We Need Help

Hi all,

We need help, so please pray for us, that God would meet our needs however He sees fit.

This last 2 months has been crazy busy. It’s been good, but I am becoming more and more aware of our need for help every day. Many days, I feel overwhelmed. Pray that God would continue to sustain us, as He has been doing for so long, and that we would keep our eyes on Him.

The busyness comes in many forms, with much of our energy going into our continual “survival”, including taking care of the kids, keeping up with maintenance of the house, workshop, and vehicles, and making sure we have basic things like power running and food in the pantry and time to cook it.
Beyond that, our requests for help continue to roll in. Each week, we are given the opportunity to help multiple other missions in Haiti, and sometimes we even have to turn them down. But that adds stress on my because I realized that there is no one else for me to recommend them to complete their work/ fix their problems.
On top of that, our guys are constantly itching to learn and stay busy, but many days, I struggle to just get a few minutes in over at the shop because of other commitments>
We are looking forward to possibilities for the future, including the fact that we may have more missionaries coming to help us for longer trips, but this is also a time that I am starting to realize our need to host a few short term trips, and possibly recruit some people to work with us from the U.S. as well.

We were glad to welcome a girl named Anna come to visit us a few weeks ago, and she expressed an interest in continuing to work with F1 Engineering, possibly for a couple months, as we figure out a project where our needs and her skill intersect well.

The following week, we were supposed to be visited by Matt and Christina Smith. This was a long-awaited trip to introduce Christina to our town and country. However, the plans had to be postponed indefinitely at the last minute when their children were passing around a stomach bug.

This was a tripping point for me to realize that we need more help, and I just kept holding out, thinking that they would be here soon and all would be fixed. But the truth is that they still have a big journey before they would make it here, and we are almost drowning as it is.

F1 Engineering has grown beyond what I could have dreamed up 7 years ago, and it is wonderful to see. But it is also growing beyond my ability to manage it all.
Many days, I don’t even get to the workshop to work with the crew because I am too busy with taking care of our family and the never ending emails and administration work to help other ministries down here.

So, I have updated our “How to Help” page with practical information about how some of you may be able to get involved.

We are looking at the possibility of hosting a couple short term teams in the winter/spring timeframe to do some construction in the shop.
And we will be looking for some professional help from mechanics and/or welders to come help us get our shop and vehicles up and running well, and to teach the crew to use and maintain what we have properly.

The link at the top of the page works, but here is the text as well, so it will be a part of this post.

God Bless.

How to Help:

Through Prayer:
-Pray for us. We are a bit overwhelmed right now. Pray for strength, peace, and wisdom for Jamie and I.
-Pray for the Smith Family, who have been planning to come to Haiti to join F1. They have encountered some difficulties along the way. Pray for discernment for their next step.
-Pray for Anna, who visited us, and is seeking if, when, and how she should get involved in this ministry.
-Pray for the guys in the shop. They are growing in skill and maturity. Pray for their spiritual growth as well. Many of them have been burned by church and “missionaries” before, so pray specifically that God would get ahold of them, that His Spirit would call them to follow Him.
-Pray for wisdom as we start into the projects below, that we would do as God would have us, giving Him the honor each step of the way.

Working with us from the U.S.:
*******ASAP, U.S.A. based projects*******
A generator project in Johnstown, PA.
We have been donated an Onan 30.0EK-15R generator, but it needs converted from natural gas to propane before we can ship it to Haiti.
We have shipping lined up from Alabama, but want to make sure it’s ready before we ship it.
This is an urgent need. I have some information about what parts need put on, and it may take someone with some mechanical experience. Please let me know if you can help.

Legal/Accounting:
-We’re looking to set up F1 Engineering as an independent 501c3. We have been a missions branch of Crucified Church for a long time, but some of our donations, like from Lincoln Electric, can only go to a 501c3 registered organization.
-We also need someone who can do data entry into our accounting software. Basically, just take a pile of receipts and enter their information and a scan and/or picture of them into the computer. My dad can continue to handle things after that point, but it would lessen his load significantly as he is overworked right now.

Graphic Design:
-I would love to be able to give the guys business cards. I have the capability to do it, but I don’t have time. If I give information, can someone make up some business cards for Gayly, Waly, and Anderson and I’ll get them printed up.

Electronics Engineering: (both of these will be implemented as soon as done. They could start helping systems
-We are experiencing a great need for a “simple” project. We need to put a current transducer on our battery banks, with a load diversion relay that will trigger automatically when the current into the batteries breaks the maximum threshold.

-Another simple project…A system to take 8 battery voltages (nominal 6V) and trigger a warning light if any of the batteries is higher or lower than the average.

Electrical/Coding:
-Building a data logging system to collect information on our installations to enable better troubleshooting and improve our future designs.
-Specifically will need someone to code a microcontroller to gather timestamped signals from ~20-30 inputs and probably a second person who would be in charge of doing the pre-processing of inputs to meet the voltage levels of the onboard ADC’s.

Accounting/Expense Tracking:
-I need someone to help me setup an accounting system, or explain to me some best practices. As of now, I end up with a stack of unorganized receipts that pile up until they look like a 2 ton weight that I can’t deal with. Ideally, it would be nice to be able to track funds on a missions credit card, checking account, paypal account, and shipping account all in a quick view.

Help with Project in Haiti:

*******September/early October 2018**********
-Pouring concrete for our driveway. We are starting to gather materials, but could use help in the near-ish future with site prep (leveling, sloping, forming) and the actual concrete work.

*******Sept, Oct, or Dec 2018*******
-1999 Chevy 3500, 5.4l V8, Dually, auto (need to diagnose before November 2018 to figure out next steps)
-Stuck in 2nd(?) gear. Runs fine, but never shifts.

-2000 Isuzu Trooper
-Undiagnosed issue. On first start of the morning, will not idle until after a 1-2 minute period of revving at about 2k. Works fine afterwards. Replaced MAF sensor, but did not fix issue..

-2002 Ford F150, 5.7l, auto (would like to fix this truck to sell by the end of 2018)
-Electrical issue disabled the scanner port.

—All vehicles—
-Maintenance on all brake systems and suspension (perpetual needs, anytime a mechanic is available)

***********Winter 2018/Spring 2019****************
General Construction: (before summer 2019)
-Framing rafters on our house and putting on sheet metal roofing. Simple purlin style, open gables. Purpose is to shade our concrete roof from the sun to reduce internal temperatures in our house.
–In turn, this will reduce utility bills, including gas for our generators
-Expanding the roof on the workshop to cover our expanded driveway space.

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Mid Summer Update

Hi all,

If anyone ever wondered, 2 kids is enough to keep anyone busy 😉

Mara is now 2 years and 2 months old, and Aiden is 5 1/2 months. They are such a joy and blessing in our lives. I cannot even begin to put it in to words.

We returned to Haiti with both of them at the end of March and have been trying to settle in/keep up with work ever since then. It’s been a struggle at times, if I’m honest, and it is exposing how much more we need to improve on time management and communication within our family, and within our work crew.

The crew is doing great. Honestly, one of our biggest challenges since we’ve returned is that Gayly and Waly have been getting more work requests as welders than ever before, so I actually have to verify their schedules before I can plan jobs. It’s a good problem to have, but it is teaching me to plan ahead much better than before.

One of our other recent challenges has been vehicles once again, but I think that is trending in a good direction now. Our family car, the Isuzu Trooper, took a few sick days in Port Au Prince about 2 months ago when the front U-joints went out. Since then it has been running as a 2 wheel drive vehicle, but we have the parts and it should be healthy again soon.
The work trucks keep trading off which one is running and plugging along, but they both need some work. We anxiously await our “new” 2002 Nissan Frontier 4-door pickup that is finally at the docks in Miami ready to ship into Haiti. It will give us a better people-moving truck, and it also has a bunch of parts to remedy the ailments of the other work trucks. Once it is here, we will likely sell our F150 to recoup some of the shipping costs as well. We definitively don’t want to keep running 3 work trucks due to maintenance expenses here.

We’re also eager for the truck to arrive for the generators that it holds inside. Our “shop generator” that is used for welding died about a month ago and we have been unable to get parts for it, so we finally had to break down and buy a generator here as well.
We got this Daewoo 6000 Watt diesel one 2 weeks ago. All the guys in the shop agreed to pitch in their pay for our big project last week towards this purchase and I’m sure it will help us a lot as we continue our work in the future.

Speaking of last week’s project. We were excited to get out 2nd big project in as many months. First, we did an installation for Haiti Christian Outreach in Peredo (just outside of Jacmel). It was (30) 260 Watt solar panels and 7200 Watts of inverters. And since that quote was fresh in my head, we were able to turn around and get another project for (30) 315 Watt panels and 10.2 kW of inverters for Deux Mains, a sandal manufacturer in Port Au Prince that is setting up a new factory space this summer.

Here are some pictures from the Deux Mains installation. I’m proud that this was probably our prettiest installation to date, with some nice new features like putting air filters around the inverter installation to try to increase their longevity.

This was an exciting project, and I am super proud of the guys. They did a great job this week, especially because I was gimping around (or just sitting down) most of the week after taking a fall off the ladder at my house last weekend.

Please pray for us Jamie, Mara, Aiden, and I head to PA for 3 weeks to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday.
And pray for those involved in our ministry, including our work crew for their safety, growth, and salvation, as well as the Smith Family and our newer friend Anna who are looking to maybe come join F1 Engineering’s efforts down here.

God Bless.

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2017 Year End Newsletter, Looking forward to a better 2018!

Thank you for all of your support of our ministry in Haiti.

This year had more than it’s share of ups and downs. In fact, it was probably the hardest year that I’ve spent in Haiti to date. But, we have learned through it and will be starting 2018 with a fresh perspective and lots of optimism. I know this is a long message, but please read it through, because the gloomy outlook of the first part is my attempt to be honest with all of you, but there is plenty of optimism as we look forward.

Most of the reasons that this last year was hard were self-inflicted.

One such difficulty was the painful end to our hurricane relief work. In the fall of 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti and we began to assist with relief work. That work went well for a couple of months. Our best week by far was the first trip after the hurricane. That week, our crew from Jacmel joined me and we simply went around cutting up trees that had fallen wherever there was a need. A crew of locals joined us, but all the work was done on a voluntary basis.

Unfortunately, as we took subsequent trips, more and more money was involved, whether it was being used to hire workers or purchase materials. We used this to build a few temporary shelters for families in need, and to hire many, many workers, but this stirred up trouble within the community. I was trying to use every dollar wisely, and we did the best we could.

We built multiple houses for families in need, and provided materials for many others. We even were able to provide jobs for over 100 men during our time in the community. However, as we would build a house, the family that was chosen would be excited, but another 20 people would complain that they were not chosen. Even as we chose workers, there were constant complaints about how we were choosing workers. The final straw, however, was when some unhappy members of the community actually blocked the road to prevent us from fixing someone’s house. Honestly, this broke my heart and kept me jaded for quite a bit of 2017.

While I still feel that God did want us to help with the relief work, I have learned that we must also continue to wait on Him for guidance in each step of the way. I think I was overwhelmed by the needs and a desire to help, but realized too late that I was not the best man for the job. Our most constructive efforts were to hire a trusted local crew to continue working while we were gone. They knew the community well and fixed the houses of those most desperately in need.
Beyond the hurricane relief work, this past year was trying because I couldn’t seem to keep up with doing our work well and being a dad. Part of it, granted, was that our house and vehicles both required significant maintenance this past year, and some of that is yet to be completed. Between the maintenance work and trying to be there for Jamie and Mara, I frequently got behind in responding to emails or planning work properly. Furthermore, many days the crew of guys at the shop didn’t have any work to do because I hadn’t made any plans for them.

All of this was weighing heavily on me, and I was not coping well. Each time I let someone down, I took it personally, and this even took a toll of my spiritual well-being. As I was struggling to find enough time in the day, I sacrificed the most important things, like taking time to read scripture and truly “Be Still” before God in prayer. As you can imagine, this is about the worst possible thing for a missionary to admit, and even to say it now makes me feel like a fraud. However, God was (and is) working in our midst, even in our struggles. So, on a more upbeat note, let me share with you some of the successes of 2017.

First, as I mentioned the hurricane relief work. While I don’t think we executed things as well as we could have, we were able to help many people that were in desperate need. Realizing how little our resources could do, I was intentional to pray with each family we surveyed and try to point their eyes towards God as Jehovah-Jireh, our great provider. And, in the end, we employed lots of people in need of work and provided help and materials to over 50 families trying to recover from this disaster.

Next, our crew of apprentices has grown tremendously. We have a regular group of 8 guys at this point with Lulu, Waly, Anderson, Kily, Gayly, Fleury, Deny and Chalet (not pictured). Gayly and Waly have developed into foremen in our crew and teach the other guys what they know. They have all grown significantly in skill and maturity this year.

Christmas 2016 with our crew and special guests Tiana (Gayly and Waly’s siter), and Petra from Saalem Church in Finland

Overall, we were able to complete 16 power system installations for missionaries all over the country in 2017. These missionaries ranged from dear friends in Jacmel, like Pastor Pierre and Chase and Kimmey Barbrey, to one of our furthest trips up into the Artibonite to put in a system at the Christian Veterinary Mission’s training center. Possibly even more exciting is that these guys have learned enough that I am able to send them to complete some work on their own and come in for inspections at the end.

Additionally, Daniel, whom we have sponsored at diesel mechanics school for 3 years graduated this year and is working in Port Au Prince. He also is engaged with hopes to get married soon. Unfortunately, good work is hard to find, so he is currently a driver there. I would love to have him move back to Jacmel and work with us, but until I can give him some sort of fixed income, I won’t be able to do that.

Then, we made some new friends, who we look forward to growing closer to this new year. Chase and Kimmey Barbrey moved in to Jacmel last February, and I was able to help them set up their house. Prior to coming to Haiti, they served for 3 years in Uganda, and they also have a little girl who is about 6 months younger than Mara. They became good friends quickly, and we plan to start some prayer and worship times together in the new year.

Travis, Mara, and Jamie with “Mimi”, Chase, Piper, and Kimmey at Piper’s 1st Birthday Party

And finally, our most exciting news of 2017 came to fruition on January 16, 2018 when our son Aiden Olavi Knipple was born. He is a wonderful little man and both he and Jamie are recovering quite well.

Looking into the new year, our hope is to return to some of the basic tenants of F1 Engineering more fully. Our stated purposes in Haiti have always been two-fold:

(1) To aid missionaries in Haiti with whatever skills/resources we can so that they may be better equipped to do what God has called them to.
(2) To use our work and tools to train up a group of young men in trade skills, maturity, and as men of God.

With these stated purposes in mind, we are trying to re-focus our efforts in 2018.

In order to start this new year off properly, we are taking the most important steps in our personal spiritual lives. This past year, we got off track on personal disciplines as well as community worship. So, in addition to Jamie and I getting back into our personal times with God, we will be seeking to have a regular time of worship and prayer that will be open to other missionaries in the community. Chase and Kimmey have expressed interest, and others may follow, but we need to do it for ourselves even if no one else can make it.

For our work, we will start the year by taking a few steps to improve our organizational administration. One step will be to officially start a “business” in Haiti, so that we are paying payroll taxes and everything as we should be. We will continue to focus our work on helping missionaries with non-profit jobs, but are open to the idea of taking on a few “for profit” jobs throughout the year, if it seems that God would have us to do that. It would certainly help fund more projects, but I do not want to fill our schedule with work that is not what we are meant to be doing.
As this new year starts, I will also be focusing more on our work crew. As they have progressed in their skills, I have handed off more and more responsibilities to them. It is a great step that they can do things on their own, but it has also created a situation where their skill level is no longer progressing as it should. Unfortunately, this also extends to their personal maturity, and even more so, their lack of spiritual growth. I must spend more time with them if we hope to make a shift from pure job training into a situation where the guys will come to know Christ and choose to follow Him. This is a big transition that I want to focus on, and it rides mostly on my own personal spiritual discipline and the prayers from all of us that our guys would to come to know and love God as we do.

A couple other exciting announcements that we have to make are:

We have received a donation from Lincoln Electric welding company and from J&J Trucks in Somerset of both a Plasma Cutter and a used Welder/Generator. These are great blessings as they will enable us to do even more work in the shop. Especially the generator is important as both of our generators currently in Haiti are giving us problems. I have not figured out the shipping arrangements yet, so please pray for wisdom with us on the best way to get these units to Haiti.

We also have an exciting partnership as we enter this next year. A few professors and students from Cedarville University, my Alma Mater, are planning to help us develop a power monitoring system that will enhance our installations all over the country so that we can maintain these systems better and expand them as necessary. We want to reduce the chances of maintenance failures causing damage to these systems that are major expenses for most ministries.

And the most exciting news is that there is a family that wants to come join us in Haiti and work with F1 Engineering. The Smith family, from Lawrence, Kansas, reached out to me in the fall of 2016. Matt Smith is an electrical engineer and he came down to visit us for 2 weeks in January of 2017 and is very excited about being part of what we are doing. With his help, we can ensure that everything we do gets done well, as I know I drop the ball sometimes because I have too many jobs going at once. Please pray for Matt, his wife Christina, and their 5 kids as they seek what God would have them do. There are many concerns in moving a large family to the field, but we know that God can do all things if we are faithful to follow Him in both timing and direction.

Thank you for your support this past year. We cannot do anything without God, and we truly value your prayers each and every day. As our family and ministry grow, we know there will be more stress, work, and expenses, but also more love, grace, and opportunities to honor God in all that we say and do. Please pray for us that we may remain focused on Him, and that He will make His priorities known to us as He provides for them.

God Bless,
Travis, Jamie, Mara & Aiden

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10Oct17 – Murphy’s Law of Haitian Vehicles

10Oct17 – Murphy’s Law

As mentioned in my previous post, I decided to get active on the blog again, starting with my last 2 weeks down here.

You may find a trend in these posts. We’ll go through some great successes, typically followed by a few things that slow us down again.

Just two weeks ago, our friend, Scott Payne, had finally fixed our F150 to get it running again for the first time in 18 months or so.
Unfortunately, one of Murphy’s laws here in Haiti is that when you do fix something, something else will inevitable break, especially with vehicles.

So, just as we finished the installation at the Barbrey’s house, the big truck (Chevy) decided that it didn’t want to come home and we left it there for the night.

On the 11th, we went over diagnosed it with 2 issues.
First, a bad connection between wires and the battery was causing the truck to either turn off, or just not start at all.
Second, a bearing went bad on one of the tensioning pulleys near (not on) the alternator.

Thankfully, both things were easy to remedy here in Jacmel, and by the afternoon the truck was running and on it’s way home to our house. A special thanks goes to Chase and Anderson for fixing the pulley because I had already promised Jamie that I would spend this day helping her prepare the house for upcoming guests.

However, while the truck was coming home, the front brakes started squealing, so we decided to change them. Unforunately, these pads are not locally available. Thankfully, the Kontsas family was able to bring them in for us on the 19th. For down here, a week and a half is a wonderful turn around time for a car repair, so we were quite happy.

In the mean time, we were able to use the little truck for the work that needed done for the rest of the week.

All that said, we have to give God some praise for the vehicles we have. This big truck, despite these latest difficulties, has been an absolute workhorse for 7 years. That is actually incredible given the terrain we have crossed and the work we have done. I’ve learned how to change most of the brake system, the water pump, and most of the steering system on that car, and it still runs. It looks like it’s from Mad Max these days, but we may even get some new doors soon (with functional windows). All of this from a truck that I bought back when I really had no idea what the mission was that God was calling me to. He knew, and He provided a fantastic vehicle for us.

I know this post may seem random, but I figured that I should let you actually see a bit into our lives down heres to understand what God has called us to, and how it plays out. Thank you for your support. Please keep praying for us and supporting however God leads.

God Bless.

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Barbrey Installation

The last 2 weeks have been pretty exciting down here. I will try to put up several posts in the next few days, but here is the start of that.

Back on Monday, the 8th, our crew was able to assist our dear friends, Chase and Kimmey Barbrey (and PE) by putting up solar panels on their house.

This meant a lot to me because they have quickly become close friends down here. Chase and I both love making things, and PE is only 6 months younger than Mara, so we look forward to having them grow up together. We thank God for moving them here, as we have prayed for a while for some close friends and they have been an answer to that prayer.

While it meant a lot to us to be able to help them, it also means a lot to them. Here are Kimmey’s words about it:

Chase, PE, and Kimmey Barbrey thanking the FBCO students who helped fund their solar installation.

“Today we went 24 hours without city power which is not abnormal. But, today was different because we did not have to spend money on fuel to run our generator for it to charge our batteries. Instead these fancy solar panels kept our batteries charged and us with sufficient power! We are so thankful to First Baptist Church Opelika Children’s Ministry for their donation for our family to have these installed. We are also grateful for F1 Engineering for getting them installed in one day this past Monday. Sweet PE also had fun play date while the dads installed the solar panels… or had a tea party with the girls. Same thing! 😜 #thebarbreytales #forlifeministries #fbco”

I want to thank all of you reading this for your support of F1 Engineering, that we can help awesome missionaries like that Barbreys save money and live better by having access to power. And thank you for supporting us as we train our crew down here. Recently, Gayly and Waly have officially taken over at the foremen, and I have stepped back into a supervisory role and let them do most of the work. While there are still little bits to fix when inspection time comes, they are learning quite well and can successfully install a system without me. It is very encouraging to see.

Kily painting the racks

Solarworld 295 Watt Panels

Gayly wiring up the panels.

Chase, Mara, and PE having a tea party.

*All photos taken by the Barbreys and used with permission*

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Post-Hurricane Update #9 – Wednesday Nov 3

Coming From a Changed Life A Guest Blog by Josh Knipple

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It’s now been a few days since returning home from Haiti. I have honestly been trying to process through in my mind what we experienced this past week. Heartache. Devastation. Turmoil. Loss. Hope.

I have worked in Louisiana after Katrina, Alabama and Arkansas after tornadoes, West Virginia and Kentucky after ice storms. I have also served and gone on many mission trips before this, including one to Haiti after the earthquake. Nothing though, could have prepared me for our venture to the Savannette.

Houses completely obliterated, to where families are living on a pile of dirt mixed together with busted concrete. Exposed rebar everywhere from where it had been torn apart. Seeing a family crawl out from under a piece of sheet metal they were using as a shelter.

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Then there’s the tarps. Tarps are like gold right now. Anything to get out of the sun but also provide shelter. People begging us for more tarps. Not food, not money, but tarps…

And yet, hope… This, is what I take away from a week of being there.

Seeing the community come together to help us rebuild even temporary tarp and 2 by 4 shelters. The hard working men coming out for 10 dollars a day doing machete work to clear houses and roads (and here we want 15 dollars an hour to flip a burger…). The image of kids joyfully running around with a tennis ball as their only possession…

Emotions can’t describe it. My heart and life have been changed.

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Post-Hurricane Update #8 – Thursday Oct 27

Post-Hurricane Update #8- Thursday Oct 27 – 11:30 pm

Today was a good day… Exhausting? Naturally. Full of “Haiti” extras? As expected. Overwhelming? Not surprisingly. Blessed? Most definitely, without a doubt, YES.

But I’m getting a head of myself…

As many of you already know, I’m back in Haiti after a whirlwind week in Pennsylvania. As busy as it was, it was a much needed breather from the overwhelming ride that the past few weeks since the hurricane have been. While I was greatly encouraged by the response of people wanting and willing to help us help those in Haiti, I’ll admit I was also a little terrified. You see, people often ask us, “how do you support yourselves in Haiti?” and my answer most often has simply been, “Jehovah Jireh. God provides. He will keep us going for as long as He has work for us to do.” And that has been true for me ever since I came to Haiti almost six years ago now. God has continued to provide for our every need (even if it hasn’t always been what, how, or even when we expected it to happen). He has kept us going. And now, as we’ve been working on hurricane relief and I see God answering our prayers above and beyond what I had initially expected, I can’t help thinking that He’s got more on His mind for us to do than I could have even imagined. And that is both an exciting and a scary thought all at once. A thought that I’m still processing, day by day…

But speaking of today…

Our first, full day in Savannette with the team from Johnstown (made up of my brother Josh, Sean McCool, Jeremy Barclay and Matt Trent) got off to a good start. The chainsaw crew, headed by Josh and Waly are doing a fantastic job, and Gayly has been great overseeing the teams clearing big trees around the area. This week we’ve also had two men from the church in Jacmel, sent by Pastor Pierre, join our usual gang, which has been a wonderful addition as they’ve been taking time ministering to the people in this community. Yesterday afternoon, as we went around distributing tarps, I lost count of how many times we prayed with people as we actually took some time to stop and talk with each of them.

Josh Cutting Trees

My brother Josh on the hard working tree cutting crew

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Temporary Tarp House

Building a makeshift tarp house

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All in all, we’ve already distributed about 30 tarps, and we also finished building our first makeshift house for a man whose home had been completely reduced to rubble. The best part of the day, however, came when we heard from one of Pastor Pierre’s guys that this man, and another guy from his area had accepted Christ! We could hardly contain our joy at the news. Who am I kidding? We couldn’t contain it. 🙂

So that was the highlight of the day…then came a bit of a low light…

Three of the local guys we had hired for the machete crew had kept asking us to come and see their community and the damage done to their houses there, so finally this afternoon Sean, Anderson and I agreed to take a walk with them. They took us down a small road and soon we were coming across houses that we hadn’t seen before. Broken houses. More homes without roofs and families in need of help.

All in all we saw about 20 houses (though there were many more), and even stopped to measure seven of them, but eventually had to draw a line somewhere. I admitted to the people that I felt heavy, because I could see so much need around me, and yet there was only so much that I could do to help and I didn’t want to promise them anything I couldn’t deliver…and incredibly, they understood. To be honest, most of them looked genuinely surprised to see strangers showing up in their zone in the first place, and completely unaware that anyone had even been trying to help in that area.

Now, from the beginning, I had defined a specific region on the Savannette stretch (from the intersection in the north to the church on the south) to focus on, but hadn’t quite realized that the whole area I saw tonight for the first time ever, was still in that zone. Most of the 100 houses we had surveyed a couple weeks ago, you can see from the main road. And now I was finally becoming aware of the fact that if you head either east or west of that big road, there are so many more houses unseen, and thus far, unreached. And I feel bad, because there’s even some elderly people who need tarps that are right outside the borders of this zone, but we just can’t stretch the perimeter right now until I know there’s more tarps to give. That said, I will admit that I did give away one tarp outside of that zone today….

A man on a motorcycle stopped to talk to me on the road this afternoon. He was coming from higher up the mountain, to the north, and had been heading to town when he spotted us. As he was talking to us, part of me kept wanting to say, “I’m sorry, but you’re outside of our zone. We can’t help you right now. You’re outside the zone,” but as he shared about having twin babies that were being rained on, I thought, “We have to check in on this.” So I called Paul, one of the local men in the area to check the man’s story for me. Turns out that this man lived over half an hour up the mountain. As Paul said “from way up there”, and there was no time to go investigating as it was already late afternoon. Sean and I looked at each other and agreed…maybe this man was just telling us a story, or perhaps he really does have twin babies waiting for him at home. Either way, the thought of them being exposed to the open sky was enough to give him the benefit of any doubts in our minds, and so we sent him on his way with a tarp in hand.

And while we’re still on the topic of tarps, I have to say that as I take a closer look around me at the houses that have attempted to do repair work themselves, I’m seeing a lot of makeshift fixes with cheap roofing. Many of these people are reusing scraps of tin that had been pulled off roofs during the hurricane, so they have holes in them, meaning that it blocks the sun somewhat, but does not keep the rain out of their homes. I know that in the past I mentioned that 90% or so of the houses in this community need roofs, but in reality it’s more like 99% of them. Needless to say it’s overwhelming. This is so big and there are so many, and we’re small, and but a few. But you have to start somewhere…

And at the end of the day, despite the ups and downs in between, I choose to lift my eyes off the temporary struggles and remember those two men whose lives were eternally changed today. And tomorrow, we’ll continue to do what we can, with what we have, where God has placed us, trusting that He will supply our needs.

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Hurricane Update #7 – Saturday Oct 15

Hurricane Update #7 – Saturday Oct 15 1:41am

Today has been a rough day.
This week started spectacularly, and crumbled a bit at the end for me, which is why I’m going to start with the end of the week, so that when you finish reading this, you will be reminded of the good, and not the bad.

Yesterday, we came home to Jacmel from the Savanette. By the time we arrived, I was already pretty tired and looking forward to a day off. However, before I had even entered our yard, I was told that one of our puppies (our dog Baloo had a surprise litter in August) could barely stand. Mandarin, one of the girls, was laying on the porch and having troubles lifting her head, so I sat with her for a while and helped her to take in some food and water. Once she did, I was able to get her standing and walking a bit, so I thought that maybe she would recover well.

I finally walked inside our house, only to find a little puddle of dark brown water waiting for me under the freezer… The last time that happened, Jamie & I had returned from a week long trip to the Savannette and discovered that everything in our freezer had defrosted and rotted while we were away, so I was definitely not looking forward to dealing with the mess again.

Thankfully I had a meeting to get to, so I left the freezer to wait a little longer, and headed out. When I returned a couple of hours later, Mandarin was much worse than before, so I tried calling the local vet. Sadly, by the time I was able to get a hold of him, she had taken a turn for the worse and passed away before I could even get her loaded in the car. By this time it was already 11:00 pm and I was completely exhausted. To top it off, I realized that even if I’d had the energy, I couldn’t bury her because we had left all of our shovels and picks in the big truck back in Savannette! I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry. In the end, I ended up wrapping her in plastic bags and sticking her in the freezer for the night, since I already knew I’d be throwing everything inside of it away.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well, thanks to a combination of no EDH (city power), a dead puppy in our freezer, the pile of mixed emotions threatening to erupt from this past week, and, most importantly, no baby in her crib at my feet or wife next to me in bed. I really could have used them last night because their smiles can change everything for me. But at least I could look up and thank God for a ceiling. And four walls. And a secure house…

Which brings me back to this past week.

I know many of you may have been reading the updates throughout the week, but this post will be more of a recap of it all, and a description of the work moving forward.

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Last Saturday, I hit the road to go to the Savannette with my guys, not really having a plan of exactly what we were going to do. I went with 4 tarps, and tools to do whatever we could. By the end of the week, one tarp was on the clinic, one tarp went with Smiley to his house, one went to Reginald so his family can move back home instead of staying in the MIA guesthouse, and one went to Joanes, who randomly came out to meet us.

Joanes is a carpenter from here in Jacmel who uses our tools and workshop whenever he has furniture to build. He’s a great guy, and his family lost their home out near Torbeck, which was quite close to where we were at. He came to visit us, and I was able to give him a tarp and an advance on building a kitchen table for us someday in the future, so that he could help his family right now.

Since that was all the tarps we had, our initial plans were to (a) clear trees, and (b) get the clinic back open to treat any medical issues that may arise in the community.

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Each morning we loaded up the truck with guys, machetes, and our chainsaw and worked from about 7-12, which is when it would get too hot to do much more. Our priorities were trees that were blocking the road or were on houses, so for now, we skipped many large trees that will need cleared someday, so that we could get the most important things done. In exciting news, we did manage to build temporary rafters and get a tarp secured over the clinic before we left, so it should at least be able to function again.

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Securing the tarp on the clinic roof.

Securing the tarp on the clinic roof.

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In the afternoons, I started surveying the community, and by the end of the week (with lots of help from Gala Calisto), we managed to survey about 80 houses and identified some of the greatest needs in the community.
Out of 80 houses, over 70 need tarps.

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When Gala and Susan Frame came to help from Jacmel, they brought with them 30 more tarps, which we handed out to where we felt were the biggest needs. Honestly, handing out tarps was more exhausting than working with the chainsaw crew. Even though the ones receiving them were quite grateful, it was difficult to not be discouraged by the amount of people surrounding us, creating problems for us by demanding a tarp for their house, or accusing us of breaking promises (which we never made, as we were clear to state at each house that we could not promise anything at all and were only collecting information for now). It’s part of the reason we are short on pictures from the survey and tarp process, because we didn’t want to take photos of any houses that we could not give aid to while we surveying, and because we were too busy to get the camera out during the distributions. However, we did at least manage to capture a picture at the one house where we actually helped put the tarp on.

Tarping Old Woman's House

Gala had noticed that this woman did not seem to have anyone to help her clear the rubble in her house, so we figured she would need help putting the tarp on as well. Her house was actually in better condition than most that we gave tarps to, but we were trying to pay attention to who had family helping them out as well as evaluating the house itself.

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Honestly, though, the struggles of tarp distribution were completely expected and understandable, and everyone did eventually calm down and respect our decisions. And as we left on Friday morning, they thanked us for all the hard work that was put in, and made sure we know they’re are looking forward to us returning in the future.

Looking forward, I had a meeting with some of the local supporters here in Jacmel last night. Gala, Susan, and Matt and Julie Reichard (from Carlisle, PA, working with Freedom Global Outreach) have been very supportive and are contributing financially to this relief project as well. We decided that this week would be set aside for rest and logistics. We are searching out prices for lumber, tin, tarps, and some school supplies, as we noticed that many of the childrens’ notebooks for school were destroyed by water damage.

Flooded Classroom at MIA School.

Flooded Classroom at MIA School.

I also talked on the phone for a while with my brother, and have been in contact with Kim Conrad, as both of them are planning to come down here and help out with the relief work. I will actually be trying to get to PA next week to see Jamie and Mara for a bit, before getting back into relief mode.

Due to the need to rest and recoup, I will not be making it to all the churches and groups that support us while I am home, but I will be announcing one evening when I will be sharing what is going on down here. It will most likely take place at Crucified Church, though I don’t know what night yet. The following week, I will return to Haiti and a small team from Johnstown will be joining me, including Jeremy Barclay, Josh, Sean, and a possible fourth person, who is currently trying to get time off from work. Unfortunately I can’t take anyone else right now as our Isuzu will only carry 5 people with luggage from PAP to the Savannette.

For that week, our goals are to:

Get more tarps. We hope to bring at least 100 tarps to the community for distribution, because that is the fastest and most economical way to address the need for rain protection in the houses. We’ll be buying tarps in Port Au Prince for ~$22, and will add some materials to tie the tarp down into place. If any of you would like to help sponsor some materials, $25 will get a tarp on a house that already has rafters in place, or about $60 should allow us to get lumber to put up supports under the tarp as well.

Put a permanent roof on the clinic. We have a structural engineer designing a truss layout for the clinic, so the plan is to build trusses and get the permanent roof in place before Dr. Jay arrives with a medical team on November 12.

Continue with the tree cutting. We will be sending out teams each morning to cut more trees, but now we will also start hiring our machete crew instead of taking volunteers. These people need income, so we want to sponsor them to work on a project that will help their families and their community. Paying the men will probably be about $10/man/day if you would like to contribute to that as well.

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Re-evaluate the community needs. After we have taken a week off, we will get a chance to see who has the means to rebuild themselves, and who does not. Those who are capable of working, will already have started to do so by the time we return, which will help us to identify those in the greatest need. We will certainly not be promising anything to individuals yet, but we have plans that we could build a secure 8’x10′ single room building for about $450. The hard part is that the same money could tarp 18 roofs, or pay for 45 man-days of labor, so we will have to see a significant need to decide that an individual needs a new shelter.

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Houses completely destroyed.

Houses completely destroyed.

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We will also keep an eye on the health and food supply of the community, as they are currently not a problem, but either one could quickly take a turn for the worse. Cholera is popping up in some regions which could cause disastrous results, and most of the agriculture in the area was decimated, so the food supply may see a significant reduction soon. Pray that neither of these situations arises, but, if they do, we will respond accordingly.

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Minister, not just work. I have reached out to Pierre, our pastor here in Jacmel, to see if we can get a couple people from our church to join our team with a focus on talking to residents and addressing their spiritual needs in this traumatic time. Please pray that God would send the right people for this job as I feel that having Haitians minister to Haitians will be even more effective than if our team tried to do it through translators.

When Josh’s team leaves, I will be picking up Kim Conrad the following day at the airport and we will return to the Savanette to continue working. This will also be a convenient time to resupply. The details of what we will work on will depend on the outcome of the previous week of work. We will look to collect some things in the US while I am home, but I won’t know exactly until I get there.

If you are interested in helping, right now finances are the biggest support we need. We will use it to buy materials locally since importing things is not only slow and expensive, but this way we support the local economy as well.

Thank you for all of your support, and for taking the time to read these scattered thoughts… We need your prayers for the Savanette, and for wisdom and strength for ourselves as we continue this ministry.

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Hurricane Update # 6 – Tuesday Oct 11

Hurricane Update # 6 – Tuesday Oct 11

We’re 3 days into our disaster relief work in the Savannette area.
Each day we’ve started at about 7am and cut trees until noon, by which time the heat is unbearable enough to force us to retreat (and recover) for a couple hours, somewhere safe from the sun’s beating rays.

We’ve been working hard to clear roads and chop down trees that fell on top of houses first, since that is a high priority. I can see that this task is going to take a while, so the chainsaw as well as plenty of manpower are going to be needed for a long time… I’m already thinking that once we get to a point where we have the roads cleared and trees out of people’s houses, it may become an avenue to hire some of the local men to work with us to continue cutting up the fallen trees.

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Chopping wood

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On the topic of roofing, I am excited that a structural engineer has offered us his expertise and is currently working on plans for a new roof truss for the clinic. We’ve also had word of a donation coming in to help with buying supplies for it, which is wonderful news as well. There have been several mild injuries around here that could become infections if not treated, so we want to get the clinic functioning again as soon as possible. The engineer is also going to help me work up what rafters should look like on the various houses that are broken, as I would really like to make sure that any roofs we end (re)building are strong and sturdy.

Many people would like to restore their damaged houses, but I must admit that I’m scared to rebuild a house whose concrete blocks got knocked over in the wind. However, I also probably can’t convince them not to rebuild it the same way (at least not very easily), so I’m trying my best to come up with modifications that would at least make the structures safer, while still using some of the same building methods they are used to.

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Speaking of which, we will need to buy lumber and tin soon. As we’ve been cutting, we’ve tried to keep our eyes open for any wood that we could scavenge, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s not a practical plan. Turns out that most of the trees that fell are terrible for construction because the are too soft.

I also have yet to come up with a solution for the people whose houses were completely decimated, but I am working on getting prices to try and do at least small wooden shacks with tin walls as temporary shelters.

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In other news from today, just as I was leaving to drive down into Les Cayes to get internet, we finally received reinforcements! Susan Frame and Gala Calisto had driven out from Jacmel to help us out a bit and deliver much needed supplies. So now we at least have some tarps, nails, roofing screws, etc. The plan is still to try and split into 2 crews, with one team working on tarping houses, and the other continuing clearing roads, while I send Gala to talk to the community and survey more houses for damage, since she speaks Kreyol much better than I do.

Aid is a very tricky thing though.

As I surveyed houses these past couple of days, I encountered a wide array of reactions.

At each house I would explain that “we are here to help”, but that we came with tools and manpower only, and that “we have few supplies and cannot give new tin roofing to everyone”. Surprisingly, some of the worst reactions I got were from people whose houses weathered the storm the best, as they seemed to think they are entitled to free supplies.

On the other hand, some of the best reactions came from families whose houses were flattened and were glad to have any help at all come to the area.

We have been quite clear to everyone that we came with little, and we can promise nothing, but what we do have (tools and manpower), we will gladly give.

Most people are extremely grateful.

As we were chainsawing today, we encountered a couple who had retired from their work in the US and moved back to Haiti. They had a giant tree fall on their house, which we were able to clear. They fed us bread, water, and even some AK100, which is a Maize-based porridge sort of thing, as a thank you.

Although it has been hot and tiring (and still a bit overwhelming), it’s moments like these that bring a smile to a weary (and very dirty) face. It’s kind of funny that since I’m the only one with a chainsaw, I’m also the only one at the end of the day completely covered in sawdust, but it’s all good.

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Hurricane Update # 5 – Sunday Oct 9

Hurricane Update # 5 – Sunday Oct 9

Apparently the signal isn’t good down here, and my battery is low, so for the time being, Jamie is playing the role of secretary.

Today, we spent a good part of the day cutting trees, trying to clear the road and salvage any wood that might be helpful. I must say I was glad to dust off our old chainsaw which had been sitting dormant for the past few years and finally put it to some good use. We definitely got more work done than if we only had machetes.

Clearing the Road - Savannette, Haiti

Clearing the Road – Savannette, Haiti

Waly/Cutting Trees

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In the afternoon, we were finally able to start surveying the surrounding area to get a better idea of the damage left behind by Hurricane Matthew. From what we’ve gathered, there have been no deaths, but only by the grace of God. Out of the 42 houses we visited, only two were “fine”. 11 of them were completely totaled, with nothing to salvage or even put a tarp over, and the rest of them are in desperate need of roofs as they’re currently unlivable, even for the Haitians.

Thankfully, we should have some tarps arriving on Tuesday as two more friends from Jacmel are coming to help us out. Susan Frame and Gala Calisto will be bringing much needed supplies including machetes, roofing screws, plumber’s tape, nails, peanut butter, etc. The plan is to split into two crews, with one team continuing to survey the community, and the other one degaje-ing some makeshift shelters. “Degaje” is a Kreyol term that pretty much means “make do with what you have” or “do what you got to do”, which is pretty fitting as we’ll be trying to build some shacks out of the tarps, downed breadfruit trees and whatever else we can find that might be useful. We still have no idea what we will do for the houses that are completely destroyed, but at least it’s a start.

I’ll admit, when I first got here, I was feeling overwhelmed by the devastating needs around me. But as I see people (both local and abroad) coming together to support us and this community, I’m greatly encouraged, and reminded once again that God is good, and faithful to provide.

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