**OOPS!! My first post had a couple of significant errors that I thought I had fixed but the wrong version must have gone out. This one is corrected.
Hey Everybody! Before I get started on this update, Tony and I just want to express our deep love and appreciation for every single dear friend who has prayed for Tony’s healing and just our overall well-being during this strange and difficult time. Your love and support has been OVERWHELMING to say the least.
It’s been about three months since my last update when life was a bit more calm around the world. Tony and I had decided to go “Off the Grid” for a couple of weeks as we took time to be alone together to process and pray about his prostate cancer diagnosis and the road that we were about to embark upon. Of course, in our minds, that journey didn’t also include face masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper shortages, and socially chaotic whirlwind, but we’ve always just sort of rolled with the punches in life. It has not been an easy adjustment for any of us, has it? But God continues to be faithful to His promises, and we daily seek His word and the Holy Spirit for guidance and courage. “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” Proverbs 3:6.
So would you like to hear a little encouraging news? Well, I have some…..
First of all, Tony’s PSA levels (a protein that signifies the potential for prostate cancer cells) continue to go down! Hallelujah! We were hoping that at his last appointment they would be completely zero, but they were still very slightly above zero, so his doctor gave him another hormone shot and said we would wait three more months to start radiation. That means we won’t begin radiation until about mid-September. In the meantime, we are trying to exercise more, practice healthier eating, and stay in the Word. We are trying to avoid crowds as much as possible and wearing masks when around anyone outside of our close family circle. The last thing we need is for COVID to delay the radiation treatments. We covet your continued prayers. One very special opportunity Tony has had since his diagnosis has been to be able to minister to several friends who have reached out to him with prostate cancer diagnoses too. It has meant a lot to him to be able to have a community of men to share with whose experiences are fresh and difficult to process. He has been such an encouragement to them, and that is God working!!
More good news….HAITI. Where to I begin? Since Tony and I left Haiti last September, it has been sooooo difficult for us to accept God’s very clear directive to us that we are where we are supposed to be right now and that He will continue to use us from afar. When the country was turned topsy turvy with political upheaval and violence back in November and December, we went through a time of chaos and sort of stunned stagnancy as we all just hung on for dear life and prayed that God would move and make a way for ministry to continue even though Tony and I could not return yet and teams could not go. Vladimir, Joel, and Didier each stepped up in his capacity and they got the clinic open, school pictures made, started construction on a couple of houses, etc. It was amazing to see them all three just sort of JUMP into motion like horses out of a starting gate. As you can imagine, although our hearts hurt so much for not being there, they are also swollen with gratitude as we see these young men carrying on the ministry that God started years ago with all of us together. So since January, in our little village of Galette Chambon, BGM has been able to build two houses, have three large food distributions, conduct school pictures for over 800 students, begin construction on two new classrooms at the new BGM Primary school, distribute handicap equipment to many local handicapped members of our community, distribute 100 Texas Instrument scientific calculators to 9th graders preparing for the National Exam in both Galette Chambon and Thoman, and minister personally with several members of the community with urgent, specific medical needs. I will share some pictures of those things now….
There are other exciting things developing right now too that mean continued ministry in our village in spite of the difficulties we are facing as a mission there in Haiti. RH Kouti is the name of the sewing company that was started in our village several years ago. Ruth and Henry hire many other members of the community to work as they sew hundreds of uniforms for our students each year. The months of February through May are usually difficult, however, because they have finished the uniforms and have been paid for all of them and they, in turn, have paid their employees, so not much income comes in until uniforms start being made again. Recently, a sponsor sent money for them to make a dress for her sponsor child, and they did a beautiful job! Since then many other sponsors have followed suit and are ordering dresses for theirs. This has produced an income again during a particularly dry time financially for them.
We are also continuing preparations for launching the Goat Sharing Program. We have been working on growing the herd and organizing development of the program. Soon there will be a way for people to purchase a goat online through BGM to “give” to a family who will “pay for it” by giving back the gift goat’s first born. This creates sustainability and responsibility and a business. Our two baby goats are almost ready to be sold and given to the first recipients! We will publicize when the program kicks off!
Just recently, Stan Buckley published a post about how lack of rain has caused countless farms in both Thoman and Galette Chambon to burn up and therefore many, many people are going hungry. We were thinking a post like that would draw a little money for another food distribution or two, but it actually drew enough funds to feed thousands of people in our two villages! I’m talking fishes and loaves kind of miracle! The food distribution in Galette Chambon took many hours of preparation and organization between me and the staff there, but it’s happening! And people all over the village will have a month’s supply of food after this distribution. Praise God!! Vladimir and Didier have done a tremendous job of organizing.
More good news…. Joel organized a paint crew this week and they are painting the outside of the new BGM Primary School as well as the new classrooms. This provides income to about seven men in our village, and it will complete both Phase I and Phase II of the school. From what I understand, BGM received funds to build both classrooms and possibly one of the playgrounds. We are trusting God will provide to finish the second playground, the library, and finish the main courtyard that will become a dining and stage area. The provision of our God is just amazing isn’t it?
Meanwhile, back at the West house….. Many people have asked us the hard question, “Tony & Mickie, when will you guys be able to go back? Do you see any hope of being able to return?” The short answer is, “Yes, we have hope of returning, but we have no way of knowing what that is going to look like or when that will be.” We are just trusting God. Right now, there are three things that keep us from returning: COVID, continued civil unrest, and cancer treatments. These are three things that don’t just make us CHOOSE to stay in the states longer, but FORCE us to remain here. All are ongoing. But that doesn’t mean we can’t continue our ministry there. It just looks different. Every single day, I begin talking with staff members in Haiti as soon as I get up in the morning. We discuss plans we are making for ministry that day, next week, and months ahead. We organize, we network, we problem solve, etc. every day, just like we would do if Tony and I were still there. We all work together to get things done. I am still editing school pictures every day and sending them back to Joel who uploads them to sponsor child pages. I work with Jo and Joel together to run the sponsorship program and take care of the book keeping and record keeping that has to take place to stay as organized as much as possible. We call and text with doctors and hospitals who are working with us on several special medical cases, coordinating efforts to take care of these medical needs. Tony works with Vladimir on keeping up with Hope Center expenses and receipts and reports. These are all parts of the ministry that must be kept up with and continued daily and would not take place if Tony & I weren’t committed and able to work closely via internet with our staff there. Two weeks ago, I actually got to share the gospel with a Haitian young man via WhatsApp text in Creole because everyone there has access to our phone numbers and they know they are free to text us any time! These are our responsibilities as BGM Missionaries to Haiti, building a sustainable community, and we continue to do these things even though we cannot be there.
In addition to our work with BGM and our Haitian staff there at Hope Center, God has made a way for Tony and I to do some things utilizing the gifts He has given us to supplement our income to pay for the medical bills that are starting to rack up. As you all know, Tony is a very gifted healthcare provider. As a Nurse Practitioner, he has been able to help serve in a nursing home and a couple of assisted living facilities lately. This has given him an opportunity to use the degree he recently received, practicing American medicine, and ministering to some sweet, sweet elderly friends. His loving and very personal touch has been a blessing to many people during this time when friends and family have not been able to visit. As for me, I have taken up painting! I have always loved to draw and paint and as I have reminisced about our Haiti life, it has helped me cope with not being there by painting. Before I knew it, I was making a little income on my paintings. Now, I’ve been commissioned to do several paintings for people, I’m selling notecards made from my paintings, people have bought prints of my originals, and I’m putting the originals in the BGM Food for Life online auction in July! It’s just so cool to me how God works things out like this!
AND NOW…. Are you ready for our REALLY BIG news? We have a new grand baby!!! Yes, Abel Jefferson West was born to Jonathan & Katelyn on May 26th. He was born Haiti-style, completely natural without any medication and his mama is a BOSS! His daddy and big brother are pretty amazing too!! It was not easy having to share in the excitement of birth via text message as Jonathan tried to give us all play-by-play, and it has not been easy to exercise COVID precautions, but we have managed, had several outdoor gatherings with distance, and we could not be more excited to one day be able to hold him and kiss on him ourselves. On the day of his homecoming, the whole family waited in the yard until Katelyn brought him out of the house for Emerson to see him for the first time. It was such a sweet sight that we all were able to see. Tony was just playing around when he pulled out two PPE suits and asked if he and Tim might get to hold him if they used the suits. When Jonathan said, “I don’t know why not.” He ripped into the plastic and we grandparents took turns holding our sweet grand baby for a few minutes. We cried many happy tears!!
More good news for our family! Our youngest son is now engaged to his girlfriend, Lacey. He planned out an elaborate scavenger hunt and picnic for her that led to the final spot where he proposed. We do not know yet when they will plan to be married yet as they both have another year of school left, but we are happy for them and pray God’s blessings upon their relationship.
I will leave you with one urgent prayer request. Most of you know who LyniaNara is. For those who don’t, she is our 14 year old dialysis patient who has been in renal failure for about three years now. I speak with her family about once or twice a week keeping up with her. I have been so concerned about her during this virus pandemic. BGM continues to pay for her dialysis that she receives three times per week as well as her medicines and transportation. This amounts to about $1000 per month or more. We have no special budget for her and don’t really conduct special fundraising efforts for her. We depend on the Lord to speak to those He wants to use to help us support her medical needs and then wait on them to follow through. Right now, LyniaNara is not doing well. Her dialysis nurse is very concerned. Her health is deteriorating, and more tests are needed to discover what is going on. Please, please pray for her and her family. Her father is our pastor and the rest of her family is very involved in our church, schools, and community with education and evangelism. They need our prayers and support. Go to www.butgodministries and click GIVE and give to the General Budget and in the memo or comments, put “Medical Expenses – LyniaNara” if you wish to donate.
We are so very thankful for the faithful supporters who continue to pray for us and send support to help us even though we cannot be there right now. We do still have to eat and live, and what little work Tony and I have both been able to do here would not be enough to support us, so we want to say to all of our supporters that we appreciate your understanding our situation and sympathizing with our pain and frustration of not being able to be with and minister to the people we love in person. But God continues to make a way! Please do continue to pray for us.
Thank you again for following our our personal journey and ministry in Haiti and the US during this tumultuous time in ALL of our lives. May everything we do bring glory and honor to God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Mickie & Tony West