All posts in “Paul Young”

When the Going Gets Tough

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By Paul Young

Sometimes, in the middle of trying to be servants to the Lord, we run into obstacles that obscure the path and make progress difficult. Just because we feel called to serve doesn’t exempt us from challenges. Indeed, it can be those challenges that help us reach a deeper clarity about what we are really doing, and for whom.

Whether as a part of a mission team in Fond Blanc, or as a year round partner in the Lord’s service to those children and that community, we are all going to get worn down at times. We all experience moments when we want to throw up our hands saying: “Lord we are here for you. Where are you? This is so hard. Why aren’t you helping?

As disturbing as these trials may be, they are some of the most intense, exciting experiences for any servant. The causes of our doubt and frustration are God’s tools for stripping us bare of our self-reliance and preconceptions. Our distress can help to expose our hearts and souls, clearing our vision and reminding us of what we are really doing, and why. Many of us who volunteer for mission trips are surprised to discover how profoundly the experience is about…us! We thought we were going to help the less fortunate. Who knew how much we, too, could be helped?

Quo vadis, Domine?

Quo vadis, Domine?

Quo Vadis, Domine? This Latin phrase translates: “where are you going, Lord?” and is famous because it is the title of an even more famous painting. It is the sort of question we still ask today – in modern English, of course – during our own tough times.

The painting depicts the scene of Peter fleeing persecution in Rome. On the road out of town, he is surprised to encounter Jesus heading the other way – toward the trouble. Peter looks afraid and small. Jesus appears strong and confident, even as he carries his cross.

To Peter’s question: “Where are you going, Lord?” Jesus replies: “ I am going to Rome to be crucified – again.” Really? Again? Wow! In this moment of flight and preoccupation with himself, Peter is given the chance to reconsider his own circumstances in the light of Jesus’ sacrifice.

From among all the disciples, Peter had been called out early by Jesus to become a servant to his followers. Three times Peter had chosen himself over his Lord and yet Jesus still embraced and encouraged him: “If you love me, feed my sheep.”  (John 21:17) A careful reading of the text confirms that Jesus did not add: “only so long as you are comfortable.”

We all have the human capacity to sink into our own frustrations at times and lose sight of the greater purpose of “feeding his sheep.” As missionaries serving the Lord in Haiti today, we all have moments when things get tough and we are tempted to walk away from our “Rome”.

Even in an idyllic place like Fond Blanc, with these wonderful children and such a dedicated staff, it is not always easy to serve. This June saw some of the hottest weather on record. The entire Caribbean is experiencing a drought, depriving us of the cooling, life-sustaining rains. Building the new church is hard work, and “carrying dirt” can seem pointless (and endless). At times the Haitian way of doing things seems frustratingly inefficient to process-oriented Americans. Our teams are faring well this summer, but everyone encounters tests in the effort to serve.

St. Paul understood such trials better than most. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul encourages us all: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9) That “harvest” is the Lord’s harvest, and the “proper time” is his time. It can all seem elusive – particularly when obstacles interfere with our service efforts. Sometimes the harvest is seen in the faces of the children of Fond Blanc. Sometimes, the harvest is found in our own hearts and spirits.

As the summer progresses in Fond Blanc, my prayer for all participants serving Fond Blanc is that they will see evidence of the Lord’s harvest from their efforts, and that they may realize that they are a treasured part of that harvest.

Water Works

Water Works 052515The Fond Blanc Water Works is up and running! We just finished making some critical improvements to the water supply system at the Fond Blanc orphanage. It hardly sounds like a newsworthy project, but this is actually a “game-changer” for us.

Unless you happen to live in southern California, you probably don’t have to think much about your own water supply, but water issues have been an important challenge for the orphanage. You might expect the problems to be about water quality, but again like the Californians, our situation was actually more about water quantity, and getting the water to where we need it. Water pressure is a big consideration too.

Fond Blanc is blessed with lots of water – and it is naturally quite clean by Haitian standards – so what is the big deal?

We think Fond Blanc (White Fountain) is aptly named because the area has some of the best groundwater most of us have ever encountered in Haiti. The mountains that rise at our backs catch a tremendous amount of rainfall at elevations where there is not so much exposure to contaminating human activity, so we start with a good supply of relatively clean water. (We’ll talk more about the critical issue of water purity in a later post.)

That water comes to us through a community pipe that originates a good bit further up in the hills. We are not quite sure who to thank for that community pipe, but as the water travels downhill to us, gravity provides enough natural pressure to get the water into our compound where it had been adequate to meet our needs on the ground… Except that our needs have grown a lot and we also don’t live on ground level so much anymore.

Most of the increased demand for water is related to our emphasis on hygiene and the larger number of people using water in the compound. For example, as a part of really stressing good hygiene habits with the children, we ask them each to shower/bathe twice every day. That is over 100 showers a day right there, and it doesn’t account for all the teeth-brushing and hands-washing that is also being emphasized.

picture_11Then there are the water needs of the staff, the missionary teams and all the other visitors to consider as well. When you put it all together and plan (as one must) for peak usage needs, you start to see that the orphanage could not really expect to function on the higher level we are aiming for until the water supply was better scaled to our needs.

Water moves by pressure, and in a location with limited electricity resources, that means relying as much as possible on gravity for water pressure. But the gravity pressure of the community pipe simply could not push the water upstairs to all three levels of orphanage life. That means using plastic rooftop water tanks for gravity pressure, and requires an electrical water pump to fill them.

Therein lies a part of the problem we were facing: We have a good pump, but it has labored to do the job, and needed to run for hours at a time to refill the tanks. Because the volume of water coming in from the community pipe was too low, the pump was being “starved” and was pushing as much air as water up to the rooftop tanks. And, of course, we were burning through propane fuel for all those many hours the pump had to run to do its job.

Pastor Jean Claude solved the biggest piece of the water puzzle for us. He built a 7000 gallon reservoir in the ground beside the new church. Reservoirs are part of the way Haitians normally manage their water supplies. Pastor has a reservoir at his house in Port-au-Prince, so we know how well he maintains them. Periodically, they will drain the whole thing and go in to scour the walls with bleach to keep everything clean.

The community water pipe is more than sufficient to fill the reservoir, and it can run 24/7 if need be without costing anybody anything. Some day, Pastor may add a second reservoir at the other end of the church, but that is not needed to meet our needs for the foreseeable future. The new reservoir was all we needed to jump into action. As usual, our donors provided funds for materials, and volunteers did all the work to make the necessary changes that would solve the problem.

We were able to relocate the water pump to a new home, down below the reservoir on the back wall of the compound. This lower position means that water will naturally flow down into the pump, where previously the pump was working as hard to pull water in as it was to push it up to the roof. We also used much larger diameter pipe everywhere, so the volume of water being moved by the same pump is much greater than what we were able to achieve previously.

The pump is finally able to operate as it was designed to do, and the result is that we can refill the 600 gal. rooftop water tanks in minutes instead of hours. This improvement gives us more latitude in managing our water consumption, and the biggest difference will be noticed in the showers. In the old days, most of those were “bucket showers” where the kids just scooped water from a trough and poured it over their own heads. But since the construction of new children’s showers in January, the shower water all comes from the roof, so being able to rapidly refill the tanks is a critical improvement in process.

That may be more than you ever wanted to know about water systems, but it is a good example of ways we can help our Haitian friends solve bottleneck issues and improve on essential processes. It is exactly these sorts of limitations that impede general progress in Haiti, but many good things can “flow” from an improved system, and now you can understand why we got so excited about something as mundane as plumbing.

Coming Soon: Our Summer Guests!

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by Paul Young

Even though it feels as if spring is still getting underway here at home, we at the Fond Blanc Foundation are busy preparing for the summer “mission trip season”. People come down to visit and volunteer with us at all times of the year, but it is those back-to-back-to-back trips which really keep the orphanage spinning all summer, like a perpetual motion machine.

This will be the third consecutive summer that Next Step Ministries will manage the summer mission teams at Fond Blanc. As one of the principal founding partners in the Fond Blanc Foundation, Next Step handles every aspect of the team visits during the summers, and is singularly responsible for much of the progress we have made at the orphanage in the last few years. They have an enthusiastic staff in place to lead the guests in work, play and worship. Some of the staffers are themselves returning to Fond Blanc, and I understand many of the missionary groups are on their second or third trip to the orphanage as well. When so many folks are eager to return, it suggests the Lord is doing something special in Fond Blanc.

The biggest project underway at the orphanage right now is the as-yet-unfinished new church. We hope to see it completed this year and we anticipate that many volunteers will do at least some work on the church. However, the church project has progressed to a point where a good portion of the remaining work may be too technical, too strenuous or even too risky for most of our volunteers; so we have been revisiting our always-lengthy wish list of other projects as we consult with Next Step about where else to aim our energies and talent.

When you ask mission trip leaders about their own goals for the teams they lead, a common answer you hear is that they want the team to go home feeling that they really accomplished something. When tackling a big project like the church, one that cannot be started and finished in a week, that sense of accomplishment can be a little harder to grasp. All the more reason for teams to tackle smaller tasks as well.

Next Step is still finalizing the project list, and there are some fun and impactful tasks on the list, but one “building” project which we, and they, always emphasize is building relationships. Perhaps this is one reason that explains why so many of our teams are making return visits to Fond Blanc. They may have planned to build a church or some other structure, but along the way they certainly have been building real relationships with the children and staff – relationships which they want to refresh and renew.

We are passionate about building these relationships. The children and the staff pour so much of themselves into us, it is a joy to give our hearts back to them. The fact that our teams sleep just one floor above the kids’ rooms means that visitors are really going to be with the kids. Volunteers will have many chances to get to know the children, worship with them, play with them, help them with English words and phrases, and maybe learn a bit of Creole from them as well.

Have you noticed that the Lord does some of His best work in the connection spaces between people in relationship? Relationship takes our acts of service, adds personal meaning and context, and converts them into acts of love. People who come down intending to help are themselves helped by having their hearts broken for the Lord and for “the least of these” – His children. If we had a dime for every time a missionary volunteer has been unexpectedly drenched by feelings for those they serve… well, our real reward is the privilege of being a part of those personal transformations!

So we approach the upcoming season with excitement for the chances to see so many of you, and with anticipation for all that God will do to and through you in Fond Blanc this summer. And for those readers who are not yet scheduled to visit, the Fond Blanc Foundation will be hosting other teams and individuals who come to see us throughout the fall, winter and spring; so contact us if you would like to know more about being a part of all that.

It’s Mango Season!

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By Paul Young

KABOOM! The tranquility of a spring afternoon in Fond Blanc is shattered by the sound of a ripe mango bouncing off the tin roof as it drops some 20-30 feet from the tree above.

The mangoes at the orphanage can be the size of a large raw baking potato – and just as firm and heavy. Already this spring we’ve seen more than one person bruised by the falling fruit. We are fortunate that there been no direct hits to someone’s head, but as much as we all like to sit out under the mango trees in the courtyard, I guess we’re resigned to that happening at some point.

The mangoes are plentiful during this season, which could stretch into early June if we are lucky. Pastor Shmy and Fre Theo get the children to collect the fallen fruit in whatever containers we can find to hold them all. picture_3And the children are pretty good about helping out, but there’s a lot of mango eating going on too. Pretty much everyone feasts on mangoes around this time of year, and the children -being children – manage to overdo it upon occasion.

We chose to feature the mango tree in our Fond Blanc Foundation logo because so much of daily life plays out under the large mango trees in the courtyard in front of the orphanage building. But it is also a good symbol of the way the children can revel when bounty falls their way (no pun intended), without ever feeling sorry for themselves when they must do without something. It is wonderful to experience their simple, child-like joy, and impressive to recognize how rarely they ever complain.

People often ask us about where the rural Haitians find food, and mangoes are one of the answers to those questions. Mangoes are far and away our largest homegrown food source. We lack sufficient space at the orphanage to properly cultivate most food plants in any real quantity, but we do get a decent supply of plantains (they look similar to bananas), and we enjoy a more limited crop of avocados from trees that Pastor Jean Claude had planted in the compound.

Mango 3In this photo, Kervins is clearly exhausted by his mango meal. He fell asleep at this picnic bench about 5 minutes after we took this photo. It is worth mentioning that the children’s diet is now much more nutritionally balanced thanks to our donors’ support, but we never could manage to supply as much fruit as the children enjoy during mango season.

Although the mango is not originally a Haitian plant, it apparently thrives in the Haitian climate. Even though there are over 1000 varieties of mango worldwide, many experts will tell you that Haitian mangoes are among the most flavorful anywhere. Unfortunately, most of us have never encountered one in an American grocery store. So, if by chance you are planning to visit us by early June, there may yet be a chance for you to enjoy a feast of mangoes from the fruit still ripening on the tree branches. Let us hope that will be the case, because the kids are not saving any!

 

 

Prim Store

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by Paul Young

Prim is a Haitian word pronounced like “preem” that roughly translates as “prize” or “reward”. And Prim Store is also the name for a good conduct reward system that Alison and Goulit have successfully introduced into the Fond Blanc Orphanage. This program is yielding some surprisingly good results.

In the Prim system, the children are automatically awarded two points per day, points which are redeemable at the weekly Prim Store event. Prim Store is full of toys and other goodies set out by Alison and Goulit in a tantalizing display for the children who come in to “shop” one or two at a time so decisions are not rushed because of a rushing crowd. During the week the children can also earn extra points, or forfeit ones they already have – depending on their behavior during the week.

Alison reports that the children have become very invested in the Prim system, and instances of misbehavior are fewer as the children have learned to protect and even add to their points total. Having Prim points taken away serves up a lasting lesson to the offender.

Prim Store 1 050715When the Prim Store opens the available treasures displayed may include fancy shoes, toys (marbles are a current favorite) hair accessories and other such items. The children’s clothes and basic necessities are already provided outside of Prim Store, so this is entirely a reward system for extra treats. But these are not inconsequential award items and the children take this process seriously.

Goulit and Alison are quite creative in devising new Prim awards. The two most “expensive” choices at the moment are: a personal day at the beach at Wahoo Bay (200 points), and a trip to Petionville to eat an entire pizza by yourself (150 points).

On our recent visit, Didi was awarded two extra points for clearing extra dishes at breakfast before church on Sunday. He obviously wasn’t trying for extra points so the surprise award was probably a strong reinforcement for his helpful act. Some children save up points like crazy while others never met a point they were not prepared to spend right away. Each of these children has their own unique and engaging personality.

There is more to Prim, it turns out, than just behavioral reinforcement. There are also the lessons to be learned about earning what you get and then caring for what you have earned. In this respect, Haitian children are no different from American children: they manage to lose their stuff easily but they also tend to keep up better with things they have earned through their own efforts. Because something is required of the children, the value lesson of possessions is reinforced.Prim Store 2 050715

Prim Store is also a good way for us to share the many donations and gifts we receive on behalf of the children. Donations to the orphanage are expressions of love, and many of our supporters have a lot of love to share. But, as wonderful as that may seem, for the children it could become somewhat overwhelming. It would not be healthy for any child to have Christmas morning come every week. It becomes important for us to modulate the flow of generosity from our donors to our children, and we appreciate your support and understanding in that effort.

We try to be judicious in the way we pass along the generosity of our donors. We would not want the children to become desensitized to the significance of those donations, and we are particularly alert for any sign that the orphans might take all this for granted, or somehow form a distorted view of what represents “normal” in their world. Prim Store is an effective tool for us to address this concern as well.

So on your next visit to Fond Blanc, ask Alison or Goulit if you can sit in on Prim Store. Who knows, if you are well behaved they might even award you some Prim points for yourself.

 

Child Sponsorships at Fond Blanc

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By Paul Young

We get a lot of inquiries from supporters about helping sustain the orphanage by sponsoring the children. As we are preparing for visits from so many volunteers and friends this summer we thought revisiting this topic might be helpful.

The Fond Blanc Foundation has initiated a child sponsorship program to help support the children at the orphanage. It is a primary way we raise support to care for the children. But we are not primarily a child sponsorship organization, and so our situation may need a bit of explanation. Where other organizations may cover many more children, in more locations and over many geographical areas; our focus is on this one particular orphanage and the needs of these specific 54 children.

We also want to be completely clear and wholly transparent about our sponsorship program, and how we use the funds that sponsors provide. Because our process may be different than those of other organizations, we are anxious to avoid any confusion. If you want to sponsor a child but have any questions about our process, please contact us directly.

We think the sponsorship process can do two important things well: provide financial support for the children, and help them to have personal relationships with people who care about them.

Meeting the needs of the children through sponsorships presents a few challenges. We cannot provide the daily essentials to one child who is sponsored, while ignoring those same needs for another child who may not yet be sponsored. If a sponsor wants to do something special for a particular child we can help with that, but when it comes to using sponsorship funds for general care, please think of us as a bit like the Musketeers: All for one and one for all.

In our sponsorship figures, we have aggregated all the costs associated with the orphanage (food & clothing, hygiene, education, health & general care). That means that our requests for sponsorship support are both higher and more all-encompassing than most traditional child sponsorship programs. We suggest that a donor simply pledge the amount they want to give. A donor does not have to fund the child’s entire expenses in order to be a sponsor. Sponsors should also know that 100% of sponsorship contributions go exclusively to meet the actual expenses that directly benefit the children’s lives.

We also allow for multiple sponsors per child, which can mean that one child may have many sponsors while another may have few. Fond Blanc is blessed to have hundreds of missionary volunteers visiting the orphanage every year. We are delighted when people develop special connections with specific children during those visits. These relationships have come to mean a great deal to the children too. We don’t want to limit anyone from continuing in those relationships just because someone else has already chosen to sponsor that specific child.

On the other hand, some children naturally attract more attention than others, so we also encourage supporters to think about using sponsorship as a chance to get to know a child who is new to them. Anyone who is interested in sponsoring a child -and especially those who have not yet visited Fond Blanc in person – can still get to know the children individually. Each of them has a space on our website with a picture and a brief bio. We will be adding updates to these children’s folders as well.

The financial support is critically necessary, of course, but we also want to do everything we can to help sponsors build an individual connection with any child they want to help. When you sponsor a child, there are opportunities to get postcards, letters, pictures and videos from that child, and if you want to write to the child, we will help you communicate with them directly.

Guidance for sponsoring a child in the Fond Blanc Orphanage is calibrated around several different giving levels. Please visit our website for more details on this. We are still new at this, so let us know if you see a way we can do something better. And make plans to come see us in Fond Blanc. That is where the sponsorship relationship really takes root and grows.

Going From Comfort to Cost

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By Paul Young

Many Christians in America tend to think about faith in terms of the blessings we receive, but Christians in other parts of the world must often measure their faith in terms of what it costs them. My pastor pointed this out to me recently, in the context of mission work and news reports of widespread Christian persecution all around the world. While I am offering up prayers of thanksgiving for all my blessings, other Christians are praying for the Lord’s protection and the strength to endure suffering and mistreatment.

It is a sobering observation; one made all the more bracing by its obvious truth. Many of us have been fabulously and unfathomably blessed by God in life, and the idea of going beyond those blessings and pushing our faith until it costs us something is not an idea embraced easily. Ever since the pastor challenged me with that observation, the questions I have been wrestling with are these: Have I ever managed to cross beyond the boundary between comfort and cost in my faith journey? And: How do we get to that place where our faith entails some true personal cost, and what does that look like anyway?

I suspect that part of the answer can be found in mission work such as the Fond Blanc Foundation does in Haiti. Whenever we go down to serve in Fond Blanc, we are well out of range of the “comfort cocoons” that we rely on every day at home in the USA. Haiti days are hot. Nights can feel even hotter sometimes! They have hurricanes; even earthquakes! The work is unfamiliar, tedious and strenuous. Progress feels slow, and it seems that something is always going wrong. “That’s just Haiti,” we frequently say to one another. If it were not all so challenging they would have gotten it all straightened out long before we showed up.

However much or little we may think we accomplish as short term missionaries, the whole focus is on helping others. There’s nothing in it for us – at least in the materialistic terms the world understands. However, we are given an opportunity to flourish spiritually, and to embrace our exhaustion and discomfort as the welcome cost of living out our faith as Jesus asked us to do.

When we embark on mission trips to places like Fond Blanc, I think we are moving toward that boundary between comfort and cost. Leaving home for Haiti, we give up some familiar pleasures of life, but we also break loose from a buffer that can cause us to become spiritually desensitized. Jesus has better access to us when we are not so deeply enmeshed in our comfort zones, or so distracted by our whims and appetites. I think we become more receptive to the Holy Spirit as well. As we step out of our own safe little worlds, the presence of the Lord can become stunningly apparent. Suddenly our souls are more alert to the gentle companionship of the Holy Spirit. As a result of this sort of shift, we’ve been privileged to see more than a few personal spiritual awakenings at the Fond Blanc orphanage, I can tell you.

Going from comfort to cost is a lot easier to write about than it is to do. The cost that other Christians endure is still a daunting proposition for me. I am not sure I would have the strength to be able to face the extreme persecutions that Christians around the world willingly face every day. I pray that God would grant me courage and grace in that situation, but, to be honest, I also pray that I might be spared from experiences with such high costs in the first place. So it is some consolation to think of the many ways I do get to encounter the Lord in the mission field of Fond Blanc.

So, if you get to thinking about the distance between comfort and cost in your own faith journey, please consider joining us in Fond Blanc sometime. Yes, you will probably be physically and emotionally stretched as you live out your faith, but time spent with the children and staff at the Fond Blanc Orphanage will refresh a weary spirit in ways that can surprise you. Some of us refer to these mission trips as “vacations for the soul”, so perhaps the cost isn’t so great after all. Jesus said: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11: 30) Maybe this is an example of what he meant.

Group Missions and Personal Journeys

paulOne of the wonderful characteristics of Fond Blanc is the way it allows different people to “own” their experiences with the children, and to fashion their own story-within-the-broader-story of assisting the orphanage. We are blessed to have many church groups and communities join in the effort, and for each of them, the relationship and memories are unique. We all come to honor God together through service to his children, but those individual journeys of faith are at the heart of it all.

I was reminded of this recently while reading two wonderful guest posts to our blog. Rachel Landgraf and Ashley Argall have each shared a message that reveals their enduring passion for, and connection to, the children of Fond Blanc. Their church has been coming to Fond Blanc for three years now, and so have several of the individuals involved. These women’s personal testimonies are full of the same exhilaration and defeat, the same passion and frustration, and ultimately the same enduring hope and commitment that we see in so many of our volunteers.  Please be sure to read their comments here and here.

When I try to think about mission trips from the perspective of churches that sponsor them, I realize how much the church leadership hopes that the trip will “break some hearts”; hearts which can then be quickly healed by new and deeper relationships with both the Lord and those who are being served. This is part of the daily wonder of Fond Blanc. It may sound odd, but I welcome the “brokenness”. I am grateful for the way it forms such powerful new spiritual bonds as hearts heal. I count it a privilege when I can be a witness to this part of someone’s journey through Fond Blanc.

I did not encounter brokenness, myself, on my first mission trip many years ago. Our group stayed in a hotel, and our glancing connection to the community was neither abiding nor convicting. I am so much better off now to be serving in Fond Blanc, even though progress can sometimes seem like running in sand, and challenges can feel like running into boulders. The Lord does some of his best work in those moments.

The Fond Blanc Foundation has begun working into our brand new role as “co-leader” at the orphanage, but in many ways we are still guests ourselves. It is just that we now have a bigger opportunity to serve God in that place. Where we, too, once showed up as annual volunteers asking how we could help in the moment, we now find ourselves on the other side of the question. Now we are helping Pastor Jean Claude to plan out the answers, so that we can better guide our supporters to the most effective application of their passion and energy.

Having been given the “gift” of new authority and the responsibilities that go with it, we intend to stay mindful of our true purpose in Fond Blanc. To a new visitor to the orphanage, it might appear on the surface that we are building walls and such, but that is not what is really going on at the heart of things. When people come to help, the real “foundation wall” of progress at the orphanage is made up of all the individual bricks of their personal experience and encounters.

The hearts of each of the people involved in Fond Blanc are at the center of what God is doing there. Sometimes we discover more of the Lord’s strength in us than we knew we had, and maybe he might use our experience to knock off an edge here and there. Surely, Fond Blanc is God’s workshop for those of us who go there. We had about 400 volunteer guests come to the orphanage last year, and although many of them will never meet each other, they do all get to be part of an experience that is shared on one level, but at the same time, is one to be treasured as individually spirit-changing and uniquely their own. One big story of passion and effort is actually made up of so many personal journeys of faith and service. And for that, as Pastor always says: to God be the glory!

Paul Young

Happy New Year Fond Blanc! We Have Come So Far!

paulThe new Fond Blanc Foundation website is a sort of new beginning for all of us involved in serving the children in the Fond Blanc orphanage.  As excited as we are about all that is to come, this is also an occasion for me to reflect back on how far we have come.

Pastor Jean Claude took me on my first visit to Fond Blanc in the summer of 2010. On that first visit, I remember the boys were playing with a small Matchbox car. The scene sticks in my memory because there was just the one car – actually it was the only toy anywhere at the orphanage at that time! The way the boys all shared in the fun with that single small toy was an early sign for me of the spirit with which the children handle poverty and adversity. Rather than enjoy what we have, we in the U.S. can become obsessed by notions of all that we think we are entitled to. Unburdened by notions of entitlement, the children in the orphanage were able to derive real joy from what little they did have.

Among the many things they did not have was food! In spite of Pastor’s heroic efforts, in was not unusual for the orphanage to go a full day without food. Food had been temporarily plentiful after the earthquake, but those food supplies were declining as the world’s attention moved away from Haiti and on to the next disaster. We did what we could about food, but this was a time for me to learn about the power and provision of God.

I had to let go of any notion of my own resourcefulness, and begin to trust the power of God’s strength. On matters of God’s provision, there could be no better teachers than the 54 children in the Fond Blanc orphanage. Coming from nothing and having nothing, the children still possess an innocent joy for life. They know they are loved, and they rely upon the Lord in a way that can sometimes be hard for affluent Americans to manage.

So, trusting God to provide, we pushed ahead. I was enthralled as the Lord dropped one answer after another right in front of me and right on time. It was as though steppingstones were simply appearing under my feet as I walked briskly forward.

First, an orphan ministry appeared, introducing our first church partner and providing valuable expertise in matters where I was truly out of my depth. About the same time, I met a missionary who has been serving in Haiti for decades and happens to live near me. He came alongside me and has sustained me with his energy and friendship to this day.

Other volunteer groups came and built shelter and a dry place to eat. Along the way, one visitor to Fond Blanc took it upon herself to raise funds so the children could have real beds. I know she was a bit shocked by just how richly God blessed her efforts!

The scope of the challenges at Fond Blanc was sometimes overwhelming, but the Lord responded by introducing a new key partner. This organization now brings hundreds of volunteers to Fond Blanc each year. At the orphanage, we have reveled in this deluge of volunteers whose time, talent and treasure continue to make substantial change to living conditions for the whole community.

Next, one remarkable young lady decided to put her entire life on hold so she could come and live with the children full time.  Her decision just reconfirmed the powerful ways God is moving in that community. At that point, we began to realize that we had to reorganize under the banner of the new Fond Blanc Foundation just to manage all the blessings of assistance that God continues to shower upon us in Haiti.

These few paragraphs of recollection cannot do justice to all that has been accomplished by those who have served the children of the Fond Blanc orphanage. However, the most important part of the journey has been our collective walk with the Lord. Along the way, the Lord has simultaneously stretched us and drawn us into closer relationship with Him. We are stretched by the enormity of the tasks, and we are drawn nearer to Him through His love and joy that we experience in that place, not to mention the continual affirmation we are afforded by His amazing providence.

In my gratitude and enthusiasm, I may occasionally gloss over the fact that Haiti can still be a very challenging place to get things done. However, anytime I feel stymied by some circumstance, I only have to turn around for a moment to appreciate just how far we have already come under God’s gracious provision and Lordship.

We will begin the New Year with an ambitious agenda for the Foundation that is, frankly, well beyond our resources at present. But we have been blessed to have come so far, and the Lord continues to sustain our efforts. We hope you will join us on the journey in the new year, first with your prayers, then through your donations, and also just by walking alongside us through this blog and on our website.

Happy New Year, and may God continue to bless Fond Blanc!

Paul Young

Fond Blanc – A Place of Loaves and Fishes

paulAs Christmas dinner donations have been pouring  in at the Fond Blanc orphanage, my thoughts turn to the Bible stories of Jesus feeding the multitude with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish.  If you have not personally experienced the miracle of the loaves and fishes, I want to encourage you to visit Fond Blanc, where it seems that sort of miracle happens all the time.

The story of the loaves and fishes was not one of my favorite Bible stories…until I first came to Haiti five years ago. Serving the Fond Blanc orphanage has given me the perspective to really appreciate this Bible story, because we encounter similar situations all the time – and with similar results!

Haiti is a place where our dependency upon the Lord is an unavoidable reality and a recurring lesson. We serve the children of Fond Blanc as a way of serving the Lord, but what can we really do in our own strength? Between the enormity of the challenges in Haiti and our very limited resources, we are reminded every day that it is only through God’s provision that we are able to deliver even the basic necessities of life.

The crowds with Jesus were hungry. When the disciples realized the problem their first reactions came from a decidedly worldly perspective. How late was the time? How would they feed the people? How far away was the town? How much would the food cost? How would they manage to pay for it all? These are the sorts of questions we all ask when we are trying to figure things out for ourselves.

In those moments we have a tendency to set our faith aside while we go try to resolve the problem in our own strength. We say something like: “Of course I believe in you, God, but right now I’ve got to go find something to eat!” When we do this we deprive the Lord of an opportunity to dazzle us with his provision and care. But experience has taught us we cannot do things that way in Haiti.

Even though the disciples had already witnessed Jesus perform many miracles, in this moment of crisis they looked first to themselves for solutions. If I try to imagine myself in their place, I feel sure the disciples must have still struggled with questions even as they followed Jesus’ instructions and brought him that tiny supply of bread and fish. What then must have been going through their minds as they handed out all that food?

Life in Haiti gives us many moments like this. With each one it becomes easier to just trust God. With each one we revel in the joy of knowing that he can, and will, provide for us. If you have ever experienced the exhilaration that comes from watching your favorite team manage to pull off an unlikely comeback, you have a sense of how it feels to watch the response to the Christmas Dinner campaign for the orphanage. When there seems to be no way, God finds a way!

We posted a simple funding request for Christmas dinners and the many friends of the orphanage responded wonderfully. I feel like the disciples must have felt, sitting dumbstruck on the ground, staring at those baskets of leftovers from those few loaves and fishes Jesus started with. There is just no other explanation besides God. He blessed the hearts of our donors in this season no differently than he blessed those loaves and the fishes so long ago. The bounty that flowed from those blessings is testimony to the power of his love. The children enjoyed a bountiful and joyous Christmas dinner…and we, too, have “leftovers” – extra funds to provide additional meals at the orphanage for the next month.

So we say thank you for your gifts and for being the instruments of God’s blessing in this instance. If you want to see more such blessings unfold, please come visit us in Fond Blanc – a place of miracles with loaves and fishes.

Paul Young

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