Thursday, 31 December 2020

Highlights from 2020

 Your probably reading the title of this blog and thinking how can there be any??? 2020 will forever be remembered as one of the worst years ever for many people but even in the middle of pandemic there have definitely been some highlights. 

We came into 2020 hoping for a more peaceful year for Haiti.  There had been political unrest on and off since July 2018 but really reaching its height in late 2019.  Schools were shut, people were scared to go out anywhere and we pretty much stayed at home for weeks on end.  By January 2020 the situation in Haiti was getting back to normal.  After months of school being on and off the boys were finally back in school, Emmaus was busy with visitors and I had just finished a wonderful 2 weeks with a PT team meaning we had loads of patients to treat. 

Then the first case of coronavirus was announced in March and borders, airports, schools all shut and well you know the rest of the story.  We made it home right at the end of March, naively thinking we would return to Haiti in August. 

Now we are in the last day of 2020 and as I look back, its been hard but parts of it have been good.  Here are a few highlights

- Cousin time - it felt like forever before the boys were  allowed to spend time with their cousins but finally it came and they loved it.  Our summers home are usually so chaotic and busy the boys really don't get to spend that much time together.  Plus wee Ben was born just after we moved to Haiti so the boys have really gotten time to know him much better during this year. 

- Christmas - Christmas has been hard for so many people and not all what it usually is.  For us Christmas was great, we were allowed to bubble with my family.  The boys spent their first Christmas ever with their cousins and grandparents.  We had so much fun seeing all the Christmas lights and one of my favourites, going to church on Christmas day, in English even though we took the service and we weren't allowed to sing. We were still there. We even got to see a little snow a couple of days after Christmas.

- Moving home - We moved house 3 times in 12 months and we are truly grateful for the 'missionary house' as its known in our house, where we stayed when we came back in March. We have a few places which feel like home to us but it was so good to move into our own home in August.  I have been sorting through all of our stuff and am thoroughly enjoying getting rid of a lot of it! Packing your life into suitcases and moving overseas definitely puts into perspective what you really need to live. Even though only Sam really lived here the boys are enjoying being in our own house.  

- Access to speech therapy - There is zero speech therapy in Haiti (SLT's something I would love to develop at our therapy clinic if your interested??).  By January we knew Jacob was really struggling with his speech and needed some help, we had tried a zoom session which was helpful but if you know Jacob you will also know there is no way he was going to sit by a computer, with a stranger and participate.   Jacob started speech therapy in July and is really making great progress. Not only has his speech improved, but his behaviour is much easier to manage, he is so much less frustrated and the other boys now think he is hilarious when he talks.  And the three of them have been playing together much better just in the past couple of weeks. We are really thankful for this extended time here and to have access to speech therapy. 

- Adaptability - To be honest, our boys have amazed us. Those first few months in  Bangor were hard.  Our kids had been told we were leaving Haiti the morning they woke up, they then travelled for more than 48 hours to a house they hadn't been to for a year.  We were not allowed to see anyone, we were not in our own home, all the places they associate with Bangor were closed, it was cold and we had no idea how long we were staying.  They have really done well, moved house, settled into a brand new school and pretty much took the whole thing in their stride.  They do ask often about going back to Haiti and are looking forward to going.  We always try to remind them of the many experiences they have which so many other kids do not get to have and we hope that we are instilling an attitude of gratefulness for those experiences instead of feelings like they missed out. Sams sums it up well 'When I am in Haiti I miss Bangor, but when I'm in Bangor I miss Haiti.' However their adaptability only goes so far, moving house / country is fine but they all explode if I make something for dinner they have never had before! 😂😂

- Food - at the risk of sounding superficial I'm going to put this in here.  There are so many foods we just can't get in Haiti and sometimes things are just a lot easier when you are able to throw something in the oven for dinner.  We just don't have that option in Haiti.  All meals have to be planned out and thought through.  I can't just nip out to the shop if I forget something. We are enjoying things like strawberries, blueberries, grapes, cheese (unrationed!), chocolate biscuits, sweet potatoes, crisps, sweets, parsnips and of course sausages.  I think we have eaten more sausages in the last 6 months that we have ever!! 

- Staying involved in our work in Haiti - We all may be feeling a little 'zoomed out' but the internet has enabled us to  not only stay connected but to be a part of our work in Haiti.  Bill has been able to continue his role at Emmaus through teaching online and going to meetings on zoom and registrar duties.  It's not ideal but its been possible.  Five years ago it would not have been possible.  I have been able to get stories, photos and information through whatsapp from Bethesda to update the social media accounts and send out monthly updates.   I have also had weekly meetings with Altidor and Echebert through messenger. It really is amazing what we can do with technology from the UK to Haiti. 

- Rest - although life is always busy with small kids, I do feel that we have been able to get some rest.  The past few years have been pretty intense,  and this extended time at home has taken off some of the pressures of cross cultural living and allowed us to relax a bit.  

I can honestly say that we have no idea what 2021 holds but the Lord does and well that's enough for me. 

Happy New Year! 

Proverbs 16 v 9 

The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. .

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Not where we thought we would be part 2!

 I couldn't write a post called not where we thought we would be and not give you a little update on where we are! 

When we left Haiti in March we had no idea we would be in Northern Ireland this long.  We literally walked out of our house like we were going out for a few hours and didn't get a chance to pack anything up!

When we decided to stay in Northern Ireland we talked about maybe returning to Haiti in January 2021.  We talked about Bill going on a trip or two and me going on a trip aswell.  We also talked about Bill perhaps going to Canada to do some speaking and help with our support raising.  With the US border still closed, even for transit to anyone from the UK none of those things have been possible.  We are so thankful for God's leading and guiding in making the decision to stay here in Northern Ireland until summer 2021. 

It has allowed us to really settle and get some stuff done we really needed to get done.  We have sent off Jacob's application for British citizenship to the UK home office, the guidance has told us it could take up to 6 months before we hear anything so we are waiting and praying that it will go through and Jacob will be granted his citizenship before we return to Haiti next summer. 

Jacob has now been going to speech therapy for about 5 months and has really made some good progress.  From saying just a handful or words he is now putting 2-3 words together, although it is funny what he has learnt.  He definitely learns words which he wants to say like bin lorry, drone, saurus rex and many words to do with toilet humour! (can you tell his has brothers.)  Being able to communicate has really helped with his behaviour and there is a lot less screaming in our house.  We are really thankful for this time for Jacob which he just would not have been able to get in Haiti. 

We have also been able to empty our storage unit, organise our stuff and move back into our house.  Our house needs some things done before we rent it out again next year so its good to be able to be at home and get those things done. 

So we are not where we thought we would be, we miss parts of life in Haiti and it is much more challenging to do our work from a distance but we are trying to make the most of this time at home even with all the covid restrictions. 

Jacob had his first birthday in Northern Ireland, Sam's first since he was 2 and now Joel can't wait for his birthday! 

It has been really fun to watch how the boys have adapted especially to the winter. When it first started getting dark early Joel just loved driving in the evening and looking at the street lights! Now you can imagine what its like with all the Christmas lights! He has changed his mind and decided that Santa might just be real!😀 😂 On Monday it was icy when they were walking to school and they thought it was the best thing ever and couldn't believe they could step on the frozen puddles without getting wet. 

We are just wrapping up, getting wet, embracing the weather (even though I really strongly dislike the cold!) and just going outside to meet up with friends. I'm pretty sure we have been to every playground, forest and beach near us!

This coming week is the last week of the semester for Emmaus so students are (hopefully!) busy revising for final exams, Bill is trying to get all his marking done so he can take some time off over Christmas.  Emmaus graduation, postponed from May, will take place on 18th December where there are 12 students graduating. 

Bethesda is open and seeing patients every day! The design for a new Bethesda is almost complete and we are praying and working for end of year giving asking the Lord to provide many funds so we can get started on construction.  Please pray with us for this. 

Even though we are not where we thought we would be we can look back we can see God's hand in bringing us back to Northern Ireland and thank him for what we have been able to do while we are here and are enjoying spending this time with family and friends. 

And Joel cannot wait for Christmas! 

Monday, 30 November 2020

Not where we thought we would be

 I am guessing most of us can say that about this year! 

In March 2019 when the Bethesda Medical Center board made the decision to move and build a new Bethesda we had no idea what would lay ahead of us.

 Little did any of us know Haiti would continue to go through months and months of political unrest making it almost impossible to look for a new property.  At that time our patient numbers were very low but we praise God we were able to keep our doors open and God protected our staff as they journeyed to and from work often through roadblocks and violence.

In October we found property and God provided for us all the funds we needed to pay it all off by the end of 2019. 

Then COVID.  We all know how COVID has affected and is still affecting our lives everyday.  For Bethesda in Haiti, this meant we had to stock up on PPE, add handwashing stations and social distancing markers at our clinic.  We had months with very low patient numbers which have now gradually increased but we praise God we have not seen one single case of COVID at Bethesda.  The other way COVID has affected us is in fundraising for a new Bethesda.  The boards plan was for Dr Rodney to travel every 6-8 weeks to share the vision and get people involved.  Obviously this has not been able to happen nor does it look like it is an option in the near future.

All this to say, we are not where we thought we would be BUT looking back we can see God’s faithfulness.  Our doors are open and we are treating patients.  God provided an excellent team of engineers, construction workers and architects and the design process is almost finished. 

So today I am excited to share with you some of the most up to date renders from the design team from one of the buildings at the new Bethesda.  The plans consist of four main buildings each having a particular purpose depending on what service they will provide.  This new layout will give us more space, improved waiting areas and will allow for better patient flow.  Here are some of the renders from building one. 

Don't they look amazing?!?!

Being in Haiti we have to install all of our infrastructure.  I really had no idea how much work goes into some, ok, all of these systems.  Having a good water system starts with drilling a well and includes water storage, water pumps, waste water treatment and a lot more that I have no idea about.  We will also be installing solar power and I won't even attempt to go into any more detail than that! 

If your interested in seeing more I will be sharing lots more images and information on the Bethesda facebook page

Tomorrow is giving Tuesday and Bethesda are raising funds towards the water system at a new Bethesda.  There is also a $10,000 matching donation which means when people give their donation will be doubled! 

Please pray for the plans to build a new Bethesda.  The final design is almost finished and raising funds has been very difficult during the pandemic.  Please pray that God will provide all that we need.  Pray especially for fundraising this month with giving Tuesday and end of year giving. 

If you follow Bethesda on facebook please share our posts! 

Finally if you feel led to give you can do so here from the US or the UK.  

or here if your giving from Canada. 

Its been a long road through political instability and COVID times to get here but the best is yet to come! We believe God will provide all we need to build this new Bethesda Medical Center in Haiti so we can improve our quality of care and reach more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and ultimately see lives transformed. 


Sunday, 4 October 2020

A big ask

We are so thankful for all of your support over the past 5 years. We have asked for your financial support, your prayers, and more recently some help when we came back in March with toys, books and clothes for the boys.  

Thank you. 

Now we have a bigger ask..... About 18 months ago we had four missionary families at Emmaus and through different circumstances 3 of the families have left Emmaus and moved back to the US. The most recent being the Ayars who we lived next to for four years. It will be really strange to return to Haiti without them. 

That means when we return to Haiti, God willing, in summer 2021 we will be the only missionary family living on campus. So we have a big question....would you consider coming with us and being our neighbours in Haiti? 

Ok so we know that being our neighbours is not really a good enough reason to move your family to Haiti.  Actually there are many other reasons why you might consider it but one of the main ones is that there are many opportunities to serve and be part of raising up a generation of leaders, pastors and missionaries for the transformation of Haiti. 

 Here are some of the roles which need filled at Emmaus

- An IT director - this is an urgent need! 
- Maintenance director 
- University administrators 
- English teachers / tutors 
- Theology teachers 
- Hospitality coordinator 

If you need any more information about any of these roles please email me and I will get you all the information you need.  

We promise to help prepare you in any way we can especially if you're from Northern Ireland as this is where we will be until next summer (and I would really love to have another Northern Irish person in Haiti! Although I am sure Bill would love another Canadian!).  We can help with raising support, language learning, culture, packing, flying with kids and much more! 

I could probably write a whole other post about living overseas, about the reasons we first moved to Haiti and why we keep going back but I've decided to condense it down to this. 

I am not going to sugar coat it, living overseas away from your family and friends in a different culture, language and climate is hard.  But being where God wants you to be and being part of seeing God changing a nation is worth it. 

Please if you feel the Holy Spirit nudging you to find out more get in touch with us.

We would love to hear from you. 

I mean.....who doesn't want to experience that?

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Long overdue update

Let's start with Haiti....

Emmaus opened on 27th August with two days of spiritual retreat then classes started on 31st August.  Bill has been working on registrar stuff all through the summer in preparation for this new semester.  The semester started with two weeks of intensives which finish yesterday and residential classes will start on Monday. 

This year Emmaus has 136 students and 13 of them are new first years! There are 51 Masters students who are back in class on Monday for their first week of classes since March.  There are four different cohorts, two in education, one in leadership and one in theology. 

This month Bill is teaching  a weekend course on general epistles and when residential classes start on Monday he will be teaching Old testament wisdom literature and Old Testament historical books on Tuesdays through zoom.  Bill would love to get out to Haiti to teach in person sometime this semester but right now with US borders still closed to anyone coming from the UK we have no idea when that might be.  Please pray with us that Bill would be able to go sometime before 2020 is over. 

Bethesda is open everyday and are seeing more and more patients.  Some days during 'lockdown' in Haiti we were seeing as little as 10 patients per day. Now people are not as scared to leave home or come to a clinic.  Our patients do pay a little towards the cost of their medical care so because our patient numbers were so low, the operational budget did suffer but we are thankful to God for his provision over these past few months. 

We are still prepared to deal with any suspected cases of covid as we have a triage room at the entrance and the physio department is being used as an isolation room if needed but thankfully we have not had to use it. 

From talking to people in Haiti, it seems like things have returned to normal.  Altidor told me 'Its like covid doesn't exist, people are piled into a tap tap close together, at the market and going to school and church.  I don't know anyone who is or has been sick with it or anything like it and I did not hear of more people dying during the last four months.'

Cases and deaths have been much lower than ever expected in Haiti, particularly in the North. My only explanation is that God has been gracious and merciful.  Between political unrest, earthquakes, storms and economic difficulties on top of many of the problems that come with poverty, these past couple of years have been very difficult for the people of Haiti, to not feel the effects of a pandemic they way other countries have has surely been from God. 

Things are moving forward in the design of a new Bethesda, EMI (engineering ministries International), Kyle (our architect) and the design team have been working really hard on the design process.  I honestly had no idea how much work went into designing a project of this scale.  It is still amazing to see how God brought this team of people together.  The plan for 2020 was for Dr Rodney to travel every 6-8 weeks to raise money for the project.  Obviously he has been unable to do that so fundraising has been difficult, our fundraising team is working on some new ideas which you will hopefully hear about soon. 

I have been working on bethesda social media, translating videos and working with the fundraising teams to figure out a way to fundraise for the new building during this time of pandemic.  I try to video chat with Altidor and Echebert once a week so I can answer any questions they may have about patients. 

One of my jobs on the bethesda board is to encourage people to pray and organise prayer activities. One of the things we do is have a half day of prayer each month.  This months half day of prayer is next Wednesday 16th and our goal is to have the whole day covered in prayer by asking people to sign up to a 30 minute slot.  If your interested you can sign up here.  I have also put together a prayer guide to give you an update as to how things are in Haiti and at Bethesda and items to prayer for.  

Now home....

We have moved 'home' (we now have many places that feel like home!) to our house that we own and it is so nice to be back in our own house.  After almost 5 months of living in 'the missionary house' (which we are very thankful for) the boys were very excited to be in our own house.   Sam and Joel started school at the beginning of September and were definitely a little nervous but seem to have settled in well. 

Jacob is continuing in speech therapy once a week and has been making some good progress.  We are still working on his paperwork for his British citizenship which is turning out to be a little more complicated than we first thought..... hoping to get it completed soon! 

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Prayer and podcasts

Every month we have a half day of prayer for Bethesda and August day is coming up tomorrow.  With moving being such a big project which almost feels impossible at times, we need to make sure we are praying and asking and thanking God.  A few months ago just after Covid hit Haiti it became apparent we had so much to pray for that we began putting together monthly prayer guides in order to help people to pray more specifically.  It’s been good to look back over these and see how God has answered.  

If you are able please join us in praying tomorrow, we are encouraging people to sign up for a 30 minute slot so we can get the whole day covered. You can sign up here

One of Bethesda’s partners, Mercy Inc has just started a new radio show in Oregon which is now also on podcast.  The last few episodes have been focussed on the work of Bethesda.  They have interviewed Dave, our OMS field leader who is also on the BMC board and the past two episodes Barry (our board chair) and me!  It all seems a bit crazy that I was on the radio in Oregon and now on a podcast! 

So if you want to have a listen you can do so on their website 

Or search for MercyToday wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Happy listening!! 

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

What are you going to do?

This is the big question everyone has been asking us since we returned to Northern Ireland in March.  We, naively thought things would be more normal by the summer and we would return to Haiti as usual in August.  The longer time went on and the longer we stayed in lockdown the more unlikely this began to look. We felt like we needed to make a decision rather that waiting around so we could sort out some practical things like where were we going to live, what were we going to drive, what about the boys school etc...

 After a lot of prayer and asking advice from others we have decided to stay in Northern Ireland for this incoming academic year before we return to Haiti in Summer 2021.  There are a few factors leading to our decision so let me just explain a few.   

One of the lessons we learnt from being evacuated is that we need to get Jacob his British citizenship (he currently only has a Canadian passport).  It was pretty stressful travelling back in March not knowing if Jacob would be allowed to travel with us because at that stage most countries were only open to their own citizens.  With all of the unrest in Haiti there is always a possibility of being evacuated so we need Jacob to have the same citizenship as the rest of his family! We are working on the forms now but they can take up to 6 months to process.  Getting a passport photo of a 2 year old is turning out to be impossible!

Jacob has also just started in speech therapy and we feel it will be important to continue with this so he can catch up developmentally before he is due to start pre school next September.

We are also in need of more support in order to return to Haiti and as you know, churches have been closed and we have been unable to go and speak anywhere.  There are some other practical things to sort out to do with our house and mortgage etc.

Therefore rather than continuing to wait until it is possible to travel we are looking at this time as an opportunity to do all of the above things.  When it is possible to travel Bill and I would both like to do separate trips to Haiti sometime over the next year to maintain our relationships and do our work in person.  The airports in Haiti are now open but the US still has it borders closed to anyone coming from the UK even if its only for transit.  Bill would have liked to go to Haiti for the beginning of the semester in September but right now it doesn't look like this is possible. 

Bill will continue on his role as registrar working remotely and alongside his assistant Rujerry who is in Haiti. He will also be teaching three courses online this upcoming semester. Schools and universities are able to open in Haiti from 10th August so Emmaus is planning to start on 31st August. 

I will keep supporting Altidor and Echebert through video calls and also run the Bethesda facebook page and be involved in fundraising for the new clinic.

This was not an easy decision to make, being away for a year seems like a long time but like every time we leave somewhere and go somewhere else it is bittersweet.  Just knowing we have extended time with family and friends and we don't have to try and see everyone as much as we possibly can as many times as we can in our usual 6 weeks is great. 

The boys are loving spending time with their friends and family and enjoying all the things we don’t get to do like playgrounds, forests, ice cream, playing with other people toys (Joels favourite!), strawberries, raspberries, yogurts.... ok there could be a whole post on foods so I'll stop there.

Thank you all for your support and prayers over the last few months.  It’s been a very strange, unsettling time with not knowing now what we were going to do.  But we have a plan and know what is coming next we can actually settle into life in Northern Ireland for a while. 

Next task - move house (again!)!! 


 One of the things I was able to do on during my time at home in Northern Ireland during covid was some more training, specifically in paedi...