Having lived in Haiti for twenty-seven years, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen the damage caused by several tropical storms; I’ve seen the destruction caused by coup d’états and numerous manifestations, and I’ve seen the incomprehensible damage caused by the 2010 earthquake, that ravaged much of Port au Prince and nearby cities. Some estimate that up to 250 thousand lost their lives, perhaps just as many were injured, tens of thousands of houses and buildings were destroyed or damaged, and thousands upon thousands were left homeless. It was unimaginable.

And then on October 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall near Les Anglais in southwestern Haiti, as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130–156 mph. This seemingly demonic force uprooted untold thousands of fruit trees, damaged many more and wiped off the face of the earth tens of thousands of gardens belonging to people that depended on them for food and for income from selling their produce in local outdoor markets. Goats, cows, pigs, horses, donkeys, chickens and turkeys were swept to their deaths. And some houses and buildings were simply smashed to pieces as if made of toothpicks. Other sustained damage by falling trees and having roofs blown off. Vehicles and houses were washed away by flooded rivers and perhaps up to one thousand people lost their lives.

To get a more in depth view of the carnage caused by Matthew, click here and here

This week I, with a team of people, traveled to the mountains above Port Salut, on Haiti’s southern peninsula, to bring 100 water filters, bread from our bakery, tarps and water treatment tablets to those impacted by the hurricane.  I’ve been on the road to Port Salut several times, but struggled to absorb what I was seeing: Destroyed and damaged homes, telephone poles down and hundreds and hundreds of tree damaged and down.

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Once we made the turn to go up the mountain to the village of Nan Campêche, it was as if we were entering another dimension.  Those in the truck got very quiet as what we were seeing drifted from the surreal to something that really did happen. We entered a land where in one day the lush gardens, the trees brimming with fruit, and the small houses typical in the mountains had been damaged, destroyed, blown away, uprooted, slammed to the debris ridden-churned up land, and where animals and people had lost there lives. It had been clear that a powerful, bent on destruction, force had preceded us there. The evidence was all around us. 

In this place and thousands of villages like it,  people depend on their gardens, fruit trees and animals to survive. They eat from the gardens and trees, raise the animals for meat and then sell the excess in outdoor markets to buy staples like rice, beans, cooking oil, fish, spaghetti… and to pay for school for their children, health care,  clothes and life’s necessities. Where now will they find food to eat? Where now will they find money to buy the necessities? Where now will they find the money needed to rebuild, to replant? How many years will it take to again have mature shade and fruit bearing trees? Where will the money come from to buy more animals? Where will people live?  Many live in remote, extremely difficult to get to places. Will help reach them? Will they be remembered or is this, for them, the new normal?

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Hurricane altered road to the mountain village of Nan Campêche: It was rocky, wet and slippery due to rain, and in some places we had to inch forward as we drove over and around large rocks and holes in the road, and at times we were only a couple of feet from the edge of the road and a several hundred foot drop

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Some type of structure once stood here, but now it’s completely gone. The houses built out of cement certainly fared better

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A church once stood here

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Heartline didn’t travel to Nan Campêche alone. Kelly Crowdis of Christian Veterinary Mission coordinated the trip through young adults that she works with in the area and missionary Ernie Rice provided 100 water filters donated by the Texas Baptists Men’s Disaster Relief.  We brought with us 100 water filters, 1400 pieces of bread from the Heartline/Beltis bakey, tarps and water treatment tablets. It was in some respects a trip to access the needs of the people and to see if we can help.

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A crowd met us upon our arrival. As word spread the crowd easily tripled in size

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We made sure that this beautiful lady received a water filter and a bag of bread

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The people were thrilled to receive the bread that we brought

It’s the remote locations of many of those that have suffered such loss, that hinders aid from reaching them. Even among the Heartline workers there are at least 30 whose families have suffered loss and who need emergency and more permanent help such as helping to rebuild homes, purchasing animals and seeds for their gardens.  

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The destroyed family home of three brothers that work for Heartline

Heartline can’t help everyone, but we can help some as we collaborate with others that are working to help.  It was Mother Teresa that said,

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

By clicking here you can donate and help Heartline help those that have suffered such horrible loss. The math is simple, the more that is given, the more we can help. You and your help matters.

Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  16 In the same way, let your light shine before others,  that they may see your good deedsand glorifyyour Father in heaven.

Endeavoring to be the Hands of Jesus,

John McHoul

HURRICANE MATTHEW

Posted: October 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

In Port-au-Prince the rain was heavy and some rivers overflowed.  We ate soup with Heartline friends, John checked on the animals at the OKAY, and we prayed through the night as we listened to the wind and rain.  Port-au-Prince was protected by surrounding mountains, not so the countryside in the south.

eq-blog-1The currency of rural Haiti is gardens, fruit trees and animals.  Folks live day to day and depend on the mercy of their gardens to survive.  One bad thing can push them over the edge.  Sickness, a funeral or an animal dying can mean ruin.  Life is fragile enough without earthquakes or hurricanes.  When Matthew blew through, it uprooted or broke off trees, wiped out gardens, killed cows, goats and pigs and left people staring at the sky when it took their roof in a blast of wind.  Gone.  Many died and those who are left have to look out for cholera or they will die too.  Life is full of peril in rural Haiti, all are at risk.

eq-blog-2I went down south yesterday with some of my fellow Heartline folks.  We loaded up the truck with supplies and headed out at 4 A.M.  I took a thousand photos or more but only two need tell the story.  Flattened fields and houses without a roof.  Like a broken reel of film showing the same scene over and over I saw countless downed trees and houses gaping open, bare to the sun and rain.  Over and over and over and over.

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Where Once There Stood Trees

Trees are wealth, living long lives nourishing the generations with their fruit and shade.  Gardens keep families fed and give them something to sell at market.  Mangoes, avocados and bananas turn into money for children’s school or medicine or cement to build a house.  It’s hard to comprehend what losing all this means for a rural Haitian community  Hurricane Matthew has thrown them off a cliff.  Trees take time, starving people don’t have any.  Gardens are lost.  People are hungry. 

Matthew’s destruction made some areas unreachable.  Many are not getting the aid that is trying to reach them.  Heartline is reaching some.  We are helping families of our employees that have had huge losses.  We are also teaming up with other missions on the ground with emergency supplies.  Kelly Crowdis, our close friend who is a veterinarian, is making trips down south and helping people and animals.  No one knows like Kelly that when you save an animal you help a family.  She is heroic. 

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He is 94 and she is 96. Their gardens are completely gone as well as most of their fruit and shade trees. Their home has been damaged, but they’re alive. Victims perhaps; survivors for sure. The look of dignity on his face says so much: ‘We will get through this; we will not give up. We are survivors.’

The needs are gigantic and long term.  The loss is catastrophic and more will be lost if they can’t be reached with aid.  Heartline will continue to be part of the relief effort.  Times like this are two fold, rescue and development.  First, aid and medical help is given so people stay alive then development starts when we give longer term help as in agriculture and education.  Normally Heartline is helping long term by strengthening families but when disaster strikes relief is needed.  Please consider helping Heartline with relief and then helping Heartline with development.  Haiti needs a future and a hope!  Haiti needs your help!

Click  here to help Heartline help people impacted by Hurricane Matthew

Beth McHoul

For a more in-depth understanding of the damaged caused by Hurricane Matthew please click here to read a powerful article that came out today in The Daily Beast. 

This blog has been written by our son Sam and, I believe, worth sharing and worth    reading.

butler mcpherson

Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Time is of premier interest to me.  I do not mean to say that I am not a time waster and I have not made myself a disciple of Rudyard Kipling who said, “Fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run.”  It might have become clear with these blogs that I am against obsession of any kind.

It is how time moves and how we interact with it that interests me.  Time seems to move like a two way conveyor belt; it slowly moves towards you and slowly moves away but it never stops.  I think about things that we once valued and now have forgotten.  Think about styles or songs or movies that were the most popular in their day and now have faded away.  Authors who were the most important of…

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ROSENA

Posted: June 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

On the morning that 50 souls died in Orlando another man went into eternity in a hospital in rural Haiti.  His second wife, Rosena, works for Heartline at the maternity center.  She lives a quiet life under the radar, ever worried that she might do something to lose her job.  She lives week to week and month to month and needs her salary to survive.  She cares for her husband’s children, her own children and some extended relatives. 

haiti_building300Her first husband was a police officer and he died when the police station collapsed to the ground in the earthquake.  His body wasn’t located for a month.  She later married a man who had also lost his first spouse.  Together they made a family.  Then he got sick.  He went from being a large man to a skeleton, he went from eating a lot to eating nothing.  He couldn’t keep anything down.  He checked into General Hospital but they went on strike -the hospital closed down.  He went to the new hospital run by Partners in Health.  He didn’t like their diagnosis so he moved on.  He tried voodoo.  He tried another hospital.  Then, on Sunday, he died.

Rosena is from a country family and they sent her to school a year or two when they could, but she says she couldn’t learn well and did not stick with it. Unfortunately Rosena never learned to read or write.  The microwave is a mystery to her and because she was not afforded everything all of us reading this have had, she cannot tell the difference between 3 minutes and 3 hours when she heats up food for a postpartum Momma.  Oh the simple chores that are denied a person who never had a chance for an education.  Most illiterate folks I know have incredible memories committing lists in their heads because a pencil or a phone would do them no good. 

School is an incredible gift – a gift Rosena missed out on. 

Life is so unfair.

While we were celebrating Troy’s birthday Rosena started her mourning.  She just got the news that her husband had died.  Through tears she asked Tara and I for rent money.  Confused, Tara asked why she needed rent money rather than funeral money.  The needs are one in the same.  She can pay rent or put the money towards a funeral which culturally is more important.  She cannot do both.  Do you pay for the living or the dead?  Here in Haiti the dead usually win hands down.  You get first priority and dibs at the cash once you die.

This dear, soft spoken, timid lady lives on the edge.  If she falls off, lots of people fall with her.  She quietly does the post-birth laundry, the dishes for all the ladies in the program, mops the floor and goes home to take care of children.  Life has never been easy for Rosena. 

Rosena cares for a lot of people who depend on her.

She is a key person at our maternity center and we appreciate her.  I think she’s too timid to believe us – or maybe it feels too risky to believe that we really truly care about her – it could just be another thing in her life she might lose.

Heartline employs lots of people like Rosena.  Precious people trying to keep a job and keep their family afloat, keep the kids fed.  If kids can go to school it’s like hitting the lottery.  They know education is invaluable.

Now Rosena has to do it alone so the kids who live in her house can have what she never got.  A book, a pencil and a classroom to sit in.

When you support Heartline Ministries and choose to send a donation each month, you support a lot of folks like Rosena. 

Please “Join the Family” by supporting us at $25 per month and help us continue to employ wonderful women like Rosena.

Beth McHoul

www.heartlineministries.org

Join the Family

I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25:36

Their scrubs/jumpsuits are red or blue labeling them according to the crimes they were suspected of. Red states that the wearer is a violent offender, a murderer or a kidnapper. The blue wearers are the fighters, the thieves, common crimes in any culture. They all just looked like women to me. Doing hair, sitting in the cell staring, hands up for the bread and butter we passed through the bars.

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Putting butter on the 400 pieces of bread to be given to the ladies in the prison

I have long wanted to visit the women’s prison here in Haiti. The Beltis Bakery opened that door for us. Everyone loves bread, and the overburdened prison system welcomes Heartline folks each week, bearing hundreds of pieces of bread. The Bread of Life comes too. No, wait, He was already there waiting for us to make His presence known.

We passed through the thin corridor of cells littered with water jugs and the stuff of life for the barely living. So much stuff. Makeshift clothes lines with clothes, bras, undies hanging across the crowded space. Thin mats lined the floor without room to walk. 9-10-11 women in a cell created for two. I kept focusing on counting bread and handing it through the bars while fighting a sense of claustrophobia. So many ladies in such a small space. I expected the atmosphere to be hostile, the prisoners angry but it seemed to me like most were resigned and bored. My mind went to the heat of summer and how unbearable this place must be. Panic and suffocation would surely be a constant companion.

I would like to sit with each woman and hear her story. What were the events that brought them here to this miserable place? Did a desperate event bring them here? An injustice? A lifetime of bad choices where right choices were never an option? A fight? A jealousy? A wrong place at the wrong time? Or a lifetime of prison both in and out of jail. Stories need to be heard. The hands that reach through the bars for bread are hurting, lonely, and not heard. This corridor of cells was so loud but is anyone being heard? Days could be filled just holding those hands that grasped the bars and respectfully listening. Would some ladies lie? For sure. But truth always shines forth when love and acceptance are there. When hands are held in a quest for listening.

I sat with an 8 month along pregnant girl and her small belly. She worked as a domestic and was accused of stealing money and thus landed here. The inspector told me pregnant women keep their babies with them for 6 months for breastfeeding once they are born. Born into prison, surrounded by bars and sadness. I’m thankful for the bliss of mother’s milk and the closeness with mom that gives not a care where they are.

The Heartline team is allowed to have a meeting with 20 women a week for a month. Then next month a different group of 20 will break the boredom and join in on a service. Red and blue sat on folding chairs, singing with us and praying with us. One blue gal wiped her face as tears flowed, my heart ached for her. Our team, led by Moise and Vanessa is so respectful and kind. The music was loud with clapping and waving. For a few minutes we were transported from a corner meeting room in a prison to a worship service. For a few minutes we were all free.

I asked how many were mothers. Several raised their hands and we talked about kids with aunties and grandmas. We talked about the love of Jesus and how He is there in their overcrowded cells. The justice system, like everything else in Haiti, is broken and many aren’t getting due process. But we can bring the Savior into the cell, into the misery, into the resignation. He is so very willing to go to prison and He asks His followers to show up there too. Bread is real and fills the belly, hope is real and fills the soul. I saw Jesus in prison yesterday. He’s called the Bread of Life.

Beth McHoul

http://www.heartlineministries.org

Heartline is working to Strengthen Families through job training and job creation. Click here to see how a gift of $25.00 a month can have a powerful impact on lives here in Haiti. Together we can make a difference!

 

HEROES

Posted: May 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

Living in Haiti has given me opportunities to walk shoulder to shoulder with people that I would consider heroes. I’ve seen their lives and heard their words and watched when they found themselves in places that seem more nightmarish than reality. I’ve seen Haitians, especially due to the 2010 earthquake, suffer unimaginable tragedy but refuse to give up or give in to what had happened to them.

These heroes are  just ordinary folks.  They aren’t superstars but rather folks that daily make decisions to do the right thing, even when it could be the hardest thing.

There is a Haitian lady that I have known for about 10 years, who for some undiagnosed reason has not been able to walk since 2002.  Life in Haiti, especially for the poor, often has more questions than answers. It isn’t unusual for me to hear of someone I know or know of that has died, and when I ask the reason for the death, I am told something like,”The person had a bellyache or headache, went to the hospital and died.”

When I asked this lady why she can’t walk, she told me that she started having cramps and then after a few months couldn’t walk. And that is that, except for this lady it isn’t. She says that she was born in 1955 and that she’s 69 year old. So she really isn’t sure which is not unusual here in Haiti.  She lives with her daughter who is in her 30s and that, of course, is a story in itself.

This lady, although not able to walk, is quite active and productive.  She has a garden where she grows vegetables.  She does this by scooting along on the ground, tilling the soil with a machete and planting and watering the seeds, all by getting around by dragging herself along by her hands.

ropes2 Recently we had a group with us comprised of college instructors and students. We had this lady teach the group how to take apart flour sacks strand by strand and then make ropes from the strands. She does all this while sitting on the ground.  She will spends hours a day doing this and then she sells the 10 foot or so rope for about 50 cents USD.

We have a heart for her and others that against great odds don’t give up.  She isn’t interested in living off of charity. She wants to work and be productive.  It may be what keeps her alive.

We can help her best by placing orders for ropes and by buying the produce from her garden and the peanut butter she makes.  Experience has taught us that long-term handouts don’t work and if anything makes for more dependence.

We are committed to strengthening families by helping with education, by providing jobs and job training, by purchasing from those like the rope making lady, by teaching biblical principles by which to live and by showing the love of Jesus in word and in deed.

Help us help others. Help us by strengthening families. Help us provide jobs so people can  be independent.  Self sufficiency leads to a better community.  A family where mother, father, and children live together help make a culture strong.   Help from Heartline can be a springboard for a family to be successful. When parents keep their children and can provide for them the country will start to take a different shape.  So in that sense, when you give monthly to help Heartline strengthen families, you help make Haiti a stronger, better country.  What difference can $25 a month make?  All the difference in the world.  Let’s change Haiti for the better, together! Click here to help Heartline Strengthen Families!

As our rope making friend knows “A cord of three strands is not easily broken”.  Families, Heartline and You!

John McHoul

www.heartlineministries.org

 

 

 

CHANGE

Posted: April 25, 2016 in Uncategorized
How terrible it will be for anyone who argues with their Maker! They are like a broken piece of pottery lying on the ground. Does clay say to a potter, “What are you making?” Does a pot say, “The potter doesn’t have any skill”? Isaiah 45:9
flour2Imagine being in a market, specifically in the isle where the flour is displayed and while looking over the selections, you hear this coming from one of the bags of flour. ‘This is what I am, take it or leave it, like it or not. I am what I am, and I’m not changing to please you.’
Probably the most difficult part of change is first seeing the need to change. This must be the work of God, who illuminates our lives through his word and allows us to see that which before hand we were blind to.
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12
Simply put, we won’t desire change until we see the need to change. Sounds simple and perhaps it can be, but usually it isn’t.
Helping the mouthy bag of flour see what it could be by showing it delicious items made with flour (cake, desserts, bread, pizza…) you’d think would prompt change.  But it usually doesn’t.
Change usually comes about through struggles and trials.
Dear brothers and sisters,  when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4
Once we understand that it is God that desires change in us, and that he is the potter and we are the clay, we then are able by his grace to face whatever God allows into our lives to effect change. It’s a whole lot easier when we see the big picture: God is the Potter and we are the clay.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23,24

John McHoul