Hello Friends! It’s been about six months since I last wrote an update, so I figure I really need to sit down and do a little writing!! Thank you to all who have reached out over the past few months as well as those who have been praying for us and continue to support us in our ministry in Haiti. We feel so very blessed!!
First off, from “sick bay”……Tony is doing great. He finished his radiation treatments on his birthday, November 19th. He now will have his PSA checked frequently to make sure those numbers remain zero meaning no prostate specific cancer cells left in his body. He still has one last hormone shot treatment that lasts three months as well. We are trusting that over the coming months, he will continue show a ZERO PSA, and in due time we will hear the words “fully healed!” We just have to be patient with the Lord’s timing. Speaking of patience, I am continuing to recover from surgery on my shoulder (rotator cuff) that I had in September. I have been going to PT twice a week and am regaining strength and range of motion. Our younger son, Jacob, had to have elbow surgery a few weeks ago too. He is recovering well and has started PT as well. Hopefully we are through with doctors now for a while!
Tony has been working with Southern Medical Consultants as one of their Nurse Practitioners serving at a local nursing home as well as two assisted living facilities. It has been a blessing to be able to practice American medicine as well as have extra income to cover all of these hospital bills. God always provides! Although working in medicine among the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge challenge for him, he continues to provide with great love and compassion, praying with his patients, and encouraging them any way he can. It’s such a blessing to watch him use his career in medicine as a ministry.
Since we left Haiti over a year ago, I have been taking advantage of the opportunity to use my gifts of creativity in my watercolor art! I have always enjoyed painting, but I just haven’t had time to do it! I decided to make time and I have LOVED it. I’ve been selling commissioned art such as home place paintings, pet paintings, memories of scenes from Haiti and Christmas cards. It’s been a lot of fun and a source of mourning and healing as we miss our home and friends in Haiti.
Speaking of missing Haiti, one of the things we miss about our life in Haiti is having chickens! We also missed being able to just go out to the coop and grab a few eggs anytime we want them! So we decided to get four chickens! Their names are Henny, Hei-Hei, Nellie, and Nugget. They are no trouble at all and they are very, very entertaining. They are now producing enough eggs to be able to share with friends even!!
On a sad note, we said goodbye to our sweet Ody recently. He was 14.5 years old and had always seemed like a puppy to us. He was always full of energy, loving, and a rock star in Haiti. He was Vladimir’s “thunder buddy” because he snuggled up close to him during storms in Haiti. We knew his days were numbered because of his age, but we never dreamed it would creep up on us so suddenly. One day out of the blue, his health took a nose dive. The vet told us that they could tell from his lab results that he had cancer in his liver and had had a stroke. He didn’t live through the night. We miss our sweet guy so very much, but we are thankful for the time we had with him and how he made everyone feel welcome at Hope Center.
Now on to Haiti….. A number of people have been asking us lately what our plans are and what things are like over there right now. One thing we have had to learn over the course of these last 8+ years is that we must walk in COMPLETE faith in what God leads us to do and TRUST Him. Packing up and moving to Haiti back in 2012 indeed took a great deal of faith, but I believe it has taken a lot more faith to remain in the US during this time of uncertainty than it did to leave to begin with! If we could load up and go tomorrow, we would do it in a heartbeat. However, we must trust the Lord and know that he continues to guide our steps. He has been teaching us more and more that HE is the one that has done all that has been accomplished in Haiti through us and BGM and HE will continue that work with or without us. We are simply his servants whether we are in Haiti or the US.
There are three things keeping us in the US right now. First, and most of all, there are Tony’s cancer treatments. We have learned that the healing related to this is a process that we must be patient with. Once his doctor says he is free to leave the country for an extended period of time, we can check that box off and reduce the factors keeping us here. Next, there is COVID-19. Although the threat does not seem to be as great in Haiti for some reason, we don’t think it would we wise to move back while the pandemic is still going strong. Thirdly, the civil unrest in Haiti continues to create very serious dangers to foreigners, especially those connected to large organizations such as ours. I cannot publicly communicate a lot of details, but our particular area of Haiti is still dealing with grave violence and dangers that we cannot risk being in the middle of. On this, we continue to consult with our Haitian staff regularly, and they do not believe it would be wise for us to return to our part of Haiti at this time. We’ve had a few people point out to us that there are Americans with other organizations they know who are either still in Haiti at this time or traveling back and forth, so they wonder why we can’t. The thing is, although there continues to be much civil unrest going on all over Haiti, there are some areas that are worse than others. Unfortunately, the main road leading to our city and village has become known as one of the most dangerous routes in the entire country. We firmly believe that this will change one day, but for now, we just cannot return to the area. There are also differences between other missions and ours. This was wisely pointed out to me recently by our Haitian Administrator, Vladimir. A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with him, and I was crying about not being there. He said, “Mickie, perhaps God is using these bad things to show you that you and Tony DID what He called you to Haiti to do! Living here forever was never the end game. He called you here to build a sustainable community. That means a community run and sustained by Haitians. We are doing that! Your hard work and example is being lived out every day at Hope Center even without you physically being here.” God has always used Vladimir to bless us with his wisdom, and on that day I believe he shared some of his wisest words. We have no idea what God’s plan is weeks from now, months from now, or years from now, but what we do know is that He wants to continue to use us to build this sustainable community, and for now it is in a different way than we have done it in the past. We trust God’s guidance.
For now, we are still ministering, but our ministry looks a little different than it has in the past. Again, GOD has allowed this to happen. This year, we have still built houses; we have still held school; we are still feeding children at school; we are still ministering to the sick through our clinic and patient advocacy; we are still helping malnourished children recover from malnutrition; we are still sharing the Word in our church and schools and clinic; we are still doing MANY of the things we have done for the last 8+ years, but for now, the HAITIANS are doing it, and that is HUGE! God blesses our organization financially here and we send those funds to our leadership there so that they can carry on the ministry to the people of Galette Chambon. It’s so very hard to be away, but it’s an enormous blessing to watch it happen from afar through our amazing staff.
So you might ask, what are Tony and I actually doing then if we aren’t there? Well, every morning, we open our texting app that we use to communicate with our staff, and we usually find anywhere from five to ten messages from various people there in our village. Usually, by 9:00 in the morning, Tony and I have both had conversations with Vladimir, Joel, Didier, and Moliere and sometimes Dino. Joel and I coordinate sponsorship efforts every, single day. He gets names of kids who need sponsorship or updates and he gets those names to the school. The school sends the kids to see him at Hope Center. He interviews them, measures them, takes their picture, and then he sends all of that to me so that I can put it all on the website and/or communicate with sponsors. Moliere and I make plans for the schools, discuss policies and procedures, future plans, budgeting, curriculum, student needs, facility needs, etc. Didier gets advice on clinic needs and patient advocacy. Didier and I coordinate efforts with other medical connections in Haiti that we have made over the years, and we get our patients to the hospitals and doctors that they need for specialized care. Vladimir and Tony or I talk almost daily about maintenance needs at Hope Center, inventories, and financial reports. It’s an ongoing effort, and it’s amazing to see it all happening!
This is our “Dream Team” Administrative staff. Vladimir is our Hope Center Administrator, Didier is our Clinic Manager and Patient Advocate, Joel is our Sponsorship Administrator and School Liaison, and Moliere is our School Superintendent.
Every year in the past, I have noticed that God seems to give us a vision for something specific to focus on in the ministry. Last year for me it was raising funds and building a brand new school. The year before that, it was forming and developing a school district managed by a superintendent. This year, God is beginning to grow a vision in my heart where we organize efforts to equip Haitians in our village to carry out three of the biggest ministry events we have had in the past: Vet Clinics, Motherhood Seminars, and VBS. We are currently working on plans to support a two-week mobile vet clinic utilizing our two local vet agents who went to vet agent training last year. They have a ticket system where they can charge a small amount to farmers in the village to have their animals dewormed, vaccinated, and other procedures commonly done in our vet clinics in the past. The American vets who have been heavily involved in the past will send support to help our vet agents purchase medicines and supplies and then the tickets will be distributed, meds purchased, and the vet clinic event will take place! We hope to do the same with the Motherhood Seminars. We have a local Haitian nurse who has translated these events before who will actually come conduct the seminar after a team sends supplies and funds to help her pull it off. The team that sponsors the event will send funds for the snacks, the diapers, the hygiene kits, etc. and then ship over the gift bags with water bottles and other goodies. This will not only encourage and educate expectant mothers, but it will also support local business women who make the snacks, diapers, and hygiene kits! With VBS, we would find teams that want to support a Haitian-led VBS at our church and they will send funds for supplies, snacks, and instructions. We will put together a Haitian team of leaders who lead the kids in songs and verse memorization including our pastor there who will lead the children in a Bible lesson. I’m so, so excited about the vision the Lord has given me for events to come at Hope Center with or without Americans present. After all, it is not the AMERICANS who bless the people of Galette Chambon (although the people there do enjoy our company and participation), but it is GOD who blesses the people. And as the people see these things happening without a single American present, they will recognize even more that GOD sees their needs and makes a way for those needs to be met.
Once again, Tony and I want to thank each and every one of you for the part you have played in the ongoing ministry we are a part of in Haiti. We are thankful for our amazing staff that makes up an incredible ministry team. We are thankful for health and healing and our precious, precious family. We are thankful for all of the things that God has taught us about listening to His voice, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Grace and Hope that comes with being a part of the Body of Christ. It’s a humbling thing.
Merry Christmas to you all!! Stay safe out there!!
From the Tony & Mickie West
We leave you with some pics of our sweet family times….