Tag Archives: west family

Looking Back and Forward at Hope Center

Hello Everyone!

As we prepare to head back to Haiti after a LONG winter break, we are excited about all of the things God has planned for 2015. We already have many teams scheduled to serve at Hope Center over the coming year, and we look forward to meeting and serving with every single one. I prepared a newsletter this week that will be going out in the mail to those on our physical mailing list, but I wanted to add a link to it here too. Just click on the link below, and it will open in PDF format.

Newsletter February 2015

We also created a slide show of some highlights from 2014 at Hope Center. Hope you ENJOY!!

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Here are some people and things we would love for you to join us in praying for:

1. Mdm Anastasia Senatus: She is the elderly mother of one of our security guards. His name is Anel. We have been taking her to Mirebalais Hospital over the last few months trying to get help with a large tumor growing on her forehead. It has eaten through her skull now and is very large. This coming week, she will go to Mirebalais to meet with a neurosurgical team who will begin preparations for removing the tumor. Please pray for God’s protection and healing for Anastasia and guidance for the doctors who will be helping her.

2. A 20 year old young man named Louinel: We met Louinel a few months ago, and he begged us to help him. He is suffering from gynecomastia, and it is painful to him both physically and emotionally. He has met with doctors at Mirebalais and we have him on a 90 day trial run of tamoxifen, but if that medication does not help him, he will be looking at possible surgery.

3. A little boy named Franzil: A few months ago, Dr. Freddy Grant noticed that Franzil had an irregular heart beat and suggested we take him to see a cardiologist. Kathy Warren took him up to Mirebalais a couple of weeks ago, and they determined that he has a hole in his heart. They put him on medication and said they are optimistic he will grow out of it. Please pray that God will close up the hole and give Frantzil a long, healthy life.

4. Pray for us as we begin Creole Literacy classes and English as a Second Language classes in our village of Galette Chambon. We pray that starting the classes will go smoothly and many will come to know Christ and grow in their personal relationship with Him as well through these classes.

5. Construction projects: Please pray for us as we re-open the clinic at Hope Center, begin documenting and reporting patient records to the Ministry of Health, and look at clinic expansion in the near future.

6. Clinic: Please pray for every single person who enters the doors of our clinic that they may not only experience physical healing, but spiritual healing as well as we share the love of Christ with them.

7. Church: Please pray for our church and Pastor Mickenson Gilbrun as he leads and shepherds our congregation to a deeper understanding of the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ.

8. Agriculture: Pray for our community as we explore ways to irrigate gardens and grow our chicken program into a business that will lead our community one step closer to sustainability. Pray that our terrace gardens will prove to be a great education opportunity as well as provide food for our community.

9. Pray that God will lead us as we prepare to begin having monthly Motherhood seminars in our village that will educate new mothers on prenatal care, childbirth, post-partum care and breast feeding.

10. Pray for our orphanage as we prepare to take in seven more children bringing our total to 20. Pray for Ydalia and her staff as they adjust to the increase in children and pray for our new interns as they get settled in and help love and educate the children in the orphanage.

 

There are many more prayer needs, but these are just the first 10 I could think of tonight. I’ll blog more as the year progresses.

We love you all and are so very thankful that God has blessed us with YOU as our prayer partners in this ministry.

MAY GOD BLESS YOU ABUNDANTLY!!

 

 

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January 31, 2015 · 5:42 am

Every Day is a Day to be Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

I apologize to all of my blog followers because It’s been a while since I have written on my blog. Our internet has been a bit sketchy, and time has been even more sketchy, but I decided today that I would try really hard to get a post out and be better about posting in the future. I post to Facebook all the time because it is easy to do with the internet on my phone, but we discovered that we can use a little Digicel thumb drive to get Internet on the laptop, and today I am trying it out. Hopefully it will work!

As the great Eucalyptus tree reaches towards the heavens, I want to lift my eyes towards my Father in heaven and rejoice in His love daily so that I too may give off a sweet aroma of his love and strength as I grow in Him and through Him.

As the great Eucalyptus tree reaches towards the heavens, I want to lift my eyes towards my Father in heaven and rejoice in His love daily so that I too may give off a sweet aroma of his love and strength as I grow in Him and through Him.

Today, God reminded me through Philippians 4:4 that in order to live a healthy life, we must learn to rejoice in all things so that we may be full of joy (“Always be full of joy in the Lord, I say it again – rejoice.” Philippians 4:4 NLT). It always amazes me how God sends just the right Word for things I am dealing with at particular times in my life. I don’t really think it’s worry that I deal with. God taught me to release worry to Him a long time ago. I think the biggest hindrance to joy I find that I deal with is gratitude. People who are ungrateful are miserable because nothing makes them happy. I don’t ever want to let daily frustrations wear down my gratitude to a point that I am ungrateful because it is at those times one can forget to be thankful. So first of all, I am thankful that He reminds me to have joy and rejoice in Him daily so that I don’t get bogged down in self pity or focus on the negative. When we focus on negative, it infects every part of our lives. Rick Warren calls it “stewing without doing.” He pointed out in my devotional today that we need to choose to think on the positive and on God’s Word.  So today I choose to be grateful and rejoice in ALL things and focus on His Word that tells me to be full of Joy in the Lord.

Thanksgiving in Haiti 2014: We are grateful to God for children who love Him with all their heart, and we are thankful to Him for bringing them to us safely for this amazing Thanksgiving week 2014!

Thanksgiving in Haiti 2014: We are grateful to God for children who love Him with all their heart, and we are thankful to Him for bringing them to us safely for this amazing Thanksgiving week 2014!

This week has been a very special week for Tony and me, and we are very thankful. It’s not an average week at Hope Center because there hasn’t been a team here, and we have had the blessing of having our children here with us. We have had an opportunity to refresh our minds, recharge our batteries, and enjoy many beautiful sights in Haiti that we normally don’t have the time to visit. It has been an absolute pleasure to enjoy the beauty of this country with our children. All week long we have been reminded of all the many blessings we have to be thankful for.

We did have a small glitch in our plans when the kids arrived at the Birmingham airport at 4 am to find out that Jonathan’s ticket had somehow been canceled. Tony and I worked feverishly to restore his flight, but we were not able to get anything that would get him here on Friday with Jacob and Katelyn. He ended up having to spend the night in the Miami airport and catch the first flight out to arrive early Saturday morning. It was frustrating at first, but we decided that since there was nothing else we could do about it, we would choose to rejoice anyway. Jacob and Katelyn were able to spend some quality brother-sister time, and Jonathan was able to catch up with some friends of ours from Birmingham and even get a few goodies for the orphanage kids while waiting for his flight. We were just thankful we were able to get him a flight at all on such short notice.

With all three kids finally under one roof on Saturday, Thanksgiving week started with an evening of celebration for Tony’s birthday. Jonathan, Katelyn, & Jacob gave him gifts that he has been in much need of, a new water bottle and a new Bible. Both of his have been falling apart. We had a great time on our first night together in Haiti. We have so much to be thankful for!

Tony with the kiddos after celebrating his birthday. They gave him a new Bible, water bottle, and a box of Reese's cookie mix! Yum!!!

Tony with the kiddos after celebrating his birthday. They gave him a new Bible, water bottle, and a box of Reese’s cookie mix! Yum!!!

I took a picture of our refrigerator because it’s an unusual sight. Most of the time it’s pretty empty, but with the kids coming, Tony & I filled it up with snacks for the week to make it more homey. There’s just something about opening the refrigerator and finding snacks that makes it feel like home, and there’s just something about seeing one of our youngun’s stand there with the door open looking for what might satisfy that craving they’re having that just feels right. Refrigerator searches, naps on the couch, movies in the dark, and late night card games are some of the many little pleasures we enjoy when the kids are home for a visit. We take it all in, and we are so grateful for these precious ones and their safe travel to Haiti to spend Thanksgiving holidays with us.

 

Saturday afternoon, we went on a walk through the village to tell everyone hello and let them visit with the kids. People have been asking about them for months now, so we knew they would be very happy to see Jonathan, Katelyn, & Jacob. We had a great time visiting with everyone. I love how everyone greets us with a hug and a kiss and calls our children by name when they see them. This village is home to us now, and I think everyone looks forward to our kids visits as much as we do. I think the one person the most excited to see us was “Manu.” He ran straight to Jacob and jumped in his arms. He absolutely loves Jacob.

Emmanuel was so happy to see Jacob again. Jacob is his favorite buddy and he knows Jacob loves him.

Emmanuel was so happy to see Jacob again. Jacob is his favorite buddy and he knows Jacob loves him.

As we went from house to house visiting with people in the village, we came across one house that had a new baby in the family. Jonathan quickly scooped him up and was loving on him when two more mamas came out with babies! Three new babies all in one family!! What fun we had cuddling with those precious babies. Their mamas enjoyed watching us love on them too. Our Haitian neighbors know we love new babies, and we are so thankful they enjoy sharing their sweet babies with us.

We went on a walk through the village and came across a family that had three new babies all under 2 months old. Jonathan scooped up one of them for some sweet baby lovin'

We went on a walk through the village and came across a family that had three new babies all under 2 months old. Jonathan scooped up one of them for some sweet baby lovin’

Tony, Jonathan, and Katelyn all loving on the new babies we found while on our walk through the village.

Tony, Jonathan, and Katelyn all loving on the new babies we found while on our walk through the village.

Sunday was an extra special day because we were celebrating Jonathan & Katelyn’s first anniversary. Pastor Mickenson led the congregation in song as they all sang “Happy Anniversary” to them. Jonathan & Katelyn just glowed with gratitude in the love and acceptance of our fellowship of believers. Of course, Jocelyn rotated between their laps and Jacob’s lap all through the service, and we all enjoyed a blessing of song as Jonathan & Katelyn sang praises together during praise and worship time.

After church, our family went down to the orphanage to see the children. Jessi & Warren Flynt (from Birmingham) had sent some goodies to give to the children, so it was lots of fun to pull surprises out of a bag and play with the kids. Visiting the orphanage is often times the highlight of our day, and being able to visit with our own children made it even more fun. We played on the playground and in the courtyard until it was almost dark. I watched all of the smiling faces and thanked God for the huge family we now have.

As the week went on, the fun seemed to get better and better. Monday was the day we made plans to go on a trip up to the National Pine Forest with Kathy and Terry Warren (our new missionaries at Hope Center, Thoman). I think this trip was probably the highlight of our week. There’s no way to describe it to someone and do it justice. It’s a long, bumpy ride, but the sights and blessings are immeasurable.

Tuesday brought with it another adventure. We went from the mountain tops of Haiti to the beautiful sun-kissed seaside of Haiti. We spent one night at Club Indigo Beach Resort with the fam and the McCall’s for a much needed rest. We were excited to have an opportunity to go to the beach, but first things first, we had to stop to buy some new tires for the truck. As you can imagine, driving on these bumpy, rocky roads beats the tires to death, so in no time, they are worn down to nubs and simply must be replace. After one tire was chewed down to nothing on the drive down the mountain from the Pine Forest, we decided it was time to get them replaced before going to the beach. We were thankful to find a tire place that had NEW tires. Once that was done, we packed ourselves back into the the truck (girls with Vladimir inside and boys outside) and off to the beach we went. The trip on the way was an adventure in itself. We stopped along the road and bought a bunch of bread from a vendor so we could make PB&J sandwiches for lunch. The guys in the back decided to help themselves to a snack while enroute. We didn’t take many pictures while at the beach simply because we took a REAL break, but we did get a beautiful sunset and a picture of a boat out on the water. Rest assured, we did have some real quality down time together as a family. We are grateful…

After spending one night, we left the McCall’s at Indigo to spend a couple more nights, and we headed back to Hope Center in the truck.  Rested and ready to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, we went through all of the preparation plans in our minds. As soon as we pulled in the gate, everyone got busy getting ready. Tony, Jonathan, Jacob, and Vladimir got busy with Woodnorder and Johnny preparing the pit for cooking the goat. (Junior had given a goat to Tony to cook for his birthday) Katelyn and I immediately got busy cutting carrots, potatoes, and other fresh veggies given to us by Miguelson’s family in the Pine Forest, and Bicly and Makil began the gruesome process of preparing the turkeys.  We went to bed late and got up early to start back to the process of cooking. The goat, prepared and wrapped up in banana leaves, cooked all night in the pit. When Jonathan and Tony lifted it out of the pit, we could smell the luscious aroma yards away. We put the turkeys in the oven at 6:30, and started mixing casseroles at 7. Katelyn was busy making desserts in our house while I worked on other dishes in the team kitchen. It was truly a team effort, and everyone was having a blast doing their part. The anticipation of having a huge feast together as a Hope Center family electrified the air, and smiles were on every face. Our friends from Hope Center, Thoman, Terry & Kathy Warren and Mathurin & Genese Merystal, arrived around 10 and we all visited in between timers going off and tables being prepared. By 12:30 all of the food was ready and we began sitting out plates and such to start serving lunch. We gathered together hand-in-hand and gave thanks to God for our Hope Center family and for the provision of food for this feast. We all ate in phases. Adults ate around 1, the orphanage kids and crew ate around 1:30, more friends showed up around 2, and we still had people coming to eat at 5. It was a full day of family, friends, and much, much thankfulness.

 

We had invited an army of people and yet we never worried once over how we would be able to afford to feed them all. We trusted God to provide and He did. Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, the FBC Jackson team brought two suitcases full of food items to use in preparation for the meal. They also gave us money to purchase the turkeys! On our trip to the Pine Forest, God provided even more food as Miguelson’s father blessed us with several HUGE cabbages, a sack full of giant carrots, and another sack full of potatoes. All of it was used to prepare this enormous spread of food to celebrate our thankfulness to a Father who loves us and provides for our needs.

Friday was a lazy day for all of us. We slept late, hung out at the house and around Hope Center all day, and continued clean up after our huge day of feasting. We put decorations on the Christmas tree and hung lights around the room in anticipation of the season for celebrating Christ’s birth. We savored every last minute we had left together knowing that the next day our family week would be over and we would be headed back to the airport bright and early Saturday morning.

 

As I have recounted events over this past week, I can’t think of one single moment that we can’t be thankful for. I’m sure there were some stressful or hard moments mixed in there somewhere, but I honestly cannot recall a single one. I guess that’s because God continues to teach me how to have an attitude of gratitude and find ways to be thankful even when times are hard. We are thankful for our children, thankful for our friends, thankful for our staff, thankful for our family back home that loves us and prays for us daily, thankful for others who support us both financially and prayerfully, and we are thankful that God has made us part of a community of people that has accepted us and loves us because they know that we love them. We are all learning to depend completely on God to give us strength and gratitude for both the good and the bad, and we are grateful to Him for our call to service in His name.  We….are….grateful.

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Gislene’s Journey

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Gislene on a good day. She loves Ody.

Many of you have been following the story of Gislene, one of the precious Haitian women that works at Hope Center with us. She has been struggling with problems swallowing, and it prevents her from being able to eat and drink. She has had very little to eat or drink for over three months and has wasted away to about 60 pounds. Back in May she went to a doctor in Port au Prince that performed a painful scope on her and reported to have found what seemed to be a blockage behind her epiglottis. She was instructed to return for an endoscopy. From that point, after a series of several disappointing and pointless visits back to the General Hospital, I consulted a Haiti Medical Facebook group, and heard back from multiple people with very helpful advice. An email group was formed, and suddenly, there were no less than 5 professionals communicating on how to get help for Gislene. The next thing we knew, we were scheduled for an evaluation and CT scan at Hopital Universitaire de Mirebalais, one of the finest hospitals in Haiti, and the ball was finally rolling. We sent in Gislene’s personal information ahead of time so that a card could be made for her first thing that Monday morning, and she could be rushed through without much delay.

gislene mountains

Early morning drive to Mirebalais…Just beyond the mountains ahead.

 

When we arrived at Mirebalais at 7:00 a.m. on a Monday morning, which is no small feat since it is two mountain ranges away from Galette Chambon. Our driver, Meresse, got us there safely, parked, and Odlin and I helped Gislene out of the truck. We had no idea where to go at first, so I went to the email group and found the thread of emails from Marc Julmisse, MPH, BSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at Hopital Universitaire de Mirebalais.

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Side view of the hospital. Partners in Health built this hospital under the leadership of Dr. Paul Farmer several years ago.

L'opital Mirebalais

L’opital Mirebalais

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple of immediate replies, I knew just where to go to wait for the next step. As we waited in the already congested waiting room, I took in the faces of many, many Haitians, going through the motions preparing for a long day of waiting. Imagine my surprise when this tiny, young lady approached me and said, “Are you Mickie West?” After I nodded with a giant smile because someone there knew my name, she said, “Hi! I’m Marc Julmisse. Is this Gislene? Let me get her a wheelchair and take you where you need to go.” I thanked her and, quick as a wink, off she went to get the chair. She quickly returned, and it was obvious that Marc needed to push because it was going to be hard for me to keep up with her and push the chair too. As I followed, weaving in and out of stares, I praised God for answered prayer and finally…some PROGRESS!!

Marc Julimesse pushing Gislene through the hospital in a wheelchair

Marc Julimesse pushing Gislene through the hospital in a wheelchair

 

Within minutes we were seeing a doctor…an American doctor who spoke English and Creole. It was all I could do to keep from falling on my knees and praising the Lord right there in the exam room. I decided to remain professional. I sat down in the rolling chair, took a deep breath, spun around once, looked him straight in the face, and said, “I thank the Lord God Almighty that we are sitting in this room with you right now. To be honest, I wanna do a happy dance” He just laughed and said, “So you’re from the South? I went to Tulane University and did a rotation of my residency in a little town in Mississippi.” Oh my goodness! God is good! As I explained where we were from and where our mission is, he became completely focused on Gislene.  He was kind and gentle with her, looked directly at her face and not down on her, and discussed in Creole what her symptoms were. After a few minutes, we were rolling to CT to have a scan done of her neck and stomach. He would look it over and we were to return on Thursday for an endoscopy. Wow. We had already accomplished more in a couple of hours than had been accomplished in four trips to General Hospital in Port au Prince. The long wait for the scan was typical Haiti medicine, but it wasn’t so bad. We were still swimming in the wave of shock from everything else that had just happened. The only downer, and it was indeed a downer, was that Dr. Ward said that he suspected it might be esophageal cancer. We would just have to wait and see….and pray.

Gislene waits in the waiting room for her CT scan

And pray we did! As soon as the update post went out on Facebook, hundreds of people from all of the US as well as Haiti began to inquire about Gislene.  My inbox was packed, email flooded, and the comments and likes to the post about her were countless. There’s no doubt Gislene was being covered and lifted in much prayer.

The day of the endoscopy was very long, and most of it was spent in piercing heat. Gislene was extremely weak. She lay on the back seat of the truck and occasionally moaned the words of a song. When they finally called her in for the endoscopy, I literally had to carry her in my arms from the truck all the way to the back of the operation room holding area because they were suddenly in a hurry. They handed us a hospital gown and directed us to the restrooms to change. She was determined to walk beside me, so we clambered along. As I helped her change, I had to fight to contain my tears. I unbuttoned her blouse, and for the first time, saw the frail body that had been hidden beneath her clothes. There was nothing there. There was dark, chocolate skin draped over feeble, knotted bones like velvet curtains over a winged back chair. My heart ached. She avoided my eyes, and I kissed her cheek. It was time.

 

Gislene having vitals taken before undergoing the endoscopy

Gislene having vitals taken before undergoing the endoscopy

Two, three, maybe four hours past. I really have no idea how long it was. In Haiti, sometimes you get caught up in the drone of time like a drop of sap that oozes out of a tree and moves down the trunk at a pace that cannot be measured. Odlin and I were sitting in the outdoor waiting room waiting. We had begun to doze off after being entertained by the familiar wails of a woman in labor, the infantile cry of a goat scavenging on a nearby littered hillside, and the monotonous whirr of the ceiling fans stirring the thick air above us. We almost didn’t check up when the familiar blue scrubs made their way to the decorative, metal wall that enclosed the area. Dr. Ward’s first words were, “No cancer” and a smile covered his face and made his eyes squint together. “Wait, what? No cancer?” I had to hear it again. He confirmed, gave me a prescription for an acid reflux medicine, and discussed the next plan of action. Gislene had no signs of cancer in her throat or down her esophagus, but she would need to continue to take her medicine and find things she could eat. As we made our way back down, up, and down the mountain again, I prayed to God to just help her eat. I knew countless others were praying too. “Lord just help her eat.” We arrived back at Hope Center, and Meresse took Gislene back to her house to rest from what had to be another exhausting day for her.

Gislene visiting

A few weeks passed, and the next team was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to go see Gislene at her house. We had tried to go that Monday and the day got complicated, so we put it off to Wednesday. By 4:00 Wednesday afternoon, Tony and I were stuck in traffic trying to get back from a trip to Port au Prince, so we told the team to just load up in the ambulance, since the bus was broken down…again. They made arrangements to go back into the village to see her in the ambulance. My fingers tremble like a drum roll as I prepare to type the next paragraph.

gislene in house

When the team arrived at Gislene’s house, there was a neighbor there visiting her, and he was singing hymns to her. Others were gathered around her praying. The team took their places around her tiny body stretched out on the cool, concrete floor and all of them began to worship with her. As the neighbor’s voice rose, a musical offering floated through the air, and Gislene’s hand lifted with the cords in praise as the Sprit of the Lord filled the room.

Gislene praise

After what must have been quite an overwhelming time of worship, the team busied themselves trying to see if Gislene could drink one of the cans of Ensure they had brought. She told them she had actually been able to eat a little lately, and she drank down almost every bit of the can of Ensure. Of course, the process was slow, deliberate, and interrupted by occasional pauses of indigestion, but she drank. The team prayed with her one more time, then piled back into the ambulance to head back to Hope Center. We all arrived back at Hope Center at about the same time. After hearing the fantastic news that Gislene was starting to be able to eat and drink again, Tony has decided to continue giving her Ensure and treating her for H.Pylori. He was afraid that a battery of tests would be too hard on her frail body. If she is able to eat, then we would continue to nourish her with calories.

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Many people continued to pray for Gislene’s complete healing. We rejoiced in the progress we had seen thus far in the simple miracle of being able to eat and drink. We felt confident Gislene was headed in the right direction and would continue to improve in the days ahead.

As the end of July approached, it was time for our family to return to the states to get Jacob ready for school. We checked on Gislene one more time, and headed off to the airport. We were gone for about three weeks and assumed that Gislene’s progress and recovery would continue. When we returned mid-August, we found that our hopes were dashed. Tony went to Gislene’s house to let her know he was back and found, yet again, a frail, weathered shell of a woman, barely able to speak. He asked her if she was still able to eat, and she slowly moved her head to say no. He asked her if she still had medicine, and she pointed to the bag of medicine that our Haitian doctor had given her in our clinic. She then struggled to explain that she had been waiting for Tony to tell her how she was to take it. Gislene had a two-month supply of medicine sitting on her bedside table and had not taken one pill since we left. Her throat was once again raw with pain and she had not eaten in at least two weeks. Her already thin body had become deathly feeble. Her skin, no longer velvet, had a dry, ashy look that more resembled dark, wrinkled tissue paper. Tony picked her up, put her in the truck, and rushed her back to Hope Center to start an IV and put her in a dorm for constant observation. We wouldn’t have a team here for two weeks, so that would give us time to focus on trying to get her to a place where she could eat again. Every day was a guessing game. I tried giving her jello, grits, apple sauce, oatmeal, Ensure, and Raimen noodles.  Nothing worked. She refused each thing with a wave of her hand and a fragile, “Mwen pa kapob” which means “I can’t.” She asked me if I had juice, so I fixed her a cup of room temp water with a hint of peach tea flavor in it. She took that and liked it. An hour later, she had finished the drink. I sat and prayed with her. The silence was a heavy stone on our hearts as we both struggled to resist the temptation of despair. I felt my chest cave under pressure and push tears out without sound. They rolled down my cheeks and dropped to rest on her dark hand resting in mine. She barely opened her eyes and gazed up at me then closed them again.

As the days passed, she began to regain strength, but her eating was still a struggle. The next team was arriving on Saturday, so we would have to take her back home to continue recovering. We talked with her family about the importance of finding things that she could eat or drink without burning her throat. They promised to take good care of her and let us know if her condition worsened.

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Team on their way to Gislene’s

 

After arriving at Hope Center, the next team was eager to see Gislene, so we made the trek deep into the land of mango trees to find her house. Children were playing with sticks in the dusty earth near her house, and the curtain hanging in her doorway was flapping in the mountain breeze. She was laying on a mat on the floor as her father sat on a small, wooden chair near her mat with no emotion on his face, but heavy concern in his eyes. We visited with Gislene, and  she actually sat up for photos with us. She seemed to feel better, but she was still very thin. The urgency to pray rushed through our veins, and we prayed with her, crying out to God for His intervention. I couldn’t help but notice the old, rusted bullhorn sitting silently on her table. She had bought that horn months ago with plans to walk through her village proclaiming the way of the Lord to her friends and family. To share the love of Christ has always been her heart’s desire. The bullhorn sits silent. Its silence makes my heart hurt.

Gislene visit

For the last two weeks, we have made frequent trips out to Gislene’s. Two teams have now ducked through her doorway, passing through the flapping, pink curtain, feeling the heaviness of sickness creep over us like a vapor encasing every inch of the room. Yesterday, as we approached her house, we could hear many voices crying out to God in prayer as others sang hymns of praise inside the small space. Gislene’s frail fingers rise from the edge of the bed in an attempt to praise with them. The room is full with friends and family, Haitian and American, all searching for words but finding none. We choose to simply listen to the words of song floating through the air. We don’t understand most of the words sung, but we do recognize the spirit of the Lord there, and it is good.

 

We really don’t know what else to do at this point besides pray. We ask God for guidance in every step with Gislene, and right now He says to pray and let her friends and family minister to her. Something tells me it won’t be long before the Lord calls her home. My struggle is between the desire to fight for her life against the peace of knowing that she is growing closer to a reunion with her Father. My mind becomes desperate with the knowledge that she is only two years younger than me, and I know that there must be a medical response to her illness. At the same time, I sense that she has come to accept her condition and desires to approach her destination with dignity and peace. It’s hard to understand this sometimes. Tony understands because he was once a hospice nurse. I am afraid that some people see our current position as “giving up” on her. However, I know that our God knows where we are. He speaks to our hearts with love and He can heal her or take her at any moment. I do not know what His plan is besides to love Gislene. He knows His plan for her life better than we do. We trust Him with every moment, and we pray that He will be glorified in our lives as well as Gislene’s. He already has been glorified in her life and continues to be. The love in that house of hers is enormous. It echoes through the silent bullhorn on her table.

 

 

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Family Changes…again

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Fun times with the family at the beach. It was only two days, but they were two GLORIOUS days! 🙂

It’s been a pretty emotional week for our family. After spending a wonderful weekend at the beach together, we moved Jacob into the dorm at MC last Wednesday to begin his new life as a college student.

Over the last two days, Tony and I have been working to get everything he needs now to make the space more comfortable. You know, guys don’t think of all of those things ahead of time. Ha! I am sure that eventually he will have it set up just like he wants it.Tonight we will have dinner with Jonathan, Katelyn, Jacob, and Madison one last time before Tony heads back to Haiti. I will stay around for a few more days to help Jacob finish getting settled in, and next Saturday, Josh, his roommate will move in with him. It’s hard to believe that in a couple of weeks, Tony and I will be in Haiti, and our boys will be in the states, going about their lives, living life on their own, while we carry on with our busy lives at Hope Center.

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Jacob and Madison in his college dorm room at MC after getting moved in.

Where have the years gone? How did our baby grow up so fast? I haven’t really cried yet. I think I get so excited for them and the exciting time it is for them in their lives that I don’t stop to hurt until I am alone. I have a feeling I am going to do a lot of crying on the flight back to Haiti.  I am sure I am going to spend a lot of time on my knees praying over the next months as we try to get used to this new phase of our lives.

We are really excited about Jacob starting college at Mississippi College, and so is he. We are going to have to pray for God to give him patience through the next couple of weeks until he can actually practice with the team, but we know that God is going to continue to heal his ankle and prepare him for soccer as well as school. The athlete convocation last Wednesday night was pretty special. First we had dinner, then the parents stood and pledged to pray for and support our children, and then the athletes stood and pledged to be accountable and handle themselves with integrity.

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MC Athlete Convocation.

We were pleasantly surprised when President Lee Royce decided to move from his table to ours to eat and visit with our family. He even offered to take Jacob’s plate and put it away for him! Wow. What an amazing place where the president of the university chooses to visit with families and students and actually serve them! Jacob returned the favor after dinner and put away Dr. Royce’s glass from dinner. It was a real honor for him to sit with us and visit with Jacob. We told him that after he gets moved into his new house, Jacob would like to come hang out with him sometime. He told Jacob to come on over, that he was more than welcome. Ha!

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Jacob and Dr. Lee Royce, President of Mississippi College

So now we again covet your prayers as we enter into yet another major change in our lives. Instead of having an empty nest, sometimes it feels like our nest just sort of exploded! Ha! We know there will be days when our heart aches because we will want to be able to see Jacob’s games, or we will want to be able to meet Jonathan & Katelyn for dinner, but God knows our hearts, and He replaces these aches with many, many other blessings. We find ourselves praying for one another so much more than we normally would if we all lived in the same place. It’s a wonderful thing to know…even FEEL….that your children are praying for you while you are yet praying for them. We are a very close family, and although distance is hard, our love grows greater and greater through it all. We are so thankful for that. We will eagerly look forward to having all of them with us in Haiti for Thanksgiving, and we will look forward to being with them over the Christmas holidays. Time flies, so those two visits will be here before we know it.

We, once again, want to thank all of you who faithfully support us through prayer, through friendship, through ministry on short-term mission trips, and through financial support. God uses all of these things to sustain us, strengthen us, and carry on the mission that He sent us to accomplish. We recognize that, as a family, we were ALL called in one way or another to serve in this mission. It just happens in different ways and in different places. The absolute most important thing you can do for us is PRAY. Pray that God will give us strength, endurance, wisdom, protection, and patience as we serve the people of our village and carry on our separate lives as a family. We love you all so very much!! Thank you for your prayers!

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Our family on the steps of our house at Hope Center.

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Finally Heading Home…

Our bags are all packed….The house is cleaned out. We will make our final trip to the mini-storage tomorrow, finish up last minute errands, and around midnight Wednesday night, we will be headed to Birmingham to catch the first flight out to Haiti. Ahhhh…..my heart flutters just thinking about it!!

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Living room at the FBC mission house where we have spent a good part of the last year. We are so grateful to have had this place to stay while in the states. It has been so comfortable, and a comfort for Tony to know we were safe and secure. We will miss this place.

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Six very heavy suitcases ranging from about 55 to 70 pounds. Whew! Tomorrow is going to be interesting….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even while I type this post, Tony is texting me updates on a mother in the clinic in labor. She’s 19, it’s her first baby, and she is scared. I send a text, “Remind her to breathe slowly..respire dousman.” As if he needs me to remind him. “Okay,” he texts back. “Be sure to explain to her what to expect. It’s her first time. She’s scared,” I text. “Wi (yes)” he texts back. “Tell Vladimir to massage her feet with lotion and sing to her,” I text….nothing. I know good and well Vladimir isn’t going to massage her feet and sing to her. That’s my job! …and I can’t wait to be there to do it too. I can’t wait for the hugs and laughter of the children in the orphanage as they pile on one another wrapping their arms around me and pulling me down to their height. I can’t wait to walk around the village to each house saying, “Bon swa!” to all of my neighbors, exchanging kisses on the cheeks, and listening as they tell me the latest news. The children will all run into their houses to get their report cards to show me because the last time I was there they were taking final exams, and they will want to show me what their final grades were. Home….

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Our “front yard” in Haiti! Thanks to the McCall’s we have flowers!! Can’t wait to see them!

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Our livingroom in Haiti…it’s where we put our feet up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s where my heart is. It’s where I sink into my couch at the end of a full day of loving on people and sharing the love of Jesus. It’s where God has placed us for this time in our lives, and we are loving every minute of it.

These last 20 months have been both challenging and a blessing. It has not been easy to be away from my husband and the ministry we both were called to. It has not been easy moving from place to place, living out of suitcases and boxes, and being dependent on the generosity of others. It has not been easy flying back and forth to see my honey and all of our Haitian brothers and sisters in our little village. It always seemed like just about the time I would be getting settled back in and my Creole was flowing well, it was time to pack back up and leave. I have stared longingly at those mountains through tearful eyes many, many times as we rumble along the rock road to the airport. On the other hand, I have had special times too. Over these past 20 months I have spent such precious time with my Jacob, watching him develop and mature into a fine young man. I have been awed by my Jonathan watching him grow and become a godly husband and teacher.

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Oh how this mama loves her sweet boys.

I have worked feverishly on ministry needs as well as senior parent things while here and have enjoyed every hectic minute of it. It has been a full year, and God has held us when we’ve cried, He has picked us up when we have fallen, He has comforted us when we were afraid, He has protected us from danger, and He has provided for all of our needs. We have rejoiced over answered prayer for healing, gained a daughter, and celebrated a graduation. God has been so good, and my heart is completely full just thinking about it.

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Celebrating the marriage of Jonathan and Katelyn

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Tony praying over Jacob in the ER after his auto accident

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Celebrating Jacob’s high school graduation.

Now my mind turns to friends. I was just thinking last night, as Jonathan & Katelyn, Jacob &  Madison, and I went to eat and spend a wonderful evening with friends, that God has gifted us with so many absolutely amazing friends through this journey. Even while I type this, the faces of people dear to me begin to flash across my memory, and I cannot hold back the tears because I feel so richly blessed. We feel God’s love in such a powerful way through the love that is shown to us through each and every friendship He has placed in our lives. We could not have made it through these 20 months without God’s using you to support us in so many ways. There are just SO MANY of you, and I wish I could tell each and every one of you how very special you are to me and to Tony right now. Since that is not possible, I am asking God to speak to our friends as they read these words and let them know and FEEL the love we have for them. It is impossible for me to express in words how you all make us feel. Words are not adequate, but I ask my Father to bless you in return for your love, loyalty, and kindness, and I hope that you know how much we love you.  Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for checking on us. Thank you for helping us through difficult times and celebrating with us in joyful times. God has used you to bless us.

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Even though the boys are squinting, it’s one of my favorite pictures. It was taken on the mountain road to Thoman

Now, as Jacob and I return to Haiti for the summer, please pray for safe travels, continued rest and healing for Jacob’s ankle, protection from sickness, ease in settling back into our home, and precious, precious catch up time with Tony and our Hope Center family. Please pray for Jonathan and Katelyn as they continue to seek the Lord in growing their marriage and moving them down the path of service upon which He wants them to serve. Please pray for our families as they love and support us from afar. And please pray for our ministry, that GOD would be glorified, people would come to know the joy of knowing our Savior, and that our community would grow and thrive and prosper just as God has intended. We look forward to reporting many more exciting adventures and blessings in the days ahead. Thank you for being a part of this ministry with us. It is truly an honor to serve with you.

Blessings!

Mickie

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Committing Our Plans to the Lord

On June 12th, Jacob and I will be returning to Haiti, and I already have a list as long as my arm of projects I want to tackle once I get moved back. Of course, our ministry is not our own; it’s God’s, and being such, it requires the input and contribution of many people to accomplish all of the things God wants us to accomplish at Hope Center. We are just excited to be able to be a part of what God’s up to!

Throughout the year, I have been able to post needs that we have had there, and every single time, within minutes, God has moved someone to meet those needs, and they have followed through with making it happen. I am so amazed at how God does that! Just last week, I asked if anyone wanted to purchase boots for our security guards at Hope Center, and within 24 hours, all six pairs of boots had been ordered! Amazing! God is faithful!

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So today I have debated about whether or not I should make a list of upcoming projects and needs, or focus on just one. As I have prayed about writing this post, I have come to the conclusion that I will focus on the one God has placed heaviest on my heart, then I will briefly list other things coming up in case God wants to begin moving people to pray about becoming involved in the other projects. Every time I do post a need, however, I want to remind people that I do not post these things with the expectation of every single person taking part in every single project. Yes, God wants to use everyone to do His work, but He moves some individuals one way and others another way, and through it all, things get taken care of through the individuals He moves to be used in individual ways. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” That is what I do when I tell people about projects we are working on. I pray about needs, wait for the Holy Spirit to burden my heart then give me the voice to put it out there. Every time we have done this, God has moved people to respond, and it absolutely blows my mind every single time! Hallelujah! 

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Okay, so here’s the most immediate need: Most of you are probably familiar with our friend, Johnny. Not long after we moved to Haiti, we met Johnny, and God placed a burden upon our hearts to minister to him. He had been hanging out at Hope Center a lot, and he was incessantly making requests for things. Tony and I finally decided we needed to reach out to Johnny. We invited his mother over to talk with her about offering Johnny a little part-time job of helping us keep Hope Center clean, and we also wanted to talk with her about sponsoring Johnny in school. We felt like it was important for Johnny to learn to earn his own money to buy things he needs instead of asking people for things all the time. We also felt like Johnny needed incentive to stay in school, so we could help him with that by paying for his school. We asked his mom to take us to his school to meet his principal, and from there, God began meeting the needs of hundreds of children as people began giving to help send more children of our village to this same school.

Johnny getting ready to head to school.

Johnny getting ready to head to school.

Since that time, Johnny has continued to work at Hope Center. Tony is pretty much the only male influence Johnny has in his life because his father, who is voodoo priest, is not in the picture, and Johnny’s mother relies heavily on him to help her with the other children in their household. It has been both a challenge and a joy to watch him grow and develop over these two years. Last summer Johnny accepted Christ, and although he often struggles because of outside influence, he continues to mature as we pour into him and pray for him as well as his family. Recently, Tony felt led to ask Johnny to show him where he lives. It occurred to Tony that after all this time, Johnny has never mentioned us seeing where he lived. So Tony asked Johnny to tell him where he lives. One day, after finishing clinic early, Tony decided to pay Johnny a visit at his house. When Tony arrived there, he found Johnny covered in mud from helping a neighbor build his own house out of sticks and clay. Johnny took Tony over to his house, and this is what he found…

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Johnny in front of his house.

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Missing door and roof on Johnny’s house

Johnny, his mother, and four more children live in a three-room house, but only one of the rooms has a roof. There should be four doors on the house, but two of the doors are missing. The one room that does have a roof has many holes and open spaces in it, so when it rains, even though they have a roof, everything in their house pretty much gets soaked. Seeing this absolutely broke Tony’s heart. He immediately sent me pictures of what he saw and said that he would like to talk to Jacques to get a quote on how much it would cost to fix Johnny’s house. Jacques came to look at it and estimated the cost of repairs to be $1500. Of course, we do not personally have this kind of money, but our Father owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps 50:10), and we know that He can provide these funds in no time. The next step was to discuss the project with our CEO, Stan Buckley, to get his approval to raise the funds. Of course, Stan immediately said, “Sure! Let’s do it!”

So now is the time to voice the need. Our prayer is that God will lead enough people to participate in this effort to raise a minimum of $1500 to fix Johnny’s house. Any funds we raise in excess, we will use them to purchase beans, rice, and oil to help feed his family. What we need you to do now is to PRAY. Pray and ask God if He wants to use you in this effort. Again,  I want to reiterate that not everyone that reads this is expected to participate. God already knows who He wants to use in this project, and who He wants to use in other projects. Our job is simply to pray and ask Him to burden our hearts and move us to respond. That’s what He has done with Tony and me in every single project we have started, and every time He has been faithful to provide. It’s always miraculous how He brings it all about!

If you are indeed burdened to participate in this project, please send your tax-deductible contribution to But God Ministries and designate it to “Johnny’s House.” The website is http://www.butgodministries.com and there is a link there that says, “Donate.”  From there, you will first be asked to create an account if this is the first time you have given. Once you do so, you will see a screen that looks like this:

GIVE TO JOHNNY'S HOUSE

Designate it to General Budget, but in the comment box, put JOHNNY’S HOUSE as you see on the example. Finish filling out the form and click “Submit” and that will lead you through the rest of the process. Of course, you can also send in a check and write on the memo line “JOHNNY’S HOUSE” as well and it will do the same thing. The address to send checks is BGM, 1440 N. State St., Jackson, MS 39202. We look forward to seeing God work in this effort, and as always HE WILL BE GLORIFIED.

As promised, I said I would mention other upcoming projects as well. This is certainly not a complete list, as God is always leading us to start new projects, but these are some things you can be praying about:

July – School Tuition & School Needs Drive for Village Children (school begins in October)

August – Textbook Orders for New English Classes (classes begin in October or November)

August – Re-Order School T-Shirts (just need two church sponsors to place the order)

August-September – Backpack and Tennis Shoe Drive for School Children

Ongoing – Chicken Coups and Laying Hens for “Houses on the Hill”

Ongoing – House building (groups are always raising funds to build more houses for people in the village)

Ongoing – Thoman Hope Center II (designation already on drop down list on website)

As always, we are so very thankful for your prayers and support as you join us in all of these efforts. We consider ourselves part of a big team of believers who work together being used by God to bless others in amazing ways. We have thoroughly enjoyed having you as a part of this team! 🙂 We look forward to reporting many great things to come as God continues to use us all to bless our village one heart at a time.

God Bless You!!

Mickie

 

 

 

 

 

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June 5, 2014 · 7:00 pm

God’s Provision is Amazing

Recently I posted about my friend, Jores, and I wanted to give all of you an update. Before I do, however, I also wanted to brag on what an amazing God we serve. Most of you reading this already agree with that statement, but it just never ceases to amaze me how our God watches our day to day experiences, and He works things out to see His Will come about in ways that we could never dream as we simply pray, “Not MY Will be done, but Your’s, oh God.”

You see, Jores has never been one to go around soliciting others to give him what he needs. Jores has always simply ministered to others, giving as he could to honor the Lord with his gifts and abilities. He never went around telling people how desperate his situation was, but rather served along side others who serve the same Lord, and prayed that God would use him in any way He wanted to use him. Then God sent a ministry to Jores’s village, Jores joined up in the cause by working as a translator, God led missionaries to go help in the school where he had been volunteering as an English teacher, then God put it upon someone’s heart to pray that he could one day go to college, then that person shared their burden about Jores to someone else, then that person found a way to send Jores to school….and now he is not only on his way to med school, but with a brand new computer to do his work on. GOD IS GOOD!!! You see, God created each one of us to do great things in His name. We don’t have to make that happen; we simply seek His Will for our lives and obey when He calls, and one day we will discover that purpose God had for us all along and HE can be praised for leading us to it.

I am so excited for my friend, Jores. He is working so very hard in school, and when he sends me messages to thank me and others for believing in him and for providing a way for him to go to school, I just thank God for the way he has worked in Jores’s life, and I pray that God will continue to bless him, give him endurance, and lead him down the path which he was destined to go. Thank you all who have prayed for Jores!! And Thank you all who have helped him begin to see his dreams come true. I am sure sometimes he just wants to pinch himself because it’s hard to believe that his dream of one day becoming a doctor is actually happening, BUT GOD knows the plans He has for Jores, who is called according to HIS purpose – plans that are meant to give him a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11) – and plans that will also give others a future and a hope. Our God is an AWESOME God.

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Jores and Tony on the day the new laptop arrived. Jores sent me a message and said, “It’s so light! And it looks like no one has ever used it!” I explained to him that it is what we called “brand new” and that he will be the first and only person to use it. It is HIS. 🙂

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Good News and Challenges

One exciting thing about being a Christ follower is that He is always shocking our socks off with the way He works through His people to bless others. A few weeks back, we put out a post asking people to give to sponsor 200 children in school, and guess what! We have 200 children sponsored for school tuition for the upcoming school year! Hallelujah!! It’s a pretty cool thing when we begin to pray, God prompts the hearts of His people, His people follow through, and BAM! It’s done! This is so exciting! I live in a world of miracles, and I am pretty pumped about this place. Ha! soloman's kids

So that was the good news….Now for the challenge…..

Now that we are able to cover the tuition for 200 children in our village, their needs are not completely filled. In Haiti, children must wear closed toed shoes, carry their books (that they must purchase) in a back pack, and wear a uniform. The parents in our village don’t have the funds to buy these things. Just last week, we kicked off a tennis shoe and back pack drive hosted by Crossgates Baptist Church in Brandon, MS. If you live near Brandon and you have new or gently used tennis shoes and/or back packs, please, please drop them off at Crossgates Baptist Church. There is a big trash can in the lobby that has a sign on it. Put them in there. Thanks!! 

Now suppose you don’t live near Brandon or you don’t have tennis shoes or back packs to give. You can still help if God prompts you to help! There are several ways. 

1. You can go to http://www.butgodministries.com and click “Donate” and choose “scholarship” on the drop down menu and give. All funds that continue to be given to our scholarship fund will go to help pay for uniforms and books for the children. 

2. T-shirts!! If you know of someone who owns a screen print shop that would we willing to donate 250 t-shirts to one of our two sponsored schools, please, please send me an email or reply to this post. (tnmwest@gmail.com) Of course, you need to check with the business first to make sure they are on board. Ha! The principals of each school have agreed to allow their children to wear an alternative uniform that is a t-shirt in their school colors. If we have enough for each child in the school to get one, no one will be without a uniform and feel different from everyone else because they can’t afford it. We are working to have uniforms made for all of the children, but in the meantime, if they can wear a t-shirt, that would be great! Call someone you know that owns a screen print company and ask. It’s an opportunity to give a huge blessing to school children in Haiti that wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise. 

3. If you sew, or know someone who does, and you would like to help us make uniforms for school children in Haiti, please let me know. We are working on getting the sizes of the children who need uniforms, and we are also working on getting the fabric and patterns. This has turned out to be a bigger task than we imagined, but God will provide what we need when we need it, so no worries. When we acquire the patterns and material, we will get the information out and let people get to sewing! I just need a list of willing tailors!! 🙂  Email me at tnmwest@gmail.com.

johel's kidsPhilippians 4:19 says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” It is this very promise that we share with the Haitian families daily who are our neighbors and friends at Hope Center in Galette Chambon. We know that God knows their needs and He is already moving His people to give in order to supply those needs. If one person refuses to obey, He simply moves someone else to receive the blessing of giving. Regardless, He moves and people give. We have complete faith and trust in Him to do it. 

People ask me all the time, “What do you all need down there?” Well, the answer to that question varies, but SPECIFICALLY, right now we need funds for books, tennis shoes, back packs, school t-shirts, and uniforms. GENERALLY, we need people to pray and be willing to ACT upon the movement of God upon their heart. Remember: God WILL move people to help His children. The question is, is He moving you? If He is, then you will not regret acting on it.  

Proverbs 11:25 says, “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” We have learned that there is no greater blessing of joy than to give of ourselves to help others in need. There are many, many needs in this world, and I pray you will seek God to know how He can use you to meet those needs. When you say, “Yes,” the blessings begin to flow. 

Thank you for your prayers; thank you for your obedience; thank you for your love for our little village of Galette Chambon. Lives are being changed here, and a generation is learning what it means to trust in the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.  

God bless you all! We are so very thankful for you!!

~Tony & Mickie West

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Comfort from the Father

Sacrifice…

You know, I have heard it said many, many times that Jesus Christ knows our struggles and He can understand and identify with things we are going through, for God’s Word says in Hebrews 4:15  “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” His Word says that there is no difficulty or trial or temptation that we can go through in this life that He was not faced with in similar fashion. He also knows that we, unlike Him, are fallen creatures. He was without sin because He is God – He “knew” no sin! He was the “I Am” that spoke to Moses through the burning bush, and He is the “I Am” that He claimed to be when he spoke to the Jews and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” in John 8:58. The Word says, in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” And in Philippians 2:5-8, the Word states, “Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it something to be held  as equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Wow. Today God has been speaking so much to me about this very thing….sacrifice. I know God is speaking to me about this because I spent most of the night last night speaking to HIM about it! You see, Tony and I both have been becoming very weary under the burden of the calling He has given us. This is not to say we have second guessed the call and the decision we made to surrender everything we knew as normal to become full time missionaries in Haiti. It just means that there have been times when we have found ourselves simply very tired and crying out to God for relief. Last night, as I cried out to Him for strength to continue on, He began speaking to me as my Father often does, saying, “My daughter, I love you, and I know how you feel.”

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This cross reminds me of the sacrifice our savior gave to leave His Heavenly home to provide a way of reconciliation to me. Thank you Jesus!

It’s been a remarkable, yet at the same time, difficult six months for our family. We have experienced what it means to sacrifice in many ways. However, at the same time I have to ask myself, have we really? It certainly and often feels like we have! When we think back on what our hopes and dreams were years ago when we signed papers on a piece of land and began looking at house plans with dreams of building our own home there, our vision for the future did not include giving up everything and being divided between the US and Haiti. We did see our dream come true, and we lived in the house we built for twelve years, watching our children grow up and enjoying many, many fun times with them and their friends. Actually, when we look back, we realize that we have been blessed in so many ways. God has given us two amazing and talented boys who have been a constant source of joy. He has allowed us to travel all over the world whether through sports events, family vacations, or mission trips. He has given us gifts and prepared us for this time in our lives in such a way that we recognize that we are perfectly designed for such a time as this. In our weariness, it so easy to focus on the sacrifice and sometimes feel exasperated. However, just about the time we both feel exhausted under the weight of our current circumstances, Jesus reminds us of His sacrifice.

Think about it. Jesus left the glory of Heaven to become not just a part of humanity, but a sacrifice for the sins of those He came to serve. He gave up everything for us, and we questioned Him, rejected Him, and ultimately sent Him to His death. It was all part of a plan that He knew had to take place, and He willingly gave Himself. In one of His most human moments throughout the time He spent here, he cried out to God, when Matthew 26:39 describes that “He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’”  Because of His love for us, He willingly went along with the plan. He knew that in order for us to be reconciled to God, He had to give Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Was this easy for Him? NO! Was it necessary? Yes.

So when I compare our sacrifice to His, I come to realize that ours is small, yet He doesn’t see it as such because He comforts us when we cry out to Him! He says, “I know how you feel,” and He does!! He left His home and His father. He went to a place where life was very different and difficult. He experienced what it felt like to give up everything and serve with no real home to call His own or income other than what God provided through those He chose to use to bless and provide for Him. He sacrificed it all only to be unappreciated and taken for granted by those for whom he gave it all. He knows how it feels to be separated from His home and the comfort and glory of Heaven to go to a place of anger and filth and despair. Yet He looked around at the people He came to serve, and He felt nothing but Love. THAT is the key!

We turn to Him and we ask Him to let us focus on His love for us so that we can in turn love on those we now serve THROUGH Him. Just as Jesus had precious moments with those who truly loved Him and followed Him, we too have many, many precious moments with others who He uses to bless us – from precious Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ, to serving brothers and sisters on mission teams, to attentive brothers and sisters here in the US, God uses so many others to bless us in unimaginable ways. We turn our focus to Christ and His sacrifice, then we lift our eyes in praise to our loving Father who truly does know how we feel, and we are comforted and refreshed.

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God has given us many precious moments like this one to be thankful for!

I am so thankful for a Father who loves us unconditionally and has a plan beyond our ability to comprehend. It is a good plan, and we trust Him. We are experiencing His grace and provision unlike anything we could ever have imagined. We are blessed to be used by Him daily, and we serve Him with GLADNESS!! Most of all, I am thankful that He loves us enough to comfort us. He is Good ALL THE TIME. 

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Our Crossgates Family praying for us before we moved to Haiti. Oh how we cherish the prayers of those who are led to pray!!

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Spring Break at Hope Center

I have been working on this post for two weeks now. It has been extremely difficult to write it just because I am writing about our time together as a family in Haiti over spring break and I just didn’t want it to end! I think I will start with a recap…. It has been a difficult year and yet it has been a glorious year as well. To think, this time last year we had just returned from Spring Break in Haiti with a team from Petal, and we were making plans to move to Haiti to serve full time. Now, a year later, we have sold a house, two vehicles, all of our furniture and most of our belongings, moved to Haiti; opened the medical clinic full time; opened the dental clinic (Tony learned to pull teeth); finished the orphanage; began making our house a home by painting walls and building cabinets;  raised money for scholarships for over 200 children in our village; built over 20  houses and moved 18 families out of a tent city and into those houses; hosted many, many teams that have come from the states to serve in VBS, construction, medical and dental clinics, evangelism, and discipleship; taken mobile clinics to remote parts of Haiti; hired a Haitian pastor and countless other Haitians who for the first time have steady income for their families; seen over 150 people come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior; and now we are about to begin having services in our new church. Of course, this is not a complete list either! If I listed out everything, it would take forever to list and forever for you to read, so I have mainly hit the high points. In the midst of all of this, our family was faced with a difficult decision to sacrifice time together as a family in order to give our youngest son an opportunity to finish school in the states. It changed the dynamic of our experience dramatically, but God has assured us over and over again that we made the right choice and that He has the whole plan under control. This decision, however, has required more faith and trust in God than even our first decision to sell everything and move! We have had to trust that God would provide us a place to live while here in the states; trust that He would provide support that would cover the increased cost of living in two different countries for a period of time; trust that He would sustain us while being separated by so many miles and missing out on precious moments that we would prefer to enjoy together as a family. But God does sustain us, and He has provided in ways beyond our imagination, and for that we are so thankful. It is so hard…but it could be a lot worse, and we are thankful for what we have and how God has blessed in so many ways along the way. Now to Spring Break… Before we all arrived in Haiti as a family, the Lord made a way for us to be able to do some things together in the states as well. The week before spring break, we were invited to Briarwood Presbyterian church in Birmingham, AL, for a missions conference. God blessed us beyond our wildest dreams by introducing us to so many new friends and giving us many opportunities to visit with other missionaries and share the story of our mission to Haiti to countless people in Birmingham. We are so thankful for the new friendships we made during our time there!

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During the conference, Tony and I sat on a map where Haiti is located and the children prayed for us and our mission. Such a powerful moment!

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This is our first host family, the Shirley’s. Such a precious family!! We were so blessed to get to know them! I wish I had gotten a picture of the Warren family too! We stayed with them the second part of the week. Both were so gracious and a JOY to stay with!

At the end of the week, Tony went to Brandon to get Jacob and take him down to Dallas for a soccer showcase, and Jonathan and Katelyn came to Birmingham to finish the week with me and catch our flight to Haiti for Spring Break. I am so thankful that Tony could take Jacob down to Dallas and watch him play soccer. It is hard for me not being in Haiti, but I know it is also very hard for Tony not being able to see Jacob play sports. It is a sacrifice we have both committed to, but it is not easy by any means. We are thankful for chances to be able to to do these things that we used to take for granted before our call. At the end of the weekend, Tony and Jacob caught a flight from Dallas, and Jonathan, Katelyn, and I caught a flight from Birmingham, and we all met in Miami for our flights to Haiti together. When we arrived in Haiti, the team from Grace Chapel in Madison was already there. As always, God had already planned to have the perfect group at Hope Center for such a time as this. The team was a group of young people all around Jacob’s age that worked on construction and VBS with children on the Hill. Jacob had planned to go to Leoganne and join up with a group from Crossgates that was serving at an orphanage there, but after getting to Hope Center and getting to know this group of teens, he decided to just stay home and serve with them instead. I was actually glad it worked out this way because our family was together all week instead of separated once again. We enjoyed working with the team on a few things, but we also enjoyed just being “home” together as a family during this time as well.

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Meal time with our team from Grace Chapel

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All the young folks on the team playing cards together

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Hanging out on the water tower. Fun times together!

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Playing with the kids from the village by the soccer field

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Jacob riding Bicly’s donkey

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Family picture in front of Hope Center

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Neighbors from the hill came to help pick beans for dinner

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Me and sweet Bicly

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Each mealtime, our cooks, Vierge and Therese, wanted to have their picture made with the food. They are so proud of their jobs!

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Children having fun at VBS

We gave out lots of hugs and Easter suckers to the kids, and we enjoyed just walking around in the village and visiting with friends that we enjoy catching up with when we return to Haiti. We got to celebrate with the families on the Hill as they experienced electricity at their houses for the first time. We got to see great progress in the construction of the church at Hope Center which has made us look forward even more to worshipping with our Haitian brothers and sisters this summer. There was one really cool moment in clinic during the week that I wanted to mention. On Thursday, Tony sent for me to come down to the clinic to meet someone. Sitting there in the chair next to Tony was this precious elderly man. Tony introduced me to him and explained that this is the man who walks 8 hours every two weeks to come have his blood sugar levels checked and refill his prescription. He lives up in the mountain area. After kissing my hand, he immediately started trying to tell me something. Vladimir interpreted and I learned that this is the man who is responsible for initiating God’s vision for Hope Center and calling us to Haiti in the first place. He said, “I am the one who went to the mayor and explained that we need to partner with someone in the US to build a clinic here.” He is such a precious man!!

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Sweet elderly man who walks 8 hours to the clinic every two weeks

Another precious moment was when Tony showed up in the house in the middle of the morning with this sweet baby in his arms. She is 3 months old but she looks like she is 3 weeks old! Her mother brought her into the clinic a few weeks prior and Tony was not sure if the baby would survive. She was severely malnourished and very sick. Tony prayed for the baby with the mother and asked God to give him the wisdom to prescribe the right treatment and for God to give health to this baby. God has answered his prayer! The baby is healthy and growing! Hallelujah!

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Three month old baby that we have been praying for. God is answering our prayers and healing her body. Hallelujah!

At the end of our week together, we all went up to Thoman to go to Mathurin’s church. Jonathan and Katelyn sang and Bicly joined us for church and dinner. On the way back down the mountain, we all stopped to take in the beauty of God’s creation and take pictures. It was a PERFECT week, and we are so very thankful for the time we had to spend together!

Tony & Mickie on the way home from church in Thoman

Tony & Mickie on the way home from church in Thoman

Family time!!

Family time!!

 

Jonathan & Katelyn at church in Thoman

Jonathan & Katelyn at church in Thoman

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Jacob in Thoman

We thank you all so much for your continued prayer support as we seek to find a balance between serving in Haiti and supporting our boys as well. God is teaching us so much about our faith and perseverance at this time. As I studied the book of Hebrews this morning, God reminded me that the picture of our life doesn’t always look the way we thought it would look, but that doesn’t make it an imperfect picture. God’s plan IS perfect, and if we just trust Him and remain faithful to Him, He WILL bless us and reveal to us the perfection of His plan eventually. So many of the heroes of the Bible endured great hardship. They trusted God and He brought about so many mighty things for many years to come through the perseverance of His faithful servants. I want to be a faithful servant in both the work He has called us to as well as the role He has given us as parents. In both He is creating a legacy of faith that will endure long after we are gone. That is His perfect plan, and we are honored and committed to that work. HE is faithful to complete that good work through us, and no matter how hard it is sometimes, we will never give up on His great plan for our lives.

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