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  • Tom Stein

Cokes and Conversations

Another day, another long and dusty road. But many blessings along the way. After a bit of disappointment -- we were not able to close the deal on the land this week -- we left Hinche this morning and did another bank transaction at Unibank for payroll. I invited everyone in for the experience.

Once again we were taken from the queue amid the ding ding dinging tellers. This time to be lead to what appeared to be an office. It was not. It was the continuation of the teller counter with no room to open the door so we had to go in close the door and move behind in order for the next person to enter the room. Fanfan, Valery, Tricia, Nathan and I wedged ourselves in. Then the process begins: form filling, ID checking, form checking, and than the wait. We discovered about twenty minutes in that they were collecting money from all the tellers to have enough for our conversion.

With our task finished we piled into the truck. Tricia, once again, rode on someone's lap in the back seat, and we made our way to Benico. Tricia was happy we were not doing the last few miles to the farm. One trip to the top is enough for most people, but our staff makes this trek faithfully five days a week. God bless them.

We arrived at the office. The crowd began to gather even before we disentagled ourselves from the vehicle. We quickly opened the donation bins and sorted as best we could as the crowd pressed in. To create some order, Anaxe explained a system starting with Grandma and proceeding to the children -- each one walked away with a new toy. In twenty minutes, the piles where completely depleted, even the pink cowboy boots. We conducted some more interviews with workers and neighbors, and finally we were on our way back to Port au Prince and it's endless traffic jams.

As a bonus blessing on the drive back, we stopped on the outskirts of Port au Prince to drop off Anaxe, and as we pulled up, he asked us to come meet his family. After three years, we finally passed muster, and he opened up his home to us. As we walked the path to his house, we past a small church. After meeting his wife and five children, we sat down for some cold Coca-colas and conversation. We discovered Anaxe was the pastor of that church outside, andhe and his wife run a k-6 school. He felt a call to preach after a recurring dream he had as a 22 year old.

Anaxe is from a family of 18, and his brother and his father-in-law are also pastors. As we left, after meeting his brother-in-law and sister-in-law, he walked us through his church. There are too few seats for the 150 member congregation, so many bring chairs from home every Sundays. 7 families currently live in the church building because they cannot afford rent (which is paid annually). Anaxe's extended family is moving in with him share expenses, as well. And this man, father, minister, community organizer, and faithful servant chooses to work for us because he believes in our mission. Wow!

Needless to say, we left inspired and energized. We discussed ways to help his ministry, church and school. And I was touched by a simple observation I made earlier in the day. Anaxe didn't ask for any of the donations. Even when I suggested holding some aside for others, he declined. But he did slip a little hotel bottle of lotion into his pocket, probably a little gift his wife.

After Junior maneuvered his way through the crowded streets of Port au Prince, we safely arrived back at Matthew 25. We were just in time to meet two new groups from Washington, DC and Minnesota. They picked my brain over dinner.

We had surprise visitor to dinner tonight. Msgr. Pierre Andre Pierre, the president of Notre Dame Universities of Haiti. The Monsignor and I discussed some possible collaborations. His school of bioengineering is just outside Hinche, and could assist us in the charcoal conversion process. The school of agronomy could assist us in starting farms around Haiti. And the engineering schools could help build kilns in Haiti, to our specifications. As if that wasn't enough the Monsignor is interested in collaborating with Concordia University to fill scholarship spots for Haitian scholars in the future. We hope to encourage more schools to offer scholarships to students from Haiti. And help find scholarships for students to attend universities in Haiti.

It's been a long day, a fruitful day, and a day ending with so many wonderful blessings, kisses, hugs, smiles, and more hugs.

Tomorrow, we are off to visit to the orphanage​ to discuss how we might assist them. I am sure more blessings will fall upon our group and those with whom we share THE love.

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