Blog 

Thoughts, insights and observations from the ABN staff

Friday
May112012

Creole Bibles distributed at prison

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a blog from Jessica Vanderpool, assistant editor for the Arkansas Baptist News, who is traveling with a mission team in Haiti to report on the ongoing work.

Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News

VanderpoolI don’t know how many times we packed and repacked the plastic bags of hygiene items we planned to take to the women’s prison. I don’t know how many times we tried to count the number of items we needed to buy for the bags versus the number of items we already had. It seemed like a losing battle. We needed this much soap but that much toothpaste, but we only had this many bags. But don’t forget to count the ones already packed. … It was endless.

In the end, we knew there were a certain number of inmates and guards we needed bags for - and we came up short. We were counting bags outside the prison with only minutes to spare before we entered - and we didn’t have enough. All we could do was shrug and assume there were fewer inmates than we had been told or that God would take care of it some other way.

Miraculously, they let us drive our car into the prison compound. We unloaded the items into the entry area of the prison.

Packing hygiene items.We had decided a couple days earlier that we also wanted to take Bibles in the Creole language into the prison, and after much work, Roody had gotten more than 200 Bibles.

We unloaded the bags and the Bibles, and before we knew it, inmates were filing through. One by one, they took a bag and a Bible and left with a “Thank you.” One by one, we had fewer and fewer bags. I was in charge of digging the bags out of the suitcase we’d brought them in and handing them to my teammate who in turn handed them to the inmates. I watched as the pile of bags got smaller and smaller. The inmates kept coming.

I prayed for the Lord to multiply our bags. I prayed for the inmates to stop coming. I had no idea what we would do if we didn’t have enough bags.

Twenty bags left and they still came. Fifteen bags left. Ten bags. The line stopped. I looked up and realized it was over. I looked back into the suitcase. Six bags left.

There were fewer inmates than we had been told. And we had just enough bags. God had taken care of our needs. After we cleaned up from the distribution, we met with the warden. She was a kind woman who appreciated our help.

We asked if the women had ever received a full version of the Bible. She said the women had received French Bibles before, but never Creole Bibles. She said some prisoners had asked for them.

We head home tomorrow (Friday) morning. It has been a good trip. God has answered prayers and opened doors in mighty ways. We thank you all for your prayers. Please continue to pray for the work yet to be done in this country.

Thursday
May102012

A good morning in Haiti

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a blog from Jessica Vanderpool, assistant editor for the Arkansas Baptist News, who is traveling with a mission team in Haiti to report on the ongoing work.

Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News

VanderpoolIt was a beautiful Haitian morning – just beginning to warm up as we headed out. Our team had been split into two groups. The first group went to train Haitian women to minister in prison while our group visited an orphanage and did evangelism.

We started down the main road in front of the compound as we set out for the orphanage, but after a few moments, we turned down a lane and ventured more into the countryside. The grass was green, the sky was blue and the mountains stood out in the distance. The road was really just a muddy suggestion filled with rocks and puddles.

We stopped to laugh and take pictures with several Haitians along the way. We had such a great time! One woman showed me her home, a humble, two-room (if you can call them rooms) structure. She said she had lived there all her life. Her husband, who was in his 70s, had gone to cut some grass for his animals.

Haitian woman shows off her home.When we arrived at the orphanage, we were able to talk to some school children who were in class. One of our members told the story of creation and shared with them about our witnessing bracelet. There was a time for questions and two of the older boys asked questions like “Where is God?” and “Do you love me like yourself?” We answered their questions and prayed with them, and several of the children said they accepted Christ.

On our way home, we stopped to talk with another family who was sitting outside their home. We asked if they were Christians, and they said they all were except one of them. We asked if she would like to accept Christ, and she did. We prayed with her as well.

We headed home under cloud cover and a sprinkle of rain, knowing it had been a good morning.

Tuesday
May082012

'For God so loved the world'

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a blog from Jessica Vanderpool, assistant editor for the Arkansas Baptist News, who is traveling with a mission team in Haiti to report on the ongoing work.

Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News

VanderpoolWe have quoted the verse all our lives - “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16).

As Christians, we know God loves everyone, even those the world looks down on – He chose shepherds to be some of the first to see His Son on earth, He forgave a prostitute, He welcomed the children – but it is incredible to see that love in action in front of your very eyes.

I saw Monday how God has used our team of Arkansas Baptist women to fling open the doors so that some of the most despised of Haiti’s citizens can hear of His love.

We arrived at a government building Monday morning. The floors were dingy, the lighting was low. The building itself was not particularly impressive. That’s why it took us aback when Roody Joseph told us we were standing in what would be the Haitian equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C.

We spent a total of about four hours there getting approval to go into the prisons to distribute supplies. Much of that time on our part was spent waiting, but while we waited and even before, God was at work – and what He did was incredible. We later learned that the process we went through in four hours could have taken a couple months. To see the specifics of how God worked Monday was amazing. Suffice it to say it was nothing short of God’s all-powerful hand that influenced the hearts of men.

There are most likely about 250 women and 50 guards in the Haitian women’s prison. As a percentage of all humanity, they are basically nonexistent. Yet God looked down upon them and saw a group of despised women, and He flung open all the doors so five women from Arkansas could share His hope with them.

Now that is love.

Praying with a woman to accept Christ.

Monday
May072012

Visiting a Haitian church

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a blog from Jessica Vanderpool, assistant editor for the Arkansas Baptist News, who is traveling with a mission team in Haiti to report on the ongoing work.

Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News

VanderpoolThere are certain things that are universal. A smile translates where words do not, music permeates all cultures, laughter travels beyond borders - and God is the same in all nations.

Today our team visited a Haitian church that meets in a community center – a center actually built by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention to house Kids Clubs. The center has a roof and walls on three sides, but it is open to the air on the fourth side. To the left of the structure, corn stalks blow in the breeze. To the right, mounds of sugarcane are piled high. Inside, the people sit on wooden benches, dressed in their hose and high heels, coats and ties, despite the weather.

During the service, they pray, give offerings and take communion, and they sing many songs – some I do not know and some I do.

There is something glorious about it - the sounds of song rising from the bellies of my fellow believers, and though I do not know the words they sing, I know the tune, and I begin to sing along with them – “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.” I was standing in a world so different from my own with people who spoke a completely different language and had such a different lifestyle, and yet we were worshiping the same God. It was an incredible thought.

I am grateful my team and I were able to be present for their worship service.

My teammate put it well when she said, “It was a service fit for a King.”

View a photo gallery Mission Haiti photos here.

Sunday
May062012

The man who lived in the tent

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the first blog from Jessica Vanderpool, assistant editor for the Arkansas Baptist News, who is traveling with a mission team in Haiti to report on the ongoing work.

Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News 

VanderpoolI woke up Saturday morning (May 5), to see the world through a haze of pink. I’ve never slept under mosquito netting before, much less pink mosquito netting, but it is an interesting experience. It’s a little like sleeping in a canopy princess bed. But maybe I just have an oversized imagination.

But there is no imagining away the reality of Haiti. Flying in from thousands of feet up, Haiti is a beautiful paradise. Descending into the ravaged country shows a different story. Trash is strewn on the sides of the street, sometimes piled in mounds in empty lots. The people are poor, many even sleeping in tents and makeshift houses. Sanitation is virtually nonexistent.

We met a man who lived in a dingy blue tent on the street corner in the city. We also met his two children and his grandmother. All said they were Christians. The man had lost his wife in the earthquake that devastated the country a little over two years ago. His young daughter had a scar on her leg where she was injured as a result of the earthquake, and she had a hernia due to malnutrition. Our team prayed for them before saying goodbye. His story and those of so many around him show that reality of what the people of Haiti have to deal with every day.

But in the less than 36 hours we have been here, God has already shown us amazing things – not that that is surprising, but it is awesome to see. Today we were supposed to go into the prisons to distribute hygiene kits. However, there were some hold-ups getting permission to do so. We knew God was in control and had a plan, but His plan far exceeded ours. We met with an attorney today who is a Christian, and God really opened doors to possible future ministry. If we had been allowed to go into the prison today as planned, we may not have met him and received these opportunities.

Today has been a great day, though we are all very tired. I know we all look forward to the great ways God is going to move. Please pray for us to have the right words at the right times for the right people.

And as you go about your day, remember the reality of Haiti – a poor country of poor people who need the rich love of God.