West Michigan Missions Forum 2014

Saturday, March 29

willing

Kim Sorrelle and I had the pleasure of attending the West Michigan Missions Forum last Saturday in Byron Center. This day conference was encouraging in every aspect. Working in missions is not easy. So often life happens and gets in the way of the dream. Despite the struggles of serving internationally, the joy that transforms lives on these trips is why we do what we do. Looking out at the gym full of participants and charities, we were reminded that we are not alone out there. The world can be a frustrating, scary place, but focusing on connecting people and resources produces incredible results.

There’s a reason why deep down we all dream of traveling abroad to discover more about our global community as well as ourselves.Serving on a short mission trip opens our eyes and hearts to new ideas, new friends, and worldviews. John 12:26 states, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

Whoever serves me must follow me?

Follow where?

As the world’s 1%, are we really called to serve in the poorest place in the world? How do we act as the 1% in poverty?

The journey of service requires sacrifice. This sacrifice can be to donate money for the cause or volunteer time to support the organizations we care about. Is this how we serve because it is comfortable, or is this a creative solution? There are misconceptions about service. God is calling each of us to serve out of our comfort zone, but life changing experiences don’t need to be around the world. In our own communities, we have the potential to cultivate meaningful relationships and serve others.

We were made for a mission, rather than missions made for us. This isn’t your Grandpa’s world anymore. The major trend of missions in this day and age is evolving with each generation. Instead of focusing on church planting and process-oriented trips, new trends suggest that missions are highlighting project-oriented, holistic ministries.

Conference attendees where encouraged to pray about what part is God calling each person to. The home arena supports national workers and new paradigms for churches and agencies. The strategic arena works with urban missions, partnerships, and uses prayer as warfare. The overseas church arena is maturing of international missionary movements and globalization of the church. The global arena seeps into global culture.

These are the areas that Rays of Hope will be working towards. Our goals in missions include:

  • Human dignity is to be given to each individual. We are all created in God’s image. We are to treat others like how we would treat our own children. 

  • Be who we are in partnership.

  • Ask questions, but don’t use struggle as an excuse to drop support.

  • Capacity building of individuals.

  • Capacity building of the organization.

  • Business as a part of the solution.

Borders of Love in Haiti

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Morne l’Hopital (a confusing name for a rural mountain community with no hospital) is home to nine thousand mamas and babies and families and friends. Bumpy dirt roads connect Haiti’s sea level capitol to this community with more goats than cars, more children than schools, and more bellies than food.

A nurse runs a small clinic in Morne l’Hopital, the only healthcare available in the area. Her small facility includes a small pharmacy with nearly empty shelves. Her heart breaks when she cannot provide vaccinations for new babies, antibiotics for sick children, or prenatal vitamins for expectant mothers.

Several medical students from Wayne State University decided to spend their Spring Break in Morne l’Hospital, not Cancun, not the Bahamas, not Daytona Beach, but Morne l’Hospital, Haiti. So did a pharmacy student, two pharmacists, and five doctors. I got to go with them. So did my dear friend Shirley.

Outside the concrete block walls housing a church, school, and the clinic, we were greeted each morning by a sea of desperation longing for medical care. Each afternoon we had to tell a portion of that sea to “come back tomorrow.” On the last day we had to tell the sea “we are going home.” I am not sure who cried harder, them or us.

Among the 600 or so that did make it inside the wall was Elianna, a widow who has lived to see three of her five children die before her. Dr. Diane delivered the exam findings, advanced stages of uterine cancer. Her daughter, Marisse, stood by her side as Dr. Diane helped prepare her for what was to come, telling her to “never give up hope.”  John, one of the med students, stayed with them for a long time that afternoon, comforting, supportive, kind, and broken hearted.

A momma carried her 12 year old son, Gregory, on the one hour walk to see us.  Gregory has had seizures since he was three years old. The seizures have stopped enough oxygen going to his brain that he can no longer walk, talk, play soccer, climb trees, or any of the other things that a 12 year old boy should be able to do. With three younger siblings, Gregory’s mom is exhausted. She wants someone to help. She wants Gregory to get better. She wants to take care of all of her children. But Haiti is winning right now.Wayne State University Team

Seven year old Joseph also walked an hour to see us. Not able to eat for the previous three days, a fever of 102 and achy bones, he had no choice but to walk since his mom had to carry his breast feeding baby brother. Blood test evidence was needed to pinpoint the culprit; malaria and typhoid were the top two suspects. “Let’s try General Hospital,” we agreed. General Hospital is the largest public hospital in Port au Prince, Haiti’s capital city with a population estimated at well over two million people. After a long drive followed by a long wait in the emergency room, Patrick and Michael (a team leader), and Joseph’s mom were given written orders for lab work. The lab was closed for the day. The lab is likely owned by the highly underpaid, sometimes not paid doctor. The income from the lab is likely how the doctor is able to feed his family.  The next day Joseph was just as sick, or sicker. Not all of the blood work necessary for diagnosis was available. The day after that we took Joseph to Peace Hospital where he was further examined. Still not enough testing, still no containment, still no conclusion. I pray he gets better.

The same night that Joseph went to General Hospital so Latina. Doubled over in pain, the forty year old mother of four found no answers. A chest x-ray was done but a cat scan was needed. The next day we took her to a different facility that had the right equipment. Unfortunately, the machine was not functioning. Nor was the one at the second place we tried. Driving a third day to a third place only to find that the cat scan equipment there was only capable of scanning heads and babies, Patrick called our friend Dr. Gardy who took Latina into his hospital, 2 hours north of Port au Prince. Dr. Gardy will not let her go until he knows she is well as he tries his best, using the resources that he has, to find the cause of her pain and make her better.

Other ‘insiders’ included mother of five with a heart condition that may require life-saving surgery not available in Haiti, a hurting man with probable cancerous lesions on his rib cage, a woman who has had blood in her sputum for the last three years, a father of toddlers with all of the symptoms of stomach cancer, an 11 month old girl who due to yellow fever will never develop mentally, a man with HIV and very painful lasting skin sores, a boy who eats dirt to fill his empty belly and an eye infection that could cause him to lose his sight, a brick layer whose unset broken hand has left him crippled on that side, a young teenager with a severely ruptured eardrum, a man with a grapefruit sized hernia in his scrotum, and a baby who will go blind without the right medicine. Hypertension, malaria, malnourishment, diarrhea, cancer, infections, scabies, ring worm, broken bones, vitamin deficiencies, waterborne illnesses, open wounds, cataracts, stomach aches, headaches, earaches, aching joints, aching muscles, aching hearts. All treatable in our world of modern medicine. Unfortunately, modern medicine has not been introduced to Haiti.

Late one afternoon, outside the wall, my dear friend Shirley met Vesta.

“Please, just one more! This poor woman needs a doctor!”

Vesta’s face does not show her forty four years. Sparkling chestnut eyes and glowing skin the most marvelous shade of sweet tea, her visible signs of a life full of love. A few months into her ninth pregnancy, a lump was discovered in her right breast. A doctor told her that treatment would hurt her unborn child so she waited until after the baby was born to seek help. Leaving four month old David at home, Vesta walked in alone. At first discovery, the lump was a couple of centimeters wide. Now it has grown into a nine centimeter mass. Swollen lymph nodes suggest the disease has traveled. With the aid of a portable ultrasound, a biopsy was not needed.

Doctor Diane delivered the news. Priyanka, a medical student team leader, stood by her side. Knowing my history, I was invited in to the conversation.

Vesta expected the diagnosis but prayed for a different answer. Diane and I talked to her about how much support she had in her husband, how much she had to fight for, how miracles can happen, and we will help her and there is hope and all the while my gut was aching and my eyes were dripping and my heart was busting.

“It will be alright. I lived through it,” Then I showed her my scars as the voice in my head screamed, “David needs his momma. God, please help this woman. Modern Medicine please come meet Haiti!”

“I will die. I am going to die.”

“No, no Vesta. No, you will not die. You will be alright. Have hope. We need to run tests. We don’t know the whole story yet.”

“But I am going to die. What will happen to my children? What about my baby? What about my husband?”

“Vesta, you will live. We will find the right doctor, the right hospital, the right treatment.”

“I should have come sooner. David is four months old. There was no doctor. Now it is too late. I am going to die.”

“No Vesta, this is not your fault. You took care of your baby. You made sure that he was healthy. You had no opportunity. It is not too late. My diagnosis was five years ago. Look at me! I am just fine. You will be too.”

Woven together convincingly, even the tiniest threads of hope can blanket a soul.

The next day Vesta walked inside the wall with her husband. Obviously very happily married, the two told us how they met when they were just ten years old and have been together ever since. Marco works hard to provide for his family, not easy in a country where unemployment significantly outweighs opportunity. For Vesta and Marco, some days lack work but no days lack love.

We talked and we hugged, then we hugged some more. Excitedly, we talked about the arrangements made with the help from my friend John Carroll to take them to the new Partners in Health facility where a full time surgeon holds clinic once a week, hopeful that the three hour drive would be fruitful. With the promise to dance together at David’s wedding, I said good bye to Vesta and Marco.

We have all read about and sometimes repeated ways to avoid cancer. We blame cleaning products, preservatives, antiperspirants, and red dye number five. We say don’t eat meat, don’t eat grain, don’t eat preservatives. Don’t breath in fumes, smog, or polluted air. We must garden, juice, sleep, and do forty five minutes of cardio vascular exercise three times a week followed by one to two glasses of red wine. We blame the water, blame the mother, blame the victim.

Vesta’s diet is all organically, locally grown. Meat is a luxury that is rarely consumed. There are no fumes from cars or smoke from factories in her air. She does not have time for exercise because her time is spent walking far for water balancing a full bucket on her head for the return trip, hand washing her family’s clothes, cooking rice and beans over a charcoal fire, bathing the younger of her children and herself daily to remove the dirt from the roads, getting school uniforms ready for the next day’s wear, hand washing all dishes and glasses and pots and silverware, grinding grain into powder to make bread, buying food at the market because she has no refrigerator to stop spoilage, starting her day with the sun and ending the same because at the setting, in an area with no electricity, all things go black.

Then come the judgments. If she hadn’t been pregnant with her ninth child she could have gotten help sooner. She should not have waited four months after the baby was born to find a doctor. She should had been doing regular self-examinations. In her forties, she should have been receiving annual mammograms.

Modern Medicine lives in the palace of plenty, inside the lines on the map. Outside resides the sea of desperation, a great abyss with occasional small islands of hardworking compassion. Last week our group of twenty cracked open the portcullis.

Fortunately, love has no periphery. Unfortunately, cancer swims.

I will be keeping in touch with Vesta as together we work to further pry open the door.

Village of Hope Update

Rays of Hope received an incredible response from our supporters in response to the emergency at Village of Hope in Burkina Faso. On February 11, a deadly strain of meningitis was exposed to the 496 children at the school. Each child had to be vaccinated to prevent the potential spread of the disease, which totalled $8,400. Thanks to the immediate actions of Rays of Hope, Careforce International, and donations, each child was able to get vaccinated!

Donations for this project totalled $1,300. This generous support fills our hearts and keeps us passionate about working to help those who need it most!

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Emergency at The Village of Hope

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
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Children at The Village of Hope

The Village of Hope provides incredible care, excellent education, and unending love for nearly 500 children in one of the poorest countries in our world.

* On Sunday 11 year old Josue attended church with all of the other children and enjoyed a day at play.

* On Tuesday morning 11 year old Josue died in a government hospital from Meningitis.

* The doctors said that this is extremely contagious and the children must be immunized as quickly as possible.

* The cost for each vaccine is $20.

* There are 476 children living at The Village of Hope plus an additional 20 toddlers
that are children of staff members.

* Besides the cost of the vaccines, there have been and will continue to be additional costs, such as the hospital bill for Josue, funeral expenses, and any other medicines or doctor bills if any other children contract the disease.

We are asking our supporters to donate money for vaccines! Please pray for the children and keep them in your thoughts. Keep checking our Facebook page for updates in Burkina Faso.

There Is Always Hope

God is good! So many incredible things are happening in Haiti. There is hope, always, everywhere.

photoIn January, I spent a few days with Partners Worldwide, sharing ideas to help create jobs in Haiti, which in turn means food on the table, a roof overhead, and education for their children. Touring several businesses and seeing first hand true missions and real love was amazing.

There is a new company called Surtab making computer tablets in Port au Prince. And not just any tablets but the best quality tablet on the market. The company pays more than double the Haitian minimum wage of $5 per day. Payroll taxes, health insurance, beautiful working environment, are all part of the package. In fact, all of the companies that we visited had the best interest of the staff in mind.

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Topline Materials, started by a tall Texan with a big heart, is producing 10,000 top quality concrete blocks every day. Since starting production just a short time ago, the company gainfully employs about 50 people and expects to double that by the end of this year.photo (1)

Enersa owner Jean Ronel manages a staff that creates solar panels, really high quality, theft proof, long lasting, solar panels! Itala makes tons of the best pasta and snacks. Maxima creates beautiful cabinets, granite counter tops, and caskets out of raw materials in a work area that would rival any operation elsewhere in the world. Farmatrix is producing top notch pharmaceuticals and the taste of Rebo coffee is outstanding.

Jobs bring hope. Hope for a country that has had so much tragedy. Hope for people who have just tried to survive. Hope for a momma to see the future in the eyes of her children. Hope for all of us that want to see that future with her.

Hope. What a gift.

November Construction Team

On October 30th, Rays of Hope International volunteers embarked on a 16 day mission trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Their goals were to institute various construction projects, minister to children, build relationships with several ministry partners, and bring hope to the hopeless.
Our first stop was in Rousseau, about 60 miles north of Port au Prince on the rural, mountainous, north coast of Haiti. A little over 6 years ago, Dr. Jean-Gardy Marius formed a humanitarian group, called OSAPO. Their basic vision is to improve the living conditions of fellow Haitians by providing education, agricultural assistance, medical care, access to latrines, and healthy drinking water.
Although pediatrician, Aimee Tow was able to provide comprehensive health care, the rest of the team worked building benches, shelving, and cabinetry. Highlights included participating in the safe delivery of a precious baby boy, driving an ambulance in the middle of the night to nearby St. Marcs for an emergency C-section, and hiking treacherous mountain paths to visit the agricultural projects and nearby towns.
The remainder of our time in Haiti was spent working at the Children of Jesus Orphanage and School just outside of Port au Prince interacting with the children, building school benches, digging trenches for a water system, and doing roof repair. The temps ranged in the high 90’s almost everyday, but despite the heat, much was accomplished.
After serving10 days in the country, the team flew to the Dominican Republic to work at Lighthouse Ministries located in Los Alcarrizos and enjoy the cooler temps and it’s beautiful garden setting. Lighthouse Ministries has been working in the country for almost 20 years. Their main focus is a ministry of education. Through the Russel Van Vleet School and Vocational center they serve over 1,000 children and youth from preschool-12th grade. More than 300 youth and adults participate in training programs in the areas of computers, electricity, auto mechanics, all areas of beauty treatments and massage, marketing and ESL. In addition, they serve the community through a water purification plant and a variety of building programs from paving streets and sides walks, to building homes and churches.
Lighthouse is a very impressive center of ministry and a true model for other non profit organizations. Despite the short time we spent with this partner, we were able to do some painting, masonry work, and assist with a breakfast feeding program for the neediest of their student population. Experiencing an up close and personal encounter with a very large, black, hairy tarantula will be ranked up on our list of truly memorable moments…
I believe that I can speak for everyone on the team that our adventures in both countries were impactful and life changing not only for those we served, but for each one of us. A verse that I find inspiring as I serve in these impoverished countries is Psalm 83:2a “defend the weak and the orphan.”Won’t you join us on our next trip? To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world…

Thank You, Give Camp!

Welcome to our new website! Rays of Hope had the pleasure of participating in Give Camp 2013 and received a brand new website, courtesy of a handful of technology professionals in Grand Rapids. This year, over 100 volunteers helped 17 non-profits develop new websites, establish databases, improve marketing initiatives, and more, through Grand Rapids Give Camp. The annual event connects local-area non-profits to the community. Technology professionals donate their time to providing much-needed technology assistance to the non-profits in the form of new websites, databases, etc. This year, volunteers provided an estimated $250,000 in services.

Volunteers were hard at work all weekend.

Volunteers were hard at work all weekend.

The event started Friday evening with volunteers meeting their non-profits and other team members for the first time. After some initial plans and discussion, many groups got right to work. While there are often large visions for the projects, the event organizers emphasized setting goals which could be accomplished within the weekend. Energized and excited to get started, some attendees even stayed the night on Friday so they could work longer on their projects.

Getting down to business was the focus on Saturday. Flush with locally-catered food and plenty of caffeine, the teams began knocking out their various goals for the weekend. The Factory was abuzz with activity as volunteers quickly worked their way down their to-do lists. With the 2:00pm Sunday deadline approaching quickly, many volunteers decided to stay the night on Saturday to continue to get more work done.

On Sunday, teams worked quickly to finish up the last details on their projects. Many of these non-profits will start to use these projects as soon as the weekend is over. With that in mind, many teams spent Sunday working on training and documentation. The goal of the weekend is not only to have working projects, but sustainable projects as well. Thank you to our devoted team of volunteers for creating, designing, and following up on our new website. We are so excited for this launch and look forward to increasing our presence on the web and connecting individuals with our mission!