Monday, June 28, 2010


Automatic vs. 5 speed manual shift

I'm not sure what the ages of my blog readership may be but if it mimic's the ages of those who come on mission trips with PH-H to Haiti it probably ranges from 17-mid 70's. When I came of age to drive it was the era of the "muscle car" and if you had the real thing you had a manual transmission. A "4 speed on the floor" was the phrase we often used and though automatics had been around for decades they just didn't seem appropriate with the big horsepower engines of the 60's and 70's. Manual shifts are still available but today they are associated more with fuel economy, cheaper to buy, or power to haul heavy loads and climb steep inclines(hills & mountains).

I know by now your thinking you may have gotten on the wrong blog site. Possibly Auto Trend or Hot Rods & Muscle Cars but no this is the official site of Project Help-Haiti a blog dedicated to missions. A short story will get us back in that direction. My foreman at the Borel Missions Campus is fondly called "Big Ben" he is not big and his real name is Joseph he isn't sure why everyone calls him "Big Ben". Several weeks ago I sent Ben and several visiting Americans to Liancourt a nearby town to buy 50 cement blocks so we could elevate some reclining chairs for our visiting dental team. That day they had borrowed Ben's brother's Toyota 5 speed truck. Ben was shifting through the range of gears and as he shifted from 4th to 5th the gear shift shift lever came unbolted to the transmission, Ben who is mostly unflappable and never for a loss of words looked over at the Americans and said" this isn't good I think we got a problem". To continue on down the road and accomplish the task at hand that morning one of the guys reached down through the floor board and as Ben pushed on the clutch engaged the transmission into gear with his fingers. The rest of the trip back to Borel was made in a mid range gear a good choice for that situation. If they had chosen first gear they would have had to creep along at under 10 mph if a higher gear they would have struggled to take off with such a heavy load and would not be able to climb any sort of inclines.

Manual transmission vehicles are the choice of most mission's operations in Haiti. In fact the new truck PH-H is purchasing will be a 5 speed manual transmission. The landscape is varied and often brutal in Haiti. There are very few paved roads, mountains that peak at 8,000 feet, rivers to ford, hairpin curves, steep inclines, mud during the raining season and sandy beaches and desert like areas. Missions organization rely on manual shift 5 speed transmissions that is a fact when they choose a vehicle.

To my way of thinking the mission organization itself needs to be operated like a manual shift transmission. An automatic is made for ease of operating comfort but with an automatic comes some limitations. Yes you just put it in drive and go but often you lose touch with the machine and the road. You are limited to pulling, pushing, climbing, slowing down on steep inclines with out burning up the brakes, and getting unstuck in sticky situations. If you are a missionary or visit the mission field or manage or sit on a mission board you know that your organization encounters all those types of situations at some point, at times it seems all in the same day.

I took over as director of PH-H on Nov. 1st 2009. Project Help-Haiti is an organization that was established in 1967 , we aren't the oldest mission around but we are approaching a half century. With those four plus decades comes a lot of baggage ( problems). Jan. 12th 2010 not only changed the landscape and lives of Haiti and it's people but also the mission organizations working there. PH-H started out in 1967 as a manual shift organization and then we traded it in for an automatic, we often do that as people and organizations. My first two new cars after marriage were manual shift out of necessity and practicality, later on we switched to automatics out of comfort. Now as the new director of Project Help-Haiti I believe the switch needs to be made to make our organization once again a 5 speed manual transmission , I've discovered myself saying of late, "this isn't good I think we got a problem". In God's love, steve

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I arrived back in the states last Saturday evening from Haiti. After church on Sunday Shirley and I headed over to Decatur Illinois to attend the annual meeting of the Churches of God's Midwest Conference. We spoke on Monday afternoon about the direction of our work in Haiti and the affects of the earthquake on those efforts. On Monday evening along with the Church of God missionaries from Brazil and Sweden we were honored at a mission dinner. I was able to surprise Gordon Avey who with his wife Annie are the missionary in Brazil with an official Team Brazil soccer shirt. On Tuesday after attending the Avey's presentation of their mission work in Brazil we headed back to Indiana. Saturday afternoon I invited the designer of the new Project Help website which we hope to launch soon and some other mutual friends who are involved with our work in Haiti to a cookout at our lake home in northern Indiana . We planned the menu around a Caribbean theme with Jamaican barbecue chicken, Bermuda style hamburgers, white rice, bean and creole sauce, pickles , ti malice, fresh fruits and assorted snacks and side dishes. It was a fun way to kick off the start of summer and my short 4 weeks before I head back to Haiti.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Two of the Snyder kids playing with Clona
My wife, daughter and grand daughter

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Here at Borel we have two young men who work for us who are deaf mutes. Their name are Dukenson and Phileas. I know I have the spelling wrong but that is how their names sound phonetically. They grew up here in the community and I first met them when I worked here for several months in 2002, they were probably 14-15 years old and would show up each day to help me with whatever I might be doing that day. After I left here a COG mission team arrived and took them on as a ministry outreach. They gave money to send them to Port au Prince to learn to sign to learn a trade and for Dukenson to read and write. Eventually they came back to Borel to live. Last year when I came back to Project Help to be director I gave them jobs here in the compound. They are good workers and show up every morning at 6:00 to start work. They would often tell me in sign about their house and how the roof leaked. Now since we are in the rainy season we went to look at their small one room abode that they call home. The team decided to take a day to put on a roof that doesn't leak. Everyone agreed this was a very rewarding project. Yet to describe how pleased and proud they were about are willingness to help them is beyond my writing abilities but believe me it is a cherished memory that will last a lifetime.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Our Project Help compound at Borel has been in existence since 1967 . Some of the buildings we built during our first five years others were built during the years American Fruit Company held ownership from 1920's to 1940's. Though several of the the houses have been torn down for construction of other building five of the former mission houses still exist. The largest house though built as a home for the Jim Wallace family in the late 60's now serves as the main guesthouse. The house I live in has at times over the last 8 years served as the missionary house or a guesthouse. Three of the other houses range from livable to needing a serious makeover. The fifth house which is in the worse shape we have at times considered tearing down but since it's still I think we can find a use for it.
With new missionaries arriving soon we are working hard to prepare a nice family home for them by Jan. It is my hope we will recruit a few more missionaries to help with the abundance of work at hand in the coming months and years ahead. If you read these blogs you know that we are embarking on a new path as we refocus and direct our work here. With the existing medical ministry and the new agriculture, community development and micro loans work we are planning. The Borel compound will become once again a hub of activity. most of our teams coming our helping us give the compound a new look and bring many of the unused buildings back to use. We will have one of the houses finished later this year for the Snyder family. Earlier this year we converted the old butcher shop to a mission team work shop. The poultry barn is planned to become a tilapia fish rearing facility. The original mission dorm may become four small apartments for our visiting agriculture experts and short term volunteers. The present guesthouse is in need of some serious updates to provide more of a guesthouse appearance than a ranch house style. New rules are being implemented for our workers and daily visitors, tighter regulation of the day to day operation will soon be forthcoming to better control how the facilities function. These things don't happen over night especially in Haiti but progress is on the way. Teams this week have been cleaning up much of the junk to be disposed of at a scrap yard in Port au Prince and trash is being cleaned up to haul to a land fill. A new incinerator and trash holding area are being built . A new security building that all visitors must pass through will be built before the end of the year. I'm looking at new infrastructure to make things such as communications, water and electricity more dependable. We have already installed a smaller more fuel miserly generator and battery inverter system for the mission houses and more dependable and quicker Internet and phone service. I'm looking at locating a central dining and cooking area in the bottom of the LDTS building as better than having it located in the guesthouse where it is crowded, hard to clean and attracts rodents. Instead of each missionary having a separate fully equipped kitchen they eat together and only have a small fridge and microwave or small apartment stove in their houses. These are all plans that may be coming in the months ahead, some are being implemented as each new team arrives to help out. An extreme makeover maybe not but a makeover for sure.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Two weeks ago we had a group here from the University of Findlay. They did some work projects for us but mostly they came to do ministry work. This included showing the Jesus film at 3 locations. On the next to last day they visited the refugee camp where they entertained the kids with some skits and songs.

Monday, June 7, 2010


It has been very busy for me here in Haiti the last 4 weeks what with teams every week and now the next two weeks I will have multiple teams. Last week I caught a cold and sore throat and still feel lousy what with the awful heat we are having . Last week my wife joined me and brought our daughter and granddaughter, Alysia and Whitley, for them it is a first visit but probably not the last. It is always good when families get to enjoy a mission trip together and one of the things we like to promote. Two of our team members have traveled with their son and daughters on a combined mission team from Ohio and Pa. Missions impact lives not only for the people in the countries they go to but they shape the lives of those who come. I receive letters and talk to many so many who are living proof of it.

In a way it is good that my daughter and granddaughter can be a part of a mission team experience. Yet I hope when they can come again that we can have more than the 2 days we had this time just as a family. We tried to make the most of those 2 days by having supper and swimming first evening at Club Indigo . The next morning we spent time with Dr. Kerry and Joy Reeves who we consider some of our closest friends here in Haiti. Their kids enjoy having my wife Shirley as a surrogate grandmother here in Haiti. It was great that Alysia and Whitley could meet them. In Haiti you make the most of good friendships not only for companionship but for someone you can count on when you need to.