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