Insights into these Shoes' Soul

Welcome to our blog! You'll get glimpses into the fabric of our lives... find out what is happening in our family, learn what our latest adjustment is to life in the US, find out what is going on in our minds, see what makes us smile, and hear what makes us tick. You'll also get ministry updates! We hope these insights into our souls will make you smile, keep you informed and challenge you to pray for us.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News?

It’s been an eventful start to the year.  I figured that if I didn’t write it down, I wouldn’t remember it. 

The year started with some bad news:  our colleague, RMI’s VP, Kim Rose, fell off a tall ladder at his home on Jan. 3.  An ER visit, dislocated shoulder, broken arm, sprained wrist and torn Achilles tendon later determined that with surgery and weeks and weeks of recuperation and physical therapy, he would be ok (that’s the good news part of this scenario).  But for us, this has meant that he has to work from home and we in the RMI office are “limping along” (pun unintended) without him.

Good News – we live in America and there was a peaceful, orderly transfer of power in our country.  But since this isn’t a political blog nor do we make political statements I won’t comment on the people involved.  From the perspective of one who lived for 25 years overseas and traveled to quite a few countries in Europe and Caribbean, I can say that I enjoyed watching the inauguration and I love being an American.  Seeing the flag, hearing the songs (well, except that one from Missouri – I couldn’t figure that one out), watching the pomp and circumstance – it made me realize that I really did miss seeing all that throughout the years of being gone.  We really do have a wonderful country – even with it’s imperfections and challenges.  (The good news/bad news in this will have to be determined by the reader depending on your view of things.)

But it’s the stuff in our personal lives that this blog is about. 

Jules 1-1So…the good news is that our nearest and dearest friend, Jules Gedna, finished his battle with cancer and graduated to see our Lord face to face on Jan. 19.  He is no longer in pain.  The bad news is that we have lost our dearest friend and closest partner in ministry.  In our early years of ministry in Haiti…the 1980’s and 1990’s, he was almost the only co-worker we had.  RMI would not be where it is today if it hadn’t been for Jules’ tireless, selfless, loyal work for us and the ministry.  You can read more about Jules from RMI’s Facebook page HERE, particularly the Jan. 19th post, or from the Facebook group, “Remembering Jules Gedna” HERE.

Dan & JulesA team member (who became a good friend and eventually a fellow missionary) wrote:  “I have enjoyed reading the tributes to Jules and Dan (on the occasion of his 60th birthday on January 29) but struggle to find my own words.  I cannot seem to share my first memories of the one without the other…they blend in the fog of my first experience in Haiti!  What a remarkable situation we are now considering…memories of two brothers – one now singing in glory…the other remaining here to celebrate his 60 years.  My most powerful early remembrance is of the two together – partners-in-crime / brothers in the ministry.  I recall the sensation was ‘I can trust these men!’  Dan commanded it and Jules exuded it.  They trusted each other and the God who loves them…they would escort us up the ‘ramp’  (a particularly tough part of the main road up and over the mountains) to see Jesus in Beaumont, Haiti…and so they did…and we did…see Jesus!  I know I will never be the same…and I sing with great joyful gratitude to God for bringing me into the company of these two Godly men!  Although I have stories of memories that have grown like mountains upon these, none can overshadow that ‘first time’ in Haiti and the gentlemen who facilitated my unique encounter with God.  I am forever grateful.”

IMG_5008One piece of good news was that 2 weeks before he died Dan and Dawn flew to Boston where he and his wife, Marthe, lived and spent a day with him.  Dawn and Jules have had a special bond since she was born on his birthday.  Dan showed Jules pictures of the hurricane aftermath, they visited and Dan prayed with Jules.  The bad news was that they knew this was to be their last visit.  It was bittersweet but they were glad that they went.

Dan and Debbie, as well as representatives of the RMI Haiti staff, attended his funeral in Boston on Jan. 28.  He leaves behind his wife, 2 adult sons and 3 grandchildren.

Dan’s 60th birthday was Jan. 29.  Very good news indeed!!  The bad news is that there was no celebration because we were involved in a huge missions conference at our home church that day.  We felt very sad about this…but have decided that we’ll have a dual celebration in March when Debbie turns 60.  We hope to be able to take a special trip sometime later in the year to mark those milestones and our anniversary at the same time.

1Jan. 22 we made a trip to Ft. Lauderdale to help our sweet Riley celebrate her first birthday.  It was a fun day to be with both sides of the family.  10 days later she loves the rocking horseShe took her first steps on Christmas Day so she’d had a month’s practice being on her feet.  While we were there she enjoyed practicing going up and down the little steps into the house and out of the house, in and out, and in and out again.  She’s already pretty agile on her feet.  She was overwhelmed with all the people that were there and even all the presents – but she has the hang of ripping up paper.  One of the things we gave her was her first rocking horse that happens to sing….and she was afraid of it and burst into tears when it started to sing.  It was cute.  Another toddler that was there has one just like it – so she stood by it pinching it’s ear to activate the song and did a little bouncy dance to the song.  In time she’ll like it and be riding it – it’s just her little size.   [This is Riley on the horse about 10 days later, riding it and squeezing the ear to hear the song.]  That’s the good news of that day.

The other good news of that day was that we lived through a terrible accident on the way home.  We were almost home, traveling on the main road into town when a minivan came barreling down a side street at 50 mph – not even applying the brakes for her stop sign.  She blew right through it and slammed into a truck that passed between us and the minivan in the intersection.  The 2 vehicles crashed, twisted and turned all around us in the intersection, debris from both vehicles flying everywhere.  It happened in a millisecond.  And somehow we drove through all of that without a scratch on us or even the car.  Our blood pressure and adrenaline levels were entirely another matter.  We pulled over, called 911 and checked on the occupants of the vehicles involved.  EMT’s were quickly on the scene since the station was right up the street.  The jaws of life were required to extract the van driver.  As Dan gave his statement to the police, Dawn and I walked around the debris field on the side of the road.  The truck bed had been full of construction equipment so we saw tools, buckets, gas cans, a chunk of cement and a huge sledgehammer.  How some of that didn’t hit our car is a mystery to us.  We do praise God for His mercy and grace for protecting us!

The bad news was that this was not our first encounter with the police that week!  Several days earlier Deb’s van was broken into during the night.  We say “broken” into but really all the thief had to do was to open the door since she accidently left it unlocked that night.  Some very nice headphones and a bag of change was all he got for his efforts but it still left us feeling creeped out.  Dan and Dawn’s cars were locked and didn’t have a problem.  She won’t be leaving it unlocked again!

Well, that’s enough good news / bad news for now.  See you all in the next post.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Answer is Yes

path of hurricane matthew with labels and hurricane wordsYes – Hurricane Matthew hit southern Haiti HARD Oct 3 and 4 as a category 4, 145 mph wind monster.

Yes – It hit where our ministry is headquartered in the southern Haitian town of Les Cayes, where our missionaries and national staff live and where most of our partner churches are located.

Yes – The destruction and devastation are much, much worse than you have seen on the TV and social media.  The descriptions I’ve heard over and over is that it looks like a nuclear bomb went off, just no radiation.  Homes, businesses, churches, and schools have been flattened – destroyed.  Small villages wiped off the map.  Reports are that there is 100% crop loss and 80% livestock loss.  Where trees once stood is now a wasteland.  This area was the breadbasket of Haiti and nowBenson's mother's house officials are saying that it’ll take up to 10 years for it to come back.  Large trees that fell over by the roots were things like mango and breadfruit.  If such a tree survived, it’ll be many years before it re-establishes itself and even more before it bears fruit.  There’s no vegetation as far as the eye can see.  This destruction isn’t isolated along the coast but is found just as much if not worse in the mountains and valleys inland.  Many areas experienced huge floods, bridges were washed away, mudslides and landslides blocked the roads making moving around the region very difficult.

Yes – There was already a hunger problem in Haiti, but the results of all this crop loss will be felt by the entire country.  Especially in southern Haiti, there will be extreme malnutrition and possibly starvation.

14572807_10153984450761538_2076005466331047177_nYes – Cholera, an intestinal bacterial disease, is exploding in the hurricane zones.  Water sources…rivers, springs, wells…have been contaminated yet that is all the people have.  This contamination leads to cholera (which causes vomiting and debilitating diarrhea) and if left untreated can kill in a matter of hours or just a few days.  It’s easily treated but there’s the rub – there’s just a handful of hospitals (some now destroyed) and almost no possibility of getting treatment.  And it’s contagious as people live in unclean situations and don’t have the knowledge and capability of how to prevent its spread.

Yes – The utter devastation is said to be much worse than the 2010 earthquake.  The death toll is lower (1,000 at this point) but the scope and area affected are far greater than what was affected by the earthquake.

2Yes – Our missionary and staff are all ok.  The missionaries were in cement homes except one (the house where we used to live).  All of the homes are fine – even our old house with its tin roof.  It’s a duplex and the other side did lose a part of their roof.  All of them lost a lot of trees and outer structures.  Our old yard suffered quite a bit.  The iron cage for Spike the very large iguana we left there was destroyed when the tree that the cage was attached to fell over, roots and all.  He was rescued and spent a few unhappy days in a missionary’s bathroom before a new, temporary cage could be built for him.  The gazebo and tin roof over the deck on the depot blew away.  You can see pictures of the mission center, our former house (now RMI field leader, Rob Thompson’s house) and the RMI facilities HERE.

3Yes – Our RMI office and depot/garage yard suffered some damage.  The office is a cement roofed building but winds blew in the windows allowing wind and rain inside.  The depot’s huge metal gate was blown into the middle of the road.  The garage’s tin roof and the tin roofs over the containers in the yard (where the food aid is stored) were blown off.  Of course, all the trees are either stripped or down.

Yes – Mission center where the missionary homes and our facilities (and where we lived for 25 years) are located was heavily damaged: 7 missionary homes lost their roofs (and thus most or all of the contents), the water system was destroyed, the electric system was destroyed and many ministry offices damaged.

dame marie 14Yes – It took several days for our staff to literally chop and chainsaw their way out of their homes and make paths on the local roads enough so 4 wheel motorcycles could pass through.  They’ve also been very involved in helping the other missionaries recover.  The missionaries came together to help move the lost-roof families to homes that were empty due to the occupants being on furlough, making sure that everyone had a generator to keep their refrigerators and freezers running, repairing the electricity system and water systems and working at repair the antennas to help restore some internet.  Communication with the field is very tenuous.  Cell phone towers are down and out, so cell service is intermittent at best.  But now, 2 weeks later we are happy to report that the water systems are back and electric lines are re-strung and there is power now.  That goes a long way toward helping families begin to focus more on relief aid in their ministries.

Yes – RMI’s Zanglais Ministry Center is fine.  In fact, we’ve been told that it looks like it was untouched.  We’ve even had relief groups stay there already.  We are so thankful for this!  It wasn’t in the area hit by hurricane force winds (see the map above).

14581433_10153984450381538_887380408804398249_nYes – RMI was immediately involved in distributing food aid and relief supplies.  Phase one of our response is to respond to the immediate needs of food and water.  We had over 800,000 meals stored and ready for such a time as this and, to date, we have almost handed out quite a bit of them.  By faith, we’ve ordered 5 more containers of food aid.  We are also distributing chlorine tablets and water filters to provide clean drinking water to combat cholera.  What can you do to help us provide this aid?  Go HERE to donate to this massive undertaking of relief aid.

dame marie 14Yes – Our staff fanned out on motorcycles to go visit every single C3 partner church, get detailed reports on how the church, school, parsonage, community, and district churches fared and to take pictures to send back to their US partner churches.  It’s heartbreaking to read the reports and see the words “destroyed” and “roof torn off” on so many of them.  You can see the reports HERE.

Yes – RMI is addressing the need to rebuild.  Phase two of our response is to focus on getting roofs back on schools.  We need to help kids get back into school.  This will help bring some kind of normalcy back into their lives.  If schools don’t get back up and running soon, the entire year will be lost for those students.  After that, we’ll turn our attention to roofs of church and then homes (including parsonages).  In November we will start booking work teams to assist in this rebuilding.

satellite church
Yes – Dan is in Haiti this week, Oct. 18-21, to see things first hand, meet with the staff and visit several C3 partner churches that he is able to get to.  The road to Port-au-Prince is now open (after the main bridge washed out…now that the river waters have gone down significantly, vehicles are fording the river and getting through), making travel possible as well as getting fuel, propane, and supplies into the Cayes area.

Yes – This is going to be a huge, long-term recovery for the southern peninsula.  We need your prayers and your financial help to get through it.  There is such great need everywhere we turn.

Dawn's prayer card black outline 90% transYes – Dawn is more anxious than ever to get to Haiti to help out.  In order for her to go, she needs her funds raised.  She has a monthly amount that she needs (this includes not only salary but funds to cover taxes, insurance, and other monthly costs) and a separate amount for her one-time expenses (this covers things like her flight there, a 4 wheeler for transportation, funds to set up a household, the cost of obtaining her visa and other one-time expenses).  She can’t go until all of those funds are raised.  Could you be a member of her support team?  Go HERE to give to her support or one-time costs.  The need for her help is even more acute now.  Just think – she’ll be going back to the same mission center where she was born (which was 26 years ago on Oct. 24…next week!!).  How exciting is that?

Yes – We, RMI and Haiti need your prayers.  We have been working hard since the hurricane with coordinating relief efforts, shipments of food, fund raising for those relief supplies, keeping the communications (social media, etc.) going and much, much more.  There aren’t many of us in the office and we are all wearing multiple hats.  RMI needs your prayers as we do what we can to care for the needs of our staff and work at providing relief for Haiti.  We need wisdom in the scheduling of rebuilding work teams.  The needs are so many and complex!  The people of Haiti need your prayers.  They are a resilient people, but this has been a serious blow.  For the Christians, they remain strong and unshaken in their faith, but they are hurting.

And finally Yes – We need your financial help. 
Thank you

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Third Generation Missionary

We wanted to share what was posted on RMI’s blog this week!

Signing with RMI 2Meet RMI’s newest missionary appointee, Dawn Shoemaker.  She is literally returning to the land of her birth.  Dawn is the daughter of RMI president, Dan, and RMI Director of Communication, Debbie Shoemaker and the granddaughter of Herb and Shirley Shoemaker, RMI founders.  Dawn was born in Les Cayes, grew up and went to school on the mission center where the Shoemaker family were missionaries for 25 years.  She returned to the US with her parents when she was 15.  After high school she attended Trinity College of Florida and majored in cross cultural communications and Biblical studies.  One of her summers was spent as an RMI intern in Haiti.

Besides growing up as a Third Culture Kid, she has participated in a home building trip to Mexico, a leadership training trip  that traveled to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam and a trip to Paraguay using volleyball as an entry point to present the Gospel in public schools. 

Dawn began to feel the call of God on her life  while she was a child in Haiti.  This was strengthened in high school and she chose to attend Trinity so she could prepare for full time ministry. 

IMG_6779Dawn will be working with teams, helping them to engage in ministry and evangelism with the Haitian people, helping with hospitality,  providing video/photos and stories for our blogs and social media, and assisting wherever the Field Director has need.  RMI has many needs and will be looking as to how best to use her skills and passion.  She is needed there as soon as possible so pray for her as she begins to raise her funds to be able to get to the field. 

She excited to be going to Haiti to minister.  She’ll be living and working on the same mission center in Cayes where her grandparents lived and where her dad grew up as well as where she grew up.  The maternity clinic where she was born is also located on the mission center.  Who would have known that she’d be back as a full time missionary one day? 

We’re excited to welcome Dawn to the RMI family!  If you would like to be a part of Dawn’s support team you can do that online HERE.


We are all excited about this news.  Dawn will still be working at Starbucks while she begins raising her funds. She is working on writing her first newsletter and building her website.  We’ll share that information with you when it’s ready.  We hope you will consider being a part of her support team.  It would be such an encouragement to her and help her get to the field sooner than later.

P.S.  What we should have mentioned is that she is actually third generation missionary on Debbie’s side of the family too!  Her maternal grandparents were missionaries with Child Evangelism Fellowship in Germany for many years and then they served in CEF’s International headquarters for a number of years before they retired.  She can honestly say that full time service is a part of her DNA.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

This Day….10 years ago

May 26, 2006    That was the day everything changed for us and we began a new chapter in our family story. 

We moved to the US 10 years ago today.  Our “Haiti Chapter” seems so long ago yet at time it feels like it was just a couple of months ago.

For fun, here is our newsletter that traces our first year in the US.  It was eventful to say the least. 

[Don’t leave this blog yet….there’s more at the end!]

Fall 2007 a

Fall 2007


~ Jump ahead 10 years and here is our latest newsletter ~


10 years

10 years2

I hope you enjoyed this look back – we did.  Who knows what the next 10 years will hold?

Blessings to everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Is it Christmas Already?

Christmas in Florida means we decorate dressed in shorts and with the air conditioning on.  And we put lights on the palm trees.  While it’s a bit different from the rest of the US, it’s actually just what we did for so many years in Haiti.  What’s not different is the reason for this very special season!  God’s gift of His son to us is not something we take lightly and for which we are very grateful.  We pray that this Christmas season will be special for you.

This year we are trying to embrace our new titles...that of Nana and Pop Pop.  On Mother’s Day Devon and Kristen told us they were expecting Jan. 20, 2016!  A few months later they skyped with us to include us in the reveal party...the cupcakes were pink! We’re anxious to meet Riley Jade in a few weeks. It’s hard to wrap our heads around the whole concept of Devon becoming a dad, but it is going to happen!  The picture on the left was taken at Thanksgiving - 8 weeks to go.  The next picture was their baby announcement featuring their dog, Chloe.  We’re excited to meet this new little Shoemaker girl.  Mostly we just want to spoil her and hand her back to her parents.

In February we told you of Dawn’s engagement and upcoming wedding this past month. Unfortunately things didn’t work out as hoped and planned and she broke off the engagement in June.  It was a heartbreaking and difficult decision but we agree with her that this marriage was not God’s best for her.  We’re thankful/proud that she was wise and discerning in taking this step.  Since then she’s made very purposeful steps to continue her path to become an agricultural missionary.  She is now an intern at Morningstar Fishermen (an aquaponics training and research center) in Dade City, FL - an hour north of Tampa.  Besides aquaponics training, she’s learning about sustainable agriculture, alternative energy and even bee keeping.  They were excited when she came to them with a research project relating to developing sustainable, locally produced food for fish projects.  God has given her a perfect place to live (furnished garage apartment!) 10 minutes away.  Having special, godly landlords is a plus, too!  Since the internship is not a paid position, she transferred her Starbucks employment to the closest one (30 minutes away) and is working there.  Her life is busy but she’s found she enjoys the rural area she’s in.  And she’s at peace that this is the direction that God has for her right now.

In the “never have done that before” category was the February RMI Board Meeting that took place in Haiti.  We’d never actually met IN Haiti for a Board Meeting before but it was a wonderful and rewarding experience.  Besides the day and a half of meetings, together we visited a school, participated in the Hot Lunch Program by helping serve the food, visited a Homes for Haiti home, toured the new RMI Haiti office, and met with the staff and missionaries.  It was a full 5 days!

Another “never have done that before” is the fact that our church asked Dan to lead a Creole language Sunday School class (there’s alot of Haitians attending our church).  It’s just getting off the ground, but it’s a new adventure that he is enjoying.

This was a year of growth in RMI.  In the US International Office a new couple joined the staff.  To accommodate John and Joanne Miner, Dan and RMI’s VP of Operations, Kim Rose, renovated RMI’s current office.  They built a wall to divide a large work space into 2 and built a new conference room in the large garage area.  When the dust settled, we moved offices around and were able to give the Miners their own work spaces.  It was well worth all the effort.   RMI is growing in Haiti, too.  Recently a new missionary family arrived and have settled in nicely.  They are finished with language study and are actively involved in RMI’s ministries.  There are now 4 families in Haiti!
Deb’s sisters’ fall get together has morphed into an entire weekend, which is good because it’s hard to catch up with each other in just a day.  This year’s outing was in Dillsboro, NC.  Not only did we shop til we dropped (which at our ages, is a lot sooner than it used to be), but we had an open air train ride in the Nantahala area.  The trees were just starting to turn and it was beautiful weather.  [L to R: Deb, Marti, B, Carrie - we have a lifelong habit of arranging ourselves in birth order for pictures!]
Dan’s travels and speaking schedule keeps him jumping on and off planes and in and out of cars hither, thither and yonder.  He’s had some unique opportunities to share RMI’s ministries with churchs and groups in New Jersey, Cincinnati, Atlanta, & Orlando.  Oh, and Haiti and Colombia, too.  He was invited back to speak at a Haitian church in NYC where he enjoyed preaching in Creole and then being translated into English.  Most of these trips he makes himself, but Deb has been able to join him occasionally.

Most of the time Deb holds the fort down at home and continues to work at the RMI office.  She’s kept busy in the Communications Department.   Besides new brochures, documents, promotional material and presentations, she’s been involved in RMI’s new website.  It should be ready by January!

This year we said a final goodbye to the last animal we brought with us from Haiti. Princess was 20+ years old and we miss her. She was a faithful companion who did her part in re-populating Haiti’s cat population. But the Shoemakers aren’t cat-less!  ...we have 3 US born cats that own us now.

And speaking of our move here to the US - this coming May we will have been here 10 years!!  It’s really hard to believe it’s been that long.  At times we feel like it was just last week, but at times it feels like we’ve been here our whole lives.  It’s kind of surreal...10 years!

This picture pretty much shows how our support has been this last year.  Since we’ve returned to the US, our support has steadily dwindled.  Contrary to what some have thought, we aren’t retired and we are still missionaries needing regular support.  We’ve seen God supply our needs and we are incredibly thankful for our faithful supporters for continuing on with their financial gifts to our ministry with RMI.  You all make it possible for us to continue to move forward in this ministry.  As the end of the year draws to an end, would you remember us with a special gift for our support?  Your donation will, of course, be tax deductible...and much appreciated!

We pray that this letter finds you and your family doing well and rejoicing in God’s love, grace and mercy.
With love,