What a full year! The last few years have been quite different as I (Steph) have been recovering from my various health problems, all highlighted by my heat-stroke two years ago in Haiti. We have seen the silver lining in all of this as we have been able to expand the impact in the USA and beyond. We are really thankful for the ways that God has used this experience to be more positive! Endurance has been the name of the game this year. Enduring through our unexpected health issues, enduring through the new political and economical challenges in Haiti, enduring through challenges our own country is facing as people of faith.
Here are a few of our favorite, notable parts of 2018! Thank you for celebrating, mourning, and enjoying this year with us.
In January, I had back surgery for a pinched nerve + in February, Ryan had emergency disc surgery on his neck. Really strange, hard…but a forced restful time. Konbit Haiti continued to march on, and our leadership in Haiti really rose to the occasion in a new way. This time forced us to examine our cross-country communication, which was improved upon throughout the months before we were in Haiti.
In the Spring, we were able to return physically to Haiti, where we hosted a Pastor’s Seminar with our local partner and new Konbit Haiti Spiritual Director, Pastor Oney Muzac. With a few volunteer pastors for the week, we had a great show out for this conference and continued to build up our ongoing pastor’s coalition. The seminars build upon the coalition to show these community leaders who come from all over the mountains behind the Konbit center that we are with them and want to see them succeed.
We also were able to spend time re-doing much of the outdated Justice Water Hispaniola methods and leadership, and did some more community research within our context as programs that continue on: water program, kids’ program, pastors’ coalition, and more.
In May, we celebrated 9 years of marriage as I presented my thesis in Prague! I earned my Master’s in International Community Development and presented my research on family preservation in Haiti using local leadership. I loved doing my MA and I learned so many helpful skills to apply directly to our work within Konbit Haiti.
In May, we also “graduated” from physical therapy, which was a HUGE relief to us!
In the summer months, we went head first into what could be considered the most intense summer of summer camp with Konbit Haiti. Due to political unrest, we did not receive half of our teams, and we were left in a situation where we actually lost money due to these different issues. It was a challenging two months, with lots of supernatural, physical, and emotional challenges. Ultimately, though, we all grew closer within the Konbit Haiti community. The teams that were able to come gave it their all, and it was much appreciated.
While it is still challenging for people to fully understand why it was so expensive to be a part of the camp, and why we ultimately lost money with the camp this year, we’d like to (quickly) explain. As Haiti’s gas prices rose, so did everything else. While $3 a gallon might not seem like that much to you, it is when the paying wage is $2 a day. You work a whole day, and still can’t purchase a gallon of gas. I would say that’s an injustice. The food prices shot up, but we were dedicated to providing a meal for each child that walked in that gate. As the year ends and you feel led to give toward this deficit, please consider giving through this link: konbithaiti.org/donate
Some amazing things that happened during camp were small, but huge. My favorite is when the Eastern Shore Repertory Theater put on a small performance with our kiddos. When asked about their dreams, I cringed. I know that kids in Haiti often say they do not have many dreams. It’s been challenging for me to figure out how to present it. But, years later, in the Konbit Haiti center, kids shared their dreams.
I dream of being a doctor.
I dream of being an artist.
I dream of being a pastor.
Years prior, this would not be the case. I am so thankful for this community of people that has come behind us and the people of Haiti.
Over the fall, Ryan was able to teach in a missionary school with mostly Haitian missionaries. It was an incredible time of hearing about justice and the ways Americans and foreigners have not been good carriers of justice to the Haitian people. This was a good way for Ryan to hone in on his speaking skills, as this is something he wants to continue to pursue.
In the fall, we also hosted a training program for our women’s sewing co-op. It was such a fun time together, and it was a great time to learn from local artists as well as foreign ones. We also got to meet the newest addition to our little Haiti Ladies family, baby Quinnie!
At the end of the fall, we were able to sit with some of our core staff and have an incredible time as a board team. We talked about the years past, and were able to plan for 2019. We are pumped for all that will happen in the coming year!
December was another huge month for us. We sent hundreds of Christmas gifts that had been generously given to our family programs, and were able to help them retrieve all of these boxes full of gifts and decorations! On the week leading up to Christmas, we were able to partner with our kids’ program and staff to see over 150 children have a good meal and something safe and fun to do over their school breaks. On December 25, they celebrated Christmas together with a huge Christmas play presentation + meal together. We were able to Skype in between our own family celebrations and thank God for the life we live, though one foot in each country can be trying, it is also such a blessing.
We are so excited for 2019, and thankful for the ways God grew us in 2018. What a joy it has been to share the stories of Konbit through fun events like our Ugly Sweater Christmas party, a rooftop event in NYC, and more. We are thankful for each of you who have stood with us during this time and wish you and your family a Merry Holiday season and blessed New Year!