In Light of What They Suffer

I watched that video this week about a place where they make mud pies so they can give their children something to eat. I only wish it was in a far off land that I could be somewhat skeptical about and forget because I probably won’t ever go there. But this is a place I’ve actually traveled through a time or two on local transportation with the people in this video (or at least they could have been the very same people). I’ve actually seen those dirt cookies selling on the street. I’ve actually seen people eating them. I typically don’t like to share things that make Haiti out to be this terribly wretched place. Not everyone in Haiti is eating dirt. Lots of rice and beans (but for most not enough), but not dirt. However, it is true that this is the reality for some. It is because of these and others in danger of becoming the “some” that I am sharing this now. Those some are some of our KOFAEL ladies who live all too near the area where this video was filmed living this surviving day to day existence. Some of them have faced this reality in the past and we never want to see them have to face it again.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do and more in the light of what they suffer.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I’ve read and re-read that quote this week and tried to find a way around the way it has irked me. There’s this nagging American mindset that wants to sing a pretty little song about getting to become whatever one sets their pretty little mind to while forgetting that much of the rest of the world does not live in the land of opportunity. Messy life happens here. Messy life happens everywhere I know, but Haiti is drowning in mess. Last night a storm blew through scattering dirt and leaves and water all over our open air house (inside and out). I had spent half the day cleaning and washing clothes that were still on the line. Mess. But that was just surface mess, easily swept away and forgotten. However, when a storm blows through a small stick or tent house with a dirt floor it takes longer to pick up the pieces and surface mess is piled on the list of other more serious insurmountable messes.  It seems one can never get ahead. A mentality of poverty runs rampant and deep. There is a never ending onion to peel and my eyes sting just thinking about it. Political mess. Unbridled corruption.  I will never fully understand the way a Haitian thinks enough to figure out why they do or omit to do certain things. Things that would help make their lives less messy (in my opinion). Things that would of course help make my life less messy (selfish thoughts that do nothing but add to my irk). The longer I live here the less I know I know. But I do know this. The Haitian people have lived through way too many messy storms –storms that blow in suddenly without warning taking much more than laundry off the line. My Haitian friends, neighbors, and co-workers have suffered in ways I cannot begin to comprehend. I’m thankful I get to live in this mess with them and share a small portion of their sufferings. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to know and regard them as people and not just a giant mess of some distant country on the news that cooks up dirt for dinner. What they suffer matters. God’s way is always the way of suffering. We cannot draw close to Him without fellowshipping in His sufferings and the things that break His heart. These people are precious to Him.  The way we show love and respect to those who suffer most, “the least of these”, is the way we show love and respect for what Christ has suffered for us. If we ignore their plight, we are choosing to ignore Him (Matthew 25:40, 45).

I have shared about KOFAEL in the past HERE, HERE, HEREHERE, and HERE in case you want to go back and read a book on the journey we’ve had the privilege to take with these precious ladies over the past four years.

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KOFAEL is mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts supporting and sustaining the children in their lives through their hard work in this program. There are more than 150 children that benefit from KOFAEL helping to keep their families together.
Kofael ladies ready to learn at one of our monthly meetings.
Kofael ladies ready to learn at one of our monthly meetings.
Kofael member teaching a lesson on successful business techniques at a monthly meeting. The women teach and encourage one another through their work.
Kofael member teaching a lesson on successful business techniques at a monthly meeting. The women teach and encourage one another through their work.
We love these ladies! They are not just statistics to us. We want to see them continue to succeed and never have to feed their children dirt cookies! Can you even imagine?
We love these ladies! They are not just statistics to us. We want to see them continue to succeed and never have to feed their children dirt cookies! Can you even imagine?

What is going on with KOFAEL and why I am sharing about dirt cookies, mess, suffering and such? We lost our meeting house (which is vital to the program to have a safe place to meet) unexpectedly due to unforeseen circumstances last month. The contract on the house that we have been blessed to meet at for free the past two years was originally a five year contract.  I won’t go into all the reasons this happened because those reasons did not involve us or KOFAEL and this was completely out of our control. We tried to talk to the owner of the house to be able to pay to stay because our Haitian directors also lived there and we knew it would be extremely difficult to find a similar place in the same area and move a family and a house full of stuff in Haiti on short notice. But it was not to be. So as of September 1st, KOFAEL (as an organization) and its Haitian directors (Frantz and Julienne along with their baby girl “Jo”) were (and still are) homeless in Haiti. This sent everyone spinning the past few weeks in the midst of tropical flooding, impassible roads, political elections and the rioting that always accompanies them, and school starting.  Moving KOFAEL has been an unexpected ordeal. We were able to have last months meeting at the old location but were not able to tell the ladies where to meet this month. We found temporary shelter for Frantz, Julienne, baby Jo and the household items. But it is very temporary. One blessing in the storm was that Hope for My Sister (the ministry that had been gifting KOFAEL with a wonderful meeting place the past two years) donated all the big house furnishings and appliances to KOFAEL for our future meeting place/office/home for Frantz and Julienne. So whenever we are able to secure a new place, it will be furnished with the basic things we need! Another blessing is that we have a matching grant offer up to $5,000 to help us with this need! We need your help to match it and secure a house before the end of September so that we can have a place to meet for KOFAEL. We have looked into a few temporary meeting options and nothing has worked out so far. The women depend on the monthly meetings to pay back and receive their micro loans. Missing a month of meetings for everyone is not an option anyone can afford. We must have our own safe place to meet and we need it before the end of this month. The only way for this to happen is for us to pay a full year at a time up front on a rental property as is typically required in Haiti but  very difficult to come up with on short notice.

We cannot imagine some of the women going back to the level of poverty they suffered before they joined KOFAEL.  We cannot imagine letting them down when they have worked so hard due to “unforeseen circumstances” that seem so petty in the big scheme of things. We believe God orchestrated all these frustrations for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory. We believe we are not called to bear these things alone or ask the women to bear more suffering on their own. We believe if you have the ability to read this and are doing so now that you are among those who have the opportunity to DO SOMETHING about it NOW. You have no idea how something as small as giving up a few Starbucks drinks would mean to these women. To us. We believe there is something you can choose to simply give up today so that KOFAEL does not have to give up their tomorrow. We don’t believe in giving handouts and these women aren’t asking for them. We do believe in giving opportunities. Opportunities that those who were not born in a country like Haiti all too often take for granted. We believe that we need to have a sustainable plan for the future of KOFAEL and we are continuing to work toward that end. But “in the light of what they suffer” on a daily basis we believe that it is important for them to have a safe place to meet, to fellowship, to learn, to worship, to receive and pay back their business loans without being legitimately concerned about the stranger observing that could rob them on their way home. We believe it is important to protect and encourage our Haitian partners (Frantz and Julienne) that had the heart to sacrifice and start this program in the first place. It is important for them to have a home for their family where they too feel safe and can continue ministry. We certainly cannot do this without them. We cannot imagine not seeing them through this ordeal that has already been very tough on their family during this past month of displacement.  We are asking humbly for your help with God’s help. Because we cannot do this alone. So “in light of what they suffer” and the many things God’s Word has to say about how we should respond to the suffering of the poor, will you be praying how you can help?

A special fundraising page has been set up for “Kay Kofael” – Kofael House through Heart of God International Ministries and we are asking for your help to make this happen.

All donations are tax deductible in the U.S. and we personally accept full responsibility and accountability for this fundraiser ensuring that the money will be used exactly as promised. If you have any questions about the KOFAEL program or have other ideas for how your family, church, small group, rotary club, etc. might like to help, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Note: Just for clarity sake as some have been confused I want to be clear that the KOFAEL house is specifically for the ministry of KOFAEL and the Haitian family that directs the program. This is NOT for the Ream Team house and we have not moved. We still live in the same house we have lived in for the past 3 years in St. Marc which is about 2 hours from where the KOFAEL house has been and where the new house will be. Our family lived in Port au Prince our first year in Haiti (so we know the area pretty well) and that is when we first got involved with KOFAEL and have continued to help the program grow so that it can help more Haitian families.

Thank you for reading, praying and sharing.

Because of what Christ suffered for me,

Elisabeth

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