HCDF End of Year 2014 Letter

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MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!!!

A favorite Christmas image and saying of Jean’s is an image of the three wise men with the words, “Wise men seek Him still,” printed below. He’s been using that on Christmas letters for years and this year will be no different.wisemen

What made them wise? I am sure there are many answers to that, but the first and most obvious is that they believed the Scriptures they had available to them and they acted on what they read. They got up from their research and started their journey to find the baby born to be King of the Jews. They thought ahead and brought gifts fit for a king. Even though they did not find Him in a palace they still believed the baby had been born to be King.

So as we celebrate the birthday (exact day or not) can we say the same of ourselves. Are we searching God’s Word to guide us on our journey? Do we believe even when what we find, probably isn’t what we were expecting? Our Christmas prayer is that we would all seek wisdom in accepting and following Jesus.

Jean’s and my journey brought us to Fond-des-Blancs 31 years ago. We met at Voice of Calvary Ministries founded by Rev. John Perkins. We were honored and pleased when he was able to cone visit us earlier this year. Accompanying him were H and Terry Spees. I first met them while I was in college and did a practicum at the ministries for my major. We had been waiting years for them to come visit us and enjoyed every moment of their visit.

Theoretically the board members of HCDF are to meet twice a year with one of the meetings happening in Haiti. This has seldom happened, partly because of cost and scheduling and also because of all the political problems Haiti had for a few years. This year the board came and were the first guests to stay in our new guest house designed by the architectural students of the U of TN. Among other things the board members divided up to have a board representative visit each of the six Caleb students new ministries in their chosen communities. They were able to both encourage and give advice to the students. Our son, Lemec, and his wife, Tara, had expressed interest in being on the board and were invited to attend this meeting. We were very pleased to have them here and they were good additions to the conversations.

Officially, the farm/feeding project started in January. Equipment and supplies were on their way before that to enable us to put together the storage bins and construct a garage for the generator, tractors, and other small machines. Since then the work has been in building a road, preparing and cleaning the land and doing a small experimental plot. The first large planting is planned for early 2015. The objective is to grow food for feeding students and hopefully a surplus so other types of foods can be added to the menu using the money from selling the surplus. Pray for the success of this venture as it affects hundreds of students. We are very grateful for the help we received and are receiving from Iowan farmers and businessmen advising and helping to fund this.

This past September the second board meeting of the year took place in Minneapolis with the farmers from Iowa in attendance. Lemec was able to attend again. He, along with his wife, were voted in as official board members. We couldn’t be more pleased over the interest they have shown to stay connected to HCDF. Also, our youngest son, Josiah, came to this board meeting. He was letting everyone know he is giving strong consideration to moving back to Haiti. This will not happen for at least another year. Currently, he is working and living in San Diego near Lemec. Our son Jacques is happily serving in the Marine Corps. He is currently stationed at the Marine Air Base in Yuma, AZ; close enough to be able to visit his brothers from time to time.

From the board meeting Jean drove through Iowa visiting our friends there. In the meantime I flew to Oregon to spend some time with my mom and also to go to my very first high school reunion. It was a bit of a culture shock for me, but also I super enjoyed seeing and touching base with people; some of whom I hadn’t seen in over 40 years. Jean and I met back up in Florida and flew back to Haiti together.

The L’Exode kindergarten and primary school continue to do well. In fact, we had a record breaking number of 3 year olds register for pre-school this year – 134. We are needing to expand the church and surrounding buildings to accommodate the need. The high school is in its 3rd year of operation and also doing well. I teach English to all the grade levels (currently 7th-10th) and greatly enjoy getting to know the students on a personal basis.

Last month Jean had the exciting opportunity to participate in a conference in Cameroon, West Africa. He met with other leaders involved in Christian community development. We are very grateful he was able to be a part of this. On the way home he was able to spend a long weekend in Paris both as a tourist and visiting many Haitians who are living there. I am very grateful that there were no disasters or breakdowns while he was away.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas as you seek Him and follow Him during this holiday season as well as the rest of your life.

Yours in Christ,

Joy and Jean Thomas

HCDF August/September 2014 Newsletter

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Hello dear friends and family,

Jean and I have just completed a trip to the board meeting which went very well with lots of reports and assignments being made. I then traveled to Oregon to visit with my Mom and to attend a high school reunion. This is the first one I have ever attended and enjoyed myself very much. I am very grateful for this opportunity.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with green forage and several more days of rain. That is good news for the farmers and our continuing work at the Lhomond Farming project. There was good progress made over the summer both in construction and equipment maintenance. There is still more equipment on the way. Pray these will arrive safely and in a timely fashion. Also pray for the farmers who don’t have the luxury of the river and have already lost their corn crops because of the very late rain.

This summer Jean worked with Haitian university students who receive scholarships from the church. Most of their work revolved around the farm. Besides helping with some of the lighter construction, they did surveys of the local families. I opened the school library every Wednesday for the honor roll students. I had games available for them and at least one craft per week. They also could check out books for the week. It was fun for everyone including myself. At the end of the summer we celebrated the 105th birthday of one our church members. Three of the students helped me bake and decorate the cakes. It was their first time using electric mixers and certainly their first time trying to decorate a cake. A great time for all three of them. I’m sure we will do it again.

We are all more than excited that once again all of our sixth graders passed the government exams. We sent 42 students, more than ever before, giving a higher chance of at least one of them failing, but they all pulled through. They all will be moving on to the new secondary school and because there are so many of them we will not be able to allow students from other schools to join them. We are even happier that all the 9th graders passed their government exams. This is the first time ever of L’Exode sending students to the 9th grade exams and they did amazingly well. Sixteen students went to the exams and all of them passed with over average grades and six of them were in the honor roll category. We are looking forward to working with them for the next few years.

This month we are welcoming 134 three year olds into our preschool. This more than ever before and will require some remodeling at the church to find classroom space for them. The University of Tennessee will be helping us with this.

We are feeling very blessed by all the Lord is allowing us to do in Fond-des-Blancs with the Caleb and L’Exode students, the church, and the farm. We appreciate that you are with us on this journey and continue to pray for us.

Yours in Christ,

Joy Thomas

HCDF July 2014 Newsletter

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Dear Friends,

Summer greetings everyone. The school year is over and the 6th and 9th graders have completed their final government exams and we are now waiting for the results. There is no school construction happening at the secondary school at this time. There are already enough classrooms for the coming school year even though we will be adding 10th grade. All our concentration this summer is going toward the farm.

The kindergarten and 6th grade graduations went very well as usual. The new very large cafeteria, though unfinished, is a huge blessing for these events as our class numbers are growing and more students means more family members wanting to come to the graduations. We had 135 three year olds register for preschool this Fall. We accepted all of them. This is 40 more than we have registered in past years. The architectural students from the University of Tennessee are designing a second level for the classroom building situated behind the church to provide more classrooms at that location. We will also need to hire a few more teachers and teacher assistants for which we would appreciate prayer.

Darwin, the farmer from Iowa, spent a couple months here and headed up the raising of the largest silo. Three smaller ones are being built by a youth group from Georgia. A small experimental garden has already been planted for testing. Another fifty acres is now being plowed and will be planted in the next few weeks. In the beginning it will be mostly corn being planted. The objective is to eventually daily feed over a thousand students. Some corn will be used in the feeding program, but the rest will be sold to enable us to buy other types of food to add to the corn. A lot of equipment has already arrived, but there is more to come. Please pray for the needed funds for transportation and the safe arrival of this equipment. We have ways of irrigating at the farm, but the local farmers must rely on rain which we are not receiving. Please pray for that also.

Jean and I do not have any travel plans until the end of summer. In the meantime we have the group from Georgia and after them two young ladies from California will be here for about a month. Besides building the silos, the Georgia group held a basketball camp for the younger kids. The camp was an amazing success. The children enjoyed themselves perfecting their dribbling and shooting skills and a few of the older ones practiced defense moves. The young people doing the camp came prepared to share Bible stories and testimonies with the camp participants. Those were also well received. At the end everyone was asking when we would be doing it again. We don’t know, but we will definitely do it again. The two young ladies coming have been doing ministry in Port-au-Prince and are coming out here to see what it is like to work in a rural area. On a personal note, this is the first summer Jean and I have not had a son coming home for summer vacation. Because of modern communication we are able to communicate regularly, but we still are adjusting to the fact that we don’t personally have anyone in the soccer games or coming in and out of the house with his friends. We miss that, but we are happy that all of our children are maturing well and working out their lives as adults. Yours in Christ, Joy Thomas

HCDF May 2014 Newsletter

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Hi Everyone. I am not sure our news from Fond-des-Blancs comes as often as it has in the past, but we are still here and doing well.

We held our first of two annual board meetings at the end of March. Eight HCDF board members came to Fond-des-Blancs for visiting, meetings, and evaluations. We are pleased to announce that our oldest son, Lemec, and his wife, Tara, have joined the board. Phil Reed, the longtime president of the board was not able to attend so Lon Fendall presided over the meetings. Since he is the one that normally records the minutes of the meetings that job was given to Tara with Lon typing up the last version of the minutes for all the members present and absent. There were two main focuses of the meetings: the agricultural (farm) project and the Caleb project. There were also short reviews of the churches, schools, and of course, the budget.

The farm project is about five miles away from where the meetings were being held so all the board members went on a field trip to see the land. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much more than that for them to see at that time. We were still working on getting farm equipment and supplies in two large containers out of customs. It took months of paper work and phone calls and negotiations to get them from the wharf of Port-au-Prince to the Fond-des-Blancs area. I am happy to report that they are now in our possession and positioned where they will serve as part of the walls for the parking and storage shed for the farm equipment and materials. Darwin, the retired Iowan farmer dedicated to helping us, will soon be returning to help get things started. He will be driving some more machines from Iowa to Florida to be shipped to Haiti so we will be dealing with customs again. We appreciate your continued prayers for this project.

The plan is to plant cash crops such as corn and millet, transform and market them. The profit and part of the harvest will be used to feed the children in our schools.

The Caleb project is in the middle of its second year of a three year commitment. You probably know there are six young men participating in this program. They have all chosen communities where they have begun churches and development projects. They spend four days a week in their communities and three days a week in class with Jean. This week we had a visitor that gave them an excellent seminar on how to write project proposals. She also gave them homework to help them attempt to put into practice what they learned from her. The board members divided up into six groups so that each community could be visited. The visits were to assess each student’s commitment and involvement in their communities. They all came back with great insights of what is going well and suggestions of what also could be done or tweaked. The board members were impressed with this beginning and the students were excited to have the visitors.

During the board meetings Jean and I recognized our 33rd wedding anniversary and Tara celebrated her 26th birthday. She and Lemec were able to stay a few days longer so they got a second trip to the beach and we had the pleasure of having them around.

Jean and I remain in excellent health. For the past year I have been in the process of getting two new teeth implants. These are replacing a worn out crown and bridge. They were finally put in place the day after my birthday. I also had a root canal done that day. It was uncomfortable, but a relief and a blessing to have all that work completed.

The months of May and June are busy months for all the students. They are currently involved in an intra-school soccer tournament. This is the first year so many schools are participating to make it an actual tournament. The 6th graders and the 9th graders are both studying for their government exams. Please pray especially for them. Both Mother’s Day and Flag Day will see fun activities for everyone.

Pray for the Caleb students as they continue to integrate into their chosen communities. Pray that the agricultural project will soon be off to a good start. This past Sunday 24 believers from the main church and the satellite churches were baptized. Pray for their continued growth in the Lord. Even though not everything happens on our timetable, do praise the Lord with us that ministry and development are still happening here.

Yours in Christ,

Joy

HCDF March 2014 Newsletter

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We began the New Year by hosting a whole regiment of UN soldiers from Brazil. They were engineers and support crew here to prepare the road in the center of town to be paved.  This is nice progress for the main town, but does not change the fact that all roads leading into town are still unpaved.   When the UN did reconnaissance in preparation of sending their soldiers, they saw our school and realized it would be a very appropriate place to house them for the short time they needed to be here.  The school has a large cafeteria, is wired for electricity, has access to water and for now has a couple of empty classrooms that could be used a barracks.  They invited us for dinner on New Year’s Eve and I baked cakes for dessert.  I decorated them in Brazilian colors and wrote Happy New Year in Portuguese for them.  There were a couple of them that spoke a little English and Jean used an App on his phone that could translate into Portuguese what he wrote in English.  With that and smiles and gestures we communicated.  Before they left they used their heavy machinery to take out a half dozen large trees that needed to be removed for the future building of the multipurpose center planned for the expansion of the school.    They also repaired the front gate and did other helpful odds and ends around the campus.  We really enjoyed having them with us and many of them looked very similar to our sons which also made them lovable to me.

Very soon after they left, a group from Iowa came for a week.  Many of them worked in the school library and made a big dent in getting the books organized in the Dewey Decimal system.  They had a plumber who did plumbing and plumbing repair in our home, at the school and church, and at the guest house.  A real blessing to get both of these things done.  They also came with a big-machine mechanic that worked on the tractors, bulldozer, and backhoe.  He stayed a week longer to get more done.  A retired farmer who had come with the group last year came prepared to stay two months to help Jean get the farm off to a good start.  Unfortunately, the shipping container with more farming equipment is still stuck in customs.  He kept busy for a couple weeks, but has gone home for now and will come back when everything is ready for him.  We are very blessed to have him share his expertise with us.  Please pray that all the roadblocks in customs will be removed so that we can actually receive the equipment.

After them came a group from Alabama and Tennessee.  This group has come several times and are experts at building roofing trusses and getting the roofs of our buildings up.  In previous visits they have worked on the school cafeteria and the current pod of school classrooms.  This trip they worked on and completed the roof of the new guest house built to replace the big house that will be demolished to make room for the building of the multi-purpose building next year.  We are grateful for their faithful and continued work with us.

As they left, our most important VIP’s ever flew in on MAF.  Our friend and mentor of almost 40 years, John Perkins, came for a short visit.  He has been

here before, but this was special because it was an affirmation of our thirty years of putting the Biblical principles of the 3 R’s which he taught us into practice.    Traveling with him were H and Terry Spees who’ve been our friends for just as long. H preached the sermon at our wedding and did the whole wedding for Lemec and Tara so it is a very special and honored friendship.  As they flew in, they were greeted by all the primary and secondary school children on the airstrip.  They sang ‘This Is the Day’ to them.  It was a very moving experience for all of us.  The students were the embodiment of the past and future ministries of HCDF.  That evening we had a banquet attended by all the L’Exode teachers, the Caleb students, sponsored university students from our church who are attending school in Port au Prince, and all the pastors in the area.  Seventh and ninth graders helped with the serving of the food and provided music entertainment with tambourines, hand bells and recorders.  Saturday John held a short seminar with the local pastors and a preached at a Saturday evening service at the church.  He preached again Sunday morning and shared another dinner with the pastors.  The Sunday night service was scheduled for H, but instead of preaching he invited John up and interviewed him about his life mission and work.  It was an awesome evening and I am so sorry we did not have the equipment available to record it.  John had to fly out Monday morning, but H and Terry were able to stay a couple of extra days.  We visited one of the Caleb students and his community and had a nice drive down the coastal road visiting along the way, finishing with a dinner of fish and lobster at a place overlooking the Caribbean Sea.  Great memories.

Jean and I are feeling very grateful and blessed that after 30 years, the Lord is not finished with us yet.  The school is going strong, but with much to be done in the future to complete it.  Jean has decided to take charge of the school chapel times for now.  I think this will make for a good growing experience for the students.  The agricultural project is something for the whole community.  The Caleb students are being trained to do the same in other communities.  All of them have started with Bible studies in their areas as their base.  It is fun and exciting to see the Lord help and guide us in all of it.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement currently and in the past.

Yours in Christ,

Joy Thomas

HCDF 2014 New Year Update

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This month marks the 4th anniversary of the devastating earthquake that changed the landscape of Haiti. Progress has been made but much remains to be done. Let’s pray that this is the year that all the displaced people find permanent shelter.

It has been 30 years since Joy and I moved to Fond-des-Blancs. This update is a look back at the years the Lord has allowed us to labor in His field.

Dear Friends and Family,

Happy New Year and Blessings to you all as we begin the exciting venture of a new year.  This is a very special time for Jean and me. This month marks 30 years since we moved to Fond-des-Blancs. Our mission philosophy is based on the three R’s as we learned them at Voice of Calvary Ministries in Jackson, MS, where we met and married. They are Reconciliation, Relocation and Redistribution. Parts of this letter will be about relocation.  Within that you will find family and mission news.

In Ephesians 3 we find a prayer Paul is praying for them. One part says, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus…

Our life here and the ways we have been led and allowed to minister is proof of the underlined section. We had goals and a vision, but could never have imagined the fullness of the way God has directed and used our lives here through these years.

joyjean30years_smWe moved here after Jean’s brother, Paul, surveyed 5 different communities to assess their needs. As we can all suppose, the needs were great and equal in all the communities. Fond-des-Blancs stood out to him because of the cooperation of the people, so it was chosen.  A project to provide plentiful and safe water to the community was started even before we moved here. When we moved here, our motive was to illustrate the love of Christ for them through His Word and through providing development projects for them as we identified them through our life among them in the community. The water project was a success to us because so many of the people voluntarily got involved with us and the project that to this day is providing safe water to thousands of people. Before we planted a church Jean began meeting with several lay pastors in the area to provide them with Bible School training that they were never able to afford. Then came the reforestation and repopulating of pigs both of which were huge successes because of our presence here; they trusted us enough that they fully cooperated in the methods used to ensure everyone could benefit. Then the road (employment project) which became larger and more successful then we could have imagined because a trust had been established from the success of the previous projects.

scan2013_319In the meantime we started our family which helped me to integrate even more into the community because it became easier for me to visit with the neighbors.  We could talk about the kids.  And, of course, with children came the realization of educational needs. L’Exode School was formed and is still growing today. We are up to 700 students from pre-school to 9th grade. We plan to eventually have classes all the way through to a high school diploma.  This has been a dream for years, but the means and resources were not available until recently.  However, none of our former students stopped after 6thgrade just because L’Exode did.  I think we could start writing a book of the success stories of our graduates. I think one of the biggest gifts we gave them was to get them through 6th grade at or close to the age of 12 which was very very rare in Fond-des-Blancs when we first entered into the foray of education. They left with the confidence that they could do anything and most of them are attempting to do just that. For financial reasons many of them took a few extra years to finish high school and college, but we can boast of doctors, engineers, nurses and IT consultants among our graduates.

exodesecnov2013The high school campus is becoming more beautiful by the day with current technology learning included in the curriculum. I have become the English teacher and thoroughly enjoy getting to know the students as they mature. One in particular has caught my attention because she has been walking five miles to school and then five miles back home since she was three years old. (I am sure her mother helped her in her earlier years.) Three miles is a common distance among our students, but I find those extra two inspiring. I have driven some of her classmates to her home so they can appreciate that their one, two, or three mile walk maybe isn’t all that bad. However, the dedication they all show to their education by their willingness to walk at all remains inspiring to me. (And we don’t give them a break on tardiness either.)

Our most recent opportunity is to do a very large agricultural project that will bring employment opportunities and food for the school feeding programs. We are more than pleased with all the recent contacts that have been made to help further this into a full time development project.

When I speak of our living here for the last 30 years, that number boggles my mind, but when I think back over all the stories we can tell of those years they seem enough to fill at least a couple of books. I somewhat doubt we have another 30 years in us, but we will keep moving forward. He has already unmeasurably amazed us with more than we could have ever imagined when we first obeyed his commands and example (his birth on earth) of relocating and loving the people around us in His name.

I promise you we could not have survived without your constant prayers, financial contributions, and words of encouragement to us. We hope you will choose to stay with us on this unimaginable journey.

One last thought before I move onto family news. Acts 1:8 – ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’  I am not sure if Fond-des-Blancs would be considered the ends of the earth, but I am sure many of you have thoughts so when you were on the road to get here with mission work teams. We love having you come and you can now shorten your travel time by flying MAF to our local airfield. On the road from the international airport it can take a minimum of three hours to arrive and usually longer. Flying only takes thirty minutes and the price is reasonable if you fill the plane with five passengers. We had the airfield built several years ago, but we weren’t allowed to use it until after the earthquake. The drive is an educational and cultural experience so we don’t want to eliminate it entirely, but hope the easy flight will encourage more of you to come for a visit.

Now if you have the time and inclination to keep reading here are some personal family news. We are the very proud parents of three sons, two daughters-in-law, two foster daughters who have given us 3 and 1 on the way foster grandsons and a son-in-law we have yet to meet.

thomas familyFonia is married, but raising her sons as a single mom for reasons beyond her control. She is working as a taxi driver in New Orleans to care for her sons and working on a Master’s degree in Sociology. Not easy, but she is living and raising her boys with grace and dignity.

Manise is married to a man she met in med school. She is now working as a dentist in Memphis and he is working as a doctor in Jackson. They have one son named Carson and expecting another son in May. They are hoping in a year or two they will be able to live together in the same city.

Lemec has recently begun his second year of marriage with Tara. They recently put a down payment on a home in San Diego and will be moving in around the same time as you are receiving this letter.

WP_20131004_003Jacques is still in his first year of marriage with Crystal.  They spent their first couple of months apart while she finished college and he finished military police training. We all felt blessed when they were assigned to the Marine Air base in Yuma, AZ, only a couple of hours drive from Lemec and Tara. They were getting settled in when Crystal’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. As her only daughter, it was decided she should go spend some time supporting and encouraging her mother. Her mom seems to be conquering the cancer and she and Jacques will soon be reunited. She is a personal trainer and will be able to begin signing on new clients soon. Jacques is currently a Lance Corporal.

Josiah graduated from college in May. He spent the summer with us being a soccer star on several teams. In October he moved in with Lemec and Tara in San Diego. He became their much appreciated housekeeper and cook while he spent time looking for a job. He found one with a computer consultant/repair/program installation company. He will move into the new home with Lemec and Tara. He obtained his very first driver’s license in October.

Jean and I are adjusting to the idea that no one will be coming for Christmas, Spring, or Summer vacations anymore. Our old house is the current guest house and Caleb student home, but that will change sometime in early 2014.  A new guest house is being built nearer our new, smaller home. The old house will be torn down to make way for a multi-purpose building on the school campus. The other day I was giving someone a tour of the old house and soon found myself becoming very nostalgic as I was pointing out particular aspects that reminded me of our life there with our children. I am very blessed with many many happy memories of our family life. Our new smaller home offers me a large yard where I can try out creative landscaping and a roof where I can sit during sunsets and be grateful for all God has done for and with us and seek guidance for the future. I have no fear because we have a life that daily reaffirms to us that God is always with us.

May you all find the same is true in your lives as we begin 2014.

Yours in Christ,
Joy Thomas