December 2002 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

I’m writing this letter on Thanksgiving Day.  I just returned home from Haiti at 2:30 this morning, and am reflecting on the many material blessings God has given me in contrast to the poverty most Haitians are living in today.  I saw much turmoil in Haiti this trip causing political demonstrations which closed roads to traffic.  I was not free to travel throughout the country as I have in the past.  But through the poverty and turmoil I see God at work calling many people to Himself.  And for that I am deeply thankful.

 A team of 17 left November 12 and spent 9 days ministering around the village of Tricotte.  A highlight of the trip was an evangelistic crusade in the neighboring village of Ravine, where we have recently built a school which now educates 235 children.  We are in the process of digging a well for the village which would alleviate carrying water from the river 3 miles away.  Plans for the building of a church are also in progress.  We felt much opposition to this crusade, mainly in the onslaught of rain which makes it impossible to cross the river between Tricotte and Ravine and also to maneuver the roads of mud.  The first of the four scheduled nights of the crusade was canceled because of rain.  The next two nights Pastor Kim Ryan  shared the gospel message.  The fourth day it began to rain in the late afternoon.  We went, but without the sound system run by a generator.  The people were there, ready to HEAR.  The crusade was held outside.  When it poured the people ran for cover in the classrooms of the school.  But as it began to subside they hurried back to the rain drenched benches.  We were concerned about getting back to Tricotte as the river was rising and the roads were turning to mud.  Pastor Kim cut his message to about 12 minutes, and between downpours invited the people to make a life changing decision.  Forty people came forward, ready and eager to receive Christ as Savior.  During the crusade 58 Haitians came to know the Lord.  Our drive back to Tricotte was one of rejoicing in seeing God at work.  He is greater than any opposition.

During our stay in Tricotte we visited our school in the neighboring village of Bera.  Last year there were 120 students enrolled, so we budgeted for 150 this year.  But we found 235 in class  when we arrived.  Five classes are meeting in an open church building about 25’ X 60’.  The sixth class is held under a tree in the middle of a corn patch.  Under these conditions it was impressive how well disciplined the children were.  We shared some songs with the children and Marv Apol, a member of our team, gave a short message about Jesus being the Bread of Life.  The pastor/headmaster of the school shared an emotional thanks to us for supporting their efforts in that needy village.  I would have liked to have had each of you there to hear his words of appreciation as he passionately thanked God for the help they are receiving.  There are 235 children receiving an education, hearing the gospel, and being fed a meal each day. This opens up the opportunity to share with their parents as well.

As we started this school year, we were expecting just over 2100 children.  With similar growth in our other schools, as in Bera, we now have a total of 2362 children in our nine elementary schools.  Our secondary school, grades 7 – 9,  has also grown significantly to a total of 120 students.  We are overwhelmed with joy and thanksgiving.  God supplies for His needy children in many ways.  In this ministry He uses many people who are obedient to His nudging to share His blessings with children.  Thank you for your faithful support!

One of the goals of Starfish Ministries is to allow God to impact the lives of team members on short term mission trips.  We saw that happen as team members were stretched to new levels of commitment in their relationship with Jesus Christ and their desire to make a greater difference for His kingdom here at home.  As we ministered in Haiti and as we worshipped together, we were touched by the powerful hand of the Almighty God.  Thank you Lord!

Glenn, Doug and I stayed in Haiti another week after the team left.  We had some projects and administrative duties to complete.  We left Tricotte Tuesday morning, got as far as Gonieves and ran into serious road blocks and demonstrations against the Haitian government.  It became apparent there was no way through or around the road blocks to Port-au-Prince that day.  However, our flight home was for the next day.  As we waited in Gonieves wondering what to do we ran into an Haitian businesswomen with whom we had previously done business.  She introduced us to American missionaries who helped us contact Missionary Aviation Fellowship in Port au Prince.  I have dealt with them a couple of times before.  After much persuasion they agreed to meet us in Cap Haitian and fly us to Port au Prince.  The problem was Cap Haitian was 2 1/2 hours from where we were, it was 1:30 and MAF was not allowed in the air after 5 P.M.  We made good time to Cap Haitian but in the city we hit heavy traffic.  We had no idea where the airport was but people along the street pointed directions as Diogene kept asking.  With creative driving by Doug and lots of praying we arrived at the airport at 4:10.  Diogene still had to find a safe place for our car.  It was serious hustle time as the pilot wanted us in the air right now.  We ran to board, took off immediately and landed in Port au Prince at exactly 5 P.M.  What a great God we have!  He brought the right people into our path and orchestrated every detail.  We praise Him!

We so much appreciate your faithful prayers for us.  Thank you again for all your support.  The Savior whose birth we celebrate is the Master of this ministry and the King of our lives.  He alone deserves our adoration.

Serving the Lord together,

Bernie & Sheryl Bovenkamp