24 February 2011

Dreams Tied Down

When you have a dream to see something happen, it's sometimes more of a burden than a blessing. Because more often than not, if your life is like mine, a dream means waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

Having a Cessna Caravan (picture above) has been a dream for the pilots of the Haiti program for a long time. For years now, they've been trying to figure out a way to move more people here, so we're not constantly turning down flights for larger groups. Having to shuttle people back and forth in the 206's and 207's is okay...but it's harder on them and on us. And sometimes, the size of the group makes it downright impossible. Plus, it ties up all our airplanes for a few hours, instead of just one flight. It's always been obvious that a Caravan could be very useful here.

After the earthquake, MAF got emergency approval to fly a Caravan here, thanks to Priority Air Charter, who supplied the plane and the pilot. Using the Caravan meant being able to fly huge loads of food from the World Food Program to displaced people around the country. Its increased capacity regarding people and cargo (it seats 12 instead of 5) was a huge blessing to many here...and people who had prayed prayed prayed for this to happen got a taste of what it would be like.

So after lots of discussion, prayer, and research, we pursued leasing a Caravan from Samaritan's Purse, based on good authority from someone in the government that they'd approve its registration.

And yet, after four months, here it sits. On our ramp. Waiting.

The government has concerns about the safety of the Caravan. There have been meetings with experts. Phone calls. More meetings. Letters. E-mails. And as of this moment, it sits.

However...someone from the Justice department happened to fly with us this week, and we happened to bring up our predicament. And now, much to our delight, he's trying to help.

The meeting is supposed to happen Wednesday, and we really need prayer. Because we want this dream to happen...but only in God's timing and plan, if it's truly from Him. We can see why it would make sense--we can see how good it would be. And now, we're getting the first forward progress toward registration that we've had since it got here. But we also know that good can get in the way of God's best, and dreams have a way of strengthening our resolve, even when they shouldn't.

Pray that we won't stick our foot in the door if God's closing it. Pray for our relationships with the government here, that they would glorify God. But most of all, please pray that we'd be able to use the Caravan to show His love and increase His glory here. 

23 February 2011


I saw this on Twitter. (Yes, I do Twitter. Don't judge me.)

These students have been on a hunger strike for 11 days in order to get a better education.

One of them is in grave condition in the hospital.

And it begged the question...what would I starve myself for?

What would you?

18 February 2011

In case you were wondering...

Headquarters has just come out with some info about our impact in Haiti over the last year, so I thought I'd share. (Well, it describes our measurable impact. Some things aren't quantifiable.)

MAF served a significant role in the international relief efforts following the January 2010 earthquake. The MAF base at the Port-au-Prince airport became the staging and warehouse area for dozens of aid agencies. During the initial three months of the crisis, MAF conducted 1,037 relief flights within Haiti, transported 1,801 passengers, and delivered 315,498 pounds of cargo. 

In partnership with Missionary Flights International, MAF also served a significant role in coordinating 200 round-trip flights from Florida to Haiti, assisting with the transport of 3,500 passengers, and processing 1.5 million pounds of relief supplies. When cholera struck in late 2010, MAF assisted Samaritan’s Purse, Doctors Without Borders, Medical Teams International, and other organizations by transporting medical personnel, medicines, IV solution, water purification systems, and other supplies to combat the outbreak. 

MAF Haiti staff recently had an opportunity to minister in a different way by building homes for families whose houses collapsed in the earthquake. Through gifts from generous friends, MAF purchased materials for 26 structures and built them on the existing foundations. The houses are well-anchored, sturdy, and much appreciated by the families that were previously living in tents.

In 2010, the MAF Haiti program completed 3,336 flights, carried 7,698 passengers, and 1.4 million pounds of cargo. This is a 77 percent increase in cargo over 2009.

To read the rest of the statement about MAF's worldwide ministry, you can click here.

Without your prayer support, none of this would be possible! Thank you!!

15 February 2011


It's difficult to give you a peek into my English classes, but I am determined to try. English III had their first "real" test today, and I knew they were nervous. I had printed out the twenty, one-sided tests the night before, because I can only print when I have city power, and I didn't want to risk it. I wrote three rules on the white board in red marker to show I meant business. 

1. No cheating. (I didn't have to explain that, but I did have to translate it.)

2. No Creole. (My last class was famous for whispering in Creole; they were "just asking for a pen.")

3. No yelling out the answers. (We do yell them out when we practice together, so this is a harder skill to master than it might seem.)

The test began. "How much time do we have?" As much as you need. "Can we use a book?" Yes, you may use a book to write on, but only if it stays closed. (We don't have desks.)

I watched them think. I love watching people think.

I watched E, my nursing mother. She finished in a fraction of the time with 97% accuracy. She only has to be told a word once, and she's got it. Her ability to generalize and synthesize what I teach her is incredible. I want to put her on a plane to Harvard, yesterday. She and her son J live in a tent on the church property.

I watched M, who was fishing for a hint, even though he didn't need one. "Is that a breakfast food?" I nod, smiling.

I watched U, one of my older students who tends to struggle. She tried to convince me that goat was a fruit the other day. She's a hoot.

I watched F, who hardly says a word, but was acing the test nonetheless. It's always the quiet ones, I find, who surprise me.

I watched B, the only student who had to repeat my class...the test wasn't going great for him, and it's hard to watch. He really tries hard.

Tests have always been hard for me. In a well-crafted test, fairness and challenge are carefully balanced, and there are no misleading or "tricky" questions. I always agonize over how much time to spend in the test as related to the time spent on a subject in class, how much credit to devote to certain concepts. Today, I had to scrap part of it, because they just weren't understanding what I wanted. They knew the concepts, but they'd never been asked to express them that way, and it didn't take. Cultural blunder. So I modified. I'm getting pretty good at that.

I corrected their tests while they chatted together and watched a review lesson. C came up and offered me a lollipop, and I took it, grateful for the kind gesture, even though I looked ridiculous teaching with a lollipop in my hand. They all seemed fairly satisfied with their grades, and we squeezed in one more video segment which introduced colors. 

But it wasn't until English IV that I remembered that the pain of tests is universal. Though we're studying I Thessalonians, we somehow got onto Mark 4, the parable of the sower. S has been asking a lot of questions lately--quite a switch from last session, when he more-or-less tolerated the Bible studies, giving the "right answers," but I knew he was playing me. It started like it starts for so many: controversy. "My friend said women can teach in the church, but I heard that wasn't true. Can you give me some verses so I can argue with him?" I laughed and obliged. Next it was spiritual warfare--"How do we know if a spirit is good or bad?"

And today, I could tell his heart was heavy. I thought it might be Valentine's Day; he's in a long-distance relationship. But it wasn't. He came up after everyone else had left, and pointed to my crude drawing of vines choking the plant. "That makes me sad," he said in English, "because I feel like that. I want to have faith in Jesus, but it's so hard not to have work. I just pray and pray. But this Bible study is good, because it reminds me that I can trust Him, that everything is possible with Him. So thanks."

If I ever find a more humbling job than this, I'll let you know...but don't hold your breath.

07 February 2011

A Morning with Me

I admit it: I had a bad attitude in the car this morning. Bumping down the road, running a bit late, I found my mind wandering...your mind really shouldn't wander when you drive here. Because if your mind wanders, you won't notice the people wandering...out in front of your car.

I'm teaching two English classes at our church, and I really love it. It's my first foray into teaching adults, and it's proven to be a different kind of challenge. For one thing, there's no classroom management--if they talk over me or choose to ignore me or fall asleep (which is actually quite common), it's not my problem. That takes a surprising amount of pressure off.

But today, my attitude needed adjustment. I was tired. The circus tent I teach in gets oppressively hot, but the fan is obnoxiously loud. My new yard guy, O, was scheduled to start work today in the afternoon, and I was stressed about it. I was preoccupied by rumors of protests while we have a visitor. (I like visitors, but I do worry about them.) I breathed a quiet prayer as I pulled into the soccer field to park. Ducking into my section of the tent, I found five or six students already waiting for me.

"Good morning," I greeted them. I was genuinely more cheery now that I'm here and I slung my big bag over the folding chair next to the TV. Inside my bag are my essentials: Creole/English dictionary, Nalgene with filtered water, an orange, hand sanitizer, dry erase markers, a handkerchief to wipe off the sweat and dust, and mace. "Good morning, teacher," they chorus back. I sigh. I keep telling them it's okay to just call me Christine, but they can't seem to manage it. Still, there's a definite camaraderie growing...they feel more free to ask questions, even if they're not sure how to phrase them. They make jokes. They correct me if I make mistakes or go too quickly.

The time goes fast. English III learned to make introductions and practiced reading and using the sounds "c" and "wh" and "j." English IV was supposed to listen to a podcast I'd downloaded for English learners, but I forgot to bring my speakers. So instead, we talked. We talked about the orphanage the church runs...they have ten boys and one girl. We talked about marriage, and I found out that women usually marry between the ages of 18 and 25, and men usually marry between the ages of 25 and 35, because they need to find a good job first. (They thought I was nuts for marrying at 20. Second-best decision I ever made.) We talked politics a little...the rumors of protests were true and had to do with the current president, who was supposed to leave office today. M said the streets had been too quiet on her way to the church this morning, and she wanted to leave early to pick up her girls from school.

We decided to wrap up the conversation and start our Bible study. We're (slowly) working our way through 1 Thessalonians, and today's verses focused on how Paul loved and exhorted them as a family, because in truth, they are. I had to chuckle (inwardly) at the part about nursing mothers, because one of my students breastfeeds (uncovered) during class, and it doesn't bother anyone. I would never discourage it, because a lot of babies here die of malnutrition, and breastfeeding is essential to a healthy start...but I still chuckle.

I checked my phone as we parted ways until Wednesday. Eight missed calls. Oops. Not good. It was David, concerned about protests, wanting to see if I'd made it to class, wanting to see if I was going home. I was. After a very garbled phone call, in which I said "CAN YOU SAY THAT AGAIN?" about two hundred times, I canceled O's first day of work. I took it slow on the way home, watching for signs of trouble, but things were very quiet on the shortcut I take. I find out later that the main roads I would usually take were blocked with burning tires...thank God for back roads.

I returned the car to another MAF house and only had to give one guy the brush-off before I arrived home. B was still here, and I told her to hurry up and go home, not wanting her girls to be alone. She grinned. I asked her if she's been giving Gracie extra food, and she laughed. "We're friends now," she said, "and she always looks so hungry." That explains a lot...if dog food wasn't $60 a bag, I might not care so much. "Well, she's getting fat, so quit it," I said with a smile. I make myself a sandwich and pull out the orange I forgot to eat.

And it's only 1:45...

05 February 2011

On Safety, and its proper applications

  Safety is something our pilots think about a lot. They do careful (even excessive) inspections. They practice procedures in case of emergency. They do thorough training in all aspects of maintenance and flight. And it's done in the name of safety.

That's a good thing, because safety is something our pilots' wives think about a lot, too. After all, I'm sort of attached to my pilot and wouldn't mind having him around for, oh, I don't know, 200 more years.


David has had two years of accident-free flying with MAF. He's awesome, and some of the credit goes to him. He's has some close calls...people on the runway when he's trying to land. Other planes that don't broadcast their position or intentions. Flight traffic controllers who make mistakes. These things happen.

But as we all know, you can prepare all you want, but sometimes, even "safety" can't help us. We'd like to think that we can outsmart ourselves. We hope that if we have enough fences and red tape and orange cones in place to keep ourselves in line, they won't betray us. But it's not true.

Because safety is as much a function of
God's grace as manuals and training.

So consider this my safety kudos to God, who, by the way, sees it all, knows it all, and can use it all, if we'll allow ourselves be used by Him.

02 February 2011

Today's the Day...

So I just read on Twitter* that they're announcing who's in the final elections run-off in about an hour and a half, at 4:30 our time. (In case you've lost track of the controversy, here's a summary.) Most organizations are also calling for their people to be off the streets by 3:00...the guys are hopefully heading home as we speak. David has strict instructions to be careful.

We knew this was coming. My Haitian friends are anxious for answers...but they're afraid. I am quick to remind them to trust in God's care and protection. And in all truth, I'm preaching it as much to myself as to them. I struggle, struggle, struggle to find something to say that isn't trite...and yet, Jesus said He Himself was the truth that comforts us. And we must fight the fear that threatens to overwhelm us at times, because Jesus doesn't give like the world.

What has the world given Haiti but faulty promises and "help" that doesn't help?

What has the world given Haiti, except for self-interested leaders in a web of lies even they can't keep track of?

When has the world ever given us anything of value?

Jesus doesn't give like that. What He gives us won't be burned or shot or looted or destroyed. It's impenetrable, even if I'm not. Lord, give us bullet-proof faith. Let nothing shake us. 

*I joined Twitter because I can get Haiti news updates more easily. If you try to "follow" me, you'll be disappointed.