Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July Gilmore Gazette: A hand up, not a handout

 Dear Family & Friends,

After some tearful goodbyes, we made it home to Fresno late last Tuesday. We had a long journey with our three girls and our friend, Dana Johnson, who was with us the final two weeks in Haiti. We made all our flights and we even breezed through customs with our huge stash of Haitian beaded jewelry. What a relief to be welcomed home by our Fresno family. Thank you for all of your prayers! They certainly carried us through.

The month of July was another very full month for us in Haiti. Our highlight of the month, and perhaps the whole summer, was a road trip with all the kids from the orphanage to the beach. This was no ordinary road trip. We piled 23 kids and 8 adults, including our Fresno friends Tanner and Stacey and their kids, into two vehicles and on a motorcycle. We included lots of peanut butter and honey sandwiches, snacks, towels, donated swimsuits, frisbees and cameras. Our entourage bumped along on rocky roads and weaved in and out of traffic. The boys were having the time of their lives sitting in the back of the pick-up truck, drinking in the sights and feeling the wind on their faces. The girls were sandwiched into the cars. They sang and laughed. We looked like one of those "clown cars" with more and more layers of people piling out at pit stops. Our final destination was the port city of Cap Haitien. We arrived in the city and made a beeline for the beach. For the 15 orphans from The Bridge Christian Children's Home, who were born in raised in the rural mountains, this experience was a first. What a joy to share this with them!

We helped with two weeks of Vacation Bible School this month. A team of 10 people from our home church, The Bridge, joined us for VBS in Savanette. Our goal for the week was to come alongside the Haitian leaders in Savanette and share the Bible with the children in that town. The teaching theme of the week was the Fruit of the Spirit from the book of Galatians. Some highlights of the week included Pastor Mele's animated storytelling, teaching the kids hand motions to familiar songs, introducing frisbee to them for the first time and watching a parade of kids come forward to commit their lives to Christ. The week culminated on Friday with 6 kids reciting 8 Bible verses for the group and one brave girl who recited all 9 Bible verses. This was definitely the fruit of our team's labors.

The following week our Bridge friends returned home but our friend Dana Johnson stayed on to help us with a two-day Vacation Bible School in Fontaine. Pastors Gerby and Calvaine invited us to help out. Ericlee found great joy in leading the kids in relay races down the dirt road in front of the church. The funniest race was when the kids had to balance a lime on top of a spoon carried in their mouth. Some 20 kids came forward in those two days to receive Christ.

Dorina concluded 8 weeks of working with the artisans of The Haitian Bead Project. Along with the help of several friends from the U.S., she was able to teach the ladies 8 new products. There were sev
eral challenges on the journey but God made a way. The project started last year with 9 artisans and today we have 60 working. Each one has signed a contract, and we have a new leadership structure in place. One of the highlights was training 15 new women once a week in the small town of Savanette. These women were so excited to learn a new skill and have the chance at making a little money to provide for their families. We hope the Bead Project will be just one example of many projects developed in the future to provide jobs to Haitians to help them become more self-sufficient.

Ericlee had many opportunities to speak to Haitian leaders this month. He attended weekly meetings with the laypreachers group and traveled to some of the ministry's various outstations to encourage the people. On our final Sunday, Ericlee was invited to preach at the Fontaine and Pignon churches. Preaching felt out of his comfort zone but he was grateful for the chance to share his heart. Ericlee used the example of the heart as the strongest muscle in the body and related how important the condition of the heart is in a spiritual sense. Our Haitian director Peter translated and was very excited to see Ericlee in this teaching role.

One of our main purposes this summer was to find more ways to offer a hand up to Haitians rather than a handout. We have seen that decades of handouts showered on the people has actually robbed them of their sense of dignity. As an organization we want to be about transforming lives for Christ, continuing the legacy of Ericlee's grandparents started in 1947 in Haiti.

We are grateful to be home with our Fresno community but a piece of our hearts always remain in Haiti. We would appreciate your prayers for transition back to the U.S. and discernment for the future as we jump into marketing the Haitian beads and developing new U.S. partners for Christian Friendship Ministries. For those of you who are in Fresno, we want to invite you to our Haiti Sharing Night coming up on Friday, August 24 at 7 p.m. in the Cafe at The Bridge Church. Join us for dessert, a movie slideshow and an evening of sharing about our summer and future plans for our non-profit.

Saying Yes to God,

Ericlee, Dorina, Meilani, Giada and Zayla

No comments: