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June 2013

Van Dam's Reflections from Haiti 

". . . always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Ephesians 5: 20 

Dear Family and Friends,

If you are one of our supporters who only receive our hard copies, I'm afraid its been several months since you have heard from us. Therefore, this letter will be kind of a summary of what God has been doing in Haiti through our partners and the many visitors who have landed in Port-au-Prince.

Since December we have had over 100 individuals visit our field. Many worked or the construction of the Ministry for Christian Development's conference center. Several groups came to work on finishing The Children's Paradise Christian School in collaboration with our partner CRECH and Worldwide Christian Schools. We had a few representatives of World Renew and CRWM including board members and regional leaders. We met a delegation from the Council of Korean CRC churches in NA for a brief orientation to the CRC's work in Haiti. And we even enjoyed a few family members. Howard's father, Rev. Harry Van Dam and his wife, Carolyn came and joined us for a quick peek of our life here in Haiti.

What have our partners been up to? Here is a summary of their ministry results since July, 2012:

2,306: Number of individuals developing their capacity as leaders (pastors, deacons, community leaders, teachers, administrators, etc.)

5,235: Number of participants in community transfor-mation programs (literacy, micro-credit, co-ops, etc.)

21: Number of new believers in the CRC of Haiti.

2,105: Number of people following a particular disciple-ship program.

582: Number of Christian school teachers implementing an integrated model of education. Each number represents an individual who is learning and growing and experiencing transformation in their life. Praise God for the ministry of our partners and pray for them and each individual whose life has been and is being changed to the glory of God.

 

Our family is also growing and changing all the time.

  • Taressa successfully completed her first year at Calvin College and is spending a few weeks with us in Haiti. She will again work at Pathfinder Lodge in Cooperstown, NY this summer.
  • Natasha is finishing grade 11 year. Recently she took the SAT, two AP tests and is now preparing for her final exams. She plans to attend In Faith Facing the Future at Calvin Seminary this summer.
  • Micah and Malieke will be graduating from grade 8 up to high school this month.
  • Howard has enjoyed delving into research and development on alternative cooking fuels and stoves (more about that later).
  • Howard, Ruth, Micah and Malieke will spend the summer exploring more of Haiti. I pray God blesses your family and service.

 Praises and Prayer Requests:

  • Praise God for our partners and the individual lives that are impacted through their ministry
  • Praise God for another successful school year for all our children.
  • Praise God for each visitor that God brought to Haiti. Pray that they will go back to their homes and want to share what God is doing in this place.
  • Pray for the completion of MIA's conference center building. We are still needing 3 - 4 teams.
  • Pray for Taressa and Natasha's summer work and travels.
  • URGENT: Please pray for funds for two partners to produce much sought after Christian curriculum for 1) church and community leadership development (MDK) and 2) elementary education (CRECH). MDK is needing $4,353 and CRECH needs $2,619 by June 30. 

What can I do with one can? 

I have always enjoyed wood working There is nothing I would rather do than to take a piece of hardwood and turn it into functional art Haiti has many unique indigenous trees and one of my favorites is a hardwood called chen This dark-colored wood is an excellent choice for wood workers. But. there is another competing demand for chen and it comes from those who produce and sell charcoal.

 

Over 300,000 tons of trees are cut down every year to meet the insatiable appetite for charcoal as cooking fuel for the majority of Haiti's 9.8 million people. At one time, forest covered over 95% of its land, today less than 5% remains. Deforestation and erosion are huge issues. Natural disasters are more prevalent in areas where there are few trees especially along the steep mountain slopes. This loss of top soil every year also contributes to declining food production.

 

Over ten years ago, I was first introduced to paper briquettes. an alternative fuel for cooking. Back then, there would be an occasional development worker who would promote these as a viable option to reduce the demand on trees but there seemed to be little interest There were also drawbacks to using briquettes Briquettes needed new types of stoves which meant greater financial investment.

 

About 6 months ago. I heard of a United Nations program that was looking for a supplier of inexpensive briquettes for a large school's hot lunch program. These schools received stoves that were specifically designed to burn briquettes! Last week we delivered a load of briquettes we had made to be tested by these schools. The results Showed that our research and development stage has not come to an end. More refining and testing needed to produce the right mix of ingredients to fuel these specialized stoves.

 

Recently, I prepared a briquette demonstration for Micah and Malieke's eighth grade class at Quisqueya Christian School (QCS). I was able to talk about the plight of the country—the shortage of trees and how people assume that trees will always be available for

making charcoal. We talked about the negative impact this was having on the country These students were actively engaged in asking questions and coining up with solutions of how to better manage their trees.

 

If the only change people were to make was to use a more efficient charcoal stove, :hat alone would save over 20 tons of trees every year! But there are no easy answers. There must be concerted efforts in solving the issues related to energy. Drawing today's youth into the discussion is a step in the right direction.

 

We hope to introduce more environmentally friendly projects to our partner organizations who focus on youth. We believe that the youth could become the force to bring about significant development in the environmental issues. Please pray that God will empower the youth to tackle these complex issues and seek for a greener tomorrow.

 

 


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