Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hurricane Matthew in Review

Hurricane Matthew was a devastating Category 4 hurricane when it first struck Haiti. Its winds of 145MPH and storm serge followed by flooding did major damage to the Southwest and Northwest peninsulas of Haiti.

Immediately after the hurricane, a partner church in Virginia took a collection for emergency aid funds and sent it to its partner church in Citern Remy. This video is a short interview with Nelson Onand, the pastor there explaining what happened during the storm and expressing his appreciation for the life-saving emergency funds.

Video of Citern Remy Hurricane Matthew Interview
Several weeks after Hurricane Matthew hit, I made a trip to assess the situation and take emergency relief and development aid. This is a video essay of the destruction experienced in the Grand'Anse of Haiti after Hurricane Matthew, as well as the hope that was shared with the victims through emergency relief aid like food and tarps, and development aid like seeds and trees.

Video of Jeremie after Hurricane Matthew
I am planning a return trip to Jeremie to carry trees and tin to help with reconstruction. $100 can pay for the tin to cover a small house there. This #GivingTuesday and entire giving season, please consider a tax deductible contribution through Walking Together for Christ.

(Special thanks to Lara Martin for the truly inspired song, The Voice of Hope, which was used in the Jeremie video.)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Well On Mission Base Land

My brother Joe and Nephew Jon are here helping drill a well on our land.

We hit water yesterday while drilling the well. We are about 120 feet deep. We have at least 8 gallons per minute. We aren't finished yet. Praise the LORD with us!

James Drilling at Sunset

Many of my Haitian neighbors were sceptical about drilling a well on the top of this plateau. They frequently asked if we would get water. My answer always was, "We asked God to give us water, so He will". And He did!

Thank the LORD with us!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Update

I came to Jeremie on Thursday to evaluate the situation and to provide some food and development assistance.

Starting near Cayes I started to see some destruction, especially trees blown down and some house roofs blown away. Proceeding, the situation continued to worsen.

I was listening to Christian music as I drove through the destruction. One song I hesitated to sing along with... "God is good, all the time". How could a good God send such destruction?
God's judgement is severe, and His promises are sure
Jeremie is in bad shape, but there has been a lot of work. Anyone with resources has fixed their houses. Food and construction materials are readily available.

In the countryside is a different story! I took a load of food and tarps out yesterday! Even so, you can see some new tin roofs sparkling in the sun.
Food, tarps and trees being given
In the evenings, I am showing movies of hope.

If you would like to contribute to the effort, you can through Walking Together for Christ. All funds received will be used to help our suffering brothers and sisters here in Haiti.

Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers.

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Debt Paid and Alive

Oh, praise the ONE who paid my debt, and raised this life up from the dead; Jesus!

Last Sunday, exactly one week ago, I received a death threat. A witch-doctor contacted me to tell me someone paid him to kill me; but I could buy my life from him for $10,000. I decided my life was safest in the LORD's hands.




I shared this with my family and friends and they prayed! They shared it with their friends, such that there were people praying for me all around the world!

I was assured death before the end of the week! Praise the LORD, it has been exactly one week, and I am alive and well! The LORD has rescued me, kept me safe, and given me life!

Oh, praise the ONE who paid my debt, and raised this life up from the dead; Jesus!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

"Mission Base" Driveway

Greetings in Christ.

As you may well remember, I have started the initial planning for the construction of a little "mission base", to allow me to do more media ministry; a resting place upon return from exhausting ministry trips and a place to produce future movies.

At the end of September 2015, we had closing on the purchase of a beautiful plateau where I plan to build a little house near Mibalè, Haiti. Although the land has been surveyed and paid for, the paperwork still can't be finalized because of the "political crisis" caused by postponed elections here in Haiti. Basically, I must be a resident of Haiti to own land here, but the people to sign letters and issue the residence are currently not in power. Please pray specifically that the LORD will soon put in place a mayor that can issue my missing piece of paperwork.

One of the challenges of building on the plateau is the driveway to get there. Along with the land purchase, I was granted a deeded right-of-way. But, because the folks I bought the land from had already sold some land in the middle, the right-of-way for my land was curvy; involving going up a steep cliff.

I was able to negotiate a passage with the neighbor to build my driveway straight up through his property. This involved paying a little money, but probably less then building a road up the cliff. It will also make for a safer and easier to maintain road in the years to come. I also heard (after making this deal) that there was a seasonal spring where I had previously planned to build the road. Praise the LORD for his provision of a straight-shot on good stable ground to get up to the land where I will build!

New Right-Of-Way (Yellow-Existing Road, Orange-New Passage)

With the new right-of-way, I can currently drive (4-wheel drive) to within 200-feet of my land!

Looking Down the "Driveway"

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Abricot

One of my favorite fruit is the abricot (Abriko). They are not to be confused with the apricot fruit, from the genus "Prunus".  Abricot, as described in this post, are found ONLY in Haiti, and mainly in the southern peninsula.  A similar abricot is said to grow in 3 Caribbean islands surrounding Haiti. There is even a town in Haiti called Abricot. When I was recently in the Grand'Anse, I was able to spend a few days there in ministry (and eating Abricot). It is just the beginning of the season, so they are still rather hard to come by.

Abricot grows on a big tree, the abricot tree. It has large, round fruit with firm, orange flesh.
Abricot Tree (Fruit circled)
The fruit falls out of the tree when ripe, or it can be picked by a skilled tree climber.

My Tree Climbing Friend
Now, you may be asking, how do you eat an abricot. Abricot is a lot of work compared to some fruits. The photos and captions tell the story.

Cut Off Top, Cut Through Outer Skin on Three Sides

Peel Off Outer Skin

Peel Off Light Yellow Covering, With a Knife

Cut Into Three Sections, a Big Seed In Each

Cut Off Meat From Around Seeds and Eat
(Don't Eat the Seed Bark)

Open Mouth, Insert, Chew and Savor
The meat is delicious; sweet and firm.

Eat an abricot for me if you ever get the chance!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

"Footprints" - Music Video

The music video I played Jesus in has finally been released. It is called "Footprints." 
James playing Jesus
"Footprints" was written out of a dark place in Natalie Charlotin's life (the author and singer). This song is to help others through their dark places. There is hope and light that outweighs the darkness. Slavery, Abuse and Trafficking have ruined millions of lives. There are an estimated 300,000-500,000 child slaves just in Haiti alone. This video was made to not only create awareness of a very real problem, but to see the redemption that happens when Jesus brings healing to your past.

The Lyrics...
I feel pain. I feel hurt. The sorrow in my eyes shows exactly how I feel inside.    

How do I go on? How will I survive? In this harsh world I know how do I go on when I don't feel strong enough? Strong enough....       

One day at a time, you hold my hand Your Grace carries me. Like footprints in the sand you never abandon me.                       

I do not understand. I want to understand. So I give you my heart and all the hurt that I feel. 

Your ways are not my ways. Your thoughts are not my thoughts. And I don't know how to be who you want me to be anymore. Anymore.

Chorus Again.

So I put my hope and I put my trust, I put my faith in You.  (Repeat 3X)

How do I go on? How will I survive? In this harsh world I know how do I go on when I don't feel strong enough? 

Chorus again (2X) with ahs in the background


Ending: I feel pain. I feel hurt. The sorrow in my eyes shows exactly how I feel inside.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

World Outreach Weekend

I spent a wonderful long weekend of ministry and being ministered to at Fellowship Bible Church's World Outreach Weekend. To attend, I traveled to Longview, Texas.

There were various activities that gave creative opportunities to connect with the church members. Activities included a banquet followed by "speed dating", a men's breakfast (with tasty Texas cholesterol), a woman's brunch (which they didn't invite me to attend for some strange reason), a tour of the new kids and youth building, snacks and fellowship with old friends, a youth program where they acted out missionary's stories, and Sunday morning missionaries told their stories as sermon illustrations.

Missionaries Greeting the Church
I got to stay with a fun family; Michael and Candy, their four teens and cats and dogs. They went out of their way to ensure I was most comfortable!

My Wonderful Host Family
How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity! It's like bacon grease running down James' beard and dripping off his fingers. (Psalm 133:1-2 Paraphrased)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

OpenMRS Worldwide Summit 2015 Event Report

I was privileged to attend the OpenMRS Worldwide Summit 2015, held in Singapore on 8-14 December 2015. I was one of the lucky recipients of a travel grant, which made it possible for me to attend. Without the travel grant, I would not have been able to participate. I want to express a special thanks to all of the sponsors of OpenMRS Worldwide Summit 2015, especially those that enabled me to participate through the travel grant!

During the summit, I was able to attend various talks, participate in many activities, meet new people, and be encouraged to continue and deepen my involvement with OpenMRS.

Talks I Attended
I arrived a few days before the summit so I could participate in the OpenMRS Concept Management tutorial led by community experts Andrew Kanter and Ellen Ball. Although this was a subject that I was quite familiar with, I was able to capture some history, learn about the latest tools (Open Concept Lab) and leave with some new best-practices to implement. I was not planning to attend the Getting Data Out tutorial, but was requested to demonstrating some tools that I was familiar with by the reporting community expert, Mike Seaton. So, as is so common in the OpenMRS community I shared the limited knowledge that I had on the subject, edifying others.

During the summit there were scheduled group plenary sessions, unscheduled “unconference” sessions, as well as “birds of a feather” sessions.

My favorite plenary session was certainly the “Lightening Talks”; where multiple people each talked for a short amount of time (about 5-minutes) on any subject. This gave a good introduction to people and what they were doing in the OpenMRS community. In future events, I would like to have organizational lightening talks, where each organization or person represented would give a brief overview of their work. Another favorite plenary session was the “fish-bowl” where we talked about Growing the OpenMRS Community. In this session, there was a rotating panel of “experts” who sat on stage and gave their thoughts on the subject. The time was divided in half, the first part spent identifying problems (like making it easier for “newbies” and the need for improving documentation), and the second part identifying potential solutions.

One of the unconference sessions that I attended was Installing and Configuring Bhamni. Bhamni is now an official distribution of OpenMRS; integrating OpenMRS (Electronic Medical Record), OpenELIS (Lab Information System) and OpenERP (Enterprise Management). In this session each participate was given a Bhamni instance running on a virtual machine. Bhamni has a great deal of configurability built-in through JSON files which can be edited in the filesystem. We were given various tasks to perform in configuring Bhamni, for example adding a new app button on the home page.

My favorite “birds of a feather” session was held in the cafeteria where we informally discussed OpenELIS over lunch. This was a joint discussion between I-TECH and Bhamni (ThoughtWorks) who had forked the OpenELIS software. We discussed how to combine the work (and the work of others) into an even better software.

Activities I Participated In
There were many extracurricular activities which I participated in, for example the Pre-Summit BBQ Dinner at beautiful Labrador Park, sponsored by Google. The most fun activity was PowerPoint Karaoke, where I participated as a contestant. Laughs were had by all (except a few who were still suffering from jetlag and took a nap). This event was graciously hosted by ThoughtWorks in their Singapore office. They gave us snacks too!

PowerPoint Karaoke - Thanks to Kaweesi Joseph For Photo 
New People I Met
Having attended previous OpenMRS Implementer’s Meetings, many of the folks I encountered were old friends. I did meet a new friend in person, Mayank Sharma. He was a previous Google Summer of Code student, and is now the Release Manager for OpenMRS Platform 2.0. I have seen his name in the forums, but never met in person. He is a really cool member of the OpenMRS community. First, he shared about FHIR during his lightening talk, which introduced a new technology to me. Second, he humbly sat me down and asked me for comments about things he should consider during the release of OpenMRS 2.0. Third, he took us on a great visit to “Little India”, ending with dinner at the Banana Leaf Restaurant.

Another really cool person I met was Neha Goel. Not only is she a champion “new implementer” of OpenMRS, but she was also our PowerPoint Karaoke champion, unseating the former champion and taking home the Kaweesi Joseph PowerPoint Karaoke Trophy. One afternoon I got to show her some tricks of configuring OpenMRS. I love preying on unsuspecting new implementers with my vast experience and limited knowledge.

How This Event Changed or Encouraged My Involvement in OpenMRS
I love the OpenMRS community! It feels good to have an open invitation to participate in leading the community forward. Being able to attend encourages my continued involvement. Being asked straight-up, “What do you want to do in the OpenMRS community?” strengthens that connection even more.

Hackathon
I also participated in the OpenMRS Hackathon that was held after the summit. My contribution was somewhat unconventional as I am not one of OpenMRS’ skilled programmers. But, I was able to use my videography skills to record various interviews (and b-roll) of the folks at the hackathon which will be used to produce a promotional video. One of the questions I asked the interviewees was “What is the best part about OpenMRS?” The majority responded “The Community”. I completely agree! OpenMRS is not software. OpenMRS is a community of people from all over the world working together to write code and save lives! I am proud to be a part of this community; a little piece that makes up the whole.

Here is a “shout-out” to anyone that is interested in being a part of the OpenMRS community… “Come find your place”!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Time in Asia Ending

My time in Singapore and Malaysia are coming to an end.  As I sit at the airport waiting for my flight to Beijing, I reflect on all of the beautiful things I have seen and done; one of them being this video I took of kids singing "Feliz Navidad" at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.



I want to wish you a Merry Christmas!