A Letter from Jess Lutz in Haiti

photo 3 (2)

Bonswa soti nan bél Ayiti! Hello from beautiful Haiti!

I cannot believe that I have already been here for two weeks. The time seems to be flying by, but God is good and I am learning a lot.

For the first week of my internship, we went through training to learn all of the background information and history of Mission of Hope and the vision that they have for this country. As interns, we received that training so that we can better represent Mission of Hope since we are basically the face of the organization. Also, during the first week, we got the chance to tour all 11 villages that MOH works with and sends teams to. It was very encouraging and exciting to see all that God is doing through MOH, and how the Haitian people are being equipped in order to lead their own country and generation. One of the unique things about MOH is that they believe in indigenous mobilization. Basically, that means that they want to have all of their projects here in Haiti fully run by Haitians. This prevents them from becoming dependent on the U.S. and North Americans. A form of indigenous mobilization is the Village Champions, which are members of each of the 11 villages that MOH works with. They are picked by the local pastors based on their relationship with Christ and their deisre to see their village and community changed for the better. Essentially, they are the liaison betwen the local village and Mission of Hope. This is the part where I come in!

photo 2 (2)

My role as an intern is to lead the American mission teams that come to Mission of Hope. I work with the Village Champions in each village to see out life transformation for every man, woman, and child in Haiti.

This past week, I had the chance to lead a medical team along with two North American staff members that live here in Haiti. I worked with a pharmacist for the week, and she taught me how to run the pharmacy at the clinic. It was a lot of fun learning about a completely new area of the medical field and I am excited to work with the mobile clinic again! We took the team out to two villages, Bercy and Leveque. We held mobile clinics in both of these villages. The mobile clinics  provide free consultations with a Haitian doctor and the opportunity to receive medication that has been donated to MOH through other medical partners. At the end of the clinic visit, the patients have the chance to visit and pray with Haitian pastors. This past week, we saw about 260 patients and 16 of them accepted Christ at the clinic! It was a very successful week, physically and spiritually.

photo 1

This week, I will be getting a team on Wednesday and I get to take them out into another local village called Minoterie. We will do village time and visit with the local people, building relationships with adults and the children there. We will also have two days to do a work project which will consist of painting and planting trees. I am so excited to interact with the local Haitians and to continue building relationships with them. I also have loved getting to speak and use so much of the Creole that I already know. It also helps that the translators and children are always making sure that they are teaching me new phrases 🙂 My favorites so far are: “pa fe sa”- don’t do that, and “mwen rele pa blan”- my name isn’t Blan (that is their nickname for us Americans, which means white!)

I definitely feel like I’m getting settled in here and Haiti just feels like home. I’m so thankful that I’m able to spend this season of my life in Haiti and I look forward to all that God is going to teach me through my time here.  Philippians 4:4-13 has been such an amazing passage to hold on to as I make this transition into my new, temporary home.

Bondye beni ou (God bless you),

Jess Lutz

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The LORD is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be make known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things. And the God of peace will be with you.

I rejoiced in the LORD greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:4-13

Lititz Warwick Community Chest Needs Your Help

And one of the scribes…asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

NEW GRACE LOGO 8.09

Part of our mission at Grace Church is serving and loving our neighbors. Lititz Warwick Community Chest is the local food bank that provides us the opportunity to fulfill this mission by helping feed those who are less fortunate. We have recently learned that they are in desperate need for donations! To encourage your participation, Grace Church has a grocery cart in the café to collect donations for LWCC. So, take a look in your pantry. The next time you are at the grocery store, please consider our neighbors here in Lititz.

Need some ideas? Check here.

The Compassion Experience: Coming to Manheim, September 19th-22nd

street peru

Do you remember the first time you met with Poverty? For many, it is an awkward meeting, when you realize how good you’ve had it all this time but the present moment still demands a decision and an action. Like every bad first impression, the memory of it remains for years and decades to come.

I was in Peru. At nineteen, I was more than excited to be going on my first cross-cultural missions trip. I had seen the slums of Lima blur by from the window of our shiny rental  as we rode up into the Andes Mountains. But, God had arranged my first meeting with Poverty to be face-to-face, scheduled for early the following morning. Up until then, the dirt roads; the run-down look of the village; the hints of malnutrition in a dry, rosy complexion on a few of the kids; the scrawny dogs scavenging the garbage in the streets;  the smells, all folded neatly into my anticipation of what I had learned of poverty. I felt…prepared.

peru

It was not the poverty, but the beauty of creation that tendered my heart the following morning as we mingled in the morning light that spilled over the mountain range behind us. Two young girls, shy but unable to hide their smiles, curiously climbed up onto the low wall to sit next to me before heading to school. I began to ask them questions with my classroom Spanish. They giggled, then snuck closer. Within moments, one was sitting on my lap, the other playing with my hair, both chatting up a storm. And I, I was overwhelmed. My heart was starting to fill up with  love for these people and this place. As I soaked in the simple beauty of the moment, my new little friends squealed with excitement and scrambled away.

It was a candy wrapper.

A corner of it poked up out of the dirt mound behind us. As I put my hand up and tried to form words to say “No! Don’t. It’s dirty! you could get sick…,” Poverty kicked me in the stomach and latched onto my throat. I choked back tears of horror and grief as they shared what was left over, tears of joy in their eyes and excited whispers. Then, a quick hug for me and a promise to come play after school. The dirt roads, the run-down look, the hints of that red rash on all of their faces, the dogs, the smells, all changed. They haunt me still, reminding me of my first meeting with Poverty, reminding me the need is great and urgent.

Many of us at Grace Church are well-acquainted with poverty and the need for relief, locally and abroad. Maybe you haven’t been introduced yet. Whichever it is, there is an incredible opportunity to be immersed in the life of one of those whom we are called to care for and love (Matthew 25:40). From September 19th-22nd, LCBC in Manheim is hosting The Compassion Experience: Change the Story.

“Change the Story will bring you as close to another country and culture as you can get without a passport. This interactive, immersive display allows you to step into the life of a child who has suffered under the crippling weight of poverty.

But the journey does not end there.

In the span of less than 30 minutes, you will travel with that child from hardship to hope. And in the midst of hope, you will see that child’s story transformed through the support of Compassion and the child’s life-giving relationship with a sponsor.”

This is a FREE event. We encourage you to go. Take the kids. Let them see; see for yourself. Reserve your spot here because space is limited.  I haven’t forgotten one detail from my first meeting with Poverty. And I pray I never will because God faithfully  continues to change me through it, reminding me there is still much to be done.

Written by: Alyssa Weaver

Mardoche

Last week, sitting on my couch, I was choking back tears as I read the update letter. I’ve stained many letters with my tears in the last year or so, but this one took it to a whole new level. Let me explain.

I never knew what people meant when they said “I left a piece of my heart” there…or “there’s a special place in my heart for such-and-such, or so-and-so” until 2009. That was the year that several members of our Grace Church leadership team headed to the Central African Republic to kick-off a partnership with four Hand-in-Hand partner churches/schools throughout the country. In addition to these church-to-church partnerships, there are hundreds of orphans in the capital city of Bangui who are supported through individual-to-individual sponsorships. They travel to an Orphan Welcome Center, daily, where they receive education, healthcare, food, clothing, and lots of love. Central African culture sees orphans absorbed into their extended families, but there’s often little or nothing to share with them other than a space on the floor of a one-room hut.

In preparation for the trip in 2009, my wife Renee and I had prayerfully agreed that we would sponsor an orphan. As our team arrived at the Orphan Welcome Center, I asked Barb Wooler, the program director, to help connect me with a child who was not yet sponsored. She promised to pick a special one for me. I didn’t know exactly what that meant…until she delivered. She pointed to a quiet little boy standing next to his friend, watching others play soccer in the yard. Before she could say much about him, I said “YES! He’s my guy”!

My first glimpse of Mardoche
My first glimpse of Mardoche

We walked over to him so that we could be introduced. He turned with his bashful eyes and looked at me. Barb crouched down and explained that I was Doug – and that Renee and I were going to be his sponsors. I held back tears as his face lit up with an expression of overwhelming joy that God had answered His prayer! My mere $30/month, less than a cup of coffee per day, was a priceless gift to him. Sealed with a hug our relationship began, and “Mardoche” (the Sango version of Mordecai) became a part of our family.

Meeting Mardoche (2009)
Meeting Mardoche (2009)

Though I only spent a few hours with him that week, our lives were eternally bonded. Renee and I took seriously our responsibility to provide and pray for Mardoche. His face filled the photo frames on our fridge and throughout our home.

I didn’t know if I’d ever get to see him again, but in 2011, we were invited back to visit our partnerships, and to visit the individually-sponsored orphans once again. My heart was pounding from the moment I woke up the day we were going to visit the Orphan Welcome Center. I couldn’t wait! Hundreds of orphans surrounded our vehicle as we entered the property. I looked through the crowds and didn’t see him.

The Excited Greetors
The Excited Greeters

For a second I thought, “maybe he’s grown up so much that I won’t recognize him”, but I was informed that he was in class. We were escorted to a large meeting room while the staff went to pull all of the Lititz-sponsored orphans from their classrooms. I had a big knot in my throat as I waited for what seemed to be an eternity, until finally, that precious face – a little more mature now – walked through the door. In his typical reserved and bashful fashion, he made his way over to me and gave me a gentle hug. Since I had last seen him, I knew he had taken two more years of French, so I began to speak with him in our new, common language.

Me and Mardoche (2011)
Me and Mardoche (2011)

Those moments were magical and will be cherished for the rest of my life. I must have hugged him 1,000 times (and taken 1,000 pictures) in that short time! And again, as I had to say goodbye, I considered the reality that I may never get to see him again, other than through an annual photo and update.

The truth of that reality has seemed to sink in a bit during the past year as the situation in the Central African Republic has continued to deteriorate. But last week the “letter they never wanted to send” arrived, announcing that the individual sponsorship program will be discontinued. It’s a complicated situation, but the bottom line is that the services that have been provided to our children can no longer be guaranteed. The services that we were helping to provide for Mardoche, can no longer be guaranteed. My. Heart. Sank.

“Why God?! Why did you provide this tangible way for the Church in America to DO SOMETHING, and then take it away? Why did you allow years of hard work to build an effective, long-term solution to the orphan crisis in the CAR only to see it vanish in a matter of months?” The questions flew around my mind and out of my mouth as the tears and snot ran down my face. This was an ugly cry, because I was angry. But then a question slipped out of my mouth that stopped me cold: “Why don’t you care about these kids”?!

It took only a split second for me to bite my tongue in horror; to realize the shame of my wrong thinking. And the Holy Spirit, in His ever-gracious and gentle way, began to whisper Truth to me: “Doug, my love is perfect, and I care for these kids far more than you ever could. I own the cattle on a thousand hills, and I can provide for these kids more tangibly and holistically than you will ever be able to. Doug, it’s not about you! And besides, you still have access to the most powerful tools available in the arsenal to address the orphan problem: prayer! I care about Mardoche! I can protect him! I can provide for him! But don’t your forget him! Keep bringing him to me in prayer and trust me!”

I have far more questions than answers, but I do know this: Mardoche is not mine. Neither are my own children. They belong to God…and though every fiber of my being wants to wrap my arms around them to protect them and to be their hero, they are far safer when I release them, completely, to the Lord. He is their Maker and their Sustainer. He is the Author of their lives, the Artist of their bodies, the Lover of their souls. With raw emotions, I prayed:  God, with open arms, I give Mardoche to you. I trust You to care for him. I trust you to provide for Him. Please help him to know YOU as his one-and-only Hero…and use him for Your glory.

Mardoche (2014)
Mardoche (2014)

Vision for Haiti: Chuck Davis Visits Grace Church

20140114_124431

If you’re a regular to the Engage blog, you’ve probably noticed that God seems to be doing a lot in Haiti through Grace Church. It’s true! God has developed a passion and heart for the people of Haiti at Grace Church. Many individuals have been part of the 8 or so teams we’ve sent to minister to orphans and to villagers in some of the poorest communities in the world. (Sidenote: The Grace Church missions team is thrilled about a new “official” partnership with a church in one of these communities. If you’re interested in learning more by joining the team who is traveling there in January, HERE is the application)

Much of our work on the northern coast has been initiated by a relationship with Dr. Chuck Davis, the Executive Director of Caribbean Vision Ministries

_wsb_244x222_chuckIMG_0001

We are thrilled that Chuck will be visiting Grace Church this week to share what is new with CVM, as well as to update us on the work at the House of Hope Orphanage and our new partnership at the Bode-de-Mer church.

PLEASE JOIN US for this informal time of sharing:

THIS Wednesday, September 10
7-8:30 p.m.
Grace Church Café
Coffee & light snacks will be provided

Will YOU be Going to Haiti in January?

I hope you will prayerfully consider an upcoming cross-cultural ministry experience with the “least of these” in Haiti! Grace Church is really excited about our new partnership with the Bode-de-Mer church near Cap Haitien, Haiti and we will be sending a team to initiate this church-to-church relationship from January 10-17, 2015. Our church’s desire is to partner with the pastor and congregation to meet their community for Jesus.

Pastor Doug and Pastor Cadet from the Bode-de-Mer Church, January, 2014
Pastor Doug and Pastor Cadet from the Bode-de-Mer Church, January, 2014
Children from the Bode-de-Mer Christian School, January, 2014
Children from the Bode-de-Mer Christian School, January, 2014

This budding friendship will be the primary focus for the team and will include worship and fellowship with the congregation at the Bode-de-Mer church and visiting with the school of 115 children in 6 classes (all in one room). The team will also do some work projects at the Bible Institute (where pastors and church-planters are trained and where short-term teams stay) and spend an afternoon at the House of Hope orphanage.

If you’re interested in considering this trip, please pick up an application at the missions table in the Grace Church lobby, or print it from our website, HERE. Completed applications are due by September 22.