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Blessing Damassin Pt 2

        The morning sun began to illuminate the night sky, and we were already four hours into our day. We had just loaded 17 tons of food undercover and sent off our payload to our final destination. With the team in our vans, we were finally headed to the province of Damassin.  
        Leaving the city of La Cayes towards the coastline, the footprints of Hurricane Matthew were becoming very real. Electrical poles were toppled over houses like dominoes for miles. The pattern of roofless houses and hollow frames of buildings, stood staring at us like ghosts of a once beautiful town. Tall coconut trees & plants forcefully bowed face down in one direction, exposing the towns bare of it’s beauty. 
         Sitting in the van, the reactions of the team began to popcorn throughout the ride. Comments of shock and surprise began to contrast against my seasoned heart that oddly felt no reaction to what I was seeing. This is all I knew of Haiti; destruction, poverty, and the overwhelming sense of need. I thought nothing of it until I realized that this beautiful coast was never hit by the earthquake in 2010. Only then did I notice the destruction was fresh, and the remnants of beauty were still there peeking through the rubble. 
         Passing the villagers, many were rebuilding their homes frame by frame. Most were using mere branches from fallen trees, using old rusty nails and tarps to rebuild what was left of their homes. I flew the drone to get a better view of the city. A coastline that was once filled with beaches were now blackened by soil and sediment, leaving only traces of it’s former beauty. Even more disheartening, was the fact they were rebuilding their homes on top of the destruction by the coast. There was no where for them to go.

    After two hours we arrived to the small coastal town of Damassin. After planning with the local authorities, we had decided to have the distribution behind the catholic church north of the town. We arrived to a peaceful and small crowd waiting early for us. But as we slowly rolled unto the property, I felt uncertainty fill the air around me. It wasn’t about the current reality, but the speculation of just one loose screw that could flop the whole operation. The day before, the unfortunate accident at the port was caused by one kid who’s desperation for food, surpassed the risk of getting shot. Unfortunately, it cost him his life. Desperation and fear in moments of survival is hard to manage in oneself, let alone within the thousands that were about to arrive. 

 Province of Damassin

Province of Damassin

          Within 30 minutes, our crowd of one hundred became a few thousand. Everyone from the elderly to young children flooded the vicinity. Before it got out of hand, we quickly parked our massive truck as a wall against the entrance to create a barrier. The alley to the entrance looked like a scene from Israel’s exodus out of Egypt. The initial strategy was to let 25 people in at a time to distribute the payload. Only members of family that had a specialized ticket would be able to enter.
          Behind the scenes, the Catholic church became a bees nest of hard workers taking raw materials and creating hand-made blessings. Like a well oiled machine, the team was installing 1000 water filters. The pews of the sanctuary were filled edge to edge with buckets as the sun rays pierced through what was left of the churches roof.
         Back outside, only after about a few rotations did we begin to see tension rise as the flaws of our system become more apparent. Off in the distance I saw elderly being sandwiched from the mass of people pushing to enter in a single file line. Philipson alone was putting out more fires than any team could handle. Having everyone complaining with a dramatic reason why they should enter first was a nightmare.
         At one point, even the catholic priest brought it upon himself to create a special line for “his people”. In the Haitian culture, the catholic priests are on the top of the food chain of religious authority. Evangelical pastors are unfortunately synonymous with the voodoo witch doctors. They are seen as mere equals. So in this moment of chaos, it was a clear abuse of power with no one to oppose his actions. 
        But God’s children getting food, was more important than cultural hierarchies. Philipson had to maintain control and not break the system we had in place. If else, every battle won up till now would have been for nothing. So in front of hundreds of Haitians, He felt the Lord tell him to do the most outrageous thing. He proceeded by getting on both knees and said to the Priest “I honor you, but I absolutely will not respect your line. We must maintain this system to have everyone fed”. The Priest stood staring back in disbelief. He was in shock, speechless. With the crowds eyes now on him, he disbanded his line and humbly cooperated until the end of the operation. A small battle was won, but only to have two more just like it arise. 
       All of us could feel the tipping point approaching. There was no order and all of our five senses collided with the wall of a tangible angst. More were getting frustrated, and less were getting the relief they came for. Then the yelling began along with self-proclaimed vigilantes trying to control the crowd who had zero authority. In due time, one line became two, two became three, and what was left of the controlled chaos was now just a crowd of desperate people surrounding our truck. People began leaking into the compound from all around us until there was no line at all. So regrettably, we abandoned our original plan and closed the doors of the truck.

          17 tons of food, thousands of frustrated villagers and an inch away from failure. We rendezvous’din the catholic church to center our hearts.  With windows wrapped around the building, we were exposed like animals in a zoo. At every opening, all you could see were Haitian eyes staring back at you. Children would laugh or smile back. Some would motion their hands to their mouth signaling they were hungry. Most stared at us with a dissonant confusion wondering why weren’t giving what we promised. But in that moment, we didn’t need another plan. We needed the presence of God, so we worshipped. 
          In unison we began to sing, “Our God is an Awesome God” as our voices echoed throughout the church. It was a surreal moment to respond to the mountains of trials & tribulations by enthroning Jesus. The world outside would deem us as fools or even failures, yet we knew deep in our hearts it was actually our greatest strategy. It brought back memories of the house of prayer in St. Marc, worshipping & praying day and night during the cholera epidemic. If my memory served me right, God would show up in His way for our greatest good. It was a reminder that Worship, was our Weapon of Warfare.
        
 As we were singing, I saw one of our Haitian sisters, Laica, lean in and share something with Philipson. She felt God had shared a vision of the villagers flowing in and out of the catholic church being blessed by us. She felt it was a strategy to reorganize the whole distribution around the church. To be candid, it was an insane and very unsafe idea. What that logistically meant was that we would now have to transport all 17 tons of food inside of the church from the truck without any disruptions. But without hesitation, Philipson strategized with the priest and made it happen. The church was apparently now the new control center for the distribution.
        With the help of 20 locals, every bag of rice & beans flowed into the sanctuary. Our new helpers began taking initiative of the operation inside, filling each bucket with food to prepare for the incoming citizens. It was as if we were standing in the eye of a tornado, finding peace as we watched Haitians taking initiative and sacrificing to help their own all around us. The spirit we witnessed outside, was no longer present. No disruptions. Just people helping one another. All the food was miraculously brought in safely.
        Using three separate entrances, one by one people flowed through the church to pick up their buckets & food. Getting in was still a challenge as people flooded each gateway. Our team had to drag people in by hand to overcome the crowd.  Flying the drone around the church, It reminded me of a scene pulled from The Walking Dead. The church was completely surrounded by Haitians still causing a ruckus and pushing fiercely to get in. But once they entered there was a visible sigh of relief & joy, walking away with food & filter in hand. Each smile seen on their faces made us forget the challenges we faced to get here. 


        In less than two hours, we found ourselves once again staring at empty pews. There were no more food or buckets to pass out. The mission, was a radical success. No riots, no violence; just a few angry people along the way. And in Haiti, thats considered a solid win.
        I remember asking Philipson, what in his right made him agree to Laica’s vision. In hindsight some confessed they thought it was a crazy and stupid idea. It opposed all forms of conventional logic as it was just too risky. But Philipson said something I’ll never forget. He replied “Because I wanted her to know that she could hear God’s voice, and that she too was made to be a leader”. That one small spiritual lesson of humility & faith, was a catalyst to our success. Laica’s faith to speak out what she saw from God, coupled with Philipson’s faith to see the leadership in Laica, released God’s strategy to succeed. In the end, thousands were blessed day, and a leader was being formed before our eyes. 
       Returning home to Les Cayes, our past 14 hours felt like a dream. As we arrived to our guest house, we ran into an ambassador who had been attempting to distribute 1000 bags of rice per day. She represented a very large non-profit that sent first responders to disaster sites all across the world.  She was in disbelief as we shared about what we had accomplished. Apparently almost every distribution she had attempted was cut short due to violence or unrest. It was humbling to hear, but only confirmed God’s hand in our mission.  
       As the house fell asleep, Philipson and I were in the kitchen sitting in silence. With giddy smiles on our faces, all we could conjure up were 20 variations of “I can’t believe we did it; it was a miracle”. And still as I sit in my living room in Los Angeles, I have yet to explain the journey we experienced in Haiti. It sounds painfully cliche to say every point of the operation was carried by God’s hand. But in our case, it would be a disservice to the events that unfolded; and even more so to your prayers we witnessed manifesting around us. 
        Because of your support, the people of Haiti have something to build their lives upon. It isn’t merely the food or water filters, but the surpassing hope they encountered that comes from Christ. Thousands of lives were blessed by your prayers & contributions, and the team and I cannot thank you enough for extending your faith in us. With this initial operation, we will continue to build a relationship with the local authorities to further bless the province. Also because of your overwhelming response, we were able to set aside enough funds for another food distribution in the near future for another 1000 families. We pray that God only continues to multiply what He has started through you all. Furthermore, we pray God pours into you all a double portion of what you’ve entrusted to us this season. 

Love you all more than you know, 

Jasen

Blessing Damassin Pt 1

           Haiti has never been an easy pill to swallow. When I first arrived after the earthquake, my heart and mind were blank canvases ready to embrace the brokenness of the infamous NGO blackhole. I was naive to any world outside the borders of a first world nation. I had no reference. Poor was just a concept and desperation had no name. Then, I arrived. Quickly poverty was my unavoidable neighbor and became an unsettling acquaintance. It was hard to see such beautiful people oppressed by disaster & poverty; two layers one would never hope to co-exist. But I began to live with it, and attributed the state of this nation with this horrific natural disaster. I had a hope that in due time I would see Haiti transformed.
           Six years has passed since the earthquake with many trips in between. Anyone can attest much can change in five years. I for one wasn’t naive anymore; if anything, I’ve recovered from a jaded heart. But as I stepped off the plane one thing remained the same: Haiti. The smell of burning trash, dust and oil still permeated the senses. The colors of rust and shades of dirt coated everything in sight amongst the faded Caribbean pastels. Tent cities disappeared and familiar streets were no longer landfills; yet it wasn’t indicative of progress. From what I hear, people were merely pushed away from the public eye as dirt brushed under the rug. So with this disturbing thought greeting my return, the team and I began to embark on this one week blitz to bless 1000 families
          Landing in Port-Au-Prince, Philipson and I spent the first few days traveling to the largest food distribution centers in Haiti. Shopping for rice, beans, and buckets for water filters for an estimated 5000-7000 people wasn’t an easy task. We had three different teams to procure all of the resources over the course of a week. One thing was very clear. There is no Costco. There is no Walmart. And the idea of wholesale supply chains was a joke. When we picked up the beans in Les Cayes, I’m pretty sure we purchased most of the cities inventory. We wiped whole store fronts clean one at a time. 
           I’ve never measured food in such large quantities, as I’ve always reserved the measurement of tons for the occasional elephants and whales. But at the end of the day, we stood gazing at over 17 tons of food. 27,500 lbs of rice and 8000 lbs of beans was a sight to see. Unfortunately what we forgot to respectfully calculate is the amount of man power needed to take it on and off the trucks. No machines, just pure man power. 
         Thankfully God rallied an amazing team that understood why they were there. Some had never been on missions before. No training, but just thrown into the fire of Haiti. I admit I myself was skeptical of how they would handle it. But God sent, leaders. He sent servant hearts ready to be disrupted toward revelation & love. Even more beautiful, was the opportunity to work along side Haitian brothers & sisters. Having Haitian pastors & lay leaders on the team gave us front row seats to witnessing the future leaders of this country before our eyes. In a nation raised by poverty and entitlement, to see humble and selfless leaders serving their very own will bring the gospel to new life. 
           So with a team of 19, this motley crew single-handedly made this emergency mission possible. They carried tons of food (literally); hand washed and installed 1000 water filters, scooped 8000 lbs of beans into 1000 sacks; all while carrying a constant heart of sacrifice to see the people of Haiti see a better tomorrow. 


         But as with any call of God it wasn’t without warfare against our team. I’ve learned over the years that when your operations face direct opposition, you’re probably doing something right. Days before our distribution, the city of Les Cayes was facing massive tension as food distributions from different organizations were going wrong. 24 hours before our scheduled distribution, a relief effort by the port 1 mile away had gone sour and three people were shot by the police. Three more shootings followed. One victim unfortunately was a teenage boy, causing the city to go up in an uproar. Riots and protests proceeded outside our doors as looting and towers of smoke from burning tires covered the city landscape. Rioters paraded the teenage boys body down the streets to protest and spur on anger against the local authorities. It was heartbreaking.
           An hour later, somehow a truck from that very distribution at the port coincidentally found itself right in front of our doors. It had detoured from the main road to avoid the rioters. Mind you, our guest house was a few blocks nestled away safely from the main street. What ensued next brewed the perfect storm. 
          Across the street there was another guest house a stones throw away. A team had just returned from an unsuccessful distribution where they had no choice to close the truck and return home. What they didn't know was that residents from that small town followed them for two hours to the guest house, finding them standing at their front gate demanding food. And like clockwork, the truck from the port passed our houses colliding with our demanding guests. Screaming and fighting ensued as the truck was being raided for food. 
          We ran to the gate to deadbolt and lock all the doors as Philipson shouted for every foreigner to hide in the house. In times of desperation & relief, any sign of foreigners can lead to the conclusion there is food nearby. Ironically unbeknownst to these people we had 17 tons of food right under their nose. Police eventually rushed to the scene to break up the fiasco and the truck full of food went on its way.


          After the dust had settled we were quickly acquainted with our reality. The riots, the food, and the despair all collided too close to home. Some of our team was genuinely shaken. The oldest of us, Clyde, happened to be on the rooftop and witnessed the whole episode in clear sight. With tears in his eyes, he shared he had never seen anything like it in his whole life… There’s an unavoidable weight that loads your heart when such select words come from a man seasoned from life. 
          I couldn’t help but empathize so deeply, because I knew nothing could ever prepare one to see raw human despair. No TV Show or sensationalized infomercial is comparable to witnessing the pain of human suffering. This kind is unique; birthed from a basic element you and I never worry about: food. It’s painful to see, too familiar to ignore, and unjust to mankind. You want to do everything you can to stop it, but aren’t always given the powers to do so. 
          When leading a team through civil unrest and disaster, it’s been proven as wisdom to lean in on God’s voice. What was He saying? What is He teaching us through all this? At the least, one thing was very clear - we were prepared more than ever to face turmoil, and serve God’s children in the face of it. There would be no more surprises, and no unwarranted reactions from the team. We could execute our distribution with sobriety and without fear in our hearts.
          From this one event, our playing field had radically changed. Any box truck could be an indicator for food and now a target. We also had to load our our trucks without anyone in the neighborhood noticing. While still adjusting to these challenges, we received word of even worse news. During the civil unrest, the storefront of our very own contracted trucking company was set on fire.  Out of fear, the owner called and expressed he would no longer be a part of our operation. It was the night before our D-Day, and suddenly the legs of our operations were completely cut under us. All we could do was pray and believe this was God’s mission and not ours.
          It was getting late without any hopes of a truck. So our head of security decided to take a break from the stress, and take a walk onto the main road. When suddenly two ginormous headlights approached beaming through the dark & dusty oncoming traffic. He ran and hailed the truck to stop, taking the slim chance to offer our risky job. The truck driver replied “Yes! I’ve been looking for a job since morning!”  When the truck pulled up to our gate, it was even bigger than the two box trucks we originally had. God provided a 40ft monster that could carry the 17 ton payload in a single sweep. The mission was green lit back again and the operation was a go. 
          So at 2AM, the team began to load our newfound truck in secret. It was the only way to ensure our stockpile of food would get transported unnoticed. One by one, the food quietly flowed through the assembly line of helpers under the Haitian moonlight. All you could hear was the shaking of rice and heavy breathing of hard workers. I remember praying over each bag of rice that came across my hands, asking God to bless the family it would soon be touching. Watching the team work so diligently, I knew everyone had the same in mind. 
          19 servants, 35,000 lbs of food, no disruptions. In less than two hours, we found ourselves sending off the truck to the coastal province of Damassin, Haiti. Our first challenge was overcome and the real work was about to begin. We sent the truck ahead of the pack to separate it from us foreigners to ensure the safety of our payload. Our head of security would go along to ensure it would get there without interruptions.
          Everything was smooth sailing, until along the way they encountered a massive uphill. It seems the weight of the food took a toll on the engine, and didn’t have the power to pull. Our food was officially stuck and exposed. Then the worse case scenario had presented itself. Onlookers began to notice as they saw the truck with engines revving, and lingering at the bottom of the hill. They put two and two together and approached the truck. Inevitably, a small scurry started as people began arguing for the food.
           The truck driver in a panic stuck his head out, and noticed in the distance a man in a tractor. Then a brilliant idea came to mind. He took a chance and screamed: “Help! This is food to help the victims in Damassin!” Now everyone knew for sure it was tons of food. But low and behold, the tractor approached heroically driving through the crowd to push our truck up the hill to safety. In a time of self-preservation and survival, this man sacrificed his safety and reputation to help. Whether he was just a man with sudden compassion, or an Angel of God, he singlehandedly saved our operation.
           Needless to say the challenges to even get to Damassin were many. But this only fueled us to finish well. We still had many challenges ahead of us. There was too much uncertainty of what would happen during the distribution. It was hard enough that we could only give food to 1000 families out of 5000 in the province. Would people riot? Would there be order?… Only time would tell. 

To be continued ……

TATTERED MAPS

"GOD DOESN'T CALL THE QUALIFIED,
GOD QUALIFIES THE CALLED". 

         On this Earth, there is no place like the arid badlands of hope deferred. It’s a place that is lonely, and hidden, yet familiar to the souls that have been lured by the strength of dreams. Dreams of living your calling; dreams of laying your head in the sweet night with fulfillment; awakening to a world where your hopes and reality are singing in harmony. 
         Sojourning on this ancient path of faith, I’ve grown an eerie familiarity with chasing the mirages that have led here. It’s a phenomenon that births, when the very hope we so tightly gripped suddenly slip between our fingers. And all thats left in our hands? a tattered map to these very badlands. It’s a place where people marred by the collision of devotion & betrayal reside. Devotion flowing through our veins, from foolishly running after any whisper or storm of God; yet scarred with betrayal, from the hopes and expectations that seemed to have turned against us.  
         It’s quite frightening how all the bravery that kept you running, can quickly leave you over a canyon without the wings to carry you over. Icarus comes to mind; how one can soar with wings hand sewn with hope, only to rise too close to the blazing sun made of dreams. The fall from high hopes is draining. Humbling. A downright buzz kill. And to be candid, I recently found myself prostrate on the floor, speechless, with only tears that could speak on my behalf to God. 

I was frustrated. I was tired. I am tired.      

         Ultimately in that moment, I was losing hope in, well … hope. Without too much detail, 2015 was another year along the dotted lines of this tattered map. Again, I found myself with a sick heart from hope deferred (Prov.13:12) But how that journey started could have never been further from the truth. All the dials were set to believe this was God. Regardless of having to move to Los Angeles, leave my family & friends, take a huge pay cut (even as a missionary), rejecting other opportunities …. I had a dream and a word of the Lord. Prophetic words spoken five years ago were coming to life: Word. By. Word. I had the fear of the Lord, and others felt it too. 
         Expectancy as you can imagine was through the roof. What ensued was anything but. Moving seven times, not getting paid in the last six months, seeing four major projects dissolve before launching…. I felt like I was in a prison. A prison to my own expectations, my own dreams, and being cornered by the dangerous tension between asking God questions, and questioning God. Was this not the answer to years of praying? to be launched out and no longer wander? Wasn’t this the end of my desert place?
         Thoughts of injustice, entitlement, and fear were taking a hold of me. It’s crippling when you follow the Lord on faith, and everything you least expected run into you head on. It was as if the light at the end of the tunnel, wasn't a growing light of hope, but an incoming train. And so I began to think maybe, just maybe, on this leap of faith … I may have missed it.
         But as I lay in my pool of silence, God reminded me I wasn’t the first, but one of many familiar with these prison walls. There was Joseph, son of Jacob; a young boy born with favor who chased dreams, only to be sold into slavery by his own brothers into a decade of hardship. If any moment of favor was placed upon him, it seems the world had a habit of turning against him. His dreams from God were met with betrayal and slavery; his righteousness was met with imprisonment by Potiphar’s wife; and his compassion to help an inmate led to abandonment and being forgotten. Deferred hope, was an unwanted companion. 
         Moses shared in his suffering. Set apart for a life of favor and royalty, overnight he was driven to 40 years of lowliness in the shepherd fields. Everything was stripped away; all the comforts, dreams and passions from his youth. But in God’s kindness, He encountered Moses and called him to deliver a nation. Yet armed with the word of the Lord, the signs, wonders & plagues, Moses faced empty expectations as Pharaohs heart refused. Every meeting with Pharaoh, was met with rejection that chipped away hope. In his humanity, I could see his obedience being tempted to be lured toward unbelief. Pharaoh finally did release Israel, yet before the dust could settle, Moses found himself leading millions toward an impending death sentence. The Egyptian military was behind them. The Red Sea was in front of them. The hits wouldn’t stop coming. 
         We can only imagine the heights of hope from which he fell, when Moses felt the salty breeze of the Red Sea. But we know how this story, and how all the others have ended… 

God was faithful. God is faithful. 
So much so, that deferred hope in the Kingdom, 
Is for us, and never against us. 

          At first glance, it's easy to believe Joseph & Moses were the products of increased strength or strategy. Perhaps it was the royal Egyptian education of Moses, or the management knack of Joseph. But over the balconies of Heaven, the cloud of witnesses saw a very different story: men who paid a price to learn the art of surrender. Men who bowed to YHWH instead of their own hopes and dreams. Through trials and tribulations, God was committed to use every moment to leave no stone of worldly hope unturned. Every sting of disappointment, was met with a call to die, and let God live in them. No plan of Heaven, great or small, was to be contained within a soul not fully yielded to God.

To this day, this law, has never changed. 

          No matter where the pieces may have fallen, I have focused this blur of deferred hope and begun to see Heaven’s waiting room around me. I'm learning It is here where our cries to know God and be used, are mysteriously being answered. It is the resting place for the God chasers; the war room where our hearts are trained for battle. It's designed to be a sanctuary for the dreamers, soaked with the tears of surrender, that have forged god-fearing heroes. 
           So for those with a sick heart, silence thy soul. Breathe deep. And take hold of the loving truth behind these badlands. God has never in history been surprised by setbacks, and He's not starting with ours today.  Don't misinterpret these moments in life, and prematurely give up. Regardless of how deferred hope may feel, God is working miracles from within; the only place where God can dig a well deep enough to contain His purposes. We are not alone, nor misunderstood. We are in the company of generations that have gone before us, kneeled with us, and prayed our very words to the same unfailing GodOur Heavenly Father who has molded generations of sinners toward their destinies. 
         As we embark unto 2016, remember there is no ocean, army or prison cell that can stand in the way of God’s purposes for us. Surrender joyfully. Die willingly. And witness God split the seas on our behalf. 

Love you all more than you know.