I am thankful to be an American. In the United States I not only live in a country of abundance, I live in a country of excess. I am thankful that I am thankful. I am thankful I am learning not to complain.
I am thankful I have choices. I choose to leave my comfortable abundant life for extended periods of time, to live where there is not enough to go around. I choose to live with the poorest of the poor. I choose to live where there are hungry children outside of my door, day and night. Children asking for shoes. I choose to live where babies around me die of malnutrition because their mothers do not produce milk, and there is no money for formula. I choose to live where, if there is formula, it is often mixed with untreated water, bringing sickness and death.
I choose to live where often I have to carry spring water in a five gallon bucket, to which I add Clorox to make it safe to drink. I am thankful to have access to this water. Many living close to me do not, they drink untreated river water.
I am thankful that I have solar electricity to power my cell phone and laptop and to provide lights in the evening. I am thankful that we have smartphones to email our children and grandchildren. We miss them terribly while we are here.
My neighbors gather at night to take advantage of our lights, and plugging in their portable radio to listen to a soccer match. They are thankful, there are no other sources of electricity in our village. I have to be diligent, watching for neighbors who try to sneak an extension cord into one of our outlets to charge their cell phones (Yes, even here, cell phones prolific). We do not have enough solar power to share on that level.
I am thankful for the small electric camping fans that draw so little electricity that we can run them all night. They not only offer relief from the stifling heat, but the white noise they produce drowns out the Voodou drums that sometimes go on 24 hours a day, for days at a time.
I am thankful we have Cipro, the drug needed to treat cholera. I am thankful that we have Chloroquine, to treat malaria. I am thankful that we have aspirin, to treat a headache or reduce a fever.
And I am thankful that we have these to share with our neighbors. Their only other source is a five kilometer walk down the mountain, if they have the money. I am thankful I have not contacted cholera, malaria, or TB. Denise had malaria one time and she was very sick.
I am thankful that I eat every day. My neighbors do not. Most days I have a bowl of soup for breakfast, and beans and rice for supper. Most meals we share with friends who would not eat otherwise. Often we do not finish all of the food because we know that there are young boys outside of our door, hungry.
I am not a genius or have an advanced formal education, but I did receive the proper nutrition when I was young so that my young brain developed while I was in school. I am thankful for that. I was taught problem solving skills. I learned at a young age the power of hard work. In raising my family I learned about using what I had to provide for my family, rather than complaining and asking for a handout. I am thankful for that.
So, what difference does it make that I sacrifice my life of comfort, to spend my life living alongside those who are trapped in grinding poverty?
I believe in helping ease the burden of people who have never had any of the advantages that I have had. Sometimes easing that burden is just living next to people, sharing in their daily lives, showing compassion and offering a helping hand.
Actions speak loud. Kindness fosters hope. Hope is the seed of dreams, dreams are the foundation of vision, and faith gives strength and courage to follow the vision. Faith is the substance of things hoped for.
I see changes in the friends we have made. Where once they had a vacant look in their eyes, and saw only helplessness, now, I see sparks of life and hope. They have discovered that there are possibilities.
Whereas at one time they constantly were begging for handouts, now they come to us with ideas for projects and ask for us to partner with them. I am thankful that we have the resources to buy beans and rice for a work crew, a work crew willing to volunteer their time and efforts to work on a community project, but do not have the calories needed to perform the work. I am thankful we have tools to loan and resources to buy essential materials.
These people are coming to understand their own value. They are beginning to recognize the gifts that God has given them. They are learning to have faith in themselves. They know that we will do all within our power to work alongside of them, so that they can accomplish the changes that are necessary to improve their lives. They know that we mean what we say, and do what we say.
But we do not work alone. We are part of the body of Christ. We prayed to be used as his hands and we are thankful for the opportunity. We are thankful for our faith community, and the whole body of Christ who share in this vision.
All of you who know us, know that we raise money for different projects. And that money earmarked for a particular project is used exclusively for that project.
Now we need to ask for your help to support our living expenses as we continue in this work. Denise and I live by faith, we are not wealthy and we do not have a nest egg. We do not have an income. We have given up the opportunities of full time permanent jobs to live and work in Haiti. Our lifelong business did not survive the financial meltdown. For the past three years, different benefactors provided our support. Now we are asking you to contribute.
Most of you have been with us on this journey for many years, you have followed along, sharing our struggles. You know we work diligently to be good stewards of the resources that have been given to us. We promise you that we will continue to maximize the impact of every dollar invested in the Haiti Project.
Please be generous, we hope we have earned your trust and confidence. God Bless you and your family this most holy of seasons.
The Haiti Project – 3668 Lower Helton Rd. – Alexandria, TN. 37012