Posted: October 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

Our grown daughter and her family came to visit us last week for a friend’s wedding here in Haiti. She brought with her a husband, a father-in-law, one baby, one toddler and one niece, our oldest granddaughter. Morgan grew up knowing important things, one being how to pack a multitude of American items in several suitcases bound for the third world. She is expert. She did this countless times growing up. It was more fun than Christmas morning opening frozen foods, fresh foods, supplies and fun things. Our children know their parents well. Both of our kids went on shopping sprees to bring home the loot. We raised them well.

The week went perfectly. No car crashes with small children riding on laps instead of car seats. A tough call for parents who are an ER nurse and a fire paramedic. The oldest granddaughter fell in love with our little island. The wedding was lovely and semi on time which is a victory in any country. The week was good.

The last day was a trip to the beach. Sun, swimming, lobster lunch, and playing that led to exhaustion.

By 5:00 PM we were ready to travel the one hour trip back to Port-au-Prince. Lasagna would be in the oven for our last dinner together. Airport in the morning after a week of family fun.

We were ready to take off home. Sleepy kids settled on laps, we were crammed into the pick up, salty, still wet and tired. A guy wanders over to the truck. “Are you headed into Port?” “Yeah,” I answer, “hop in back if you want a ride.” “No, madam, I don’t want a ride and you can’t get to Port.” “There’s manifestations, a road block, no getting through, today or tomorrow.”

This is where the perfect week turns sour. I started crying and couldn’t stop. I called John and insisted he come save us on the motorcycle. As if he could get through and make it better. I had several folks in Port checking on the situation. The guy was right, the road was blocked, no one, not even heroic John on the moto could get through and save us.

As in all families we have our roles. I had done really well this week taking care of everyone. When my daughter saw that her mother was in a heap of tears she jumped into action and called her savvy Haitian friends for the scoop and help. They were on it. The granddaughter, awesome Autumn, stated flatly “If we don’t have a gun at our head, it’s still a good day.” She has her grandfather’s optimism. I found a towel, wiped my tear filled face and agreed with Morgan that we needed a plan to get them back to Port before morning for the flight back to USA.

A missionary friend who lives in the area came to our rescue by sending a young guy who could lead us another way back to Port-au-Prince. If you don’t know the roads in rural Haiti you can take a wrong turn and not know it until you are looking across the water at Cuba. We started out the opposite way towards home. Up and around we went through Verettes, Saut d’Eau, Mirebalais and over the mountain and back into Port-au-Prince. The long way around. Four and a half hours long way around.

I felt dread. Driving at night on unfamiliar often pothole filled roads is not my favorite thing. I’m sure I annoyed every on-coming driver with my high beams. I certainly annoyed my passengers by slowing to a crawl every time a truck came towards us but they were too gracious to say so. As we entered Saut d’Eau we were greeted by a life size, voodoo scarecrow character in the middle of the road. Then the silliness set in. Home made speed bumps on dirt roads tortured the full bladders and made us laugh. Babies slept and adult males put up with us while my daughter and I found everything hysterically funny. You know those moments. You can’t plan them but they are gifts. The gift of joy and laughter at what isn’t even funny when you are in your right mind. The gift of being together, finding joy in what a few hours ago brought tears. The joy of a detour. A very long one.

God does that. He interrupts our lives with detours. He often makes us take the long route because He has gifts for us. When we stop crying and complaining we can enter into these moments and find Him there.

I’m learning that God likes the long route, the whisper, the waiting, the slow and the still. Light speed doesn’t seem to be His thing. Dark, unpaved roads through towns that don’t feel like home seem to be more to His liking.

So, if you find yourself at a detour, pay attention, God might be directing the traffic.

Beth McHoul

John’s Syrian Grandmother

Posted: September 7, 2015 in Uncategorized
grand ma

Beth and our children with John’s Syrian  grandmother

John’s grandma came from Syria.  Yes, that country of ISIS, that country with civil war, that country where people are risking their lives in non-sea worthy boats trying to find safe haven elsewhere.

She came to the US as a young girl and married a boy from Lebanon.  They had several children and John’s dad was the eldest of them.  Wedad was her name and she outlived most of her children.  She was tiny but had a full bosom and feisty spirit.

She lived to be in her nineties and was spunky until the end.  She made grape leaves, yogurt and kibby.  Pistachios were always available and stained our fingers red. Pita bread held everything together. Her house was a grandma’s house with bowls of candy my children would dig into when we visited.  The decor was from the 50s or 60s and it never changed.  The garden outside the back door boasted an abundance of vegetables.

As a small girl she lived in a different Syria, a different time.  She was Catholic and grew up along side Muslims but they weren’t allowed to play together she told me.  I never got to hear much of her history but I knew their names, Wedad and Mansour.  I ate her food.  Grape leaves were my favorite.

I think about her now and wish my children could know her stories.  I think about how her heart would break for the country of her birth, her heritage, her food, her first language.  I think about what she might have to say about the land of her youth. I wonder where extended relatives might be.

Most of all I think about her sorrow and how she said a parent should never outlive a child.  She carried that sorrow in her heavy bosom and tiny frame.  She’s long at rest now.  Her country has no rest and it’s because of my children’s measure of Syrian blood in their history that this chapter of human misery moves me so.  When I see Syrians, I see people with names like Wedad who marry young men with names like Mansour.  I see children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Refugees have names, families, friends and they once had jobs and a country. They once had a home.  They deserve a new one.

Beth McHoul

The Broken Helping the Broken

Posted: March 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

It’s coming up on a year since I, for the third time, ran and finished the Boston Marathon. This year I’ll show up and cheer my running sister and therefore I get all of the fun, passion and joy without any of the work. That’s a benefit of nearing 60 – you get the joy while passing on the work to the “smaaht, young people.”   I still run and have for 20 years. Just recently I noticed, while running in Haiti, that I find comfort in my surroundings. Dirty cement walls, broken buildings with street vendors sitting out front, coffee makers sitting next to toilet plungers for sale, donkeys, pigs, street dogs, plastic jugs of kerosene, and on and on, the random list goes of what I might pass. I jog by a mom with her child we delivered, and stop for a quick chat, several people greet me by name, I am known. When in the 20 plus years did this become home? Why is it a place that resembles Gaza does more for me than running in the fields of Vermont? Since when did the familiarity of a trash pile make me feel at home? Oh yes, rural Haiti is so very beautiful but not the city where I live. Yet I find a loveliness here, a knowing, a belonging. Broken me running along a broken street. Yes, I’m home.

Broken. I’m going on day three of broken sleep. Two deliveries and one gal in early labor, who is demanding to have her baby and thinks she should have delivered days ago. In between these labors we have program and yesterday was Child Development. We have a very poor, quiet mom who comes each day to take home milk for her 3-month-old baby that she delivered with us. Our ladies pump and we fill in the rest with formula when we have to. This lady fell into boiling water when she was a child and severely burned her chest and the scar tissue left behind yields little milk. Her last two babies died. We assume they starved to death and we are helping to make sure this one doesn’t. Yesterday she nonchalantly told me that her 15 month old died the day before. He had a cold. She gave him “chico” (third world cheese puffs) for breakfast and then he died. While absorbing this info I hear that a 5 year old visiting with his teen mom told our housekeeper that he sees men beat his mom. This is a girl we love dearly. I went home deflated.

Meanwhile Beth KJ, one of our midwives, took to chatting with the grandma of the baby yet to be born. Her daughter, who is in the earliest of labor, is sort of refusing to go home till this baby is out. Grandmas are fascinating in any culture and here they come with years’ worth of cultural information. What a story she had. Her own labors took many days so her friends and family took it upon themselves to speed things up. They gathered round and kicked a dog together thinking this would get things going. Poor beast.

Then when the baby finally did come, instead of giving him life-giving colostrum at mom’s breast, they gave the baby a concoction of amniotic fluid, mom’s blood and mom’s waste to drink. These are folks that love their babies just like you and I do. These are women that are trying to help and keep death from stealing their children. When a country lacks infrastructure, education, health care and good nutrition, then superstition rules the day. Superstition kills the babies and all too often the moms as well. We hear story after story that seem incredulous to us but are just fact to the one telling us.

Today we did our weekly teaching at the government hospital. We sing, we chat with each mom, we hope the nurses catch on and join us. I was drawn to an edematous, unresponsive mom with a man and sitting at her side. I tucked the baby under mom’s heart and dad tenderly held the infant at the breast. Mom, who has eclampsia, seemed unaware. Dad told me she had been seizing and he hopes she will be okay since she has 2 Beth at Cother kids at home. We prayed and as we did the baby began to nurse at the empty breast of a very sick mom. Woman after woman is preeclamptic here. This enemy of moms and babies fills the ward claiming lives one after the other.

It’s a broken world and here we are, all runners trying to make it to the finish line. Grandmas with their voodoo teas, men with their pounding fists, hospitals without medicine all fill a world we can’t fix. There is no stopping; there is no quitting. Only running step by step, helping all we can, for those we can, for as long as we can.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God” Hebrews 12:1,2

 Beth McHoul

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I often hear from people about how much they enjoy the bread from the Beltis/Heartline bakery. And now this amazing bread has opened a prison door. ~ John

Guest Blogger: Nick Middleton-The manager of the Beltis/Heartline Bakery in Haiti

Friday, 2/27/2015

bAs part of the discipleship program, we have been looking to see if it would be possible to enter a local prison here for outreach.

Moise (Head of the Heartline Discipleship Program) started this process by going to the Delmas 33 juvenile penitentiary and asking for permission.  They told him he needed to visit the prison offices first.  He did so, and right away they told him “no” because visitors from ministries were not being allowed to visit prisoners after some opportunistic thugs used the praying/visiting excuse as a way to enter and break out some prisoners last Fall.

I thought this might be the end of things, but then had another thought.  I sent Moise back to the offices with a sample of our bread and a promise that if they allowed us to visit and do activities with the kids we would bring a gift of bread each time.

Moise returned to the offices with some fresh bread.  This made it to the desk of the Minister of Prisons who absolutely loved it and immediately made an appointment for Moise to visit with her personally the next week.

A week later Moise and I went together for our official “interview.”  Beforehand, we at Heartline were praying for favor.

cellThe head chief turned out to be a very friendly, Christian lady named Marjorie.  She gushed over how good our bread was, but also seemed genuinely interested in our plans for Christian activities with the prisoners.  She granted us a 3-month permission slip to do a Bible study and prayer time in the juvenile prison for boys.  She also encouraged us to look into developing a program for baking bread for the youth there to keep them occupied and provide some extra food for themselves.

We are supposed to give Marjorie a report after three months.

So the next stop was back to the prison.  With an official letter of entrance, we were ushered in to speak with one of the wardens there, another woman.  Surprisingly, she too was friendly, and after explaining what we were about, promised to facilitate our Bible study times with the kids.  She was totally on board.  Wow!

We were scheduled for another appointment, which brings us up to today.  Moise, myself, and the five discipleship guys visited this morning.

There were six large prison cells, each holding about 30 kids, for a total of some 150 boys ranging from around 12-18 years of age.

With several guards present, each cell was emptied one at a time.  Room by room, Moise explained who we were and that we wanted to share some physical bread with them, but also the spiritual bread of life.  Moise asked who would be interested in a weekly Bible study.  He clarified this wouldn’t be a weekly sermon, but a time where we could get to know them and they could ask questions.

Many kids raised their hands saying they were interested.  The warden told us to choose 5 from each room, which we did, for a total of 30 boys.  Many more than that expressed interest.  We took down the names of the kids we chose, and gave 2 pieces of bread to each prisoner.  They seemed happy to get the bread!

A few things I noticed in the prison:  1) The kids were clean 2) They were not in uniforms, but instead most wore non-matching T-shirts and basketball shorts 3)  I saw one young boy with a very swollen eye – one of the guards took him aside for a moment to ask him questions about it 4) Another boy told me they are fed twice a day, a corn-porridge dish for breakfast and rice and beans for supper, with meat only an occasional treat.

We left after an hour, with an appointment to return next Friday at 11 for our first official time with the kids.  Our plan is to sing songs with them, then some teaching, and then split into small groups (each led by one of the discipleship guys) for the boys to answer questions and discuss the teaching, and to pray together.  We’ll also have a brief survey for all the kids.

Keep praying for favor in this opportunity!


The Bakery Manager

The 1 Chronicles 16 Challenge

Posted: February 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

Back Story

ark of GodThe Ark of God, which housed the tablets on which the ten commandments were written, the staff of Aaron, and a jar of manna, had been brought back to Jerusalem. The Ark, an inseparable part of the Israelites’ history, had been carried by them during their wandering, and served as a focal point for God to manifest Himself to the Israelites. King David wanted to have it brought to Jerusalem, but he was afraid, after a man named Uzzah was struck dead, when he reached out to steady the Ark, after the oxen pulling the cart stumbled, as the Ark was being brought to Jerusalem.

We, in 1Chronicles 13:12-14  read,

David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Garth. The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned.

David, seeing how by having the Ark, Obed-edom was being blessed, wanted the Ark moved to Jerusalem, where it belonged. So he selected men to go get it from the house of Obed-edom. It was a joyous event with singing, instruments playing, with trumpet players walking before the Ark, blowing their horns, and even King David got involved, by joyfully dancing before the Lord.

The Ark was placed inside the special tent David had prepared, the people presented sacrifices to God, and they worshiped. The instrumentalists played and David wrote a song. And this is where we will begin the Challenge.


Over the next 30 days read this song of David. Read it slowly, while reflecting on each verse, even on specific words. I suggest that you:

  • Set aside time to read this song, apart from your regular time of prayer, Bible reading and worship.
  • Find a quiet place, where you can be alone. This may mean getting up early or staying up late.
  • Begin by waiting quietly before the Lord, by focusing your mind and thoughts on Him. If you, let’s say, set aside 30 minutes daily, spend at least 20 minutes of that time bringing your thoughts into focus. Spend that time meditating and dwelling on God and on His attributes. Once you have gotten to the place where you are focused, you will discover yourself to be more receptive to what God is saying.
  • Do not speed read this song.  Do not gobble it down as you would a fast food burger. Savor each verse, slowly drink it in. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart. Personalize each verse. Ask, does this apply to me.  Is this something that I should be doing?  Don’t feel that you have to read the whole song in one day. Take your time. Allow the song to minister to you, to reach your heart, to effect change, to bring you to the place where its words become your heart’s desire and your greatest joy.
  • I pray as we begin this challenge that there will be a fresh love in our hearts for God, a renewed hunger to worship Him and a fervent desire to tell other about our great God.

Let’s Begin

David’s Song:

I Chronicles 16: 7-36 NLT

On that day David gave to Asaph and his fellow Levites this song of thanksgiving to the Lord:

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
10 Exult in his holy name;
    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
11 Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.
12 Remember the wonders he has performed,
    his miracles, and the rulings he has given,
13 you children of his servant Israel,
    you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

14 He is the Lord our God.
    His justice is seen throughout the land.
15 Remember his covenant forever—
    the commitment he made to a thousand generations.
16 This is the covenant he made with Abraham
    and the oath he swore to Isaac.
17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
    and to the people of Israel as a never-ending covenant:
18 “I will give you the land of Canaan
    as your special possession.”

19 He said this when you were few in number,
    a tiny group of strangers in Canaan.
20 They wandered from nation to nation,
    from one kingdom to another.
21 Yet he did not let anyone oppress them.
    He warned kings on their behalf:
22 “Do not touch my chosen people,
    and do not hurt my prophets.”

23 Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
    Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
24 Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
    Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
25 Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
    He is to be feared above all gods.
26 The gods of other nations are mere idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens!
27 Honor and majesty surround him;
    strength and joy fill his dwelling.

28 O nations of the world, recognize the Lord,
    recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
29 Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
    Bring your offering and come into his presence.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
30     Let all the earth tremble before him.
    The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.

31 Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!
    Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
32 Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
    Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
33 Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,
    for he is coming to judge the earth.

34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.
35 Cry out, “Save us, O God of our salvation!
    Gather and rescue us from among the nations,
so we can thank your holy name
    and rejoice and praise you.”

36 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who lives from everlasting to everlasting!

And all the people shouted “Amen!” and praised the Lord.


I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

Tuesdays and Thursdays are our favorite days of the week when we celebrate success. Fat, breast fed babies on their mothers’ hips file in and triumphantly line up at the scale. We love the chub and glow in the victory of successful breast-feeding moms.

On Thursday the bellies line up at the scale, then sit while getting their blood pressures taken and eat a high protein meal while they wait for their individual prenatals. Happy midwives palpate bellies, give stern talks on drinking water and teach classes on birth.

Wednesdays and Fridays are harder. These are the days that we deal more with Haiti, than with the program’s ladies. Lives are complicated and answers are not easy. Sometimes we have no answers at all.

On Fridays we interview pregnant ladies for our program. This week a 16 year old with a half hidden swollen belly walked in accompanied by her mother. Her story had holes in it. Dates didn’t jive and the story was incredulous, but very well could be true.  The story was painful, horrific, sad, and terror filled. She told us of kidnapping, rape, forced tattoos, and a vague memory of the events. Tears coursed down her face as she poured out a story that made little sense. We do know this – a baby is coming very soon and this girl needs catch up prenatal care and lots of love.

At almost the same time another of our pregnant ladies came in with her husband. We told them we had to risk the mom out because her health issues had moved beyond our level of care. Her swollen legs dangled off our prenatal bed, her belly huge, her face filled with sadness and worry. We told her to go to the hospital and do it right away. Both mom and dad hesitated and didn’t want to go. They said they would be worried about the safety of their other children. I pictured little people, tinies. No, their kids were 17 and 19, surely old enough to care for themselves. But, they explained rape and theft are very common in their zone and they couldn’t leave their children to fend for themselves. How heart wrenching to care for the unborn child at the peril of the grown children. How can a mom check herself into a hospital while paralyzed in fear for her lovely teenage daughter.

These stories leave me heavy hearted and I push to get through the rest of the day. There is so much we can’t fix. Broken Haiti is filled with stories of real women with hurts and lives that are beyond difficult. Poverty is the foundation for so many ills. We patch, we fill, we cement, but the foundation is still broken.

We have scores of success stories and many tragic ones. We deliver babies and wonder about their future.  .

Fridays are hard, Fridays leave me worn out and I go home and eat a glutton’s amount of chocolate. The opiate of this teetotaler.

I’m reminded of another horrible Friday filled with sorrow and death. That Friday long ago that paid our way to hope. That Friday of death and destruction that ended in Sunday’s resurrection.

That power gives hope to our Fridays. It changes the stories we hear, the women we deal with, the desperation they face. There is always hope, there is always an answer, there is always redemption. Jesus promised He would carry us through this broken world, these broken Fridays. We can trust Him.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Beth McHoul

The Janitor

Posted: January 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

I had been a Christian for about a year, and now found myself, after spending that time in a Christian drug rehab program, back home in a suburb of Boston. I got involved in a church there that was accepting of the “Jesus movement” types that starting coming to the church. We came, ex druggies and druggies, with long, unkempt hair, dirty and ripped clothes and yet, we were accepted. We, outside the church, listened to music that was radically different than the songs we were hearing in church. Some called it Jesus Rock. The church folks were patient with us.

I back then didn’t understand the challenges that we presented to this group of older, conservative believers. But they saw something happening in church, and they liked what they were seeing. The altar, after the service, would be lined with young people, non-church looking, acting and sometimes bad smelling young people, who were giving their lives to Christ, and filling the churches’ pews.

I learned a lot from the people in that church. I lived about seven miles from the church and not having a car I would hitchhike to church, often arriving early as I didn’t want to be late. Waiting outside, I would see some of the older folks come early and go inside, so one day I followed them and discovered that they were going to a prayer room in the basement, where they would pray for the service, for the pastor and for those that would be attending church. And so, every Sunday I would join them. I learned a lot there.

Interestingly and perhaps you can say something similar, the pastor was wonderful and though I attended the church for several years, I struggle to recall more than a few sermons that he preached. I was a faithful attendee at Sunday School but I can’t seem to remember many of the lessons, even the ones that I taught after I became a Sunday School teacher. Throughout the years I have heard thousands of sermons and preached hundreds myself. And I even struggle to remember more than a handful of sermons that I, myself, have preached.

Clearly preaching and teaching are an essential part of spreading the gospel and of the growth of the believer.  I, though, am saying that we can learn much from those that live seemingly ordinary lives but who touch us in extraordinary ways. Let me give an example.

In the town, nearimages where I was living, there is a Christian liberal art college. We would go there to attend concerts and special church services. I can’t recall the name of the pastor of the on campus church, or the name of the youth pastor, but I do recall the name of one of the college’s janitors. He had left the pastorate to take a job at the college, as a janitor. Some may see that as a step down, as perhaps a failure. But looking at it through a biblical lens, and through the impact that this janitor had on many students, and on those of us that would come around, I’m thinking that it was a significant promotion. This man, who would sweep and mop floors, and who would clean bathrooms and toilets, ministered to us in ways that a sermon couldn’t. He taught us by his actions and then by his words. I have long since lost contact with him, but four decades later I still recall how this janitor showed me Christ, by servant leadership. I believe that there are many serving Christ today that were greatly helped along by this servant leader.

It’s not my intention to trivialize or minimize the rolls of teachers and pastors, but rather to help us see the impact that servant leadership by vocation and calling can have in people’s lives.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Colossians 3:23

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:13-16

It’s four decades later, and I haven’t forgotten the man with a mop, that has made a lasting imprint on my life.

John McHoul