January 25, 2010

That time of the year....

January is a tough time of the year for us as it is the neverending flow of people asking us to assist them or their family with school fees. School officially opens tomorrow for all the government schools, although some private schools and preschools opened last week. For any age of school children, preschool to form 5 (grade 12), school is not free. There are costs for school fees, uniforms, school supplies, extra activities (sports, arts, etc) for each child. I cannot imagine what it is like for families that have many kids. Most of the time, boys are kept in school longer because girls can help out at home more and also help to watch the younger children still at home. Education is needed to further someone in life here through a job or going onto university. I just wish it was not so difficult for any child that wanted to attend school to be able to do so.

Monday is typically the day we try as a family to be our "day of rest" as Friday, Saturday and Sunday are quite busy for our family, especially Steve, with ministry opportunities. Lacie does attend school on Monday mornings but we attempt to keep our gate closed, cell phones on silent and not work on business items all day long.

Well, this morning, we had visitors at our gate by 9am, which is not too bad because folks have stopped by much earlier in the past. We knew that it would be about school fees and it was. Fortunately, this issue has been a huge matter of prayer for Steve and I in recent months and we felt the Lord leading us to a solution that fits our situation as well as our finances. Unfortunately, we had to tell the people sitting in our lounge (living room) that we could not help them with school fees. If we helped every person that asked us for help, we would have run out of money in our second week of our time in Swaziland! The needs are overwhelming in many ways but we also know that we have to teach our Swazi brothers and sisters how to save their own money, look for resources that are available to them, build within the church support and on and on. It broke my heart to see this young girl, probably age 15, starting to weep in my home because she is not sure how she will attend school this year. In the past much jealousy and tension arose in many of our churches when folks would find out that so and so was helped by this missionary or so and so was helped by that missionary and so on. We know that for now we cannot give to direct individuals because this cycle of dependency has to be broken. God has blessed us with different resources and we are being led to give through our Baptist churches.

This youth girl also has been ill and somehow we are looked upon as medical folks sometimes, too. We are comfortable in sharing Tylenol with people but we are not doctors and nurses. How I wish we had a bank account that never ran out of money but that is just not reality! For the orphans, there is supposed to be money that they can attend school for free due to outside contributions and government scholarships. However, corruption gets in the way and the funds are not available to all those that desire to attend school. The process is ongoing and a solution does not seem to be one that can be "fixed" with our own hands.

God, give us wisdom to know how to deal with this stressful time of the year and to wisely share resources and finances you have provided for our family to those in need.

This is by no means a blog post asking for folks to contribute but rather a window into the daily happenings of our family during January and part of February. Thank you for your prayers!

January 22, 2010

BGR Haiti updates

Please help us spread the word! Do you know other believers who care about helping people in need? Why not forward this e-mail and encourage them to subscribe by visiting gobgr.org!

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The five-member BGR assessment team is on the ground in Haiti, driving toward Port-au-Prince. They are accompanied by Mark Rutledge, who has 26 years of experience serving as an International Mission Board worker in Haiti. The team will be connecting with Haitian Baptist leaders, surveying earthquake damage, and delivering relief supplies.
A strong aftershock measuring 6.1 in magnitude struck Port-au-Prince at 6:03 a.m., Jan. 20, according to news reports. The shock sent people scrambling for open ground as buildings damaged by last week’s quake shuddered and rubble began falling to the ground. Eyewitnesses said people already traumatized by the horrors of the past week cried and screamed at the new tremor. More than 40 significant aftershocks have hit since the Jan. 12 quake.
Members of the assessment team reported they did not feel the aftershock at their base in the Dominican Republic. However, Steve Leach, a member of Round Grove Baptist Church in Miller, Mo., who operates an independent hospital in northwest Haiti, reported the aftershock “brought down some of the damaged buildings that were still standing and will keep anyone from going back to what buildings are still standing for many days to come. With so many severe aftershocks over the last week and now another new quake, who knows when people who have a place to go will feel safe to return there.”
Leach said about 1,200 refugees have come to the hospital for treatment and he has been sending trucks into the capital to look for survivors with family who live near the hospital.
“We live in a place that is about as far from the capital as you can get and still be in Haiti and yet we have watched these very poor people trying desperately to figure out a way to get their family members out here so they can take care of them,” Leach said. “The truck drivers are less and less willing to [drive into the city] as the situation in Port deteriorates.”
Relief efforts are struggling to get essential relief supplies to hundreds of thousands of desperate people, but destroyed infrastructure and disorganization are hampering the effort. Officials are concerned that the desperation people feel will boil over into violence. Looters by the hundreds have been fighting each other with broken bottles, clubs and other weapons over whatever goods they can still find in damaged stores.

“Pray specifically for God to give those in control wisdom to direct the relief effort,” Leach said.


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Conditions on the ground in Haiti are very difficult, a member of Southern Baptists' joint assessment team reported from Port-au-Prince Jan. 20. A U.S. military commander, however, said important progress has been made on enlarging the conduit for relief shipments into the quake-ravaged island nation."We've seen quite a bit of damage – more so toward the center of the city," reported Jim Brown, U. S. director for Baptist Global Response, in a terse e-mail sent from his cell phone. "We've helped with a couple of deliveries. Helicopters everywhere. People still being found alive!"In another report, relayed to a meeting of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Network, team member Bruce Poss indicated that traffic in Port-au-Prince is terrible and milling crowds are making travel and security serious concerns. He reported seeing 5,000 or more people lined up outside the US Embassy in the capital.The five-member team delivered relief supplies – water, plastic sheeting, bottled gas, beans, rice, eggs, diesel fuel, canned goods – to a couple of churches and orphanages, Brown said. They were planning to connect with a Florida Baptist assessment team later in the day.A U.S. military commander said the flow of relief supplies into Haiti would be helped by the opening of three new airfields and the country's seaport, news services reported. Gen. Douglas Fraser, who heads the U.S. Southern Command, told the Miami Herald newspaper the capital's seaport would reopen Jan. 21 and could accommodate about 150 shipping containers per day. The port's capacity is expected to grow to 250 containers per day by Jan. 22.The main airport in Port-au-Prince, which has one runway and one loading ramp, has been a bottleneck for the arrival of humanitarian aid, even after it was reopened. A total of 1,400 flights are backlogged to land at the airfield, Fraser said. Because congestion on the roads has been hindering delivery of relief supplies, 63 U.S. helicopters have been dropping water, food and medical supplies into the most inaccessible areas, he told the newspaper.The U.S. Military has distributed 1.4 million bottles of water, more than 700,00 meals, and about 22,000 pounds of medical supplies directly to people in need, Fraser said.As many as 2 million Haitians are homeless because of the Jan. 12 earthquake, relief officials say, with vast numbers of people living in makeshift tents made of sheets and sticks. The estimated death toll stands at 200,000, but humanitarian medical groups warn that number will continue to grow as people die of untreated injuries and disease that infects the ramshackle camps, news services report.Southern Baptist medical personnel who are willing to help in the relief effort can e-mail haitiresponse@imb.org to register their availability. Baptist state convention disaster relief offices also will be organizing teams of volunteers to help once the assessment teams have returned with strategic recommendations for the response.The Southern Baptist relief effort, like the one mounted after Hurricane Katrina and the South Asia tsunami, will be focused on the long term, Mickey Caison, who directs disaster operations for the North American Mission Board, told the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Network Jan. 20. Previous strategies have focused on short-term help for people being missed by large-scale humanitarian projects and a long-term emphasis on helping people rebuild their lives and communities.

January 17, 2010

Pray for Haiti

Dear Prayer Partners,

As many of you have watched the devastation of what happened in Haiti this past Tuesday, January 12, many of us have felt helpless and asked ourselves, "What can I do?" We wanted to share with you resources and prayer requests that we are receiving from our own mission organization. To our knowledge, all of our personnel are safe but dealing with much heartache in Haiti. I, Monica, have been to Haiti back in 1998 with Florida Women's Missionary Union as part of a Florida Baptist partnership and Haiti has definitely touched my heart in many ways. It was by far the worst devastated country I have ever seen personally (and yes, I live in a third world country even now in Africa) so I cannot imagine how this earthquake has devastated the country of Haiti even more. We know that prayer is the biggest support we can give to Haiti right now but we know they need financial and manpower resources for those that are able to assist them.

Here is an excellent website and related article that we highly recommend for folks to check out as well as prayer requests for Haiti:

Haiti relief assessment underway after quake
Jan. 13, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Southern Baptists are mobilizing to assess disaster relief needs after the largest earthquake in more than 200 years rocked Haiti the evening of Jan. 12.
The initial Southern Baptist disaster relief effort will be led by Florida Baptists, who have had ministry relationships in Haiti for more than 20 years and currently have six staff members who live and work in the country, said Jim Brown, U.S. director for Baptist Global Response. The Southern Baptist International Mission Board does not have long-term personnel stationed in the country.
The North American Mission Board’s disaster relief office is organizing an emergency consultation with state disaster relief directors to coordinate response to the catastrophe, Brown said. Disaster relief teams in Mississippi and Kentucky are on standby for immediate response.
An assessment team is being organized by Baptist Global Response, International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and state convention disaster relief directors to enter the country as soon as possible, Brown said. They will work with Haitian Baptists to identify immediate needs that must be addressed and will draft mid- and long-term plans for an ongoing relief effort.
Initial funding for the relief effort will come from the International Mission Board’s disaster relief fund. Contributions toward the relief effort also can be made at gobgr.org.
The 7.0 magnitude tremor hit 10 miles from the center of Port-au-Prince, a city of 3 million people, at around 5 p.m. Jan. 12, according to news reports. One source said the quake could be felt more than 200 miles away. The earthquake triggered a tsunami watch for Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Multiple strong aftershocks continued to rock the country after the initial tremor, said David Brown, who with his wife, Jo, directs Baptist Global Response work in the Americas. Reports from inside the country indicate infrastructure and many buildings suffered catastrophic damage. The main airport is closed; power and communications are down and security is a serious concern. Specialized search and rescue teams and military units from several countries are being rushed into Haiti to help secure the situation and begin relief efforts.
Apart from donating to the disaster relief fund, concerned individuals can help greatly by joining in focused prayer for Haiti’s 9 million people, more than 80 percent of whom live below the poverty line, David Brown said.
“Please pray for us as we assess and monitor the situation in Haiti after the 7.0 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks this evening,” Brown said. “The initial information indicates 2 million people in Port-au-Prince are directly affected. Please pray for victims and their families. Pray for wisdom as responses are initiated.”
The situation in Haiti is very fluid and additional information will continue to flow in on a daily basis, Brown said. Updates will be released as new information becomes available.

-----To donate to BGR's Disaster Response fund,
click here. or www.baptistglobalresponse.com - an excellent resource of information on keeping up with Haiti as well as needs all around the world!!!

Or you can always check out our mission organization's main website for more information as well: International Mission Board -

Prayer Requests:
HAITI. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2, NKJV). With the devastating situation in neighboring Haiti, personnel in the Dominican Republic have requested help in post-trauma counseling and training in the area of spiritual support. Since this is such a critical need in Haiti, training will be held next week in the Dominican Republic. Please pray for the trainers as they travel and prepare the materials for the conference. Ask God for the emotional health of personnel as they confront the dire needs. Pray also for those who will receive counseling and training as they share God’s love with a nation that is in deep spiritual darkness.
"The LORD reigns! Let the peoples tremble. He is enthroned above the cherubim. Let the earth quake. .Exalt the LORD our God; bow in worship at His footstool. He is holy" (Psalm 99:1, 5, HCSB).

What is different about us? About Christians? Just like our neighbors this week, we have heard numerous stories about the horrendous events in Haiti. We watch news clips, read twitter and blog reports-we gather information to be aware of what is going on in the world. Just like our neighbors, our hearts have been broken for the people of Haiti. But what is different about us?
The difference is that we know the One who is able to help. We all have opportunity to give and many will be able to assist physically by going. But we Christians do not have to wait a single minute to send aid. We don't have to look in our wallets to see if there is any money to send. We can talk to our Lord immediately, begging for His mercy throughout these days of recovery.
Please take every opportunity to lift the Haitian people to our heavenly Father, asking in these earliest days that He will fill the people with a sense of calm and unity of purpose. Gunshots have been heard on the streets, but violence will obviously not improve the situation. Ask the Lord to comfort the frightened. Many are sleeping on the streets even though their homes have not been damaged. They sense no hope for the future.
Intercede for the initial responders who have worked diligently through the long hours, praying that they will find rest in Him. Ask God to provide unexpected ways for aid workers to get through the destroyed roads so that they can provide necessary supplies.
Lift up Haitian Christians who are striving to serve others while grieving their own losses. Plead for them to have God's mighty endurance and vision as they love their neighbors through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Exalt the Lord our God and pray that His holiness will be demonstrated throughout Haiti.

Thank you for your faithful prayer support!!!
Serving Jesus in Swaziland,
Steven, Monica, Lacie and Nathan Allen