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Plight of Haitians in the Bahamas

Our recent involvement in the Haitian community has opened our eyes to many things that we were not aware of for the plight of Haitians in the Bahamas. About a month ago a large sail boat (pictured) washed up on the beach not too far from our house.

Aboard were 16 Haitians who were trying to enter the Bahamas illegally, much as Hispanics in the US. The newspaper announced that 16 people were aboard and that 12 had been brought into custody. Later that week I was at the airport and the 12 Haitian illegal immigrants were brought in to be deported.  4 of the people had escaped and are at large on Eleuthera.

Hatian men leave Haiti to try to get to the Bahamas or the US because they are seeking jobs and a better income for their family. They often leave their wives and children behind in hopes of reuniting at a later time, which often does not happen.

The workers who are here legally are often contract laborers. Recently a number of these contract laborers were relocated by the land owners to the Blackwood community, where we are teaching English. In one week the number of students in our English class went from 30 to 70!

The government in the Bahamas discourages Haitian immigration, similar to our government trying to control the number of Hispanics entering illegally. English classes are not offered to help these immigrants adjust to life in the Bahamas.

We continue to try to meet the needs of these 70 students. We are in need of reproducible curriculum, reading glasses and ink cartridges. If you are interested in contributing please conact Shannan via email at fastz6@yahoo.com.

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Chicken Souse and Johnny Cake: Raising money for the JC Clinic

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Chicken Souse

1    3 lb. whole chicken, cut up into golf ball size pieces (leave on the bone)

1 qt water

2 carrots sliced

1 stalk celery chopped

1 onion chopped

3 potatoes peeled

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 limes quartered

1-2 red goat pepppers (chili peppers) to taste

Salt and pepper

Place chicken in large pot cover with water. Add remaining ingredients . Heat to boiling, cover and reduce heat. SImmer one hour or until chicken is cooked. Quarter, and squeeze the limes into the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Johnny Cake

1/4 cup butter

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup corn meal

1 cup flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup milk

2 eggs beaten

Cream butter with sugar. Sift corn meal, flour, baking powder and salt together. Add 1/4 of the ingredients to the butter mixture. Add the rest alternately with the milk. When all is mixed, fold in eggs. Spoon buttered 9X9 inch baking pan. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

 

Breaking Down Racial Barriers

Jean, Rubens and Julian: Haitian students enjoying Thanksgiving at the Bible Training Center

We currently have 4 Haitian men in the Bible training. Racial relationships between Bahamians and Haitians are a source of tension and Haitians are generally discriminated against. These men are only allowed to make half of what a Bahamian working the same job will make. They faithfully travel every night from Tarpum Bay which is about a 60 mile drive. This is a huge financial sacrifice for these men. They also consistently pay the full tuition for the class, and have never asked for a lower price or any special treatment. As a matter of fact, they have great joy when they hand in their tuition check! The Bahamian students are friendly, but not overly interactive with these men. They always sit at a table by themselves, during dinner time, and appear to feel inferior. Despite my (Mike Fastzkie) attempt to mingle during meal time, others in the class do not do the same.  During the most recent class, however, a Bahamian student named Roscoe, sat down at the table with the Haitian students. When I walked up, they were all enjoying good conversation. After a few minutes Rosco pulled out his wallet and offered the men $15 to help with gas for their journey. The men were very touched by this gesture, this was a moment that I will never forget and reminds me of why we are here and why we do what we do.  In April we celebrate the graduation of this, the 10th class to graduate from the Eleuthera Bible Training Center a true testament to the many who have served and a true example of God’s glory being made known on the island of Eleuthera and throughout the Caribbean.

On Thanksgiving day we shared a meal with 2  Eleuthera families. All together there were 6 children among us. The children were happy to join us for dinner, these are families who have working fathers and mothers who provide for them, none are considered poor. All, however ,were thrilled by the fact that we had installed a new tap on our sink that, through reverse osmosis, provides clean drinking water right from a faucet!Each child wanted to try the water and they were amazed to see the structure of the system inside the sink cabinet in our kitchen.

We are not living in a 3rd world country…yet this is such a basic need that is not widely available or affordable. In the US, even someone without means can go to a public drinking fountain and get fresh water.  I consider the fact that this is much like my faith. I have it available to me, but am not thrilled by it because it is just there, I take it for granted. Like the children, I need to be excited about the living water that feeds my faith and I need to share this water with others. I am always willing to share my resources with others, I need to be just as willing to share my faith.

Lexi’s Story: 2005-2011

This story begins in January of 2005. This is when we met Lexi, a vivacious 4 years old, who could not hear or speak legibly.  I spoke with Lexi’s mother, Youlanda, and found out Lexi had lost her hearing due to a lack of adequate treatment for high fever and ear infections, when she was
2. I then asked if I could work with Lexi to help her develop her language skills.

Bess and Lexi, age 4, in 2005

At that time, I had no idea how I was going to do this, but the special ed teacher in me, always believes that I can find a way to reach a child. This time, I found that Bess, who at the time was just about to turn 13, was much better at reaching Lexi than I was. So…I coached Bess on how to do it, and she worked with Lexi. Ultimately, it was this experience that has led Bess, now a Sophmore at Anderson University, to pursue a career in elementary and special education.

In May of 2005, it became clear to our family that we would only spend a year in the Bahamas and would then be returning to the US. But, before we left, in August of 2005, I made a promise to the Johnson family, that I would find a way to help Lexi, to get assistance for her hearing. Little did I know that His plan would take 6 years to come to fruition!

Fast forward to summer of 2009: our first summer back on Eleuthera. Our family moved to Eleuthera for the summer, to lead the mission teams for Caribbean Ministries Association, at The Eleuthera Bible Training Center.  James Cistern, our settlement, is a very smalltown, and of course, we once again made a connection with Lexi, now 8 yearsold, still vivacious, inquisitive and oh so very bright! The Holy Spirit began to work in my heart. Nudging me to remember the promise I made to the Johnson family and nudging Bess and Lydia too. We all decided it was time to do something more for Lexi, but what and how?

Enter Keith Doster, who happened to be having lunch with Mike and the topic of Lexi arose, since Keith had met her the summer of 2009, on a short term mission trip, with the Grace Chruch, student ministry. Keith just happened to have a long time friend, who is an audiologist in Florida. Many conversations later…the audiologist agreed to see Lexi for free and provide services that might be required to assist with her hearing. We just had to raise the money for her travel to Florida. Bess and Lydia did this by organizing a Wii Tournament with the Grace Church student ministry that raised enough money for Lexi and her mother to travel to Florida.

We now move to November of 2010, Lexi is now 9 years old and we go to board the plane in Governor’s Harbour, and find that Alexia’s passport expired less than one month before the travel date. Very discouraged, we left hoping that we could make arrangements to get a new passport. In the Bahamas you can generally count on at least 3 months to get anything done for any type of important paperwork.

In February of 2010, we still did not have the documents needed for Lexi’s travel, and in the meantime, an audiologist from Nassau came to Eleuthera and determined that Lexi no longer had any residual hearing left. An evaluation in the US would not help much, unless the intention is for Cochlear Implant.

Once again, the special ed teacher in me, which I have come to determine is how the Holy Spirit works through me, resigned me to the fact that there must be some way to get Lexi to a place where she can communicate with the hearing world, so that she can learn in school. In my mind it was tragic that this child was not able to function on grade level, just because she was deaf!

Enter, the Jacobs family, (Dave, Sharon, Sarah and Alex). Sharon, also a special education teacher, came to visit in February, to work with the students at the Center for Exceptional Learners, the only school that Lexi is allowed to attend. This school consists of 11 students varying in age from 6-15 and mainly of low academic achievement and ability. Sharon was also struck by the dire circumstances for a very bright and intelligent girl to be placed  in a school with low functioning students, and not to be learning.

Fast forward to October 2011: Lexi is now 10 years old, through much hard work and determination we have been able to get a passport/visa, and proper medical documentation from Nassau and the US through many individuals who have volunteered and donated time both medically and legally.

Lexi and her mother, with the new visa!

As a result, Lexi traveled with us in the month of October, she spent 2 weeks with the Jacobs family who have agreed  along with the permission of the Johnson family, to assume custody of her for 1 year, so that she can receive medical care including speech and language therapy and very likely Cochlear Implant. During her stay in October, Lexi was evaluated by an audiologist and ENT specialist that will oversee the surgery and she met with a Guardian Ad litem to determine if this is the best for her.

Lexi with Sharon and Sarah Jacobs Oct 2011

Paperwork is submitted for the temporary change in custody for medical services that will last for up to a year in Greenville, SC. Lexi will be living with the Jacobs family, and by the end of the year, God willing, be able to hear and to speak.

Praise to the Father for all that He has done to bring Lexi this far! Please pray for His continued blessing and guidance for all the people that He has worked through, and will be working through, to make this happen, and that it will be to His Glory!

-Thank you for your faithfulness in praying for this situation-

The Johnson, Jacobs and Fastzkie families

Hurricane Irene Aftermath

On Thursday August 24th at 3AM
Hurricane Irene, a category 3 hurricane that lasted 26 hours, hit Eleuthera
Island. The first part of the storm came off the Atlantic and during the eye of
the storm around 8:15 AM we walked outside to survey the damage. At this point
in the storm, things looked pretty good. Mike climbed up on the roof to check
the plywood that was covering our solar panels, he found that the clips needed
tightening, but that was about it. At 7:45 AM the next part of the storm began
to rage, and it was coming off the Caribbean, in front of our home. This time
the wind was much stronger and sounded much scarier. We began to see from the
one un-shuttered window at the back of our house, shingles and tar paper
blowing over the house. We were praying that the roof would hold and the
plywood would stay on! We knew that many of you were praying for us, and we
were praying too!

There wasn’t much we could do since we had lost power the previous
evening. Lydia and I were in her room working on some school work for as long
as the computer battery would allow us, and Mike was napping in our bedroom.
The noise did not bother him, he was exhausted after spending the first part of
the week boarding up our facilities, the clinic and people’s homes in the
community.

The wind was getting stronger and stronger and then it began to rain, as
the rain came down it was pouring into the front of our house. I went to the
bedroom and told Mike to get up! He and the dog were sound asleep even thought
the rain was dripping from the ceiling all around them! We then began to move
all of our furniture to the back of the house. We then spent the next 12 hours
taking turns mopping up the water to keep it from coming to the back of the
house.

Following the hurricane help soon arrived! Paul Voss, Director of CMA,
flew down to bring supplies and tarps. He was only with us for the day, but was
able to assess the damage and assist us in getting the tarp on our house, so
that we would stay dry until the roof repairs could be completed. Still more
help arrived, for the following 2 weekends we hosted 2 teams of 5 guys that
assisted us and others from th community to strip and re-shingle our much
damaged roof. We replaced half of the roof and used 60 bundles of shingles! The
2nd team was also able to work in the community to replace a roof
that had to be replaced.  This was the
home of an elderly Haitian couple that had neither the resources or the ability
to do the work.

There are many roofs that are still under tarps, Mike and our good friend
and colleague Martin Gaitor put tarps on at least 50 roofs, and people are
still coming to us after rainstorms, with a need for a tarp. There is still
much work to be done!

*Anyone interested in donating money, supplies or volunteering, can
contact CMA at 423-894-2827.


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