This… has been a year. As I write this, I (Steph) am recovering from a stomach bug amongst the clutter of the holidays. My husband came back to the US as soon as I realized that I couldn’t make the trek there for Christmas because of my back…which I have surgery on January 10. It’s been a super hectic fall and winter, so we are both looking forward to a leisurely(ish) and recovering January.
With a fun/busy fall under our belts, we set off into the later part of the fall with a bunch of different plans. Some of them really worked well, and many had to be adjusted. We are certainly learning the importance of flexibility and leaning on one another this year!
In November, Ryan spent the first bit of the month in the US with me, working on finishing up our finances with our amazing accounting team. He then went to Haiti for two weeks to continue to work with our amazing team on all of the different things going on. Our friends and partners really are into some of the coolest stuff, and we are honored to partake in some of the things they are working on and partner with them.
Ryan then flew in just before Christmas where our family came over and spent time with us. With Ryan being so tired from flying in and me with my chronic back issues, it was nice to have people over and not do the cooking hah.
Right after Thanksgiving, we got ourselves ready for a trip to see Jesselyn and her family/church/community. Jesselyn has been working with us since 2014, though we met her back in 2010. She’s a vital part of what we are doing in Haiti and had such a great time seeing her in her (freezing) country! We hosted a gingerbread building fundraiser, and were able to sell so much of our Konbit Garden and The Haiti Ladies products that employ national staff and keep our programs going. We were also able to share about our children’s program collaboration and our water partnerships. We also were reunited with our friend and long-time partner, Jenessa, who helped bring so much of what we do into reality. These two showed us around Toronto and Steph even got to see Niagara Falls!
From there, Ryan went straight to Haiti to teach in a Discipleship Training School in Port-Au-Prince with some friends, training up local leaders in community development with a Christian worldview. I went back to Alabama to host a few house shows to sell our seasonal products, and share about our various programs that empower families. It was such a great time to share and get to meet some of the people in this community who are passionate about helping families stay together.
As Christmas got close, we gathered all of the amazing gifts that were donated through individual sponsors and the amazing church family of Apostles by the Sea and loaded them into bags to be delivered to Haiti. This is the third year we have been able to partner with our friends and staff in Haiti to put on an amazing Christmas program. This year was even more special because we had a team from our friends at Eastern Shore Pres come down and teach a Christmas program for the children to learn (and perform later). It was amazing, a true collaboration!
Unfortunately, I was not able to get down there for Christmas, though I tried my best. Ryan was able to rush in on Christmas Eve, as my back had gotten even worse. We celebrated in a unique way, sleeping and laughing and seeing family that evening for a bit. It was hard to not be in Haiti, but we were able to skype in before the program and heard all about it afterward.
This year, we learned about flexibility. We learned that we can’t do it all. We learned the importance of dependence on God and the people He’s put in our lives. For so long, our jobs have been in the middle of the mess and face to face with people in Haiti. This year, we learned how to balance that with our health and the administrative needs we have. We learned a bit more about how to release programs and truly do the things we set out to do…empower and release…so much of what we are doing.
Here are some highlights from the end of the year:
Our first Kokūa project has been funded (and started)!
A project will go here, on the side of this church (which is a community gathering place).
David, our fearless Justice Water Community Director, in the Haiti hills. Many people try to work in these hard-to-reach spots in Haiti, but I cannot stress to you the importance of having nationals assess and implement these programs/projects. He knows these folks by name and will be there long after the project is completed. We are so thankful to Kokua water bottles for this donation!
Our biggest (and BEST!) Christmas program to date!
The Christmas skit- performed for over 300 people!
Jesselyn and our friend/staff, Evans as Santa Claus. Our Haitian staff always give out the gifts to the community!
Our Justice Water community directors continue to work in underdeveloped places in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Though it has been over a year since we’ve been in the DR, all the programs there and in Haiti are going strong thanks to local leadership. We also continue to oversee and talk with them regularly!
Our moringa garden program continues to grow– and it was also just named as one of the trending superfoods of 2018. Get some here.
We are closer than ever to getting moving on the land! This has been no small task and we are so thankful for the benefactors we have who are partnering with us to purchase this property. Please keep praying for this purchase!
Our women’s sewing co-op continues to make awesome projects and provide for their families. Get some of their amazing creations here.
Spending the holidays with family was unexpected, but fun nonetheless.
Completing the covering of a well and the building of a toilet on our rental property; this is so important for the kids’ program and family outreach programs we host throughout the week! This is really a place for the community to gather and we are thankful for these completed projects.
Sharing about Konbit with new and old faces, all around the US and Canada!
Hosting our first team to teach Christmas program songs and dances to our Haitian staff and children to perform at Christmas!
Seeing a partner and friend, Pastor Muzac, replicate a pastor’s seminar with our help in his community.
Continuing to grow our Haitian staff and programs, continuing to focus in on true community and collaboration, and true innovation for the new year. We are believing that 2018 is a year of growth and possibility. We are so excited for all God is doing in Haiti and beyond!
We are so thankful for you all and excited for 2018. We believe it will be a full year and a year of good health, good community, and growth!