Monday, April 1, 2013

1,000 Words

A picture is worth a thousand words.  I've heard that phrase as long a I can remember.  (I hope it's true of these pictures.)  In February, I was honored to get to travel with a team of pastors representing the Indiana Central District of the Wesleyan church to Xai-Xai, Mozambique, Africa. (pronounced:shy-shy)  What an honor to travel with this incredible group of men.  While there, we got to travel across South Africa and visit Kruger Park.  Kruger is one of the finest game preserves in the world.  It was truly amazing to see elephants, zebras, lions, in there own habitat.
We then traveled through Maputo, Mozambique's capital, and went up the coast to the province of Xai-Xai, to visit the seat of the province, Xai-Xai.  While there the team taught at the Xai-Xai Bible college.   The area is right on the coast of the Indian Ocean, and is beautiful.  But, the area was suffering a major flood.  At the edge of town is a very long levy, and one of the bridges on the south end had partially washed out.  You see, water for a large portion of that region of southern Africa drains into the ocean right there.  There is a very large plane where the people live and raise their families.  That entire area was flooded!  I can't say exactly how large the area was, but over 250,000 people were displaced because of the flooding.  A small Wesleyan church had contacted the Bible College at Xai-Xai to let them know that their church had been destroyed by the floods and the congregation had moved to higher ground.  The flood relief effort was centralized in an area just south of where we were staying.  We saw hundreds and hundreds of tents all in a row, with the familiar Red Cross emblem on the side.  We saw representatives from Samaritans Purse, Compassion, and we were there with World Hope International.  (World Hope was founded by Joanne Lyon the General Superintendant of the Wesleyan Church.)
The response of the team was to find as much rice as we could and take it to them.  My role was simply to tag along.  It was amazing to see such great need, and to see these incredible organizations in action.  However, food was starting to get scarse and the small Wesleyan church had asked for any assistance we could offer.  So resources we're pooled and the rice was bought, the pick up truck was loaded and we set off with 20 something 25 kilo bags of rice.  We decided to meet with the people of the congregation a little ways up the road from the tent city, because we feared our extremely limited supply might incite a riot.  They didn't appear to be starving yet, but I'm sure there were some very hungry folks. As we pulled up, a rather big fellow, greeted us with a warm smile and as we got out of our vehicles we were met with songs of praise, (to God).  The gentleman was wearing a blue t-shirt, and I will never forget that moment.  With tears coming down his cheeks he said, (through translator) "Thank you, thank you, thank you!  We are so grateful that you've come.  You didn't even need to bring us food!  We're so thankful to know somebody's praying and thinking of us!"  (I inhaled to suck in any possible tears!)  Here they were, they'd lost there homes, their churches...everything!  Some of them still hadn't found family members, and could only find very limited food and clean water. But, they were thankful to God, for being a part of His family, where we just simply showed up.  That's how it's supposed to work you know.  We are to look out for one another.  There are so many lessons to be learned from an experience like this, and I suppose I will keep learning the rest of my life.  But for now, my thoughts are toward the "showing up" part.  I was able to participate in this incredible moment, in large part because I made myself available.  Thank you Jesus!  What I'm trying to say is, as an American, many times we show up and "fix" things simply because we can.  But, the better way, (the Biblical way), is to adjust our lives to God's plans.  When we make the adjustment to Him, we experience His very real love, mercy, kindness and compassion, and are truly blessed!  Jesus did that very thing when He came to earth.  He made Himself available to the Father to make a way for all of us to be saved, through His blood shed on the cross, we can find forgiveness!  But, even Jesus made His adjustment to the Father's ultimate redemptive plan.  I knew without a doubt that God had blessed me that day, because I was "there."  I also need to say, many people made sacrifices, so that I might make this trip!  Many of you were "there" for me, so I could be "there" for God.  In a sense, you were "there" with me!
So, what's holding you back?  What's keeping you from going?  What's stopping you from adjusting your life to Him?  It is generally fear of some sort I've found.  We're afraid we can't afford it, or won't be able to eat anything, or we're afraid of contracting some deadly disease.  It can be busyness in our lives that keep us from making the adjustment.  My challenge to you, is to make the adjustment.  He does command us to go you know!  When you see Him working, do your best to align yourself with Him.  You will be blessed!  Go into the world!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mozambique 2013

I'm getting ready to head out to Mozambique soon!  Here's the newsletter I sent out a couple of weeks ago! The info to join the team is found at the bottom of the page!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Return From Haiti November 2011

We returned home safely and without event last week. This is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and write some of my thoughts. This time of year is what I’ve dubbed “the RED ZONE.” This is the busiest time of the year for us, so time is a precious commodity.

I’ve been reflecting on the recent trip to Haiti, and with Thanksgiving on Thursday, I just wanted to share something that happened to me and a couple of the other guys on the trip.

One of the deep honors of being a short-term missionary is-you become an ambassador of hope. When we Americans come to a land like Haiti, we are generally attempting to bring hope to a place that needs it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we don’t have great needs here in the US, but in Haiti, the needs are too numerous to count. The children at the orphanage are there because they have no place, or no one to take them in. For starters, that’s really hard. They live in an impoverished land where food and clean water are a challenge, at best. Then there’s the living conditions, it is a tropical climate, so they don’t have to worry about the cold. However, when it rains in Haiti, it turns everything to mud. In contrast, when it’s dry it’s extremely dusty. It’s an extremely hard place to live. The life expectancy in Haiti is about 45 or so, likely due to disease and living conditions.

As a short-term missionary/ambassador, we get to take supplies, gifts of food, money, medical supplies etc. into Haiti. It is indeed a blessing to be a blessing! It is also an honor of the highest sort, to represent Christ, the Church, and all of you that sacrificed and prayed.

We carried in several extra suitcases this trip. They were filled with hygiene kits, new undies, flip-flops, food, and some goodies too. We had not had a chance to give the supplies to Yvrose (the director of the orphanage) to distribute to the children. So, on Friday I asked if I could bring in the supplies we brought and leave them. Yvrose and I made arrangements for Friday after dinner. So, after we had dinner that evening, Ray, Ken and Terry and I, lugged the stuff across the street to Yvrose’s kitchen. Yvrose immediately started gathering up all the kids, about 72 of them, ranging from 18 months, to 18 years. The children all gathered around in a semicircle, smallest in front, and the older ones in the back, and most of them were seated. Yvrose placed her chair in the middle of them, told us to have a seat at the dining table, then she said, “this is Christmas for us!” She passed out the kits to the older children, then to the smaller ones. I could tell that some of them didn’t quite know what to think, maybe not sure what some of the items were, (shampoo and toothpaste would be an extreme luxury there). Then she opened up the next suitcase, and there were dozens of flip-flops. I saw some smiles, and I couldn’t help but notice a gentle push forward hoping to get a new, (perhaps first) pair of flip-flops. Yvrose calmly picked up a pair, checked out the size, then called out a name. The child would step forward, she would set the flip-flops on the floor and the child would try them on, usually a perfect fit. It took a while to hand them all out, there were likely 4 dozen pair. It was amazing just how orderly the whole thing was, not a tear, or a whine, but a gratefulness is what I sensed, I’m sure.

Then she broke out the undies, and much to my surprise, she handed a pair at a time out the same way. I think it might have embarrassed some of the older ones more than the younger ones, but I couldn’t even imagine how that scenario might play out here in America. “Black Friday” we’ll put away our “thankfulness” and knock anyone down who beats us to the best buys at 4am...(I digress).

After Yvrose finished handing out most of the stuff, she asked if there was anyone that didn’t get a gift, she made sure that everyone got something. Then she turned to us, and said, “Thank You.” She also said, “God Bless America, you’re the only nation that’s helped us. Thank you Church! God bless you!” As best I can, I pass that along to you! Thank you for praying, giving and making the sacrifice!

Then she quieted the kids down, and they sang for us. The first song they sang, was unbelievable! To think about what we just experienced, and the intense need there, here’s what they sang!

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word,
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know “Thus saith the Lord.”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

I inhaled really hard several times, attempting to not go to pieces. They sang in Creole, but when they got to the chorus, I knew they were singing the same words, Jesu, Jesu...

I haven’t really taken the time to totally unpack all that we experienced in Haiti this trip. It is a lifetime of memories squeezed into a week. But, how do we let it change us? What difference will it make in us this year? My hope is to be thankful for the real stuff! The things that really matter. (Jesus, Jesus! precious Jesus!) Be thankful and find real ways to love my family and friends. To continue to grow in love for my God and savior, and to love my neighbors. I’ve got a ways to go, still a work in progress.

Have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Back to Haiti!

What a joy it is to once again be traveling in the name of Jesus to Haiti. Our team is actually being led this trip by Scott Warner of OMS/Men for Missions, and along with 4 other guys the six of us are attempting to put a roof on the church at St. Charles. St. Charles is a small village southeast of Jeremie, about an hour drive toward Port au Prince. Since arriving we’ve loved on some kids, been loved back, made new friends, prayed together, worked together and shared Jesus. We’ve also got quite a bit of work done!

We are all so grateful to God for our church, family, and friends that have made the sacrifice to make this work of grace possible. It is an honor of the deepest sort, to partner with you to do this kingdom work. One of my personal prayers is that God will richly bless you, pressed down and pouring over!

We arrived in Port au Prince on Wednesday afternoon and was met at the airport by Nadair, who works with OMS/MFM. One of his roles is to offer safe passage through Port au Prince. He is a great lovable man, with a whooping sort of laugh. (If that makes any sense!) But, I’m telling you when he smiles or laughs, a room will light up. When people show up at the airport with him, they are warmly greeted, and fellow Haitians know it’s likely a bunch of American Missionaries there to offer help! They’re glad to see us!

Before I go any further, I need to tell you who our team is. As I mentioned earlier, Scott Warner is leading the charge here. Scott and his bride, Debbie have recently joined the forces of OMS/MFM and are excited at what God is going to do in, and through them. Scott has done a great job getting to know some of the locals here in Jeremie, as well as up in St. Charles. He has also brought his considerable carpentry skills to use and leads us as we attempt to put a roof on the church. Also on the team this trip are: Ray DeSpain, Terry Ford, Ken Holland, and Rick Weigand. All of them bringing together their amazing talents for the glory of God!

On Thursday, we spent a considerable amount of time getting acquainted with the children at the orphanage. One of the things that still amazes me here is the deep level of poverty. The children are well fed and blessed to have roofs over their heads, good educations, and caretakers that love them and care for them. In the afternoon, we headed up to St. Charles so all the guys could get a look at the project we’re here to finish. We also needed to get some last measurements before we started building the trusses. With God’s grace, we’ll get it done, it is a lot of work, but we have a great God, whom we all believe has called us to this place and supplied our needs. So, we’re agreed as a team, we’re going to give it our all! What a great team!

Friday morning after breakfast, we waited around for our truck to arrive to go pick up our lumber supplies. Terry Ford and Ken Holland are both electricians by trade, and we’d been informed that the Solar Panel system was not properly working, so they spent a large portion of their morning troubleshooting that system. The “citie’s” electricity in Jeremie only comes on after the sun goes down, and then it’s prone to go out periodically. So, most of the daylight hours the electricity used by the orphanage is supplied by the Solar Panels. It’s very smart way to get energy, when it’s working right that is! They also have a large generator that is in the compound where we are staying. It kicked on Wednesday evening and it sounded like a train in our courtyard. It’s expensive, but sometimes necessary to run it, so getting the solar panels up and running is a priority too! So, while they were working on that, Adrien, Scott, Rick, Ray and I went to get our lumber. You know how when you go to Lowe’s or Menard’s in the states, they’ll actually load it for you in some cases, or at least help you get it to your car? If it’s a large order, which ours was, they’ll usually deliver it for you! Not so here! We walked into their warehouse and they pointed out the lumber we were to get our order from and we proceeded to load our own truck. 2x4’s in Haiti are actually 2”x4” so they look big, but it’ll be nice for building a roof. So, after we got back to the orphanage, we found that we also needed some bolts, so Adrien, Scott, Ray and I went on a hunt to find some bolts. After five stops we found none. We have a “b” plan we’ll need to break out. But, when we returned to the orphanage, much to our surprise, Rick and some of the kids had already unloaded the truck. Thanks Rick and kids!

We decided to build the new trusses here in the courtyard at the orphanage, then once they’re done, we’ll haul them up to St. Charles. We are praying for a lot of local help, because the trusses are heavy and the hill to the church is extremely steep. We spent the rest of the day figuring out exactly how we were going to build them, then we made our templates and proceeded to measure, mark and cut lumber. We finished our work Friday and will assemble them Saturday, ready to haul them up to St. Charles on Monday.

Friday evening after dinner, Ray, Terry and I got to share in one of the extreme blessings of doing a trip like this. We have brought your personal hygiene kits, new underwear, flip-flops, peanut butter, and other gifts you donated. And as we watched Yvrose, (who operates the orphanage), passed out the was precious...precious I’m telling you! These kids sat, mostly quietly, wide-eyed, hoping there’d be a pair of flip-flops that would fit them, and maybe, just maybe, they’d get a pair that looked kinda cool too. It’s funny, the “looking cool” part is usually the highest priority for we Americans, but not so much here! They are thankful to have them! $1 flip-flops! Yvrose, was so patient with them, she’d pick up a pair, call out a name, the child would step forward, try them on, and she’d quietly call the next name. For those of you that don’t know, she has been struggling with recovering from malaria, that she caught about a month ago. She told me she thought she was going to die. But, said she’s feeling great now! I think she still has some recovering to go, she moves just a little slower than I remember and her voice is not full strength yet. Then the blessing of blessings, the children sang to us. They sang the old hymn “Trust and Obey” then a number of worship songs, and finished with a couple of Christmas songs! It was Christmas to them!

Thanks for participating in this journey! Thanks for praying for this team, the kids at the orphanage and the church at St. Charles! We’ll be attempting to post up some more of the adventures as we’re able! So stay tuned and keep praying for the grace, mercy and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus to be evident in and through us!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Going to St. Charles Haiti!!

I am honored to be joining a crew of men from Fountain City Wesleyan Church traveling to Haiti, for the purpose of replacing the roof on a church in the village of St. Charles, Haiti. We will be travelling to Haiti on November 9th and will be there through the 16th.
Earlier this year Ron Ayers and I took the incredible trek up the steep terrain east of Jeremie to fix the roof. What we found was a sagging roof due to lumber that was infested with wood-boring bees. We were told that the Haitian that contracted the work took the money and ran. So, with the time and resources we had, we propped the roof up until a team could come and replace it.
Resources are so incredibly hard to come by in Haiti, and that is even more complicated by the lack of funds and skilled workers. Leading this team will be Scott Warner and myself, and with your help, we will raise a new roof on the church. We are looking for both PRAYER partners and FINANCIAL SUPPORTERS.
Currently, we are submitting an application to Christ For the Nations International to help with funding of the materials needed to finish the job. CFNI is an organization out of Dallas TX, that has a program to partner with other ministries to offer financial support for roofing materials. However, the total cost of travel, food, and housing for the trip will be around $2000.
What I’m asking you to do is to PRAY about it first! We are needing prayer partners, as well as financial partners to help with the cost.
If you feel God is leading you to help, just follow the instructions below!

Thanks for praying!!
If you decide to be one of my prayer partners, contact me and let me know so we can keep in touch. If you choose to help financially, you can make checks to Fountain City Wesleyan Church, and mark the memo “Haiti-NOV” and return it to me. You can also give online at:
God BLess you and Thank You!
Steve Mathews

Friday, April 1, 2011

Last Day

Photos and stories can never express the beauty or relationships found when you travel. I believe that is especially true when you're travelling in the name of Jesus. Even though photos and video can help, it's never as good as the real deal! Because you can't reproduce the smells, the air your breathing, the touch of a friend. That's the sad part. The good news is that at least you can indeed lock images away digitally, and in some strange way with just a look, months later, you can be transported back to that place.

Yesterday Ron Ayers, Giles and I set out to finish the job we started on Wednesday-to prop the roof up on a church that was collapsing. Seems that the Haitian contractor that did the job did a very poor job, using nasty lumber and low skill level. It was about to come down. We didn't finish the job on Wednesday, but went back yesterday morning. As we were travelling along the beach east of Jeremie, we came upon a road block! They were replacing a huge tile that allowed water to drain off into the ocean. In prior trips across there we had seen dozens of children swimming in the mud hole! Why not the ocean? Well it's likely for several reasons: the ocean is very deep off of this particular coast, maybe some pollution, and sharks! So, we turned back and decided we would come back after lunch, which we did. We had left some tools up at the church the day before and had to go back. The ride was a hair-raising 1 hour drive through the villages and construction zones to get to the top was quite a journey, not for the faint of heart. I told Adrian our driver/translator, this is better than any amusement park ride I've been on!

We managed to get the roof done as the girls stayed back at the orphanage and loved on kids and helped with a feeding project. I had mentioned a new "bud" I've met on this trip. His name is Sha-sha. He attached himself to me as soon as we arrived at the orphanage. And every time we went over there, it wasn't long before I was accosted by he, and two or seven of his friends. I think most of our time together was spent having him sit either next to me, or on my lap and squeezing him. I just sensed he needed that. It was precious, I'll never forget it as long as I live. I found out he is eight, and his sister Ginney also lives there and she's 14. She actually knew a little English, and with the tiny bit of French I know, we talked for a while. The life they live here is tough by any standard. Kids without parents in any world is difficult, but the needs here are even bigger in some ways because of the poverty. Sha-sha is a happy little guy, as most of the children appear to be. The orphanage here does the best they can with the resources available. But, as you can imagine another one of the things that they have a great need for is just human touch. They get some, but not enough for some. He's a typical little boy, gets in scuffles with his pals, tries to manipulate a situation by poking his bottom lip out and pouting. I asked Adrian what the policy was on adoption, and he said they'd really like to see their children grow up and be a positive influence on their nation. The will be! They educate them on sight, as well as show them the love of Christ.

Last evening, they put on a program for us as it was our last night here. Team #2 should be on their way here as I write this post. I pray for their safety today and throughout this next week. Anyway, the program featured their singing, and my can they sing! Then their band performed! What a hoot! They were excellent! It is all done right here on site! After the program, Yvrose Alexandre spoke to us, giving thanks for Americans and the Churches. They also spoke of the vision that keeps them going. It's a Christ centered vision to help those that can't help themselves, and it was started by Yvrose's father. They've also started many churches, one of which we put the roof on yesterday!

That's all for now! Stay tuned as we'll be attempting to post up some of the stuff from next weeks team. I hope to see you this weekend!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday, 29th, 2011

Yvrose, (a real life Proverbs 31 woman) runs the orphanage here in Jeremie. She's a beautiful, stately, Godly woman of God, with a passion for the lost. She's grown up in a hard place, but loved Jesus. She also loves His children, especially those with out a mommy or daddy. She is also a leader at her church, but we witnessed Sunday night, she affirms and supports the young men who lead her church. It is likely a cultural thing. If it were not for her vision, there is no telling where these children would be. As an affluent American, it is difficult to see clearly the powerful ministry that God has given her to lead. Because, I tend to look at externals... how clean is the floor, what do the kids eat, what are the conditions like? In this culture, we can't look at that through our American lenses. It's nearly impossible to see clearly what God is doing, because our tendency is to see the "unfit" conditions. That is called self-righteousness folks, and in order to see God's movement more clearly, I believe we need to repent of it! I have been! Pray for me!

The most heart pulling thing I've experienced here is a child's desperate need to be touched! Many of the children will climb up on your lap, hold your hand, or be squeezed until your eyes pop out! It's amazing to touch a child, pick them up, or poke them in the tummy, and they radiate a smile that would light up a city! Or expose coldness in one's heart, if one feels like confessing that! I've been especially befriended by a little guy, his name is Shasha. He came up to me as soon as we walked into the orphanage. I spoke my best Creole to him, which is actually pathetic, and he smiled and responded with a big hug. There'll be more about him on Thursday! Let me tell you he makes his way to me every day so far. So have several other boys, I think they think my large, pink, bald head is funny! Kind of like a lot of least the shaved part!

Today the ladies, (Lisa, Brittany, and Debbie), stayed at the orphanage. Sorting some uniforms that had been donated and giving and placing some of the supplies we'd brought. There was an older homeless gentleman who hobbles into the orphanage almost every day, whom many people mistreat, so he'll come by for a scrap of food. and he'll sweep the driveway. He was given 2 hygiene packs and he was so proud of them. As he walked away I saw his lips utter, "merci" (Thank you!). They also spent and prayed with Yvrose, and had a sweet prayer time with her.

Ron and I headed up the same mountain we came in on with Gene Pollic and Adrian. We had a little difficulty getting there as our truck stopped running about half way there, due to water in the fuel. While we waited for help to arrive, dozens of school children passed by in bright yellow and blue school uniforms. Many of them stopped by curiously, to see what these strange looking white men are doing out here. On Sunday night, Gene Pollic, our team sponsor, initiated all of us as "fishers of men." We made bracelets out of fishing leaders, to wear as reminders. As the children were standing around looking us over, one of them tugged on my bracelet asking, as best as I can tell, what is this(?) So, in all my infinite wisdom started doing fishing motions and making sounds like a fishing reel makes. (because my creole needs a little work) They look at me like I was crazy! So, I saw Adrian, our driver, around the other side of the truck, and I hoped he could translate for me. I thought I'd better sieze this "divine appointment"! As I pointed to my bracelet, explaining to him that they were asking what it meant, he held up his hand, and held his wrist next to mine and took off explaining to them that we were both fishers of men. I couldn't tell you a word he said, but I knew exactly what he was saying! As he spoke, he reached out his hand and touched several of them on the cheek. I did recognize that he was telling them God loves them, and we were fishing for men. It was a beautiful moment, I don't know if any of them were "saved". but I do know that they heard a brief version of the Gospel that day!

After we got back on the road, we went up to a church in a village called St. Charles, to look at a roofing project to do. That will be tomorrow's work. Keep us all in your prayers, and stay posted!!!