October Update from Haiti

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So much to report! Where to begin?

  • Many of you have asked about the incident in my home in Haiti. Thank you for your concern and your prayers! I have recovered nicely. I do feel safe in my home and sleep like a baby here. We have strengthened our security and are taking the issue more seriously. The thief has been arrested and remains incarcerated. But the beauty of it all is how the event has drawn me and the community closer together. I have been asked to start a bible study soon.
  • I spent the month of September in the states. Sharon and I vacationed in California and we celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary on the 16th while I was there.
  • Good For Haiti has completed the application for tax exempt status and has filed the application. We are waiting for the arrival of the official documents to be sent to us which should be imminent.
  • Pastor Phenix/The Primary School at Cap Destree/The Industrial Arts School of Woodworking.

Yesterday Pastor Phenix (Met Bail to his students) opened the doors of the primary school for the 2017-18 school year. October 2nd was the last possible day to open the primary school without serious repercussions and he did it without having all the money to do so. It was a risk no matter which way he would have decided. If he had not opened the doors:

  1. He would have lost some the standing he has in the community as a spiritual leader.
  2. One of the platforms for making disciples in the community would be lost.
  3. The school would have lost the credentials from the government and would not be allowed to open in subsequent years.
  4. Education for those who cannot afford it would be lost.
  5. School children would become idle and would get involved in unsavory behavior.

As a missionary and an American I struggle with the issue of funding for Haitian schools. Most of the schools in Haiti (90%) are owned by churches or individuals like this school. Neither the national government nor the local governments have the resources to fully fund education. That causes the schools and their directors to become dependent on charitable resources from outside of the country. And that contributes to the hopelessness, helplessness, and powerlessness that constitute poverty. It is a necessary band-aid to a problem that begs for a long term solution.

So I ask myself and I ask you: How would WE do it? If this was our problem what would we do to help schools become self-sustaining? How do we employ the awesome education we each have enjoyed in the United States to solve this difficult problem?

This is the place to which I have progressed in solving this issue. I have absorbed some of the passion Pastor Phenix Bail has for education and community development. This passion is rooted in the absolute conviction that no country or community can advance without a relationship with the living God and his son Jesus the Christ. All of our effort is centered and powered by this foundation. Education not only provides a platform to introduce the creator to the community in a spiritual outreach but it also provides for a practical, physical manifestation as well.

When I asked God what I could contribute to the well-being of Haitians he simply told me to give them what he had given me; my faith and my skills! My faith journey has led me to a partnership with Phenix. My skills have led me to the idea of the industrial arts woodworking and business school. And the woodworking school can provide the fuel to fund not only the industrial arts but the primary education as well.

The woodworking school needs to have a production shop, one that produces viable products, in order to provide a practical experience for students enrolled in the theoretical classes. Those products can be sold not only to demonstrate to the students that woodworking commerce is possible in Haiti, and not only to fund the costs of the technical school but it can help to fund the primary school as well. While this idea certainly may not be the only solution to funding nor is it an available option to all primary schools, I am convinced that it is a valid and effective one for us.

So just like the opening of the School of Cap Destree, Good For Haiti and Pastor Bail and myself are poised to launch the project to build the technical school of woodworking and business in Petit Goave, Haiti. Plans have been sketched, the bids are in, and the budgets have been established. September 1, 2018 is the goal for completion date and commencement of operation for the technical school so that the 2018-19 primary school year can be funded.

If you have been waiting for an opportunity to partner with ministry in Haiti now is the time to act. There are two ways to participate; you can support the budget for the primary school this year or with the construction costs and equipping of the technical school. More details are available upon request.

Thank you ever so much for your faithfulness to this Kingdom work in Haiti. Please continue to lift it up in prayer.

For those who would like to help with our continued ministry in Haiti the link for online giving is:

https://texasbaptists.givingfuel.com/um-ernie-sharon-rice

For checks, make them payable to BGCT and send it to the following address with a note that it is for Ernie & Sharon Rice’s ministry in Haiti:

BGCT
7557 Rambler Road, Suite 1100
Dallas, TX 75231-2310

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Being the Light

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Below is a message from Ernie after this weekend’s event.

During my tenure as a business man I came to realize that proving your integrity is not done by performing ‎flawlessly on a daily basis, although integrity requests it. I found that true character is found and displayed in the way you handle a mistake. It is in the fire of testing that integrity is revealed.

This holds true to relationships as well. When I moved to the slopes of Tapion Mountain the community of Cap Destree slowly overcame suspicion and then opened their arms to me in welcome. As they learned of my mission and my faith they became cordial and warm. As I do my morning exercise by walking the trails and roads of the mountain I am greeted with smiles handshakes and small talk from the folks of the mountain. Awkwardness has been replaced by familiarity.

Of course this could all be superficial and polite and not really reveal the true nature of the relationship. It has not been tested. Until now.

On Saturday night August 5th after I had gone to bed a man broke into my home. He was armed with only a small board. I was alone in the house without a weapon. We postured back and forth for a while as I was trying to understand the word he kept saying in Creole. He picked up a leg of a table I have been building and used it as a weapon against me. I was knocked unconscious.

When I came to my house was full of familiar faces from the community. More circled my home in the outside court yard. Men stationed themselves to protect me and the property. Four ladies attended me holding my hands and my head and bringing me water. I later found out that the shouts of my nearest neighbor approaching probably prevented the thief from finishing me off. ‎Police were summoned and transportation to the hospital arrived.

I was beginning to see the real nature of the people I am now calling my friends. The fire of adversity‎ was proving that their friendship was more than superficial and that it had the steel that only love affords. I was moved.  Greatly.

As I was returning from the hospital I began to realize that I too was being tested. ‎Offers were made to me for accommodations in their home for me or for a hotel room. Later I was asked if I was discouraged or if I was going to return home. I saw something in their eyes as they asked me these things. There was something raw there. It was fear. It was a sinking of hope.

In a moment I realized that they were looking to me for hope. They all desperately want to believe in the God and the light I am claiming to bring to their community. ‎And they were collectively holding their breath to see if it was true or if it would fold up and disappear.

I was astonished. And moved greatly. Again.

I assured them that I had no intention of sleeping anywhere other than my own house. That I was receiving excellent medical care and had no need to go to the US. ‎That I was encouraged rather than discouraged and that my God is bigger than a foolish little thief.

It is amazing to me the absolute perfection of the promises of God. He has turned what at first looks like a disaster of giant proportion into a huge leap forward. In a single night the Kingdom work‎ here has advanced what might have taken years to achieve without it.

Great is thy faithfulness Lord, unto me!

A time to heal

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We ask for your prayers for Ernie’s healing head.  Saturday night his house was broken into and there was an ensuing argument to get the person out of the house and wake up the neighbors. The invader grab a table leg from the dining room area and hit Ernie on the head with it.  Ernie wan unconscious (he was told for about 30 minutes) and was taken to the hospital in Petit Goave by Pastor Phonex.  Thankfully there was a surgeon in the hospital that was able to stop the bleeder he had and then stitch up the wound.

He has been experiencing dizziness and nausea since the incident and today went to see our friends at Lifeline Ministry.  They redressed the wound and then sent him for a CT scan  to make sure there is no other unseen damage.  The CT showed no fracture or brain damage. Praise the Lord!  So thankful for doctors and nurses who have provided care for him there in Haiti.

Ernie said the outpouring of concern from the neighbors there in the area where he lives has been very heart warming.  People have been coming by to visit and check on him constantly. God is so good!

 

“11 Teach me your way, Lord,  that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. 12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. 13 For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead. 14 Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God; ruthless people are trying to kill me— they have no regard for you. 15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. 16 Turn to me and have mercy on me;  show your strength on behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you  just as my mother did. 17 Give me a sign of your goodness,  that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”  Psalm 83:11-17

 

 

Solar energy & a great team!

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Greetings from Haiti! It’s July and the sun is at its tropical best! Not only is it helpful for my tan but it now contributes toward my electrical needs too!

It has been a year in the making but my home in Petit Goave now has a complete and operational solar panel/invertor/battery power system. When one considers that such a system provides lights and fans where there were none and that it also allows for refrigeration and even air conditioning one fully appreciates my excitement! I now have around the clock refrigeration which gives me safe and nutritious food options. I now have glorious rest at night because air conditioning pushes back the brutal heat. Less of my time and resources will be spent on survival and more will be spent on ministry because many of you invested in this system.

Last year Terrell drove the solar panels he gifted all the way from Texas to south Florida‎ where they were then air freighted to me. Early this year John gave the invertor and solar/ battery controller which is the heart and brain of the system. Caroline and her group shipped the invertor to Haiti. Andy in Port au Prince invested his time and considerable talent welding the frames that secure the panels to my rooftop. Stuart took great steps to acquire a tiny device called a network terminator (no Swartznegger jokes please) required for the system to operate and get it in the hands of Wesley who was traveling to Haiti on a mission trip. Jack, an electrical engineer travelling with Wesley’s team, checked my work connecting the myriad of parts of the system and held my nervous hand as we went through the boot up process.

What an incredibly beautiful picture of the church in its many parts doing their individual tasks to accomplish the ministry of the kingdom.

‎Thank you for your love of the Lord and his work! Thank you for your encouragement to me! May God richly bless you for your investment!

Anonymity is not quite ‎possible being light skinned in a dark skinned world. I hadn’t given much thought about my comfort with living anonymously until I began to live in Haiti.  I just was not comfortable with being so scrutinized all the time. I began to feel so… well…conspicuous!

When I moved recently to Cap Destree at the foot Tapion Mountain I feel like I am in a parade as I make my way along the long bumpy road to my house.  ‎Children as well as adults from the neighborhood call out to me “blan” or “mon blan” as I pass by, not a term of respect or disrespect but really the only way they know how to be welcoming and to acknowledge a light skinned person.

As someone doing Kingdom work here it really puts a higher requirement of conduct on me.  ‎Just saying this makes me realize that I should have already been leading a conspicuously Christ-like lifestyle before moving here. But there was a large safety net in anonymity that lulled me into complacency. Here mistakes are painfully public and embarrassing and snaps me out of complacency. It tests my resolve to take every thought (and word) captive and to be the light of the world Christ calls me to be.

‎Meanwhile I am getting to know a few in the neighborhood and becoming known by many more. Now I hear “blan Ernie” as I pass by. Soon it will be “zanmi” (friend) and then, God willing, mon frer (my brother).

I will keep you posted as life unfolds here.

The plane carrying the nineteen people ‎from Ash Creek Baptist Church in Azle Texas was late arriving at Toussaint  Louvature Airport in Port au Prince Haiti. Because it was late there was no room at the two gates for the plane to dock so everyone de planed onto the tarmac. It was the hottest part of the June day and walking on the runway felt like “walking into a dragon’s mouth”!  Two hours later the luggage was retrieved and stowed on two vans and the team is headed to the Fort Royal Hotel in Petit Goave, a two and half hour ride. The luggage was unloaded at the hotel in the rain storm that popped up just as they arrived. The hotel staff had a large buffet prepared for the grateful and weary group.

Arrival in PAP

Thus was day one for Team Azle!

Six months of planning had gone into this trip that was to have two tasks. One team was to conduct vacation bible and the other was to paint the interior and exterior of the primary school of Cap Destree (both tasks to be done at the same place at the same time)‎.

Plans were made, Haitians were‎ hired, drinking water was chilled and the work commenced. While VBS was being conducted in three classrooms the other three classrooms were being painted. The painters were not expecting to see 150 gallons of paint waiting for them. The VBS leaders were not expecting a low turnout at the starting time or that the numbers would swell to over 200 the first day. But no one complained or slowed down, not even when VBS moved to the newly painted rooms on the third day. This was one of the most prepared and hardworking teams that I have hosted.

Newly painted school

VBS set up in newly painted room

Madam Bail (Pastor Phenix wife) and her team of church ladies prepared Team Azle’s lunch‎ and served it at my house next door to the school. Nobody, not even I, was expecting the sumptuous meals that those ladies laid down for us. (there is talk of a Haitian church recipe book in the making).

Wesley, pastor of Ash Creek Baptist Church, was out of his comfort zone as he brought the message in the hot tin building of the church on Sunday. Working without a pulpit and barely corralling‎ notes being blown by a fan he still brought a clear and well received sermon with the help of our good friend Charly who translated. A Haitian ladies group performed to music several times. Pastor Phenix introduced his wife’s family and the elders that help with the church ministries. The church was packed out with overflow seated all around the outside of the church.

Church building

Sunday Service

‎While all of these wonderful things were happening an entire community took notice. The neighborhood was electrified by the excitement and commotion that the team inspired. New respect was afforded Pastor Phenix who is already known for bringing the gospel, education and community development to Tapion Mountain. And now the little girl on the corner still runs excitedly to meet me when I pass but now calls me blan Ernie instead of just blan (white).

And she asks me where are Libby and ‎Sharisa and Jaycee and….

Thank you Team Azle. That little girl and I will remember you for a long time.

 

For those who would like to help with our continued ministry in Haiti the link for online giving is:

https://texasbaptists.givingfuel.com/um-ernie-sharon-rice

For checks, make them payable to BGCT and send it to the following address with a note that it is for Ernie & Sharon Rice’s ministry in Haiti:

BGCT
7557 Rambler Road, Suite 1100
Dallas, TX 75231-2310