Tales of the last few weeks.

Much has happened over the past couple of weeks, but little sunshine means little power, and so here I am to narrate the tales of the last few weeks.

I’ll start with a visit from our fearless leader from Hawaii, Sean, the very man under whose leadership Jacques and I met and fell in like. Sean came to Haiti for a visit, and we travelled to the island of La Gonave with him, his son Brendan and a couple others on a speedboat, to our friends’ Katie and Bernard’s place.

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Most of our mornings looked like this – hours spent talking and sharing and inhaling his wisdom.  All of his words seem to carry a piercing kind of truth, and conversations with him left me feeling challenged, empowered and excited. It has always fascinated me that some peoples’ words can be many and deep, that bring some kind of real change into the atmosphere that they are spoken, and others’ words can be many and meaningless. I hope and pray I become one whose words are deep.

While in La Gonave we rode motorcycles up a mountain one day to a town called ‘Nan Café’ (‘In Coffee’ in Haitian Creole), where coffee trees grow wildly. The land on which they grow is community property, and people pick as they want to drink, or the community gifts them at special events, such as weddings or funerals. We picked lots of coffee cherries.

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At the end of that week, we hosted an intensive teachers’ workshop here in Montrouis, with a goal of providing training for teachers to more effectively teach and mentor the children under their care.

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It was so inspiring to see how in just a few days, teachers were challenged and inspired to do their work with so much greater skill and passion. The teachers wanted more training like this, and I saw what a great need there is for free or inexpensive but quality training for teachers, and probably many other professions here in Haiti. I wrote an extended email about this seminar – if you’re interested in hearing more, let me know.

It’s kind of always been a dream of mine to have goats. Goats roam the streets of Haiti in all colours and sizes and I find myself watching them in fascination on most days. When we heard one of our cousins was selling two goats and a goat foetus for 3000 gourdes (a BARGAIN), I knew it was a closing door of opportunity that I had to leap through.

And so we did.

It’s such a beautiful thing to trade pieces of paper for living, breathing goats.


We plan to keep these two, Sarah Mami and Pi, and sell the baby goats as they grow. Jacques and I always said we’d build a house on a mountain with a lush garden and animals of every kind. It’s fun seeing this dream slowly become a reality.

Next on my list are pigs!

We moved our life (two fat suitcases and lots of borrowed furniture, cutlery and crockery) into a perfect little house on the other side of the town of Montrouis, which is completely a gift of God. When we first inspected it, I was somewhat discouraged, as I thought it was perfect in too many ways, but knew we wouldn’t be able to afford it. We proposed a crazily low price to rent it, 98% sure it wouldn’t be accepted, and it was!

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We have always wanted a home where anyone can come at any time and feel at home. It’s definitely been the case, and at any given time you’ll find a random assortment of humans at our place. Although part of the goal of moving here was to have more private time, it makes me happy to know this home is never lonely but instead is full of laughter, singing, debate and love.

Jacques and some friends have begun working on our garden, which was ugly and bare, but now full of baby papaya trees.

On the 2nd of September, 23 years ago, one of the cutest black babies in the world was born on the ground in a humble home in Montrouis. His name should have been ‘Jacques Smith Celiscar’, but due to human error on his birth certificate, he turned out to be ‘Jacques Ismith Seliscar’. Years later I married this special soul, and I am endlessly grateful that I did.

On the 23rd anniversary of his birth, I had diarrhea about 20 times that day, but family and friends came over and helped host a dinner party to celebrate this wonderful man.

After 5 months of marriage, some which make up some of the more difficult months of my life that provided the time and environment to expose many of each others’ flaws, I can honestly say that I am thankful that God chose him for me.

Here are 10 things I love about him.

  1. He is wise.
  2. The way he embodies the meaning of generosity throws out any idea of generosity I previously had. He’d give away everything to bless others and live on nothing but faith in a heartbeat.
  3. His heart for others always amazes me, and it’s not tainted with a speck of personal agenda. He genuinely loves others, and does all he can to serve them and bless them.
  4. He is a natural leader, and people listen to him and follow him. He effortlessly rallies groups of people to work together towards something.
  5. He makes everyone laugh, wherever we go.
  6. He looks at everything and sees a new business opportunity. The World Cup, goats, Insanity work out, our new home – you name it, there’s a way to make money out of it.
  7. As soon as he decides he wants to do something, he gets on it. He wasn’t born with an ounce of procrastination in him. He just makes things happen.
  8. He forgives quickly and easily. More quickly and easily than anyone I know.
  9. He has so much integrity before God.
  10. When I get mad about a person or a situation, am hurt or offended, defending my rights, and thinking that as my husband he will side with me and agree with me, instead, he always points me back to Jesus. Reminds me that He is above all. Reminds me of what I’ve been forgiven for. Reminds me that I’m not in control. And reminds me that sulking about it will produce nothing, but prayer will produce something.

All that to say, there are many, many more things I love about him. And some things I don’t like about him, too. But, marriage is fun. And it is a good way to learn about how wretched you are in all the secret places of your heart, and how much you really need Jesus to change.

My husband and brother-in-law came home with three little puppies a few nights ago. That night was like a piece of heaven descending on earth and exploding in my heart, which has deeply longed to snuggle puppies for years as my days spanned over small Sydney apartments, homesick for a countryside yard. They are the cutest balls of fur, and they sometimes resemble fat rats. These three soon became friends with my ex-stray puppy, who now looks big and ugly in comparison.

When we head back to Australia our family here will lovingly care for our goats and dogs (and maybe pigs by then), until we return to expand our animal empire.

As part of our work in BelVil, we screen tastefully chosen movies in local communities mainly for youth as a source of healthy entertainment.

We screened a film on a soccer field one night, and on another night against the wall of a shop.

On this particular night, there was a tragic accident on the main road (about 20 metres from where we were screening the film) where a huge tractor sliced the side of a huge truck carrying sacks of grenadia fruit and some passengers. Four passengers were killed, and one lady’s body was literally ripped in half – the bottom half near the grenadia truck, and her arm and head hundreds of metres up the road. For almost an hour hundreds of people flocked to the site to see what had happened, gathering around the dead bodies and taking photos of them.

It was a surreal experience. Please pray for the families of those who died that night. I can’t imagine how painful it would have been to lose someone in such a tragic and unexpected way.

Well, friends, sorry to end on such a note.

It’s been a full few weeks and we are grateful for everyone who is on this journey with us, whether you’re reading this, praying for us, or just smiling at us in support from where you are. We appreciate and love you so much.

 

Little moments

It’s all in the little moments.

Swimming in the bright blue ocean with naked little ones following you.

Riding on the backs of motorcycles in the pouring rain.

Setting up a temporary office.

Exploring new cities in new countries with husband.

Finding a new favourite nail colour for 30 pesos.

Grateful for the past couple of weeks and all the little, special moments that have made it beautiful.

 

This is my friend, Nicole.

This is my friend, Nicole.

We flew the same plane into Port-au-Prince on June 14th, 2011, and moved into the same house that day. It was a big, pink and white house in a neighbourhood called BelVil.

We clicked from the day we met, and over the days we laughed at our endless uncanny similarities. Our passion for Haiti. The wounds on our hearts. The fact that we both made our high school graduation speeches.

And then we talked about our dreams. And we saw that the God of the universe had written dreams on our hearts that were sentences starting on hers that finished on mine. It was complete.

Uncanny, we thought.

Then there was that night when we realised two brothers liked us. We laughed so hard that night, lying on mats on a balcony, shaking in silent laughter while forty others around us were falling asleep.

But then only months later, we laughed again, realising that we too, had feelings for them.

Two years later, we met on that island of Hispaniola, on a mission: to explore more of Haiti. To see more, to learn more. And so we did. And only three days apart, we started dating those brothers. It actually kind of surprised us.

One year on, and here we are. Married.

So now, meet the Seliscars and the Celiscars. We spell our surnames differently. It was an accident on Jacques’ birth certificate.

Over the past three years the vision we first talked about in that pink and white house has been growing steadily.

We’re calling it ‘BelVil’.

Why BelVil?

BelVil means beautiful city, which is exactly what we want to see. Beautiful cities reflecting that heavenly city.

We all met in a neighbourhood called BelVil. We came as broken people, rich and poor, needy and vulnerable, but left knowing who we were as children of God. And the vision of the organisation is what happened in BelVil. Broken people came and lived in a community where their lives were transformed, and they left as people empowered and discipled, to go out and fulfill the call God had given them, and to transform their own communities.

And so our mission is this: to empower and disciple individuals to live out their God-given destinies and transform their communities. 

And how will we do this?

To be honest, we are still figuring it all out. We’ve got plenty of ideas, but we are just getting started.

We believe that a transformed community depends on what’s often called the ‘7 spheres of influence’: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion.

So we are focusing on the town of Montrouis, Haiti (the our husbands’ hometown), and here is some of what we are working on right now.

Vision School 

Many children in Haiti don’t go to school simply because they can’t afford to. Instead of learning each day, they stay at home and play, and it’s not uncommon for students to finish school in their mid-twenties.

It’s also common that children only have 1 snack and 1 meal a day, which makes it harder for them to focus at school because they are so hungry.

We are partnering with a local school to:

– generate funds so parent’s can pay what they can afford, so even if they are poor, their children can still go to school.

– provide a snack mid-morning and a lunch for the students, so they don’t spend the school day hungry. 

– increase the quality of education at the school so students have a quality education that builds their capacity.

– increase the effectiveness of discipling children in the school, so students are nurtured and encouraged to have authentic relationships with God. 

Belvil Cafe and Internet Cafe 

The unemployment rate is outrageously high in Haiti, leaving many struggling to pay for necessities such as food, healthcare and education. Also, plenty of literate young people don’t have a basic understanding of computer/internet use.

We are starting a cafe and internet cafe with the hope of:

– creating 16 part time jobs, so people can learn new skills and have a regular income. 

– providing an affordable 1 on 1 training with computers and Internet, so people can use these skills to leverage their often minimal resources.

– forming a loving, encouraging community, where people find they are valued, loved and built up.

Community Outreach:

Children’s Ministry

Twice a month, we are cooking a Haitian feast for 50 children, teaching them the gospel, singing songs and playing games. Through this we hope to teach children about Jesus that will help give them a good foundation for their lives. 

Movie Ministry

Twice a month, we are screening a movie for free to the public. Because there’s a lack of entertainment in Haiti, people often turn to unhealthy forms of pleasure or fun. After the movie is screened, we’ll discuss with the audience what can be learned from the movie. Through this, we want to have fun, build community, and help people think more about their character and actions, about what is right or wrong, and eventually point them to Jesus. 

We have lots more brewing, but these are the projects currently in action. Stay tuned, my friends. If you made it to the end of this blog post, I’m very grateful and I’d love to know. We are so excited to journey this with you – and would love for you to be a part of it. Let us know what you think, if you have any ideas or think you could contribute in any way.

Love and sunshine,

E + the BelVil team.

twenty chairs.

this old friend has been making us twenty chairs over the past few weeks. he’s been struck down with chikungunya so the deadline has been extended a few times, but his soul is so beautiful that i don’t even mind.

he carves the chairs out of tree trunks and weaves the seats out of dried leaves from coconut trees in his backyard in the summer breeze.

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days of…

dreaming.
building.
working.
employing.
planning.
sweating.
thinking.
thanking.
praying.
hoping.
believing.

that this space below will be a space where people find hope in part-time jobs. find joy in working. find pleasure in sharing chocolate pizza with friends, and sipping iced coffees with boyfriends. find meaningful information and purposeful pathways on the internet. find new friendships across wooden tables.

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sunshine and chikungunya.

I’ve been here in Haiti for a month today, in this little mountainous nation that captured my heart four years ago. Back then, I recall realising how it was here that every cell in my soul seemed to light up with life, and here that everything that had been within me from birth suddenly made sense.  It’s the place I found myself and the place I’ve seemed to ‘find myself’ again and again, each time I come.

However this time it’s different, as I am now part of a forever-union called marriage to the ridiculously good looking Jacques Smith Seliscar, and I’m learning to ‘find myself’ in a new way, as a part of two. It requires a lot more effort, patience, grace, humility and time to figure out what’s inside two heads and hearts and learn how to make them work as one. It kind of reminds me of two super uncoordinated but in-love people doing a three-legged race, and falling flat on our faces every few steps.

So here beginneth the Seliscar story. The life of two young and passionate newlyweds, hoping to make a life of much more meaning than a life for ourselves could ever be.

So far in Haiti: 

We visited the island of La Gonave for a week to spend some days with our beloved friends, Katie and Bernard, who we met back in 2011 in our Discipleship Training School in Port-au-Prince. Back then, our impending relationships were a scandalous concept. Now, we are all married and they have a cute milatto baby.

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One by one, chikungunya has taken down a fam or friend for a few days with a burning fever, intense joint pain, a rash, or all of the above simultaneously. Having a chikungunya-infected husband is like sleeping in an oven and hugging a hot potato all day, sans foil.

On a positive note, chikungunya is a great way to form a connection with a random human. When driving to Port-au-Prince, each time we were stopped by a police officer, we asked, ‘You don’t have chikungunya, yet?’. Immediately, a connection was formed, laughter was shared, and good times were had. Thank you chikungunya, for the good times. Now leave.

Here are some other moments and babes that have graced our days in Ayiti so far.

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