deaf men, as well as for the Haiti Deaf Academy. With a mission to Educate, Encourage, Employ and Empower, these jobs are certainly a win for all. The Haiti Deaf Academy sends out a big thank you to Jason  and Daniel  with Maxima and to Brian, who’s tenacious networking made this success story a reality. And a HUGE thank you to Suzanne, Marcia and Darwin who provided the funding necessary for the community carpentry program that started this ball rolling. God’s hand is certainly in this work!

2016 Highlights

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13892280_10155070931399128_1631423970310639362_nAn audiology team from Hear The World Foundation reassessed our students and updated their hearing aids as needed. A second team tested children who are applying for placement in our program. They also tested several newborns, toddlers, young children and adults at a “partner” clinic in a nearby town. This newborn testing was our first opportunity to initiate early detection. Very important for this country!
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Sophonie, a graduate of Project Stitch, a program operated by Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince, was hired by Mission of Hope in their Three Chords factory, where she makes quality items and loves her job. Sophonie was our first success story. All three components of our mission statement were accomplished…. Sophonie was educated, encouraged, employed and empowered. God is good.

Three additional graduates of Project Stitch, Wislande, Martine and Bylanda, will continue sewing for Project Stitch, making money on each of the items they sell in the Bernard Mevs Gift Shop. We are hopeful this opportunity will provide the income these girls need to move out of our transition home and into the life of independence they are working towards.

maximaEight deaf students and adults attended a two-week training offered by Maxima, a carpentry business in Port-au-Prince. All passed with flying colors and Maxima has hired two of our deaf students as full time employees. This is a blessing for our ministry and a leap of faith for a company willing to hire Deaf for the first time. The Maxima leadership team is asking for deaf culture training for their supervisors and have truly blessed our community by showing confidence in our students.

 

Our grant request for the Deaf Pastor Training has been approved, which means our deaf pastors in training will be able to continue their classes for the next two years and receive their certification. They will be the first certified deaf pastors in Haiti! Thank you Hopewell United Methodist Church.

A grant proposal for a Haitian Sign Language and Interpreter training Project has been approved! This will bring jobs to many deaf adults, as well as an eventual standardized sign language for the country and more trained interpreters to help the Deaf integrate into their hearing world. More hurdles to cross first but we are well on our way to receiving this grant. Thank you Christian Blind Mission.

13892296_1805626329669586_1234989693379393354_nFrazer United Methodist Church, one of the community’s original church partners, visited
and bought a laptop for our pastors. We are blessed to have them assisting us. While visiting they had the honor to lead Mirlaine to the Lord!

Two interns taught summer school for us, assisting each child in the creation of an “About Me” book, teaching them information they did not know, such as their siblings’ names and where their homes were. The interns had a great experience and we learned a ton from them.

13892324_10154455121459312_8298008562582449151_nThe jewelry making ladies are creating wonderful necklaces, bracelets and earrings, which are selling on our website and in craft fares wherever we can find a market!

Our community sewing students just received and completed their first contract job to make uniforms for a program called Silent Blessings. This is a HUGE step in our sewing employment program and we are hopeful that more contracts will follow.

 

13690664_1803062449925974_7215888610679260009_nFive deaf adults from Leveque completed a cement block training program provided by Extollo International . Three were hired by Extollo and more may be in the future.

Community member, Josue, got a job as a teacher in San Raphael, in the northern part of Haiti.

Community member, Marc Arthur, is now teaching sign language and literacy to factory workers employed by various clothing factories in the industrial park near Port-au-Prince. His salary is covered by a grant provided by Share Hope, an organization providing support to factory workers in that area.

14600834_10153971790250662_7625361472634765219_nOur ministry survived Hurricane Matthew. Soggy but unscathed with all facilities in tact, the Haiti Deaf Academy was mighty fortunate that Matthew did not touch ground in our area. While our staff rallied and prepared well, fortunate to have advance notice, we learned much about emergency preparedness and have adjusted our emergency plans for the future,

 

A leadership training class was held for our administrative staff in October. Understanding each other’s roles and challenges will help them grow as a team, working together for the good of the children. Many great ideas surfaced as the group discussed the things our Board could do to help them in their jobs. Most are attainable and are in the works. More leadership training classes are scheduled for the future.

God has been faithful in so many things and we are grateful to Him, to you our supporters and to all the Haitian families who allow us to be a part of their lives.

Leg Braces for Handy

Leg Braces for Handy

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Prayers were answered in August, 2016, for Handy, a precious six-year-old boy, a favorite of many because of his precocious nature and melt your heart smile. Handy came to the Haiti Deaf Academy in Fall of 2013 with a severe case of bowed legs. Because of his small size, his problem did not stop this energetic fellow and he ran and played with the other children without complaint.

 

 

 

 

After handy-bracesmany clinic visits since his arrival, he finally received braces that will help him, hopefully, avoid correct the deformity and avoid possible surgery as he grows taller. Handy is not too happy with his new braces, as they keep him off of his feet in the evenings and overnight. Not one easily sidelined, we have explained how important they will be for his future and he is trying to be as patient as a rambunctious little one can be. Please pray that Handy’s treatment will work quickly.  We can already see a difference!

 

Haiti Deaf Academy Staff Appreciation

On Friday, June 17th, pots were put away, laundry duties were stopped, brooms were abandoned as the staff was summoned for a very special occasion. Throughout the year, employees of the Haiti Deaf Academy work tirelessly to serve the students. This was a day for them to be recognized for all of their efforts.

With students raging from age 4-22, the demands of the staff vary from helping them brush their teeth and dress to teaching the art of sharing when toys are limited (better defined as refereeing at times!) to the braiding of hair. Over 60 people are fed breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and school uniforms are washed and pressed for each school day. The chores never stop and our staff never stops. Their patience and love are limitless.

In a well deserved moment of glory, each staff member was called up to receive a framed certificate of appreciation saying:

Merci pour tout ce que vous faites. Nous vous apprécions et votre travail acharné que vous faites pour les enfants de KTSA!

Que Dieu vous bénisse!

Translated… Thank you for all you do. We appreciate the work you do for the children of the Haiti Deaf Children’s Home. God bless you!

staff-appreciationOn hand to present each certificate was the Haiti Deaf Academy Haitian Board Chair, Raymond Pierre Frantz, along with Executive Director, Kathryn Montoya.  We were fortunate to have Raymond available to help recognize these hard workers and hope they realize how much we love and appreciate them. A well deserved time in the spotlight for our devoted staff !

 

 

 

Three day Funeral for Three Ladies

 

funeral-3Sounds like the name of a movie, but this is real life in Haiti. After the tragic loss of three deaf ladies in our community, we were finally able to hold their funeral June 11, 2016, three months after their murders.

funeral-5The funeral was a 3-day event which honored the ladies so beautifully. On Thursday June 9th, a march was held to honor the victims in the place where their bodies were found. Participants marched from the center of the square in Cabaret, down National Route 1 about 2 miles to the site on the side of the road where Sophonie, Vanessa and Monique were found. The march was mostly silent as over 150 deaf and hearing people walked carrying signs, candles and flowers to leave at the site.

Family and friends walked, talked and grieved together during the march. We were certainly a site for the hundreds of onlookers as we stopped traffic with our police escort. Hands were flying all over the place as the deaf talked with one another. Deaf friends from all over Haiti came to show their support. funeral-6

Our students were in uniform to represent our school. The closer we got to the site, the more silent the crowd became. Deaf and hearing stopped chatting and hearts grew heavier. When we arrived we sang a few songs in sign and voice. A few people spoke and prayed and the flowers and candles were laid in the place where their bodies had last laid.

 

Everyone grieves differently and in Haiti many grieve with loud crying and convulsions. It funeral-4was a little shocking for my daughter Emily to see, but she wanted to be a part of this experience. She knew the ladies who died and she wanted to give them the respect of attending the march. The day was hot and the tears did nothing to cool the faces of those in mourning. Ice cold water was passed out to all the walkers to make sure no one became over-heated.

Once everyone said their goodbyes, people began to depart one by one and in small groups, until the crowd had dissipated. The grief, hot sun, long walk and overwhelming experience left us all wiped out. The Lord gave us enough strength to get through the day, but once that was over we needed to rest. But rest was not an option, we had to plan for the wake and funeral that would occur in the next two days.

The families of the three ladies came to the Haiti Deaf Academy in Cabaret and we had a meeting to plan the wakes and the funeral. It was decided there would be one funeral for all three ladies and all three would be laid to rest in the same grave. In Haiti, graves are typically above ground in a cement structure. One family already had one of these and allowed all three women to be buried there.

funeral-7There were to be four wakes, one for each family and one for the deaf community in Leveque. Bob, our full-time missionary and I helped plan the wake for Leveque. Several cooks volunteered and food was prepared for all. Lighting for the evening was a necessity, as the deaf cannot communicate in the dark. T-shirts were made with the I-Love-You sign on the front and “We Will Never Forget You, Sophonie, Vanessa and Monique” printed on the back in Creole. These were passed out for participants to wear for the funeral the next day. People told stories and remembered the ladies with great fondness.

 

I shared about how fun it was to have Monique show our teams how she made popcorn over the coal stove, and even though she could not hear the popping, she knew exactly when the popcorn was ready without looking! Vanessa and Sophonie were both a part of our sewing and jewelry making classes on Saturdays. I remember how they loved to crochet and embroider and now I treasure even more some of the items they made for me in the past.

funeral-9Early the next morning we had buses ready to take the Leveque residents and our older students and staff to the funeral. Three buses were packed full and everyone was wearing the matching T-shirts. When we arrived at the church, people turned and looked at our huge group as we slowly made our way in and found our seats.

The three caskets were covered in flowers at the front of the church. When I saw them, I couldn’t hold back the tears. Senseless killing always makes me angry, but when it is three dear people that I know, it hurts so much more.

 

The funeral was interpreted by several interpreters so that the Deaf who were seated in various parts of the church could see. A beautiful song was signed by a deaf group. Jonas Cadet and Mr. Pean gave touching speeches and Mr. Pean’s wife did a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria. It was a beautiful service.

funeral-1Once the funeral was over, we all made our way to the cemetery. The procession of cars, buses and walkers was very long. Several men, deaf and hearing, worked together to stop traffic to allow the procession to move forward.  When we arrived at the cemetery, it was blazing hot, but that didn’t stop the mourners from going through the maze of graves until we found the one open and waiting to be the final resting place for our three friends.

funeral-2Each casket was carried to the tomb, put inside and then cemented closed. Watching this happen first-hand gave me a glimpse of what it was like for Mary and the other followers of Jesus when His tomb was closed. The cement “door” was never to be opened again. It was final, it was finished, closed, never to be opened again. I thank God that was not the case for Christ. Three days after being put in the tomb, He burst out of it conquering death and giving eternal life to any who will accept His invitation. With this hope, we look forward to seeing Monique, Vanessa and Sophonie in heaven one day.

Matthew Aftermath – Deaf Helping Deaf

Matthew Aftermath – Deaf Helping Deaf
October 12, 2016
There was a great sense of “Deaf helping Deaf” as Matthew approached and fortunately spared most of the deaf community in Cabaret and Leveque. They all truly came together as they worked to protect each other from the storm they were told about but could not hear. We can only imagine how scary that must have been.
We arrived at the Children’s Home in Cabaret yesterday to find our kids in their normal happy state, jumping around with joy as they always do when their American friends arrive for a visit. Sounds like the second floor slumber party for a few nights was an adventure and they came together as a staff and students to pray for their own safety, as well as the safety of Haitians in the southern part of the country who did not fare so well.

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In Leveque, where many home gardens were demolished, the pastors and community leaders used emergency relief funds to provide rice and beans to the elderly and mothers with small children who were in the greatest need. Most slept in the cinder block school, where despite their worries, the smile in this photo proves that they felt safe and cared for.

14618876 1706974336288466 456195347 oThere are so many blessing in spite of Matthew’s destruction. We had ways to communicate with our school staff and community members, making sure they knew how to prepare. Warnings like this are unusual for them so we were fortunate that both the deaf community and our children had a safe place to wait out the hurricane. We all learned from the experience and praise God that our little community was spared.
Please join us in continuing to pray for the Haitian families who lost everything. Sadly, that is the reality for many on the hardest hit southern coast. Our hearts go out to them.

A Match Made in Haiti!

Sophonie and Jacques Wilson Tie the Knotwedding-4

I can still remember the day that Jacques Wilson, one of our pastors-in-training, told me that he was falling for Sophonie, one of the older girls living at the Haiti Deaf Academy. I thought his crush on her was sweet, but wasn’t sure if the feeling was mutual. In just a few days, they both sat down with me to tell me they were actually falling in love. Out of respect for his position as a pastor figure, they wanted to make sure the leadership of our ministry was supportive of their relationship. Being the romantic type, I gave them my blessing and was excited to watch this love story in the making.

wedding-3Serious about his studies, Jacques Wilson was learning the basic teachings of Jesus Christ. This was a great chance for me to teach them both about abstinence, God’s plan for marriage and relationships and being a role model for the other Deaf children and adults in our community. They both agreed with what God wanted for them and were willing to humbly submit to Him. They dated over the next two years and with permission from their parents, chose a date for their wedding and began to save.

They were both creative in earning and saving money so they could have a proper Haitian wedding. In Haiti, it is tradition to have a very formal wedding with all the trimmings. This is not always possible as most Haitians have very low incomes. Jacques Wilson never let that stop him. He worked two jobs and saved every penny he could. About eight months before the wedding, he took his fiancé to a carpenter to order the furniture they needed so he could begin paying on it.

wedding-6The next step was to have the parents meet to make sure they were all in agreement regarding the couple’s decision to marry. This is also a required custom in Haiti. Jacques Wilson and Sophonie used an interpreter to call their parents and arrange the meeting. They decided to talk with her parents in Mirabalais, where Sophonie is from, and where they wanted the wedding to take place. The meeting went better than they could imagine and the wedding was a go!

On June 25, 2016, deaf and hearing people from all over Haiti, and a few from the US, came to join Sophonie and Jacques Wilson as they exchanged their vows. Pastor Yves Prophet presided over the wedding and James Hadere interpreted. A wedding ceremony in sign language is a beautiful sight.

wedding-2Jacques Wilson looked handsome in his suit and was so proud to be able to stand there with his best man, Benoit (another one of our pastors in training) and his good friend William. It was a long wait for the bride, but she finally made it, beaming with excitement and beauty and stunning in her shiny white wedding dress. Her maids were all dressed in formal attire and along with the groomsmen did the ritual Haitian “dance” as they walked down the aisle to prepare for the bride. When it was time for Sophonie to enter, everyone in the room held their breath (and their cameras) as she elegantly glided towards her love.

After a short sermon, exchanging of rings and vows and then a blessing by three Americans (including me), they were married. Then the festivities began. The couple went to the reception hall where they posed for photos, ate a traditional Haitian meal of rice, beans and chicken and of course, cake. The room was full as people came to eat and congratulate them. Guests spilled out into the yard and found spots of shade to eat and discuss the mornings events.

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After the honeymoon, I had the privilege of visiting the happy couple in their new home, Jacques Wilson’s house in Leveque. He shared with me that a team came to paint the inside for him and through a sign language and a creole interpreter he found out that the man who was part of the team was also from the church who was sponsoring him to attend his formal pastor training. Coincidence? No way, God knew that team would be there and that the newlyweds wanted a fresh paint as they began their lives together. God orchestrated the team’s visit, the wedding date and the honeymoon so that all things would come together in His perfect timing.

We felt blessed to be able to be a part of this big event. Our prayer is that our students will follow Sophanie and Jacques Wilson’s wonderful example of seeking God’s wisdom first in their lives. What a great testimony they are to a healthy, Godly relationship.