Ripping lumber for a porch
Having just returned from a five week trip to Haiti less than 48 hours ago, I thought it best to write a brief account of my Haitian experience before the reality of my American experience rushes in to cloud the memories. I cannot help but think back to my first trip to the Island of Hispaniola as a much younger, much slimmer, and oh so dreadfully naïve sixteen year old kid.
Photos from my previous trips to Haiti
It was my first trip out of the country. I was traveling with a singing group known as The New Directions, comprised of high-school and college aged kids, a converted middle-aged truck driver, and a renegade preacher. Not even knowing where Haiti was, I was part of the band and that’s all that mattered.
The sun setting on the bay at Port Au Prince belies the poverty just inland; Market day in Jacmel; Haitian children playing
The long story made short: for one long week I was thrust into a world of abject poverty, street vendors in my face, strange food, withering heat, personal space infringement, diarrhea…in a word - culture shock! But wait, that’s two words! By the end of the week, it became my soul’s consuming desire to be home again – never to return. Something with that plan went awry, for I have returned to Haiti eleven times that I can account for. It seems Haiti got its “hook” in me and I have never been able to “wiggle off”, nor do I want to. I love that country!
My latest venture to Haiti was with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian Relief Organization headed by Franklin Graham. While seeking the Lord’s direction this past winter, Samaritan’s Purse came to mind. I made contact and discovered that they needed carpenters. Since carpentry is my chosen trade, it seemed like a perfect fit and God’s perfect timing.
A temporary dwelling being replaced by new construction – also where I stayed; Installing a French Drain with a track hoe; Haitian construction workers setting rebar in a concrete slab at the 'Lamb's Center (Greta House)' – a 150 bed orphanage
From March 27 until April 28, I labored alongside a fabulous team of construction workers, both North American and Haitian, building housing for relief workers: “Ministering to the ministers”. It was a blessing to work among some of the most industrious, innovative, and generally good-natured people I have ever met. It seemed as if God handpicked this team for this time and place, and isn’t that just like Him?
A construction crew working on housing; One of 10 duplex bungalows nearing completion; Haitians celebrating exuberantly the progress of the construction
In addition to building ten duplexes to house doctors, teachers, field workers and support staff, we built relationships with the Haitians as we labored side by side. Employment was available and skills were taught. And friendships and music were made, as Darren, a fellow musician from Brevard, NC, engaged several Haitians in musical endeavors.
Members of WASH; The Lamb's Center (Greta House) under construction
Some of the work that Samaritan’s Purse is doing in Haiti includes, but is not limited to, operating a medical clinic in some of the poorest and most desperate areas, building roads and doing erosion control, cleaning up areas of debris left by the devastating earthquake of 2010, and a three part program known as WASH, an acronym for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. The WASH program includes digging wells to provide clean water to communities, building public laundering facilities for Haitian women to clean their clothing rather than the shallow streams they now use, and general hygiene education to help alleviate the spread of communicable disease.
Adequate words to describe Haiti continue to elude me. I left my comfortable home and loving family in North Carolina at my most favorite time of the year, when the dogwoods and azaleas on my street are in full, beautiful blossom. The words of the Psalmist come to mind, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. To behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4) But as I left the beauty of my street and of NC, I realized that the beauty of the Lord is all around….it’s MY FATHER’S world – a world that reaches to Haiti and beyond! And it’s my prayer that you might get involved, come join the band with me, and be a part of My Father’s world!
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Peter was 11 or 12 years of age when he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior during the Saturday afternoon Christian youth group meetings in Germany. He visited the United States for the first time in 1976, spending time with his aunt and uncle who lived in Elon College. It was during that time that he met an Elon College student and ND member, Mike Hawkins, who gave him a record album called, The New Directions: Together. On subsequent visits with his aunt and her family, he spent more time with New Directions’ members, like Joel Leath, and attended their concerts. He was impressed with the style of music and the exciting spirit of the singers.
In 1979, he moved to Burlington with his wife and worked in Graham for a German owned company. New Directions had a week-long evangelistic outreach in their parking lot and he attended each night of the services. That’s when he became more involved with the ND’s, becoming friends with many of the singers and joining them in the Bible studies that I taught weekly. He eventually moved back to Germany where he raised his family, never forgetting the impact that contemporary music and personal testimonies had had on his life.
As a result of his friendship and partnership with us, Peter invited me and Damascus Road to Germany for a musical ministry tour in the fall of 1982. We sang and shared in many German churches, as well as on American military bases. I have added a film-strip of some old pictures I pulled from our archives from that trip.
Because of his own love for music and performing, Peter decided in 2000 to go into German churches to witness of his Christian faith – New Directions’ style. He usually sang 6-7 songs, some of them original, and then told about the love, faith and hope that he had found in Jesus Christ and in God. He wanted to share the “American” style of music in the church services that he had seen and experienced in the U.S.A., because he had felt that was missing in German churches. They were, and some still are, traditionally “old fashioned”, attended mostly by old people who still use church songs that are too hard to sing.
We are honored that Peter also uses his annual Musical Ministry Tour to share with people about our ministry. So we are humbled to have him as our “German Ambassador!”