Sorrowful yet Rejoicing

“…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing…” – 2 Corinthians 6:10

After spending the summer in North Carolina with my parents, I came back to Haiti alone this year. Since my parents had a conference to attend in October, they stayed in the U.S. for a little over a month longer than I did. I enjoyed this month of solitude far more than I had expected since the decisions constantly needing to be made kept me very busy. Upon arrival, I immediately had to get the air conditioning in the car fixed (in the sweltering late-August heat) and found that the inverter batteries we use for backup electricity in our house had worn down to the point that they needed to be replaced. As a result, we didn’t have electricity for nearly half the day until early October when we were able to purchase a replacement. During this time, in addition to my regular administrative and teaching duties at the Bible college, I started a new job at an English-language Christian school.

This semester has been an emotional rollercoaster ride. After having spent all summer digitizing books, the roll-out of the new tablets with digital books proved to be a success. The new class also had nine new students, which was far better than the 2014 class, which came in with only four. A couple of weeks later, however, I was called to the office when one of the new students showed up acting aggressively and saying disturbing things. Before the encounter was over, he had stripped naked and had to be restrained. His pastor came after about an hour and drove him home but he took off once again almost immediately and could not be found. He showed up at our school again a few weeks later and that time, I refused to let him in. A couple of days after that, I received the terrible news that he had been shot dead by a police officer. Folks who knew him said the officer had had it in him for him for years. I felt terrible after hearing this news and wished that I had driven him straight to the hospital the last time I saw him. Attending his funeral was a very sad experience.

In early October, Hurricane Matthew (a category 4 storm) swept through southern Haiti, doing a tremendous amount of damage to the towns of Cayes and Jeremie. Several hundred people were killed during the storm and over a month later, relief efforts still have not been able to provide food and shelter to everyone who needs it. To make matters worse, people have been killed while fighting over relief shipments. Our church raised a few hundred dollars and sent it down with our pastor’s wife, who was born and raised near Cayes. While northern Haiti was completely spared from the hurricane, it was not spared from four days of nonstop rain earlier this week which caused massive flooding in most of the city. Many people in our church, which is located in a low-lying part of town near the sea, were directly affected by this storm. Since Haiti has experienced a communications revolution in the last few years, most people own cell phones and can access social media inexpensively. It was surreal to see people’s status updates in real time about water up to waist-level inside their homes.

In addition to the more dramatic moments, it seems like living in Haiti brings neverending expenses with it. A brother in the church began having epileptic seizures and needed money to travel to the only part of the country where he could receive care. Our car, which is getting old requires constant attention. I drove around for the first couple of weeks without air conditioning. Next, one of the windows wouldn’t go up and everything inside got soaked when it rained. After that, the radiator started overheating. The replacement of the inverter and batteries cost over $6,000. As I write, the electric wires to our house have gone bad and we can’t get city power. Nearly everything here seems to be more expensive yet we are frequently forced to work with technicians who are less competent than they would be in the U.S. It’s frustrating. Sometimes, the expenses have nothing to do with repairs. We had to shell out money to a lawyer when our neighbors paid us an intimidation visit and took us to court over a land dispute. These things can wear down one’s patience over time. It’s difficult not to let resentment work its way into your heart.

We’ve had reasons for thanks as well, though. In October, we had a teaching visit from Steve Fitzpatrick and a couple from Quebec whose church began supporting us. An American organization also confirmed its intention of building us a new church building, a project that has been in the works since 1993 (!). In January, they will be coming to install a new water-purification system that will provide clean water to all of our schoolchildren. Also, on a personal note, it was fun to watch the Chicago Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 108 years. We know the election has shaken things up in the United States. We’re poised for a presidential election of our own here in Haiti on November 20; we pray that it will put an end to over a year of political infighting and transitional government. As the semester winds down and we head into the holidays and the new year, I want to ask for your prayers and thank you for your partnership in the Gospel this year. So far, 2016 has been a year laced with hardship but also one filled with the sustaining grace of God.

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