Digital Book Project (Update)

UPDATE 2 (May 11): Looks like we’ve got it covered! Praise God! (If you would still like to give, we are still raising money for student scholarships for next year.)
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UPDATE (May 11): As you can see on the thermometer, we now have $795 pledged! Another piece of good news is that Amazon.com was offering $10 off the price of the tablet the other day, so we went ahead and bought 20 tablets with the money that we had raised. We still have a way to go to cover the costs of transportation and customs dues, but we are happy to be well on the way toward meeting our goal! Thanks so much to those of you who have partnered with us. If you would like to help us get the rest of the way, click here.
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Last week, I introduced you to our Digital Book Project. In a nutshell, books are too expensive to produce and to buy, so we aim to raise $1,200 by August 30 in order to digitize our Bible school books and load them onto tablet computers that we sell to students at-cost. This digital transition will save our students 80% of what they are currently spending on books, and it will save our school the time and money it takes to produce those books.
I am happy to say that so far, we have had a solid response! Thanks to those of you who have given, we are already well over 10% of the way toward meeting our goal, and there has been more money pledged to the project as well. Of course, there is still a long way to go, so we could still use your help! If you would like to partner with us to save our students money and move our school into the 21st century (or just learn more about the project), click here.

Digital Book Project

Every semester, at our little Bible college in Haiti, the toughest task we face is simply putting books into students’ hands.

The biggest obstacle is cost. Most of our students can’t afford to spend twenty dollars for a new book. As a result, we contract with a local printer to have copies made that sell for seven dollars, which is still a lot of money to most of our students. Over the course of four years, students spend an average of $280 on books. That might not sound like much, but the average annual income here is $800. Imagine being married, with children, and having to spend 10% of your budget for everything this year on books.

The other big obstacle that we face is time. The printer often returns our books with pages that are missing, crooked, faded, or blurry. Sometimes, the political situation in the country complicates things. In January, rioters threw a brick through the print shop window and blocked the road leading into town for weeks. As a result, books that had been dropped off in late January ended up not being delivered until early March. There has to be a better way.

The Solution

By going digital–scanning our library and pre-loading it onto tablets–we could deliver books to students not in a matter of weeks or days, but seconds, and we could cut their book fees by over 80% to boot. The solution involves three steps:

  1. Scanning the Books
    All the books we assign will be transported back to the United States and scanned into e-books. This part won’t cost us anything.
    Cost: $0
  2. Buying the Tablets
    The Amazon Fire, which costs $50 and comes with free shipping, lets you hold a library in the palm of your hand. Its seven-hour battery life gives students lots of time to read before recharging, an essential feature in the Third World where electricity is erratic. Once we sell the tablet to students at-cost, they won’t have another book to buy for four years. Book fees will drop from $280 to $50.
    Cost (initial stock of 20 tablets): $1,000
  3. Clearing Customs
    Customs fees in Haiti can be unpredictable. We will budget for at least 20% of the cost of the tablets. Any and all leftover funds will go to providing scholarships for students.
    Cost: $200

    TOTAL PROJECT COST: $1,200

Will you partner with us to turn this dream into reality?

2020 Vision: Scholarships for the Bible School Class of 2020

IMG_3654-1-e1442437236413

John 3:16 in Haitian Creole

This past week has been Spring Break for our Bible school. The students are enjoying a week off from their labors as the temperature and humidity begin to inch upward once again toward summertime levels. As the class of 2016 makes one final push toward graduation this June, we are thanking the Lord for his faithfulness over the last year. Thanks to his grace and your support, all eleven of our students were blessed this year to receive a full scholarship upon payment of 25% of their outstanding debt.

  • In 2015, we raised $2,832.45, well more than the $2,200 ($200 per student per year) we needed in order to offer a full scholarship to all eleven of our students. As a result, teachers were paid on time and  improvements are already in the works, including the renovation of a room that will soon serve as an office and library.
  • In 2016, we have raised $320 so far. Added to the $632.45 surplus, we currently have $952.45 available for scholarships for students for the upcoming year.

This fall, we will be taking in a new four-year promotion (the class of 2020). We do not yet know how many students we will have, but the last three promotions had six, seven, and four, respectively. I would personally like to see us hit ten new students this year, meaning we would need about $2,000 more to cover tuition this year. If you would like to partner with us this year, you could put a student through Bible school for less than the cost of a pizza every month ($20). There are two ways to give:

  1. Mail a check to: Rehoboth Ministries, c/o The Lord’s Table, P.O. Box 11049, Goldsboro, NC 27532. Make the check out to the Lord’s Table, and be sure to write “BIBLE SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIP” on the check. (Due to the fact that PayPal takes a 4% cut of all online donations, we would prefer you use this option if at all possible.) One hundred percent of what you give will go to covering students’ tuition.
  2. To donate online through PayPal, click here and then click the yellow “Donate” button in the right-hand column. Enter the amount you would like to give and tick the box to make your donation a recurring payment.

Mèsi davans (thanks ahead of time) for your support!

Internship in Haiti

haiti-mapWho We Are

Rehoboth Ministries is a Christian ministry that has been operating in Haiti since 1983. The Rehoboth umbrella covers five local churches, three schools with a school lunch program, and a Bible school. Our work is especially focused on extending the Kingdom of God in Haiti through the discipleship of believers in the local church.

The Internship

10623705_700017683409275_1156528898621162866_oWe are looking for a creative, mature Christian with journalistic skills (writing, photography, video editing) who will cultivate a stronger online presence for a 33-year-old ministry. Previous experience with video editing, photography, and social media outreach is strongly preferred. Previous experience with French and/or Haitian Creole is a plus but not required. The intern will create stories through words, images, and multimedia that illustrate various facets of the ministry for ministry partners overseas, as well as operating the ministry’s web and social media outreach. The intern will also develop and teach a weekly class to Haitian youth about photography, video, and web design. This is an ideal “semester off” experience for students looking to venture outside of their comfort zone, gain valuable cross-cultural, journalistic, and teaching experience, and explore Haiti, the world’s oldest black republic.

Time Frame

Begin: September 1, 2016
End: November 30, 2016

Submission Deadline

All submissions will be considered until the position has been filled.

Paid / Unpaid

Unpaid (meals/lodging provided)

Applicants should provide the following materials

Please submit a resume, including any relevant course work, and all previous volunteer involvement. Please include a cover letter summarizing applicant’s Christian testimony as well as the reason he/she wants to work with Rehoboth and what he/she hopes to gain from the internship experience.

Responsibilities

  • Writing articles on various facets of the ministry accompanied by photographs
  • Writing human-interest stories and interviewing people
  • Developing promotional videos summarizing ministries and highlighting needs for fundraising purposes
  • Establishing a consistent presence across a variety of platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and others
  • Teaching a weekly class on photography/video editing/web design to Haitian students

The position is a supportive role that requires one to work efficiently on both team-based and independent projects.

Requirements

A 3 month commitment is required. Hours per week are flexible and will vary depending on the needs of the ministry. Start and end dates can be adjusted slightly based on needs of intern.

Other Requirements:

  • Strong organizational and time management skills
  • Demonstrated ability to multi-task, prioritize, and set and meet deadlines
  • Some knowledge of social media platforms
  • Possess attention to detail
  • Passport valid through the end date of the internship

Skills

Preferred – Writing Skills, Photography, Video Editing, Social Media, Communication Strategy, Creative

How to Apply

E-mail me.

2015 in the Rearview

IMG_0039Happy New Year!

I know that it’s been a while since I’ve written here. In part, that’s because this was a very busy semester. In addition to teaching three classes, I also served as an online T.A. for a friend of mine who teaches at a Bible college in the U.S., launched an online document-translation business, and preached and translated several times. Toward the end of the semester, I began to feel really fatigued and even though I have still been working on a book translation, the Christmas break has been very welcome rest.

This year flew by. It feels like the older you get, the more quickly each year passes. Last March, I woke up to the realization that my twenties were over. I have had moments of panic this year where I wonder whether I am going the right way or wasting my life. Romans 8:28 brings me comfort in such moments: “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” If you love God and are seeking to please him, there is really no way for you to ruin your life.

I preached a sermon to that effect last Sunday, weaving it together with the story of Joseph. I felt a sense of wonder to see Haitian believers who have so many reasons to be cynical respond to the word with faith. Despite the frustrations that often come with living here, I feel like I fit in this little country, even though I am often the only white guy in the room. Haiti gives me a sense of gratitude on a regular basis. I really have a very easy life with hardly any problems, and I could not ask God for much more. I would like to meet someone and get married, but if God wants me to wait, I am sure he has a good reason.

I want to thank you for all your help in 2015! You accomplished some great things this year. For starters, you covered the tuition of every Bible school student for the whole year. As a result, the students didn’t have to worry about paying tuition and the school didn’t have to worry about paying its teachers. You also made it possible for me to be here without taking a salary from the Bible institute. I even brought in about $2,000 more than I spent on rent, food, gas, car insurance, student loans, airfare, and everything else. It was nice not to have to worry about money at all this year, so thank you! You have been a tremendous blessing.

In 2016, the Lord’s Table Church will be assuming a few administrative duties for our ministry. As a result, your donations need to go to a new address. The new address to send checks to is: The Lord’s Table, P.O. Box 11049 Goldsboro NC 27532. Please make sure to earmark checks for “Haiti — John Adams” so they know what account to deposit it into. (You can also give online at thelordstable.org but make sure to note who it’s for.)

Thank you for your prayers & support in 2015! On to 2016, another year in which everything that happens will work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

Bible School Scholarships (Update)

Screen ShotA few weeks ago, I wrote that our Bible school faculty would soon meet to discuss how best to divvy up the scholarship money you gave over the summer. Well, the faculty met and we decided to prioritize students who had a heavy burden of debt. We ended up receiving enough money to cover seven people for a whole year, which is one less than the number of students in the upper promotion (the class that is currently in its senior year). With one exception, all of these students had accrued a heavy burden of debt.

As a result of the large amount of unpaid debt, the faculty decided to condition the offer of a year’s scholarship to the student upon repayment of 25% of his debt. In the worst case, the student still ended up paying only 50% of what he would normally have paid for the year. (In most cases, students paid 20-25% of what they normally would have paid while cutting into the debt that would have kept them from receiving their diploma upon graduation.) All seven are on track to make their payments, receive their scholarships, and graduate on time. Thank you to those of you who partnered with our students to help make their education affordable!

Bible School Scholarships

imagesAt the end of the last school year, I wrote about our how difficult it has become for many of our Bible school students to pay their tuition. I also mentioned that we were creating scholarships designed to help them shoulder that load and asked how many of you would be willing to help. Since our new school year began last week, I am long overdue in giving you a report on what has happened in the interim. The great news is that you responded generously, going above and beyond our expectations! So far, we have raised $1,092.45 for our twelve students:

  • Two people gave lump-sum payments that added up to about $860—enough to cover a full year’s tuition for 3 students and half a year for one more.
  • Three more people committed to monthly donations, covering four additional students at a rate of $20 per month.
  • In summary, out of our twelve students, the cost of annual tuition has been covered for 7-1/2 students.

Our faculty will meet on September 5 to decide how to award these scholarships and which students will receive them. After a preliminary discussion, my best guess is that half the money will go to students suggested and voted on by faculty members for their exemplary Christian character. The other half will be awarded at the end of the year on a merit basis to students with excellent academic achievement. We have made great headway toward our goal, but there is still plenty of time left to give. There are two ways to do so:

  1. Mail a check to: Rehoboth Ministries, P.O. Box 8222, Fayetteville, NC 28311. Make sure to write “BIBLE SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIP” on the check. (Due to the fact that PayPal takes a 3% cut of all online donations, we would prefer you use this option if at all possible.) One hundred percent of what you give will go to covering students’ tuition.
  2. To donate online through PayPal, click here and then click the yellow “Donate” button. Enter the amount you would like to give and tick the box to make your donation a recurring payment.

Thank you so much for your generosity to our students! If I could ask for just three more minutes of your time, click here to watch an interview with Gary St.-Vil, one of our seniors. He is a great example of the kind of student whose life your giving blesses.

Funding the Future

iStock_000004407014Medium2“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” —Matthew 28:19a

Jesus’ command to make disciples drives everything we at Rehoboth Ministries do in Haiti. We believe that Haiti will never be healthier than the Haitian church. The church in Haiti, in turn, will never rise higher than the level of its leadership. As such, our Bible training institute is at the heart of what we do. Haiti is a country where the Gospel has often gone “a mile wide and an inch deep.” Too often, missionaries have majored on evangelism and mercy ministry to the neglect of the local church. As such, Haitian believers can be woefully under-taught. (This semester, for example, a student of mine who has attended an evangelical church for years was genuinely surprised to learn that Christians have always believed that Jesus was God as well as man.)

As I wrote in February, however, this has been an exceptionally difficult year in the life of our Bible institute. In contrast to previous years, most of our students have been unable to pay their school dues. As a result, Rehoboth Ministries has had to subsidize most of the teachers’ salaries, stretching a ministry budget that even on a good day doesn’t have much give. This isn’t necessarily our students’ fault. The declining value of the Haitian gourde (from 42 to 47, relative to the U.S. dollar, since I moved back in August 2013), coupled with the rising cost of living can make our school’s annual tuition of 9,000 gourdes per year (about $189 USD at the current exchange rate) a steep hill to climb. Every year, the money is worth less. Every year, things cost more.

We don’t like seeing our students go into debt in order to receive Biblical training. As such, we would like to create a series of need- and merit-based scholarships. For $20 per month ($240 per year), you could cover the annual cost of tuition and books for one student. Scholarships could serve as a powerful incentive to academic excellence as well as touching an economic point of need. The availability of scholarships could also give our school (which has twelve students at present) the opportunity to attract more students. Sponsoring a scholarship is easy to do. It can be done in one of two ways:

  1. Mail a check to: Rehoboth Ministries, P.O. Box 8222, Fayetteville, NC 28311. Make sure to write “BIBLE SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIP” on the check. (Due to the fact that PayPal takes a 3% cut of all online donations, we would prefer you use this option if possible.) One hundred percent of what you give will go to covering students’ books and tuition.
  2. To donate online through PayPal, click here and then click the yellow “Donate” button. Enter the amount you would like to give and tick the box to make your donation a recurring payment.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting videos of Bible school students sharing about how God called them to ministry, their experiences at our school, and their hopes for the future. I will also be in the United States for most of the summer (May 19 — August 16). If you are interested in speaking to me personally about this, please leave a comment on this blog or send me an e-mail (adams.john@gmail.com). I would love to hear from you!

Unexpected Delays

JFKLineupThe last couple of weeks have brought breaks in the semester both unexpected and unsought. A couple of weeks ago, a national strike over the price of gas (still well above $4 per gallon in Haiti, which knows nothing of the sharp drop in prices in the U.S.) forced our school to cancel a couple of days of classes. This week, the failure of a majority of students to pay their bills in a timely manner has canceled more classes. When our Bible school first launched in the 1990s, students were punctual with payments because they knew the school would not tolerate tardiness. Since 2010, however (when my dad had a brain aneurysm), the school has slid into a dysfunctional pattern of late payments with no consequences. In a few cases, students (most of whom have jobs) have managed to get through all four years without paying a gourde. Since those student fees help pay for books and teacher salaries, students’ failure to pay has resulted in serious shortfalls for the school, shortfalls my parents have had to cover out-of-pocket.

In an attempt to right the ship, the administration warned students at the beginning of this semester that it would no longer be tolerating late payments. The économe (financial officer) sat down and worked out an individual payment plan with each student, along with deadlines after which the first payment would be due. Most of those deadlines have now come and gone and most of our students still have not paid what they owe. On Monday, I had the unenviable task of asking several students to leave my class. I have only two students left for the lower promotion (graduating class) and only one for the higher promotion. As a result, I canceled my higher-promotion class today. Depending on how things go, I might end up getting an earlier vacation than I had expected. Since teaching in the Bible school is my reason for being here, this unexpected change obviously casts my future plans into question as well. While I had planned on coming back next year, my plans are now in limbo as I wait to see whether most students will pay what they owe or drop out.

In addition to the drama going on in the country and in the school, I have also been wrestling with depression. I have always been prone to melancholy, even when I lived in the U.S., but the added stress and loneliness of living cross-culturally in such a broken country have certainly made life more difficult. Fortunately, I have a break coming up. I already needed to leave the country over our Easter break to renew my expired tourist visa. Since a friend of mine offered me a free place to stay in New York City, I will be heading there for a week at the beginning of April. Hopefully, the next few weeks will be restorative and open onto a vista of clarity for the future. As always, I really appreciate all your prayers and support. No matter what happens, I know that God is good and that his plans for my future are better than mine.

Blan, Go Home

The picture my aunt snapped that day. The man in yellow is the one who harassed me.

The picture my aunt snapped that day. The man in yellow is the one who harassed me.

Last week, I was walking in downtown Cap-Haitien with my aunt, who was visiting from North Carolina. After visiting the tourist market, where I had helped her negotiate a deal on some souvenirs to take home, I suggested that we walk over to the public square just a few blocks away and see the Cathedral. When we got to the square, a man asked me if my aunt was my mother. Having learned from experience that people often say lewd things in Haiti about white women, I shook my head no and kept walking. My lack of communicativeness seemed to agitate him, however and he began walking alongside me, growing more and more animated and asking lots of questions in rapid-fire succession. When I tried to ignore him, he got mean.

“You know we slaughtered lots of white people in this square, right?” he said, pointing towards the park and referring back to the days of the Haitian Revolution. I kept walking. He then launched into a diatribe about the evils of slavery and the oppression Haitians have faced in every other country but their own.

“When Haitians go to your country, the police beat us. They put us in chains. They send us back in cages like animals! When you come to our country, we let you enjoy our beaches and our mountains and our architecture”—gesturing toward the cathedral originally built by the French in the 1700s—”and we never bother you at all! We’re civilized and you’re barbarians!” he declared proudly. He was inches from my face now and had been harassing me halfway around the park.

“What do you have to say about that, blan?” he asked, obviously satisfied with himself.

“I think the civilized thing to do would be to leave me alone,” I replied. At that, he grew even more upset. I tried to reason with him, but any time I spoke, it only seemed to fire him up. He got cruder, mixing profanities in with racial slurs, growing ever more agitated. At one point, he pressed his chest up against my right shoulder and put his face inches from mine as he followed me. I think he wanted to bait me into hitting him. (That way, he could say I picked a fight with him and try to extort money from me to put him in the “hospital.”) I ignored him, but made a point of keeping myself between him and my aunt, who was by now looking very worried. (She had made him even angrier by snapping a picture of him with her iPhone in case things turned violent and she needed to identify him to the police and he was now yelling at her as well.)

As we passed a group of men sitting on the sidewalk playing dominoes, I tried to get them involved. “This guy’s harassing me,” I said. “I haven’t done anything to him, and he’s cursing at me!” They could hear everything he was saying since he never stopped insulting me, but they ignored the situation and kept playing. They may have been afraid he would come back and target them later that night if they had gotten involved. Part of me wonders, however, if they just enjoyed seeing the white man suffer. About following us for about four blocks past the square, the man inexplicably relented and turned back (but not before warning me not to come back).

Afterwards, I was fine until my aunt started asking me questions about it. At that point, the swirling mess of emotions inside me boiled over and I burst into tears. I couldn’t sort through my emotions at the time, but looking back, I know that I was embarrassed since this is precisely the sort of thing I never wanted my aunt to see about Haiti. I was angry at the injustice of what had just happened to me. I was ashamed that I wasn’t able to make it stop. I was hurt in a way that I hadn’t felt in years (similar racially-tinged verbal attacks were a recurrent feature of my childhood). Most of all, however, I was just profoundly tired.

“So this is what I get for coming back here!” I kept thinking. “I have to regularly ask people for money just to live here. I don’t get paid. I quit my job, left the comforts of home, intentionally chose downward mobility, and this is the thanks I get!” My mind raced through grievances, through every way I’ve felt undervalued and unappreciated in a culture where people often feel entitled to foreign benevolence. Just last week, I gave a friend a brand-new English Bible for Christmas (he’s been learning English) and tucked $50 into it. He never even thanked me. I thought about all the loneliness I’ve experienced here, the nights I’ve spent awake on my bed wondering if I made the right decision by coming here. I wondered if anyone would even notice if I was gone. I was tired of being taken for granted.

I was also tired of living in such a race-conscious society. Haiti is the only country I’ve ever been to where there are ten different words to define the particular shade of black a person happens to be. Typically, the lighter-skinned a person is, the more social prestige they hold. This is a holdover from the French colonial era, when mixed-race children were considered a higher class than slaves and were given an education. (Racial tension between these two groups persists to this day.) I have never been able to understand, however, why in modern Haiti so many people continue to perpetuate this system. I was once asked after preaching at my church to pray for a baby girl who was sick. Before I could even ask what was wrong with the child, the mother apologized for the girl’s blackness, telling me, “I have one that’s prettier (lighter-skinned) at home.” Haiti is a country in which anyone who is not Haitian is called blan (a word that literally means “white” but really means “foreigner”—even a black Haitian who grew up in the U.S. is a blan in Haiti). It is also a country in which anyone who is not black can never be Haitian. Whereas a Haitian born in the United States is automatically an American citizen, I—despite having been born here and speaking Creole fluently—can never be Haitian because I am the wrong color. I am a perpetual outsider, not only to mean men on the street but even to people I have known my entire life.

After being harassed, I cried for about an hour. I tried to talk sense into myself, but it was no use. I hadn’t been rejected for anything that I had done, but for what I was. I’m not sure that that kind of pain ever fully goes away. Since then, I have been continually reminding myself that the vast majority of people I meet here are kind. I remind myself that Jesus said we would have a cross to bear, that we are not entitled to comfort and peace in this life, but the next. I meditate on the fact that Jesus went to the cross for those who hated him and endured its shame for the joy set before him. I try to keep in mind that many of the problems in this country have roots that go back to injustices perpetrated against black people by white people. I am to the point where I won’t be making my decision on whether to come back next year on the basis of one terrible experience. It still hurts, though, and I think it still will for a while regardless of whether I am here or somewhere else.