Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Student Spotlight: Max

Max was new to the Gramothe school this year. He's a tall, lanky, quiet 8th grade student. His aunt is the librarian in Gramothe, and she asked me to put him in my computer class. I told her I was happy to do that as long as he was good in English class. It turns out Max has zero problems in that department. He's a great student! He's respectful, and he makes me laugh too.

Max is pretty tech savvy compared to the majority of my other students, and he often helps whoever is sitting next to him. He easily became friends with Rosias and Monley (Mouse and Porcupine for those of you who have been here) at the beginning of the year, and I've noticed a big improvement in his English skills even since January. I've been very impressed with this young man this year, and I hope that he continues to impress me!

Friday, May 25, 2012

School Wide Party

The Philo class (grade 13) has been hosting events throughout the school year to help raise money for their graduation festivities. Since last Friday was Flag Day in Haiti (a pretty big deal) and there wouldn't be any school, the Philo students hosted a school wide party on the 17th. Each student was asked to pay $10 (Haitian of course) to help fund the party and the rest is set aside for graduation. So last Thursday was a no uniform day. There were no classes. Philo provided a bottle of pop at lunch for each student. (Click on the pictures to see them in full screen view.)

The students set up a sound system outside and everyone gathered around.

 The DJs did a good job of keeping the scheduled events moving--my favorite is Jean Eddy in the sheriff's shirt.

 There was a rap battle/show at one point. There were several groups that danced. And the little kids had a sing along session at the beginning of the day. Here some of the students are dancing. (This picture was taken from the cafeteria.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

All in a Day's Work

Here's what happens when the rain washes out the road to the guest house.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Electricity, and the truth about me

We've had lots of issues lately with the electricity. Sometimes the power plant doesn't give any electricity for a few days. If it goes too long, our inverter looses its charge and we're left with no power. This happens very rarely. We don't use a lot of electricity to begin with, and we try to pay attention to how long its been since we've had public power. It's a different life than living in the U.S., land of constant electricity, but it works.

However, the past couple of weeks have been rough. There was a problem, still is a problem, with the power coming into our street. We noticed the public power hadn't been on for a while, but when it did return our street was still in the dark when everyone else had power. We could see other people's lights taunting us from our candle lit living room. The neighbors had been calling EDH (the power company), but weren't getting any luck in getting someone to come out. Finally Willem found and EDH guy and asked him to come and check it out. Apparently the wire to our street isn't the right gauge. The EDH guy rigged it so that it will work for now, but it could go out again in the future.

In addition to that, our landlords had some electrical work done on our apartment, and apparently we are getting four more batteries for our inverter. This should double the amount of electricity we can hold in reserve for the times there is no public power. That is awesome. Except the batteries aren't connected yet and our inverter lost power last night around 8. I almost had dinner on the table (this is our normal dinner time), so we got out the flashlight and ate in the semi-dark. We adapted and enjoyed just talking to each other before we went to bed.

All these recent issues with electricity have made me realize something about myself. I get grumpy when there's no power. Really grumpy. Having no power makes me alternately want to cry and feel sorry for myself or throw rocks at something. In my desperation I might even write things like, "Life was so much easier when I lived in Indiana." in my journal. But I guess you'll never know that for sure. Ultimately this grumpiness is selfishness; I'm irritated that I didn't get my way.

Here's the problem with being selfish about electricity... I know it's not constant. I know I won't always have it. I shouldn't get grumpy about something that I know isn't guaranteed. If I lived in the States where electricity is a constant thing, I could understand being upset when it's out for several days. But I live in Haiti, where the only thing guaranteed about electricity is that it's not going to be constant! 

But more importantly than not being selfish about inconsistent electricity is the fact that I live in a country where there are people living in tents because of an earthquake that happened 2.5 years ago. They don't have electricity. They don't have clean water, let alone running water. They don't even have rooms in their dwellings. They get wet when it rains, and swelter the rest of the time. How can I complain about the lack of power for a few hours when these people lack...almost everything?

Lord, open my eyes to more important things than electricity and help me to see what's really important.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Graduating Class

What a good looking group of students! This is the Philo class (grade 13) and they will be MTM's first graduates in less than one month. We're so excited to see what God does with them.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The ever changing road

The road from the guest house to the riverbed can get pretty rough during the rainy season. It's bumpy right now, but that part isn't as bad as it has been in the past. The bad part is the fact that there are huge holes on the side of the road, and with each rain more of the road washes away. Here are some pictures.

Here you are looking at the road. There is a sink hole thing to the right.

Here's a picture of the giant hole next to the road. The picture does not do it justice. It's really big and really deep.

Here's a view of where the water washed the road away. We made a ramp with some dirt so the truck could go up and down. It was washed away too and now there are some rocks there, but we have to add more rocks after each rain.

Here's a view of the riverbed. This big trench is where we use to drive to get to the bottom of the road to Gramothe. Now we have to go off to the right and around a little ways before we can get to the base of the road. 

Traveling to and from Gramothe can be a little tricky these days. Please keep praying for us as we make the trip daily until school is out in mid-June.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

FAQ: Are you fluent in Creole?

Q. So, you're fluent in Creole, right?
A. Um... no. I am still very much learning the language. As far as speaking goes, I can generally express the basic version of what I want to say, but I'm often corrected. But that means they understood what I wanted! If I have time to think about what I want to say, the conversation goes much more smoothly. But if I'm put on the spot, then I forget my Creole and make a mess of things.

My listening skills are getting better, but there are still a lot of things I don't understand in Creole. I'm probably the best at understanding school related conversations, but I'm also getting pretty good at figuring out the sermon on Sunday too. If I know the verse or theme of Sunday's message, I can normally get the gist of what's being said.

If I were a serious student I could probably understand a lot more than I do now. But my students love to translate for me at school, and normally either Arold or Beth is with me when I go out. I have a bad habit of letting them talk for me at the first word I don't understand. Maybe someday I'll be brave enough to flounder on my own.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Answers to Prayers

I've been praying a lot that God would provide renters for my house in Mishawaka. Several people have told me that they forwarded my contact information, and that is encouraging. I hadn't heard much lately and was praying about it quite a bit yesterday. And then last night and this morning I found two e-mails in my inbox about families wanting to look at the house!

There are two families who are interested in seeing the house in the next week or so, and one that seems really, really interested in renting from us. I'm praying that one of these families will be the next renters. But if they aren't, I know God is going to answer our prayers and provide renters one way or another.

Please keep praying with us.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fresh Paint

Remember the team that came way back in February to paint the elementary school? If you don't remember them, they were only able to prime the outside of the buildings. Another group of people worked on the classrooms and still another group started the final coat of blue paint, but only were able to finish the 5th and 6th grade area. Well, this week the project was finally finished. And it looks amazing!! (Click on the pictures for a full screen view.)

A big THANK YOU to all of the painters who have worked so hard to give a facelift to the school this spring. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

FAQ: What do you eat?

Q. What do you and Arold eat? American food or Haitian food?
A. I do most of the cooking and I'm much more proficient at American food, so that's what I make most of the time. However, I have mastered some Haitian dishes that taste pretty good--even if my husband thinks I don't add enough salt. And, Arold cooks too. When we're both home, it's almost always a team effort to get dinner on the table. Sometimes he just does the cooking though.

Here are some links to some of our favorite dishes:

  • Homemade Pizza, using this super easy crust with no yeast--we eat this at least once a week! (I use a modified version with more flour and some olive oil from one of the comments.)
  • Baked Mac & Cheese, using the sauce from this recipe
  • Mostaccioli, recipe from my friend Kristin (basically it's pasta, seasoned beef, sauce, and parmesean baked to ooey goodness)
  • Homemade yogurt, easy and delicious! (only I eat this, he's not a fan of yogurt--but there is Haitian yogurt I could buy at the store... but I'm cheap so I make my own!)
  • Indiana Style Corn Dogs--we've only had it once, but it will probably be a frequently used recipe
  • Rice and Bean sauce--this is Arold's favorite meal of all time, but pizza is a close second
  • Chicken cooked in sauce
  • grilled ham and cheese sandwiches--my go to when I don't want to cook
  • Bannann Peze, twice fried plantains--these are typically a side dish, but sometimes we make a ton of them and eat them as a meal

For breakfast Arold eats an egg sandwich (American) or seasoned spaghetti noodles with ketchup and mayo (very, very Haitian). I always have the egg sandwich, unless we're out of eggs and then I find something else to eat.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Student Spotlight: Viergina

Viergina is a shy tenth grade student. I thought she was 17 or 18, but her birthday was a couple of weeks ago and she turned 22! Viergina often sings on the worship team at church, and is involved in the youth group in Gramothe. I think she understands more English than she lets on, but she refuses to talk to me in English. She always finds someone to translate for her. When she can't find someone to speak for her, she uses Creole with me,but she doesn't like it. ;)

My husband mercilessly teases Viergina (pronounced vee air-gina, with the second g sound in garage) because her boyfriend is the student body president. Arold has made up a song about "Madam President" that he sings whenever he sees her, and he frequently asks when they are getting married. She's clearly embarrassed when he does this because she blushes and turns her face away, but it must not bother her too much because she continues to seek us out.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ministry Partners

Arold and I enjoy working for Mountain Top Ministries. We get to help people at the medical clinic, disciple new believers through a Sunday school class, and help with a variety of projects. But what we really love is building relationships with the students and investing in their lives. HOWEVER, we could not be the hands and feet of Jesus in Gramothe without our many ministry partners. We may be the "go-ers," but it takes senders and intercessors to make a successful ministry.

We are blessed to have so many intercessors. I've tried to count them, but it's impossible to know for certain. I can tell you that I send our prayer updates to 111 e-mail addresses. If only half of those people are faithfully praying for us, that still makes 55 prayer partners. We depend on these partners to pray for our ministry, our students, and for us. Prayer is a powerful and effective tool, and we need others to join with us as we serve here. We can't do it alone!

In addition to intercessors, we need people who are willing to send us to the mission field. It would be impossible for us to minister in Gramothe without financial support from others. We'd have to find "real jobs" to support ourselves and that would leave little, if any, time for our students in Gramothe. We are blessed to have 11 very faithful families/individuals who serve as our senders. They partner with us each month for about 54% of our support. Then there are two churches who give about 14% of our monthly support--putting us at 68% funded each month. To date the rest of our financial support has come from one-time donations from a variety of individuals and organizations.

We use the word "partner" to describe those who support us with prayers and finances because they are very much a part of our ministry. They may not be in Haiti working at the school, but they are vital to what God is doing here. Arold and I are the ones who are physically present, but these senders and intercessors are just as much a part of empowering Haitian youth to live their lives for Christ.

If you're not currently a part of our ministry team, we'd love to have you join our team! To receive our prayer updates, e-mail me at britneyLsmith (at) gmail (dot) com letting me know. If you want to partner with us financially, you can set up automatic monthly donations on the Mountain Top Ministries website. Or you can give a one-time gift on the MTM website by clicking on "Donate Online." (It's under the Get Involved title on the right.)

Friday, May 4, 2012


I've been pretty grumpy this week. It's mostly due to the fact that I'm too focused on myself and how some things didn't go my way. And those things that didn't go my way? They don't really matter.  My life wasn't changed because I didn't have electricity when I wanted it or that I got a little wet on my way home from school. So, I took some time this morning to refocus on the One who does matter, on the One who did change my life.