Out of the Thorns

You are helping a Haitian ministry transform a remote community.

“It’s long enough, but it will never happen,” said MAF pilot John Munsell as he surveyed an area for a possible airstrip.

It seemed unlikely that this patch of land could ever be more than the impossible wall of thorn bushes confronting him. But the people were determined to find a way for MAF to serve their community. Each family took a section and cleared out the thorns, then layered the gravel, dirt, and sand before pounding it down and making it firm. And MAF has been supporting the community of Anse Rouge, Haiti, and Lemuel Ministries ever since.

Residents of Anse Rouge clearing the land to make way for the airstrip. Photo by John Munsell.

Residents of Anse Rouge clearing the land to make way for the airstrip. Photo by John Munsell.

The area is known as the Plateau, or Grand Diable (Big Devil). Living up to its name, the landscape is barren and depleted, offering little more than thorns. Deforestation has decreased Haiti’s precipitation and created the desert-like Plateau.

Manis Dilus grew up in Anse Rouge with grandparents who, like most in this country, practiced voodoo. In fact, his grandfather was the witch doctor for this area. The practice likely would have passed to Manis were it not for his mother. Someone shared Christ with her when she was a teenager, and she accepted Him as her Savior. Manis, too, decided to follow Christ as a young boy. After college, he founded Lemuel Ministries and returned to Anse Rouge to help his people.

A Landscape of Hope

Manis and his wife, Judy, were committed to share Christ in this small community by providing solutions to overcome poverty through development, education, and spiritual discipleship. They wanted to heal the land and its people.

The couple began by addressing the lack of water, digging a well with a wind-generated pump, and enlisting the community to dig rainwater catchment holes and home cisterns to collect rain runoff from metal roofs.

The Diluses developed food- and cash-for-work programs, where individuals clear the land to make way for new water holes, gardens, and trees. The community also works together to build cement-block homes and latrines for families.

The people have hope as they see the land cleared of the thorns, and they take pride in their work. Today, when visitors fly in to Anse Rouge, they’re surprised to see the green spreading out from the center where Lemuel is based.

“It’s a shocking difference between the desert-like conditions. It’s a visual picture of what Christ does,” explains Judy.

Since Lemuel began ministering in Anse Rouge in 1999, more than the physical landscape has changed. The Diluses recall the earlier days of their ministry when they would hear the chanting and drumming of voodoo ceremonies. But that’s rare now. Two key families that practiced voodoo have come to Christ, and that has had a big impact on the community.

Expanding Grace

Thanks to your prayers and gifts, MAF has been able to support Lemuel since 2000, when the airstrip opened. Flights bring in short-term teams to do medical clinics or work projects for the school and church. In times of crisis, MAF has been there, conducting medical evacuations and delivering food supplies and water filtration systems.

“It’s more than planting trees, providing education, or work.”

Building materials also have arrived by MAF airplane, as well as several work teams to finish construction of Lemuel’s new school building.

“I did not see how we were going to get the school ready for the children to enter for the year,” Judy wrote in a letter to MAF. “We are so grateful to God for His provision, and we are grateful to you and the team for being a part of what He is doing here on the Plateau.”

Gradually, Satan is losing his grip on this land and the people. One Haitian woman nearly died before realizing she’d given her whole life to Satan, and he couldn’t heal or save her. Only God could. That’s when she finally turned to Jesus. She said, “Satan takes everything from us and gives us nothing in return … just these thorns and poverty. But God asks for nothing from us, except ourselves, and He gives us everything.”

The Diluses realize they can’t change the whole country, but they can make a difference in their community. “It’s more than planting trees, providing education or work,” said Judy. “It’s showing them Christ … It’s the personal relationships and being able to impact a small area, and that impact is going to grow out from there.”

An aerial shot showing Lemuel Ministries’ gardens, trees, and buildings, with the airstrip in the background. Photo by Paul O’Brien.

An aerial shot showing Lemuel Ministries’ gardens, trees, and buildings, with the airstrip in the background. Photo by Paul O’Brien.

Please remember Manis and Judy and all of the Lemuel staff in your prayers, and ask for the Holy Spirit to change hearts in Anse Rouge.

This story is a part of FlightWatch, 2015 Vol. 4. You can read the full edition below and/or you can also subscribe to receive FlightWatch in the mail.

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